On June 20th 2022, I rode the usual Sierra Passes ride. This was with Mahesh (BMW S1000XR), Ayon (KTM Superduke 1290), Krish (BMW R1200GS) and me on my Kawasaki W650. We rode the usual loop taking in the scenery and the awesome roads. Nothing unusual occured on this ride and I was very happy to ride the W all those miles without any issues. Such a superb little bike.
I thought I’d should post about this – I rode the W650 on some dirt roads, near Pescadero, with Mahesh on hiis Scrambler. The dirt section wasn’t too long and it wasn’t particularly difficult. The W handled it beautifully, looking classy all the time 🙂
This is around Reservoir Road, Artichoke Road and Hill Road near Pescadero
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 390RRS) 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!
In April 2022, the kids were off from school for Spring Break and we decided to take a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We had never been to North Carolina or Tennessee before and we really enjoyed the vacation there. The roads in and around the park are truly spectacular and I can see why it is such a motorcycle riding hot spot. On the final day of our trip, I rented a 2014 Honda Valkyrie from Wolf Creek Rentals in Townsend, NC.
I picked up the bike from the rental place in the morning while it was still pretty cold. They rented me a jacket, gloves and a helmet. I took some awesome roads there – Foothills Pkwy over to Happy Valley Rd and then finally US 129 “Tail of the Dragon”.
The dragon itself is a decent road, but not very different from Hwy 9 or the local roads in the Bay Area. The turns are relatively tight and the riding is pretty slow. I rode with Anushka behind me for about half of it, and then switched with Valmik for the rest of the dragon. They both enjoyed the ride tremendously, which was a little spirited for them.
I took a brief stop at the Dragon Resort, looked around the Tree of Shame, took a few pics and moved on. There wasn’t much of a crowd, it was still early in the morning and relatively cool. From there we rode down to the Historic Tapoco Lodge Resort and had lunch.
Shruti and the kids were tired with the winding roads there, so I decided to ride on towards Cherohala Skyway. I took Joyce Kilmer Road to Cherohala, stopped there for a few pics and chatted with a couple of riders from Ohio. I then road a few miles out on Cherohala and back tracked my way to the restaurant. I enjoyed Cherohala Skyway the most – it’s a great free flowing road with nice high speed sweepers. There were gradual elevation changes, excellent pavement and superb views – what more could one ask for? I was tailing a few ZX14 riders on the Skyway and it was a lot of fun. I could ride there for days on end.
I loved the Honda Valkyrie. I’ve been interested in a Valkyrie for a while now, ridden the older one many times. It has a lot of power – the goldwing engine makes more torque than a Busa. With five gears only, the last gear is a true overdrive. The bike has a super smooth engine with no buzz or vibrations anywhere. It also handles great, for being a cruiser. It’ll scrape pegs if you ride aggressively but for the most part it turns very well. It hides it’s 700lbs weight very well, while not being tiring to ride at all. It was definitely comfortable for the 400 miles I put that day.
The only issue for me really was that I think it needs a slipper clutch. It’s easy to skid the rear wheel when downshifting, and that can get scary on such a big bike. Obviously, the looks are a bit… polarizing… to put it mildly. Used prices are high – compared to a Ducati diavel or Triumph Rocket. Otherwise a fantastic bike, Honda reliability, awesome fit and finish, and best of all – 32,000 mile valve check intervals, only oil changes needed for a long time.
We rode up Hwy 9 through the SC mountains all the way down to Santa Cruz. It was quite cold through the mountains and by the time we got to Santa Cruz my fingers were frozen. We stopped for gas near Moss Landing and I swapped bikes with Mahesh till Carmel Valley.
We then started the ride towards Tassajara – the road was mostly hard packed dirt with a few ruts here and there. Nothing very difficult and we made it up to Chew’s ridge quickly.
The gate to the lookout was locked, so we did not ride our bikes up there, but walked the last quarter of a mile. The views from the lookout were amazing. The weather was perfect, and the visibility was great.
From there we rode a few miles towards the Zen center and stopped by a picnic bench for a beer and a sandwich. It was a very peaceful camping spot. We met a forest service ranger there who was laying irrigation lines for the service mules. We had a nice long chat with him.
From there we decided to turn around and head back to the Bay Area. Riding noisy motorcycles down to the Zen meditation center seemed like a bad idea, lol.
We rode on Carmel Valley Road, and then up Hwy 101 through Salinas and it was incredibly windy. The long freeway ride was tiring, but all in all it was fun.
On Feb 11th and 12th 2022, I went on a ride over the Carrizo Plain. There were 6 riders in all: Andy (Honda Africa Twin), Anil (Honda Africa Twin), Ayon (Honda CRF250L Rally), Gokul (KTM 690 Enduro), Mahesh (Kawasaki KLX230) and me (Kawasaki Versys-X 300).
We left on a Friday afternoon with Andy, Anil and me riding down. We rode through Uvas Reservoir and Hwy 25 over to Hwy 198 and then on to Parkfield Grade. It was an easy ride, although it was getting a bit hot. Ayon, Mahesh and Gokul got their bikes down in their trucks.
We gassed up in Tres Pinos. Gas prices were high, but nowhere near the highs they became a few months later, after the Russia Ukraine war.
At the end of Hwy 25, Andy briefly lost his balance and dropped his Africa Twin.
Some nice views climbing Parkfield grade.
Easy off road down the grade to the cafe.
We had a beer each at the cafe, some light food and were on our way to the hotel in Taft, CA.
This was in the month of February and it got dark pretty soon as we left the cafe. We gassed up at the James Dean themed gas station “Blackwells Corner” at the intersection of Hwy 33 and Hwy 46.
From there it was a straight shot to our hotel in Taft. We reached around 7PM, which gave us ample time to shower and get dinner at the Mexican restaurant, Mi Casita, right next to the hotel.
The ride to Carrizo Plain began the next day, Saturday Feb 12th. We unloaded bikes from Gokuls and Ayons trucks, gassed up and were on our way at about 9AM. The highlight for Gokul was his new Rivian R1T truck that hauled Mahesh’s and his bikes down.
We entered Carrizo through Crocker Springs Road and Hurricane Road. The dirt was hard packed, the temperatures were mild and the ride was perfect.
The descent down Hurricane road was probably the only tough part of the ride, and that was pretty mild too.
We then road Elkhorn Road towards the north which was a very peaceful and meditative ride. The dirt was relatively easy with no challenging obstacles. We were able to maintain a smooth speed through the turns and whoops and we then took a break at the Wallace Creek Trailhead. Here we walked over to the San Andreas fault and took some pictures.
From there we continued on to San Diego Creek Road and eventually came to Soda Lake.
It was getting hot by now, so we decide to visit the Carrizo Plain National Monument visitor center. We took a break there and had a beer. The visitor center was under construction but it still had some impressive stuff.
We decided to continue on with the ride from here. Andy had to go home early, so he left the group and started his ride home. Just a mile from the visitor center, Anil picked up a huge screw in his rear tire. The screw tore through his tire and tube and left him with a huge flat.
We removed the wheel. I had tire irons and with much effort, we removed the tire and the tube. The tube had a huge hole in it and we tried to patch it with a kit that Gokul had. Impressively none of us has a spare tube!
The patch would not hold air, which was sort of obvious to us all from the beginning. Anyway, at this point we gave up, disappointed, and Ayon called AAA to come rescue the bike. We had spent over 2.5 hours trying to fix the bike and everyone was exhausted. I decided at this point to make it back home instead of continuing with the ride. I was the only “rider” in the group left, the rest were going to haul their bikes back. Mahesh, Gokul and Ayon rode Soda Lake road down south and back to the hotel, I started riding north and took the freeway back home.
The ride back home was easy, but extremely boring. I had lunch at a McDonald’s on the way and made it back home around 7PM, exhausted. Anil was able to get the AAA truck to rescue his bike and drop it off at the hotel. He got a ride with Gokul and Mahesh in the Rivian as they came back to the Bay Area. Anil went down back to Taft the next day with a trailer to retrieve the bike.
Interestingly Mahesh, Ayon and Gokul went back over the same route that evening in the Rivian and got some excellent pictures.
This trip did not go as planned, mainly because none of us had spare tubes with us. Andy did have some spare tubes, but he left before the incident. Lesson learnt, I guess, for next time – always carry spare tubes. This trip also demonstrated how people react under pressure and why riding longer trips is a two sided coin – it’s all fun and games when the going is good, but it sucks when there is a snag.
On Jan 17th, 2022, Akshay (KTM 1290 Super Adventure), Gokul (KTM 690 Enduro), Mahesh (Ducati Scrambler 1100) and me (Kawasaki Versys-X 300) rode around the Bartlett Springs, Clear Lake area in the North Bay. The original idea for the route came from this thread on Advrider, and we did the exact same route charting 48 miles off road.
We left Fremont early in the morning and took the freeway to the Starbucks in Fairfield. After a quick coffee, we started riding. Suisun Valley Road and Wooden Valley Road took us to Hwy 121, from where we rode Hwy 128 all the way to Winters. We took the by-roads parallel to 505, over to Hwy 16. We stopped for gas at the Cache Creek Casino, my first time there. Hwy 16 was good fun – nice twisties along the Bear creek. What a unique name for a creek in California.
At Hwy 20, we started our dirt ride, on Bear Valley road, splendid name again. This was a very mild dirt road, almost as easy as riding on the street.
Some nice pics of yours truly, thanks to Gokul.
Mahesh’s Ducati was sporting some bald tires, but he made it through the whole ride without incident.
We turned left from Bear Valley on to Brim road. The road slowly climbs a few hills before it meets Bartlett Springs Road. At the start of this climb, Gokul came in a bit hot from a side trail and crashed him KTM into the mountain side. Thankfully he was OK and the damage to the bike was minimal.
We met Bartlett Springs Road at the top and made our way down to Indian Valley.
The reservoir at Indian Valley was completely dry. We could not see the water line from the road. We took a few breaks along the way and continued the ride down to Clear Lake.
As the road descends into the Clear Lake area, there are some beautiful views to be had.
We had a late lunch, about 4PM, at Romi’s Brew and BBQ. It was by far the worst place I’ve ever eaten at in recent memory, a solid 0 on 5 stars.
The ride back home was uneventful, about 130 miles on the freeway – 101, 580 and 880.
The Versys-X 300 did very well. It inspires a lot of confidence in the dirt, much more so than my KTM 990. It may not have the suspension chops of the Dakar oriented KTM racebike, but it putts along just fine in every terrain without overwhelming the rider with excess weight or power. The nimble handling of the bike in dirt makes it easy to ride smoothly and confidently and ultimately allows me to relax and enjoy the ride. At the same time it works very well in the twisties, and it comfortably stays at 85mph on the freeway. What more can I want? I think we have a winna.
On the 19th of November 2021, Ayon (BMW R1200GS), Mahesh (BMW S1000XR) and me (Kawasaki W650) rode to the O’Shaughnessy dam in Yosemite National Park.
Yosemite is only about 3 hour from the Bay Area and we’ve been there every year since 2001. We truly enjoy that park every time we go and have visited almost all parts of the park – the Valley, the Tuolumne meadows, Tioga pass, Glacier Point, etc. One place I had never visited was the O’Shaughnessy dam.
The road to the dam is a separate route off the main roads that lead to the park. We left the Bay Area early in the morning. I met Ayon at the Shell gas station in Fremont, and Mahesh caught up with us in Escalon.
We first stopped at the entrance sign to the park and took a few pictures
From there, the ride to the dam was fairly straightforward. The road is incredibly scenic and the late Fall weather made it even more beautiful.
The dam itself and the surrounding area is incredibly beautiful!
We hiked through the tunnel on the far side of the dam.
On our way back we took Cherry Lake Road back to Hwy 120. It was a short and sweet ride, we made it back before it got too dark. I actually came off so impressed with this area that I went back there a few days later with the kids to hike to the Wapama Falls. Simply beautiful!
On October 3rd, 2021, Akshay (KTM 1290 Super Adventure), Ayon (KTM 1290 SuperDuke) and me (Kawasaki W650) rode some of the roads in the North Bay, including Stewarts Point-Skaggs Springs Rd and Hwy 128. This was my first long ride on the W650 and I was apprehensive of mechanical breakdowns and problems.
We left Fremont early Sunday morning (after a hour delay by Ayon) and our first gas stop was at the Chevron in San Rafael. We exited Hwy 101 on Dry Creek Road in Healdsburg and rode over to Skaggs. The first part of Skaggs was amazing, superbly banked curves, great tarmac quality and no real traffic. About 10 miles in, Skaggs turns into a single lane bumpy, goaty, road. This was fun too, but not as much as those nice sweepers. There was a short section of construction along the way where the road turned to dirt, and the W handled it with ease. After the bridge, we stopped and took some pictures.
Skaggs ends in Hwy 1, and from there we rode up to Gualala. We got gas, and had lunch at Trinks Cafe. The (veggie) burger was very average but I was happy to sip on some Boont Amber Ale.
From there we rode up Hwy 1 and then took Hwy 128 back to 101. The Pacific side of Hwy 128 is definitely one of my favorite roads – I first rode it in 2014, RR34.
We gassed up again in Booneville and made the long freeway struggle back home. It was very hot and the long freeway drone made me tired. Anyway, the W650 did very well. Not a hiccup there and I loved how easy and comfortable it is to ride. It has enough power to be entertaining, and I ran it to 105 mph on a long flat top-speed run. Overall it did the twisties and the freeways just fine. The only limitation on that bike is the tank range. The bike “comes on reserve” at 100-115 miles and I probably have another 30 miles after that. So a conservative tank range of 140 miles, is really the only limiting factor.
This ride was a repeat of RR21 from 2012 and RR56 from 2020. I was riding the Sport Classic and met up with Akshay (Moto Guzzi Griso), Anil (BMW S1000XR) and Mahesh (BMW S1000XR) and we rode down Uvas to Hwy 25 down to King City.
We had lunch at El Lugarcito Restaurant (a very mediocre fare, similar to 2019) and rode back to Hwy 25 on Lonoak Rd. I loved the desolate landscape there and it was great to visit after almost a decade.
While we were stopping for pictures along Lonoak Rd, Akshay hit a patch of gravel and tipped over his Griso. The damage is minor and we rode on.I was impressed how fast the Sport Classic can go in a straight line. I easily saw an indicated 130 mph on Hwy 25, with more room to go. The air cooled engine is grunty, torquey and surprisingly good at long smooth twisty rides.