RR81: 2022 Sheetiron 300

The Sheetiron 300 Dualsport is the most popular dual sport ride for Bay Area dirt and adv riders. This ride is put together by the Oakland motorcycle club and they’ve been doing this for several decades now. This post is going to be a long collection of stories because this was such an interesting ride. It’s been a busy summer and I’m actually writing this about three months after the ride, so I may not have all the details exactly right, but we’ll see.

The first story, I guess, is of the motorcycle – I did this ride on my 2019 Kawasaki Versys-X 300. I sold my KTM 990 adventure in 2021 after it became too unreliable. I picked up the little Versys on my birthday, Christmas 2021. It’s an amazing little bike that can run 80 miles an hour on the freeway and tackle some moderate dirt roads on the same day. It’s not a “real” dual sport like a KTM or DR650, but it’s modern, fuel injected and runs very well on the street where I intend to ride about 90% of the time anyway. It did well on the Sheetiron, being so light and easy to ride, never was I stressed out about dropping the bike or getting into some sort of trouble.

The second story is of registration. The Sheetiron is a popular ride and with only  500 spots, the ride fills up quickly. Typically this event is held the weekend before Memorial Day Weekend, and applications are accepted on, but not before, April 1st. So one could technically mail in the application the day before – but we all decided to simply drive up to San Ramon and drop it off in person. It turns out that I was doing a trackday in my car at Thunderhill on April 1st, so I dropped off my application at 5AM on my way to T-Hill. Vijay and Gokul dropped off their applications at midnight, while Mahesh dropped it off at about 9AM. Thankfully we all got in – my number was 110 – and I was excited!

The third story is of the ride itself. And what a great ride it was. I connected with a Vstrom rider from Redwood City, Philippe, on advrider and we rode a bunch of sections together. Mahesh dropped out because of his daughters birthday so finally it was 4 of us – Gokul (KTM 690 Enduro), Philippe (Suzuki Vstrom 650), Vijay (Beta 500) and me (Kawasaki Versys-X 300).

Gokul and Vijay camped at the Stonyford campground, while I stayed the night before at the Traveller’s Inn in Williams. It was a very mediocre hotel, but it was the closest to Stonyford. The ride up to Williams was uneventful, but the long drone on I5 was boring. The stock Versys windshield causes buffeting and turbulence on the highway, and by the time I reached  Williams, my head was hurting. I had dinner at the Taco Bell nearby, gassed up the bike and called it an early night.

The next morning, I made a quick stop at Starbucks and rode over to the Stonyford campground staging area. The place was packed! With 500 riders, there were a lot of trailers, bikes, equipment and excitement! The weather was perfect – in the 60s – not too hot and not too cold. The check in process was easy, I got maps loaded on to my GPS unit and also loaded up the roll chart into my roll chart holder.

Philippe and I left a little earlier than Vijay and Gokul, at about 7am. Here was the route we followed, “the easy split” —

The ride started off on M10 a big paved road in Stonyford, but quickly took a detour over a ridge and back down to M10. This detour was only 2-3 miles, but the dirt was almost single track and had a few whoops and jumps. Well, OK, I thought, it’s going to be an interesting day. Back on to M10, a couple more detours and then we hit Fouts Springs Road towards Fouts Springs OHV. As the dirt roads got wider the terrain was not too bad, and I enjoyed the ride. The Versys was very easy to ride in the dirt. We passed by Letts Valley, where there are a couple of lakes. Everything was lush green in the forest, a welcome change from the dry Bay Area.

Weaving across various Forest Service roads and tracks, the group split up and rejoined several times. I was pretty slow on the Versys and generally Philippe was keeping up with me, but Gokul and Vijay were flying, mostly ahead of me, even though they had started later than me.

Lake Pillsbury in the background

After a long morning, about 7am to 12 noon, we reached the Soda Creek Store. This marked the end of the tough dirt section of the day and the rest of the ride was more relaxing and easy. With about 200-300 riders at the store, Vijay, Philippe and I decided to skip lunch and just munch on some snacks. The sandwiches there did not look very appetizing 🙂

From the Soda Creek store, we took Elk Mountain Road, a nice easy fire road which eventually becomes paved as it goes through Potter Valley. I gassed up there, my only gas refill of the day, After a short section on Hwy 20, we took Tomki Road north towards Willits. We passed by Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery, and I made a note to myself, to look this place up – interesting place! The road turned to dirt soon and surprisingly there were many water crossings along Tomki. I was riding with Gokul and recorded a few water crossings.

The last road of the day was Sherwood road from Willits to Fort Bragg. This was a lovely section of dirt with good forest cover and and an easy wide road. There were a few water crossings, but nothing too deep or crazy. It hadn’t rained recently so the clay soil was moist and grippy, I had heard that after the rains Sherwood becomes slippery and impossible to ride.

I reached Fort Bragg around 5:30PM. It was a very long day and I was exhausted. Gokul and Vijay reached around the same time. As you get into Fort Bragg the club lines you up and takes a picture.

I checked into the Super 8 motel, took a quick shower and headed down to Mountain Mike’s Pizza. We had a few beers there and enjoyed the pizza. Vijay and I also walked to the Safeway a block over and picked up some whisky. We were shooting the breeze for a little while in Gokul’s room and then turned in for the night.

Day-2 was much more mild than Day-1. We started off riding South on Hwy-1 and made a left onto Navarro Ridge Road. This was another amazing gem. The road slowly turned to dirt and the moist grippy clay was super fun to ride. It was cool and shady, no dust blowing up, a perfect way to start the day. Vijay’s wrist was stiff and locked up from the excessive usage on Day-1. He was not able to extend his fingers enough to engage the clutch and so he decided to ride his bike on the paved section (Comptche Ukiah Road).

From there we rode a long section of paved road – Flynn creek Road to Comptche Ukiah Rd to Orr Springs Rd. Very nice twisty pavement and I enjoyed it on the light and flickable Versys.  After about 40 miles on pavement, we came to Hwy 101 where we gassed up and had a bite to eat.

I wish I had taken any pictures of Day-2. So I reached out to Gokul and he sent me a few pics he took during the day.

It was getting hot by then and we rode through Cow Mountain to the edge of Clear Lake. From there I bailed out and headed home – we were all solo now. Gokul decided to take the paved route to Clear Lake, Vijay was ahead of me, so I was on my own. I took Hwy 175 back to Hwy 101 and rode straight home. I made it home around 6PM, dead tired, exhausted and numb – but with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Conquered the Sheetiron!

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