BMW F650 DAKAR, LONG TERMER - PART ONE
INTRO - Editor 'arris
Following the success of last year's long term project, a BMW R1100S, which we took touring and racing (and for a dumping on some wet streetcar tracks), we thought that we should do the whole thing again this year. However, in order to not repeat ourselves, we decided to go for a dual-sport and use it to explore what the on/off-road world has to offer.
Although we don't have an exclusive contract with BMW when it comes to undertaking these types of projects (honest Guv'), they do have one of the most suitable bikes on which to do this project - the F650GS Dakar. And, maybe more importantly, agreed to our wild demands, normally reserved for the spoiled, immature and the mad, of which I like to think we fit all three.
So, here we are, on the cusp of summer with a brand new F650 Dakar and some sketchy plans to explore the world that a bike like this offers. CMG's Mr. Boss was the first to jump in with a suitable idea - Take it to the Ontario Ride For Sight via the Ontario Dual Sport Club's annual off-road route.
Sounds like a good way to get the new Beemer dirty ... and welcome it to the rough world of CMG.
Mr. BOSS RIDES FOR SIGHT
Several thoughts bounced through my head as my knee hit the rock at the bottom of the fast flowing river, with the full weight of the BMW Dakar on top of me:
1) Ride For Sight (RFS) - Dual Sport Ride organizer Brian Helliwell's statement that because of the previous day's weather, good trails would be bad and bad trails real bad. Yup, dead right on that one.
2) Andrew, do not submerge the new BMW - we only just got it!
3) Shouldn't this hurt more? I guess everything gets lighter in the water - even giant dual sport bikes it seems
4) Did anybody see me?
5) Mr. Seck is going to yell at me again ....
The day started with much promise. Ontario Dual Sport Club's (ODSC) fourth annual Dual Sport Ride For Sight, part of Kawasaki's Trail Tour series, started with prizes for fundraisers and shiny happy faces at the 9am rider meeting. We departed with route maps (with alternate routes for BMW's!) on the new CMG long term Dakar and my own beloved 84 Honda XL600.
Mr. Seck, the artist, decided that a we'd get a better story (and still enjoy the ride) by not taking any of the nine bypasses inserted to allow novice, stock-tired or BMW bikes. We met a lot of that criteria. I hesitantly agreed, but I have ridden with Brian before and deep down knew better. Still, I decided to take one for the CMG team.
I have been on this ride twice before and the scenery is beautiful, the ride interesting and challenging and the looks on the faces of all the bikers as we enter the fairground in Collingwood, caked in muck, is priceless. This year, my first representing CMG, things went in typical CMG fashion, i.e. hellacious
I was Jimmy Lewis doing wheelies on his giant GS in the desert and photo boy Richard Seck was former Dakar winner Richard Sainct, because it almost rhymes. We're halfway to Dakar! At home that night, 16 hours later, I felt more like Jerry Lewis and Rich was just plain old Rich.
LIKE A PIG IN ...
We start the approx. 200km trip with some fast gravel roads, which soon deteriorated into a grassy dual track and a short mud bog that simply eats bikes up. The choices were:
1) Walk your bike across the lengths of some greasy logs where it would deposit one wheel on each side and then you fell down in muck, or ...
2) Take the grassy, bushy non-trail left, where you could get around 90% of the hole before you fell down in grassy, bushy muck, or ...
3) Blast through the biggest portion of the muck hole at speed and hope there wasn't a really big hole, log or rock in the middle.
Crazy as it sounds, number three was usually the best philosophy.
As an aside, when hauling giant XR's and KTM's out of muck holes, try not to be behind them. As grateful as riders are for help, they may forget not to roost the helpers thoroughly. Muck smells weird burning on your motor and exhaust, weirder when stuck to your face.
With Stage 1 complete and feeling pretty good, we are alone and looking for marker arrows to the dreaded Stage 2. Learning to slide the Dakar with a little countersteer around gravel roads meant that we missed the dreaded Stage 2 altogether. This was probably a good thing, from what I was told later.
This brought us to the intimidating Stage 3, described in our route guide as 'looking worse than it is'. It was a long downhill slope with running water, many wet rocks, rain ruts and, of course, more muck. Maybe this is a good time to tell you that we got the Dakar with about 28km on it and I felt bad performing its break-in on Hwy 401 from Whitby to Toronto. It now had about 250km on it and those bad feelings were beginning to resurface. The Dakar took its revenge as I slithered down a long hill, avoiding rocks and ruts. Coming to a sudden stop for a Mr. Seck photo, my 'boys' jammed hard against the Dakar's tank.
Does the photo show my pain?
After this, the slope levels off where you get 12 seconds of restful ride alongside a small river, when a 90 degree right hander allows you two choices:
1) Jump the rotted bridge, angled upward Kneivel style, with exposed steel I-beams at its end, or ...
2) Take a 65 degree drop to the water in more (you guessed it) muck, blast through the river and carry enough momentum to clear the exposed roots on the other side.
Option two saw the big Dakar clear it in style, and my confidence was increasing, along with the size of my boys.
We stayed on to photograph some lads behind us and I was reminded of something I do as well. That is, clear some scary section with ease and once safely through, fall down slowly. What's up with that? It would haunt me about five minutes later when on an easy uphill, I lost the front end in a rut and flopped over on the right, snapping the front signal.
"Eeediot"! Rich, the artist, starts his first of several 'yell at Andrew' sessions. Did I mention he rode my bike?
A little flustered we hit a long uphill with soft sand and a curve to the right. Momentum would have helped. Full knobbies would have been better. I had neither.
With some human grunt-help, we got the Dakar up to the top of the hill. I ran back down for my helmet and realized on the way back up that despite my girlish figure, I'm really out of shape. Heart pounding a tuneless song, we remounted and took to some gravel to get a much needed rest between sections.
This is where the CMG curse comes in. It started to rain. Really, really, really rain. And then it starts to hurt. Really, really, really hurt. The rain has turned to hail. A check of the odometer puts us about 37km into the 200km ride. Oy vey. We took shelter at the Rosemont Volunteer Fire Dept. while the thunder, lightning, rain and hail let lose. And aren't we lucky that men folk still wanna get away from the women folk on Saturdays? They even let us try on the outfits, but drew the line when it came to driving the truck, so we left when the rain quit.
Reluctantly, we headed North again and into ... a cattle drive. Yup, a cattle drive.
Knowing this is a pure CMG moment, we bumbled around like stooges getting cameras, losing gloves and sliding dangerously in muck, two-up, chasing down cows, while Mr. Seck, the artist, yelled at me like I was a bad 10 year old boy. The farmers and the neighbours, leery at first, cottoned (that's farm talk) to us after a bit. A gal in a pickup truck was a little shocked to hear the suggested route for next stage of our trip. 'There's a river up there!' she exclaimed. Well yes Maam, but this is Adventure Touring! Besides, how bad could it be?
I've lost track of the stages by this time, but there is a major slope downhill ... in muck.
Now I said earlier that you should just nail it through this stuff but something, maybe it was the cows, made me think I could walk the Dakar down like a rodeo rider. The bike, sensing my stupidity, slid down the hill (with me hanging on the left side) with increasing speed, until it finally came to rest with me under it, properly hog-tied. No damage, save for my increasingly fragile ego. I think Mr. Seck only admonished me for that one.
A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT
There was no rest to be had as the aforementioned river was next. An hour earlier, it was likely a tranquil spot for wildlife. After the storm, it was a little less romantic. I was halfway through, when a big hole and the wicked current stopped me dead. OK, one boot down, which instantly fills with cold water. OK, I can still keep the right dry ... just one last bit of throttle and ... bam! Now, both boots are wet and I am falling in slow motion onto my left knee. Thats when I could hear Mr. Seck, the artist. But this time he wasnt yelling. He wanted to know how long I could hold out so that he could get the camera ready.
Choose your riding pals carefully.
Anyhoo, he did eventually wade in, helped me upright the BMW and across the last bit of icy water. Once on the greasy shore, I tried to dismount. In my exhausted stupor, as I heaved my water-filled boot over the seat, I nailed the left rear signal lens with my boot and cracked it off. Super. I have now broken two signals. Only two more to go.
Oh, did I mention Mr. Seck yelled at me a bit more? With the same breath he wanted me to wade back through the thigh deep water to walk his camera equipment across, while he rode the XL600. Did I mention its my bike? After watching the sweep riders plough through, Mr. Seck, the artist, and I decided to switch bikes. I gently caressed each beautiful Pirelli knob of the XL and we were on our way. FYI, a boot full of water sloshes to and fro while shifting.
Shortly, we came to a long slippery uphill. Our stories dont agree here on why, but the fact remains Mr. Seck, the artist, was now Mr. Seck, the exhausted, frustrated, dual-sport wiener, as he lost grip and made some backwards progress - as several riders tried to slug the Dakar onward. He complained of arm pump so I had to manoeuvre the bike to the top. I would have felt some kind of vindication, but we still had about 140km to go.
It was around this time we made some decisions.
1. The bypasses, that seemed the sissy way out at the riders meeting, held potential for idyllic scenery.
2. Brian, as well as knowing every dirt road, muck hole and water crossing in S.W. Ontario, was smart enough to take the route through Creemore. Home of the beer that bears the town name oh, and free samples!
A quick stop in Lisle for gas and a community sock wring-out, and we took the road to Creemore. The free samples could have been larger. I mean, if you had seen us you would have bought us a sympathy six-pack. After a few samples, we were on the road again. In this case, single track. Not much muck, just narrow single track with tall trees and pine needles covering the ground. Pretty and we didn't break a thing!
On the way to the Ride For Sight campground we are hammered by yet another severe downpour. We took shelter with some other bikes at a gas station and wondered when locusts would come so the day could be complete.
When a break in the weather finally came, we headed rumbled in to the RFS grounds. It, too, was a sea of muck. But that didn't deter the cruiser guys, like the one with the raked out Triumph chopper, roosting his way around with a brassiere-clad gal on the back. There is no place like this place, anyplace.
We intended to get a group photo at the campsite of all the Dual Sport bikes, but at our 5:30pm arrival, it seemed about 20 were still unaccounted for. The ODSC bulletin board has been suspiciously quiet since as well. Hmmm
The last time I rode home from the RFS, it was cold and damp and I shook like a wet dog in November. Not this time. We went to a Laundromat and had so little shame left, we actually watched our wet, dirty clothes dry in our gotch. It was here that we met a CMG reader who bought a Honda 750 Spirit based on my review last fall. Andrew Boss - dangerous, powerful and pretty fine legs.
Heading South to Toronto, we were dry for about 12 minutes when the rains came again and stayed with us for the whole trip. As I watch Mr. Seck sitting happily behind the screen of the smooth Dakar, with its heated hand grips, I wonder how come I'm back on my bike.
Choose your riding pals carefully.
Brian Helliwell and the rest of the Ontario Dual Sport Club for putting together this great ride. The club organises several dual-sport rides throughout the season, and have a well maintained and active website. For more information, check out their site at www.odsc.on.ca.