Trackday: Laguna Seca, July 2020

On the third of July, 2020, I did a track day at Laguna Seca with Fun Track Dayz in their Novice “C” Group.

The idea for a track day was originally proposed by Anil and since I’d never been to Laguna Seca before, I signed up and was excited to do this track day. I rented a trailer from U-Haul and trailered the SuperDuke down to Salinas with my FJ Cruiser. Along the way, at about 7am, I got a call from Ayon that he has a flat tire. I took Bailey exit off 101 to help him and noticed the rear tire of his Subaru was completely shredded. We put on the spare stepney, pumped it up to 60 PSI and were on our way. We made it into Laguna Seca just in time for the morning meet & instructions. 

There were four sessions in the morning, 9am, 10am, 11 and 12 noon. C group was running the first of three sessions of the hour and so Ayon and I got out onto the track for our first session at 9 a.m. 

The first session Was really about feeling the track, learning the lines and taking it easy. We were behind the instructor at all times and we’re doing a steady moderate pace. Laguna is an excellent track with lots of ups and downs. The trickiest turn was the corkscrew (T8) – where the left-right-left transitions are quick. As the day progressed, I got more confident riding through the corkscrew but occasionally would miss the line and ride over the painted edge of the track.

The other part of the track that made me uncomfortable was the front straightaway. On this part of the track everybody is gunning it and most people reach triple-digit speeds. When bikes are traveling SO fast, just a mere few feet away from each other, it tends to get a little scary for me. So I would back off the throttle much earlier than the rest and let some of the bigger bikes pass me at the end of the straightaway. The first (double apex) turn “The Andretti Hairpin” at the end of the straightaway saw a lot of crashes. People would come in hot, down the slope of the straightaway, lean the bike over a bit too much, and low-side into the dirt. Overall I saw about 8 to 10 crashes over the course of the day.

As the day progressed my lap times became better and better. I was using an app on my iPhone for timing laps — called Harry’s lap timer. The fastest lap time that I recorded was 2:02 which was about as fast as I was willing to push it. I gave my iPhone for a few laps to Anil and he was consistently doing laps in the 1:50s. I think his fastest lap was about 1:51. 

I did all of the afternoon sessions except the last one at the end of the day. I was getting tired and I didn’t want to make any mistakes and regret it. I loaded up the bike back onto the trailer satisfied with the experience of Laguna Seca and excited about the pictures that the photographer was taking. 

Video from the first session, following the instructor:

Second session:

Some pictures now.

The four of us lining up for a nice group shot:

The KTM “mat” came in handy … blue carpet treatment for the SuperDuke:

Bubbly tires:

The corkscrew, T8:

T3:

T5:

T5, my favorite pic of that turn:

T10:

Straightaway:

RR63: Summit Road

[The first paragraph of this post is credited to Ian at Big Rock Moto. I loved his description of adv riding so much, I thought I’d post it here]

It is in our soul, in our DNA, to crave adventure, to seek out forgotten lands, mysterious valleys and mountain ridges that go forever. We belong to open spaces, to fresh air, to the wind and the weather. In our modern, safe and predictable lives, we’ve lost touch with a part of ourselves that craves this adventure. The freedom of two wheels, especially on Adventure motorcycles allows us as an escape from our boring everyday life. Load up the camping gear and head for the mountains, for the horizon and for the unknown. To some degree, that’s what we all seek, don’t we?

One afternoon in June, Ayon (Honda CRF250L Rally), Anil (KTM 1090 Adv) and me (KTM 990 Adv) explored Redwood Retreat Rd., Mt. Madonna Road and Summit Rd. in the Santa Cruz mountains. The ride on Summit road was somehow special. The dirt section (about 12 miles) was not too technical, not too long and the views were impressive. There was thick forest cover along Mt. Madonna Rd. creating an amazing feeling of riding through the trees.

RR62: Return to Carnegie

After about 9 years, I had the opportunity to go back to Carnegie SVRA. Paid the $5 and explored the park for 2-3 hours. This was a very last minute (what do I do on a Sunday afternoon? – type) ride so I was alone.

I explored Pottery Loop Trail – did that 3-4 times as I gained confidence. The dirt at the bottom of the trail was very loose and the street oriented tires on my KTM were not able to give me adequate traction. I had to sit down on the seat a few times, shifting my weight to the back so that the rear could get traction.

I also explored Juniper Trail and Middle Track – both were relatively easy. Finally I rode across the park – North to South a couple of times on the fire road – practising body positioning and breaking traction on my rear tire. All in all I spent about 2 hours in the saddle and that can be very tiring off-road.

Best of all, it was not very hot, which is unusual for Carnegie in June. The temps were in the 70s and I had a cool time exploring the park. I’d love to do it again, hopefully with a few friends on big adv bikes.

The KTM 990 is in my opinion the perfect dirt-oriented adv bike. It cruises effortlessly on the freeway, handles the twisty stuff well and is  very confident in the dirt. I’m so glad I own this bike!

RR61: Annual Sierra Passes Ride

This ride was the usual Sierra Pass ride, a ride I’ve done multiple times now with multiple bikes (2019, 2018, 2017, 2015, 2011).

We were early in the season, maybe 1 or 2 weekends after Sonora Pass opened. There were a total of 7 riders (+1 who joined late at Walker) –

  • Akshay on his Aprilia Tuono
  • Aman also on his Aprilia Tuono
  • Ayon on his Triumph Speed Triple
  • Bobby on his BMW R9T
  • Sandeep on his MV Agusta Brutale 800 Dragster
  • Sravan on his KTM 1090 Adventure, joined us late at Walker.
  • Praveen on his Aprilia RSV4
  • and me on my KTM 990 Adventure

We had lunch at Mountain View BBQ – and it was a welcome change from Walker Burger. My first visit to Mountain View BBQ was in 2011.

Thankfully there were no close call, crashes or tickets, which I guess is always a risk in a large group ride that last 400+ miles.

This year I took a short detour off Hwy 89 near Monitor Pass, to Levathian Peak and rode up the 2 mile dirt road to the Forest Service lookout post. The air was extremely clear there and the views were amazing. The lookout itself was gated off, so I stopped a few yards before the summit and took some pictures.

This is the lookout (not my picture):

Mosquito Lake was beautiful:

Night Cap Peak with a lot of snow:

The MV is a beautiful looking bike:

My favorite vista of Leavitt Meadows:

RR60: COVID-19 Ride #5: PCH

This was a relatively simple ride down and back the Pacific Coast Highway. We met Ayon on Bailey and then the rode Hecker Pass down to Highway 1. Our original plan was to take Nacimiento-Fergusson Road over to Carmel but because of the coronavirus pandemic that road was shut down by the Los Padres National Forest, Monterey Ranger District.

We stopped a little past the Kirk Creek Campground on Highway 1 and found a nice picnic bench to eat lunch (Mill Creek Picnic Area). That was also the turnaround point and we had an uneventful ride back home.

The weather was great and we got some nice pictures!

RR59: COVID-19 Ride #4: Hwy 26

Another excellent ride. This was mostly roads that I have never ridden before and so that made it even more interesting.

We started the day early in Fremont and took Tesla Road through Livermore. This time it was clear and mild, with no fog, and we kept up a good pace.  We road Highway 120 across the Central Valley and took usually entertaining Rodden Rd and Orange Blossom through Oakdale. Our first gas stop was the Chevron in Jamestown. There were easily about 30 other riders there, mostly on Harley-Davidsons. Absolutely no social distancing being practiced –  well, that’s okay I guess, the coronavirus pandemic is dying down and the curve is flattening. Dr. Fauci would not approve though.

We then detoured off Highway 108 and rode through the small towns of Gibbs Ranch, Shaws Flat, Springfield and Columbia. We took a few pictures along Parrots Ferry Road. We crossed the New Melones Lake on Parrots Ferry Road –  the water behind the dam was high and the lake was full.

After a small section on Highway 4 we rode through the quaint little Irish town of Murphys.  from Derby to Sheep Ranch Road a nice goaty trail that took us to Railroad Flat Road.  Some sections of Sheep Ranch Road were very rough and an adventure bike would have been good. We turn right onto Railroad Flat Road and stop for lunch at the intersection of Jesus Maria Road. It was a beautiful shaded spot where we had a picnic lunch.  Jesus Maria Road  was quite interesting in itself.  Pavement was only a suggestion in certain sections but the views were magnificent as a road descended towards Highway 26.

The best road of the day was clearly Highway 26. Right up there with Highway 36 and Wentworth Springs Road, this road was pure joy, full-on entertainment for a sports bike, with perfectly banked curves and extremely smooth pavement. For a minute I thought that the entertainment was over as we reached the town of West Point, but then the fun goes on the road winds down to cross the North Fork Mokelumne River and then climbs back up, all the way to Highway 88.

We then gassed up in Jackson and took the (long) freeway home. All in all it was an excellent ride and I’m glad that I got to explore Highway 26 once again.

RR58: COVID-19 Ride #3: Sierra Foothills

With several weeks into the coronavirus pandemic we had settled into a nice routine.  Weekdays were busy with homeschooling the kids, working from home and taking care of household chores. On the weekends, especially Saturdays, we had started doing lots of family hikes – long day hikes in and around the Bay Area (see bahiker.com). And on Sundays, I was able to ride several long day-rides exploring parts of California that I’ve always wanted to explore. The mild Spring weather was awesome, the hills were still green and the traffic was very light because of the pandemic. Motorcycling by itself is a solitary activity that requires very little close interaction with others.  So while social distancing can be maintained I took up the opportunity of riding a few places during the pandemic. The only real problem here would be a crash – and I was very cognizant of that.  Any get-off or mishap that requires a trip to the hospital would not only expose me to the coronavirus but would also unnecessarily overburdened the medical system right now. Thankfully that did not happen, we rode slowly and safely, with an overabundance of caution.

This ride was a partial repeat of RR49. I was on my Superduke while Akshay was on Ayon’s Triumph Speed Triple. This time around also it was just the two of us. We started the day early and took Tesla Road out of Livermore.  It was cool and dry in Fremont but as we climbed up the hills of Tesla we hit a lot of fog.  Visibility was very poor and my helmet visor got completely soaked in the mist. 

We crossed the long and boring roles of the Central Valley while it was cool and dry. The twisty bits start around the town of Snelling. We crossed the Merced River on Hornitos Road and stopped for a couple of pictures there. There were many other motorcyclists riding around that Sunday.  I chatted briefly with the fisherman who was fishing off the bridge.  Not a lot of social distancing going on in rural California. 

We rode Hornitos Road all the way to Highway 140 and then into Mariposa. From there we took Highway 49 (Little Dragon) all the way to Coulterville. We stopped briefly and the vista point before the twisty bits for some pictures. There were lots of bikers out today, many on Harley-Davidsons and many from the Bay Area on sports bikes.

We then took Coulterville-Priest Road (always a favorite)  and then down the steep Priest grade. From here we took a couple of new roads that I have always wanted to ride – Marshes Flat Road and Kelly Grade. These were interesting roads,  20-30 mile per hour goaty roads, with rough pavement.  We made it to Highway 132, gassed up and ate lunch at Don Pedro’s Market. I took a picture of the bulletin board there.  So different from the life in the Bay Area. An ad for a concealed-carry course, yard work services offered at $16 an hour and seasoned dry oak firewood for sale!

The rest of the ride home was uneventful. Even though this was about 300 miles door-to-door I was not very tired. The Superduke sure is a comfortable bike to ride.

RR57: COVID-19 Ride #2: East Bay Country Roads

It is looking like the year 2020 will go down as the crappiest in the history of the modern world. With hundreds of thousands of people losing their lives and millions of people losing their livelihoods, the whole world has turned upside down and is just a really unfortunate time for everyone. 

With all businesses closed and schools closed and the nationwide shelter-in-place order it has been quite an interesting time for motorcycling.  Alameda County does not explicitly restrict motorcycling per se but recommends staying at home for everything except what is considered “essential”.  So after staying at home for about three weeks and not going anywhere I finally decided to get onto my bike, meet a few friends and go for a ride in the East Bay Hills.  We kept the mandatory six-feet separation from each other at all times. 

We took the Tassajara exit off Highway 580 and road the back roads to the base of Mount Diablo. We climbed up Mount Diablo from the south side and took a break at the fork. Traffic was very light, a few bicycle riders and maybe a couple of motorcyclists.  We descended the mountain  towards the North and went through the small town of Clayton. From there we took Marsh Creek Road and Vasco back to 580. It’s been a few years since I rode Vasco Road and I totally enjoyed it this time.  Wide sweeping turns, open vistas and the lush green grass glowing in the springtime sun –  it was an excellent ride!

We didn’t take a lot of pictures… we were riding pretty fast … here’s a couple of pictures we took at the end of the ride at Sunol.

RR56: COVID-19 Ride #1: Hwy 25 to King City

This was the first of many COVID-19 rides that I did during the quarantined months of Spring 2020. This was before the complete lockdown and it was during a time when things were slowing down, offices were starting to shut down, kids activities were being reduced and people were starting to get generally cautious. 

We met and Ayon’s house in the early afternoon and decided to ride Highway 25 down to King City. The weather was clear, although it did start to rain later on during the ride. I got a chance to ride my KTM Super Duke, Akshay/Ayon’s Honda VFR 1200 and Ayon’s Yamaha VMAX during the ride. All the bikes did well on the long winding sweepers offered by Highway 25.

We ate lunch at King City … this was before most restaurants had shut down. The tacos were excellent.

After quickly gassing up we headed back the same way on Highway 25 and that’s when it started to rain heavily. I’m continued to be impressed by my Aerostich roadcrafter. I generally never ride in the rain, but have been caught in a rainstorm 4 to 5 times now and every single time the Aerostich roadcrafter has kept me warm and dry. On the way back up on Highway 25 there was one pucker moment when I was passing an SUV during the deluge. The rear end of the KTM broke loose and the bike started a fishtail a little bit. Thankfully traction control kicked in and smoothed out the ride.

Here is a nice picture from Ayon:

RR55: Big Sur Dual Sport Ride: Getting Old / Birthday Ride, Part II

Getting Old, Part II. Another bucket list ride.

I have always wanted to explore the dirt roads in and around Big Sur. We did it briefly in our FJ Cruiser last year and I’ve ridden the paved street roads there several times (see RR21 from 2012). So at the start of Thanksgiving week 2019 I roped in Ayon (Honda CRF250L Rally) and Gokul (BMW F800GS) and we set off to explore the area.

We met in South San Jose on a cold morning. Gokul accidentally dropped his bike at the meetup spot, which turned out to be a recurring theme. We took the usual Uvas and Hecker Pass roads over to the coast and gassed up in Carmel.

First road on the agenda was Coast Road which runs between Bixby Bridge on the north end and Andrew Molera SP on the south end.

The road climbs up and down a few times going through some coastal redwoods and offers beautiful views of the coast.

After Coast Road, we rode into the town of Big Sur, gassed up and rode 20 miles south to Plaskett Ridge Road. The plan was to ride up Plaskett Ridge to Coast Ridge Trail.

[Pic by Ayon]

[Pic by Ayon]

[Pic by Ayon]

Plaskett Ridge was easy to ride initially, but the dirt turned to loose sand in a few miles, Gokul had another spill and we helped him ride up some of the tricky spots. We breaked for lunch at this nice picnic spot…

And had a few beers there…

As we continue along Plaskett Ridge, this happened…

Not a hard fall, just a soft drop! First time I dropped the big gal; it was inevitable on Plaskett. The sand was so deep it was up to the swingarm and bike was simply not going anywhere. At one point I lost my footing and dropped the bike. We picked up all our bikes (all 3 were down) and somehow made is across the sandy parts.

Gokul was still smiling after multiple spills – good attitude👍 I probably would have been distraught if I had crashed so many times.

We crossed several beautiful campsites (note to self – take the family for dispersed camping to Big Sur) and made it up to the top of Plaskett where we came across a locked gate. The gate had a “No Trespassing” sign, so we stopped and were mulling about what to do next. Clearly Google Maps did not know the area well. A few minutes later we hear gunshots and someone on a megaphone yell “Get Out” and “Leave or get shot”. I’d say he fired at least 6-10 shots over a minute! We turned around and left asap – retracting our path on Plaskett Ridge.

Thankfully going down on Plaskett was not as hard as coming up and neither of us crashed. We made it back down to Hwy 1, shaking a little.

Sunset on Hwy 1 a few miles north.

The rest of the ride home was uneventful, except that it was getting dark and riding Hwy 1 in the dark is no easy task. Thankfully we’d overcome bigger problems that day and we made it home safe and sound. This ride turned out to be a true adventure!