FrugalNinja250 (Crankcase) View all posts in this topic  
Wed Jul 24, 2013 1:23 pm
Dallas to Colorado and back for the weekend        

Some online friends of mine had a gathering in Colorado Springs last weekend. I've never ridden up that way so I decided to go. My ride would be one day up and one day back, around 750 miles each way. My main concerns were with the altitude and the heat. Though I'd ridden single day rides longer than the ~750 miles to the gathering I've never ridden through or in mountains before.

As it turned out, temperatures were not too bad going up, hitting mid-90's in the plains before dropping as I went up into the foothills of the Rockies. Between La Junta and Pueblo I encountered some light rain, nothing serious, but it was welcome relief from the mild heat anyway.

However, once I got up above 4,000 feet of altitude I started experiencing problems with loss of power, dramatic loss of power. By the time I got to 6,000 feet it was all I could do to maintain the speed limits on I-25 between Pueblo and Colorado Springs. Even dropping down two gears and staying over 10K RPM my max speed as we climbed was maybe 75mph with the throttle pinned.

Just south of Colorado Springs I ran into some significant thunderstorms with 2"/hour rainfall rates or more. That was brutal. I ended up exiting and taking a bit of a break to let the rain move by.

Eventually I arrived at my destination in the Black Forest area slightly northeast of Colorado Springs. It was gorgeous up there. Mild temperatures, NO MOSQUITOES! Clear skies mostly with afternoon rains every day I was there. The air was nice and dry compared to home, and it just felt cleaner. The sun was brutal, though, having to cut through less atmosphere to fry my pasty skin.

My friends and I went on rides both Saturday and Sunday, one of the destinations being a park called Garden of the Gods. What a fantastic collection of rock formations that is! If you're in the area I highly recommend checking it out. The park has a windy twisty road through it as well as hiking and biking trails.

My bike wasn't the only thing suffering from the lack of air at that altitude, though. Our final destination was 7,000 feet, where I stayed at a B&B with a couple of friends. Our rooms were upstairs, and I found myself winded after every climb up those stairs. In fact, pretty much anything I did that required exertion left me nearly gasping. I wasn't there long enough to make more platelets, but luckily I didn't get any of the other symptoms of altitude exposure such as headaches that people often experience.

As all things must, the weekend ended and I got ready to ride back early Monday morning. Temperatures were in the 60's and very pleasant for the early part of the ride. No rain, some clouds, so perfect. Coming down out of the mountains was pretty nice, the bike gaining back some of its lost power. My route was south to Pueblo and then east on 50 to Lamar, CO, where I'd continue on 287 south through Oklahoma and into Texas.

That's where things got bad. Real bad. There was a strong south wind, steady at 15-20mph. Because I was going south-southeast, the wind was generally either head on or slightly off my starboard bow. The net result of this brutal headwind was I spent most of the next six hours leaned to the right and plowing into the wind, making barely the speed limit at full throttle. Often times if there was a rise or slope I had to drop down a gear or two just to keep doing 75mph, the speed limit, and stayed in the slow lane when it was available. That was with me fully tucked behind my Mike's tall windscreen. If sat up for any reason it'd knock 5+ mph off my speed. Every once in a while I'd hit a wind shadow from a coal train parked or running on the tracks to my right, and instantly I'd pick up 10+ mph on my speed. However, hitting the other end of the shadow was like plowing into a flooded roadway and I'd be back down to barely maintaining the speed limit.

The temperatures were also hotter coming back than the ride up but I'd anticipated that and packed my coolvest. This is a quilted vest that has a layer of water-absorbent polymer granules sown between the inner and outer fabric layers. This vest will soak up almost half a gallon of water initially, and when worn under a mesh jacket the evaporation of that water provides significant cooling. About once an hour or so I'd stop and recharge the vest by putting it in a garbage bag and pouring a quart of water in with it. After a minute or two of squishing it around virtually all of the water would be absorbed and it'd be ready for another 60-75 miles of riding.

Eventually I got to a part of north central Texas that has enough hilly terrain and trees to break up the wind, but with my saddlebags sticking out into the breeze the bike just wasn't as fast as I'd like despite being able to maintain my preferred 5 mph over from Wichita Falls onward.

After riding 12 hours and 45 minutes I pulled into my driveway around 8:30 pm. Along the way I had accumulated around an hour of stops for fuel combined with rest breaks. Total mileage wound up being just over 1,600 including the rides while I was there. The winds and altitude killed my gas mileage, there were several tanks that I was only able to average in the low 40's. I used about 33 gallons for a trip average of 48.5 mpg, compared to my normal around town mileage in the low to mid-60's with the new (to me) motor. All in all, a nice weekend trip.

Some final thoughts: Octane. There wasn't a lot of it up there. I saw 85 at one station. Down home 85 wouldn't even work in a lawnmower. Another thing was that I got ethanol-free gas a few times. It was horrible, my bike would cut out and miss at full throttle on it and my mileage dropped. I think that if my bike was tuned for it I would have had better results, but tuning requires removing carbs and that's just not something I want to do on the side of the road. If I were to do this trip again it will need to be on either a larger bike or one with fuel injection. I wonder, how hard would it be to retrofit a 300 motor into my bike? LOL...

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