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DFW to Baja and back on a KTM 1190

dfwrider

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Argyle, TX
Thought about shipping my bike to San Diego, but I wanted to get in a long ride. Plan was to meet up w Patrick in Ensenada and loosely follow a Baja 1000 race. I am on a KTM 1190 and Patrick on a KTM 990. Patrick raced in the Cortez Rally that immediately preceded the 1000. Here is a pic of my 1190.

Ride to the Border from Dallas
Two long days on I-20, I-10 and I-8 to San Diego. Left late morning on a Wednesday and I had an appointment in Ramona CA for that Friday morning to get a tire change to TKC 80s. I have made the ride from Dallas to San Diego before, but I did it over 3 days leaving plenty of time for a more northern route with plenty of great riding. Since I only had two days to make the trip, I was left with long days of Interstate riding into a 20+ mph head wind (for what felt like the entire way).

Spent the first night in El Paso and the second night in El Cajon CA. On the ride over the mountains heading into San Diego, the temps dropped to 45 degrees with a heavy rain and plenty of wind (4,500 ft altitude). I prepared for lots of stuff, but I didn't bring gear for 45 degrees and rain. I checked the forecast 3-4 days before I left which did not have any indication of rain. Note to self: check the weather forecast right before leaving. Fortunately, my gear is water proof, so I was able to survive it (barely).
 

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dfwrider

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Day 3

All American KTM in Ramona CA
Great little KTM shop where I had an appointment for a tire change. Reminds me of SMS Racing before the move to McKinney. Only sells KTMs and about double the size of SMS. I had shipped tires to the shop since apparently TKC 80s are back ordered everywhere. The tires were there when I arrived and they had me back on the road in an hour. Friendly group of people with plenty of stories about riding in the area. They also were very knowledgeable about the border crossing and riding in Baja. They put me in contact with one of their customers who is a Baja expert…he was very helpful with food recommendations and riding ideas.

Roads around San Diego
While it was raining pretty hard around Ramona CA, the roads and area looks like some incredible riding. This could be a good mix of mountain and desert riding w interesting offshoots like Joshua Tree nearby. The towns are also pretty cool w local shops. Need to explore this area further on a later trip.

Headed to Ensenada today crossing at Tijuana. Border crossing was uneventful, and I made it quickly to Ensenada. Unfortunately, the weather stayed in the 50s with drizzly rain all day. Pic below is my bike at the beach in Ensenada.
 

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dfwrider

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In Ensenada, I am staying at Horsepower Ranch which is a pretty cool place. There are lots of cars here getting ready for the Baja 1000 race. There are also some cool collectible cars along with plenty of horsepower (and a just a little bit of testosterone) on display. As the evening moved forward, more and more people showed up for a pretty big party in advance of the race starting tomorrow. No shortage of fun and interesting personalities at a gather like this. Most people come from Southern California, and I would hate to see their budget for discretionary spending on Baja racing. Planning to see the starting line for the motorcycle portion of the race, which leaves tomorrow. The cars/trucks/buggies leave a day later. Pics of cars below:
 

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dfwrider

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Day 4

The starting line was quite a scene. More cool trucks, buggies and bikes. This race is apparently a little more relaxed than the Score 1000 in the Fall. There are some guys racing vintage motorcycles, which is hard to imagine. We were at the finish area today, and the vintage guys came in 2-4 hours after the faster bikes, and they came in well after dark.

Rode from Ensenada to El Rosario. Stayed on the road for most part. There were two sections of fantastic twisty riding on great pavement divided by flat, straight and many small towns in between. The second set of twisties leading into El Rosario was unbelievable. It was through rolling terrain with lots of rising, descending and blind turns (and on pavement was perfect). We tried to head to the Pacific Ocean down a dirt road. Everything was fine until we ran into some "loose" sand. We were climbing up a hill that looked pretty firm, but both bikes came to an abrupt stop, sinking and burying both wheels. When we got off the bikes, they both stood upright without any support. Pretty incredible to see a couple of 600 pound motorcycles standing like this.

In El Rosario, we stayed at Baja Catus Hotel. The rooms were incredible finished with wood and stucco and one of the nicest rooms I have stayed in during a motorcycle trip. Oh yeah, big showers with very hot water. Also, the restaurant next door (Mama Espinoza) amazing food. For breakfast, I highly recommend the Langosta (lobster) omelette shown below.
 

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Vinny

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Feb 24, 2008
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Austin, Tx
Good stuff. Baja on a 3 wheeler !! no way to miss any holes the whole way.
 
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I saw an article on that Bronco I think. The original driver had it sitting in his lot rusting away since it raced a long time ago in the Baja and they pulled it out and restored it to run again!!!!
 

dfwrider

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Day 5

Rode from El Rosario to San Ignacio. Got a late start after breakfast, and had about 330 miles to cover so we stayed on pavement. The first 2/3 of the road was fantastic with plenty of turns, elevation changes and great scenery.

We got a special treat along the way seeing a medical support helicopter on the ground at a stage check point for the race. The pilot and paramedic were both avid motorcycle riders, and they were both happy to swap pics with bikes and helicopter. They said that the govt will not allow jet fuel to be sold on the peninsula due to drug concerns. As result, they truck and stash barrels of fuel down the race course for their use. The helicopter burns 45 gallons of fuel per hour, so they must need quite a bit of jet fuel.

Speaking of the drug concerns. There has been a significant military presence through out the trip. We haven't had a single moment of concern in any capacity. The people of Baja have always been great to me on trips to the area, and this trip is no different. The Baja peninsula feels a world away from the problems of the mainland.
 

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dfwrider

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Stayed at Rice and Beans Resort in San Ignacio last night. Typical Baja hotel focused on the off-road scene. Rooms were clean and had hot water...so all the important boxes were checked...:)

Day 6

San Ignacio to Bay of LA

Started today with another fantastic breakfast. Every meal I have had in Baja on this and previous trips has been incredible. I guess since everything is effectively a home cooked meal it is hard to beat.

After breakfast, we were treated to the helicopter support team landing at our hotel to refuel. They rolled a fuel barrel that had been stored at the site to the helicopter. They then put a pump into the barrel and used a car batter to power the pump so the fuel could be transferred to the helicopter. Pretty low tech solution for a high-end piece of machinery.

Once we got on the dirt, we set our sights on San Francisquito. It is a gorgeous bay accessible only by off road and a tiny airstrip. I am not really sure why there is an airstrip, but each time I have been to San Francisquito there has been a small plane there. Anyway, there is a small shack where the lady will make some fish tacos on request.

The road started off as a gravel road for probably 20 miles, but it then converted to a rough jeep road for another 50-60 miles. This second section of road was a combination of hard pack and deep sand. It was a bunch of work to ride a 600 pound (fully loaded) bike in this type of sand. The front end wanted to drift around, and it was a challenging ride to allow the bike to "float" through the sand to find its way.

Along the way, we came across a support station for the race so we took a break to watch some of the action. These guys set up camp in the middle of nowhere and provide mechanical support to the racers.
 

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dfwrider

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We then rode onto San Francisquito for fish tacos and a break. We thought about spending night there, but the place had been hit very hard by the hurricane last year, and the accommodations were in poor shape. Although it was getting late, we decided to make a run for Bay of LA for a proper dinner and hotel. *We had about 80 miles to go on a jeep trail, but this one was mostly hard packed with small rocks (some partially buried, some loose). We figured to be riding in the dark, which I generally avoid, but this time we were motivated to get back to "civilization" (defined as hotel wifi but no cell signal in this case).

We rode the last hour in the dark. Between my high beam and a pair of rigid lights on my crash bars, I had plenty of visibility. We slowed down to ride within the range of our lights, so it was actually a relaxing ride. Do to the slower pace, I never felt uncomfortable or at risk in any way. I enjoyed that portion of the ride a great deal.

We pulled into Bay of LA around 9pm. We stayed at Costa Del Sol Hotel which sits on the water and has an awesome patio facing the water. The people and the rooms are very nice. Had a fantastic dinner in our dust covered clothes before crashing for the night.

Pics below include some wild horses and Joe Hauler (owner of the motorcycle carrier business). He was a great guy who traveled with us for part of the journey in his tricked out Toyota truck w a 22" suspension he personally built.
 

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dfwrider

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Day 7

Pic below shows view from this morning at the hotel.

We left Bay of LA and did some fantastic pavement through a winding valley before jumping off-road headed to Coco's Corner. The road to Coco's was a lot of fun. It was a winding road up, over and through a series of mountains. Not much sand today, but plenty of loose and partially buried rocks. The road reminded me of some the Colorado riding I do in the summers, but hotter and with desert scenery if that helps. The temps today hit 94 at it peak according to my bike computer, so it was the first day that I felt hot...not too bad though with the wind and dry air. We made it to Coco's, and it was exactly how it looks in the pictures. I mean, EXACTLY, how it looks. I am always disappointed that my pics never give the feel of how something looked/felt in person. Well in this case, if you have seen the pics, you have pretty been there. Coco had apparently been in the hospital for the past month, but he was there when we came thru. We had a quick beer and headed out for some more dirt riding.
 

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dfwrider

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1190 Thoughts

1. Wind screen is low compared to GS ADV which works well off-road but not so much on long road stretches. I also missed the boxer engine to prop my legs on during the long stretches. The wind screen lays back pretty flat…I am going to try installing some 1 inch rubber spacers on the top bolts of the wind screen to make it more upright. I am hopeful this will make it better without having to get a larger wind screen.

3. Speedo is 5-10% fast as confirmed by my GPS and signs that use radar to show your speed.

4. Stock skid plate ejected somewhere early in the trip.

5. Bike feels much more nimble than it should considering the weight. It is definitely better off-road than the GS in my opinion, but the GS is definitely more comfortable on the road. It is interesting how much difference there is between these two bikes.

6. 3rd gear is pretty incredible off road...it pulls like a tractor but can still carry enough speed to handle the quicker sections. Both 2nd and 3rd gears deliver power in a controlled way making the more technical sections easy to handle. I love the way these gears chug up hills with low RPM...blup, blup, bulp, blup is the sound I am starting to love. My dirt bikes deliver power more explosively which would be harder to handle on a heavy adventure bike.

7. I set my primary objective for this trip as being to not fall down or get hurt. I told myself to ride at a 50-60% of what I felt I was capable of doing. I decided to try leaving the bike in street mode which kept ABS engaged. Since I wasn't interested in spinning the rear tire or locking the rear wheel on this trip, this setting worked great for me. No falls or close calls on this trip.

8. KTM side cases suck

Right side case leaks on side stand. In a rain, water runs down the channel and flows over the rubber gasket. I know this because my clothes were soaked.

Center stand is a little awkward to use with the side case installed since the place you put your foot to lift the bike is too close to the side case.

The left pannier was bouncing several inches on its mounts when riding in the dirt. I would be concerned that the constant bouncing would cause stress cracks in time. The right pannier seems tight and wasn’t bouncing.

While the latches work ok on the road, once off-road, the dust killed the latches on the panniers. The latches became harder and harder to operate, and I was generally only able to get one of the latches to connect. I was able to make it work a little better by washing out the latches with water, but this became less effective over time. I was afraid that oil or silicon spray would only attract more dust. This situation got worse as the trip went on. Also, the latch situation got worse, the locks quit working. Fortunately, I don’t think anyone wanted my dirty clothes. Since the locks are not working, I also can’t turn the key around to the point necessary to remove the side cases. So, my bike has the side cases semi-permanently attached for the moment.

KTM need to improve the design, but after-market panniers is the way to go on the 1190 for now. Talking with my dealer, the 2015 accessories catalogue states that the side cases are not intended for off-road use. Not sure if this was disclosed in the small print when I purchased the cases. I am surprised that KTM didn’t discover these flaws during testing.
 
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Apr 23, 2012
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Cloudcroft
Thanks, very helpful. I've been about to go crazy waiting for the 1290 to show up. They say those cases will be standard. I wish they would just keep them and lower the price a bit! I wish someone in the aftermarket would design some brackets/cases that would utilize the KTM quick release setup.
 

dfwrider

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Argyle, TX
Our next stop was Gonzaga Bay. This place was amazing....in the middle of nowhere with a row of houses lined up on a spectacular bay (and another dirt airstrip). This is one where the pics below don't do it any justice. At the end of the beach was Alfonsinas Resort. This place was very nice so we sat down of a late lunch, which ended up being the meal of the trip. Freshest fish I can remember eating.

After leaving Gonzaga Bay, we headed up the new highway on the Sea of Cortez. Perfect pavement for the rolling twistys along the Sea and mountains. It reminded me of riding along Highway 1 in Northern California without development or trees. Btw, not sure my comparisons help, but trying to describe it a little better since we didn't stop for pics along the road.

Before pulling into San Felipe we went through one of many military checkpoints, but this one was a little different. On all of the other stops, they just waived us through. At this stop, the guy running the operation was older and didn't have on a happy face. He had me off my motorcycle and went thru all of my bags. No big deal but a little disconcerting to see a bunch of guys w machine guns looking unhappy.

We decided to make a run for Mike's Sky Ranch. The first 80 miles was fast pavement and the last 20 was dirt into Mikes which was highlighted with lots of ups/downs and turns...fun stuff to finish the day (again in the dark). Mike's cooked us some large steaks that were fantastic making today the official best day for foodies of this trip.

The bar area at Mike's is very cool (pics don't do this justice either). Like every place you stop, it is covered in stickers, but this place is different. It has more of a shrine feel with nice leather couches and sections of wall dedicated to famous and past away riders.

Lights go out at 10pm sharp when the generator is shut off. Note to self: make sure you have you flashlight handy by then. When the lights go out, it is VERY dark which does make for some unbelievable star watching.
 

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dfwrider

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Last Day in Mexico (Day 8)

Another great breakfast before riding back out the dirt road from Mike's before heading to a border crossing at Mexicali.

100 degrees into Mexicali and 118 degrees on pavement at customs
My Zumo GPS screen locked apparently due to the heat…I didn’t fair much better
Rode +200 miles in over 100 degrees
You know you smell bad when can smell yourself
57 degrees at hotel in Lordsburg New Mexico. Had hoped to ride another 100 miles to make the final push home more manageable, but I was exhausted.

Day 9 (Ride Home)

Had planned to go thru Northern Arizona and New Mexico on the way home, but decided I to get home to my wife and kids and skip more exploring.

800 miles today. 47 degrees at start. Upper 80s for most of the route. Started at 8:15 CST and finished 9:30 CST. Averaged 60.3 mph including stops…80 mph speed limit most of the day.

Trip totaled 4,000 miles. According to the bike computer, MPG ranged from 35 at 80 MPH into the wind and at best 43 MPG. Tended to average around 39 mpg blended. Off road, MPG tended to be closer to 35. Ran about 2600 miles on the TKC 80s…while the rear tire isn’t completely done, it won’t handle anything more than some casual local riding before needing replacement.
 

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dfwrider

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Argyle, TX
Stickers, Stickers, Stickers

Stickers are EVERYWHERE. Kids at every town come up and ask for stickers. Reading all the postings, stickers, T-shirts, underwear (at coco's), etc has been one of my favorite parts of the trip.


Great Trip and looking forward to the next one!!!
 

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M

mr-roboto

Ken,

Great report! The bike looks like it handled everything well that you threw at it. I am a bit surprised though the KTM's side cases were not more robust. There might be a chance to swap out for a GOBI or Pelican system...

I look forward to test riding your KTM at an upcoming pie run.

:rider:

Happy Trails,

RB
 
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Joined
Apr 9, 2015
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Forth Worth
Hey Ken,

Didn't I meet you at a gas pump in West Texas as you were heading out that way? I was on a white V-strom heading to NM and beyond, told you I was jealous of that KTM :-) Looks a like you had an awesome trip and thanks for the excellent report. I had a great time too.
 
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dfwrider

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Yep. Great to hear you made it home safely and had a great time. Hope our riding paths cross again in the near future by accident or on a planned ride.
 
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