“While not inevitable, between work, the fact I only own one motorcycle, and the impending weather in the coming weeks, failure this year is pretty likely. Despite that… it belongs on the Moto Bucket List, whether I make it this year or not.”
It would have been a lot more prophetic had I made such a statement publicly in the closing days of 2016, but I’m going to be honest with you, I didn’t expect to see day 365. After day 270 back in April, rounding third and headed for home, I still had doubts. The weather was finally on the uptick, and despite not having a major mechanical issue after weathering the January deep freeze, I still had reservations about maintaining the machine as I stared down back-to-back off-road rallies. Thus, when an unassuming Tuesday morning came around in late July, I put on my helmet and went to work like any other day; Day 365 all but completely snuck up on me.
As I sit here writing this, I took the time to go back and look over the preceding blog entries about logging time in the saddle.
I remember talking about the first 90 days, where this whole ride everyday thing just kind of materialized. I’ve been asked, “where from here?” which in turn stirred a bit of introspection as I asked myself, why would you ride a motorcycle under such absurd conditions? Milling it over, the best answer I can surmise is that I love riding a motorcycle so much, I just wanted to ride it every day, if nothing else, just to see what it’s like. Standing here, looking back at the journey to this moment, I don’t regret the choice.
As 54,000 miles has come and gone on Rosie the Scrambler, things are starting to wear out as she starts to show her age. Fortunately, most of these items were expected, things like indicator bulbs, drive chains, and a new clutch cable.
However, just a couple days ago I spooned on a fresh new set of tires and found the bearing on the cush-drive that’s showing the first signs of failure, that and the spacer seals on the front wheel look really bad. During my exploits on Fincastle Road, I also cracked the seat mounting bracket on the back end of the sub-frame. For folks that haven’t been following along on Instagram, I’ve also been dealing with a leak around the output shaft; while I think I have most of this solved, the saga continues as I fear I also need to replace the gasket behind the shifter shaft. There’s also no denying that the fasteners are showing a bit of corrosion, but to my surprise, Rosie doesn’t look half as bad as I feared she would after spending so many days on the salty roads in Dayton. Three years ago, if you told me all that patina is just “character”, I would have scoffed and laughed at you. Now however, I see those blemishes as a testament to what the bike has accomplished; frankly, considering where Rosie’s been, she’s doing well.
After the first riding streak ended in 160 days, I was disappointed, but more concerned with getting the bike repaired than I was about missing the goal. Naturally, I patched the bike back together on a completely random Tuesday in July, which meant day 365 would land on another random Tuesday… which is exactly how it felt when the day arrived.
I got dressed, I put my lunch in the saddlebag and I rode to work. Aside from a nasty grease spill that tried to throw me off the road two miles from my driveway, somewhere around Wright-Patterson Air Force Base I passed mile number 10 and the deed was done. Obviously, I was excited, however this wasn’t a race, but a test of endurance; there was no finish line, and I was actually left more with the realization that the bar had just been raised. 10 miles or more, for 365 consecutive days… it was indeed possible to ride every day in Dayton, Ohio. Riding a motorcycle through the snow, sleet, torrential rain, and suffocated by the humid midwestern summer, “the end” nearly came as a surprise. I arrived at the office almost in disbelief as I had always feared the bike would fail before I lost the drive to keep pulling on my helmet each morning.
I chose the right bike for the job. Of 365 straight days, I rode the Scrambler for 363. We missed one day because I was in Seattle riding the Ural, and another after a late afternoon of test riding and wrenching on my cousin’s FZ1, having already logged my 10 miles that day.
Every day for an entire year, Rosie the Scrambler was always ready to travel. There are many other bikes that are up to this task, but I’m still firm on my choice. Per the stats above, I received a lot of opportunities to try out other motorcycles in the past year, but in the end, I was always happy to ride away on the Scrambler. Having completed this endeavor together, the bond between man and machine has now been irreversibly forged. I’ve ridden better bikes, and undoubtedly other bikes will come along, but considering what has transpired over the last year, and what’s likely to take place in 2019, I’m not sure we could ever part ways.
The Hardest Day
This winter was unforgiving, yet still not the worst I’ve seen. A few folks have suggested I’m crazy, but I think it’s just a matter of perspective; as the snowflakes started to fall in December, I started to look forward to riding in the snow.
I didn’t want to slog it out for 10 miles in 6 inches of snow, but I wanted the experience, so I was prepared for when it was really bad. I deliberately took the bike out into the unplowed snow so I knew what to expect if I was ever trapped in a bad situation. Like riding in the rain, what was once intimidating became fun (at least when it was on my terms). Winter started to feel endless through March, getting ready to take the bike out each day was sometimes tiring, purely because of the dreary weather, but I admit, I always enjoyed the ride. Until that one day…
Some of you will understand, and others may not realize what you’re missing. On an otherwise beautiful Saturday in late June, I had to say good bye to my best friend.
Delilah, my crafty Belgian Malinois (mix) of fourteen years, had lived a long and unbelievable life, but her time had finally come. Like being a dog lover, riding a motorcycle is a passion that many don’t understand unless they’ve experienced it for themselves. Despite the persistent winter, I enjoyed each moment in the saddle… except that day. That day, riding was empty; for ten miles, I was simply going through the motions– numb. Being able to ride everyday was incredible, but I would give it all back to play fetch in the back yard one more time. Fortunately, life goes on, and the passion returned, but the memory of that day is permanent.
What’s Next Indeed…
Spooning on those tires last weekend, I noticed some glaring maintenance issues that need addressed. Per my comments above, I have an oil leak that I’ve been fighting for a couple weeks now.
I have no doubt this is the result of harsh off-road conditions, not washing the bike (because I’m lazy), and skipping over the “lighter” details of the maintenance schedule (when they say re-torque bolts, they mean it). I need to replace that bearing, a couple bearing seals, a neutral switch, a throttle cable, service the headstock bearings, and change the fork oil. Honestly, once I get the parts in hand, that’s probably only a full day’s worth of work. On Instagram, I make jokes about “always wrenching”, which is now true, simply due to mileage, but the side effect is that turning wrenches is far less intimidating than ever before. However, before I can tackle the next challenge at full-tilt, these items need to be put to bed.
That said, all of this talk about maintenance brings up dreams of upgrades. Changing that fork oil means I need to first take the forks off the bike…
Since I’m already halfway there, I might as well install the +30 mm travel kit for the front end, and then go ahead and spend the cash on a set of matching +30 mm rear shocks. The suspension set up I have now is pretty decent, for the road, but after Conserve The Ride this year, I have a new goal: Race the Scrambler at an actual off-road rally. After meeting characters like Steve Kamrad and Ryan Wheatley that off-road race their street bikes, meanwhile looking back at what the Scrambler has accomplished while completely outclassed in the Kentucky Clay, I think it’s time Rosie earned a real race number.
Many have said that I should continue the streak which at the moment, I am in fact doing. That said, the current record is like 16 years, I think it’s unlikely that I can reach that, given my current stable of motorcycles. In addition, while I’m proud of the streak and enduring the finer parts of Old Man Winter’s wrath… I’m anxious to raise the bar in the endurance category. While my Saddlesore 1000 didn’t fall in the last 365 days, I’m anxious to climb the next rung on the Iron Butt Association ladder.
Moreover, while completing a 1500-mile endurance ride in 24 hours or less on Scrambler is a feat in itself, I admit I want to raise the stakes in that department as well. I want to ride a Bun Burner Gold on an unconventional motorcycle. I daydream about riding from Dayton to Key West on something like a Royal Enfield Himalayan, a 250cc Super Moto, or some other sort of unorthodox machine. I don’t have any opportunities in front of me right now, but I’m unquestionably searching for a way to make this happen.
Beyond distance, endurance, and racing, I want to take my off-road riding skills to the next level.
I’m not exactly sure when or how, but I want to start night riding in places like the Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway. I caught Steve Kamrad’s coverage of the Northeast 24-hour challenge; watching “Team Theft Recovery” endure rain and mud all through the night, I immediately thought that looked like a great time! I’ve wanted to put together a Kentucky off-road challenge of similar scale, perhaps this is the beginning of a new challenge for Red River Scramble.