Saturday, August 1, 2009

Adventures in water crossings - Part 1

OK, these aren't exactly epic adventures, but for someone like me who's just learning to ride through deep water on a motorcycle, building water crossing skills has been unavoidable this year. It's the wettest July on record in Ottawa. The good thing is the webbing that's now growing between my fingers and toes has helped to reduce the feeling of engine vibration.

Snorkel and mask

My most ambitious attempt was last year on a trail near the intersection of Highway 7 and Dwyer Hill Road, between Ottawa and Carleton Place. There's a huge block of wilderness beside the highway in this area, which I call "The Lost Quarter". However, this Lost Quarter is almost as wet as the real Lost Quarter in Saudi Arabia is dry. It's full of marshes, streams, and scrubby bush wholly unsuited to anything but hosting wildlife (which is of course worthwhile).

There are some intriguing rutted dual tracks that lead into this area. While I've probed some entry points on the east side, I've never ridden all the way through. The mud can be extraordinary and the crossings wide where streams get trapped between rocky outcroppings. If you're lucky, you hit parts where there's sort of a gravelly base of broken limestone and no mud at all. These are great to splash through on a hot day.

Now consider the photo which shows my bike in front of series of long puddles beside a marsh. Two years ago I started to ride into this area on a whim and found it navigable, but didn't go far because of time, and I wasn't sure my bike would handle deep water. That brings me up to Fail Day. Just that morning, I'd modified my carb vent line with a "T" fitting so my engine wouldn't suck in water during deep crossings. Naturally, I had to test it. Before me lay the entrance in the photo.

I set into the first pond at what I though was a reasonable pace to overcome water resistance without stalling, controlling clutch and throttle to keep revs high. It was like driving into a swimming pool. However, what previously had been a gravelly bottom was now slick with several inches of fine mud because of high runoff. My bike went sideways in an instant and I lost it underwater. Just an inch of the left handgrip showed above water, and there I was standing waist-deep in muck.

Humiliated and panicked about submerging my baby, I managed to wrestle my bike upright, find neutral, and drag it out of the pond and back to shore. Two bicyclists who happened to pass by at that moment looked at me as if to ask whether they should call an ambulance. I stood up the KLR and let the water drain out. Only few seconds of trail riding and I faced a long walk home.

After about a minute, I thought what the heck, let's see if it'll start. Sure enough, first try and it fired right up. What a champ! I eased home and gave the bike an inspection. The T junction worked as planned, and the gasket I'd improvised for the airbox managed to seal out all but a tiny trickle of water. Everything important was dry.

I haven't reattempted this trail. It's deep. Maybe by the fall it'll be low enough to try again.

1 comment:

  1. We call that stretch "The Car Wash" and we have pulled a few flooded vehicles out of there. Beyond the water are open feilds and an old quarry full of wrecked stuff,some fun hill climbs but a real tire hazard with the bits of glass and metal. We call the trail The Dwyer hill. There is some private land and we are on good terms with the owners, there has been alot of garbage dumped which is their main concern. The trail exits at Corkery road. Regards, Chris Pres.EOTB