Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Guest Blogger: Darrell S. Rides part of the COBDR

Guest Blogger: Darrell S and his lovely wife Piper

Back in the first half of August, a fellow Uralista and friend of mine, Darrell S. and his lovely wife Piper rode their 2014 URAL Patrol Sidecar Rig along parts of the COBDR (Colorado Backroads Discovery Route).   Here is their report:

Buena Vista to Lake City.

Not a challenging section, but long: 212 Kms total.

Passes crossed (in order)
Cottonwood Pass
Cumberland Pass
Waunita Pass
Los Pinos Pass
Cathedral Pass
Slumgullion Pass

I stopped in Pitkin and put a gallon of gas in my tank because I wasn't sure exactly how long this section was.  I only put a gallon in because they didn't have 91 octane.  Turns out I didn't need it.  Could've made it on one tank of gas (or at least one tank along with the Kolpin reserve I had).

The most challenging section was a small section off of county road 14PP.  There were a couple of hills I wasn't prepared for and before I knew how steep they were, the rig didn't have enough umph or momentum to make it up.  I just turned around and tried each a second time and had no problem making it up them.  Not that they were extremely steep, but one didn't realize how they were until you were upon them......

Basically, a long hot day in the saddle.  Left Buena Vista at 9:30am, arrived Lake City at 4pm.

Lake City to Telluride

This is a very short section if you can take the main route laid out on the map.  64 miles total.  It goes over the following passes:

Cinnamon Pass
California Pass
Hurricane Pass
Corkscrew Pass
Red Mountain Pass
Ophir Pass

We left out of Lake City and had high hopes of being able to complete this section on a Ural.

We motored toward the top of Cinnamon Pass with no troubles......until we came to a switchback that had a large rock outcropping on the road just on the uphill side of the switchback.  I just couldn't get enough umph
around the switch back to make it up over the rock outcropping.

Piper got out of the sidecar and I tried one last time.  I made it 3/4 of the way onto the rock and my rear tire got caught in a shallow hole in the rock.  I was just about to use my winch to get over the remaining portion when a vehicle coming down the mountain stopped to help.  A man and his son helped lift up and push the rear of the bike as I tried my best to burn up the clutch.......but it worked!

I was up and over the rocks.  The rest of the ride to the top of Cinnamon Pass was uneventful.  We crested the top and it was a steep ride down the other side to Animas Forks.

Looking back towards Cinammon Pass from Animas Forks.

We rested a little in Animas Forks and then started the trail up to California Pass.

Animas Forks Gold Mine

The road up to California Pass

This is a very rocky/bumpy trail for the most part.  We had no trouble navigating the trail, but had to keep our speed up.  We hit one section were someone coming down didn't give us the right-of-way and I had to turn around and find a level spot to get going again.

I'm not exactly sure how far up we made it on this road, but I believe we were within 1/2 mile of the pass.  We hit a right turn switch back that I just couldn't make it past.  It was a very tight right turn and a very steep incline just after the switch back. The third time I tried I made it at least half way up the steep incline and realized I wasn't going to make it so I braked.

I didn't want to back down, so I slowly started turning the bike as I coasted backwards to have the sidecar wheel downhill.  I got to the point where I was completely sideways on this section and the whole bike just started sliding sideways down the steep part of the road.....Piper wasn't happy and was almost ready to jump out of the sidecar.  I finally righted the ship and got going downhill the right way.

A factor that I failed to realize about this pass was that it is the highest pass on the COBDR at 12930'.  The
altitude was also robbing the Ural of what little power it has.

We stopped to discuss the situation and not knowing what the other passes were like, we were too concerned that we might get in an area where we couldn't make it out of.  So the decision was made to turn around and take the road back down to Animas Forks and then the road down into Silverton.

Road from Animas Forks to Silverton

From Silverton, we took 550 up to the turnoff to Ophir Pass.

Ophir Pass looking west

Ophir Pass is very Uralable and we had no problems climbing up the pass.  Going down the other side is
another story.  For the first mile, it is very loose rock and a sheer drop off on the side.  Make sure you have good brakes and go very slow.  I mainly used by rear/sidecar brake because it left me the ability to steer with the front wheel.  If you lock up your front wheel in this section it could get hairy real quick.

Summit sign at Ophir Pass

Ophir Pass Western Road

Ophir Pass, waiting for traffic to clear the way

We made it down the west side of Ophir Pass and on into Telluride.  One note on Ophir Pass.  It can be done West to East, but going up the west side, once you break out of the trees and get to the all rock section you need to wait to make sure no other vehicles are coming down when you start your run across this section.

A Ural can make it up if it doesn't have to stop.  There aren't many areas for someone to pull off to the side to let you pass and if you stop then you are in trouble.  So as we were making it down, we made sure no one was coming up, because didn't want to have to try and get out of their way.

So the only passes we crossed today were Cinammon and Ophir.

We left Lake City at 9:00am and arrived in Telluride at 2:00pm.

Telluride to Dolores to Four Corners.

A very easy section of the COBDR with some of the best scenery.

Wilson Mesa Ranch Area

Road 618 Southwest of Telluride

Road 49G Overlook

Not a challenging section by any means.  Easily traversed dirt roads.  It did rain quite a bit the night before and there were sections of road 618 that were muddy and slick.  After making it through this part, we stopped on a section of 611 to take a break.

We could hear the faint sounds of motorcycles coming up the trail so we waited to see who it was.  They stopped to talk a little bit.  Two Canadians on BMW's just starting out on the COBDR.  We had a nice chat.  The one asked us about mud...he seem quite concerned about it.  They warned us about a mud hole just a little ways down the trail and we were both off in our different directions.

It didn't take long to figure out why the one Canadian was concerned about mud.  We must have found at least 5 locations where his bike fell over in minor muddy spots.  Not to let him outdo us, we came upon the mud hole they told us about and it didn't look too concerning.

I took a line and started into it.........the part that the sidecar tire went into was way deeper than I had anticipated and the sidecar tire went down into and it swung the whole bike around to where the front tire was in the same hole as the sidecar tire.

Well my testosterone got the better of me.  I put it in two-wheel drive and hit the gas.  The front wheel came up out of the pit, but now both drive wheels were stuck in it.  I couldn't go forward and I couldn't go backwards.

Piper tells me to stop and lets look at the situation.  I finally listened to her and got off the bike.  She took a pic and proclaimed "stuck Ural!".

It really wasn't that hard to get out.  I physically  lifted up the whole back of the bike and Piper pushed to where the back tire was out of the mud but the front tire was back into it.  I then went around the front and picked up the front end of the bike while Piper pushed backwards and we have the front tire out of the mud.  I then got back on the bike without Piper in the sidecar and drove right out of the hole.......

Back on the trail, there are a couple of interesting FS roads before you hit Dolores (FS C and FC 257).  Nothing too difficult but better than motoring along FS 527.

The ride from Dolores to Four Corners is all paved, hot, and long.  The actual Four Corners monument was

Four Corners

Anyhow, we accomplished it.  We completed the COBDR with only one minor diversion.


RichardM said...

Nice photos and guest post. Time for a turbo I guess for those at high elevations. I was surprised at the performance drop at higher elevations (Jasper and Banff).That Pelican box from CCJon looks pretty good on the rig.

Unknown said...

Very well done and great photos. Good to see just what the grand old Ural can do :-)

VStar Lady said...

Awesome post and photos. Glad you shared them, cause I'll never travel them myself.

redlegsrides said...

Above 12000 ft, all vehicles feel the lack of air....I sure do.

redlegsrides said...

Darrell done good.

redlegsrides said...

VStar Lady, come to the state, we can put you in the sidecar....

Unknown said...

Darrell and Piper: I was giddy, just plain giddy, reading this blog post. In early September 2012, on my F800GS, I spent 5 days riding mostly dirt from Salt Lake City and then—in Colorado’s San Jauns—Ophir Pass, Cinnamon Pass, Engineer Pass (down Mineral Creek, which was hair-raising for me), Corkscrew Pass, (Ophir again, being chased out by 2012’s first snowstorm), and Imogene Pass. Those mountains and their roads are mind-blowing!

Just last month I went again, riding Engineer Pass, Cinnamon Pass, California Pass, Hurricane Pass, Corkscrew Pass, Kendall Mountain (most of the way), and Ophir Pass. And that right switchback on California… Oh, I know that freaking turn! In fact, I had to hoot and holler after making it up that blasted thing without going down. I had my eyes peeled for a Ural on those roads, but I never saw one, which leads me to this…

Dom: For a while now, and during my trip in the San Juans last month, I’ve wondered—being as close as you are to those mountains, have you Uralled any of their roads?

redlegsrides said...

Ry, I've motored near and around the San Juan mountains of course but haven't ridden the COBDR passes like Darrell and Piper just did. I did lose the clutch attempting Engineer Pass on my 2011 Rig.

Unknown said...

Ouch! There's no good place to lose a clutch, but off-road?... How did you resolve the situation?

redlegsrides said...

Ry, Urals can take huge amounts of punishment, my rig got me home even though I couldn't shift gears easily:

Afterward, I learned how to change out the clutch pack on a Ural!

redlegsrides said...


You can see how badly the clutch was gone here:

Unknown said...

Ahhh, Dom, those are such great reports of your Engineer Pass adventure, wonderful photos too.

That first road you were planning to take to the pass is the Mineral Creek access. It's chockfull of steep, extremely tight switchbacks heavily populated with babyheads (rolly rocks the size of--you guessed it--babys' heads). It does have a spectacular cliff-traversing section that resembles 550's cliff-traverse, but not paved, of course. When I got to the bottom of Mineral Creek on my GS, I had a severe case of brake-hand, horrible jitter-legs, and a big, old grin on my face.

My original plan was to ascend Mineral Creek--glad I didn't attempt that.

Dom, thank you so much for sharing those links to your earlier posts. I'm gonna go back and read them again and savor their photos.

Unknown said...

One more thing (sorry if I'm being a blog hog): I'm surprised that you were able to ride that high into the San Juans in early May... I've been under the impression that one is lucky to get into those mountains by early July. Have I been getting the wrong info?

redlegsrides said...

Glad you liked the postings Ry!

redlegsrides said...

Ry, I didn't know any better, figured I would see how far I could get.