Ogden, a National Evangelist for the Christian Motorcyclists Association had ridden from the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, pulling a small trailer with office paraphernalia behind his CMA stickered Victory. Upon arriving at the base for the Big Dog Adventure Ride in Ridgway, Colorado Ogden unhitched the trailer, off-loaded the top box, and then proceeded to attempt a solo record ride using street tires and superb off-pavement riding skills. He was awarded two world records:
1. First Victory motorcycle to ascend, summit and descend from east to west the Ophir Pass.
2. Motorcyclist on the largest displacement motorcycle to ascend, summit and descend from east to west the Ophir Pass.
(Above) 1981 R80G/S entrant Nathan Mende rode to and from the Big Dog Adventure Ride from Georgia, using his BMW for what he says it was designed for (“G” for off-road and “S” for street). (Below) Two veteran Big Dog entrants and long-time BMW riders ask, “Whoa, what’s that?” when they saw the 2013 Zero DS at the starting line on Day 1.
While the adventure envelope pushing National Evangelist was carefully picking his way through football sized rocks, two miles away and 1,325 feet higher in the San Juan Mountains, Big Dogs on 640cc displacement or larger motorcycles were praying for traction as they topped the 13,114 foot high Imogene Pass during a snowstorm. The unexpected ice and snow in August caught some of the Big Dogs unprepared. A new entrant, Kirk Nichols from Severance, Colorado, said after successfully summiting Imogene Pass on his 2009 Kawasaki KLR650 during a severe snow squall, “Next year for this adventure motorcycle ride I’ll know to bring cold weather riding gloves. My fingers were blue, a numbing adventure.”
Epitomizing the core of the Big Dog Adventure Ride was a new Big Dog, Nathan Mende of Watkinsville, Georgia. Mende rode his 1981 BMW R80G/S to the event, off-loaded his traveler gear, and spent three days using the large displacement “enduro styled” BMW to test himself on some of the highest, most dangerous off-road passes in the world. When asked about joining the fraternity of Big Dogs, Mende said, “It was great adventure motorcycling fun, close to crazy-fun, using this founding model from BMW for what it was designed, dual-sport riding before the term was accepted for what is now called adventure riding.”
At the other end of the BMW spectrum was veteran Big Dog John Koenig from Ashville, North Carolina. Koenig had ridden his 2013 BMW R1200GS across the United States, entered the Big Dog and found him appreciating the upgrades BMW had made over the last 33 years of producing the GS models. After the Big Dog event Koenig strapped back on his tent, sleeping bag and remaining clean clothes and pointed the new BMW R1200GS towards North Carolina in a wandering loop that included some miles in Canada and a couple of BMW events.
The Big Dog Adventure Ride was spawned by long-time sponsor, BMW of Denver as a customer appreciation event for G/S and GS owners. Over time other BMW dealers joined, such as Bob’s BMW of Jessup, Maryland. While a majority of the entrants still use Beemers for the Big Dog Ride, occasionally a BMW owner or aficionado will bring their other motorcycles, however, still within the 640cc-or-larger displacement rule.
This year veteran Big Dog Jeff Rowland of Colorado Springs, Colorado slipped in a sleeper entry, a 2013 Zero DS, which met the displacement rule by having “unlimited displacement.” After conquering Cinnamon Pass and Engineer Pass, Rowland said the switchbacks were “much easier than previous years on other bikes such as my BMW XChallenge, 800GS and KTM 950.” While some of the hardened BMW entrants initially scoffed at the “sewing machine,” they later admitted to being impressed by the performance of the electric motorcycle as it ran with their BMWs.
The tale of these two downed Kawasaki KLRs was best described as the “Big Dog Larry, Moe and Curley Show,” Curley being the tow strap that tethered the two motorcycles together in an attempt to bump start one with a dead battery. Upon firing, the towed motorcyclist (Big Dog Larry) attempted to pass the towing bike (Big Dog Moe) while still tethered. Big Dog Larry tried to pull Big Dog Moe around and both went down to the ground.
The 2013 Big Dog entrants faced a wide range of weather conditions, ranging from below freezing temperatures, blowing ice and snow, serious mud wallows as the result of afternoon torrential cloud bursts and at most times the perfect riding weather of a blue cloudless sky. While other events postpone or have riders wait out inclement weather, the Big Dog Adventure Ride allows for no prolonged pit stops, contributing to its having been described as the “world’s highest, toughest, meanest, dirtiest motorcycle ride.”
According to Clem Cykowski, veteran Big Dog Ride entrant and spokesperson for BMW of Denver, “Our large displacement dual-purpose motorcycles could handle the rocks, mud, snow, ice, and ugly terrain. The entrants often growled at the tough stuff. Where we faced the toughest test, whether at high or low altitudes, was dodging the multitude of jeeps and ATVs on the narrow mountain tracks. Twenty years ago we pretty much had the mountains to ourselves. Today some corners, difficult up-and-down sections and tight spots were jammed-up with off-road vehicles having fun in the Rockies.”
To adjust to the changing times, Big Dog Adventure Ride 2014 will move from a weekend event to a mid-week event, starting on Monday and ending on Wednesday. August 11-13 will find the fraternity of big displacement motorcycles pounding the ground in the Rocky Mountains, based in Buena Vista, Colorado.
Of the many rumors started after the 2013 event, one of the more interesting ones was that entrants may expand on the “run-what-you-brung” theme, with first in line being a 1972 BMW with sidecar. As the Big Dog rumor monger said, “Sidecars have been doing tough stuff for over 100 years. The first sidecar the cross the United States did it in 1914, using a 1913 Henderson motorcycle. A 1972 BMW R75/5, with attached Ural sidecar, should be able to stay with some of the Big Dogs.” Another rumor wafting in the smoke signals and winds about the 2014 Big Dog Adventure Ride was that an Indian motorcycle may be handed over to Big Dog Adventure Ride sponsor and adventure motorcycle outfitters, Happy Trails to prep it for the high altitude adventure.
The BIG DOG RIDE is neither motorcycle race nor rally. It is the annual gathering of a fraternity of like-minded aficionados sharing a similar philosophy, their way of thinking.” It is an invitational event and can be viewed at www.horizonsunlimited.com/bigdog.