Saturday, February 3, 2024

Off-road Trails in Southern Nevada


 

I ride electric mountain bikes and a dual sport motorcycle in southern Nevada. Luckily, over 85% of Nevada is public lands, and there is lots of off road riding available for both motorized and non-motorized machines. I wanted to create this blog post to make others aware of some great resources to find all these available trails.  While many of these resources claim to have maps for both, coverage of motorized versus non motorized varies quite a bit within each of the apps/websites. Some have free access levels and others support both subscriptions free access levels.  

I also use an old smartphone for navigation for both mountain biking and motorcycling. It is very important to keep your eyes on the trails to avoid an accident, like this one: https://jimroal.blogspot.com/2024/02/oops.html .  Stop to view the navigation.

Apps & Websites

Trailforks - This is my go to app for Electric Mountain biking, and any mountain biking. While it also supports motorized off road trails, it is not particularly good at that. For mountain biking, it is great because crowdsourced trails are available. I have found the coverage in my area to be better than any other apps I have found for mountain biking. It supports offline maps for navigation when out of cellular range.  Part of Outside+.


GAIA - This is a pretty decent app in general for finding trails. I have used it for both motorcycling and electric mountain biking, but I tend to find other apps a bit better and so it is not my go to app.  GAIA is more of a mapping utility and navigation tool than a way to find existing trails. It supports offline maps for navigation when out of cellular range.   Part of Outside+.


onX - There are several variants of onX. I use the off road version. It seems to be the best in my area for motorcycling. It is a subscription only app and website and has no access without a subscription. It supports offline maps for navigation when out of cellular range.  



AllTrails - The AllTrails app and website claim to support all kinds of off road trails and activities. It does but I have found the coverage to be not as good as trail forks for biking or for onX for motorcycling, at least in my area. It supports offline maps for navigation when out of cellular range.  



Kamoot - Supports hiking and biking.

Strava - This is more of a social networking app for bicyclers, but you can look up other people's ride segments and find some routes this way.

Garmin Explore - Garmin explore is an application used with many Garmin products. Garmin has other similar apps to Garmin Explore as well, depending on the product that you are using. It supports offline maps, navigation, and integration with several Garmin products such as InReach satellite messenger.  


Google Maps - Google Maps actually has features for navigating off-road too.  Well, somewhat anyway.  It has biking and walking modes that include trails.  While it is not a main feature it can work surprisingly well at times.  Often you will need to put it in biking or walking mode and also add some stops along the way to enforce your desired route.  Here is an example taking a Jeep trail over Wheeler Pass.



Google Earth - Google Earth has some great tools for searching the Earth for all kinds of detail. It also includes some great measurement tools that will show you the elevation profile. You can also import GPS data from Garmin Connect and other trip trackers. The satellite imagery is good enough to spot many trails that may not yet be mapped.  



Local and national government sites

Each local area likely has its own resources for specific parks and places where there are trails. things like the U. S Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management cover many parks across the United States. Below are just a few that I use around Southern Nevada.






Related Resources

Backcountry Discovery Routes (BDR). Back country discovery routes are specific routes that have been created by the BDR community. They connect multiple trails together to make a long route, generally through part of or an entire state.


Once you find places to ride on the map, the next thing you wonder is how challenging and fun will it be. I generally search the trail name in YouTube where many people have posted some great videos of their rides/drives so you can actually ride the trail before you get there.  I contribute many ride segments on my YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/@jimroal .

Friday, February 2, 2024

Oops - I crashed

 I had a fun motorcycle ride plan mapped out.  We would start at Apex (a.k.a. Nellis Dunes) and ride across to the Old Spanish Trail which connects to Bitter Springs.  Basically the route in purple on the map below. A big loop that returns to Apex.

OnX link to North half of planned route: https://webmap.onxmaps.com/offroad/share/content?share_id=01HNNZ4MSD8Z9VKDXGFW01MHRP  and South half: https://webmap.onxmaps.com/offroad/share/content?share_id=01HNNZ6R78S90W9A76WT85QXR3 . 

The weather was perfect.  We got to Apex which is a large open riding area of mostly sand dunes.  We needed to get across Apex to start on the Old Spanish Trail (blue arrow on map below).  We started at the left of the map below.


Apex is a web of trails and dunes so not so clear to navigate through.  Since we were on off-road focused motorcycles, the obvious route was as straight as we could go, sort of.  The blue trace below is from my Garmin Messenger which sends updates every 10min. We made it to somewhere in that red circle below.

Here is a closer satellite look below.  The crash happened somewhere in this area, likely that dune drop just below the 2 blue dots.  You can see the semicircle where the dune drops off. That will have a sharp edge and drop where the sand blows over the dune. Of course, these dunes shift all the time so the image below my not represent what it was like when I crashed.
Here is a higher resolution map of the area: https://maps.clarkcountynv.gov/ow/?@844538,26805354,8 

In hindsight, this is the route we should have taken (below)

That is where things took a bad turn, or drop.  I was riding with a friend Jeff who explained that I rode off the sharp edge of a dune which was about an 8ft drop.  I landed in the riding position still but the bike and I had fallen over on the left side.  It appears I fell hard on my left shoulder and head.  Still in the riding position, my left leg was under the bike now.  Jeff got down to where I landed and pulled me out from under the bike. I was a bit out of it but conscious by then.  He said I complained of shoulder pain and wanted to just rest for a few minutes.  Almost 30 minutes later I was ready to get going again. When we got back up I insisted we needed to just find the easiest route back home.  After some basic checks of my state, we headed home. At this point we were still out in the dunes and the best route back was not clear.  At one point we were on top of a dune with a fairly steep drop.  Jeff told me to wait there while he finds a better route down.  However, I just rode down it anyway.  He was a bit surprised I did that given my shoulder pain. At another point Jeff had me turn off my bike while he searched for the best route out.  When he returned and we were ready to go again, I could not start my bike.  I kept trying but the kill switch was still off.  At this point he began to worry that I may not be thinking straight.  He could not see how bad my shoulder was and had no idea I had a concussion either.  Before we got on the highway, Jeff asked some questions and took a closer look to access my state.  I was able to answer all the questions fine so we headed home.  

I do not remember much past pulling off Rt 604 where we started off-road. The next memory I have is riding home passing the I215/I95 interchange.  This would be about an hour I have no memory of now, including the entire accident.  

We got home and removed my riding gear.  At that point Jeff finally got a better look at my shoulder.  I do remember this.  The look on his face when he saw my shoulder was not good.  It's that kind of look you never want anyone to have when they are looking at you.  It was that "of man that looks really bad" look.  Kelly got home shortly after and took me to the hospital.  They found several cracked ribs, a concussion, and a broken Clavicle bone (a.k.a. collar bone).  



A couple weeks later I had surgery to repair my clavicle (collar bone). It took twice as long as they had planned since the bone was in 3 pieces.  Now I have some new hardware holding that bone together, as well as a scar from my neck to my shoulder.  

Its a good thing that I had all my protective gear on that day. I had a helmet, chest protector, motocross boots, proper riding pants, knee pads, and my jacket, everything. Dunes can be very deceiving, and it is easy to miss these deep drop offs. However, I have ridden dunes often, and I know this. I really wish I could remember the accident. Looking back to what I do remember, I know we were trying to navigate across the open dune area to find the trailhead on the other side.  I had a phone on the handlebars for navigation.  Since we were not on a defined trail, I was looking at it periodically to ensure we were still headed the right way.  I suspect I looked away at just the wrong time.  I think distracted driving is the cause here.  I am a huge opponent of distracted driving.  I never text while driving.  My phone stays in my pocket.  I rarely even take calls, and never initiate one when driving.  In the future I will come to a stop before looking at the phone to navigate off-road.  Things just happen too fast, even at slow speeds off-road.  Of course, distracted driving on-road is a huge menace already and causes many bad accidents.  

Thankfully, the bike survived nearly unscathed. I have a Insta360 X3 camera I mount on the handlebars, which was still there and unharmed. Unfortunately, I had not started recording. There are some new scratches on the front of the front fender, and also on the left hand guard.  I think the front forks took much of the impact.  



I had not ridden the Old Spanish trail or much of the rest of this route. When I rode Bitter Springs before we had taken I15 all the way to Crystal.  Bitter Springs itself is a fairly easy ride.  

Once I get healed up and riding again, we'll have to try this again, except maybe we will bypass the dunes altogether and of course stay very focused on riding.


Sunday, December 24, 2023

2023 Husqvarna 701 Enduro 1,000 mile review

 




In Goodsprings, NV at the Pioneer Saloon around the time the bike hit 1,000 miles

I bought this bike just 3 months ago and now I have passed 1,000 miles.  Being a dual sport, there are many highway miles in that but I ride mostly off-road.  Over 85% of Nevada is public land and this is one of the most open states for motorized off-road trails.  Now that it is winter, the weather is perfect for motorcycling too.  

My last motorcycle was a 1989 KTM 500MX that I sold back in 1997.  That bike had 65HP and weighed 227lbs.  I have not owned a motorcycle since, until now.  This Husky is the heaviest and most powerful bike I have owned, weighing 325lbs and having 74HP.  It also has the most electronics with ABS, traction control, EFI with electronic throttle, etc.  It is the only electric start bike I ever had.  I did get into electric mountain bike riding over the last couple years so I have been on 2 wheelers quit a bit.  However, those electric mountain bikes are light as a feather compared to a motorcycle.  It has taken me that 3 months, dropping it several times, and 1,000 miles to get acquainted with this bike.  Now I am at the point I really like it.  For comparison I tried a friends KTM 890 and another friends CRF 450 (in the photo above) and I think I made the right choice with this 701 for my riding style and where I want to ride.  This 701 is very light for an adventure/travel bike but heavier than an enduro or motocross bike. I love having a street legal bike I can just ride from home.  It also opens up many roads and Jeep trails that require a street licensed vehicle.  This bike has great road manners in my opinion, but I have ridden very few street bikes.

The 2023 Husqvarna 701 Endure, the KTM 690 Enduro, and the Gasgas 700 Enduro are all KTM motorcycles now.  They are almost identical except for some bodywork.  These bikes were designed and built in Austria for model year 2023 (and since 2016).  PRIERER Mobility Ag owns all these companies.
    
I made the following modifications so far:
During my first 3 months of ownership, I have crossed several mountain passes on Jeep trails, often with steep and very rocky sections like the Rocky Gap Road Rock Garden and Wheeler Pass.  I have also ridden many loamy washes with loose sand and gravel which can be a handful at times.  

I have tracked the fuel consumption along the way.  I have averaged about 47mpg so far.  This includes a considerable amount of low gear off-road riding which seems pretty good to me.  I have never had to use my spare gas can yet so I generally don't even carry it.  The most I have had to add to the tank on any fill-up so far has been 1.6 gallons and the bike has a 3.4 gallon tank.  If I do plan a longer trip I can bring the 1.3 gallon can and have 4.7 gallons available.  That would give me a 220 mile range.  Actually it would likely be longer since my average mileage calculation includes a bunch of 1st gear off-road riding and a longer ride would likely include more higher gear riding where the mileage improves.  Also as the bike breaks in more the fuel economy improves.  There is no fuel level indicator on this bike except for a low fuel light.  The rear mounted tank does not let you even look in to see the level.  However, it puts the fuel weight on the back which helps in loamy conditions.  

The bike has many electronic features including ABS, 2-mode traction control, electronic throttle and EFI.  Mode 1 is for pavement and mode 2 is for off-road. You can also disable traction control all together but I have not found the need to do that. Once you select a traction control mode, it will retain it through key cycles. I do turn OFF the ABS off-road as it  actually stops faster with it disabled when on loose terrain.  One minor complaint I have with the ABS is in order to disable it after starting the bike you have to first ride fast enough to pass the pre-checks and the ABS light will then go out.  It is only then that you can stop and disable the ABS.  It will turn back ON every time you key back ON.  You can buy a dongle that will keep it disabled.  The EFI is great.  The bike starts very fast even after you drop it and even stone cold. It also have a much longer maintenance schedule than most enduro bikes.  It goes 6,200 miles between oil changes.  

This bike is tall and large compared to a typical enduro bike.  It also has a higher speed first gear.  This, along with the added weight, makes really challenging technical stuff harder than an enduro (500cc or smaller) or motocross bike.  

On Lovell Summit Road

At the Charcoal Kilns

Wheeler Pass

Up the North side of Wheeler Pass


Top of Rocky Gap Road

View from the seat

Top of Harris Mountain Road

At Little Red Rock

5L gas can mounted 

Gas can mount I made


Saturday, November 4, 2023

Rider to Rider Communication

 I bought an adventure bike to explore off-road.  I also bought a helmet intercom system from Sena (actually mine if branded HJC but it made by Sena, it is an HJC 10B).  I rode with some friends that also have helmet intercoms.  This is really grate, pretty much a necessity once you have had it.  There is no going back.  You can hold a conversation while riding.  The front person can also warn the people behind of upcoming obstacles, vehicles, hazards, etc.  

The two leading helmet communications makers are Sena and Cardo.  These 2 both have mesh systems which allows the communications to use multiple riders to relay messages across the group.  This also allows for larger groups of riders to all communicate at the same time.  These 2 mesh systems are not compatible though (although Cardo now offers a bridge feature).  This mesh approach is great for street riders who ride close together.  However, off-road the mesh approach has some issues.  Off-road we have things like dust, gravel, and rocks getting kicked up by the tires, narrow trails, and other issues that make us ride much farther apart.  We also have hills, canyons, mountains, and other obstacles that interrupt the communications.  If the person in the back drops their bike, communication is lost pretty fast as the other riders increase the distance.  Just when you need it most you lose communications.  

I did some investigation into options.  I found this great YouTube video going over this same issue and several solutions. 


I looked into these options and decided to go with the BTech GMRS-Pro and the push to talk (PTT) button.  This works slick with my HJC/Sena helmet system (and likely most others).  It pairs to the helmet intercom as a second phone.  This way you can still use the intercom via Bluetooth as normal until you are too far away and the intercom drops.  Then you simply use the PTT button to contact the other riders.  If and when you get back in intercom range you can switch back.  Switching back and forth is automatic really.  The intercom is much preferred as it allows continuous 2-way communication and is lower power (less radiation). I prefer to use the radio only when needed (which happens on many rides).  This BTech is really the only GMRS radio with Bluetooth profiles to support this configuration.  I found others that support Bluetooth for app integration but this device also supports profiles for hands free communication and the PTT remote. This radio is also waterproof making it a good choice.






This radio is a 5 Watt unit which is not something you want too close to electronics or your body really.  I don't really need to see or touch the radio when riding since I have the PYY button and the mic and speakers use the helmet intercom system.  I set the channel and volume and forget it.  I decided to clip it into my rear pack, as far from me as I can.  I zip the pack on the clip which retains it very well.  The radio is waterproof so no worries there.   

That all seemed like a great idea until we tried it while riding.  The PTT button would only work sometimes, maybe half the time.  I suspect the EMI from the motorcycles ignition system interfered with the Bluetooth signal from the PTT button.  I decided it was time to mount the radio on the handlebars.  I made a mount on the left side which is also only a few inches between the PTT button and the radio.






I found that having the PTT button on the grip was a problem since it would sometimes get in the way of the clutch level.  I moved it to the mirror mount using a strip of Velcro tape and the strap it came with to keep it in position.
This worked OK but you have to reach for it and it can slide along the strap a bit.  I finally moved it to the clutch lever.

Look closely and you can see one zip tie on each side of the clutch adjuster so it can't move at all.

I used 2 small zip ties to retain it in place. Now I can use my index finger to press the button while riding without having to reach.  It is also in a place where I would never hit it by accident and it does not move at all.


The GMRS radio can also communicate with FRS and Ham radios.  This means others can have an array of different radios and they can all work together.  You just have to chose the same channel.  FRS channels 1 - 7 appear to be the best choice for compatibility with both FRS and GMRS at 5W.  Channels 8 - 14 are limited to 0.5W so not great for our purposes.  Channels 15 - 22 would also be good as GMRS can go to 50W here but because of that high power capability you might pick of many other radios that are very far away.  

Here is how I setup my system.
  1. Pair the BTech radio to your phone via Bluetooth.  This is used to simplify configuration, not communication really. The Btech app uses this connection to communicate with the radio so the app can be used.  Follow the instructions in the app.  
  2. Pair the BTech radio to the push to talk (PTT) button.  Follow the directions that come with the radio and PTT button.
  3. Pair the BTech radio to your helmet intercom via Bluetooth setting it as a second phone.  Follow the instructions for putting the radio in paring mode.  Then put the helmet intercom in pairing mode to pair to a phone.  Treat the radio as a 2nd phone in this case. With HJC/Sena you enter the configuration menu using the helmet intercom buttons until you hear "pair second phone".  


Monday, September 25, 2023

I bought a Husqvarna 701 Enduro

 I really enjoy riding my electric mountain bike off-road around here.  I go every weekend.  However, there are more places I would like to explore that are too far to go on it.  I do have a rack to carry it with my SUV but that takes work and still the riding range is limited (by me).  I started riding with a friend who is also into dual sport motorcycles.  He convinced me to get a dual sport bike.

Back in the 80's and 90's I had dirt bikes.  My first was a 1982 Honda XR250.  It was not very powerful so I upgraded to the XR500, then a 1986 XR600.  My last dirt bike was a 1989 KTM 500MX and that was the best bike I owned to that point.  Fast forward more than 25 years and now I bought this 2023 Husqvarna 701 Enduro.  




At 325lbs it is the heaviest bike I have owned by almost 60lbs.  It is also the most powerful at 74HP, 10HP more than my KTM.  I wanted a dual sport so I would not have to haul it and because I wanted to explore some roads that require licensed vehicles.  I like the idea of just riding from my house.    

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Use an old smartphone for bike navigation

 


I enjoy mountain biking off-road and often in areas with no cellular.  Sometimes I ride in areas with many established trails that cross each other and navigation would help.  I looked into bike navigation but they have small screens, are costly, and many of the features are redundant with my Garmin fenix 6x Pro Solar watch.  I also never trade in my old smartphones so I have several fairly recent ones laying around.  I decided to use my old Motorola Z4 smartphone as a biking navigation using.  First I needed a real robust mount.  I started on Amazon and found this one


It grabs all 4 corners and locks in place.  

I cleared and reset the phone, removing all unnecessary apps to minimize battery consumption.  I also put it in airplane mode, and keep WiFi and Bluetooth off to save power.  The Moto Z4 I am using also supports MotoMod batteries, of which I have a few.  I am using the 2200mAh unit primarily and I can hot swap in others if it gets low on the trail (which is unlikely).  I could also connect the phone to the USB port in the bike display to keep it charged if I wanted.  I removed the SIM card as well so it would not search for cellular even out of airplane mode.  Then I installed Google Maps, Trailforks, Garmin Explore, and GAIA maps.  All of these offer offline maps of bike trails.  There are many others too.  So far I found GAIA to be the best for bike navigation as it can ever store satellite maps offline. 

Here is how I organized the home screen.   


Here is what GAIA maps looks like.

Here is a video showing the use of this riding some trails.

This first ride was on a pretty easy trail.  I have yet to test it on harsher rides but so far it seems solid.  I am of course by no means the first person to do this.  I wanted to use an old phone, and not my current phone, just in case that mount breaks or I crash the bike.  Also, I didn't want to drain the battery on the phone I use normally since I want to be able to make calls, or message through my Garmin satellite messenger in case of trouble.  









Saturday, July 1, 2023

2010 Mercedes E350 4matic - sold

 


I am selling my 2010 Mercedes E350 4matic sedan.  It has 167k miles on it but runs and drives great.  There is a slight whine in the drivetrain that has been there for years.  The rims have curb rash and some are somewhat bent but it does not cause any problem. It was hit in the back in 2019 but there was no structural damage and we had it repaired at Benishek & Will which is a very reputable body shop.  Current Kelly Blue Book value is $5,782 - $8,569.  I will sell it for $6,000 or best offer.  








I bought this car in 2015 from Autohaus in Peoria.  We took many road trips in this car, especially between 2015 through 2018 so many of these miles are highway miles.  The car has had very few miles since 2021.  It has always been kept in a garage.  This is the first year of the W212 body style and these have been great cars.