I know, sentences should not end with prepositions. Would you prefer if it read “a motorcycle with whom to have a beer?” No, right? And second, I know motorcycles are inane objects, and hence have no “soul” and no capacity for empathy, let alone the capacity to have a beer. And third, yes, the beer is only for me.
The point is that this motorcycle is unique in many respects, especially when adding the Rally Raid adventure kit. It is reliable and it is light enough to be picked up should/when I drop it on solo rides. It manages traffic speed on two-lane roads well, it likes curves with very light and fast response on turn ins, it is comfortable and it does not vibrate too much with its parallel twin motor at cruising speeds (60-75 mph). You can travel long distances with it. It can basically do everything other adventure bikes do in terms of travel and conquering rough terrain, and it sounds good and is enjoyable to ride on top of that. And it does all of this without breaking your bank account.
If you want to find faults, yes they are there. One of them is that it is not too engaging on pavement. With its 48 hp it can manage speed, but it won’t taunt you to go faster. And travel on free-ways could be a problem, if traffic is flowing at 75-80 mph. It will do it, but the motor becomes a bit strained past 75 mph if that is the desired cruising speed. And if you want to travel two-up, well, than it will depend on your size how much you both weigh to see if the bike can manage it. It will be cramped especially if that includes travel gear. But its real downfall, let’s face it, is that it won’t score you any points when you park it in front of your local Starbucks. I like it exactly because of that, it is an underdog in the adventure riding world.
This post is about a trip I took to a campground in the middle or nowhere, the Barnhouse Campground, a few miles east of Mitchell in the middle of the state of Oregon. A beautiful location, close to several historical and geologically important areas, but on itself the area of the campground is just a patch of woods on the side of a tall hill, surrounded by miles of beautiful nothing.
This trip served as one missing test on the CB500X: how will the CB500X behave on a long riding days when loaded with full camping gear?
Aside from an opportunity to ride the CB500X, the inspiration for this trip was to meet friends of mine, from the time I lived in Ohio, on a campground location somewhere in Oregon. This is something we’ve been doing every year since we moved to Oregon in 2005. The plan for this year was to camp somewhere in the Snake River but after we learned some areas would be closed due to snow we moved the meeting to the Ochocos area.
The last time I’ve been on this area was in 2008 when I used to ride the BMW F650GS Dakar. I had forgotten how beautiful this area was, with plenty of nice vistas with the scale that gives that perspective of big sky. Any deviation from the main roads of the region will give you the sensation of being in the middle of nowhere.
The round trip total was 457 miles in two days of travel. This was a reasonable distance to test this motorcycle’s capacity to handle 200+ miles daily distances with varied sets of roads and carrying camping gear. On the way in I mostly took regular two-lane highways (126 and then 26) and on the way back I picked some gravel roads and one-lane country roads (forest roads 12 and 42 before returning to 26 and then 126). The bike handled everything very well.
I wanted to take Highway 242 but it wasn’t open for the season yet. Later on in the Summer I will have have to go back that way with this bike for the traditional shots I take with my bikes with the Sisters mountains on the background. The alternative was to stop at the Santiam pass for some snow capped mountain shots. Not the same thing, but it will do for now.
I left the house at 11am with about half tank of gas, and at more than 200 miles ridden with one tank of gas I stopped to re-fuel in Sisters. The bike took 4 gallons of gasoline averaging more than 50 mpg. Not bad for the mountain climb. Speeds were between 60 and 70 mph, mostly 65 mph. I continued the trip and arrived at the campsite at 4pm, just about time to have a nice cold beer which I carried on a small ice box on the left pannier.
See, I had to test this important capacity as well (will the beer arrive in good condition for drinking)? The answer is yes!
I set the tent, and enjoyed a great time with my friends. By sunset we walked to the edge of the hill, to capture some images.
I didn’t realize until the sunset that Mount Hood was visible more than 100 miles away.
That was a short visit. The next morning I started my travel back to Eugene. I went back using country roads per recommendations of a riding friend who had been on this area before, following state forest road 12 south from the campground until I hit 42 from where I turned west towards Prineville. I was surprised by the beauty of the area, the road follows a ridge and goes through open fields alternating with areas of sparse trees and areas of forests.
When still on gravel roads, I was basically by myself the entire time. The road was well groomed allowing good speeds. I went past a few patches of snow on the sides of the road, at about 5,700 feet of elevation, which worried me a bit. If it turned to be impassable I would have to return and go back via 26.
It turned out not to be a problem, travel went on very smoothly. Once I hit 42 I turned west, toward Prineville.
Pavement started on 42, first as a single-lave road, as we descended from the ridge. Always nice landscapes.
State route 42 is rated G1, G2 and G3 on Butler maps, which are considered best roads for riding motorcycles.
From single-lane it turned to two-lane, I started seeing more traffic, bu the road was still nice and surrounding beautiful landscapes.
Continuing on this road, as some traffic appeared, the motorcycle had not problems overtaking slower vehicles.
In no time I was back on 26, then Prineville, Redmond and Sisters, where I refueled again, after 222 miles with one tank and 3.8 gallons of fuel.
Because it was the end of the Memorial Day weekend, I found a lot of traffic leaving Sisters, when all roads converge for about 30 miles into one road to go over Santiam pass. It took quite a while for traffic to move freely, and once again one has to think why, oh why lane filtering (splitting lanes) is not allowed in Oregon. I had to constantly check my mirrors for who was following me, worried about the sudden stops of traffic, with fear of being run over by a distracted driver on those highway stop and go moments.
Anyway, we made it home. The bike proved to be very nice for these long trips. It was loaded with camping gear, photo equipment, including a drone.
In total, we traveled 457 miles (730 km), with an average of 49 mph moving speed. Maximum speed was 85 mph, when passing a row of cars on the climb to the Santiam pass on a passing lane (that was the speed of all cars that were on the passing lane – I was just following traffic, officer, either that or they would run me over).
Before unloading the bike, and firing the grill for a celebratory barbecue, I served a cold beer to review video and photos from the trip.
As the bike, still seating outside the shed, still with all gear on, appeared to be looking on, I cheered it for the great adventured it had taken me on. This little bike, an underdog of sorts in the adventure world, is a great machine, like a good friend with whom you want to have a beer after an adventure.
Yes, it is small and yes, it would be great to have some 20 extra horse power… If it were to be my only motorcycle, I would consider 48 hp to be a problem. For now, should the urge for HP come knocking, I have two options at an extra 30-something on the Triumph or an extra 100 hp on the Ducati.
Outside of that, and for the time being, this is the bike I look forward to riding when the idea is to have some fun around town or on a camping trip in the middle of nowhere. Meanwhile we keep and eye on Yamaha and KTM, should they deliver something special (as light as the CB500, but with about 26 and 45 more hp respectively).
Thank you for reading!