This is part 4 of our continuing series on our big offroad motorcycling wager. You can read part one here.
This post is supposed to be about flaunting my new gear and talking about our new sponsors for The Bet – Klim, Wolfman Lugguage, and SW-MOTECH. It’s not though. I was planning on taking you through all the stuffs they’ve sent me to review and give you guys my honest opinions on them. That’s not going to happen today. I was going to relay to you the first time I took the Sertao offroad and how it went. Instead I’m going to give you a tale of disaster, agony, and a pinch of fun and redemption at the end.
I could start this tale of woe at the beginning with me burning my fingers on the exhaust pipe as a kind of prelude to the shitty day ahead. Or we could pull a Memento and go backwards with me discovering as I finally arrived home that I’ve broken off one the GoPros I affixed to the bike to capture some sick shots for you guys. But both of those are weak, everyday pains that can’t elevate a story to the level of fiasco. Instead, let’s skip to the middle and the real meat of the story.
First, let’s set the scene: I’m taking a 4 day trip to Southern Utah to practice my offroad skills on the fat BMW before my final contest in August against Gary. To prep for that trip, lose this bike’s dirt virginity (don’t Google it), and as discussed to test out the new gear I just got I was going to to drive an hour north of Los Angeles to Hungry Valley – a “State Vehicular Recreational Area” or offroad park for short – and spend an hour or two on the dirt, grab those aforementioned sweet GoPro shots, then call it day. Easy really. My day clearly did not go that way (thanks foreshadowing!).
I installed my Wolfman tank bag after some trial and error, got all geared up in spiffy new Klim Badlands jacket and pants, and finally,yes, burnt my fingers on the exhaust attempting to adjust the gear shift lever for my new adventure boots. Not to fear though, we’re still having a good time. After mounting some GoPros on the SW-MOTECH crashbars it was time to hit the road and take the longest freeway journey I’ve ever done on a bike, then get my first taste of dirt on the Sertao. Now this was the first time I’ve been on the Beemer tangling with freeway traffic while also wearing legit head-to-toe protective gear and a helmet designed for speed. Normally I just jump on the freeway for a mile or so and wear jeans, a jacket of dubious construction, and my offroad helmet and goggles; it’s not a pleasant experience. But in the Badlands gear and a proper adventure touring helmet, I yelled to myself, “OKAY! I get it now!” That really happened – the onramp from the 10 to the 405 at about 12:20pm on Saturday if you want to check the tapes. But yes, I get how you could eat up states on an adventure bike and not want to gouge your eyes out with a soldering iron after 50 miles. I was so insulated, protected, and comfortable that it was a totally new experience and made the LA freeways livable. That said, I have no idea why people who just commute on surface streets get all suited up and prepare for battle with full adventure gear. It’s such a major piece of equipment and real to-do to put it all on, it truly is overkill if you’re popping out to buy milk.
An hour after my exclamation of joy, and a generally really pleasant ride all the way, I arrived in a wave of triumph and excitement at the small town of Gorman, California that housed the Hungry Valley park. Now let me detail exactly what happened in what order to you: I pulled up to the ranger shack at the entrance, turned off my bike, had pleasant conversation over the exchange of paper money for a day pass receipt, started my bike, travelled about a mile into the part to an open set up area with shade and tables, parked my bike, turned it off, and dismounted to get all my gear ready and carbo load before my dirt fun. GoPros ready, cured meats and Olive Oil Triscuits ingested, helmet and gloves back on and now it’s time to get going. I insert the key the normal (and very colorful and animated) startup sequence does not appear. Instead of my MPH needle swinging around and all my lights coming on, I just get a dot matrix message saying “IGN OFF” Okaaaaaaaay. I go for the starter button and get nothing. Turning the key off and on gives me nothing except now “IGN OFF” appears when the bike is totally off. My bike is, to all appearances, dead.
No problem though! Since we live in the future, all the worlds information and help is always at hand with our handy mobile telephone machines. But there’s no service in Hungry Valley. It’s a dead zone. Shit. But not so dead that one solitary text message came through while I was panicking, as if to provide a totally false sense of hope. Bastards. I kept attempting to look up what “IGN OFF” and sending texts and calls for help, but nothing was getting through. Just to spice things up and keep my game of Sherlock from coming to any conclusions, the dashboard’s behavior kept changing. Suddenly the needle would swing around but no lights would come up, or cryptic numbers would display with no rhyme or reason. Yet every time I tried the started button, everything went blank and dead. I was going to have to try and solve this like a person from the past – by talking to strangers…
In a giant dirt farm populated with 4Wheelers, dirt bikes, and quads I was lucky to have another adventure bike pull into the same rest area as me. I sought out my fellow overland motorcycling addict and asked for a jump while eschewing into the confusing chain of events as quickly as possible lest he think I’m soft in the head, or worse, a poser. His crew had a jump pack that we hooked up and the bike fired right up. We even killed the bike and started it again just to make sure I could ride. I thanked them profusely, then tucked tail and started back home without ever even touching dirt yet. I wasn’t going to take the chance of being stranded out there again with no service and a temperamental bike. I waived to the park ranger who had only checked me in 20min ago, and got back to the main road and the to the near civilization of a McDonald’s parking lot. I pulled over, bike still running, to make a few calls and texts to let my peeps know I was in trouble and there was an above 60% chance I was going to need a ride from the middle of nowhere at some point in the next 2 hours. Done stressing everyone out, I engaged first and rolled on the throttle to pull away and the bike died. Because of course it did.
While cursing up enough of a storm to make a sailor blush, I ran to the auto shop next door to Mc’s and asked them for a jump. I figured that, while it was very stupid to put a questionable machine onto the freeway and spend an hour going 80+, the onramp was literally 50ft away and the engine would/could power everything once it was held at revs. I’m not a smart man. Second jump complete and bike successfully restarted, this time I couldn’t even get out of a 10ft driveway before it died from the stress of being alive. It was clear this bike was going nowhere. My only hope now was my arch nemesis in The Bet and the whole reason I’m on this stupid German machine in the middle of desert nowhere – Gary.
Oh the humiliation. The groveling that had to take place. The promises of free meals and upscale whiskey were numerous to get him to consider either renting a trailer or buying a new battery then coming up an hour each way to rescue me, his competitor, a day before his birthday. Pleading completed and a deal struck, I hung up and started to disassemble my bike so I could tell him exactly what tools he would need to bring to replace the battery. As I was doing that, a tow truck arrived with a dead SUV at the mechanics shop I was stranded at. Once he was had offloaded the dead Lincoln Navigator and family, I approached his Hulk Hogan mustache and asked if he knew of anywhere in this one horse town to buy a motorcycle battery. Much to my surprise, he relayed that there was a moto shop at the next freeway exit just up the road, then suggested I look them up on my phone. It was at this exact moment that I felt like an idiot for not using my future machine first. I found the shop, called and confirmed they had a battery for me, and then navigated the distance to see that it was about an hour walk. Haha screw you Gary! I’m solving this one myself!
You know how tow truck drivers pack a .357 magnum and are some of the meanest humans in existence? Well when I walked back to Hulkamania to thank him and tell him I was hoofing it to the shop, he told me jump in his cab and said he’d give me a lift there! The Hulkster turned out to be an angel. After I stashed my helmet and heavy jacket near the dead bike, I got in the truck and we chatted about different bikes we’ve owned during the trip to the moto store where he dropped me off with smile and wave. Now it was just a matter of buying a new battery and getting back to the bike. And, of course, hoping that the problem was the battery and not the alternator/stator…
Walking the mile back along a frontage road in 94 weather while wearing new (read: not broken in) moto boots and heavy adventure pants was not fun. I threw my thumb out for the first 4 cars to drive by, but the road was so deserted I gave up hope and figured I may as well get a tan while I’m hoofing it. I ditched my shirt – effectively giving up all hope for a ride since no sane person would give a shirtless dude a ride – stuffed it haphazardly in a pocket, and started the trek uphill. Of course it was an uphill climb for the first half of my walk, why wouldn’t it be? And of course upon finally getting to the “peak” of road did I notice that my shirt had fallen out of my pants and was somewhere back down the hill, so I got to do it all over again. Regardless, I sweated my ass off for an hour in those damn pants and stiff boots and arrived back at my stranded bike.
With nothing missing off the bike and my hidden clothes and helmet still there, I set to work on replacing the battery. This was pretty quick work but it did give me time to think through my next course of action. Do I A) be a smart human and immediately take the hour trip home so I don’t possibly get stranded out here again, or B) refuse to not at least do a touch of offroading to make all this misery worth it? B, of course. Why even ask? I put the bike together, fired her up, and pointed right back into the offroad park to reclaim a tablespoon of dignity for myself.
And you know what? I had a blast. I mean, I dropped the bike pretty much immediately so that cherry is popped as well, and this bike is a hundred pounds fatter than the bike I started The Bet with, but it was great to be back on the dirt and learning about what this bike is capable of. I was shocked at how capable the Sertao is, and can clearly see why the Beemer adventure bikes are the choice for conquering the world’s terrain. There were several instances of me rounding a blind corner to find myself in a very difficult or technical situation, and each time the GS ate it up with no problem. The bike is a too easy to get going fast, and too difficult to slow down in emergencies, but overall I was carving up single track mountain trails with ease within 5 minutes. Of course there were more butt-puckering moments and one more crash (there’s that lost GoPro right there), and the looming fear that I was running on battery power and my bike would die at any moment, but I had my fun and reminded myself why it was all worth it. After an hour the fear became overwhelming, along with my very tired body, and I scooted back to LA. I arrived back at FactoryTwoFour HQ without incident, and other than discovering the missing GoPro all was well.
My 4 day trip to Southern Utah is in less than a week, so I’ve only got a few days to figure out if it was indeed a bum battery or if I have a more major problem. I’m sure it will all work out for me, nothing ever goes wrong in my life…
Click here for Part 6 and the final preparation before the big race!