Taking a break on a dual-sport adventure ride in Vermont
Vermont is ideal for adventure bike and dual-sport motorcycle riders. With 8,000 miles of gravel roads, riders looking for unpaved fun have plenty to choose from. Vermont provides it all: twisty pavement, mud, sand, gravel, rocks and water crossings.
Vermont classifies roads by condition and level of maintenance. Riders can use the classification as a guide for general road conditions. Dual-sport riders focus on class 3 and 4 roads.
Class 3 roads are maintained regularly and typically provide a stable road surface, navigable by a regular automobile, during normal conditions. Spring mud season and periods of high rain are exceptions to this guideline.
Vermont Class 4 roads can vary in quality
Class 4 roads are not regularly maintained, but are town owned right-of-ways. These roads provide access to remote pieces of property and camps, or provide traditional routes between rural parts of town. They are often seasonally used by ATV’s, hikers, dual-sport riders and horses. Some class 4 roads become snowmobile trails during winter.
Road conditions on class 4 roads can range from an easily navigated gravel road to a nasty streambed with only faint reminders of road gone-by. What is passable by a skilled rider on a WR450, may be hell for novice on a DR650. Gather as much intelligence as possible about current road conditions before heading out: remember conditions can change drastically from one year to the next. Traveling with a partner greatly eases the burden when things go wrong. In all cases, respect private land.
Snowmobile trails – unless they happen to coincide a class 4 road – are not open to motorcycles. Stay off them.
Motorcyclists are expected to know where they are and whether they are on a public class 4 road. Traveling on private land is subject to fines.
The State of Vermont publishes a town highway map for every town in the state. The maps are a great resource for determining what is and isn’t a town highway. The maps are in Pdf or Tif format and designate roads as “hard surface/paved”, gravel, “soil or graded and drained earth”, “legal trail”, “unimproved or primitive” or “impassable or untraveled”.
Gravel roads are generally class 3 roads. Class 4 roads are generally “unimproved or primitive” or “soil or graded and drained earth”. A “legal trail” may or may not be open to road-going motorcycles. Rules governing access to legal trails is town and road specific and local select boards set the rules. When in doubt assume they are not open to dual-sport motorcycles.
Jimapco publishes an excellent Vermont Road Atlas and a series of detailed folding maps. The road atlas has excellent coverage, but can be cumbersome to work. I usually photo copy the specific pages I need for a ride and put them in my map case or tank bag.
The folding maps are at the same level of detail as the atlas, but are easier to photocopy. Because they cover a larger area, I find them easier to use in the field.
Google maps are also a great resource for trip planning. I’ve found that Google is good for my “level-one” recon and general route planning. The advantage of Google mapping is the ability pan in any direction. Beware: Google maps make no differentiation between class 3 and a class 4 roads. What may appear to be a casual ride down a country lane may actually be a slog on a barely passable road. When in questionable areas, verify Google maps with another source.
Mapping and route planning are topics of their own. Check out this article for more on Dual Sport Navigating and Route Planning.
Vermont dual-sport riding rewards with views like this
Cycle Conservation Club of Vermont
The Cycle Conservation Club of Vermont is a dual-sport motorcycling club that focuses on small to mid-sized machines. Their mission is to preserve and develop recreational off-road trail use, while having a good time doing it. The club promotes “access through responsible use” and provides rider education.
Membership in the club is a very reasonable $25 per season. A family membership is $40. Your dues allows you to attend their events and rides and supports club activities.
Club rides begin with a riders meeting and then groups head off at their own pace. It is helpful to have a motorcycle roll chart holder to hold ride directions.
BMW Motorcycle Owners of Vermont
BMW MOV is not a dual-sport group, per se, but -- due to the number GS riders in the group – is a good resource for those who prefer dirt.
The group has monthly breakfast rides and two or three riding-events per month. They run the Green Mountain Rally, a three day annual event for their group.
The BMW MOV web site has links to download GPS tracks for Vermont rides. Their popular Puppy Dog Ride is a mostly dirt road ride from the Vermont-Massachusetts border to the Quebec border.
Membership in BMW MOV is $20 per year or $25 for your family. You membership provides you with a monthly newsletter, a directory of members willing to provide roadside assistance to other members, free camping and dinner at their June Puppy Dog Ride and entrance to a number of other annual events and rides.
MotoVermont is a South Burlington based motorcycle rental and tour company that rents BMW and KLR motorcycles. The growing company is run by enthusiasts who can help with where to ride and a bike to ride it on. They can provide gear, self-guided and guided tours.
Moto Vermont has worked with local lodging properties to create deals for riders who book their tours. Riders can book a self-guided tour, where Moto Vermont provides a GPS with preprogrammed routes and reservations at choice lodging along the way.
ADV Rider Forum
The ADV Rider Forum is a world-wide forum for motorcyclists seeking adventure. The forum is a great source of local information about specific roads. For Vermont information, check the Regional Forums/Northeast. You can also find Garmin GPX files for routes or tracks, posted by riders who use the forum.
The riders have an annual cookout/camping/riding weekend every September, call the CroMag Campout. The group rents out the campground after the official season has ended and runs group rides for varying abilities and interests. Check the forum for the CroMag thread for information.