Jump to content

Safety Tips for UnRally 3


Recommended Posts


The UnRally at Cody is now only 5 weeks away, so I thought it might be a good time to start talking about some basic safety tips. No, I'm not getting into no passing on the right, or being courteous and not cutting back in with barely any room between you and the rider already in the space. Those have been covered in other forums, and all I'll say about that is to be courteous to other riders, and always think "safe riding."


Now, on to some of the survival tips. Many of us who have ridden in the western and mountain states frequently during the summer months may already know all of this, but there may be some of you coming who don't have as much experience out west. So here are a few basic tips that come to mind. Others can chime in with any more that I haven't addressed.


WEATHER: Expect anything and everything, and be prepared.


HEAT: No matter what direction you are coming from, you will probably ride through hot weather. Possibly very hot weather. The plains, east of the rockies, can easily be in the 90s or low 100s during the day. I have frequently ridden in eastern Colorado and eastern Wyoming in July when the temps where above the 100 mark. It may also be very dry. DRINK PLENTY OF WATER. This can not be repeated enough. If you don't have a way to drink while you're riding, it will be important to stop frequently (every hour to hour and a half) to DRINK WATER. And not just a few sips, either. At least a gallon a day of WATER when riding in very hot temps is a good plan. You may not feel thirsty, but drink anyway. Early stages of dehydration can result in fatigue, and stomach or muscle cramps. Once you feel the effects, they probably won't just go away by drinking some water. And when you get to your destination, you'll be too wasted to want to do anything. And you don't even want to get anywhere near being dehydrated. Don't use thirst as your guide. DRINK WATER every time you stop. Keep in mind, the more your skin is exposed to the sun and the wind, the quicker you will lose moisture, and the quicker you'll dehydrate. Try to keep covered even when it is hot.


COLD: High mountain passes in the Rockies can be very pleasant in the summer (70s), but it also is not unusual for them to be quite chilly, too, especially early or late in the day. But depending upon the type of front coming through, it could be cloudy and in the 50s as you're cresting Beartooth Pass at just under 11,000 feet. If your Gerbings is easy enough to pack, consider bringing it. If not, make sure that you have a liner and some warmer clothes that you can layer. If you're climbing a mountain and it starts to rain, you can feel cold pretty quickly. There also is a slight chance of snow at the highest elevations, even in mid-July.


RAIN: Rain can result in some flash flooding at lower elevations, and can loosen rocks in the mountains. If it is raining or recently rained, be extra careful for rocks on the mountain roads. At least one of our members found this out at UnRally 1, fortunately, without major mishap. Some areas may not have had rain for quite awhile, and the oils on the road surface may be getting loosened for the first time in weeks or months. Mid-July starts to get into monsoon season, and afternoon thunderstorms may occur, with lightning. If you see the storm clouds start to build up, think about where you are and how far you have to get. The storms can be pretty strong, but usually don't last too long. Usually.


WIND: The high plains and mountains can get pretty windy at times. Just be aware of it, and do a search for some wind threads if you're not sure how to try to ride through them. You can usually do OK in most windy conditions. Again, usually (see Tony's report on his aborted trip to Torrey). Unfortunately, you can't always wait out the wind. In some places it seems to always blow.


ELEVATION: Cody is at 5088' elevation. Not enough to effect most people. But if you ride in the mountains, you will be reaching elevations above 10,000 feet, and some close to or above 11,000'. You may be fine, or you may feel a little more tired and short of breath. If you have any heart condition, you may feel the effects even more. Most people can handle this just fine. If you feel a little light headed or fatigued, find a place to stop, and relax and enjoy the scenery. Give yourself some time to acclimate. Some people may get headaches at high elevations. Just be aware of the symptoms, and if you feel uncomfortable, stop and let your riding partners know.


ANIMALS: Do not feed the deer, elk, moose, bison, and bears. They are not friendly. When you get into the Yellowstone, Cody, Bighorn Mountain, and Beartooth Mountain areas, the chance of seeing animals increases. If a bear is in your path, stop and let him/her have the right of way (yes, I have seen bears in the road on the Beartooth Highway and up in Glacier). You are most likely to see deer and elk on the road early and late in the day, but you can see them, and other animals, anytime of the day.


MOUNTAIN ROADS: I love the roads in the Rocky Mountains, and especially in this area. You will encounter tight switchbacks going up or down mountains, big sweepers, nice predictable curves, decreasing radius curves, and long straightaways along the crest of a mountain, all on the same road. There are some areas with steep drop offs, and no guard rail. When you see a sign that says 10 MPH, DO believe that this will be a tight, tougher curve, especially if it is going uphill where you may have to shift to 2nd or even 1st gear. Long downhill straightaways often lead to tight downhill curves as the road winds down the mountain. Ride at whatever speed you choose, but remember that curves can come up on you fast, and conditions can change quickly. This is not to discourage you from riding the way that you like to ride. Just be very away of the road and conditions, especially if you're not use to mountain riding. These mountains are vastly different from the mountains in the east.


RIDE YOUR OWN RIDE!!!!!! Just like DRINK WATER, this can not be said enough, either. If you're not comfortable riding at the pace of your group (either too fast or too slow for you), do not hesitate to stop and let them know. You might be able to break off into smaller groups, with one of them going at the pace that is comfortable for you, but all still be able to meet up at the same places, just a short time apart. Be careful not to get in over your head just because you feel that you have to keep up with the group. This is not a place to make mistakes.


If you've never been to the Rockies, you will experience some incredible roads and riding. If you have been here before, you're still going to experience some incredible roads and riding. I've been to the areas at least a dozen time, both in cars and on bikes, and I have never tired of it. The scenery is spectacular, the roads are awesome, the riding can be leisurely or challenging depending upon your skills and riding style, and you will not meet better people anywhere. Nothing that I wrote about here is to discourage you from coming or to encourage you to be so conservative that you won't enjoy yourselves. To the contrary, ride the way YOU want to ride, but keep in mind a few extra things to be sure that this becomes one of your great riding experiences. Those who have been there before know what I'm talking about. The rest of you who are going for the first time will understand by July 15.


See you all at Cody!! clap.gif

Link to comment

Philly ...


Excellent comments. I can share with you everytime I have traveled to the Rockies in the summer at one time or other I have always used cold weather gear.


And it can clearly snow in July ... it may not stick around long but it can snow. I've experienced that many times.

Link to comment

Good points. may I add a couple?


Stop at the overlooks. Remember “You go where you look.” As pretty as that mountain stream is, you probably don’t want to drive off into it! Pull over and take in the scenery!


Speaking as a guy that has gotten run off the road twice… Anticipate cars wondering into your lane that have not figured out that “You go where you look.”

Link to comment

Thanks for the heads up and great tips for riding out west. thumbsup.gif

The mountains are beautifull and mesmerizing so the mind can wander fast so keep an eye for the road!! It will be my first time in the rockies on a bike.clap.gif Although I have done some of the area by cage a few times, a bike adds a different dimention to the whole experience.

As to hydration you nailed it on the head. Here in S.Florida I easily go thru a gallon or more of water and Gatorade a day. On my skiff I see people drinking sodas all day and no water; they come of the water dehydrated!!!! Sodas do not cut it at all in the heat!!

See you in Cody!! welcome.gif

Link to comment



What a great post!!!


Considering some of the accidents we have read about lately, it will do us all some good to get accustomed to the "conditions" in the Rockies. Especially us flatlanders.

I plan to "ramp up" to the conditions, and take in a few sights while doing it!


Great post, I appreciate it, and am printing it now for the missus to read! thumbsup.gifclap.gif


See ya there.

Link to comment
If it is raining or recently rained, be extra careful for rocks on the mountain roads. At least one of our members found this out at UnRally 1, fortunately, without major mishap.



Link to comment

Great thread, Philly!


Let me also add to what Philly said about drinking. It is very difficult to stay hydrated when flying along at altitude with very high temps and very low humidities. If you're thirsty you're already in fluid deficit. But I have to add the importance of electrolyte replacement as well as volume replacement. When it's hot and dry, and you're sweat evaporates so quickly that you're probably unaware of how much you're even sweating, you're losing a lot of Sodium, Potassium and even Calcium out of your pores. Replacing these vital electrolytes is CRITICAL to the proper functioning of your nervous system, heart function, and general metabolism. Think of how your lead-acid battery works--it needs electrolyte-- if you drained off a certain percentage of the electrolyte and replaced it with plain water the capacity for work will diminish. If you're noticing that your clothes are staying fairly dry, but they feel "crusty" (for lack of a better term) what you're feeling is the dried, crystallized salts you've lost.


Generally, 50%-water to 50% eletrolyte containing fluid is best as the common drinks like Gatorade also contain a good deal of sugar. As someone above mentioned, you can also dehydrate on sodas that contain a lot of caffeine and sugar and do not contain many beneficial salts in any quantity.


Regarding weather: on my return trip from Cody Thursday, I experienced just about every weather phenomenon mentioned above: steady winds, gusting winds and dust devils (the invisible, quick left-right that tries to pull your helmet off your head), steady rain, torrential rain, sleet, snow (so thick going over the pass near the Flaming Gorge that I had to take one hand off the bars to wipe my faceshield every minute or so for 10-15 miles), lightning struck about 100 yards off my starboard bow--so close that I saw and heard it at the same time (I've never been that close to a lightning strike before, maybe I'll stay a little closer to these trucks until I get ahead of this front!), temps well below freezing and at least as high as 112*F (according to the giant thermometer in Baker, CA), blowing sand, mud from the water trucks in construction zones, and hail that practically bruised my knuckles! And it was some of the best riding I've done in my life!! (Thank you Mike Valentine!! thumbsup.gif ) The roads over Yellowstone and the Big Horn mountains are SO worth the few miles of road construction! The ratio is about 1 mile of packed dirt (or mud if the water tanker has just come through--just stay in a wheel track and you'll be fine) to about 60-70 miles of breathtaking scenery and awesome twisty mountain roads! Stop and smell the roses, enjoy the scenic overlooks and do all the touristy things or tear it up and have the ride of your life. It is hard to lose--there is so much to do and see in the area!!


Have I mentioned I can't wait to go back??

Link to comment

Reading this makes me want to leave now. clap.gif


Good tips... I'll be bringing my camelbak backpack, to have something to carry a few things in when I decide to hike off somewhere, and to have water with me on the bike and trail.


I've heard they function as a back/spine protector as well. confused.gif

Link to comment

Howard, superb write-up!


Rocks: came around a blind curve one time in my Volkswagen to encounter a boulder the size of a........Volkswagen. If I'd been looking at the view or going 10mph faster.....


Hydration: Howard and Jamie are dead-on.

First symptom of dehydration for most people is feeling sleepy.

Buy a Camelback or Platypus and drink every 10 minutes. When it is empty STOP and refill. Don't wait until you need gasoline. Gas stops happen every 2-3 hours and that's not enough opportunity to drink. And pitstops will be less frequent in hot weather b/c you'll lose fluids through sweat instead of your bladder.


I recommend a cooling vest of some sort. The MiraCool is only $40 and stays wet for days. Or take a cotton scarf, soak it and wrap it around your neck. A soaked sweat shirt works well but I find them uncomfortably damp-feeling. The MiraCool doesn't have that feeling...don't ask me why.


My .02

Link to comment

Great Post !!

Thanks for reminding me to bring my MSR water bag so I can drink on the go, I better pack my Gerbings too.

Link to comment

What Howard said!!! I have been snowed on crossing Vail Pass on my bike on the 4th of July weekend. You can get hailed on any time. The Harley guys hate that (guess why).

Link to comment
  • 2 weeks later...


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...