Sleep In The Dirt

AMSOIL Rides the Divide

Essays From the Field

After being chased by storms all day, just when we thought we had avoided them, we were hit by the tail-end of a sun shower. It was our first rain of the trip, and the double rainbow it provided was a perfect end to our second day on the Divide. After a brief detour to fuel up for the next day, we set up our Copper Spur HV UL2 tents in the fading light and cooked our dinner as more rain passed through.

I have ridden motorcycles with my father for as long as I can remember. It is a passion that I learned from him and for that I am eternally grateful. What better way to commemorate that than pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones with a 2,700-mile ride, nearly entirely on dirt and gravel, from Mexico to Canada.

We were up early the next morning, eager to see what day 3 had in store for us. As we finished packing up camp and rolled off down the dusty road, I noticed something was amiss about my motorcycle. Shrugging it off as nothing more than ‘all in my head’ we continued on our way. About 20 miles into the day we came upon a locked gate on the route. If you’ve never experienced this before, allow me to explain that a locked gate between you and your destination can sometimes mean hours of backtracking. Luckily for us, we were less than a quarter mile from a road that could get us back to the track we were following.

As the day went on, we stopped to take in a gorgeous view, and upon attempting to start again, my sneaking suspicion from earlier that something was wrong with my motorcycle grew into a bitter reality. When I pulled in my clutch I realized the lever had nearly no weight to it at all. I dismounted my bike to inspect the clutch and immediately noticed that my clutch lever master cylinder had fluid leaking everywhere. I felt the anger welling up inside of me.

So much planning, so much preparation: Nearly a year of putting this together; only to have our progress stopped by something so small and simple as a rubber seal, when we’d only just begun. No, there was absolutely no way I would let something so trivial stop myself and my Dad from taking this adventure. We had to continue on no matter what.

After a brief conversation we decided to head back to Grants, NM–our start point for that day. The local shop, Affordable Motorsports, did everything they could, but in the end we still needed to head to a KTM dealership to get the rebuild kit for my clutch lever master cylinder. The catch? The nearest dealership was in Albuquerque–over 80 miles away.

If you’ve ever ridden a motorcycle without a clutch, you might be aware of the problems this might pose. If you haven’t, then please let me explain: Once you get a push to get you going there is no stopping unless you can get the bike into neutral, otherwise the bike will die and you’ll be back to needing a push, or having to run with the bike just fast enough to kick it into gear without stalling. On the open road, this is fine, but my lack of a clutch proved to be a unique challenge, as we arrived in Albuquerque at rush hour on Friday of Labor Day weekend.

After many miles of questionable maneuvers through traffic, and only having to push the bike a few times to get moving again, we made it to the first motorcycle shop. They did not have the parts on hand. They notified us that their other location across the city should have what we needed, and that if we could get there before they closed that they would be able to get my bike fixed that same day. I was ecstatic at the possibility that this day might conclude with me having a fully functional motorcycle. With minutes to spare we arrived at the second shop only to have them tell us that their computer system was incorrect. They did not have the parts. The soonest we would be back on the trail was Wednesday the following week.

Feeling absolutely defeated after a long day of doing everything possible to get back on the trail, my Dad and I made the call to get a U-Haul and head north to Durango, Colorado, where the next closest KTM dealer was located. It was a blessing in disguise, as my best friend had recently moved to Durango, and we would be able to camp in his backyard while we waited for the parts to fix my motorcycle. Ultimately, this would cut out three days of the route, but would keep us closer to our planned finishing date.

As we made the three hour drive North to Durango, that is when it dawned on me: You can prepare all you want, but random chance can always reach out and catch you off guard.  The ability to face adversity and overcome it is the mark of any seasoned adventurer.

Even though initially I could only think of what a terrible day it had turned out to be, I realized I was learning something new every minute of it. As I looked back on the whirlwind of it all, and remembered some of the more questionable maneuvers through rush hour traffic, I laughed knowing that things would come together and we’d be back on the trail soon enough.

Wyatt Gruben works at AMSOIL INC. and serves as Video Producer and Photographer at Higher Base Media. For more of the story stay tuned for the full video of AMSOIL Rides the Divide.


Comments (2)

2 responses

  1. Grace

    I feel you. Riding clutchless through peak hour in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, was probably equally fun. Check that the barrel is not scored, otherwise a rebuild kit will not solve your problem. You can still keep riding, thought; you just need to keep topping up the reservoir. If it’s a mineral oil system, just buy a big bottle of baby oil – won’t damage your seals, and compared to Motorex 75 it’s so cheap it’s almost free. Top up as required. I just nursed my 690 Enduro 3,500km through Indonesia this way – top up with baby oil twice a day, three times a day if in crazy traffic and using the clutch heavily. This will get you wherever you need to go to get the replacement parts cheaply (in my case, the next country).

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