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2014 Black Dog Dual-Sport Ride Report

Ride Report - 2014 Black Dog Dual Sport Event!

Note: Dan Vandenheuvel has been an unofficial ProCycle sponsored rider for a very long time. He recently rode the Black Dog Dual-Sport event on his ProCycle equipped DR650, and this is his story.

So, I guess it all started 10 or 15 years ago. I was a die hard dirt biker/racer and Jeff at ProCycle was my main go-to guy for parts and accessories. He had recently purchased a DR650 Suzuki and I could see a different spark in his eyes than when we would talk about his KTM200 or whatever flavor of bike I had at the time. So I asked him, "I don't get it. Why the 900 pound monster DR650?"

He answered, "Dan, don't you ever get tired of going to the same riding areas, riding the same loops over and over, and then have to drive home?"

The seed was planted. When I had an opportunity to purchase a DR650 from a friend, I did, and now I have a bad case of the dual-sporting blues. All I want to do is ride my big DR (sounds like a country song!). It has become my daily commuter and many evenings and weekends I am out exploring new roads and old trails.

For 2014, I planned on doing three big dual-sport rides, one of which would be my first organized event. I have already done the first big dual-sport ride covering most of the OBCDR a few weeks ago. Now for the or gain zed event. The most popular event I know of in the great Northwest is the Black Dog (BD) Dual-Sport event right here in Hood River, Oregon, put on by an old racer buddy, Tom Niemela. The staging area for the two-day ride is the spacious Hood River Fairgrounds. As I drove in Friday night, the first toy hauler I see has two KTM Adventures parked side by side. Looking closely at the big KTMs, I wondered if they could belong to Mitch and Jordan, a father/son team I have known for a long time. They had encouraged me to ride the BD when I seen them again recently at a Starker work party. They had also drank the dual-sport Kool-Aide and were hooked on being able to ride pretty much wherever you wanted and home again. Sure enough, Mitch and Jordan were seated on the far side relaxing. The fairgrounds were huge and complete with water and electric hookups for the RVs. Unfortunately, to save wear and tear on a new set of more dirt oriented tires, I had driven to the BD in my pickup with my DR in the stern. I was supposed to drive up and share a room with a buddy, but at the last minute he got a yeast infection (or something) and so I was running solo. Mitch and Jordan volunteered to watch my DR so it would not have to be in the back of my rig at the motel. I unloaded and headed off for a good nights rest.

Mitch and Jordan staring at the 2 beauties that were walking behind me when I took the photo with my DR101 on the right.

The next morning I was up way too early with the pre-race jitters. Pre-race jitters at a dual-sport ride? Yeah, kind of silly, but once a racer, always a racer. Not being able to find anyplace open to give me my caffeine fix didn't help things. I decided to just head out to the staging area and get ready. I showed up at 6am just as Mitch rolls out of his RV. He is excited about the event as well, which he has done once before.

Mitch had a strange way of getting his KTM started. It began with a light tickling of it's belly...

...and progressed to a an offering to the KTM Gods. At least that is what he said he was doing.

The first thing I learn is that the dual-sport crowd is a bit more kick back than the race crowd I used to hang out with. We signed in and got our roll charts and score cards. Learning how to do the roll chart was pretty cool. Once everything was buttoned up, it was off to the riders' meeting where there must have been 250 to 300 people. After he shared the course info, Tom made everybody raise their right hand and repeat after him, "This is not a race!" How could it be? You have to ride right through town, right? I still have some jitters as we ride our bikes into the check-in area and then off to the first obstacle course.

I really wanted to ride with Mitch and Jordan, and they both agreed that the "B" course would probably be best on their behemoths, so I joined them on that loop to hang with my pals. At the end of this first obstacle section, you had to publicly spank the monkey, otherwise they would dock you points. Before you let your minds all the way into the gutter, it was just a stuffed monkey hanging from a pole, you weirdos! The test was fairly easy with not much risk, and after the monkey bit, the lady took my score card and gave me an 85 out of 100. I was pretty happy with that!.

Then Jordan completes the section, whacks the monkey and gets a perfect 100! All of the sudden my 85 doesn't look so good! After that, we were off to the course. In preparation for the BD I had stripped my DR to get it as trail worthy as I could! I had removed my commuting top box, side racks and windshield. That last one was kind of a mistake. It was warm at the fairgrounds, but as soon as we left and started to climb into some elevation, it started to get cooler and before long I was getting pretty darn cold without the windshield blocking the wind. At the first reset, I put the liners in my jacket and pants and put on my heavy gloves and was good to go. What is a reset you ask? About every 10 miles or so, the roll chart asks for a reset of your odometer so things stay more accurate, something I never knew before this event.

We rode some single lane asphalt roads, gravel roads and some two-track dirt roads. Finally we arrived at the big downhill they had warned us about in the riders meeting. It was a two-track road, full of rocks. Big rocks, little rocks, round rocks, square rocks, rocks in the middle of the path, rocks lining the side of the path. Rocks here and more rocks there. It would have been really easy on my KTM250 and was not even too bad on the lightened DR, but it sure did not look like fun on some of the big ADV bikes. Did I mention that it went for a long ways? Seemed never ending at times. Then we traipsed through a few creeks and more dirt road. Around noon we came around a corner, and there, in the middle of the boondocks, were a couple of cars and a table all set up to feed us! Hot dogs, chips, cookies and candy and cold stuff to drink. Was like a desert mirage.

All filled up with goodies, we soon arrived at Barlow Rd. Now I've read about Barlow Rd. on the dual-sport forums and always wanted to check it out, but it is just a bit too far away without taking a full day to do it. Was great to finally experience it and was all that I had hoped for. We rode for a while longer through some absolutely beautiful scenery that engulfs you. I almost went off the road once just enjoying the view. Once back back at the fairgrounds, we were treated to a few games on the motorcycles aimed at racking up our score and then finally the slow course. Here you had to ride around staggered cones as slow as you could. As soon as I finished, the lady keeping score ran up to me and said, "Your the slowest rider yet!" I think she meant well, but the old racer in me just didn't like the sound of that.

Mitch on the famous Barlow Rd.

One of the beautiful vistas on the 2014 Black Dog Dual-Sport Ride.

Day two started with a fresh roll chart and the same obstacle course and my old friend the monkey. Again I got an 85 which didn't thrill me as much this go round, and right behind me Jordan comes rolling up, and again, he got a perfect 100. Dang. Now I really don't like an 85. Out on the road, we headed north up into Washington state. Part of the course took us slowly (and quietly) through a private zoo! Who would have thought there was a private wild animal collection in the hills of southern Washington? It was funny when I got home handed my camera to the wife and she began scrolling through the images and asked, "Is that a giraffe? A zebra?" I had some 'splainin' to do for sure.

When was the last time you saw camels on a dual-sport ride, in Washington state no less?!

Yeah, Tom laid out a great course! From there we headed further north into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, and did a big loop and rode by that well known local racing area, 'Starvation Ridge'. There wasn't as many trails or challenging sections this day, but quite a few more vistas, including fantastic views of the Columbia River Gorge. Another great lunch was provided out along the course and then we were off on some awesome peg dragging asphalt twisties. It may just be a DR, but at times it can turn into my old R6 for a bit! Once back at the fairgrounds we played the same games and did the slow section again. Tom was working this section, and just before he set me off, he said, "Make me proud Dan." I think I did good again.

Columbia River Gorge - so beautiful when seen from above!

Hey, it's a dual-sport ride, we have time for some food and a milkshake!

It turns out that I've been doing things the hard way all this time. I may not be the fastest rider out there, but I just may be the slowest! Should have taken up trials years ago! I think my slow time accumulated enough points that I actually won the event. Talk about a shocker! When Tom announced it I just about fell down. I brought home a real nice two foot tall trophy with a black dog on the top. I also won a pair of really cool (but bright!) 75mm Trail Tech Equinox LED lights. How awesome is that?! I had a great time. I would recommend this to anyone wanting a fun adventure. There are multiple classes ranging from super easy road to mostly single track. As a matter of fact, I hope to do it next year with my dad and my son. That will put three generations on the trail at the same time!

Mr. Slow, with his trusty DR at the Hood River Fairgrounds.

Mr. Slow, Dan V. with his First Place trophy, now proudly displayed at ProCycle. Stop by and see it! Notice the big Black Dog at the top of the trophy!

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