Why not? Take my bike down to Death Valley, California while it’s still cold here in the pacific northwest? Sounds like fun! My bike, a 2008 Suzuki V-Strom 650 is, at least on paper, considered a dual-sport motorcycle. Ah, I beg to differ a bit on that description, but what the heck, things can be done to prep the bike for that type of riding. Other people certainly have done it, why not me?

My brother and I have talked about doing this, but originally we were going to ride down. He has the same bike as me (literally – same year & color) so we’d prep them and ride down as early as can be done safely. Before we got too far with that idea we found a few other friends of ours that were planning the same trip, but trailering their bikes down the first week in March. So we’re joining forces.

Death Valley at that time of year is a very moderate temperature, so we won’t have to deal with either melting hot or freezing cold. My brother and I like to camp. For us it creates better memories, gathered around a campfire at night relating the day’s riding. But whether we camp or not will depend on if we can convince the others to do the same. It’s about two and a half months away, so there’s time to figure that out.

Back to the topic of prepping the bike. I have some other expenses happening in 2015 so I’m doing things on a bit of a budget. In this my brother has been very helpful. My first consideration is tires. I have no problem riding on dirt, but I’ve got to have decent tires to do it on. Ideally, a set of Continental TKC80 tires would be the best. New, these would cost about $300. My brother had bought a pair for $200 with only 30 miles on them from a guy on ADV Rider’s forum. But since we would be trailering bikes down, he’s taking his Kawasaki Super Sherpa 250 instead of the V-Strom, so I can buy them from him and I’ve got superb traction for the trip. Awesome!

Next up is my skid plate. Several years ago I built what I call a rock shield out of diamond plate aluminum. It’s too thin to be considered anything else and isn’t mounted in such a way to be a real skid plate. So I arranged to borrow my brother’s heavy duty skid plate. Having the same bike makes that kind of borrowing possible. Well, Dave takes his off the bike and discovers a fracture in one of the mounting brackets. He contacts that manufacturer and next thing he knows, they’re shipping him a brand new one! That’s great customer service! The thing is, the old one is very easily repairable, so he’s giving me his old one so I can do just that. So I’ll have a professional-grade skid plate for the trip.

The tires and skid plate are the major concerns for the bike. Because we’re trailering the bikes down, highway speeds are not an issue, so I’m also borrowing from Dave a little shorty windscreen in place of my normal one. The only other thing I think about is parts breaking when the bike gets dropped. I’m not going to kid myself into thinking that won’t happen. What’s vulnerable? Mirrors, blinkers, shifter, and brake pedal. The mirrors can just be taken off and stashed in my backpack in two minutes which I’ll do each day when we arrive at our riding area. Suzuki’s stock blinkers are stupidly fragile and I won’t be shocked if they get broken. I’ve been thinking of replacing them with more flexible and less obtrusive ones anyways. So if they break I’ll duct tape them back together and replace them when I return from the trip. A broken shifter however could ruin my whole day. So I’m buying a folding one from vstroma.com for $50 to at least reduce the chance of it snapping completely off. I’m just going to have to take my chances with the brake pedal. Touratech sells a folding one for $111, but I’m not spending that much on a pedal. I’ll just have to bend it back into shape if I have a problem. The only other little mod is swapping my rubber-topped footpegs for dirtbike ones to give me better grip when standing up and riding.

Are there other things I could do? Oh yeah. But that’s not going to happen, so the above is all I’m doing for the bike. I won’t attach my topcase since it will just rattle too much on rough roads. I bought a nice little hydration backpack to carry water, tools, and extra stuff. Since we’re driving down and I don’t have to pack everything on the bike I can take whatever riding gear I think I might need. Realistically, I’m not going to be taking the bike up and down single-track rocky trails where I need to be able to throw the bike around. Neither the bike nor my skills are prepared for that. But for dirt roads and trails I think what I’m doing will be sufficient. At the end of the trip when I complete this article I’ll let you know how good this judgement was.

Category: touring