I was excited to go on the Gorges ride! This was my first group ride offroad and I wanted to try and learn a few things from the other riders. I am still a noob when it comes to offroad riding and it always helps to see how the more experienced riders handle certain situations.
The plan was to meet at hwy 11 and 178 in Sunset, SC and then head up to The Gorges State Park . About 5 miles from the intersection my bike started stuttering and I could not get more than 3500 RPMs out of it before it started to cut off. This happened one time before when I first got the bike. We looked at it before we left and couldn’t see anything wrong so we decided to try some carb/injector cleaning fuel additive and give it a shot. After all, most trail riding is low RPM and the lower RPMs seemed to be working fine. We put a double dose in the tank and by the end of the day the problem had sorted itself out!
On the map waypoint C is the trail head. In order to ride this trail your vehicle must be street legal.
There were 8 people that met up for this ride. Several forums were involved in planning the ride, but we all had motorcycles in common. In general, most people that ride are pretty cool and our group seemed to hit it off pretty well. We had a good group leader. He knew the trails and let everybody know what to expect and we all looked out for each other.
The first part of the trail was a section of road that consisted of deep large gravel. It was definitely not the easiest stuff to ride on. I was next to last in line and I got caught up in the excitement. I started trying to keep up with the lighter bikes and more experienced riders and I ended up in a 15-20 mph lowside on all that gravel. I started coming around a left hand turn way too fast and the next thing I know I am skidding across the gravel on my left side. I wear all the protective gear, but it still hurt! After I came to a stop, Ricardo helped me up and assisted in getting the bike vertical again.
I started assessing the damage and thank God I did have all the gear on. My jersey was torn half way up the sleeve and had several holes along the left side. The forearm and elbow guard on my pressure suit had gouges in it. My gloves have a double leather palm and my left glove actually has about a 1.5” cut all the way through the leather! My Klim pants showed no signs of damage, but I did see some scuff marks on my armored shorts underneath so they definitely helped too. The only reason I was not severely injured in this wreck is because I was wearing my gear, so let that be a lesson to you squids out there!
The lowside got my attention and took a bit of my nerve. I now had more respect for this gravel and I slowed down a bit. Unfortunately, the GoPro was not running yet, but that would have been some awesome footage! We continued on down the trail and it did not get any easier. In fact, I would have to say that this is probably the most challenging trail I have ridden so far. We had deep loose gravel, water crossings, large rocks, boulders, mud, sand, ruts, and hard packed gravel on this trail. It pretty much had everything to offer!
We got down to the big river crossing and for me, this was probably the thing that gave me the most pucker. The steel bridge had large boulders leading on and off the bridge. I have never ridden rocks like this before and now I am trying it with a bridge that is 3-4 feet above a river and no railings! I made it on to the bridge with no problems and really, I made it off the bridge with no problems, but then I slipped on a rock and went down again! No GoPro, but luckily one of the other guys got it on video.
We took a break at the bridge crossing. It was a really nice area down there. It was a typical mountain river with big rocks scattered around and a nice flat area to get down to the water. I took the opportunity to rinse the sweat off my face and cool off a bit.
Continuing on the trail we were now in a mix of dirt and rocks. There were berms in the road to slow erosion. They are fun to ride, but you never know what’s on the other side. Well, I found out there was a rut on the other side of one of them. My third crash can be seen toward the beginning of the video. I came over the hill and I knew it wasn’t going to be good. No choice but to try and ride through the rut. I might have made it, except when I dropped into the rut my toe got caught on something and pulled down. Then the foot peg got the back of my foot right at my achilles and my foot started bending down as the bike came on top of it. Just as I felt like my ankle was going to give way I felt my boot snap it back around forward. For the second time, in a single day, proper gear has saved my body from serious injury! My ankle was sore, but not injured. Ricardo helped me back up again and we kept riding.
The backside of the trail had several small water crossings and some challenging hill climbs with medium size rocks. The second half of the trail was my favorite part. It was challenging, but I didn’t feel out of control. As we made it to the end there is a clearing and a gate. We all pulled over to take a break and hang out for a few minutes. The gate is at the NC/SC state line. During certain times of the year the gate is open and you can take it straight through to the Bad Creek area. No such luck this time.
When we got back on the trail we planned on checking out a couple of the side roads on the way back. As it turns out, they led to some really nice primitive camping sites. At this point one of the guys riding with us got a flat front tire. The crazy thing is the tire was actually holding the weight of the bike with no air in it! I don’t know how that happened, but it did, and he rode that thing back out with a flat front tire. We took another break and started heading back. It was getting later in the afternoon and I think most of us were pretty tired already. We had approximately 13 miles to get back out and I personally felt a little more prepared since I had just traversed it.
I had a better ride on the way back out and, then we got back to the bridge and the boulders. I paused to try and find a good line and then I went for it. In my opinion, the boulders are tougher to cross in this direction and by the time I got to the bridge I was really bouncing and I nearly rode right off the bridge. You can see this in the video, but it does not really convey how close it was! Everybody that was watching from the other side was pretty nervous for me!
We took another quick break to cool off and drink a little water. At this point my bottle of water was gone and I was really wishing I had more with me. While we were all milling around Stretch found a rattlesnake! What does a bunch of dudes do when they find a poisonous snake? They get as close as they can to it, so they can get pictures, of course.
We mounted our trusty off road steeds and continued our exit of the Gorges trail. My next wreck I nearly hit head on to a downed tree! We were coming back over those berms I mentioned earlier and as I came over one I hit some slick mud and it put me on a trajectory heading straight for a log laying against the mud bank and into the trail. I managed to only hit the tree with my handguard and foot peg and then I rode a little ways up the bank before I crashed into it. My left side was firmly packed into the mud and my right foot couldn't touch the ground. The guys came and leaned me back over where I could roll back down the bank. I was able to catch this on the GoPro and you can see it in the video!
The last couple of miles we had a steady hill climb in all that deep gravel. It was challenging, but I felt better prepared for it this time. As we came out of the trail back to pavement there are some steeper gravel berms. I may have gotten a slight bit of air on the way out, but my prior crash still had me holding back a bit. We regrouped and headed to the nearest gas station where we refueled, ate a snack, and recounted the day. We had a blast and I am certain that we would all do it again.
In the end my bike has a broken radiator shroud and tweaked handlebars. My body is sore from head to toe, I have several big bruises, a bruised palm, tender ankle, and a few small abrasions on my arm and side. It was a rough ride, but I’m glad I pushed to finish it!
What I Learned:
- I need to take more than a 20 ounce bottle of water with me on a dual sport ride.
- I have always felt that protective gear is important, but I learned firsthand how much injury it can save you.
Philipians 4:13 KJV “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
After the lowside in the gravel I was a little shook up. That was the first time I have wrecked a motorcycle at any kind of speed and it took some of my nerve. As I continued, I was falling a lot and it was not helping my confidence. I started thinking that I was not able to handle this trail and I did consider turning back, but I did not. I dug deep and pushed on. In the end, I was able to make it all the way. I may have been the slowest and I may have wrecked the most, but I made it all the way! The confidence that was previously sapped from me was returning by the end of the ride. Have you ever been in a situation where you needed a little support from God? Have you ever considered giving up and missing the blessing that is available to you if you earn it? Remember the above verse next time you need some encouragement and dig deep when you face a challenge. You never know what lies at the end of a good challenge.