Riding the KLR 650 – what a blast
I really enjoy having this machine of mine, it’s a sweet ride and so perfectly suited to the kind of roads that I have all around me in this part of New England. Another reason why I love living in the the Mad River Valley. Everywhere around me, leading off in every direction, are dirt back ways and forest service roads and winding ribbons of tar. Dream conditions for a dual sport rider like me. And so, with fun and adventure in mind, I suited up tight for some cold weather late Autumn riding, jumped on the KLR, and headed south. It was a perfect afternoon for a ride through the Gulf, a phenomenally fun, twisting, and highly scenic stretch of route 100, and then onto Forest Road 55 which leads deep into a rugged part of the Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF). The sky was a light gray, with just a thin wisp of cloud, creating this magical diffuse light that so complimented the pastel colors of late Autumn. The gulf, as expected, was in full splendor with canopies of color contrasting sharply against the bare coldness of trees and forest stripped of their foliage. And Forest Road 55 is one of my favorite access points into the GMNF. It follows the White River, a stream at this point, up to nearly its source, passes the Clark Brook trail head, and then cuts back and skirts the Breadloaf Wilderness Area as well as some of the most rugged mountains in Vermont. It’s an out and back, about a sixteen mile round trip, but oh my god – is it ever a blast riding it on the KLR. It’s a narrow get you into the back country forest service road with bumps and rocks, twists and swerves, a few hairpin tuns, and plenty of challenge. A strip of grass grows down the middle of 55’s upper reaches. It’s that kind of road. And right now, everything is just stunningly beautiful. Leaves, newly fallen and still holding their color, line the narrow road I’m on and cover the forest floor, Autumn shades still blaze away, and the highest peaks and ridges are white with fresh snow and frost. I’m just in awe of my surrounding as I motor the KLR along at a brisk 35 to 40 miles per hour, constantly working the gears, brakes, and engine as I decelerate into one turn and then accelerate out of another. I’m looking around and sucking in as much as I can, but at the same time I need to be fully focused on the task at hand. The KLR 650 is a powerful dual sport motor bike, and when combined with the aggressive tire I’ve got on it, the new higher torque gearing I gave it with a 14T front sprocket, and the kind of dirt like I’m on now and it’s like riding a mountain bike with a rocket for an engine. It chews this stuff up. What a blast.
On the way back out of the GMNF I decided to take a short detour onto another forest service road and check out my favorite primitive camping spot. That’s were I met Jim and his dog, Amigo. Turns out they’ve been living out of Jim’s ’83 VW pop up camper van and doing the nomadic life style for a bit over 4 years now. Fascinating guy with a fascinating story. I’ll be meeting up with him for a night of camping next week. Stay tuned, I’ll be posting more about them soon. Life is good here in Vermont.