Have you heard of the Trans America Trail? How about the Trans Wisconsin or Minnesota trails? I have and I’ve ridden on parts of all of them. Check out the internet forums and you’ll find endless discussions and countless opinions on what bike is best for ridding them. I listened to many of those disembodied voices coming from my computer screen. I lost some of what I wanted along the way. I got caught up in what was the best and the ultimate and I forgot what I wanted to do, what I was likely to do. Why spend time fixating on 1290 KTM Adventures riding across Siberia, when I just wanted to ride the roads I liked. I wanted to ride them more often and I wanted to be a better rider.
The roads and trails I’m talking about are basically dirt roads or crappy dirt roads, so you don’t need a full on dirt bike. Nor do you need a high tech, high dollar adventure bike. I was distracted and frustrated by not being able to afford my dream bike and riding some fantasy road, that I forgot to ride the roads I liked on the bike I owned. I came to my senses. Well, I gathered together what little sense I had and formed a fleet of motorcycles in my garage. One bike for dirt trails and one for streets and roads. Both bikes are very good at what they do. But I was still fascinated by what that in-between bike would be.
I had tried to find one bike to do it all in the past and I had failed. I didn’t know why at first. I watched videos on line of guys riding adventure bikes up trails a goat would struggle with. I tried, very modestly, to replicate those daring mountain adventures and learned the hard way that it was the skill of the rider that was far more important than the bike. These people were highly trained, extremely fit and far better riders than this middle aged man who lived in the middle of the prairie. Skill, not bike. So I’m working on the skill thing, but I can’t stop thinking about that adventure bike. Then I realized for me and my skill set, and the dirt roads that I want to ride, it wasn’t an adventure bike I needed. It’s a scrambler!
Back in the day a scrambler was a street bike with a high exhaust pipe and knobby tires. Any street bike could be made into a scrambler by adding a high exhaust and some knobby tires. Lot’s of bike makers would take their popular models and make a scrambler version. Then dirt bikes came along and we saw that mere mortals could ride off road on a dirt bike and the scramblers all died off. Then BMW reinvented the scrambler and the Adventure Bike was born.
All sorts of things became part of the adventure bike. The bike makers slowly morphed them into their own category of motorcycle. Before the mid sixties there were no cruisers or sport bikes or touring bikes, just motorcycles. Now you cant stray very far from your designated design group without being booed off the show room floor. All these groups of bikes have lost something for me. They are too stylized and specialized that they have become less of a motorcycle. Or in so many cases far too much, several of these groups start at 650 pounds and go up from there.
Ducati has come out with a little family of scramblers. Triumph has been making an old school version for a few years now, with a fresh new one on the way. I think the Kawasaki Versys might be considered a scrambler, but they are too ugly to look at. So I’m not sure. Lots of bikes are dangerously close to being scramblers. It might not be practical to build a high pipe exhaust system in your garage, but I think a bash plate bolted on the bottom of the bike would be a legitimate substitute. Then just ad some knobby tires. Scramblers don’t have crash cages, or beaks and fairings. They don’t have racks festooned with hard bags and halogen lighting. There is a purity to scramblers that compels me to want one. Not the old ones. They should remain in museums and looked upon with reverence. I want to make my own modern day scrambler. And I’ve been secretly working on my formula for weeks now.
My wife know’s that I’m am plotting something, but she doesn’t know what. She’s learned to give me room and not ask too many questions. She’s slowed down her intake of vodka from fancy shaped bottles and positioned herself between me and the bank account. She’s quietly leaning against it with her arms crossed and watching me with narrowed eyes. It’s a waiting game now. Soon Rachel Ray will recommend some out of this world cocktail or there will be a sale down at Merwin’s. I must bide my time till then. So for now I continue my research and make some notes, making sure to keep a close guard on them. I have to keep to my regular routine so as not to raise suspicion. Luckily I’ve set the precedent of looking at used motorcycles on Craig’s List for hours on end.
I know what size knobby tires come in, so I can eliminate any bike with wheels I can’t get tires for. The aftermarket will supply a skid plate for some bikes, others I must fabricate. Soon that right bike for the right price will pop up and I’ll pounce. I will be swift and stealthy. I can’t reveal too much, she may have friends who read this paper. All I can say is, think power to weight ratio. Think twin cylinders with a displacement in the 650 to 800cc range. Most of all put out good energy into the universe, so that when it delivers me that bike… that bike is orange. It can be done. I’ve got the research to prove it.