I love bikes. Almost any bike. You have probably figured that out by now. Which is why I am having such a hard time getting over my relationship with my fat bike. I’m just not giving it the love it needs, nor the respect it deserves. I think the real struggle is that while I love popping out on the neighborhood groomed trails when none of my friends can see me, mostly in disguise, I enjoy nordic skiing so much more. 99 times out of 100, I would rather be on skis if the conditions allow. When I am nordic skiing on groomed corduroy and I am confronted with riders on fat bikes leaving 3″ snake trails right down the middle, it really makes my blood boil. Sometimes I wish they never had been invented. Not the bikes, but the people who ride them.
Actually what I am doing is blaming a poor management plan of our local multi-use trail system, and then projecting that onto someone else. The truth is we have no management plan, it’s a work in progress, an experiment if you will. I call it a “Not-working In Progress.”
I recently got back from a trip to Jackson, WY and explored a multi-use U.S. Forest Service trail called Cache Creek. From the trailhead, it goes steadily uphill for a few miles, cat-groomed wide enough for skate skiing, with a classic track set on the side. Someone wiser than myself said recently in a discussion about nordic skier vs fat biker conflicts: if the folks who maintain our multi-use trails are not intentionally grooming for the nordic ski crowd, then why would they use a $100k snow cat with grooming implements that leaves a swath of corduroy and a classic track set on the side? Think about it. But I digress. Back to Cache Creek. There is a main artery of a trail that is shareable, for skaters, classic skiers, snowshoers, hikers, wolves chasing isolated elk, you name it. But off to the sides, there are clearly marked singletrack trails groomed for fat bikes. There are sticks with reflectors at intervals, presumably so you could navigate the trail at night with a good set of lights, but I wouldn’t because, you know, wolves. The point is, the dedicated trails looked awesome, mainly because they were intentional, and obviously managed. I would have ridden them if I had brought my fat bike, but I was on skis. In my mind that is the solution. In a way it is a not so much trail segregation, but trail specialization. What do you think?
As Yogi Berra famously said, if you get to a fork in the road, take it.
My fork in the road came when a riding buddy hatched a weekend plot to fly into Atlanta, Georgia, rent a few bikes from Eaglerider, and tackle the Tail of the Dragon. So I took it.
Geographically speaking, the Tail of the Dragon is the name given by motor heads of all types and wheel configurations for Deals Gap, North Carolina and Tennessee. Route US 129 is a mountain pass that runs along the North Carolina-Tennessee state line and bordering Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Allegedly, there are 318 curves in 11 miles. While connected with our two-way Scala headsets, I started counting them up while riding in front of Darth Nater: 1…2…3…4…before I got to double digits, Darth protested that this could become exceedingly annoying, which of course made me even more committed to get all the way to 318, but the attention required to navigate the corners soon broke my resolve. It wasn’t long after that point when the one-armed rider we saw at the Dragon sculpture went ripping around me on his super motard bike. I imagined that guy must have been some sort of local legend.
It would be a mistake to call this Mecca for motorcyclists. There was nothing spiritual, religious, or holy about it. In fact once it was done it was done, and we were not in the least bit compelled to go ride it again. The reason being, there were so many other great back roads to ride. Take the Cherohala Skyway, for example. A 43 mile National Scenic Byway that seemed almost engineered specifically for cruising on two-wheels. We took this from Tellico Plains, Tennessee, to an opportune stop to check our maps in the shade of the long driveway to the Snowbird Mountain Lodge, in Robbinsville, North Carolina. We had originally planned to make it to Bryson City where we already had a motel reservation, but the sun was setting, our tummies were grumbling, and there seemed to be a magnetism pulling us up the driveway of the Snowbird Mountain Lodge.
We climbed the steep driveway through the canopy of trees and well-kept grounds, and ended up in front of a classic mountain lodge built in the early 1940s. The voices in my head were saying stay, and before Glen came out to say they had a few rooms available, it seemed like Darth and I were already pulling changes of clothes from our panniers. Once those bikes go up on the center stands,the decision is more or less final.
Although I regret not making it to Bryson City, which by all measures of inter web searching, seemed like a funky cool little Durango-type town, no tears of regret fell into our deliciously prepared local trout dinners, nor our tumblers of local Defiant whiskey that were suckled and nursed in the confines of the dimly lit rustic bar. I imagined this would have been the way the railroad barons primed themselves for a deep night’s slumber. The Snowbird Mountain Lodge is the type of place you could disappear to for awhile. We enjoyed early morning coffee on the deck literally perched over the mountains, filled up on a hearty country breakfast of eggs, country ham, and blueberry pancakes. They even prepared sack lunches for us, our names on the bags, to be grabbed on our way out the door of this lovely country inn.
The rest of this story is best told through a collection of pictures we took along the way, which I will be uploading soon. Yes, we all three slayed the dragon in our own way, and left us plotting the next fork in the road.
Why do you need the KTM Twins Billet Fuel Filler assembly, it’s just a gas cap, right? Wrong. It’s really an anodized CNC-ed work of art, designed to complement the looks of your KTM 690 Enduro R, and solve a few problems. Problem number 1: you have a soft bag on the back of your bike behind the seat, and every time you want to refuel (which is often, if all you have is the stock fuel capacity), you basically have to remove the bag to get enough room to put the key in and remove the stock filler cap. I think it will be much easier to loosen the twist cap and get the filler hose in the tank, and won’t require almost completely removing your soft bags to get at the cap. Problem number 2 which is less of a nuisance and more of a problem: the stock triangular piece, when removed, can allow dirt that has accumulated down in the recession to fall into the tank and get in your fuel system, which can hurt your purty lil motor. Problem solved. Finally, as KTM Twins explains in the instructions, if you ever lose your billet cap for some reason, you can can always replace it with an easily attainable ACERBIS small gas cap. So don’t lose your billet one, because it’s way cooler.
Now the negatives. The instructions in my kit were not super clear. The stock filler assembly must be completely removed from the top of the tank, which is easy enough, BUT BE EXTRA CAREFUL that you don’t drop any of the short OEM bolts into the tank, (Brad). The KTM Twins kit comes with a spacer and extra O-ring. This is confusing. The instructions say in bold on the first page: “Special Note: Your kit comes with an additional O-Ring and Spacer Plate. Please make sure to use this spacer in your installation.” But later in the instructions, it says to use the spacer plate and O-Ring “…if applicable to your year.” It would be nice if they had a fitment chart that said which year needs the spacer.
I installed it without the spacer plate, then thought I should reassemble it with the spacer plate. In retrospect, with the spacer plate, the whole assembly say too high above the bodywork of my bike and just didn’t look right, so I reassembled without the spacer plate, and it looks much better. Unless someone at KTM Twins tells me I did it wrong, I’m sticking with this option, as it looks better and it seems to have a nice tight seal with the tank.
I would say this is must-have farkle for your 690 Enduro R if you do any amount of adventure touring.
Deal O’ The Day
Words I’ve Heard
"I'm not a businessman. I'm a business, man." --Jay-Z
"The only thing keeping us from going is leaving." --Ewan Mcgregor
"Adventures suck, when you're having them." -- Anonymous Rally Car Driver
"It is, absolutely, without question, unequivocally, about the bike. Anyone who says otherwise is obviously a twatwaffle."--RULE #4, Velominati.com
"Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite and furthermore always carry a small snake."--W.C. Fields