Saturday, August 8, 2015

Sport Touring

Back in my late 20's and as an old man in my earliest 30's, I acquired (assumed??) the refined attitude that Sport Touring was the pinnacle of riding.  My previous experience with weekend camping, long distance touring, machines marketed to me via the magazine editors, etc. all told me that someone in my then elevated position was at the "7/10 Pace" of street riding stature and that I should be on proper bikes outfitted for zippity speeds though with enough comfort and carrying capacity for brisk, overnight or multi-day serious mileage jaunts, trips not intended to be global, extensively pre-planned expeditions.  These were off the cuff and spontaneous spurts, big on mileage, little if any planning, the goal to simply go and be gone in a sporting fashion.

The definition of S.T., at least the one that I made mine was, very little planning, a change of underwear in the tank bag and be gone.  In those days there were, when necessary, a few extra dollars to throw at 'out' meals and cheap, overnight motels.  Day trips were OK but being away at least one night was the real deal for serious Sport Touring.

Back then, before I was in the family way and while still riding, my SP1000 was that machine and when I did pull over in the "give it a rest, it's family time" lane, thoughts of a slightly more refined Kawaski Concours often went through my mind and whenever I saw one out and about those thoughts were with me, the big Kaw always caught my eye.

When Phase 2 of my riding hobby came some 20 years later, things for the most part picked up close to where they had been left.  The Ducati ST2 my machine of choice and as it turned out, for me at least, a very fine Sport Touring specimen.  I even joined a Nationally established group with the words Sport Touring in its official name and had a great time riding with and enjoying everyone's company; still a group of friends that I stay connected with and sometimes join on a coffee run.

This background led me to revisit the concept and execute this weekend's Sport Touring ride on the 1969 Honda CT90.

Cross state lines?   Boy Howdy!!.....over a big river bridge, into the next state and everything.
Sport Touring in a 50-50 mix?   Let's call it maybe 27 Sport, 73 Touring for this trip.

Newest clean undies, camera (small) toolkit (small)  and a GPS running on a dry 12volt battery in the back were my packed items; there's no S.A.E./Tender connector to my tank bag this trip.  The Viking Tail Bag didn't really add much to an already overloaded 90cc motorbike, even with the 2" expansion wings on both sides extended.

The only part of my Going Back In Time that I violated this trip was the Planning part.  I actually put some real thought in to devising a Route that put the least strain on my fellow traveling public and the roads chosen worked out really well.  My average speed on the back roads wasn't all that much different than had I been on one of the bigger bikes.  The part that was unique to this trip was that the connecting roads had to be picked to be both shorter and slower.

Taking the back way into Red Wing, I made use of the gas station downtown and filled up, realizing that I'd forgotten to top off the tank at home though had meant to.  The fuel tank, according to Specifications holds 1.6 gallons and my "top-off" was just shy of a gallon which surprised me since it had seemed that I'd put more of my lawn mower gas in the tank at home than that.  Filling again, 67 miles later, the pump read .7 gallons which works out to almost 96 MPG.  I didn't think that was all that bad considering the hills and the strong NW wind plus the fact that most of the time I was in the very upper ranges of the RPM range.

It had stormed overnight so our driveway was more than a little muddy and the recent replenishment and grading of new gravel on our access road gave the little Honda some new dirt to wear within a mile from home.  Before I'd even crossed the river, I'd ridden on a number of miles of gravel on the little close-coupled bike making me wonder that just maybe my relative comfort with riding on unpaved roads may go way, way back to the fact that brother and I spent so many miles riding a machine just like this one on rough surfaces; skills earned that have since been taken for granted.  I'm here to tell you that loose surface road riding on the CT90 is very much different than it is on the 250 KLR.  Maybe the fact that my current 220 pounds is not the same as my then 120 pounds is what makes the difference?

The ride went through Hammond which is where I crossed Interstate 94 and the next real town after that was Amery.  An old Soo Line Railroad bed used to run through Amery that has since become a recreational trail.  The trail to the west of town is known as the Stower Seven Lakes State Trail and that section is not open to motorcycles or motorized vehicles.  From Amery east the trail is known as the Cattail State Trail.  After my gas fill, I sat down for a coffee break before starting out on the old rail line.  It was quiet yesterday, the only other users I saw were a father and very young daughter that I came upon from behind.  They were each on their own 4 wheeler, noticed me coming up from behind and pulled over to let me pass.

I stayed with the trail almost all of the way to Turtle Lake, though decided to get back on local roads before I made the entire distance, having had enough of the sharp trap rock that provided the trails rough roadbed.

All morning, well, actually all day, northern WI stayed cool, cloudy with periods of light mist.  It really only rained once for a few minutes though there were a few times that I considered stopping and getting a bit more rain-proof.  Each time that I considered pulling over, it never failed that in moments the drizzle seemed to stop so I was never really wet, just got close to it a few times.

After lunch, I headed east, finally able to take advantage of not riding directly into the wind.  It was a good thing since I spent more time on faster County roads from there.  Even at that, I was only passed no more than 3 or 4 times.  East and a bit south, Chetek was my next major goal, that because it was the easiest place to cross the Red Cedar River.  I needed to cross the river at Chetek because I wanted to visit Kevin at Scrambler Cycle which is located between Chetek and Cameron, Wisconsin.

Kevin showed me a few of the bikes that he's working on and was just finishing a test ride on an old Honda CL350 as I arrived.  There's an older Guzzi there that caught my eye....we'll see what happens.

A few short miles north and I was in Rice Lake where I spent the night in a motel, very Sport Toury if I say so myself.  Take out dinner in my room, an audio book and some music filled my evening.  After a very restful and lazy sleep, I walked down to the Continental breakfast for my banana and coffee.  In just a few minutes I was packed, the bike loaded and I rode the 150 feet to the gas station adjacent to the motel.  Another big .7 gallon fill.

No rain was predicted for the day, at least nothing more than a very remote passing shower.  Both yesterday and today it was dark and cloudy, looking and without too much of an imagination, almost September-like.  Last week (actually last month and possibly longer ago than that....) I settled on some roads that both looked direct and curvy enough to be interesting, using my Wisconsin Bicycle Federation maps as well as Garmin's Base Camp with a bit of Google Earth thrown in.  Even with all of that, there were roads today that deserve to be revisited.  There were a few that I'd been on before but many new ones were discovered, in fact, a repeat of the entire ride on one of the other machines will almost certainly be repeated some day, hopefully this year.

An interesting note, I saw, met and was in close proximity the last two days to more city police, county Sheriffs and State Patrol officers than I can ever remember encountering on any ride, ever.  In the small towns, cars pulled over and general patrolling......our Public Servants seemed to be everywhere.  I was never in any way going too fast but to be honest, I did feel like an outlier on the tiny bike though not necessarily guilty.

I had hoped to have proof of this and of many, many other things but somehow, some way I carelessly deleted all of my helmet cam images this evening and I'm very disappointed.  For more than one reason, I didn't stop as often as I'd planned while riding, counting instead on the images helmet top to help me tell the story.  Again, I'm very disappointed that I lost them and have learned a valuable lesson for next time.

Speaking of lessons, I've learned a few.....
  • When Sport Touring on a small bike, take every advantage of riding with the wind.
  • As an aid to the previous item, a Step Through bike makes it easier to ride with Knees Together, another potential huge advantage.
  • Cattle and horses seem to be more interested in the passing of smaller, slower machines.  It's as if they can more easily relate to their passage.
  • People were good to me....cutting me lots of slack and seemingly patient to go around at safe and reasonable distances as well as speeds.  I'll bet that my riding on a Friday and early Saturday only made that easier......traffic was quite light almost everywhere (actually considered in my Planning).
  • The "quiet" little Honda needs a new muffler.
  • For not having a full blown Touring Saddle, I was as comfortable with hour-long saddle time on this one as I am on anything else I own.
  • As comfortable as I am with going back and forth between the Twist N Go scooters and my clutch machine, I surprised myself more than once by starting to go for the clutch and readying my toe to "go down a gear".  All downshifts on the CT90 are done with the heel.
  • By the time I got home, gravel, even very loose gravel was feeling comfortable and easy.
  • I'm a lot better at matching speeds between shifts on the manual transmission machines than I am with this one.  Just when I thought I had made some progress, a stop sign would find me lurching to stop/start again.  I consider good gear changing an art and I was woefully inadequate all weekend.
Last and maybe most important, we are blessed with an abundance of roads that make this sort of foolishness not only safe but fun.  There was a method to my madness for heading the direction that I did.  Not only was the terrain (somewhat) more level, the state to our east is full of quiet, rural roads that allow these speeds and this type of travel to be mere child's play.

There were some extremely fine roads north of Colfax, Cty W that drops into town from the north has been ridden at a sporty pace by me in the past on other bikes and it was ridden that way again today, even on the little Postie.....the edge lugs on the tires did some flexing.

Though I was still some 65 miles from home, approaching Elk Mound was feeling like home and that's because I've actually ridden there numerous times, the roads familiar.  Looking forward to stopping once again at Mound Hill Park, an overlook on top of the actual Mound, I made the turn onto the park road, the little Honda quickly learning what real work is.  I knew that 3rd gear would never get me very far but was starting to think that 2nd was never going to get me around the curve at the top, swing under the huge flagpole and around the "castle" (dedicated to deceased Rural Mail Carriers) observation tower.

As I stopped, there was a sudden realization that steam was rising between my legs.......steam coming from an air-cooled motorcycle is not a good thing and actually quite rare.  It didn't take long to smell and determine that gas was flooding down the sides of the engine cases.  Seriously hoping that turning the petcock to off was in fact going to stop the flow I was very relieved to see that it least it finally did.  There was still plenty of sizzle, sputter and steam as the cold gas finally quit flowing.

I did what I normally do, a tune in my head would help both my trouble-shooting abilities as well as my mood and it took seconds to settle on Maria Muldaur's "Long Hard Climb".  It really helped.

The fact that turning the petcock to stop actually kept the flow checked was a very fortunate thing.  The smelly gas was evaporating very quickly with the engine's heat and my first prods at the carb found the float bowl to be literally hanging by threads.  I could see that 3 of the 4 screws were still present, it would take some dis-assembly to know if the 4th was still with us.

Having numerous tools along, I pulled out the Leatherman AND my Cruz Outback'R 14 though all work was completed with the Cruz tool....the Leatherman never came out of the pouch.  These items have ridden along for thousands of miles, the Cruz has never been used before.

Whomever put that bowl on should never work on my motorcycles again. :)

Once repaired, I got back to business and climbed the stairs for a couple of million dollar views.

I stopped in Elk Mound for some fuel and coffee, then proceeded south through Caryville, Rock Falls and then rode Rustic Road 107, an old favorite through the sand prairies adjacent to the very full Chippewa River.

Some of the numbers.....

The rest of the numbers.....except for the Maximum Speed which I too quickly erased.  It had read 52.7 MPH and I could take you to the very exact spot where that event took place.

Where the numbers took me......


  1. Awesome ride account .... I love it!

    1. Thanks Karen, appreciate that. I'm mindful of a well received criticism made by our friend Scooter Bob "....too many words, not enough pictures". Too many words I'll acknowledge, my goal was at least to provide a better balance between the two and I'm disappointed that my other images are gone. Lesson learned.

  2. That's quite a ride on a CT-90! Red Wing to Rice Lake, I'm impressed. One of these days I'm going to have to get down to the Plum City/Durand area again. I miss roads with curves in them.

    1. Hey Erik, many have done more on less but it was a nicely-sized adventure for me. This weekend's Post is only half of the story, stay tuned for the next installment.

  3. I also believe that touring of any kind should not depend on brand or cc's of a motorbike. Riding on that little CT-90 of yours just requires a different approach. I'll certainly cover more mileage on a big bike but do I necessarily see more? Rather not... I really love your ride report.

    1. Thank you Sonja, it was a fun trip and I knew that it would be. I'm always very conscious of staying out of everyone's way, moving at the prevailing pace but there's only so much someone on a 90 can do on public highways. Our public farm roads are a different story and having that option was begging me to take full advantage.

  4. It sounds like a trip on a Ural. Stick to the small roads, let traffic go by when it's safe, relax and enjoy the trip. It'll take a while to get there. I enjoyed the ride report and the gas mileage.

    So did the mechanic get a firm talking to? ;-)

    1. Richard, these are exactly the kind of trips I'd like to Ural on and can easily imagine myself out there on a blustery November day, in weather not so different than a guy I know up in Alaska does.

      Mileage wouldn't be nipping at 100 but I'd find a way to cope.

      The mechanic should be taken out for a good thrashing but more investigation will be required, just possibly it wasn't his fault.

  5. Awesome. Kudos to you for doing a tour on a CT-90. Good thing you knew how to fix the float bowl issue.

    1. Brandy, the 90 is about as small as this rider is going to go. I'm quite sure that anything less would not make my fun threshold.

      This time knowing what to do was the easy part, the fact that the screws were all still there a lucky break. I did have a roll of black duct tape plus a nice handful of zip ties as a backup and I wouldn't have been too proud to do some cobbling.

  6. .. a true ... old school motorcycle adventure... Neat !

    1. Mr A, my goal in a nutshell and thanks! Hopefully the next blog post will further explain.