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AMA Adventure Riding Series: A Debut

2012 AMA Adventure Riding Series

Ninety on knobbies? Well, with sign-in wrapping up in two hours, me running a bit late (an hour), and my residence over 110 miles away, 90 on knobbies is the only way.

This speed only occurs for a short stretch on Interstate 80, though, before I pull off and say screw it, if I’m late, I’m late. I enjoy all riding situations, even on the highway, but the Kenda Big Blocks I’m testing on my V-Strom DL1000 are shaky at 90 on certain grooved parts of the highway, providing a nerve-cringing feeling. These shoes simply weren’t designed to do 90 on concrete. So I take some back roads, and actually make it there quicker than planned.

This is how my debut at the AMA Adventure Riding Series begins Saturday morning. But once I arrive at Mill Hall, Pa., for the AMA Adventure Riding Series that runs in conjunction with the AMA Dual Sport Series, the events hosted by the Durty Dabbers dual-sport club, all is forgotten. The smell and sight of two-stroke smoke, along with hundreds of fellow AMA members wrapped in dual-sport garb, lay all the uncomfortable (and cold) feelings from the morning commute to rest. There aren’t that many adventure bikes here, per say, but that doesn’t change one ounce of enjoyment.

I find the main gathering area, and park the Strom, which I prepped a few days earlier over a few Pale Ales, changing the oil, brakes and mounting the Kenda DOT-legal knobbies on rims that were a bit beat due to a previous adventure.

Seconds later I’m discussing the Kendas with an enthusiastic man that looks vaguely familiar, this man that’s limping around with a cast on his left leg. Diagnosis – broken tibia, I naturally assume from a motorcycle accident. Then another man walks over, saying he recognized the fella I’m talking to from the American Motorcyclist magazine.

Turns out the man I’ve been chatting with is no other than Jack Penton, the AMA’s Director of Operations and 12-times International Six Days Enduro competitor.

I’ve read about Penton and always wanted to meet him, and suddenly I’m talking to him for some time without evening knowing who he is. Penton has been widely recognized for what he has done for our sport, and from his fervor towards everything motorcycles, I quickly realize why.

And here we are, all talking, everyone gleaming eyed from the multiple motorcycles covering the grounds. Besides the Strom are a pair of KTM 990 Adventure bikes, and behind them a couple DR-Z 400s, a Husqvarna TE 511, and a few XR650Ls…even a Trials bike is on the premises, I assume for some amusement when the bellies are full with beer in the evening following are hardcore day of riding over 100 miles, mostly off road throughout the forest parks in Clinton County, Pa.

This is how these events work; you bring a tent, camper or whatever, and set up. You ride all day Saturday, relax (or party) all night Saturday evening while camping on the grounds, and then awake Sunday and ride again before packing up and heading home.

The AMA Adventure Riding Series, sponsored by Yamaha, runs in conjunction with the AMA Dual Sport Series, sponsored by Husqvarna. This event featured the “main course,” which was for the dual sport bikes, consisting of forest-park gravel roads and technical trials, the “alternate course,” which dual sporters who seek additional challenges can ride, and the “adventure course,” which was mostly forest-park roads. All three courses intersect with each other at various points and at every “preset” point, where riders reset their miles before following the directions on a provided scroll map.

Signing up is a breeze; simply give the crew your AMA card, and they scan it through one of those archaic credit card machines that copy the top of your card. You sign some waivers, pay ($40 per day at the Durty Dappers, $50 if you want the evening’s food, or $70 for both Saturday and Sunday), and attach a number to the right side of your bike and helmet. You receive a packet with some local tourist info, some goodies, a roll chart (scroll map with directions), and a ticket that you must hand in once you complete the day’s course. The finishing ticket is key to hand in; if you don’t, you’ll have everyone searching for you.

Of course I don’t have a roll chart holder, but luckily they have some on sale. And luckily I brought cash. Remember, no credit cards are taken at most of these events, so take cash for not only the entrance fee, but also items you may need, such as a roll chart holder. Never using a roll-chart holder before, AMA’s Dave Hembroff offers some pointers, and provides me with some zip ties (another thing I forgot) to mount it to the Strom’s handlebars.

Following a brief 15-minute pre-event meeting with Penton and representatives from Yamaha, Husqvarna and the Durty Dabbers, the ride begins. I set off alone, about 15 minutes after most of the folks leave.

After trekking through some pavement back roads, the scroll route dumps me into Tiadaghton State Forest, and the fun begins. Throttle immediately pinned once I hit the dirt, I close in on a group of about 12 dual-sport riders. It’s early, and I let off, destroying those thoughts of that Marc-Coma inspired spirit inside.

After about 50 miles of throttling through some of PA’s most scenic scenery, I stop at a preset location, one of many where you set your miles back to zero to easily follow the scroll map, and realize the diversity of riders. The event attracts not only the diehard dual-sport and adventure enthusiast (not one street tire in sight except a few newer adventure bikes, the rest all donning DOT knobbies), but also a few two-up riders. And as for ages, it appears as an equal mix of ages from riders in their 20s to 60s.

Unlike certain race-inspired events, everyone respects each other’s skill; if they’re going too slow, they wave faster riders by, and faster riders simply pass smartly on the fire roads, not buzzing by. The state forest’s speed limit is 30 mph, but that doesn’t stop many from safely turning the roads into something Hazard-County like.

After shooting a few pics and discussing various techniques of adventure-bike riding with a talented riders, that mad, inherent rush to have some fun overcomes me. The Coma demon within is alive, but not for too long. After passing a huge group of dual-sporters, I am suddenly alone, pushing hard.

I know I’m a bit lost, which drains complete riding concentration, and I wash out the front-end of the Strom in a decreasing-radius corner that was blinded by lush trees. Simply too much brake and too much speed, but the Touratech protection did its duty (once again), as did the Klim Badlands suit I was donning. I check myself for injury, and except for a sore shinbone, I’m picking up my machine, well over 500 lbs loaded with gear. But the Strom restarts quickly, and I’m back on track. Well, not really…

I check my phone for some locations, but there is no signal in the dense Tiadaghton State Forest, but luckily a Forest Ranger arrives. I scroll back to where I thought I became lost, and the congenial ranger tells me to follow her. She quickly gets me back on track, where I meet the others at yet another pre-set point.

I decide to slow the mind, knowing once the events over I have to not only ride back to the camping grounds to hand in my finish ticket, but also hightail it home to cover some work from the great weekend of racing, which includes the Isle of Man TT, AMA Pro Racing, AMA Motocross and MotoGP.

I now cruise, enjoying the scenery. When a notation on the map scroll says 25 miles remain, I slow the Strom even more, wanting to embrace every last inch of these virgin roads. But first, I had to try at least one of the dual-sport trails, wanting to venture off the Adventure Riding course.

It is a short, few-miles pass, but very technical. Two riders on KTM EXCs stop me, giving me high-fives. They say that my machine is not designed for these trails, and I completely agree. But sometimes we just have to push ourselves that much extra to please that risk-taking adventure animal within.

Miles quickly pass. And with the V-Strom caked with mud, I arrive at camp, hand in my ticket, and speak to few riders about the day’s event. Everyone is checking their machines and cleaning themselves up, awaiting to discuss the day’s ride with their fellow AMA members during the night’s festivities at the campgrounds. On Saturday, there are no reports of any injuries or arrests, etc., not even the mention of a speeding ticket, which shows how respectful these motorcyclists truly are.

Although details were a bit scarce of the event before arrival, organization of the event was spot on. The only thing I’d change is to let the dual-sport riders know that the adventure riders are on a different course. This may be possible by having the Adventure riders don a different color sticker on their bikes and helmets; throughout the event, I had many dual-sporters trying to stop me, telling me I was going the wrong way. Maybe a bit of a head’s up at the pre-event meeting and different color stickers would have helped deter some of the confusion.

But the other problem is of a much grander scale – I have to depart, and can’t do it all again on Sunday. I promise myself this will not be an issue at my next AMA Adventure Riding Series event, which I will definitely attend once again this year.

But this time I’ll make sure the weekend is free from work. I’d love to hear as many stories as possible from fellow AMA members who enjoy riding their dual sport and adventure motorcycles on the terrain these bikes were truly designed to tackle.

And there’s one more thing – every one who enters the AMA Adventure Riding Series has a chance to win a Yamaha Super Tenere. This makes the event that more appealing. And all you have to do to enter is have some fun…

For additional information on upcoming events in the AMA Adventure Riding Series, click here.

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