The destination of Day 2 was the Bar 10 Ranch, a remote cattle ranch which also doubles as an attraction for river rafters, ATV tourers, and sight-seers flying over the nearby Grand Canyon.
However, on this day we galloped in without incident to the wonderfully desolate Bar 10 Ranch just prior to sundown. Located just a few miles from the northwestern rim of the Grand Canyon, the valley that seemed to point to the gorge was lit in the warm glow of the setting sun, a time of day in which desert scenery never looks better. A few of us uncorked a beer from the KTM's saddlebag as we watched Lavine capture dozens of frames of the well-used bikes on the ranch's helipad. Maybe we weren't playing Cowboys & Indians, but a few of us felt a bit like real cowboys, looking fondly at our dusty and trusty steeds as the sun sunk gently behind the mountains.
Bar 10 Ranch
is a working cattle ranch that also caters to Colorado River rafters, ATV tours and tourists who stop in from a scenic flight over the canyon. Located in part of the Parashant National Monument in what's known as the Arizona Strip, the ranch lies 80 miles from all public utilities - including power, sewer and telephone lines. On-site generators supply what electricity is needed, and water is supplied by one of the only springs in the area.
The ranch is owned by the Heaton family who have raised cattle on the property for five generations, and they began to serve the need of river rafters in the 1970s. Their continued goal is to preserve the ranch's pristine feeling of remoteness and seclusion from the everyday world while bringing down-home comfort and charm. Meals are cooked and served in iron Dutch Oven pots, and overnight guests have the option of sleeping outside in covered wagons!
A motley crew if there ever was. From left to right: Kevin Duke 'Danger' - Brian 'Wheelie King' Chamberlain - Tom 'I wanna go home' Roderick - Tom 'Dakar Rally' Lavine - Dean 'Did I hit my head on something' Hight - Ken 'Get me another Heineken' Hutchison.
The ranch's unique attributes attract not only magazine editors, but also other more prominent characters. Actors Pierce Brosnan and Dennis Miller once spent several hours at the ranch following a rafting trip, while TV news personality Bill O'Reilly has stayed overnight. Fans of the Food Network might remember a segment it did at Bar 10.
Our host for the night was Joe Sorensen, a relative of the Heaton clan. After serving a hearty meal, he built a campfire for us to sit around and swap stories. He told us how his ancestors came out to this area in the late 1800s - walking, and pushing hand carts! Suddenly our ride on these big dirtbikes didn't seem so epic.
BC and Dean awoke to the morning chill in their respective covered wagons, while the rest of us rose in the lodge to the smell of home-cooked grub and coffee. Cowboys rarely had it this good.
Bellies full, we saddled up for the mildly tricky jaunt to the edge of the Canyon as the morning sun shimmered off the red-hued mountains. This cleared but rocky road is the kind of off-road environment that suits these giant dirt bikes. Technical but not too much so, it took concentration and careful line selection yet not much skill. Once again the Beemer and KTM were the preferred mounts. The steadiness of the slow-steering Caponord and V-Strom (both with somewhat abrupt throttle response and tall gearing) was balanced on the other side by the nimbleness of the Buell and Duc with their 17-inch front wheels.
Not everyone who buys an adventure touring bike like the Aprilia Caponord will take it off-road, but it's good to know it can handle it - if you can.
The road winds its way to the edge of the Canyon and a 1000-foot drop to the Colorado River streaming below. Though this part of the famous canyon is narrow and not nearly as "grand" as what we'd see the following day, it was no less magical. Seeing so much rock cut away by more than 100 million years of river flow makes its observer reflect upon how small and brief a human lifetime is, and if not for a compressed schedule to keep, it would be a wonderful place to meditate.
Ah, yes, the schedule. We hadn't had much time for photos thus far, so we burned a good hour or so shooting on the way back to Bar 10. Then, as we were passing by the ranch's 4,200-foot-long airstrip, we decided to use it for acceleration testing. With a couple of exceptions, we limited each bike to just four runs.
To no one's surprise, the TL1000-based Suzuki went the quickest. The Multistrada's relatively low stature reduces chassis pitch to net the quickest time to 60, even if its two-valve cylinder heads can't breathe with the V-Strom up top.
Though not able to challenge for top honors, the R1200GS amazed us with the highest trap speed while besting the Capo, KTM and Buell. Its tall stature looks to be the antithesis of a drag bike, but its four runs varied by just 0.17 second! Meanwhile, the Caponord feels slow but isn't too far off the mark.
The Suzuki may have been the fastest in our acceleration tests, but the Duc was quickest up to 60 thanks to its lower stature and reduced chassis pitch.
Laying down the fifth-quickest time is the KTM, but some explanation is needed. At some point in our journey the 950 Adventure's carburetion became a bit spastic, with a big flat-spot right in the middle of its powerband. It was slow off the line due to the finicky fueling, but its high trap speed shows some top-end steam. We later rode a different test unit and it was a huge improvement. Though we didn't have time to run it in the quarter, I'd expect a run a full half-second quicker, which would make it top dog in this category.
As for the last-placed Ulysses, it was held back on two accounts. First, the inevitable wheelies that accompany its torquey engine and pitch-sensitive chassis holds back its 0-60 time, and a long-stroke, two-valve engine gasps for air up top.