Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Elephant Ride - Guanella Pass or bust

At 7AM it was only 7 degrees. After a quick breakfast of muffins and Red Bull we walked two or was it three buildings over from the motel to the staging area for the “Elephant Ride”. So by now you’re must be wondering what this “Elephant Ride” is? The rumor is, this ride started about 30 years ago when a group of BMW riders challenged a group of Harley riders to ride over the Guanella Pass (11,669 feet in elevation) in February and meet in Georgetown. The rumor also continues that the BMW riders made it over the pass but the Harley’s didn’t. So since then, on the second weekend of every February the challenge to get up and over Guanella Pass and to Georgetown continues. I also read that the Guanella Pass road used to get plowed in the winter time, but it no longer is at the higher elevations. So in the last few years the challenge is who can make it the furthest up the road, or to the pass itself.

Snow covered bikes

It had snowed over night and it was snowing right now. I brushed the snow off my bike, and tried to start it but it wouldn't start. Shortly after the battery was completely dead. With some help in about 15-20 minutes the bike was running again, by then most of the riders have already left. It wasn‘t a big deal since I was planning on riding by myself anyway.

Elephant Ride staging area

Riders getting ready to take off

Getting the XT started

A jump start was necessary

My XT and CJ's KDX ready to go

CJ taking off on the Guanella Pass road

At the beginning of the Guanella Pass road, I brought my avalanche shovel with in case and my snowshoes.. I figured at some point when the snow got too deep I could ditch the bike and snowshoe up to the pass

As I headed up Guanella Pass road I saw a bunch of Ural’s and other bikes pull in to the staging area across the street. I guess people were still rolling in, and some didn't start the ride til later in the day. So why was I out here this early in the morning? I had as many layers on underneath my jacket, as could possibly fit. But with no accessory plug for my Gerbing headed liner and no heated grips, this would be a very cold ride. The coldest ride I’ve ever been on! I had on my warm and waterproof rain gloves, but in less then ¼ mile I had to pull over and take them off and put on my regular motorcycle gloves with only the thin silk glove liners underneath. That made my hands so much colder, but I had to do it. I just couldn't feel the throttle and couldn’t accelerate gently enough with the bulky gloves on and a few times my back tire slid out on me and I figured that I needed to feel the throttle more.

So I continued slowly. Pretty soon I pulled over for a picture and I was passed by the Ural’s. Then I pulled over for another picture and I was passed by some more bikes. I kept stopping a lot and trying to warm my hands. The fact is, my hands are usually cold anyway, and I use my heated grips on my street bikes all year long. I sure wished I had some on the XT.

After riding about two miles I stopped. My hands were now numb from the cold. It was still snowing and I figured I’d better turn around now while I still had some feeling in them. Funny, I’ve never ridden on snow before this and I thought that would be the most difficult part of the ride. But for me the most difficult part was keeping my hands warm.

I took my time riding the two miles back, stopping a few times to warm my hands next to the motor. In the last half mile of my ride the snow stopped falling and the sun started to come out. It was still cold, but no longer in the single digits. I guess two things would have helped today, #1 - heated grips, #2 - starting the ride in the afternoon when the temps were at their warmest.

I hung out in the staging area watching people still roll in and start the ride while some were already coming back form the ride. From what I heard, possibly three people made it to the top of Guanella Pass today.

CJ pulling in to the staging area back from the ride, he didn't make it to the pass but got pretty close thanks to the chains on his tires

The "after ride" celebration

The Ural's coming back from the ride

A Rokon being towed by a BMW


FATTKAW said...

I don't know if you follow this guys blog but I'm pretty sure you have a pic if him on this ride. Kind of cool!

Charlie6 said...

Was told about your posting via Fattkaw, that's my Ural there that you shot passing by.

So, obviously, heated grips are a necessity! Your bike will go places my Ural won't but I think I'll stick to the Ural for the kind of riding we were all doing that day! I am sure the Uralisti will try again next year, come give us a shout! : )

Note, we still got pretty cold too....still, a fun day overall.

Here's my report of the ride:

Four Uralisti challenge the Elephant Ride

Anna said...


Awesome! I hope to do this ride again next year.


Yes, I read this blog.