Loaded and ready to ride from CJ's house
This ride started out as another Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail ride and technically we did “trans” Wisconsin but on different routes than the “official” T.W.A.T. And we added in the north/south length of the U.P. of Michigan for good measure. So we got imaginative with the initials from all that to come up with an acronym for the ride but this is a family “show” so we can’t share that information!
So when and where did we go? And who went?
Craig from CJ Designs and I were the only ones to make this ride. We had planned on a couple of other riders but we were originally intending to do this ride Sept. 23-26 and that is the same weekend as the Wabeno dual sport ride and a lot of the potential riders were at that event. As it ended up Craig and I both were rebuilding bikes from the ground up to take on this ride and we both kind of ran out of time to be ready for the planned weekend. Fortunately we had the next weekend as a backup plan and we both were able to get on the road by Sept. 30th and rode for 4 days through Oct. 3rd. We were a little hesitant about that date because that was the same weekend we went last year and we had 4 days of solid rain and 45 degree weather (see my post from last years ride http://petriemotorsports.wordpress.com/2009/10/19/trans-wisconsin-adventure-ride-oct-1-4-2009/ ).
Our concerns were unfounded since we ended up having 4 days of great weather overall. Mostly sunny and cool, with a little rain thrown in on the second day, down to 26 degrees the 4th morning and a lot of 50-60 degree beautiful riding weather.
Blurry spy photo of Craig's bike 10 days before the ride. He was finishing up his super secret project!
If you look closely you'll see some "extra" parts. It's no wonder he wasn't ready a week earlier!
Craig swore me to secrecy about his project that he was officially unveiling at the KTM Adventure Rider Rally in Moab this past weekend. So now I can spill the beans! Our ride was the shake-down test for the first ever 2wd CJ Designs/Christini/KTM 950 Adventure! This has been a long term project over the last year and it was all coming together at the last minute as we prepped for this ride. And it was quite a project.
It incorporated the front end parts from a Christini 2wd system for a 525 KTM and then Craig custom designed and built everything in the drive system from the countershaft to the steering head including some pretty extreme frame mods, all new air filter setup, drive shaft, chain drive and much, much more. He basically finished it the day before we left, test drove it about 10 miles and then off we went.
My bike was in about the same condition (sorry, no pictures) the week before except not only was my engine out of the frame, it was completely torn down for a rebuild! I had put it all together a couple of weeks before and when I started it we had a bad knock in the engine $#^@! So we tore it all the way back down, put in a new crank and a couple of new bearings that didn’t get changed the first time and then put it all back together and in the bike. This time it started up and purred like a kitten.
My bike is a 2006 KTM 560 SMR super moto race bike so it really isn’t designed to be doing 1,100 mile dual sport trips so it needed some mods to prep for this ride. I added a Clarke 3.2 gallon tank, 18′/21″ wheels and dual-sport tires, a Garmin Zumo gps, heated grips (those were already on the bike from ice riding), headlight, tail light, blinkers, Trick Dual Sport controller and the list goes on and on. The funny thing is that this bike has a ton of mods, a load of bling and when I ride with Craig and his totally tricked out 950 Adventure I get no attention at all because his bike is even more extreme. It’s a good thing I’m secure with my identity or I wouldn’t be able to ride with Craig!
Testing the Giant Loop Moto Coyote bag
I of course added CJ Design footpeg extensions on my 560 since we would be doing a lot of stand-up riding and the extensions are essential equipment for any dual sport/adventure bike. I was also testing out a new Giant Loop Moto Coyote bag for all my gear. Petrie Motorsports is the exclusive WI dealer for Giant Loop and this was my first chance to give the bag a real test. I knew from all of the testing and real world use that Giant Loop had done that it looked good.
The Coyote bag is designed for moto or small dual sport bikes, holds 30 liters of gear, includes 3 stuff sacks to fit the bag and is built from a water proof 22 oz. “trucker tarp” material and reinforced with cordura in critical areas. The beauty of the design (designed and built in the U.S.A) is that all of the weight is carried low on the bike and it just straps on, no racks or other heavy stuff is needed to secure it to the bike. It stays put and you’ll never even notice it’s there. Seemed like the perfect bag for my “560 Dual Sport” so that got strapped on the bike full of about 25 lbs. of my gear.
Since Craig was up until about 3 am working on the bike and packing his gear in his Wolfman luggage (also available at Petrie Motorsports) our Thursday morning got off to a little bit of a late start. It was around 11 am when we finally rolled out of Mukwonago, WI where Craig lives (20 mins out of Milwaukee). Our plan for day one was to head for Minoqua, WI, about 300 miles, where my in-laws have a cabin and we would stay there the first night. In the SE part of WI there aren’t any dirt or gravel roads so we headed to Fon du lac (don’t you just love all these Indian names!) to show off Craigs 2wd bike to Dave G. who lives in the area and had helped Craig with one of the gas tanks. It was a beautiful day in the low 60′s, sun shining and we were on the road, finally!
This is why we do shake-down runs - found a little problem with an o-ring
While Dave was checking out Craig’s 2wd 950 Adventure he noticed an oring was popping out of one side of the drive on the front so Craig pulled the front wheel and proceeded to check out the problem. It was a secondary seal on the Christini fwd system and was not crucial but Craig pulled it apart and attempted to fix it by cutting out the extra loose seal and super gluing the ends together and reinstalling it in the drive system.
The culprit o-ring, ended up it wasn't a critical piece and we pulled it out the next day and all was ok
Again, we were losing time after a late start so we tried to wrap up the repairs and get back on the road. We still had 200 miles to go and it was already around 2:30 in the afternoon so we had to abandon some of our plans to hit dirt roads and just stayed on paved back roads as much as possible so we could try to get to our destination before dark. The big issue with night time riding in the North Woods of WI is the deer that invariably like to jump out in front of you, so we try to avoid it when we can.
Snack stop and put on an extra layer before the dark and cold
We found some fun, twisty, backroads to get us to the “North Woods” but as it started to get dark I suddenly lost my headlight! We were about 4 miles from a gas station so we headed there to gas up and check out what was wrong. After digging around a bit I found broken wire lead coming off the battery that was the culprit and with a little roadside repair we were back under way. Good thing we got it to work because now it was officially dark.
Pull out the tool kit and strip things down to find the problem with the headlight
Found the culprit - the end pulled off the wire. Patch it up and we were back under way!
Good working conditions - a beautiful sunset over the lake behind us. This shot shows how much the reflective patches on my gear show up, extra safety is good.
We had about a half hour more ride to get to Lake Tomahawk where we stopped for dinner at a bar/restaurant at about 8 pm. Craig found that he had an issue with the cable that disengages the 2wd system and the bike was now in full time 2wd and that makes it so that you can’t roll the bike backwards because of differing ratios between the front and rear drive. There were some pretty sharp-eyed customers in the bar that were leaving as we came in that noticed the front wheel on the bike was turning when Craig put the bike up on the center-stand! Have to give them credit, most people would never have caught that. So we spent about 15 mins. talking with them and showing them all the bling (functional bling?) on the bike and then finally went inside and got a nice meal before making the last little stint to our cabin.
I’m pretty familiar with this area and we could have taken an easy road route to the cabin but I decided to just let the GPS route us in and it ended up putting us on some snowmobile trails and it got interesting pretty quick. Remember it was dark and now we were on narrow, wet, overgrown trails and we were hitting log crossings and the trail just kept getting more impassable with downed tress the farther we went. So we turned around and tried another trail and that one ended up headed straight into a swamp! That would be ok in the winter when it’s frozen but there was no way we were getting through there.
So we turned around again and that’s when Craig found a log laying lengthwise in the trail and ended up with the front wheel on the left side and the rear wheel on the right side of the log. That pretty much shot him straight at a clump of trees out in the woods and he decided it would be a good time to bail off! Fortunately no damage was done and Craig was ok so we wandered around a little longer looking for a trail that would get us through but with no luck so we ended up headed back out to the road route to the cabin. We at least had some fun wandering around the woods in the dark for about 20 minutes.
Craig working on the 2wd cable, end of day one. Looks like he's sleeping standing up!
Getting situated for day 2 - Some rain in the forcast
Checking out the weather at the cabin before the start of day 2. Some rain and cool temps but beautiful.
Day 2 would be mostly trails, forest roads and gravel. Now the fun starts!
Beautiful North Woods trails
We found some mud holes here and there
The forest was at its peak of fall color - beautiful views
- We had some light rain most of the morning but conditions were pretty good for a nice off-road ride
We found some pretty deep mud holes in the trails. The U.P. of MI had been getting rain for about a week before we got there.
My turn at the mud hole. Of course I had to stick my foot in the water and ended up with a wet foot for the rest of the day.
Beautiful fall colors in the U.P. and no dust thanks to the rain.
We came out of some nice twisty woods riding onto this gravel two track that looked like a roller coaster
The plan for day 2 was to ride from Minoqua, WI to Mohawk, MI in the U.P. and most of the day would be off-road. We hit some great trails right out of our cabin door and headed North. As we crossed into the U.P. it was raining and cool, in the 40′s, but not a bad day for a ride overall. As long as we were on the trails we kept warm and there was no dust thanks to a week of rain prior to us getting there. This area needed that rain badly since they have basically been having near drought conditions for the last 5 years or so. We rode through the Lake Goegibic area on some great forest roads and two track trails and then headed for Victoria Falls. The falls are a man made hydro-electric dam but a lot of the dam is formed from a natural rock cliff and is just a spectacular site with the fall foliage all around.
The view at Victoria Falls as we pulled in
Everything you need to know about Victoria Dam
Victoria Lake that feeds the falls - A cloudy Fall day
There is a lot of water going over the falls, what a beautiful spot
In years past the water from the falls was channeled through this 10' diameter wooden water pipe made from 4" thick Douglas Fir and wrapped with steel cables. It ran for miles through this pipe!
This was a little spur trail leaving Victoria Falls. We found some nice challenging, rocky hill climbs in this area.
We had a variety of terrain, from rutted up mud...
to hard packed, foliage covered forest tracks...
to loose rocks (with some water thrown in)!
Shortly after Victoria Falls we stopped at the Adventure Copper Mine in Greenland, MI. This was a cool place where you could easily spend a day just exploring all the cool stuff they have going on, like a bike race that goes through the mine underground! We asked if they would let us ride our motorcycles in the caves but we got rejected! They have a gift store with lots of copper mine info and some cool t-shirts and friendly staff. Stop in and visit if your in the area.
The trail runs over the old rail road trellis bridges. They are about 75 feet tall and over the tops of the trees. Great view!
View over the bridge
As we came into Houghton at about 4 pm we had to cross the bridge over Portage Lake, which is apparently the only way across for the width of the peninsula, and was rush hour in Houghton. We sat waiting in traffic, just creeping along, and I was getting pretty worried that I was going to over heat since I don’t have a cooling fan on my bike. I was sure it was going to boil over but we finally made it over the bridge without frying my bike. The way the trails are set up in Houghton you basically run on the sidewalk area along the regular roads. Kind of strange but I guess it was all legal. It just seemed like we should be on the road going through the town.
Gas stop in Houghton. My Giant Loop Coyote bag was working great, everything inside was dry and clean!
Along the trail between Houghton and Mohawk
The Fall colors were at their peak in the U.P. and with the sun coming out in the afternoon it was a beautiful ride. Tons of rocks in the U.P. , it’s basically one big rock that has a lot of copper mines and you’d come across huge piles of tailings where it had all been mined out of the ground. Our timing was working out pretty good and we were arriving at our destination in Mohawk just at dusk so we pulled into the Whitehouse Motel and checked in for the night. They have the Whitehouse Restaurant right across the street so we took advantage of their Friday Night Fish Fry and a couple of malted beverages to wind up our days ride.
The Whitehouse Motel in Mohawk, MI, our accomodations for the night
I like my AXO boots but they are not waterproof and I always end up with wet feet on these rides. Have to invest in a pair of Alpinestars Scout Waterproof Boots soon!
Cold morning with a little rain and a dead battery in Craig's bike, the hotel had a charger they let him use
So day 3 started out cold and windy with some scattered rain but the first problem was that Craig had a dead battery when he tried to start the bike. Since he has a Rekluse clutch in the bike you can’t bump start it so we borrowed a charger from the motel owner to charge his battery up. That took about 45 minutes so we enjoyed some of the home made scones and coffee while we waited (the motel owner is from Britain). Once Craig’s bike was charged and I was charged up with some coffe, we were on our way to the tip of the U.P. via Copper Harbor.
We hit the dirt trails right away to get the blood flowing and get our body temperatures up since it was a cold, blustery morning and it didn’t take long to warm up. The trails were wet, rocky and muddy so it made things pretty slick and we had to keep our focus on the trail or it would have been real easy to get caught snoozing and end up on our heads. It was fun riding and a good variety of terrain. I was suprised at how fast things change on the trails in the U.P. from mud holes to rocks to sand sections to slippery shale rock, so if you didn’t like what you were in just ride a little farther and it would change.
Lookout area on Brockway Mountain
Beautiful fall colors and Lake Superior
Fall foliage in full bloom
At the end of the Earth! At the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula is this NASA rocket launch site with Lake Superior in the background
The things we do to get some pictures!
A couple of guys and their bikes at one of the Northern most points in the U.S.A.
Superior is a big, cold, wavey lake. It looks like it goes on forever.
Classic rugged northern coastline
So we were as far North as we could go without a boat and that meant we had to turn around and start the trek South. That part of the story is coming soon…
This was our lunch stop for day 3, we had skipped breakfast so we were ready to eat!
Our tracks North had taken us along the Western sided of the Keweenaw Peninsula so we decided to head back South along the Eastern side and find some new trails. We didn’t get the earliest start this morning thanks to Craig’s dead battery so we had to keep up a pretty good pace to get back to Northern WI by evening. It was a beautiful fall day to be out on the trails enjoying riding motorcyles and the U.P. kept serving up a variety of terrain to keep it all fun. Since we were busy riding we didn’t get too many pictures.
After lunch we tried to catch some trails going south but ran into some private land that was closed to bikes so we had to hop on the pavement for a while (that’s the beauty of dual sport bikes) and that took us right along the Lake Superior coastline and more scenic views. We did find some gravel roads as we headed back towards Houghton and Craig and I had some fun seeing who had the better holeshot! Even on his “cheater” 2wd bike I was able to get the drop on him a couple times but once we were up to about 80 mph he would blow by me like I was standing still. The 560 is no slouch when it comes to power and it weighs about 275 lbs. less than the 950 Adventure.
We went past the Mohawk Stamp Mill
This big chimney is all that remains of the mill
Soon after that we passed through Gay, MI and the infamous “Gay Bar” which is just a bar in Gay. We resisted the typical tourist reaction of having your picture taken in front of the Gay Bar. Once we got back to Houghton we had to cross back over the one and only bridge (as far as we know) that heads back South. From there it was a mix of trails and roads to get us South-East to Iron Mountain and from there we hit the sandy atv trails headed to Dunbar, WI and our destination for the night, Richard’s Motel.
One of the forest roads we rode was posted for a Rally Race coming up later in the month - it was a pretty fun road!
The sand in this part of WI is pretty deep and challenging, particularly at the end of a nearly 300 mile day on the bike. But we both made it through without any incidents although we did run into more traffic in this one section of trail than we had seen in all of the U.P. We were surprised at the number of atv’s and a few trucks out on the trails at around 6 pm. It is always interesting what you see on the trails – back in the U.P., on one of the rockiest, roughest trails we had been on in 4 days we came across a Dodge Ram van bouncing off the rocks at about 2 mph trying to get somewhere!? Makes you wonder sometimes.
Once we got checked in at the motel we decided to take a run to Goodman, about 8 miles down deer slayer alley (my name for the straight, flat, fast, dark road with woods on both sides) to get some all-you-can-eat pizza at a bar there. It wasn’t worth the drive, we should have just stayed put and ate at Richard’s Restaurant. That seems to be kind of a theme in these micro-towns, bar & restaurant owned by the same people. So once we got back and relaxed a bit we hit the sack and called it a good day 3!
Day 4 nearly started out like day 3, with Craig's bike not starting, but it just barely cranked and fired up! Thank goodness.
Overnight it got down to 26 degrees and there was frost on the bikes when we woke up. We went and got a good breakfast at Richard’s and then geared up for the day. Craig had taken his battery out overnight to prevent any draw from draining it and when he put it back in it just barely cranked the bike over. We thought he was cooked again but he tried a second time and it caught and fired up. We filled our tanks with gas and headed out on the sand trails going South. It didn’t take long riding in the sand to get warmed up and we soon were having “fun” (not sure sand riding qualifies as fun) bombing down the trails.
Fired up and ready for Day 4
CJ in his natural habitat - On the Bike!
About 2 hours into the ride Craig suddenly stopped in the trail so I pulled over to see what was up. He said his bike just died, no juice at all! With a little checking we determined he had no electrical power so we had no choice but to strip the bike and try to find the problem. We were miles away from anywhere so we got to work on field stripping a 950 Adventure…
My nice, trusty KTM 560 and Craig working on the electrical issue in the background
Anyone up for a yard sale? It took a lot of digging to find the problem.
There it is...the back side of the main wiring harnes got too close to the exhaust and melted several wires
We spent probably 2 1/2 hours finding and fixing the issues with Craig’s bike. First we found the battery had a loose negative terminal and that was causing it to lose connection so we figured that was the problem. My bike didn’t need a battery to start or run the bike so we stole my battery and put it in the Adventure, pushed the starter button and nothing! Still something wrong. Start digging around again and eventually we found that the main wiring harness had gotten to close to the exhaust on the back side (not visible) and melted a bunch of wires. With some patching and splicing we got that fixed up, put the bike back together and were ready to head down the trail.
The plus side of this was that it was a nice fall day, right around 60 degrees and the sun was out. It could have been like last year and been 45 and raining!
Craig and I have done three of these T.W.A.T. rides and on all three of them I have come home with no headlight. I’m not sure what I did to deserve this but it tends to get a little nerve racking when you get back to the Southern part of WI on “real” roads with a lot of traffic and it’s getting dark! So here we were, about 250 miles from home and I have no headlight, brake light or turn signals thanks to donating my battery to Craig so that he could get running. So now our goal for the day changed to get home before dark and stay on back roads as much as possible.
We were able to hit a few more trails as we headed South but thanks to losing the 2.5 hours we had to really try to make time in order to beat the dark, so we were on pavement for the most part after fixing the bike. I think we found the world’s longest back road route home and by the time we got about 30 miles from Craig’s house it was getting dark fast and we were hitting the Sunday evening rush home with all the other people that went North for the weekend. I tried to stay glued to the inside of Craig’s rear fender and go as un-noticed as possible and we actually made it without any legal issues! And it was dark by the time we got back to Craig’s but it all worked out ok and we swapped my battery back into my bike so I could ride, with lights, to my house about 25 miles farther down the road.
- Back home, a little dirtier, after 1,100 miles of dual sport fun in 4 days!
So another successful trip with a few hiccups along the way. But that was one of the main reasons we did this trip, so that we could test out Craig’s new 2wd bike design before he headed to Moab a week later. Definitely better to find any problems before heading out on a 4,000 mile ride.
We found some new trails to explore in the Keweenaw Peninsula in MI and tried some new routes in WI as well. The Giant Loop Coyote bag worked very well and I really didn’t even notice it was there most of the time. We didn’t get any extreme wet conditions but we did have light rain a couple of times as well as plenty of mud hole crossings and everything in the bag stayed dry and clean. The individual stuff sacks inside kept everything organized and secure for all four days. And when I got back I just washed the bag off, removed it from the bike – there are no permanent parts that stay on the bike so you end up with the nice clean lines of the original bike.
My CJ Designs foot peg extensions were great and those stay on the bike all the time. If you do any stand up riding these pegs make a huge difference – try them!
And I wore my KTM Pure Adventure Pants that I have been doing a long term test with and I have to say they are one of the best pieces of gear that I have. Versatile because they have zip out thermal and water proof liners and comfortable for long rides and they protect all the right areas as well as keep you warm and dry in cold wet conditions. I use these pants year round and they have worked very well. The only issues I’ve had with them are the lack of leather on the inner legs which means I’ve burned them on the pipe and one of the seams pulled apart on the belt d-ring. For the price you’d be hard pressed to find a better, more versatile riding pant.
My Klim Inversion gloves worked well in the cool temps we rode in, giving just enough insulation with their Wind Stopper Gore Tex construction (not water proof) to keep the hands warm but still give excellent feel for the bars and controls.
Thanks for checking out my blog ride report and please feel free to leave comments. We like to get feed back. We are planning on putting together a spring guided tour ride and possibly adding a day of rider training and bike setup so let us know if you’d be interested and what dates might work (probably in May). We would like to make this a regular service that we can provide and we need feed back as to whether anyone is interested. Until then, we’ll see you on the trails.