Pocahontas paradise for dual sport bikes
In the world of motorcycles, there are different breeds. Between sleek street cycles and rugged dirt bikes is the dual sport bike - designed to go both on and off the road. Dual sport bikes have heavy-duty suspensions and high fenders, like dirt bikes, but more comfortable seats and lights for street-legal highway riding.
Popular dual sport models include the Kawasaki KLR650, Suzuki DR650 and the Honda XR650 - each of which has a loyal following. Numerous other models range in displacement from 250 cc's all the way to 1100 cc's. Every dual sport model can handle the road and dirt, but each is stronger in one area or the other. The DR650 is more of a street-legal dirt bike, whereas the KLR650 is better for highway driving than it is for the dirt.
Dual sport bikes are designed to do two things, so there is some compromise. Even though a DR650 is good in the dirt, it's not going to win a serious enduro race. A KLR650 handles well on the street, but is not as comfortable for long distance rides as a street bike.
Many try to minimize the off-road performance compromise and convert a dirt bike to street legal. Dual sport kits are available from companies like Baja Design, which include lights and switches to make a dirt bike street-legal. But a converted dirt bike has very limited use for highway riding.
A dual sport bike's big advantage is the ability to ride it to off-road destinations. There's no need to transport the bike on a trailer unless you need to transport it long distances.
DeLane Maddy, of Oak Hill, has been riding motorcycles for more than 40 years. He raced dirt bikes competitively for several years and won the West Virginia state motocross championship on a Yamaha 175 in 1972. His several trophies include two from the infamous Blackwater 100, a grueling enduro race, formerly held in Tucker County and billed as the "toughest race in America,".
Now retired, Maddy switched over to dual sport bikes about three years ago. He owns a second home near Frost and spends a lot of time riding his DR650 in Pocahontas County.
Maddy said the street-legal, dual sport bike gave him greater riding opportunities.
"After I got rid of my dirt bike, I got a dual sport bike," he said. "There are more opportunities with a dual sport bike and I didn't have anybody to ride a dirt bike with, so I went into dual-sporting."
"It's just enjoyable to be outdoors and dual-sporting gives you a chance to ride roads that you'll never get to on a street bike and you get to see places that you'll probably never get to see. You'd probably never use the gas or spend the money to do it in a four-wheel drive vehicle. It will get you places that you normally wouldn't go and you see a lot of sights that you normally wouldn't see."
Maddy said Pocahontas County is one of the best places in the eastern U.S. for dual sport riding, thanks to the hundreds of miles of back roads and forest roads.
"Just the scenery," he said. "On the forest service roads and the tops of the mountains, there's just such incredible scenery in Pocahontas County. You see a lot of game. You see deer, turkey, grouse, squirrels. I've seen quite a few bear. That's always fun, to see game and the scenery, as much as anything."
Maddy said only licensed vehicles are allowed on forest roads, that wind for miles through national and state forests.
"Anything that's legal for automobile or licensed vehicles is legal for a dual sport bike, because they are legally licensed," he said. "Of course, a lot of the roads are gated off. Some of them, this time of year, in the spring, are open for turkey season. So if they're open, they're legal to ride on and I take advantage of that."
Using his Frost home as a base, Maddy rides solo and with friends several times every summer. The biker said he sees more and more people on dual sports every year.
"It's a growing sport and I think it's going to grow even more now that gas prices are getting so unreasonable," he said. "This area is fairly close to a lot of metropolitan areas and it's easy to get here on a dual sport bike or haul one in. I think you'll definitely see growth in the sport."
Maddy's DR650 gets from 60 to 65 miles per gallon.
"That's several times more than my other vehicles and it's enjoyable to ride a motorcycle, anyway," he said. "That's another big advantage."
Maddy had trouble choosing a single favorite ride in Pocahontas County, so he described several.
"I like Paddy's Knob Road," he said. "I like to ride Back Mountain Road - that's paved but it's a lot of fun because it has a lot of turns and a lot of beautiful scenery. There's a road that's open, only for spring gobbler season, off of Back Mountain Road, that comes out at Cheat Bridge over on Route 250. That's one of my favorite rides - about 15 or 20 miles on a dirt road - basically across the top of Back Mountain."
The expert advised dual sporters to stop at a ranger station, purchase a national forest map and go exploring. Beforehand, he said, riders should discuss the regulations with Forest Service personnel. Off-road riding in the national forest is strictly forbidden, but riding on numbered forest roads is permitted. Forest roads are generally well-maintained graveled roads, but riders will frequently encounter wash-outs and obstacles along lesser-used routes. It's along the lesser-traveled roads that riders will find some of the most spectacular scenery,according to Maddy.
Another of Maddy's favorite rides starts on a forest road in Thornwood.
"There's a road that puts in at the 4-H camp, that actually runs 30 miles over to Route 33," he said. "It's a Forest Service road and that's basically across the top of the mountain and there's all kinds of Forest Service roads off of it. You can actually go to Spruce Knob from there. You can get to Glady from there and it comes back from Glady to Durbin."
Several internet forums exist solely for dual sport riders, including thumpertalk.net (big, single cylinder dual sports are called "thumpers"), ridedualsport.com, drriders.com and advriders.com. These fora contain information on places to ride and maintenance instructions for many models of dual sports.
The Snowshoe GNCC cross-country motorcycle and ATV races, the successor to the Blackwater 100, will be held at Snowshoe Mountain on June 25 and 26. For ticket and registration information, see snowshoemtn.com.
Maddy invited anyone interested in the sport to send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.