Tag: Dual-sport

Trail Notes: Ballinger Canyon and Deer Park Jeep Trails

Shrubby Brushweed in Bloom Along Trail 24

Despite drought conditions this year, the Shrubby Brushweed plants are covered with yellow flowers in Ballinger Canyon. Other flowers blooming in the canyon are Hareweed, Phacelia, and Bush Lupine. It’s a different story in Quatal Canyon to the south where hardly any wildflowers are blooming at all.

On this trip to the Ballinger OHV park I was hoping to enter Deer Park Canyon from Highway 33, using Trail 23W31 marked as a through 4WD route on the Ballinger Canyon route map. It appears that Trail 23W31 is on private property. Trails 40 and 46 are both gated at approximately the place where the vertical black line intersects them on the map below.

Trail 23W31 Deer Park Canyon

I wound up scouting a number of trails, outline in lime green on the map below. (Click on the picture for a larger view.)

Ballinger Routes 24, 36, 40, 46

Trail 24 is an easy trail through high desert territory. The road is sandy, rocky and heavily “moguled,” making for a bumpy ride in places. The easternmost part of the trail includes a slight climb among scrub oak and pinyon pines. The trail is narrower here and more interesting. In wet weather it can be challenging, with deep ruts that could leave you high centered if you slipped off the trail.

Trail 40 includes some sections of moderate difficulty, with a steep climb up the ridge overlooking Deer Park Canyon. I’m assuming the moderate rating comes from a couple of pretty steep scrambles. I imagine some of the hillclimbs (and descents) could get pretty hairy following a big rain. In dry conditions these hills aren’t anything a little 4WD Low can’t handle. The trail is quite narrow in places, giving excellent views of the canyons on both sides.

Trail 40 travels a narrow ridge with no shoulder on either side.

Trail 46 follows a gentle grade to the floor of Deer Park Canyon. More moguls here and a few narrow places.

Trail 36 follows a wash along the floor of Deer Park Canyon. It’s a fun ride between steep walls in places. There was quite a bit of Bush Lupine in flower along this trail.

Bush Lupine in Bloom in Deer Park Canyon

As I said above, Trail 40 and 46 are gated, meaning that you can’t use them to exit to Highway 33 as maps indicate. But they are good for some nice out-and-back exploring. There were a handful of bikers and ATV riders in the park on this beautiful Saturday in Spring, but most of the time I felt I had the trails to myself.

Originally posted April 9, 2007.

Trail Notes: Quatal Canyon Jeep Trails

Quatal Canyon Road is Smooth and Wide

Entering from Highway 33, just south of Ventucopa, Quatal Canyon Road is the superhighway of Jeep trails. After several hours of bashing my brains out on the moguls in Ballinger Canyon it was actually kind of nice to be on a smooth dirt road for a change. (I really have to install some anti-sway quick disconnects.)

The first five miles or so is private ranch land on both sides of the road. After this the road narrows and becomes rugged washboard. Fortunately Trail 106, Quatal Canyon Corridor, comes along pretty soon and you can drive in the sandy wash, keeping your fillings intact.

Looking toward Cowhead Portrero (?)

This picture is taken along OHV Trail 106 after it leaves the Quatal wash, looking toward Cowhead Portrero. Note the red color of the soil here, washed down from the hills visible in the upper left part of the picture. These mountains are deep, vivid red. At this point the trail starts to gain elevation. Pinyon pine become more common. By the time the trail reconnects with Quatal Canyon Road, you’ve reached a Jeffrey pine habitat.

At the end of Quatal Canyon Road where it connects with Cerro Noroeste Road there is a small camp ground with picnic tables and fire pit. I didn’t notice what restroom facilities were available, if any.

The Pio Bureau photoblog has some nice shots of some labrynthine areas of Quatal Canyon, a great place of canyoneering. Geological surveys of the area have turned up mammalian fossils, making it a likely place for some amateur paleontology.

Originally published April 11, 2007.

Ballinger Canyon Jeep Trails

Ballinger Canyon Moonrise

Ballinger Canyon is a high desert Off Highway Vehicle area similar in terrain to Hungry Valley, but about half the acreage. Ballinger has 11 jeep trails interlaced with about two dozen ATV and motorcycle trails. There are two main roads through the canyon, both easy to moderate with a few more challenging connectors.

Entrance to the canyon is off Highway 33 near-ish to route 166.

On this trip I arrived mid-afternoon to do some hiking in the canyon. I drove Trail 24, an easy road with mostly soft soil that is compacted into a billowy washboard ride…something like riding a jetski on a choppy day. I hiked up Trail 14, an ATV-only trail, and a stiff uphill to boot. But the trail wends through a nice pine habitat and there are some beautiful views.

I made it back to the Jeep about 4:30 pm. And I really didn’t want to drive all the way back down 33. Now, here’s where good map skills would come in handy! I’ve got an aging DeLorme map book that shows Ballinger Canyon road (NF-9N10) cutting all the way through to Cerro Nordeste–which would take me into to Frazier Park. As a matter of fact, Google Maps also shows 9N10 connecting to Cerro Nordeste.

If I had paid a little better attention to the map posted at the park entrance, I could have spared myself a wild ride. The trail map makes it pretty clear that there are no through routes. But my made it look like I was within spitting distance of the highway so I gave it a try.
Now, trail 24 is marked as an easy route, but as it climbs eastward up the canyon it starts getting damp and rutted. There was snow on the sides of the road and in places the mud had been whipped into a froth. In a few places there was barely enough width to the trail for a Jeep and a wrong touch on the gas could easily have sent me skidding into a big ditch. I had visions of getting high-centered and spending a frosty night trying to dig myself out in the moonlight.

Did I mention that it was getting dark by the time I hit the end of Trail 24? And yes, Trail 24 comes to an end with a big red timber closing off the drive.  In the dark it was a little challenging to navigate the maze of trails that often petered out into a motorcycle track. Finally I decided to bite the bullet and slog back the way I came.

Overall it was a fun ride, in a white knuckley sort of way. I think I might wait until Spring to go back. It is supposed to be one of the best areas to view wildflowers.

Smoother Shifting: The GS Shifter Preload

gearboxFirst week I owned the Pig I found that I couldn’t shift it into first gear from neutral. I started freaking out but then I tried a few things. Wiggled the sidestand. Played with the ignition. Rolled the bike back and forth. Then magically it shifted.

 It turns out that this is a peculiarity of the BMW R 1200 GS…in the morning when the clutch is cold, if I roll the bike while it is in neutral I won’t be able to shift into first. What I discovered on my own was that I had to roll the bike backwards about 18 inches and then it will shift just fine. Somewhat tricky when you’re pointed downhill.

A friend tells me this might have something to do with a spline mismatch in the final drive. I’m not sure about that. (Later study says it’s the dogs in the gearbox.)

Consulting the oracle at Adventure Rider I discovered a helpful tip: preload the shifter. That means putting just a tiny bit of weight on the shifter before you depress the clutch. And I do mean tiny. Just touch the shifter with your foot. Don’t press it. Otherwise you wind up popping the bike into gear with the clutch open, lurching forward and killing the engine. Kind of embarrassing when you’re  at a stoplight hoping to impress the ladies in the VW convertible next to you.

Turns out this was a can of worms. Preloading. Some people feel that you should preload on the downshift to avoid the loud CLUNK that is characteristic of the GS. Others feel the CLUNK is part of the bike’s heritage. Some people feel you should preload when you upshift. But on the whole, a little light pressure on the shifter turns out to be a magic touch.

Riding with the Cycle of the Sun


Riding a motorcycle into the rising sun is like getting poked in the eye with a sharp red stick. You can wear a pair of Ray Bans but you’re still riding blind. Now I know why a lot of dual sport riders wear moto-style helmets with visors. I’d gladly swap my flip face lid for an AFX FX-37.

I know a couple of riders who tape their face shields with an inch gaffer’s tape along the top. (For those who haven’t used it, gaffer’s tape is stronger than duct tape and leaves no sticky residue.) This strategy helps somewhat in the canyons where you may be in the shadows one moment, and in the furious sunlight the next.

None of this will do you any good, not visors nor gaffer’s tape, when the sun is coming from below you. I found myself in that situation last week riding on the Camino Cielo ridgeline. When this happens all you can see is the sun. Target fixation being what it is, it’s near impossible to find the roadway, so you slow to a crawl, try to ride one-handed with the other hand blotting out the heli-arc that blinds you.

You can’t beat back the sun but you can control your ride. This means riding in harmony with the rolling spheres…and knowing when the sun comes up in the morning. The kind folks at the US Navy give accurate sun and moon data, tipping you on daybreak, actual sunrise, sunset and twilight data. A nitpick here, on their newly designed site you have to enter date on one screen and your location on the next screen. I found a sun and moon data widget that works just as well, provided you only want today’s data. Seeing that the difference in sunrise between one day and the next is only about a minute it works for me. For trip planning I’d use the Navy site.

It comes as no surprise, yet it still amazes me, that riding a motorcycle every day has made me much more aware of the world around me.

A Ball with No Chain

Because life is not complicated enough, hasn’t reached the fever-pitch of insanity with too many hobbies, I just bought a used BMW 1200 GS. I guess $4 gas pushed me over the edge.

I have to say, it was weird topping off the tank this morning and seeing the pump register 2.7 gallons.

Review: Accutire Talking Tire Gauge

Accutire Tire GaugeDo you really want your tools to talk back? Well, with the Accutire pressure gauge, sure. Why not.

The audible readout is handy when you’re checking tire pressure at night or in a dimly lit garage. The LCD display is a little hard to read in low-light conditions, making the audible feature all the more important.
This gauge feels good in your  hand and it has a little nubbin on top to help deflate tires.

My biggest problem with this gauge is that it is battery powered and has no low battery indication. Mine started to malfunction one morning–it took a pressure reading of 28 PSI and then wouldn’t clear. The battery is a button-cell, meaning that you’re not likely to have a spare handy and it’s pesky to remove.

My recommendation–around the garage this thing is a gem. But on the trail, I make sure I carry a mechanical dial gauge.