More Aventures on the Bike w/ Will
Once again, our guest ADV rider, Will Drummond, takes us on another ride on his XR650, affectionately known as “the pig.” This time it is the famous LA/Barstow to Vegas ride of 2017. Let’s take the ride with our friend Will as he takes us on the ride from the Sweeper’s POV.
Start Location: Palmdale, CA; Time: 0600 am. Weather: 50° clear sky’s.
hr -0600: dual-sport/adventure bikes riders are all gathered at Palmdale Super cycles for the 34th annual Los Angeles, Barstow to Las Vegas (LAB2V). The longest dualsport ride on the AMA District 37 calendar. This year’s ride is going to be just over 400 miles of desert riding over 2 days. The year before the ride was over 500 miles. LA Barstow to Vegas is an incredibly organized and thought out ride. Ride organizers plan out the ride the week following the ride the year before.
Organizers for AMA District 37 change the ride every year. There are easy routes and hard routes. If you have to question if you could do a hard route do the easy route. Even the easy routes have some challenges, deep sand, rocks, hill climbs, and deep sand yes I listed deep sand twice. Hard routes tend to be more mileage, in challenging terrain. Deep sand whoops for 20+ miles loose hill climbs and downhills the occasional rock waterfall to climb.
I volunteer to ride 2 wheel sweep for LAB2V. Our goal is to make sure everyone is safe. We stabilize and assist injured riders until we can get them extracted. We ride with the riders, sweep teams are blended within the ride. The first sweep team that leaves is mid sweep, having a mid sweep aids in the response if there is a rider injured or in distress in the first half of riders that leaves the start. Mid sweep can also aid to determine the pace of the ride as a whole.
Knowing the pace of the ride helps the AMA District 37 organize when they should close checkpoints and send out 4 wheel sweep. More about 4 wheel sweep later. The next sweep crews to leave are tail sweep. Tail sweep starts the ride almost 2 hours after the initial start. Tail sweep brings up the rear of the ride. Leaving 2 hours behind after the ride has started. If tail sweep catches you need to take the pavement bail out to the next checkpoint.
The 2 wheel sweep team sweep every route of the course hard and easy with multiple teams. If you do ride LAB2V please stay on course so we can find you if something goes wrong. If you are off the course it is very difficult to find you if something goes wrong. Sweep riders are there to get you safely to a highway or check point. We are not your personal pit crew. We will not change your tube.
Back to the ride. As sweep riders, we meet up at the start with our lead from Rescue 3 to go over the day’s assignments. This is where you get assigned your sweep number when to leave determining if you are doing mid sweep or tail sweep and which route you are sweeping.
Sweep riders need to stay fluid as where you may start as mid sweep you can become tail sweep if you have to help out riders along the way. Doing sweep isn’t easy, it’s about making sure everyone is safe. This may cut your ride short waiting for 4 wheel sweep to come in and pick someone up.
This year I rode with 2 friends I rode with last year riding sweep. My friends are both riding plated Honda XR650R’s with the desert tank . As for myself, I ride a Honda XR650L! Yes, the old air-cooled steel frame big red pig. I have a big gun exhaust, Acerbis 6 gallon desert tank and suspension done by Taylor Tech Dirt Customs in Simi Valley.
We get our assignment to run mid sweep the hard ways. Setting off the line at 7:30am. From Palmdale the route takes us South toward Acton we turn off the highway taking a power line road through the rolling hills between Palmdale and Acton making our way toward the Angeles Crest Highway, Pearblossom /14 junction. The dust and the rising sun make it a slow ride trying to pass slow riders and not getting hit from behind by even faster riders. In the chaos, it is easy to lose your group.
Our team stuck together followed the route up and over the train tracks, down Angeles crest for just short of a mile. Then back on to a power line road making our way to Little Rock. Riding in the dust we come up to a rider stuck in a deep uphill rut. We dismount help the rider get out of the rut and off he went.When you come into the backside of little rock we cross over a couple of paved roads. Making a turn into a creek bed riding over a large rock garden then a short section of spread out whoops under an oak tree canopy. Coming out of the oak tree groves we take a single track goat trail running about 15 feet above the creek.
There is a big hole you need to look out for and stay right. When you make your way out of the canyon you ride across the top of a leave that is whooped out across the trail. Along with this section we met up with a rider that took a hard fall and had injured his ribs. The rider was able to ride so we escorted him to the nearest pavement bail out.
Later found out from the AMA district 37 dual-sport message board the rider made it back safe and had broken some ribs. Getting back on course we catch a paved road and head to Pearblossom highway. Riding the highway for a couple of miles we come to our next dirt section. There we meet up with the lead from Rescue 3 tell him about the injured rider we got to the highway.
The lead tells us to push on staying on our original route to do the hard way. Continuing on the route takes us on a big dirt road. Taking a right on a single lane rocky rolling power line road with the occasional washout, for about 10+ miles. The power line road leads us to are next paved road. The route taking us a short distance North to the first hard section. The hard section takes us on a loose dirt road paralleling railroad tracks.
Following the route, we make a hard right into a sandy rock-strewn wash trying to pick the best flowing line while dodging a rock, other riders and lines that lead to dead ends. The wash opens up as wide as an 4 lane freeway. Picking up speed you have to keep dodging a rock and the occasional trash pile.
There are a couple of paved road crossing that appears to come out of nowhere, make sure you stop and look both ways at these crossings. Just when you get your flow and pick the perfect lines the route takes you back on the pavement, to the first gas stop and the first checkpoint.
Topping off with fuel we check in with the first checkpoint. Heading North on the pavement out of town to the next dirt section, this section is deep sand 2 track that weaves in and out of pucker bushes. In this section, we stopped a few times to assist adventure bike riders pick up their beast of a motorcycle. Following the route, this takes us to the next hard route. Miles of sandy whoops heading toward the 395. Just before the 395 the route takes us on a washboard road paralleling the 395.
When the route has us cross the 395 the trail is a fun fast single lane dirt road a little loose but with good traction. The trail has sporadic cross rut washout, so you need to stay under control it is very easy to go fast here with the sun high over our heads and no shadows it’s hard to see the ruts till you are right on them. This is where we came upon a downed rider that went over the bars. Lucky for him there was a sweep crew that had him stabilized and was in contact with 4 wheel sweep to get an extraction.
Make sure the rider and sweep crew didn’t need assistance or food and water from our group we pressed on. Coming into Silver Lake for our last fuel stop, lunch and second checkpoint. We meet up at the checkpoint to give them info on the downed rider. The head of the 4 wheel sweep crew was there I gave him the same info for the downed ride. We head to Los Amigos for lunch. After some tasty tacos and tortas.
Top off with fuel. We get back on with the ride. Heading down the pavement a few miles. The route takes us to our next dirt section. This is another fun section hard packed 2 track with fun quick rolling hills for a few miles then flows into a winding sandy wash. As we enter the wash we find some adventure bike riders that took a wrong turn down a small wash. One of the riders I’m with catches up with the adventure bikes and gets them headed back to the correct route.
The first rider on an Africa Twin making his way up the wash to the route loses his clutch as he gets to where he missed the turn, this is where I’m waiting. I get him pushed up out of the wash on solid ground. One of the other sweep crews catches up with us. This crew is 3 riders. We diagnosis the clutch is worn, the rider of the Africa twin agrees to adjust the clutch to try and get it to engage and be able to ride out to the highway. One of the riders from the other sweep crew helps the Africa Twin rider adjust the clutch. Adjusting the clutch does the trick.
The other rider riding with the Africa Twin Rider is on a KTM 1190, he is exhausted from riding this beast in the sand. Both riders are tired of the sand on their big bikes. We tell the riders we are going to stick with them to ensure they make it to the highway. Getting back on the bikes making sure we have everyone in our new group we are back on course rolling. I try to stay with the adventure bikes helping them pick easier lines through and around the wash. We make it about 2 miles down the wash.
The 1190 rider had enough wrangling the 1190 monster in the wash. The other sweep crew had a rider on a Honda crf250l and another on a xr650r. The rider on the 650r decided he would offer to rider the 1190 so the 1190 rider could ride the crf250l. The crf250l rider riders the xr650r. Getting musical motorcycles done. We have the adventure bike riders get ahead.
Trying to help the sweep guy riding the 1190 get a good start to get on top of the sand he decides to take a hard packed route to the 15, with his sweep team. I speed up and catch up with my sweep team and the adventure bike riders. The adventure bike rider riding the crf250l catches a nail a mile from where the course meets the 15. Continuing we get everyone to the 15.
The other sweep team stays with the adventure bike riders. Our sweep crew heads off to sweep the hard routes to Barstow. Crossing over the 15 we catch the next dirt section as the sun starts setting fast. The course starts out fast on wide dirt roads that are flat and straight. A few miles in the GPS has us head into a rocky wash single track this is the hard route. Riding from edge to edge of the single track wash doing my best to pick my lines between and over the rocks.
The big red pig makes easy work climbing up the trail. Coming downhill is a little slower with the big red pig. She likes to take off on her own if you let her get too much speed going downhill. The Hard way send us up and down about 10 more rocky climbs and descents. We take a break as the sun sets letting the water-cooled xr650r’s my teammates are riding cool and they get their helmet lights set up.
Taking off as the last of the sunlight fades away we do our best following the route missing a few turns but getting back on course. I end up leading the crew using my custom mounted KC hilite’s flex lights to light up the darkness. The route leads us to hwy 247 where we meet up with one of the rescue 3, 4 wheel sweep truck as we are the last crew on course. We follow the sweep truck into Barstow to the Ramada in Hotel for the finish of day 1 coming in around 8pm. Our team checks in and gets our GPS tracks and roll chart for day 2. We take our bikes to the Boy Scouts impound lot.
The local Boy Scouts watch the bikes overnight ensuring your bikes doesn’t get stolen while you sleep. I load my roll chart and head off to the Mexican restaurant across the street for food, swap war stories from the day’s events and drink a couple micheladas. Then off to bed because day 2 comes early.
Keep the BTO Garage bookedmarked as Day two’s ride will be coming soon!