My Dad and I at Tie Fork

Last October marked my initiation into the world of off-road riding. Brand new to the sport, my dad and I started spending lot of time out together on our dirt bikes testing out the trails around Wasatch County in Utah. Of course it didn’t take long for it to become a full-blown passion. After a fair amount of riding, we felt like we’d gotten pretty comfortable on the bikes and started getting restless for a challenge. That is when the idea for an adventure ride started to form: How cool would it be to ride our motorcycles from our house in Provo, Utah all the way down to our family in St. George, Utah? We wanted to do something crazy and memorable, and a long distance, mostly off-road ride sounded like the perfect way for us to accomplish that!

Preparing to Go

We mapped out our route for the trip and began prepping our bikes for the ride – a 1998 KDX 200 and a 2000 KDX 220. The route looked to be about 400 miles long once we had it all mapped out, with fuel stops every 160 miles or so. This presented our first problem: our 2.9-gallon tanks would only take us about 100 miles per tank. To solve that problem, we fabricated a rigid frame to the back end of each bike so that we could outfit them with some auxiliary fuel tanks. That was the only way we could extend our fuel range and make the whole trip possible.

Our Bikes Modified for the Ride

After solving the fuel capacity issue, we decided to dive into the machine prep. We knew that this long of a ride would require a lot from our bikes so we wanted them to be ready. We replaced a few worn out parts and did all the basic maintenance on each bike to make sure they would be running smoothly. On top of that, we also replaced all of our bearings, replaced our seals and rebuilt the top end in both motorcycles. Our carburetors also needed a tune up seeing that our bikes are a little older and we wanted them to run well at the higher elevations. Last, but not least, we picked up a few spare brake and clutch levers along with additional throttle and clutch cables to bring along on the ride just incase we needed to do some trailside mechanics.

The bikes were finally ready to go, but were we? Being our first distance ride and not knowing what to expect, we’d planned it out to ride all 400 miles in one day. We wanted to head out early in the a.m. and then ride like mad men all day until we got to St. George that night. We figured a ride like this would take a serious toll on our bodies, so we tried to prepare physically in the months leading up to the ride by riding as often as possible and increasing the time spent on our motorcycles each ride. When August rolled around, we planned to be ready.

Views from the Trail

Riding in the Dark

The date of the ride couldn’t come fast enough. We finished up the last of our preparations the day before we were set to leave. The next day on our way to our starting point at Strawberry Reservoir, we had a nagging feeling that we were forgetting something but couldn’t for the life of us figure out what it was.

Riding Along Skyline Drive

We camped at the reservoir the night before the ride so that we could set out around 4:30 am the next morning. We found out right off the bat that my dad’s headlight wasn’t working properly, so we spent the first hour and a half riding with only the light from my motorcycle until the sun started to break through the dark. It was a pretty big setback and really slowed us down for the first part of our ride. During this same time my dad kept saying that his bike was lacking power and not running right. As a result, he kept laying his bike down in the technical areas. As I went to help him pick up his bike, I knew there had to be a reason for his lack in power. I looked over the bike and found the problem: he forgot to turn off the choke! He was super embarrassed and I’ll never let him live that one down!

Sketchy Bridge at a Water Crossing on the Trail

Once the sun was up and his bike was running well again, we finally started covering some ground and making pretty good time. But our pace came to a quick halt after a pretty deep river crossing resulted in water getting in my dad’s fuel. We had to spend a fair amount of time fixing the issue before setting out again. At this point we thought there was no way any thing else could go wrong.

Turns out we were wrong…about 75 miles in my dad’s throttle cable broke. Remember the nagging feeling that we were forgetting something? The replacement cables didn’t make the trip. There we were, stranded miles from any town with a broken throttle cable and hundreds of miles still to go. After 30 minutes or so of trying to tie the cable but realizing it would be too short to work right, we were able to rig it up so that it was connected to the throttle slide and then routed it up next to the gas tank. So my dad had to figure out how to ride with one hand on the bars and one hand on the side of the fuel tank, pulling the cable to allow the fuel to flow and power the bike. We were maintaining a speed that would never allow us to get to St. George that night.

Dad's New Way to RideRigging up the Throttle Cable

Improvising

When we finally made it to the nearest towns, we tried to find a cable to replace the broken one. We didn’t have any success until we made it to Richfield. Luckily, we found a motorcycle shop that was nice enough to try and help us find a cable for the bike. They didn’t have one specifically for his machine, but were able to rig it up with a choke cable taken from a Polaris ATV. He could ride the bike like normal again, however, the fix wasn’t exactly ideal.

Fueling Up in Richfield

The detour we’d taken to find a cable had taken us way off of our mapped course. We ended up getting lost when we took a few roads we thought would be shortcuts as we tried to navigate our way to the next fuel stop near Cove Fort. It took us a while to backtrack enough to find a road that would set us back on our original route and when we finally did pull up at Cove Fort, we were beat. It was dark, we were exhausted and we knew we wouldn’t make it to the next and last fuel stop before it closed. The realization that we wouldn’t make it to our final destination after we’d spent so much time preparing for the ride was sinking in and left us a little depressed. But we had no choice – we decided to call it quits. We called our rescue truck and settled in to wait for it to arrive.

As we waited for the truck, we couldn’t help but laugh at the experience that we’d had and how the ride had turned out so different from what we had expected. We finished the ride by pulling up to our destination in the cab of a truck, bikes in tow. Our trip wasn’t a complete failure though – thanks to a replacement cable we bought from Rocky Mountain’s St. George dealership, we were able to hit up the popular off-road destination of Warner Valley and ride on the sandy red trails until we felt we had redeemed ourselves from our failed distance ride.

Riding in Warner Valley

Climbing a Hill on my Bike

Reflections of the Ride

I learned a lot from our adventure, especially about being prepared. Despite all of our preparation, there were still some things that caught us off guard. We’ll make sure to be even more thorough and better prepared next time around! Despite all of the setbacks that we had, my favorite part of the whole experience was the adventure itself. We were able to explore parts of that state I’d never seen before, and I had a great time just riding with my dad. Even after all of that, I can’t wait to get out and ride again!

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By Chance Erwin