The Big Bear Trail Riders hosted the 27th annual Big Bear Run at Big Bear Mountain Resort, June 26-27 2021. The event featured a 200mi 'Hard Way' loop on Saturday that offers a finisher plaque to those brave enough to attempt it.
Considered the premier Dualsport motorcycling event in Southern California, The Big Bear Run offers up scenic views, dramatic changes in terrain, and sections of enduro races past.
It also offered a perfect compare and contrast of the difference between a professional MJR Dualsport prep and myself -- a guy making due with what he has in his home garage!
Wednesday June 23rd - Daryl Tarpey, better known online as @dualsportdaryl came by the shop to pick-up his bike. Before final hand off Daryl's 2019 KTM 500EXC was rigorously gone over with the MadJack Racing crew. He chose to do a full Dualsport Privateer Level bike prep for the Big Bear Run.
While pouring over every detail of his bike, he managed to give a very convincing endorsement of the Big Bear Run -- I'd never done the event, and Daryl insisted I should go and see what all the hype was about.
His bike was fresh -- with new fluid, grips, bibs, and tires. Daryl said, "It's a great time (up in Big Bear). Come up!"
Thursday June 24th - I sat in my garage, drenched in sweat having just completed the land-speed record for the fastest tire flip and wedge on a set of used abused bibs in 90-degree heat! They were beat tires, but I didn't have any fresh treads, 'It'll be fine!' I told myself.
Already, I was having my doubts -- my bike had been torn apart for weeks, but I didn't have more time to be methodical about reassembly. I'd even missed the pre-registration for the event. Was I ready for this? Should I really try to go do this event on a whim?
I slapped the bike back together myself, and hoped I hadn't missed anything crucial - and started looking forward to 200mi of trails, dirt roads, and adventure.
Friday June 25th - Arriving at the Big Bear Mountain Resort I made a beeline for the sign-up tent and got squared away - one entry for the Dualsport ride, and the entire Hard Way Tracklog. I was committed now.
I met up with Daryl, and several friends who would either be riding or supporting the effort to finish the ride within the time limit, and we talked about riding for a few hours.
Saturday June 26th - The Big Bear Run
We got up early -- 4:00AM. Food, a shower, and some time spent going over our gear, and what we would need on the trail. Daryl had everything planned out, and his friend Jeremy Stinett was going to have him covered at designated points throughout the route should anything happen.
By contrast I was not sure when I would need fuel, or food, or if I'd be able to grab water -- I was just going to wing it. I convinced myself that an InReach tracker, and a Clif Bar would be all I really needed. I'd be OK.
I'd never done The Big Bear Run before, and the last time I could really remember trail riding up in the San Bernardino Mountains was as a kid on a mini-bike at the Bad Mountain Enduro, so I wasn't really sure what I was in for beyond vague memories of Gold Mountain on my KX60.
Everyone got into line at the event venue, and grabbed our start tickets. As 6:00AM struck on the clock the first wave of people were off and running - literally. Running!
'It's not a race, right?' I thought to myself as I saw people sprinting towards the loose parc-ferme style starting area. Uneasily, I trotted to my bike and with some relief had it started and rolling in a few seconds. Daryl passed me on the pavement, but I didn't want to heat up my worn bibs or miss a corner somewhere, so I made my way through town at a leisurely pace, just getting comfortable.
Gold Mountain Trail was first on the list of obstacles to tackle, and I was glad to be on the bike so early. I passed several groups of riders as we hit dirt, and wound my way past the last of the traffic in the rocks. I was having a good time now, and felt fairly confident about the miles ahead as I caught up to the leaders.
As we entered Lone Valley, and the speed picked back up, I heard an odd noise. Looking down I found that my fuel line had exploded -- a freak mechanical problem I've never experienced before. I pulled to the side of the road, my boot soaked with fuel, and immediately started feverishly looking through my tools. I ended up using the hose from my hydration pack as a temporary fix, but it couldn't handle the heat off the motor and rapidly melted leaving me stuck once again.
I spent well over an hour trying to fiddle and tinker my way to a solution, but there was no way I was getting going again. I threw in the towel. I exhausted what resources I had, and nothing seemed able to handle the pressure of the fuel-injector nor the heat coming off the motor.
Daryl had by this point met up with Jeremy; refueled and refreshed he was ready to put more miles under his belt. His day was shaping up to be a great run to the finish line. Jeremy watched the clock with concern as minutes slipped by with no sign from me.
I berated myself for 'winging-it' but sometimes luck has a way of coming through after you've given up all hope. A passing rider tossed some old siphoning hose at me just as my friends Johnny Campbell and Nick Ogilvie rolled up.
I was elated, this was just the boost I needed to get back into the ride! I made the bit of hose work -- not a perfect fix but serviceable, and we rode on together.
Riding with Nick & Johnny changed my entire attitude about the day.
Together we worked our way through the desert to Devil's Hole, and back up into the mountains above Lake Arrowhead. We tackled the 'Malcolm's Trail' section after the lunch stop, a difficult rocky ridge that seemed endless. Here, I found my second-wind, and left Johnny and Nick to their own devices as we pushed back towards Big Bear.
Daryl had finished his day, and was celebrating yet another successful run -- having collected his plaque and indulged in a post-ride beer-bath. Honestly, someone should get this guy a Coors sponsorship!
Of course, back out on the trail another freak mechanical incident struck me -- this time my front brake housing had backed out of the reservoir and was puking brake fluid.
Stubbornly, I ignored it determined to pushed on, not wanting to admit defeat. Losing your front brake is frustrating but you can make do without it in most situations -- or so I told myself.
Little did I realize that the trail section ahead known as 38-Special was not one of those situations. Going up this super-steep, loose, and chewed up hill was an undertaking, but making it back down presented some ticklish difficulties. I had hardly any stopping power, and it was a bit of a white-knuckle ride until things leveled out.
I managed it, and left the nasty climb feeling tired, but optimistic -- I'd toasted what remained of my rear-brake pads, but there were only 30 miles left to go. Easy! Right?
Of course, you really shouldn't relax and daydream about your dinner on a ride like this - especially when you haven't got any brakes left.
Mechanical failures conspired against me and I ended up caught off-guard by a sudden turn on a fire road of all things! I dumped my bike, and took a long fall down a cliffside. I had enough time to let out a few choice swear words where nobody would overhear me before crawling back up to my bike.
A busted arm, bent clutch, useless shifter, and no brakes with a faulty fuel line; Clarks Grade had suddenly become much more difficult. I felt like a squid, as I plodded my way up the mountain, and just tried my best not to hold anyone up. I found myself wishing I'd prepared myself, and my bike better for this event.
I limped across the finish line around 5:30PM, well within the time limit and was rewarded with a plaque and visit to the EMTs for my efforts.
Huge thank you to Daryl Tarpey, Jeremy Stinett, and Jack Moore for making it possible for me to do The Big Bear Run! And of course thank you to District 37 AMA Dualsport and the Big Bear Trail Riders club for organizing a great event.
Special thanks to Johnny Campbell & Nick Ogilvie for helping me salvage my weekend!
I hope my experience has helped highlight the advantages of having your motorcycle prepared by professionals, and how having a plan can make your ride go smooth!