Fool's Gold

Fool's Gold

Chicken Rick @chicken_fried_choppers

One off-road subset I find particularly interesting is the Back Country Discovery Routes—BDR for short. Unfortunately, most of these trails are located in the western United States. Not long ago, however, a new BDR route opened up much closer to my East Coast home. The Mid-Atlantic BDR (MABDR) is 950 miles long and starts on the Virginia/Tennessee border, then winds through West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania before crossing the New York state line. That’s the one that calls my name.

With that dumb idea in my head, I set about assembling a few other gluttons for punishment to join me on such a ride. To my surprise, the response to my wild hair was overwhelmingly positive.

 Adam Sandoval @adamsandovalofficial


I started a group chat to keep interested participants up to speed. The trip would be just for fun: no matching t-shirts, chase trucks, or strict itineraries. Our jump-off point would be at the Clarion Hotel in Damascus, VA, on Memorial Day. Nothing else was carved in stone.

With that loose plan penciled on the calendar, I focused on building a bike for my adventure. My buddy Dr. Matt found a ‘97 XL1200 online just 20 minutes from my home. Its previous owner was getting out of motorcycles, so he gave me spare parts, riding gear, and a Harbor Freight table lift as part of the deal. I gifted Dr. Matt the bike lift for his trouble and checked the calendar. It was December 30. I had just five months to turn another man’s misguided chopper project into an off-road warrior.

Brandon Long @badfishcustoms


My donor bike’s motor was strong, but everything else was junk. My basic conversion plan was to alter the riding position, add some off-road tires, and upgrade the suspension. I used one of my LeRoy Tracker inverted front-end kits with some mods and additions. For the rear, I installed a set of 12.5-inch-long RWD piggyback shocks to give the bike more ground clearance. The only one-off part on the bike was a custom seat Counterbalance Cycles built to my specs, and it turned out great. Everything else on the bike was simple bolt-ons: stock peg mounts, a 3.3-gallon fuel tank, and some 9-spoke mags with Shinko 805 Adventure tires.

We finished converting my Sportster with a week to spare—plenty of time to ride from Buffalo, NY, to Damascus, VA. Dr. Matt was my travel partner and rode a similarly spec’ed XL with some personal touches of his own. The ride to southern Virginia was mostly trouble-free, but our 110-mile range forced us to stop every two hours for gas. It rained a couple of hours on day one, but the weather gave us a break for the rest of our ride to the jump-off point.Jay Adamski @speedjonesy


When we arrived at the hotel in Damascus, ten guys were waiting for us and four were MIA. We had a short rider’s meeting to discuss trail protocol, then agreed to follow a lead rider who used GPS info off the MABDR website. None of us had ever ridden this area before, and certainly not aboard a 550-pound Harley dirt bike.

Along the route, we picked up a guy named Brandon aboard a heavily modified off-road XL. Everything was going well until about 100 miles in. That’s when our group leader got crossed up in a mudhole and low-sided. While we were getting his bike straightened out, we noticed that half the group was missing, so a couple of guys turned around to assess the damages. As it turned out, one of our guys went down and twisted his ankle. He rode through to the end of that off-road section then took the pavement to the hotel. This wasn’t going to be easy.

Tim Statt @gigastatt

At four p.m. we stopped for gas before the last 75-mile off-road section of the day. Some of us had had enough and hopped on the highway to make a beeline for the hotel. I led that group. That might sound like a copout, but it was still 2.5 hours of twisty two-lane at the end of a long day. In this part of West Virginia, there are no bad motorcycle roads.

Chris Marino @coolbeanschris


On the second day of our adventure, Amy’s 4-speed Sporty was giving her a hard time, so she switched to her Dyna S and gave the trails another shot on an even less sensible machine. Since Heinrich crashed out, one guy left our party and two more joined in. At 175 miles, day two was the longest by far, with our destination that evening being Smoke Hole, WV.

Things were going pretty well until our first gas stop. GPS was glitching, so we pulled out our trusty paper maps and tried to find petrol. That’s when things went off the rails. Half the pack went ahead to the gas station. One bike wouldn’t start, so the group splintered. We waited a half-hour for everyone to get straightened out and ready to proceed. Can you say, “shit show?” Between wrong turns, personal challenges, broken machinery, and short attention spans, everything that could go wrong, did. Misery reached its zenith when Brandon over-cooked a turn and his bike landed in the bottom of a 100-foot ravine. He wasn’t hurt, but it took four guys a couple of hours to get the bike back on the trail.

Mercifully, the remainder of the day was uneventful. We all met up at the hotel that evening. Once the group reassembled, I took a vote to see how we should proceed; all but two said they were okay with taking the pavement to our destination on day three.

 Dr. Matt Coburn @makakam44


On day three we lost Heinrich to an injured ankle, Adam to a busted clutch, and Josh due to headaches back home. With rain in the forecast, Dr. Matt and Jon decided to head home early. During breakfast Brandon and Chicken Rick also informed us they were heading back to Tennessee. From an original cast of 13 our team was now down to seven, me included. We decided to head towards State College, PA, on two-lane roads for the last leg as a group. We had a few humorous interactions with locals along the way. All in all, it was a nice day.

Jonathan Rivers @pbxorcist

We rolled into State College PA, around dinnertime, and went downtown for food and beer. After talking shit and filling our bellies, we found a hotel that had indoor parking so we didn’t have to leave our bikes and gear in the rain. It would be the last time I saw the rest of the group on the trip. On Thursday morning Jordan met his wife and headed back to Ohio. Cool Beans Chris and Jay slept in and headed back to Jersey that afternoon. Rob and Amy left late morning to visit the Catskills. I headed home solo. My five-hour ride home gave me plenty of time to reflect. Would I do something like this again? Hell yes! Would I adjust the number of off-road miles on any given day? Of course. Even after the hardship, glitchy GPS, and myriad surprises and headaches, it was the adventure of a lifetime.

Heinrich Thomas @hthomas3223