Jim's home | Motorcycle home

Motorcycle/Van trip through the West - 2023

MT & WY - Beartooth Pass and Chief Joseph Hwy - 165 miles
WY - Big Horns north - 206 miles
WY - Big Horns south - 100 miles
WY - Travel day with hot springs and Sinks Canyon
WY - Medicine Bow Mountains
CO - Poudre Canyon, Rte 27 and Estes Park area - 280 miles
CO - Guanella Pass and Deckers - 135 miles
CO - The Grand Mesa and De Beque Cutoff Rd. - 125 miles
CO - Rte 149 - 250 miles
CO - Rte 92 and Black Canyon - 135 miles
CO - Rtes 145 and 141 near Gateway - 170 miles
Travel day to Utah
UT - Torrey to Escalante - 110 miles

I'm back from 2.5 weeks of driving my van around 4 western states with my 2020 Svartpilen 401 on a hitch-mount motorcycle carrier. My goal was to ride the best sportbike roads in these states. I used https://www.motorcycleroads.com/ to research this, and also rode roads I've been on before. 3 days of the trip was taken up with getting there from my home near Seattle and back. I rode most days and settled into a nice routine of waking up at my campsite, breakfast and coffee while the sun rose enough to warm up the day, and for any rush hour traffic to dissipate. Then ride between 100 and 250 miles, typically on an out and back. Return to the van, load up the bike, snack and beverage, then drive in air conditioned comfort during the hot, mid/late afternoon to the next days ride. Camp, dinner, sleep, repeat. I've come to like out and back rides. The scenery is different each way. You get to scout the roads for gravel, etc. and familiarize yourself with the curves before doing them a second time.

I'd never used a hitch mount carrier. I'd bought a 600 pound rated, "heavy duty" rack made by Black Widow. I was easily able to load and unload the Svart by myself. The rack was surprisingly flimsy, allowing my bike to rock fore/aft in relation to the van to the point where the right handlebar bumped the van's rear door. The plate metal parts connecting the channel the bike sat in to the hitch receiver tube flexed visibly when you moved the bike by hand. I ended up using 2 extra roof-rack straps going from my van's rear door top hinges down to the outer end of the tie-down struts on the rack to reduce the fore/aft sway, and put a tennis ball on the right handlebar to stop it from scratching my van door when it hit. I do not recommend Black Widow hitch mount carriers.

Weather was great the whole time except for getting wet for a part of 2 days. One time was in Poudre canyon just west of Ft. Collins, CO. The other was on the road from Torry, UT to Escalante, UT. Both times the rain was fierce and turned into painful hail.

The Svart was a great bike for this kind of riding. It was all pavement except for a day when I avoided a chip seal project on Grand Mesa in CO, and went up and down the south flank of that mesa on different dirt/gravel roads. There were times when I wished I had a Svart 701, such as when passing cars uphill. The Pirelli semi-knobby tires were surprisingly good when leaned over on twisties. However on long, drawn out horeshoe curves I was reluctant to *really* lean it over. There were times when I was missing my Buell Lightning City-X. Anyway, good times were had.

I bought some new riding gear before this trip. Kevlar and CE rated armor-reinforced riding jeans made by Trilobyte. Also a used, hi-viz yellow textile jacket with armor in the elbows, shoulders and back. They were nice in warmer weather compared to the leathers that I've worn for years.

Van camping is convenient. Nothing to set up except to turn on the propane tank valve and hang the privacy curtain up by the windshield. Never once did someone bother me in bootleg camp situations. I don't carry a firearm so I suppose I'm vulnerable. I've been advised to by others, but so far my trust in people hasn't failed me. I do carry pepper spray and a steel pipe behing my driver's seat, but have been told that others would just use them on me if I were accosted. Dunno.

I use https://freecampsites.net/ as a resource to find bootleg campsites, but shy away from long drives on gravel roads in my van. I have an "Amerioca The Beautiful" lifetime senior discount card which typically halves the cost of many campgrounds. Van camping is a good thing.

Individual road reports are in links above.

My Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 on a hitch-mount rack on my van: