Doing the Boogie

The Calabogie Boogie’s been around since 1989, but up until this year it didn’t have a dual-sport element. Editor ‘Arris checks out the Boogie from the saddle of a BMW F800GS.

Words: Rob Harris. Pics: As credited

I’ve often heard about the Calabogie Boogie — a two-day dirt ride through the glorious trails around Calabogie in eastern Ontario — but up until now I’d not actually ridden it.


Sunrise over Calabogie Lake
photo: Rob Harris

Well, technically I still haven’t ridden it, as I was there as part of Rally Connex’s dual-sport ride (see endbar) — put on in conjunction with the Bytown Motorcycle Association, which organizes the Boogie.

The Boogie has been around since 1989 and is the reserve of the off-roader, with a basic course laid out through the woods and various options branching off it. These optional runs range in difficulty from 1 to 5, with 5 being the really hard stuff (like sailing off tall cliffs and riding through elbow-deep, leech-infested muddy water).


F800GS stock skidplate …
photo: Rob Harris

I’d ridden a similar event last year in Algonquin, and though it was fun, it was only the agility of the KTM 690 Enduro test bike I was riding that made it so. If I’d taken my ’91 KLR 650, it would still likely be there somewhere at the bottom of a cliff, bent and turning rusty.

Being I was riding the dual-sport portion of the Boogie, I armed myself with a 2009 BMW F800GS tester (sadly sans a proper skidplate or hand guards).



Vernon and ‘Arris.
photo: Rob Harris

As per usual I embarked on this trip with my good dirt-riding buddy Jim Vernon, who was in charge of a new KTM 690 Enduro R tester for comparison with the Beemer.

Arriving at the Calabogie Peaks Resort — rather plush digs for a pair of CMGers — at 4:30 p.m., we unloaded the bikes and geared up for a brief “warm-up” lap of some of the local trails.

A map was produced, a loop conceived and by 5 p.m. we were swooshing our way down a rather luscious little trail around the Calabogie and Black Donald Lake system.


Hydroline can turn pretty rocky.
photo: Kevin Burnett

Lakes always look a lot smaller on a map than in real life and by the time we were just past halfway round the loop, the sun was brushing the horizon and the trail proving to be a tad rockier than I remembered it from the previous year.

A brand new BMW brandishing a very expensive (and rather prone) exhaust header was not the bike to be climbing rocky hills on. But sure enough, just far enough around the loop to make backing out a non-option, lay an incline broken up by three rock ledges, each of them big enough to bash a pipe flat in a split second.

With the grace of a stoned gazelle Jim roosted his way over each step on the KTM looking very much like he knew what he was doing.


Jim watches the show with a smoke.
photo: Jim Vernon

Once up top, he dismounted, lit up a smoke and got into position (with camera in hand, of course) to witness what could very well end of the F800GS, as well as the termination of CMG’s relationship with BMW Canada.

In a marked effort to avoid this, I dismounted and dutifully walked the up steps, removed inconveniently placed rocks, mapped out an S-shaped route that cleared the largest obstacles and remounted.

Halfway through the bottom curve of the “S” I lost momentum and stalled out with the front wheel precariously perched on the next step, holding the bike upright by the tips of my booted toes.



Halfway up …
photo: Jim Vernon

Without flinching, Jim started snapping away as I balanced with the strength and determination of a long-haired Sampson, clutch slipping and wheel spinning frantically in a desperate attempt to regain forward motion.

Seeing the predicament that I had got myself into, Jim finally put the camera down and helped me slide the bike over, enabling me to shoot up the next step only to repeat it all over again on the one that followed.

The Beemer made it, though its clutch now had the equivalent of an additional 1,000 km on it, though was otherwise undamaged.

Then it got dark.


This is all Jim could see while following the Beemer.
photo: Jim Vernon

Bugger again.

Thankfully, under the headlight’s beam big rocks cast big shadows, which helped me to avoid them. Well, most of them…

We eventually got to the event sign-in back in Calabogie at 8:30 in darkness, exhausted.

Event sign-in was at the local golf course and included a sound check (not normally done at R-C events, but a standard at the Boogie) with a maximum limit of 94 dB. Noise is one of the biggest issues facing off-road communities across the country and has been the cause of many trail closures.


Sound check.
photo: Rob Harris

I was quite pleased to see this requirement put in place, as it’s usually the few idiots that spoil it for everyone else; I was, however, eager to get through sign-in, which was located in the clubhouse — within a few feet of the bar…

Food, beer and a regaling of the evening so far ended a rather eventful Friday. Time for bed and some rest before the big day ahead.


Saturday was unusually efficient for a CMG outing. We got up, had a good breakfast, and were geared up and ready to go with time to spare before the 9 a.m. riders’ meeting.

Then, of course, things turned more CMG-ish:  Jim couldn’t find the KTM’s key. We looked on the bike, under the bike, around the parking lot, in the van, through the hotel in the room … anywhere and everywhere but there was no key.


The Boogie Riders’ Meeting was well attended.
photo: Rob Harris

There was only one thing to do, Jim would phone the local KTM dealer and see if he could get a replacement key, and I’d take one for the team and ride the event on the BMW. T’was the least I could do.

More than 150 riders packed the riders’ meeting. After the Boogie meeting wrapped up, the Rally Connex meeting took place for the real hardcore riders — all 10 of us.

I don’t understand why a promising event like the Rally Connex dual-sport ride doesn’t draw more support. Maybe it’s a matter of getting the word out, or maybe it’s just hard to convince KLR, DR and XR-L owners that there’s life beyond pavement.


R-C’s Kevin goes over what to do if you meet red-necks; 1) The Salute, 2) Bend over and squeal like a piggy.
photo: Jim Vernon

Of the 10 dual-sport participants, only Paul Devlin and I chose to ride the stock route (no proper skidplate, remember?). Paul, a seasoned track day enthusiast, thought he’d give dual-sporting a go and had purchased a rather ancient but mechanically sound Honda XL600.

Since Paul was sans GPS I was happy to team up with him and we promptly blasted off — with me pausing at each junction to ensure he was still following.

The day started for him as a pleasant ride in the country but after a while he was experimenting with rear-wheel steering (spin it up and slide it out so you don’t overload the front tire and risk washing out), and enthusiastically talking about grabbing air over some humps.

It was quite rewarding to hear Paul short-shifting and revving out his XL as I waited for him at the next junction.

During the lunch break, Paul (who had done a lot of track days and understood when tiredness and cockiness crossed) opted to call it quits while he was still upright and smiling.


Saturday lunch trail side.
photo: Jim Vernon

Being of a less-wise nature, I decided to take it up a notch and see how flexible the F800GS really was – after being assured that the afternoon’s hard option would be free of rocky cliffs by R-C owner Kevin Burnett (as long as I avoided the last section of hydro line, I was told).

It was the right decision and I spent a rather glorious afternoon getting to know the Beemer’s limits and required subtleties.

Returning to the Calabogie Peaks Resort at the end of the day I found a rather content Jim having a lazy afternoon but sadly still without a key. Oh dear, let’s head to the golf club for the banquet and some beer — maybe lots of beer for Jim.


The KTM 690R Enduro is a superb dirt machine.
photo: Jim Vernon

I was awakened by a cup of coffee and a rather pleased-as-punch Jim. The KTM’s key had miraculously reappeared! It had apparently fallen out from its hiding place somewhere inside the bike after we had dragged it into the back of the truck on the Saturday.

This meant that not only could we both ride, but I could now put some time on the KTM and actually test the bike. That was the plan anyway.

It only took me a few minutes in the KTM’s saddle to reaffirm that the bike was built for trails. Following Jim I watched as he ploughed the BMW’s front tire and spun out the rear, trying desperately to get his head around the GS’s nuances.


The F800GS is a little less dirt-happy but on the right road it just can’t be beat for smiles.
photo: Jim Vernon

He was positively panting when we took our first stop, yet apart from a bit of a hammering (hard suspension on that KTM) I was as calm as a flattened raccoon.

Frankly the KTM was just too damn easy to ride and Jim was obviously not gelling with the GS. And since I wanted a bit more of a challenge on what would likely be my last day of dirt for 2009, the solution was obvious.Hello again, GS.

After Friday’s escapade and Saturday’s relaxed ride, I was now quite comfortable with the GS. Sunday was mainly swooping gravel roads and I was hitting every corner just right — winding on the throttle on entry and keeping the front wheel pointing dead ahead while the rear swung out effortlessly — steering all 200-plus kilos of GS perfectly, and may I add, majestically around corners.


‘Arris loses momentum and gets a wet boot as a reward.
photo:  Jim Vernon

If I could ski anywhere near competently, I would imagine this is what it would be like descending virgin powder in the Rockies. Only this bliss kept going all the way through to lunchtime without having to line up for a ski lift.

There was one water crossing in which I got stuck in some soft sand beneath — but what’s a wet boot (or two) when you’re having this much fun?

And with that, lunch, a last chat with the other riders and it was back to the van to change and pack up. What a great way to end my summer.

If you think dirt is for growing potatoes and gravel gives you rash, then you should knobbify your dualie and explore the great outdoors. You’ll likely change your mind. And you’ll probably enjoy potatoes more, though you might still have to put some powder on that rash.

(click on image to go to website)

calabogie_peaks.jpg rally-connex-120x70.jpg bma.jpg bmw.gif ktm.gif
For the luxurious accommodation For the dualsport part of the event For doing the Boogie For the F800GS For the 690R




Kevin Burnett of Rally Connex.
photo: Rob Harris

A company dedicated to organizing dual-sport events, ranging from two-day rides in the woods of Ontario to larger and more challenging events such as the Paris2Dacre and the Rockhound Rally.

The company’s regular rides occur in various locations around Ontario, are usually 200-300 km in length and involve following a predetermined
and pre-swept route that is loaded onto a GPS (you should bring your
own, though you can rent one or always team up with someone who has one).

Since you have the route you are not guided and free to go at your own
pace, however, the route is ‘swept’ (someone from Rally Connex sweeps the trail and has a satellite phone and tools) so if you need
assistance you just have to wait a while and you will get it.


There’s real beauty in the trails.
photo: Terry Young

Lunch and refuelling stops are incorporated into the route though it’s
wise to bring some snacks and water for consumption along the way.

Your bike should be able to cover at least 120 km between fuelling and Rally Connex recommends dual-sport bikes of between 400 – 950 cc, that are road legal and insured. Events are held at locations
that offer accommodation or camping nearby.

Usually two routes are offered — stock and hard.


Some vehicles just aren’t meant to go some places.
photo: Kevin Burnett 

Stock is designed for bikes with stock tires (not knobby) though it
also means that the route is easier, so if you’re new to this, it’s a
good option to get comfortable on without finding yourself lodged between large rocks with your bike on top of you. I would still recommend
aggressive knobby tires, as it just makes the thingbeasier to ride and even more fun.

Riders choosing the hard option must use knobbies, and must possess an elevated skill
level. Expect to encounter hydro line trails (the rough tracks that follow hydro lines
cut through the woods), single-track (one track = narrow trail) and
water crossings (more daunting than challenging, but if you drop it you’ll be draining it for the next 30 mins).


If you find that you like the dirt then it’s time to start building up the right gear.
photo: Jim Vernon

Although there are no set technical requirements, you should make sure
that your dual-sport bike is in decent health (being towed out of the
woods is not much fun), somewhat protected (a metal skidplate will help
keep your engine hole-free), and well prepared (cleated pegs will keep your feet from sliding off in the wet stuff and hand guards
will keep your hands free from slapping branches).

Likewise, you can wear what you want, but falling off onto rocks or at speed on gravel is not a happy moment, especially if you’re in T-shirt and jeans. Good boots, armoured pants and jacket, and a good helmet and gloves are the minimum. If you decide dual-sporting will be a bigger part of your riding portfolio, (and you will once you get into it), then you should start shopping for some off-road riding gear, which is a very good investment, as it breathes, repels water and usually incorporates protective armour.

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