SPORTSTER SUMMER 2023 EVENT COVERAGE
AN OFF ROAD ADVENTURE FOR GARAGE-BUILT ADVENTURE HARLEYS
Memorial Day Weekend in the United States is a time for reflection but also a time for families and friends to get together for cookouts, open up pools, and spend quality time outside on one of the first warm holiday weekends of the year.
Back in the winter of 2021 Tim @Gigastatt had his own idea for a Memorial Day Weekend that involved much more adventure and much less relaxation when he first invited 10 friends to try and tackle the Mid-Atlantic Backcountry Discovery Route (MABDR) on homegrown Evolution Sportster “Dirtbikes”!
Who says you can't make a Sportster into a dirtbike?
There are currently 14 Backcountry Discovery Routes (BDRs) and we learned a ton on our first stab at trying to conquer the MABDR in 2022. Later that same year the BDR-X Pennsylvania Wilds route was released which features a loop through some of the most scenic parts of the state!
Tim quickly decided that this new route would be the best possible fit for our trip and allow even more people to get in on the fun without having to travel great distances from the start to the finish and then all the way back home.
Getting the bugs out before the start of the trip.
On Thursday, May 25th I pulled into the postcard perfect small town of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania and grabbed a room for Rob @Thecrazygentlemen , Brandon @Badfishkustoms, and myself at the historic Penn Wells Hotel & Lodge.
This was our designated meetup spot and where we would be leaving from at 9:00am on Saturday morning. Throughout the course of the day more and more parking spots were getting filled with Harley Davidson Sportsters and no two bikes looked even remotely alike!
Tim's Sportster rocking a Lowbrow Hooligan Exhaust and Skid Plate.
Tim’s Sportster is all business, featuring one of his own Corsair inverted front ends, Biltwell seat recovered and double foamed by Counterbalance Cycles, RWD rear shocks, and of course a few goodies from Lowbrow Customs like a Supermeg 2-1 Hooligan exhaust, Lowbrow Customs Sportster skid plate and Biltwell EXFIL-18 saddlebags.
Jeff @Elhefe68 from the SCVM crew ran a 79 ironhead with a full CRF-250/450 front end, Rob ran a full plastic dirtbike tank, we saw custom fixed fairings, sissy bars, one guy even showed up with rigid struts and rode like a champ! For the 2022 trip I went with a YZ250F front end and 14” Progressive rear shocks and all of that ground clearance proved to be major overkill for the terrain we were traveling.
This year I did a 180° spin and loosely stylized a bone stock 1994 XL1200 into a 60’s era XLCH. Pull off the perfectly functioning 39mm front end in favor of a 35mm? Sounds like a GREAT idea - not! Running a buddy seat actually did wonders for my ass all weekend but running stock 2 piece bars in cast riders (that I was too lazy to weld in for safety) had an extra few beads of sweat rolling down my forehead when the going got tough.
Lowbrow Customs provided us all with Fuel Reserve Bottles and holders which relieved us all from the stress of running out of gas especially when the gas stations got fewer and farther between.
Everyone who registered for the trip got some Lowbrow Swag for participating.
All smiles and ready for some miles.
We loaded up at the complimentary continental breakfast and with a bit of a late start it was time to finally get the show on the road. We had 18 riders cross the starting line with about half of those being new faces eager to put their creations to the test!
There are still plenty of gravel roads still in America
We were very lucky again this year weather-wise especially after the 90°+ heatwave in ‘22. Clear skies and temps hovered around 80° but the region hasn't seen rain in a while, meaning it was dusty. Very dusty. The fast group made quick work of the gravel trails rolling on average around 40+ mph bringing visibility at the back of the pack down to mere feet if you didn’t space yourself out far enough.
A few minor low sides happened on the trails before the dust officially claimed its first victim! Tim found himself on top of his Sportster as it slid over 60ft down the mountainside, eventually digging in deep enough to come to a halt!
Remarkably he wasn't injured and was able to get back up the mountain under his own power. It took 7 riders on top of the trail and 5 more down below to pull the bike back up to the road with a heavy duty tow strap! Very thankful someone decided that was a must-have in their pack!
Thank god for the tow strap.
Tim and the bike unscathed from the mountain fall.
Half of our group, including myself, called the day short around 4pm and made the 2 hour trip straight to the hotel. The remaining riders took back off into the woods and planned on doing another 2 hours before calling it for the day.
The gravel-ridden trail took a few more small bites out of their group before a deep narrow rut at the very end of a trail sent Dave R into the ground shattering his collarbone, at the very least. It takes a crisis like this for the illusion of safety to dissipate only to be replaced by the clear and present danger of what we’re actually up against, even just a few hours outside of the nearest city.
While we were out on the trail, we almost never had cell service. I had great results using the GAIA GPS app on my phone with uploaded BDR-X GPS tracks but that was of little use outside of providing our location when it was time to call an ambulance.
Rob hit the road and was able to get cell reception outside of the woods and made the call to 911, luckily the paramedics arrived before sunset because that would have added quite a layer of complexity on top of the injury, as we would have had to figure out what to do with Dave’s motorcycle that's now very far away from the hotel, and even further from home. The woods crew did great and got the situation under control, then made moves and got back to the hotel for a much needed night's rest.
Day 2 prep.
Day 2 was much less eventful in terms of crashing and accidents, I believe that everyone decided for themselves that playing it safe on the trail wouldn't take away any of the fun from the journey we were on. If you ever needed a reminder you could simply look over your right shoulder and see the drop off in between you and the forest floor 50 feet below!
While the terrain itself was decently easy to navigate, the real battle was stamina. The new breed of Hooligan racers make offroading look easy but when it's time for average riders like myself to start throwing around a 500lb motorcycle and gear all day long in the woods, it takes a toll on ya! We powered on through and saw plenty of the amazing scenery that the Pennsylvania Wilds have to offer before stopping for food and gas, then decided to set our sights on State College, PA.
The crew took it easy through the endlessly winding roads, single car bridges, and new beautiful scenery as we made the trek south. A burst of energy and excitement came after cresting a hill and having a picturesque view of the massive Beaver Stadium. Needless to say the group's pace started to pick up as we rolled into town!
Rob having a wheelie good time.
The people of State College were sharply dressed in shorts and short sleeves while our oil-leaking motorcycles and dirt-covered riders wearing overalls and jackets took over the sidewalks of downtown, it was quite a sight to see!
The hotel we stayed in was equally as posh and we couldn't stop laughing at making the hotel guests stand shoulder to shoulder with our dirty, sweaty, vulgar friends! State College provided a night on the town that none of us will forget and the downtime made it possible for us to solidify those new friendships we made on the trails and really enjoy the adventure we had thus far.
This stop, in my opinion, changed the trajectory of this trip and future trips to have those nights of teambuilding and fun. We all signed onto the Sportster Summer trip as a challenge, especially in 2022, but this year we left with a different perspective and philosophy of what this trip is and means to us, and how to improve upon it in the years to come!
I joked with the group that the theme of this recap would be “Hardships make the best Friendships” but it wasn't much of a joke at all, that was the reality of the journey and I find myself very fortunate to have played a part in the fun!
Rocking and rollin!
The official trip came to an end and we all said our goodbyes, but sometimes bad ideas get the better of us… How about a litttttle bit more adventure before we head back home?
One last jaunt through the woods, a couple glamor shots, maybe a few wheelies for flavor, what could go wrong? Apparently a lot! Roughly 30 miles outside of town in the middle of the woods we found a scenic tree-lined trail that would be great for a few drifts, wheelies, and otherwise.
We had a few close calls and then @bungo_industries looped out a full 12:00 wheelie and launched straight into J Kenney’s (@Jkenney319) sportster! Brandon, Rob, and I told the boys to take 5 and we dropped our tool bags and got straight to work fixing both bikes. Throttles, levers, missing pegs, a bent front wheel, and smoked forks were all menu items and we did the best we could to straighten everything out with haste.
Kody ate the fall like a champ, saddled back up and rode his bike 2.5 hours back to the starting line with us, if his front wheel sat in the 12:00 position his bars were a quarter past 2 for sure, I have no idea how he went the speed and distance with such a jacked bike! Couldn't have had a more rowdy end to an already wild adventure.
Tim and some of the bois.
On behalf of Tim Statt and myself, thank you to all of the riders for building their bikes and getting involved with this year's Sportster Summer trip. We look forward to seeing you on our 2024 trip to experience the elements that make traveling on motorcycles so great!!
Words & Photos by: Rick, Chicken Fried Choppers
PHOTOS FROM THE 2023 SPORTSTER SUMMER OFFROAD TRIP
Sky high, lets ride.
riders came from far and wide to ride this wild run.
Some last minute maintenance.
Sportster Summer coming into full effect.
Classy on all cylinders.
She didn't stay clean for long.
And they are off.
Cedar mount rd.
What lyes behind us.
Them overalls are whats up.
Pack like you may need it.
Till next year. SEEEEE YA!
SPORTSTER SUMMER 2023 - REGISTRATION CLOSED
Get all the details on The Sportster Summer run below, and if you are planning on coming be sure to register below to help the organizer's keep tabs on how many people are rolling to PA to rip it up!
To check out a couple of really cool off road Sportsters (including Sportster Summer originator Tim Statt's bike he built for last year's run) check off the Off Road Sportsters: Garage-Built Harley Sportster Adventure Bikes.
Another tip, tires make all the difference, a set of Bates Baja tires would be a solid choice for this run.
OFFICIAL RUN INFO
Click here for all the info on the Sportster Summer run, and check out @gigastatt on Instagram for the most up-to-the-minute news and updates.
BDR-X MAPS AND WEBSITE
This link is for the BDR-X website. You can view the route on an interactive map, download the GPS route, Learn how to upload the maps to your GPS, they have a packing list, and frequently asked questions page. As of now there is not a Butler Paper Map available for the BDR-X.
Memorial Day Weekend, May 26-29th. We will be staying at the Penn Wells Historic Hotel ( 62 Main Street Wellsboro, PA 60901 ) the night of May 25th. The group ride will officially leave the hotel at exactly 9:00am on May 26th.
This year we will be doing the Backcountry Discovery Routes X - Pennsylvania Wilds! The neat thing about this BDR in particular is that it is a loop, so the start will also be the finish. This will make it very easy for riders to drive a truck in and leave it at the start if that is what they choose to do. The route runs mostly on dirt and gravel roads through Pennsylvania State Forests with short stretches of pavement at the start, in between the forests, and at the end of each section.
WHO CAN COME & WHAT TO EXPECT
Anyone with an Evolution or Ironhead Sportster! BUT, be warned, you and your friends as riders are ultimately on your own. Hotels are listed out where each stop will be every night but outside of that, there is no additional support or chase vehicles. If you get separated from the main group they will not be waiting up ahead, make sure you come equipped with maps or non cell service navigation to get back on course.
If other riders choose to stop and help you that is on them, but don’t rely on that or get mad if someone passes by without stopping. Make sure your bike is dialed in, bring extra parts, bring tools, don’t be negligent. Most of the riding will be remote and away from civilization so make sure you pack food and supplies with the expectation of hitting one or zero gas stations throughout the day. The terrain on the last trip was relatively easy to navigate but riding 500lb motorcycle all day long for days on end will wear you out.
We learned a lot on last year's trip and it's better to be over prepared than under prepared. If you are ready to be resourceful and endure some hardships, weather, breakdowns, or anything else that can arise on a trip like this, we welcome you to come.
If that sounds like a lot to deal with, this trip may not be for you. Make friends, make groups, make sub groups with people who share your riding style, get the most out of this trip that you can!
This event is for Evolution and Ironhead Sportsters only. Buell Motorcycles are not allowed on the trip. It's not an elitist thing, we like Buell and other ADV bikes, but for the parameters of this trip your bike has to be a steel frame Sportster. It's a fun platform to build a bike off of and we want to see how many different ways riders will convert their bike into an offroad machine.
There will be everything from bone stock Sportsters with dirt tires to fully decked out race machines, and everything in between. You do not need to throw a bunch of money at your bike, in fact we would rather you spend that money on maintenance items, charging systems, ignitions, batteries, to make sure your bike is as reliable as possible. Make racks to carry all of your gear, bring spare parts, tubes, and tools.
Penn Wells Historic Hotel - 62 Main Street Wellsboro, PA 60901
Best Western Plus Executive Inn - 1002 Earth Rd St. Mary’s PA 15857
Graduate State College - 125 South Atherton St. State College, PA 16801
Best Western Plus - 7701 West Branch Highway Lewisburg, PA 17837
Final Day (5/29)
Wake up on 5/29 and finish the loop back to the starting point in Wellsboro, PA. If you would like to make a hotel accommodation for that night it is up to you.