Conserve the Ride Pennsylvania ADV Ride
Following a let-loose Friday evening of various bourbons and ales, I was the first to hit the dirt after I low-sided my V-Strom DL1000 the following morning.
The crash was a slow one, and occurred while practicing riding drills as our group exited Woodward Caves Campground. It was the opening moment of riding for the AltRider Conserve the Ride 2013 held in Central Pennsylvania, and my start was anything but positive.
The Strom barely warmed up, the Kenda Big Blocks lost traction across a wooden bridge, and bucked me off the bike. Two of the seven riders in our expert group had my bike and I up in seconds.
But that was the last time I hit the dirt, and positively quickly set in. Throughout the rest of our 160-mile trek, others kept going down. By day’s end, our group of seven came down to a lonely four – a tired and battered four. And though we barely talked during the actual ride, the conversations at camp that night created unique camaraderie.
And that’s the true beauty of motorcycle events such as AltRider’s Conserve the Ride – the camaraderie. I went alone, knowing only one huge guest at the event, Dakar finisher Jimmy Lewis. But after the very first conversation while setting up my campsite, new friends were made, including the leader of our group, Derek Greenaway, and Ricardo Congote, who took some amazing footage of our ride with his GoPro.
This was the third consecutive year for AltRider’s Conserve the Ride, a June event that grows annually; about 100 riders were present at the 2013 event.
For a $225 entry fee, all attendees got a day of serious off-road riding in some of Pennsylvania’s most beautiful areas, five meals, as many adult beverages as needed, an EnduroCross event, and a chance to converse and/or ride with Jimmy Lewis, who was piloting a Triumph Tiger Explorer loaded with AltRider parts at this year’s event.
Almost all riders brought their own tents and set up camp at Woodward Caves Campground, though some had RVs and hotels are nearby if needed.
The ride is put on in conjunction with Seven Mountain Conservations Corp’s (SMCC), a non-profit organization committed to keeping off-road trails open for motorcyclists and other outdoor activities. This organization is serious about keeping these trails open, and for great reason; by far the trails presented some of most beautiful landscapes I have ever witnessed in my home state.
The rides are split up into groups according to skill level – scenic (beginner), intermediate and expert. And throughout the day, you can jump between groups if needed. Riders also choose if they want to tackle the “options,” which are dedicated jeep trails that can be found along the main loop of mostly fire roads.
Seven options were included in 2013′s event, with different difficulty levels, and our group completed all seven. But as I said, we lost a few riders along the way…
After my morning high side, the group had a few miles of pavement before encountering a fire road where the mud was soupy and slippery. I didn’t want to slow our group down, so I rode the entire way with a foot brake lever missing from its usual location. During the crash, the brake lever twisted backwards around my footpeg, and still worked. But this newly-formed petal forced me to use my heel for stopping power.
Awkward, and I knew it would slow me tremendously when the technical trails begin. The others helped me out at a quick stop, and we bent the lever back without braking it off. It actually is in a better location for use while standing, and it remains this way to today.
With my twisted petal and crash out of mind, the focus set in. This was needed when the options began, which for me was the true fun of the vent. Except for Greenaway, who was piloting a KTM 350 EXC, the rest of the group was on heavy Adventure bikes, including BMW R 1200 GSs, an R 1100 GS, and a Triumph Tiger 800. We all had DOT knobbies to tackle these options, except for Congote, who was running the stock Bridgestone Battewing dual-sport tires on the Tiger. I’m still amazed at his performance with those tires, especially in the slicker spots and the one huge creek crossing.
The third option was by far the most challenging, and included some steep ascents strewn with jagged rocks. Many riders from various groups crashed here, including one rider who literally climbed a tree aboard his R1200GS (included on Congote’s YouTube video around the 3:28 mark). Sadly, this is where many of our group disappeared, either due to crashes or the sections becoming too difficult.
At every stop, either while waiting for other riders, stopping for gas, or at the amazing outdoor lunch spot held in Hairy Johns Picnic Park, the conversations were endless. This is where riders shared techniques, which helps others naturally become better and faster. One technique Greenaway shared with me was what he called “rock picking.” While riding down steep, rocky descents, you guide your front tire through the most optimal route free of rocks, and “pick through them” with your back tire by locking up the back wheel with the brake. This allows the tire to slide into the same line your front tire is going.
When we finished the last option, my body was simply beat. I was standing on the pegs for 90 percent of the day, and hustling with the heavy V-Strom, which, as many know, is a tank when off road. This is why the bike earned the nickname “Trail Mule.” I love it, and won’t stop riding it until it blows up. But this may take some time; there’s over 70K on it, and I never had a problem, regardless of how hard I thrash it.
Though I was beat, towards the end of the ride our group met up with the other expert group, which included AltRider President Jeremy LeBreton and Jimmy Lewis. These are two of the most advanced riders I’ve ever witnessed, and everyone at the Conserve the Ride Rally would likely agree.
We reached a wide-open spot with huge, rolling dirt hills, and Lewis was riding every possible way on them – down, up, and sideways. His bike? A 2013 Triumph Tiger Explorer loaded with AltRider parts. He rode the over-sized dual sport like it was a toy. After gawking for a few, I joined the fun, and Lewis was constantly giving us tips. The main hill was steep, and he was showing me various things, such as how you can stop at the bottom, and with the correct technique climb it with ease.
Lewis has the perfect attitude for instructing, hence why his school is so popular. But he equally has the perfect attitude for showmanship, and he’s not afraid to show how good he truly is. He was climbing hills I could barely ride down. He also showed how you can use a skid plate to slide the bike over steep cliff walls; he literally used the skid plate like a skateboarder would for board slides.
Riding with Lewis and LeBreton brought back some much-needed energy, but by this time of the day, the stomach was on empty and a cold beverage was needed. I was still a bit sore from my morning crash, and bike needed a once over. When I returned to camp and checked the bike, all the blinkers were smashed out, and I had a few tweaked parts, including a mirror and handguard. But otherwise, all was well.
That night, RevZilla hosted a pig roast, and the beer and spirits flowed. AltRider also held a prize ceremony, giving out various prices, and Lewis conducted a Dakar presentation, talking about his third-place overall finish at the 2000 Paris-Dakar Rally. The energy was high, and Lewis had everyone’s attention.
AltRide hosts another breakfast for Sunday morning before riders head home, Unfortunately I had other commitments, and had to pack up and travel home Saturday evening. During the roughly two-hour ride home, I could not stop reliving the high points of the Conserve the Ride 2013. And there were many…actually, the only down point was my crash. But even an early-morning crash without injury or bike damage is better than sitting on the couch.
AltRider’s Conserve the Ride allowed my to have some serious fun, learn some technique from some of the world’s greatest riders, and, most importantly, introduced me to a new realm of camaraderie – one that can only exist among a group of truly passionate motorcycles.
I’m already set to attend the Conserve the Ride 2014, which is scheduled for June 6-8. Considering there’s not many ADV rides on the East Coast, this is a must for ADV junkies like me. I’m hoping to meet some new riders in 2014, and keep the camaraderie growing. Hey, if you attend, you can even help me pick my bike up if I crash again.
For additional information on Conserve the Ride 2014, and AltRider’s accessories, log onto AltRider.com.