Do you like off-pavement challenges? I have been doing a number of longer off-pavement rides this season since I got my V-Strom 650 in April.
I have no dirt bike experience and donít have a skid plate so Iím not doing any single track dirt bike stuff but there are lots of very scenic dirt roads and some unmaintained roads around south central Ontario that are within the capabilities of V-Strom street riders on the TrailWings.
Some of the nice ones include Lines 3 or 4 running north out of Hockley Valley and also around the Forks of the Credit (i.e. Creditview, Grange, etc.). For a bigger challenge there are some unmaintained roads leading into or out of the Pine River Valley south of Creemore such as Sideroad 15 leading to the 2nd Line. For sure you will want to have engine guards and hand guards just in case you drop your bike on the loose stuff. Itís best to do these roads with a buddy in case you have a problem because they tend to be very low traffic roads. If you fall and canít get up, you could be there for a very long time before someone comes along! :cry:
One that I really enjoyed last week is called the Swift Rapids road which leads north up to the Swift Rapids Lock 43 on the Severn River. This road is about 15 kms long and I had to do over half of it in first gear. You can find it on a detailed South Central Ontario Backroads Map. The start of it can be found by drawing a line from Coldwater on Hwy. 12 over to Port Stanton on Sparrow Lake. About halfway in between is the hamlet of Burnside. The road leading north at this point is called Carlyon Line but soon becomes the Swift Rapids Road. From Hwy 400 take exit 136, go along Stage Coach Road, pick up Foxmead Road over to Carlyon then turn left at the intersection of Foxmead and Carlyon. The first few kilometers are pretty smooth. After you pass Jermey Road, you will reach a ďstaging areaĒ for ATVs and dirt bikes. From here the road is unmaintained. It narrows to a single lane and twists and turns for about 10 kms through bush, scenic swampy areas, and ponds. There are a few single lane bridges over the swampy bits. The key thing about the road is that it is filled with about a half million pot holes big enough to swallow your front wheel. A car would be at serious risk of ripping out the underside here. I did catch up to a car trying to go up this road. The driver indicated that he was heading to the end of it, but after I passed him, I never saw him again. I assume he gave up and turned around. There is no other way out but to go back.
The day I did it was just after a heavy rain. Thus every pot hole (millions of Ďem!), were filled with muddy water. The challenge was to find the correct line through them on the high spots so I didnít drop down into them. Sometimes the low areas of the road were almost completely covered in water, but there was always a couple inches of room at the edge to skirt around without getting right into the water. I was impressed with the bikeís ability to hold a line on the combination of mud and stones around the sloped edges of these pot holes. More challenging for me is the steep little downhill pitches where the ďroadĒ is all torn up with deep ruts and loose rocks and stones from the ATVís and 4x4s. But I only had to stop the bike once to walk down a hill to find an appropriate line. If you go when it has not rained for a few days, you will probably make better time and be able go right through a lot of the bigger pot holes.
The big pay off is at the end of this road. There is a locked gate at the end about a half km from the lock where youíll have to leave the bike and walk in. I wonít spoil the surprise but the lock itself is the biggest on the Severn River and the view from the top of it is spectacular.
I was lucky to see a beautiful Cruisers 415 power yacht go through the lock when I was there. Take your camera.
The ability to do these roads on the virtually stock V-Strom really highlights its great versatility. If you are thinking about getting a V-Strom in hopes of doing some off-pavement riding, I think you will be very pleased with this bikeís ability. Of course you do have to go slower than you would on a true dual sport, but with patience and persistence you can go to a lot places that they can and lot of places that cruisers canít.
I would post pictures if I had a digital camera but I donít. Thatís definitely on the list for next season!