Rider Stories from the Road 3 of 8, Thomas Bowen and Dan Swart

20 September, 2016

Here is our third incredible rider story, part of our word-of-mouth customer feedback, voices from the road series.

Tom Bowen WERA North Central #280 and Dan "Danimal" Swart are road racers who are practicing three motorcycle disciplines--road racing, dirt riding and now ADV riding.  Here are excerpts of their AV ride reports and a review of our Wolfman Explorer Lite Tank Bags:

"Dan and I have recently discovered Adventure riding, and became obsessed after watching the Long Way Round and Down Series. We have grandiose plans to circumnavigate the globe ourselves, though perhaps when I get out of the Air Force in 10 years or so. We decided to start out small with an 8000 mile US trip, but then realized we needed to go smaller still. As such our March trip to Key West was born. Having lived in Florida, Dan and I wanted to fit SCUBA diving somewhere in our trip and the only place warm enough in March with good diving would be Key West. With that as our base, we used Furkot trip planner, along with searching for dual sport trails online to plan our route. It was to be a mixture of super highways, scenic byways and dirt, totaling 3500 miles in 10 days. However, our March trip became a balance of sticking to our original itinerary while accommodating uncertainties that came our way.

While on Hwy 1, we saw threatening thunderstorms in the distance and became weary of how our night SCUBA diving trip would go in the rough seas. Furthering our concerns were the high winds; on some of the high bridge spans we got buffeted around quite a bit. The storms had soaked everything as they passed before us, and while we avoided the rain our Klim gear and Wolfram Luggage bags kept everything dry from the spray.

We then came to our first river crossing and my heart started to beat faster. This one didn’t look too deep but having recently flooded my dirtbike in a 4ft “not so deep” pond, I was a bit cautious. Luckily, this crossing went without a hitch and we kept going. The dirt turned back to gravel which lead to larger rocks and we saw our second river crossing. This one was much more serious, and after pumping each other up, we decided to go one at a time. I was up first and the river crossing wasn’t bad, maybe only a couple feet deep and I made sure I kept up my momentum on the loose rock bed. What awaited me on the other side proved to be a massive challenge. Here with my loaded F800GS, I attempted something that would have been a bit tricky on my much more nimble KTM 250. Needless to say I didn’t make it up the rocks on my first attempt, or my second or third. I finally had to unload my luggage to lighten my bike, and had Dan help push while I power walked the bike the remaining sections. After 25 min we managed to get my bike up this 15ft impasse. Next it was Dan’s turn. He rides a BMW G650GS, which is quite a bit lighter, not to mention Dan wanted to show me up! He crossed the river without trouble and chose his line up the rocks. He ended up dropping the bike in the exact same spot as me, but insisted on trying it again by himself. The second time around he got further than I had but needed help lining up a continuing run. Together, pushing and driving up the rocks we got Dan’s bike up and over. After a short break we continued on."--March

"Dan and I just completed our adventure training course and had a blast.  I left the weekend truly impressed with what bikes of this size can do; on the trails I can pretty much throw my BMW F800 around like my KTM 250. 

We were primarily in Bald Eagle State Forest in Pennsylvania and were truly impressed with the sheer number of trails and unexplored areas.  Having gone to school in Colorado I had always assumed the Rockies would be the closest true adventure riding to Ohio, and was pleasantly surprised to find the Appalachians have a lot of hidden gems!

Dan and I both got to our campground late Friday and were up early Saturday to meet with our instructor and other students.  Our instructor, Alain, informed us the other students had a mechanical breakdown and would be unable to attend, leaving the class to just me and Dan.  We started the morning with drills in a gravel parking lot.  This is where I noticed just how much harder it is to maneuver the F800 in tight spaces than my 250, but Dan picked up on the techniques very quickly on his G650.  We stopped for lunch and went on an afternoon ride.  Most of the trails were spaced 20min apart by gravel roads, but each trail had something different to offer.  One was fairly rocky but wide, another narrow with lots of washouts.  In all cases it was truly amazing how fast these big bikes could tackle the trails we were doing and in some instances, trails that would still be challenging on my KTM 250.  The entire weekend was hot, reaching 95F in the afternoon so I was thankful when we stopped at Poe Lake for a swim to end our day.

Day 2 started again with drills, including obstacle clearing, as well as K-turns (stopping on a hill and turning around), but mostly the last day was all about riding trails.  We were on one of the trails for several miles away from the "main" access road when we stumbled on a hunting cabin.  Apparently you can rent cabins from the forest service and they are completely isolated, reinforcing my amazement with just what Pennsylvania could offer.  The highlight of the weekend without a doubt was our last ride.  Our instructor called it a "hero" section and it sounded like just a step above what we had done before.  He let Dan lead and fortunately for us Dan took a wrong turn that put us on a very difficult trial that had clearly been forgotten.  While that trail took several times longer to complete, and caused us to shed some sweat and tears (Dan's bike took a few tumbles), it provided a true adventure experience and gave us a first hand look at what a real ride would be like.  Some sections we had to walk, but mainly we rode... steep descents, loose rock, log crossings, low hanging branches, etc.  It was a great 3 hour ride and we were all glad to see the exit, but sad our adventure had come to an end.--June


Wolfman Explorer Lite Review (updated)

I love the versatility the Explorer Lite tank bag provides.  While I don't use maps often I like the fact that I can put them in the top pocket for easy viewing while riding.  The tank bag makes it easy to get to items that I regularly use, as well as grants access to items while riding:  I keep my 2L Camelbak bladder (I had room for an extra 1qt water bottle in addition to these other items), a rain poncho, various electronics (iPhone charger, bluetooth comm charger, Powerlet, GoPro accessories), head lamp, pocket knife, but mainly snacks to much on while riding.  When making long trips I hate stopping more often than I need to for gas, and with a 7gal tank, that can be as much as 4 hours between stops so having items close at hand is crucial to comfort.  As long as I stage my snacks appropriately I can get to them while riding.  Meat sticks are the easiest because I can shove them into my helmet and still hold on to the other end; bite sized items are quite a bit harder to manipulate with gloves.  For riders who also go off road, this bag is perfect because it doesn't get in the way at all while standing.  I'm 6'2" so shorter individuals might be impeded a bit, but the bag is soft sided so it shouldn't make much of a difference.  If the bag had any flaw it would be the lack of weatherproofing.  It can certainly hold up to a quick rain shower without concern, but a waterproof liner and zippers would be a huge improvement for serious storms.  I've never liked rain covers, and I feel they merely mask an issue that could otherwise be solved.  I may try spray on weatherproofing to see if that helps, but hopefully future versions of this bag have some level of integrated waterproofing."

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