After nearly two days on the Big Dog Adventure Ride the modified Harley-Davidson Sportster came home to Arkansas.
“It’s a 1200 Harley Dual-Sportster,” said owner John Ogden, a veteran Big Dog Adventure Rider. As other veteran Big Dogs and newbies gathered around the highly modified Harley-Davidson at the Start of the Annual Running of the Big Dogs, there was an undercurrent of awe. Or, as another Big Dog declared, “Awesome!”
The Big Dog Adventure Ride has set the high-water mark for big dual-sport adventure riding since it was first started. Originally a “BMW only” event, it morphed into a “run-what-you-brung” adventure ride for 640cc and larger dual-sport adventure riders. While maintaining its BMW roots with sponsors like BMW of Denver and Bob’s BMW , the addition of well known multi-line adventure product manufacturers like Happy Trails and Wolfman Motorcycle Luggage brought with them a wide range of big dual-sport adventure motorcycle models. These ranged from KTM to Kawasaki with an occasional off-beat entrant joining like a modified vintage Triumph.
Two veteran Big Dogs were owners of Harley-Davidson dealerships and they could often be overheard discussing the possibility of entering a Buell Ulysses. Those campfire-tire-kicking discussions died when Harley-Davidson divorced Buell. Happy-Trails had a modified off-road Harley-Davidson on their drawing boards, but it was John Ogden who had the time, technical skills and effort needed to assemble a modified Sportster good enough to keep up with the rest of the Dogs
In Denver the Sportster’s well worn pavement tires were stripped off and replaced with knobby tires for the severe off-road adventure ahead during the Big Dog Adventure Ride.
To make the wild carnage of the Big Dog Adventure Ride a maximum adventure, Ogden decided to push his personal envelope beyond the annual high altitude extreme riding. To do so he mapped a route to the annual running of the Dogs that would take him first to the extreme ends of roads on the North American Continent: Inuvik, Northwest Territories of Canada at the end of the treacherous Dempster Highway, and then to Dawson, across the gravel Top-of-the-World Highway and finally up the 414 miles of the Dalton Highway to tag Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. On his way back down to Colorado for the Big Dog Adventure Ride he made a short detour to spend time bonding with other Harley-Davidson owners during the Black Hills Motor Classic, known otherwise as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
When Ogden arrived in Denver for the Start of the Big Dog Adventure Ride he changed from street tires to knobbies, did laundry and then spent the next three days romping back and forth across the Continental Divide in Colorado with the other Big Dogs.
On Webster Pass the Harley Dual-Sportster and rider were spotted “resting” while keeping the motorcycle from falling.
The Harley Dual-Sportster saw some of the toughest, ugliest, dirtiest gravel tracks and goat trails the Big Dogs covered. Where some big BMW GS’s were struggling, like up and over Webster Pass, Ogden muscled the heavy-weight Harley up and down. Both Ogden and his motorcycle joined other bloodied and bent entrants at the end of each day to patch themselves and their motorcycles up for another day of extreme adventure riding.
What are the qualities of men like Ogden that make them push themselves and their motorcycles to the extreme adventure riding of the Big Dog Adventure Ride? The answer is a mix, but each rider possesses an advanced appreciation of motorcycle risk management, lust for adventure and a love of motorcycles. As one journalist described them, “These are serious, big displacement motorcycle adventure riders annually enjoying the camaraderie of sharing advanced riding in an environment that tests both motorcycles and their pilots.” Ogden, aged 37 (young for the average Big Dog), has been riding motorcycles for 23 years with seven of those being off-road. His proclaimed occupation was Evangelist and he works for the Christian Motorcyclists Association.
At the annual Big Dog BBQ, famed for its 2-inch thick steaks, the Big Dogs congratulated Ogden on his success in staying with the front runners throughout the event. With license
The rider pinned under his machine was saying, “Are you going to just stand there looking or help get this beast off me?”
plates on the entrants’ motorcycles in the parking lot from California, Alaska, Michigan, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Montana, North Carolina, Utah and Colorado it was Ogden’s from Arkansas that scored the biggest accolades. Not only had he ridden his dual-sport motorcycle to the event, but he had bagged nearly 10,000 miles and some of the toughest off-road riding in North America to get there.
Like many of the other Big Dogs, the Big Dog Adventure Ride was a vacation event Ogden had planned his summer around. With his vacation time nearly exhausted he had two days to depart Big Dog base camp in Silverthorne, Colorado and ride back to his home and job in Hatfield, Arkansas. When he arrived home he sent Big Dog Central an e-mail thanking the organizers for putting together another successful event and assuring them he would return in 2012.
The 2012 Big Dog Adventure Ride will be held August 12-14. One of the event’s veteran Big Dogs, Clem Cykowski from BMW of Denver said of the 2012 plans, “We’re going back to our roots. We were first called the Continental Divide Ride. We want to add a bit of the flavor of Paris to Dakar so we’re doing Denver to Atlantic City. Who knows, maybe we’ll see a Honda Gold Dual-Wingster this year.”