By Paul Berglund
In 2014 my friend Two-Tots and I lead an off road motorcycle expedition to Utah. We had a fantastic time and vowed to go back every year; and for 2015 we lived up to our word and exceeded our expectations. We rode around Moab Utah this year and I think we could go back every year and still find exciting places to ride. We found challenging trails and mind-bending beautiful landscapes to ride through. I highly recommend that you pack up your dual-sport bike and go there and ride. Here are some tips for you to help you do so:
1) Know your skills. The one limiting factor in all of this is the amount of trail riding skills that you posses. The most important skills are mental. Simply knowing that your bike can ride over most obstacles in your path is the first skill. I (with the help of my trials riding friend, Big Elvis) discovered that my enduro bike can ride up and over rocks that I didn’t think were possible. Once my brain shackles were removed I could use my clutch skills and balance skills to go places I hadn’t dreamed of. The best way to describe that feeling would be: joyful. So be sure to free your mind and fill your hands with the knowledge of the ‘Clutch Master’ and turn your body into a tool of supple balance.
There are many ways to reach these lofty goals so I will leave that to you and your internet provider to seek them out. Here in Minnesota you will know you are close when you can ride around our local Snake Creek and Trout Valley off-road parks both fast and slow.
2) Prep your bike. This year attendance in our Moab Expedition doubled. We had 8 riders this year. The bikes ranged from a Yamaha XT225 up to a KTM 500 EXC-F. No bike failed to make it down any of the trails. Several of the riders did. Trust me, it’s not the bike, it’s you, the rider, that determines where you go. One major factor that we over looked was the “ran when parked” syndrome. We left Minnesota the last day of February. All of our bikes had been sitting cold in our garages for months. We had two bikes that weren’t in running condition when we unloaded them in Moab. Make sure your bike is in great running shape before you leave. My other advice about what bike you pick; lighter is better. Lighter trumps power, brand, age and cost. Which bike is the best trail bike? The lightest one that’s in your budget and runs.
3) What to wear. Gear that works in Minnesota will work in Utah. I brought all the right clothing and gear to wear including a hydration backpack so I could drink water while I was riding. That’s right up there with helmet, boots and gloves. You will also want crash pads, sturdy pants and coat, and rain gear. If you get cold easy, bring layers. The days start cold and warm up. With several wardrobe changes throughout the day you can be very comfortable, whatever the weather.
4) Who to bring? Hopefully you have lots of friends who ride off-road but they may not be good travelling companions. You may need to recruit some new people to fill out the roster. How do you weed out the bad riders and boring truck passengers? Easy! You can hold try-outs and they won’t even be aware of it. Take a road trip of 4 hours or so with your potential riding partners. We like to go from the Twin Cities up to the Iron Range OHV State Recreation Area in Gilbert Minnesota. On the ride you will see if you enjoy their company or if you want to stab them; and once there you will see if they can, in fact, ride. The riding in Moab is worth the trip. You can increase your enjoyment of the driving portion of that trip if you don’t have to turn the radio off and strain to hear a quiet talker share his feelings for four days of driving. When driving across Nebraska I need loud rock and roll and lots of it. The vast void of the prairie combined with quiet contemplation make me stabby. Best to test before you commit; know how they perform on the trail and in the truck.
5) Where to stay. The 2014 Moab expedition was made up of four people. Moab 2015 had eight. With 8 people along we had the usual problems of deciding where to stay and where to eat. I have a few suggestions. I didn’t want to share a rented house. That seemed way too much of a hippy thing to me, so half of us rented motel rooms and the other half rented a house. The rented house had a garage which was a fantastic bonus. On the other hand, you will see your riding partners at their most, “casual”. Perhaps a brief mission statement on what’s acceptable lounge wear would be in order. Those that wear too little or talk too much about their feelings can make that single motel room sound real good. It helps if you’re honest with your roommates when it all gets to be too much. Point at their smelly bare feet with the long yellow toe nails and say “oh look, you’re standing on my last nerve”! Or just stuff those feelings deep down where they belong and think about the bikes. Dirty bikes and dirty gear swing the balance towards the house with a garage.
6) Where to eat. Renting a house gives you one more advantage besides a garage. You can buy groceries and cook your own meals. They also come stocked with dishes, glasses and silverware. Our house even came with a drawer full of kitchen knives (in case you didn’t listen to my advice on who to not bring). Whatever you chose to do, I recommend the Moab Diner (189 S Main St, Moab, UT 84532, (435) 259-4006) for breakfast-or any meal for that matter. All their food is good and you can get anything on the menu smothered in green chile. It both tastes good and will ward off any of the quiet talking feeling sharers back at the house. The other great place to eat in Moab is Milt’s Stop & Eat (356 E Mill Creek Dr, Moab, UT 84532, 435-259-7424). They have a large menu and the burgers and malts are fantastic (best eaten after a hard day on the trail, not so much before).
7) What to say. Besides serving dinner and justice, you will also be dispensing nick-names. You should use forethought and kindness when giving out nick-names either trail side or at the evening meal. The names will most likely be meaningless to those that weren’t there (man), and often they don’t outlast the trip. However, some names can stick so be careful! On this trip we bestowed nick-names like; “Two Tots”, “Big Elvis”, “Hudson” (from the movie Aliens) and “James May” (Captain Slow from the TV show Top Gear). Each name lovingly hand crafted. Conversely, peoples names can be given to actions taken. For example, “to Rick” references you giving your bike gas as you come off an obstacle, raising your front wheel and making a smoother landing. Not bad! But what of “Bruceing” or “taking the Bruce trail”? “Bruceing” is taking a bail-out trail and going back to the house to soak in the hot tub after you “had to lay her down”. Giving it someone’s name is all in good fun, but would you want your name to become synonymous with quitting, bent handle bars and large purple bruises? Words can hurt too.