winter riding on DRZ400E

I am kind of new to this forum stuff so let me know if I should or shouldn't put short story's in here. I just figured it would help pass the time on a cold day.

DRZ400 Moab


It was dark thirty (7am) on Saturday morning as I hooked my trailer and loaded my motorcycle. The 21-degree temperature bit at the bare flesh on my hands and face. But I was determined to give it a go.

My coworker Ron has a XR 600 Honda and we had been planning on going riding today since before Thanksgiving. He had never been over to the Moab area in Utah, which is covered with miles of trails along the deep desert canyons, made by the Colorado and Green River. Only one glitch in our plan. It was sunny and 55 two weeks ago. Mother nature had been doing a rush job of dumping snow on the mountains and spilled a little on our playground down here in the desert.

Moab Utah is about 100 miles east of Grand Jct. Colorado and the sky was clear so we were determined to go. Knowing how the weather conditions can change fast around this area. We took our time and got gas and stopped for breakfast at a little Mexican restaurant in downtown Fruita. With smiles on our faces and the sun shinning brightly we got back on I-70 to continue the remaining 90-mile treck.

As we drove across the desert there was about 2 or three inches of crusty white snow blanketing the ground on the North side of every bush and hill. Wherever the sun shone it was gone except for the sparkle of frost. But it was early yet and I was hopeful. By the time we got to Crescent Junction to turn South I had pretty much given up on the idea of riding and figured I would just play tour guide for Ron since he had never been there before. About ten miles down 191 we crossed into the banana belt. I had heard about this many times but now I saw it for myself. The snow all but disappeared and the outside temperature had risen 4 degrees. I was starting to feel excited! We took the first turnoff that led to the Dead horse point overlook and followed the paved road to the Dubinky Well Road turn off. After about 100 yards down the wet dirt road we took a right and parked on a flat section of high ground.

The temperature was a balmy 36 degrees as we unloaded the bikes and starting applying the layers of clothing we would need to stay warm. The sun was shinning brightly and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. The La Sal Mountains to the east of us were bright purple with bright white snowcaps. The red sandstone rocks and desert floor were bursting with color around us. It was going to be another great day.

Ron's XR 600 Honda was jetted and piped and running good. Started on the second kick! My new DRZ 400E Suzuki is bone stock except for a smaller 138 main jet (5,000 ft elavation) and the restrictive snorkel on the air cleaner removed. It was just supposed be a relaxing trail ride but I wondered how the two bikes measured up. (Its a guy thing lady's.) I looked at Ron and poked the magic button for my starting motor. The Engine started right off with its mild mannered soft note. After a lengthy warm up and adjustment of clothing we finally took off with me in the lead.

My goal for the day was to take Ron over to the Spring Canyon trail and drop down to the Green River. It was noon when we got on the wide dirt road and headed north on the Dubinky Well Road. We road side by side on a mixture of thawing red sand and patches of snow. There were stretches of light mud but most of the time you could find a dry section to go through. We stayed in 4th and 5th gear most of the time and soon came to the Dubinky wash on the left at the broken down corral.

Heading down the wash was a blast. It is wide most of the way and full of challenges. Deep sand, pucker bushes, rocks, and step like drop offs. We were going in a down stream direction south and there were tracks from others. It wasn't long before I wished I had not put so much clothing on. We were getting a good work out most of the time in second gear. We stopped several times to look around and soak up the sun and describe our close calls and near misses to each other.

This is what its all about! These are the moments that you remember and get you through those bad days.

After 5 or 6 miles in the wash we came out on Spring Canyon road and we headed west to the top of the canyon. I had to stop there for a Kodak moment and show Ron the truck and motorcycle remains that had gone over the edge years ago. Then it was back on the bikes and down, down, down to the river far below. According to my E-trex it was only about 700 feet but it always seems farther when you're riding on the edge of a cliff. Ya know what I mean Vern? We were dropping down on the South rim so a lot of it was shaded and covered with snow. Just enough to make you pay attention. We quickly got to the bottom and crossed Spring Creek. Continuing on the little road to the Green River where we were met by the shinning sun and bare willow bushes. At times it was like driving through a tunnel the way the bushes grew up and leaned over to the warm rock wall on our right. We finally decided to stop and warm up where the river and rock wall met the road.

It was about 2:30 and the sun was low. We decided to head back to the trucks and have a bite to eat. There are lots of trails and places close to camp so we mounted our steeds and headed back up the canyon without incident. Our pace picked up a little since we new what to expect on the road. Ounce we got to the top and the main road we let the bikes have their head and rolled on the throttle. We literally flew down that road all the way back to camp. It was now 38 degrees and we new that we had warmth and food waiting for us. Can you say “Chill Factor”? I don’t think I could while we were doing it. My teeth were clenched to tight! Its funny how at those speeds none of the ruts or snow or mud seems to pull you around. You just sort of skip over the tops. I have read all sorts of articles about how my bike suffers from headshake at high speed but today it felt very solid and stable. Sometimes when we hit long patches of snow the tail would wag but it never felt out of control. My little 400 stayed right there with Ron's 600 the whole time. When he gassed it I would to and it seemed to me like we were dead even. Ron outweighs me by at least 50 pounds so I guess that may be a factor.

We arrived at camp with only 40 miles showing on the odometer to account for the afternoon. We were frozen stiff but smiling from ear to ear. My little Garmin E-trex showed a Max speed of 69.7 miles an hour so I will just round it off and say 70 MPH. It was a good ride and I never dropped the bike ounce. I hope I am getting used the height or just ridding better. We decided to quit while we were ahead and figured we were lucky to get any riding in at all. So we made ourselves a promise to come back and do it again. Loaded up the bikes and headed back the 100 miles to home and snow. Hope you all enjoyed going with me as I relived my ride.

Like I said in the beging let me know if this kind of stuff is off limits to the forum. :)

Thanks for sharing that with us EZGZ. I am looking forward to returning there next spring.

How do you like the Etrex? Do you have the software for Utah? Is it worth the extra cost?

The little Garmin E-trex dosen't have much memory compared to the others but it has the features I wanted at 1/4 the price of the big ones.That little sucker tells me more than I ever wanted to know and takes a while to learn. When I go to places like Moab I still take a map and compass. Maybe later I will do the mapping thing. :)

Good story! I like the idea of it. It's nice to here of other riding locals that differ from mine because it gives me a taste of what else is out there. If it doesn't take up to much room,I think others should share their riding experiences in the same fasion.

Good story, keeps me entertained during the winter. One question though; a 138 main for 5000' elevation? I ride nearly identical elevation and am using a 148. I think 138 is a little on the lean side for 5000'. At 10000' it is probably bang on. What was the bike like with the stock 142?

[ December 12, 2001: Message edited by: canucklehead DRZ400 ]

Hi everyone, I rode my bike to work this morning and it was 32°F. The wind chill factor "attacked" my fingers real bad! Everything else was okay. I use snowboarding gloves but it is obviously not enough in conditions like this. Apart from heated grips, is there anything else I should consider for the few (maybe) days we have left without any snow?


Originally posted by johnnydrz:

Hi everyone, I rode my bike to work this morning and it was 32°F. The wind chill factor "attacked" my fingers real bad! Everything else was okay. I use snowboarding gloves but it is obviously not enough in conditions like this. Apart from heated grips, is there anything else I should consider for the few (maybe) days we have left without any snow?


I rode mine across town yesterday and the roads looked dry but crossing the bridge across the Tobique river it seemed to be reving out nice i thought maybe it was the cold air helping and then i realised i was spinning in 4th

The usual warning bridge freezes before roadway applies.

Humidity is definitly a factor when it comes to riding in cold weather. Feels a lot colder. One of my old race buds used to take those rubber surgical gloves and put those on first, followed by his regular gloves. He said instead of being cold his hands would sweat a little from the heat. Your blood is circulating more when your racing but you might give it a try.

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