Americade has been going on for 33 years in Lake George, NY, and it’s always been primarily a rally for cruisers and touring bikes. For the first time this year Americade welcomed dual-sport and adventure touring riders with the off-shoot Dirt DAZE Rally held at nearby Painted Pony Ranch in Lake Luzerne. This is truly a testament to the growing popularity of this segment of the sport.
It was also my first time attending Americade/Dirt DAZE. I rode up Thursday, opting for a route that quickly got me out of the Boston metrowest area and into the nicer roads of the Berkshires and Vermont. I got to the Dirt DAZE area around 3:00, stopped by the Twisted tents to say hi and then checked out the man-made obstacle course where Jimmy and Heather Lewis were finishing up an adventure bike training class. The course had a water pit with hidden rocks, a sand section, a balance beam, lots of logs to cross, a stream bed filled with toy baby heads, a tractor tire pile, and other obstacles to test your bike handling. You could run the course at anytime, and there were a few souls trying it at the time. One guy dumped his DR650 off the tire pile and I ran over to help him right it. We got to talking; turns out he is fairly new to dirt riding and lives in the town next to me! Right off the bat I’d met a new potential riding buddy.
In addition to the man-made obstacle course there were two natural-terrain, single-track courses to play on in the nearby woods. There were several ADV vendors including KTM, Wolfman Luggage, Puget Sound Safety, ADVMoto Magazine, Moto Vermont Tours, Zowa Goggles, Spectro Oil, Cyclewise Ducati-Vermont and, of course, Twisted Throttle. KTM was offering guided demo rides on everything from their flagship 1290 Adventure to their 390 Duke. You could also test out Ducatis and Zero electric motorcycles thanks to .
Throughout the week there were seminars on all things ADV from industry luminaries such as Ken Condon, Jimmy Lewis, Erik Stephens, Bret Tkacs, Bill Dutcher, and more. Even better than that were the rider training classes by Jimmy and Heather Lewis, Bret Tkacs, and KTM’s Mike Lafferty, held throughout the week. In my opinion, the $500 you spend on a slip-on muffler won’t do a damn thing to improve your riding, but spending the same money on training will improve your skill, confidence, and enjoyment of riding your motorcycle.
Thursday night I found myself down by the lake at the main Americade area. I was recruited to ride the Twisted R1200GS LC in the Light Parade. The TT GS is a rolling showroom, with six sets of LED auxiliary lights from Denali and SW-MOTECH. I rode behind the parade leader, who flew the American flag from the back of his Gold Wing. I focused all that candlepower on Old Glory and lit it up like a clear day. It was fun, and I enjoyed seeing all the bikers and their shiny rides lining Main Street.
The rest of the week I worked at the Twisted tent, talking to riders and answering questions from some of the nicest people about their bikes, where they’ve ridden them, and where they’re going next. Unfortunately I didn’t get to do any of the unguided rides or the Moto Vermont guided rides, but I did get to play around on the various courses with the Twisted DRZ400. It was a lot of fun and a good workout!
Dirt DAZE ended with a street stunt show by Chris “Teach” McNeil on his BMW S1000XR and S1000RR followed by Teach and Jimmy putting on a demo at the man-made obstacle course. Just watching riders of their caliber will inspire you and make you realize just how capable these big adventure bikes really are. They also got some of the crowd into the act, including yours truly. I honestly thought that tractor tire pile was smaller…
It all wrapped up with a barbeque buffet and raffle of over $4000 worth of prizes. Everyone was stoked, including the organizers, and word is the event will be back next year, bigger and better than 2016. With the anchor of Americade and a location of endless riding opportunities, I think Dirt DAZE will only grow. Next year I’ll be back with maybe a couple more days to explore on my own. -BZ
The Green Mountain DS Ride at the Dirt DAZE Adventure Rally
(This section was written for Twisted Throttle by Eric Milano. He owns MotoVermont
, a motorbike rental and tour outfit in Burlington, Vermont. When he’s not helping customers realize their motorcycle vacation fantasies, Eric can be found trout fishing the many beautiful streams of Vermont, exploring the nation on his BMW GS, or riding dirt bikes with his 8-year-old son.)
When Bill and Christian Dutcher, the founders and organizers of Americade, asked us to design a Vermont Dual Sport ride for Dirt DAZE, the first thing I asked was, “Can it be challenging?” I know the riding around the rally site in the Adirondacks well, and was certain there were several picturesque dirt roads and trails that would keep 90% of adventure riders very happy. But I also knew there would be another 10% of riders that enjoy a challenge: the 10% with long scratches and dents along the sides of their TRAX panniers, the 10% with rock gouges on the bottoms of their SW-MOTECH sump plates… you know these riders. They are after action; mud-flying, bike-pushing, water-crossing action!
So, with those folks in mind, the MotoVermont team and I set out to plot an exciting and challenging ride through the Piedmont region of Vermont.
The ride began with picturesque, single-lane dirt roads and some necessary pavement through New York State. Our first stop was the old Sherman Store. This turn-of-the-century general store provided us with water, fuel, and a bit of historical relation to the area we’d be riding through. Soon came our first difficult trail; a logging operation left a mile of slick muddy mess to navigate just before the trail turned upward and climbed a wet, rocky incline. A few riders on larger GS’s went down in the mud, and nearly all the riders needed a hand getting up the steep incline. From the top of the hill, the group needed to navigate down about 100 yards of rocky ledge. A few more gnarly trails provided additional challenges before lunch.
Strictly Hodaka was the next stop. Along with housing the largest collection of Hodaka motorcycles in the world, the Stannard family owns Fortuna’s Sausage, an Italian food production company responsible for some of the most delicious food products to come out of Vermont! Paul, Chris, and Patti set up an amazing lunch for the riders and regaled them with stories about their unique collection.
Back on the trail we crossed over Hawley Mountain, an intense pass that had most riders back off their bikes pushing and huffing. On the other side, a steep rocky decline led riders through a water crossing and to a much-needed refreshment stand we set up on the trail. A few more dirt roads led to Glens Falls, where we were faced with pavement and other vehicles before riding some sweet twisties back to Lake Luzerne. All in all, we had a great ride.
Forty riders completed the entire route, and just five riders had to bail early due to difficulty or time restraints. Now the challenge is to come up with something even better for next year!
Eric Milano owns MotoVermont, a motorbike rental and tour outfit in Burlington, Vermont. When he’s not helping customers realize their motorcycle vacation fantasies, Eric can be found trout fishing the many beautiful streams of Vermont, exploring the nation on his BMW GS, or riding dirt bikes with his 8-year-old son.