Tour De’Colorado: 2 Up

What do you get when you add 2 weeks time, one beautiful wife, a whole shebang of camping gear, and a big blue motorcycle? The trip of a lifetime is what! And what better setting to place such a trip than gorgeous Colorado!

This trip took place in the first bit of August 2017. “It’ll be boiling hot!” “You’ll get soaked!” “You’ll ruin your backside!” Naysayers aside, we were hot, we were cold, we were wet, and we were tired, and we wouldn’t trade it for the world!

What better start to a Colorado adventure than the quaint little town of Telluride? There is some seriously surreal property in Telly, and as Ferris said, “If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.” Well, we can dream.

As they say, “With a van, you can!”  Never mind who “they” are. You’re looking at 21 feet of American Made glory right there. Fits a Tenere pretty darn well!

Jumping off: Day 1

Layered up, rain gear on, and everything strapped down, we head off into the rainy morning on day 1. Ahead lies Gateway Canyon, John Brown Canyon, a startled black bear, and Moab, Utah. Bonus points if you can find the ‘hanging flume’. Of course, we had to say hi to the horse version of Fabio on our way to seeing some very old footprints.

Turns out, Moab is hot in August. Leaving Castle Valley and heading to City Market to fuel up both the bike and ourselves had us very much looking forward to a dip in the river. All the recent rainfall had the Colorado brown and full. It was still mighty fine!


Getting out of Dodge: Day 2

The new morning had us going up to the 70 and into Grand Junction. A word to the wise, avoid the 70. It’s friggin’ boring. Long, straight, flat. But, it gets you access to Colorado National Monument, which is almost cool enough to redeem that abysmal road. Almost.

Up next: Grand Mesa. Everything between Grand Junction and Cedarville is pure bliss. If you’re in the area, don’t miss Grand Mesa. Skiing? Check. Trails? Check. OHV? Check. Fishing? Check. Boating? Check. Freshly repaved roads? Ohhh, buddy. This place has it all. Don’t forget to stop and get your hard cider in Cedarville either!

To finish off the day, we dodged a bugger of a storm cell to scoot through Montrose and down into Black Canyon of the Gunnison. This is one of those places that you’d never see if you were just driving through. You have to make an effort to get here, and go specifically out of your way, but when you do, you are rewarded with a special treat. East portal campground is well worth the harrowing drive to get to. The roads are seriously steep.  

Hot, wet, left and right: Day 3

Twisty roads, hot springs, and the best camp spot of the trip. The 92 heading north from Gunnison is pure bliss. Epic views and unending twisties leaving you ready for more. That said, the 133 is one of my favorite paved roads of the trip; fast, flowy, gorgeous. Them Colorado engineers really know how to put a road in.  Don’t forget to play tourist and see the coke ovens on your way into Redstone.

We enjoyed soaking in the hot springs and seeing the mountaintop amusement park in Glenwood Springs. We then hit up the local grocery where I learned my headlights had both burnt out. At 7:30. As the sun is setting in an unfamiliar town where we don’t have a camp planned. Crud! AutoZone to the rescue, and much thanks to Mother Yamaha for using standard H4 bulbs. Crisis averted. Now where to sleep? KOA’s full, hotels are $$$, and national forest is far enough to be finding camp in the dark. Well, we put our newly minted headlights to task, and found a viable spot up Avalanche Creek Rd. Luckily, no snow this time of year.

Of course, the entry fee is a nighttime water crossing on a 800lb motorcycle! Talk about fun! Hah. Set up camp, cook dinner, everything in the bear bag, hit the sack. We awoke to the best spot of the trip. Towering mountain ridges closed our view on either side, lush alpine streams serenaded us, and morning sun filtered through the trees.  Can’t we stay another night?! The water crossing was much less eventful in the daylight.

Pizza, Crusty Butt, Cheap Cups: Day 4

Next stop, Crested Butte by way of Forest Rd 12.  This one’s a stunner guys. Of course, the camera was charging, so you’ll have to take my word for it.  If you’re in the area, make it a point to drive this road. Then you can try the Elizabeth Anne pizza in Crested Butte.  

Onward and outward. Coming up, Tin Cup. It’s a weird little historic town up in the sticks. Pretty cool place, just don’t count on a great hamburger while you’re there. We ended up camping right next to a ‘fixer upper’ right out of town. I counted four tailing piles, but I didn’t want to push my luck climbing around old mine shafts. We found some appetizers and washed ourselves down in Slaughterhouse Gulch. Nasty name for a picturesque book.

You Take the High Road, I’ll Take the Adventure Bike: Day 5

The next morning we would tackle the only pass road of the trip. I know, I know. I came to Colorado on an adventure bike and didn’t ride the passes?! Well, been there done that, and I’m a firm believer in ‘horses for courses”. In other words, muscling an 800lb pseudo streetbike two up through a scree field-turned-road isn’t my idea of fun. Hey, she’s light on her feet for a fat girl… we’ll come back on the dirtbikes and rip it up right proper.

We would then pass over Monarch pass, where we got our first real opportunity to don our rain gear in earnest! Rain, then hail, then BIG hail! At least it felt big. Had to pull over and wait that one out on order from the spousal unit. That storm would chase us all the way into Colorado Springs, where it decided it liked us and wanted to ruin our views for the next couple days. But not before regaling us with stories of hurricane force winds whilst traversing HWY 24. That’s another one you can skip, especially on a bike. My neck still hurts.

We’re both starting to get pretty ripe. That means it’s laundry day. We’ll be in Colorado Springs for a couple nights, so might as well hit the coin-op. I packed just enough, which means I bum one of wife’s extras. Hey, I know what I’m about. Over the next 36 hours, we enjoy some excellent food, burn up some amazing roads, and laugh at some incredibly cold mountain bike tourists. It was 28 degrees and wet at the top of Pike’s Peak, but at least the fog broke and awarded us the epic view we were suffering for. I tell ya, Pike’s Peak is a helluva thing with 30ft visibility.  

Snowbike Project – Part 2


The winter of 2017-2018 has been a rough one.  Snowfall has been well below average in the Southwest, and that’s made for scary conditions both in terms of snowpack stability (lots of avalanches) and hazard coverage (stumps and rocks).  The sad truth is that since the New Year, two individuals I’ve known personally who were both experienced winter backcountry travelers have died while backcountry skiing and snowboarding.  I’m not sharing this with you to try and scare you away, but to point out the fact that winter backcountry recreation can be very dangerous.  Yet the backcountry is also one of the most enjoyable places on earth, which explains why folks seek out the peace of the wilderness in every season.  If you want to snowbike in the backcountry and make it home at the end of your ride, then you need to have the gear, knowledge, and training to safely ride in backcountry avalanche terrain.


Snow science and snow safety are two disciplines that I would strongly encourage you to approach with the mindset of “there is always something to learn.”  You can get a doctorate degree in snow hydrology, so no, that’s not an embellishment on the amount of learning potential.  There’s also a great reason to continually practice with your avalanche gear, because if someone in your party is buried in an avalanche, seconds can mean the difference between a successful rescue and a body recovery.  If that someone buried is you, you’re going to want highly skilled buddies coming to your rescue, so make sure the folks you ride with are on the same level of training and preparedness.

Standard avalanche kit consists of a shovel, probe, and transceiver which is commonly called a beacon.  I’m personally a big fan of carrying the biggest shovel I can fit in my pack, so I’m currently carrying Black Diamond’s Evac 9 shovel.  Yes, it takes up more space and weighs more than other options out there – but when it comes time to dig, I can move snow much faster and dig more effectively than if I were using a tiny shovel (have you tried to dig a hole while standing with a foot long shovel?  It doesn’t work so well).  Probes are typically available in aluminum and carbon fiber—I own both, and use both, so I’d say it’s a matter of preference.  Just make sure your probe can be assembled quickly and will lock into its assembled form.  Beacons could take up a number of articles to cover completely, so I’ll just say that I’ve been using the Peips DSP Pro for the last few winters, and have been really happy with it.  Having the ability to mark multiple buried beacons is a huge help when searching in a multiple burial situation.

Yet the most important feature on any beacon is going to be the skill of the operator using said beacon.  So practice with your beacon of choice to the point that using it becomes an instinct. Then go practice some more.  If you ski or snowboard, many ski areas have beacon basins where you can do practice searches on beacons buried by ski patrol.  If you don’t live by a ski area, have a buddy go bury a transceiver in a backpack for you to go find.

Airbag backpacks are also becoming much more common in the backcountry because they reduce the chances of burial, and have the potential to protect the wearer from injury.  Black Diamond has taken things a step further with its Jetforce line of airbag backpacks that can also create a pocket of breathing air, should a burial occur.  Jetforce packs use a battery powered ducted fan to inflate their airbags where other brands use CO2 (Jetforce is an accurate name, the thing sounds like a jet engine when you deploy it).  Black diamond’s packs can be deployed multiple times on a single battery charge (CO2 packs are a one inflation per cartridge deal), which is a comforting feature when you consider that Mother Nature isn’t limited to only one avalanche per day.

Lastly, carrying radios is a great way for your group to communicate, especially when moving through hazardous terrain one at a time.  Many places have adopted radio communication plans so that multiple groups in the same area can communicate and make plans that do not risk the safety of other groups.  Once you’ve picked up all of your avalanche gear, it’s time to go take an avalanche class.


A level 1 class from the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE; pronounced air-ee) is an excellent way to learn about backcountry decision making, avalanche rescue, and avalanche terrain identification.  Level-one courses will have a classroom element and a field element so you can apply what you’ve learned in the classroom by analyzing real terrain and digging actual snow pits under the guidance of an instructor.  Snow pits allow you to see every layer in the snowpack and to gauge how stable the snowpack is with a number of different tests.

Another great resource exists with avalanche information centers, such as the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) which provides weather and avalanche forecasts, snowpack discussions, and detailed reports whenever backcountry travelers are involved in an avalanche.  Consult Google or your local ski or snowmobile shops to find out where to get good avalanche information.


When you’re in the backcountry, pay attention to what’s going on around you.  The weather can change in an instant, and a calm bluebird day can turn into a blinding blizzard in minutes.  Keep an eye on which way the wind is blowing and how the wind may be scouring snow from one place and depositing it another.  Is the sun causing the snow to melt in certain areas (that will freeze at night) while shade is keeping other areas fresh and fluffy?  Snowpack can change significantly from aspect to aspect.  During a recent ride, we happened upon a perfect example of how wind-loading + shade + a bad snowpack had caused a really bad day for a snowmobiler.

This slide happened where the wind loaded snow on a Northeast facing aspect that receives little sun.  The weight of all that additional snow brought in by the wind strained a weak snowpack (note the cornice on the top and the increase in thickness of the snowpack at the top of the slide, called the crown, at the top left). When a sled came ripping into what looked like a great untracked hill the snowpack let go.  Backcountry travel in avalanche terrain is a slow process, so take your time and make good terrain assessments.  YOLO around one time too many and you might not get to go home.

The same feature shot hours apart.  In the morning the weather was perfect bluebird calm, but the afternoon got quite stormy.


In the blink of an eye an awesome day in the backcountry can turn into a serious situation, which is why having good riding gear is so important.  It may be warm and sunny in the morning, but should an afternoon storm roll in, or worse yet, should you get delayed by several hours or worse (a mechanical or a really stuck snowbike), having gear that will keep you warm and dry is critical.  You may be totally comfortable with just a cotton hoody when the sun is out, but how will you stay warm if you end up having to spend a windy night in the backcountry?

Klim’s Valdez parka and Havoc bibs have extensive venting that can be opened up when conditions call for just that cotton hoody, and when it gets cold and nasty these two pieces can be closed up becoming a veritable waterproof shield that can be layered over all the insulation layers you need.  The Togwotee gloves can be run as a shell in warmer temperatures, or used with the included fleece liner when the weather gets cold.  Likewise, the Adrenaline GTX BOA boots worked so well that we didn’t notice them, because our feet were just that comfortable.  From standing on the pegs to hiking exposed rocky ridge lines, these boots worked great.  Rounding out this excellent riding gear setup are the Oculus googles that provided fog-free performance 100% of the time we were riding.  Yes, good gear costs more, but when it comes down to it, I’ll gladly pay more to know that I’ll be warm and dry, no matter what the weather decides to do.  Cold, wet, and several hours from the truck is a special kind of miserable.  Do yourself a favor and buy good gear the first time around—that way you can get out and enjoy more days in a season instead of having to wait for those warm and sunny days.

Timbersleds are amazing machines that will have you saying “worth it” minutes after you first get on one.  Their ability to easily access terrain that has traditionally been the realm of expert backcountry snowmobilers and backcountry travelers means that more riders are heading into avalanche terrain who may not have the proper gear and training.  So please, get proper avalanche gear and good riding gear.  Take an Avalanche class.  Go dig pits and do practice beacon searches.  Read the reports and forecasts from your local avalanche center.  Pay attention to what the world is doing around you when you’re out there, and realize that some days, it may just be a better call to go ski in bounds at the resort.  Most importantly, when you’re out there enjoy every minute of it—because powder days never last long enough.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Timbersled provided demo units for this series of articles.  The motorcycles and all other accessories are owned by the author.  Klim provided all of the riding gear used for this project at no cost to the author or American Adventurist.  Likewise, Black Diamond provided the Jetforce Packs at no cost to the author or American Adventurist.