UTAH MOTO CAMPING ON TENERE 700
BY: OLIVIER DE VAULX
Utah Overlanding With The Tenere 700
With COVID putting a halt to most international travel in 2020, we decided to do a last minute trip in Utah to test the ability of the Tenere 700 to carry enough stuff for some serious overlanding. However, the term overlanding, usually associated with a big 4x4 loaded with tents, showers, portable kitchen, and all the tools to survive alone in the wild for a month, didn’t seem to fit with our lightweight dual-sport, not even equipped with panniers!
When it comes to motorcycle travels, the less the better. Packing light is key, and we took advice from sailors when it came time to select the items and gear we would bring with us: “Pack your bag with as little things as you can, and when finished, divide the content by two. Then you should be about right.” Installing the MoskoMoto Reckless 40L on the Tenere takes about 1 minute. Deciding how to fit enough food, tools, clothes, camping gear for a 3-5 day trip is another story. The trip started in the garage, with a few hours of back and forth between the bags and the closets. The addition of a duffle bag on top of the Reckless was mandatory, and we ended up fitting everything we thought we would ever need… and a little more.
We carried tire irons, spare heavy duty tubes, sealant, and air cartridges in case of puncture; all the necessary tools, bolts and nuts, including a chain breaker and master links, all packed in a Mosko tool bag. Spare socks, underwear, beanies, tent and sleeping bag, snacks for 4 days and a few water bottles. Austin also took a camping chair and thought about head lamps, the later being a smart last-minute addition to our camping arsenal. Once the duffle bags were secured on the seat using the extra straps of the Reckless, the Tenere 700 looked the part and made us feel like we were ready to go around the world. The last part of the preparation was to upload the GPX track in our Voyager Pro, the red arrow on the touch screen being in charge of guiding us through the most diverse sceneries available in Utah in a minimum amount of time.
After a quick stop at Fasst Company, in Washington, UT, to have a pair of Impact footpegs installed, we started our journey toward the heart of Utah. It didn’t take long after leaving town to find some good sandy tracks, the perfect opportunity to check the balance of our loaded bikes. The combo Dunlop D908/EN91coupled with the stable geometry of the Tenere made cruising through these sections a breeze. Coming up was a steep rocky trail, that required us to keep momentum and balance at low speed while the front wheel was constantly aiming to the sky. Not accustomed yet to the Tenere, Austin pushed his duty as far as crashing before the top, proving the point that bringing soft bags was a wise option, as they protected both the bike and the rider’s leg. We finally reached the ridge of the mountain, our shoulders sore and the jackets soaked with sweat. Still, the view from the summit was worth the effort! The trails then headed to a coast plain, where the riding was pleasant if it wasn’t for some fence blocking the way for miles.
That’s when you see the difference between the route planned on a computer and the real world. Getting late, we reached the mineral paradise of Grand Staircase Escalante just before sunset. The golden light was painting the rocks with delicate shades of orange and purple, while the sky was turning pink. The last miles to Alstrom Point were done by night, on a sandy double track that made us think about amateur riders trying to finish a stage on the Dakar Rally. It was slow but fun, and we managed to somehow avoid jumping off the cliff when we reached the vista point over the lake. In this pitch dark night, we still had to install our camp. This meant unpacking and unfolding the tents, figuring out how to insert the foldable poles in the fabric, then inflating the mattresses. Thanks to the aforementioned head lamps, it was only a matter of minutes before we could sit, me on the ground and Austin on his comfy chair, and admire the perfect Milky Way above our heads.
In the morning, after a chilly but not too uncomfortable night, we realized that our reserve of water was dangerously low. With eighty miles to the next town and the sun rising quickly, it was almost a problem, until we met good samaritans in a Subaru who happily shared a bit of their 20 gallons. It was then with a light heart that we enjoyed the view of the sunrise from the cliff, in an incredible gradient of orange light over the turquoise water of Lake Powell. Racing through the sandy tracks that we had done slowly the night before, we crossed the second half of Grand Staircase up to Boulder. In this half day, we encountered many more different landscapes than we could describe. From canyons to mountains, from desert to forest, from sand to rocks, from slow and technical trails to super fast dirt roads, we discovered an incredible diversity of terrain and sceneries.
We enjoyed it so much that we almost forgot our goal for the second part of the trip: finding the few spots where we could enjoy the fall colors. After Boulder, we headed toward Hell’s Backbone road. Once in a while, a bright yellow tree was illuminating the forest, but it was overall very green. Not ready to give up on our dream of a colorful palette, we settled for the night on a river bank. Setting up the tents was easier with still a bit of daylight remaining, and by the time the Milky Way was in full display, we were ready, with full stomachs, warm beanies and a Canon EOS perfectly set up. With no clouds in sight, the starry night was once again magnificent, and more than compensated for the dropping temperatures.
In the morning, the miracle happened. It was just a few miles before we found the autumn colors we were looking for. Along the river we elected as an improvised campground, bursts of fall foliage were paint-brushing the forest with splashes of red, orange and yellow. It was almost impossible not to stop every 2 minutes to snap a picture or just take in the scenery, enjoying these cascades of colors. Having been quite jealous of the pictures posted by east coast riders every fall, we felt avenged. With so much time spent in awe in front of these natural paintings, we were running late and had to take a stretch of pavement to finish our loop before the night. That’s another strong point of these adventure bikes, as they can swallow highway with ease, letting their riders enjoy the red rocks of the Utah mountains as the miles add up.
After 562 miles of dirt roads, single tracks, double tracks, rocks and sand, night and day riding, the two Tenere 700s were dusty but ready to take more. Even without the addition of panniers or gigantic bags, we were able to handle an expedition including off-the bike camping with no problem - except for the part where we almost ran out of water in the desert. Never did we use our tools, the heaviest part of our equipment, and even Austin agreed - quite reluctantly - that the camping chair might have been overkill. Our minimal luggage proved to be sufficient and we felt empowered by a huge sense of accomplishment, even if the trip itself was quite small compared to other adventures I have done on the Tenere (see Upshift issue 50 about the Continental Divide). On the way back to Southern California, we made plans to go back on other camping expeditions, with the goal of packing even less stuff… and to log more miles!