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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hello AT Forum. I recently had the pleasure of running the Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route from 4 Corners to Wyoming over 6 days. The ride was a lot of fun, filled with challenges (both real & imagined), stunning scenery, and lots of great off-road riding. I rode the COBDR with 2 riders from California who are long-time friends. Both are fellow engineers who worked for Lockheed's famed Skunk Works when I was back in Palmdale over 10 years ago.

In this post I'll detail the planning, the equipment I rode on and carried with, as well as what I thought about the areas we rode through and the experiences we shared each day on the trail. So sit back, and enjoy the ride through my descriptions.

PLANNING FOR THE COBDR

I reside in North Carolina today, having recently moved here from the Daytona Beach area of Florida. We started planning for this ride back in November last year. After deciding to run a BDR, our first question was which one. Based on our disparate locations (CA & NC) we quickly dialed down to two: Utah or Colorado. After watching numerous videos we decided on the COBDR. This would work great for me as I had immediate family in Lehi, UT which we could use as a base for prosecuting the ride.

I was riding Ol' Red with her suspension upgrade and new Dunlop shoes. I can't begin to tell you folks how sure-footed my ride was compared to the other 2. I never felt any grip issues with the tires on any of the different surfaces we encountered. Ol' Red was predictable and manageable on even the worst surfaces.

Being unfamiliar with conditions in Colorado, we initially planned to start our ride in late May. When I posted that idea here on the Forum, someone familiar with the CO area told me that was way too soon (thanks for that BTW). We shifted the plans by about 5 weeks into June and even that was a bit soon. Several passes on the ride had yet to be opened: Red Mountain Pass, California Pass, and Hagerman Pass were all still closed for example. This situation drove some mods to the standard BDR route but we still managed to do most of the ride as planned.

The three of us collaborated on who was carrying what so we wouldn't end up with three of everything across all our kits. We also put a schedule together and planned our nightly stops. We decided to go with hotels the whole way versus camping, or even glamping.

So I'll start posting the details of our adventure below. Thanks for joining our little trip.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
The real show started for me on 6 June when I loaded the bike in the back of my F150, packed her Mosko Moto bags, SW Motech tank bag & tail bag and my Wolfman dry bag into the Ford. Then pointed the nose toward Utah. Dave & Chris left CA on Thursday the 10th and arrived in Lehi, UT on Friday 11 June. Following the COBDR ride and drive back home I arrived back in NC Thursday the 24th after being away 19 days.

Here's my schedule:

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The trip involved over 4,000 miles in the truck with Red in the bed. On two wheels, we ran just slightly over 1,700 miles. In the UT, CO area we based out of my brother's home in Lehi, UT. I acquired a Garmin inReach for this trip and am happy I did. Here's the inReach track for the whole trip, truck & bike.

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Somewhere in Missouri, on our way to Utah:

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Chris & Dave ready to head east out of CA.

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Interesting. I was just looking at these tires and they look more like 70/30 or even 80/20 buns. What tires were your friends using?
Hey Mech, they were running full knobby tires front & back. Dave, the GS rider, was thoroughly put off by his new tires. I think they were Metzelers. He complained that they were real squirrely on loose gravel and we saw a lot of that type surface. He wished he could go back to his Karoo tires. Chris, the KTM rider, didn't complain about his shoes at all. I suspect he will eventually get tired of the noise on pavement as his tires wear.

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Ready to roll.


Chap Moto did a quick review of the Dunlops I put on Ol' Red. See it here:


These Dunlops were billed as a true 50/50 tire and I will add my voice to the chorus confirming they were grippy, quiet and sure-footed. These were much better than my earlier Shinkos everywhere except in deep sugar sand where the Shinkos acted almost like sand paddles. On the rocky trails of the COBDR these Dunlops did really well. I never felt them give up on grip. As a result I rode the entire BDR with high confidence.

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Ol' Red's new Dunlops.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
So what equipment did I take along? At first, I planned to carry everything sans kitchen sink. Here are a few pix of what I communicated to the other two riders:

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Right side 25 L Mosko Moto bag:
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Left side 35 L Mosko Moto bag:
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Tank bag:

When Chris & Dave arrived we went through our collective gear so we had one primary and one back up of everything we considered critical except tool rolls; everyone kept their tools in case they ended up on their own in the styx for some reason. Critical items included first aid kits, 12V pumps, tire repair kits, electric starter kits, and tow straps. As I result of this kit review I was able to lighten my load before heading out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
COBDR Day 0: Lehi, UT to Cortez, CO

Our first day on the road had us covering just over 400 miles of mostly pavement from Lehi, UT to our first night's stop just outside Cortez, CO.


We had planned to visit Mesa Verde National Monument near Cortez before hitting the B&B. My brother recommended we also stop at Dead Horse Point so we added that state park to our agenda as it was on the way. Dead Horse provides a view of the Colorado River that has cut its way through the local strata much like a small version of the Grand Canyon. This is Canyonlands National Park. Here are some pix. Note that there are many roads down in the canyon. Some go for 100's of miles through the UT backcountry. Maybe when I come back out Ol' Red and I will do some exploring.

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Dead Horse Point, State Park

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Looking into Canyonlands National Park

We spent over an hour at Dead Horse. The cost to get in was $10 US per bike.

By the time we got to Cortez it was getting late so we decided to forego Mesa Verde and headed VFR-direct to our over-night accommodations: Kelly Place Bed & Breakfast (KP).


KP is an austere site now under new management and undergoing renovation. There are few amenities but the rooms are comfortable. We thought it was a nice stop. There are no restaurants close to this B&B so make sure you eat in Cortez before riding out here. We didn't know about this before we arrived and town was a 13 mile trip one way. We decided to forego the trip to town as we had been in the saddle all day. So we ate our jerky and snacks for dinner with a water chaser. We all slept well.

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Kelly Place B&B


KP has well-maintained Native American ruins within easy walking distance of the lodge. Here are some pix of the ruins, an above ground Pueblo and 2 underground Kivas. These artifacts are over 800 years old:

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Kelly Place Pueblo.

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Inside the KP Pueblo.

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Inside again.

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Kiva #1.

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Kiva # 2.

The nice thing about Kelly Place is you can actually go inside these remains and experience them first hand. They have been extensively studied and refurbished by local anthropologists and are in great shape.

Day 0 saw us travel about 425 miles in 8.3 hrs. Average speed was around 50 mph on 95% hardball roads.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
COBDR Day 1: Four Corners to Telluride & Ridgway, CO

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On the road to Cortez!


Our first day on the true COBDR saw us on the road by 9 AM. We headed into Cortez for gas and breakfast then turned our bikes toward Four Corners (4C). This is where the BDR starts if you run it south to north. The ride to 4C was about 30 miles through the desert. So you can imagine our disappointment when we encountered this:

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Disappointment at 4 Corners


There had been no warning or notice of the closure until we got to the site. And we were not alone: several cars and RVs arrived while we were there and every one of them shared our whiskey-tango-fox moment, some loudly.

So we snapped a few pix then got back aboard and started the BDR for real. Our route took us back through Cortez, retracing the boring route we had just completed, then on to Delores, CO where we gassed up and finally left pavement behind.

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Riding thru Cortez AGAIN!

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Dolores at Last!

Once on dirt, we stopped to let air out of our tires and relax a bit before hitting it hard.

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Finally on the Dirt!

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Get that tire pressure right!

And hard it was, at least for the first 10 miles. We were on very rough jeep trails with steps, holes, logs, baby head rocks and pea gravel and I remember thinking if the whole trip were to be like this we would quickly get tired of man-handling these big bikes. Fortunately, things soon smoothed out and the riding was less technical and more enjoyable. And the scenery was beginning to look nice. We were starting our climb into the southern Rockies.

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The roads finally open up!

The distance for the first day was only 128 miles, but predominantly off road. We averaged around 15 to 17 mph when riding the dirt. Each of us had a GPS and had DL'd the COBDR "gpx" files onto our devices. My nav technique was to turn the day's route red, easier alternates blue and show both on the map. This way I just followed the red line to stay on the BDR. The next day I would turn the previous day's route off and turn today's on. This technique worked like a charm. The KTM's integrated GPS was always telling Chris to get back to the start of the ride so it could give him turn-by-turn information. We tried several times to get his GPS out of that mode but were unsuccessful.

Near the end of Day 1 we put into Telluride for a late lunch/dinner. We ate at the High Pie Pizzeria and Tap Room. The food was excellent.

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Great food in Telluride!

From our seat outside we could see the tail end of the infamous Black Bear Pass and its falls.

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The infamous Black Bear Pass!

Once sated, we hopped back aboard and made our way to Ridgway and our next B&B: Peaceful Pines, a wonderful place managed by a marvelous hostess.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I want to make a quick note here on hydration. Drinking plenty of fluids is critical to dealing with altitude issues, especially if you're not yet acclimated. I was carrying 2 quart-sized bottles of water and a 2-liter Camelbak hydration bladder. I would empty these by the end of each day. And whenever we stopped to eat I always downed a couple of glasses of water or iced tea. This technique kept me ahead of nearly all altitude issues. FYSA.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
COBDR Day 2: Ridgway, CO to Silverton, CO via Ophir Pass

Day 2 began with a great breakfast at Maureen's Peaceful Pines B&B in Ridgway. Maureen is a member of a CO 4x4 club. She told us about the pass closures along the BDR we were taking that day. Both Corkscrew Pass and California Pass had yet to be plowed and were still closed. This was the price of starting the BDR too soon. As we noodled what to do, she recommended we head south along the Million Dollar Highway instead of north. We could then get to Animus Forks and Cinnamon Pass via a southern route through Silverton. She also warned us about the top of Ophir and the "shell" that covered the road. She was telling us about the crappy road bed that made up the last 3/4 of a mile on Ophir. It was shale on shale. Very slippery and nasty...more on that in a bit.

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Peaceful Pines B&B - 5 Stars!

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Morning view from the Balcony!

Leaving Peaceful Pines, we located and rode the Last Dollar Highway, a great dirt & gravel road that took us over the Hastings Mesa and around Last Dollar Mountain and dropped us back onto Colorado Highway 145, the highway into Telluride.

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Atop the Last Dollar Highway!


Next, we climbed into Ophir, CO and prepared for the worst experience we had on the COBDR.
 

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Enjoying the ride report. Keep up the story tellin 101. Hard to believe red mountain road wasn't open. Its easy gravel but fun to be on top of the pass instead of below the tree line.I'll have to look up a couple of the roads you've mention, I might just not know there name
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Hey Rusty, we could have used your experience on the trip. Maureen was a great asset - she actually called the guy in charge of the state's plowing team to determine what was open and closed. We could not have asked for better data. As a result of her input that morning we decided to divert to Silverton. But, we still had Ophir to deal with...
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
COBDR Day 2: Ridgway, CO to Silverton, CO via Ophir Pass...continued.

So, coming out of Telluride and heading into Ophir Pass we encountered a real B*tch! The last 3/4 mile was simply loose shale on top of loose shale on a steep single-lane jeep trail! This was the worst surface we rode on anywhere on the BDR. Both my friends dropped their bikes several times climbing to the top (2 or 3 times each). The trick here was to keep the momentum high and let the wheel's gyro moments keep the bike from wandering. Once you slowed, you were ripe for disaster. The GS rider poked his nose pretty hard into the wall during the ascent. He damaged his left fairing and sheared his headlight pins so it was hanging when he impacted the rock wall on the left of the jeep trail.


I believe RustyNut has discussed an avalanche on this route which seriously changed the road bed and had us scrambling for purchase.

We spent 2.5 hours on this 3/4 mile road above 10,000 ft negotiating single-lane traffic, dodging Jeeps and trying to get the bikes up to the pass. When one would go down, we would get her back up, then rest for a couple of minutes to catch our breath as we were not yet acclimated to the altitude. This time ate up a lot of our Day 2 accommodation. As a result, we decided to give up on getting to Lake City that evening, but more on that in a bit.

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Atop Ophir Pass...bruised but still moving!

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Ol' Red & I stopped to help Dave out.

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You should see the other side of the GS!

Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I must take a few lines here to document my one significant misstep on the trip.

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Ol' Red, napping on Ophir Pass.


This is at the beginning of the climb into Ophir Pass. I had been following the KTM rider who was going a bit slow for my taste. We were both on the right-hand track & I decided to shift to the left side, crossing that pea gravel you can see in the center. As I was moving slowly, I lost directional steering and headed directly into the berm on the left of the road. The bike came to a stop then started sliding backwards on the steep grade. The front brake could not hold us and I slowly lost control, dropping her onto her left side. A couple of Jeep folks behind me helped me get her up & I continued the BDR without further incident. The only damage was a bent shifter pedal that I straightened and a couple of small scratches to her SW Motech crash bars and the left BarkBuster plastic cover, scars she wears proudly today.

Mountain Sky Plant Ecoregion Tree
 

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Ophir used to be our warm up ride coming out of Silverton. But we always ride going to (Tohellyouride). That’s the proper name coming off of black bear pass.
I haven’t done the actual cobdr but the alpine loop is a right of passage for going out there. Looking forward to more, possibly Tin Cup Pass and Tomichi Pass Hagerman pass is a definite go around on big bikes. Last year I ran into a group of AT riders, they lost one with a broken wrist on the alpine loop. Good on you guys with gear and no first hand knowledge. Keep up the ride report. Fun to read the first time adventures
 

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This guy does all the plowing up there. Don’t know if you do fb or if a link is ok. I use it just for the bike
 
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