An Alpine Adventure Among The Stars

Tom Roderick
by Tom Roderick

Riding, rallying, and camping on Big Bear Lake’s north shore

Unless you’re a world-class rally racer, an afternoon spent riding with Red Bull Factory KTM’s Toby Price aboard his booming 450 isn’t a common experience. Note I said riding with, and not alongside Price. The only time I was alongside the man was when he stopped and I caught up. End the day with a cozy fireside chat including Price, Monster Energy Honda’s Ricky Brabec, and Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Skyler Howes and you’ve the ingredients for memorable uniqueness.

Gratefully, Alpinestars didn’t make me travel to the Middle East in the dead of winter to attend this event. Nope, it was a convenient two-hour ride from and to my home in Long Beach — half on freeways and the better half bending through the twists and turns up to and down from Big Bear Lake’s 7,000-foot elevation — that was the icing on this adventure cake.

The invite-only event was billed as an adventure tour, but with no adventure bike residing in my garage, I rode the only viable two-wheeler in my possession which was my personal Super Duke R. Thankfully Alpinestars had facilitated bikes from seven manufacturers including Aprilia, Ducati, Honda, Harley-Davidson, Kawasaki, Triumph, and Zero. The availability of these demo models provided this semi-retired moto-journalist the chance to sample a couple of motorcycles I hadn’t ridden.

An amalgamation of street and adventure gear for Mr. Roderick.

Attendees included media, dealers, VIPs, and influencers who were provided with three different pre-routed ride options including an all-asphalt ride, a 60/40 fire road/asphalt ride, and a guided off-road/single track ride. I spent the morning aboard a 2023 Harley-Davidson Pan America riding the 60/40 route. From all the praise heaped upon the H-D Pan Am, I expected the motorcycle to be impressive, but to me, its handling felt truckish compared to a BMW R 1250 GS, but I am, admittedly, out of practice riding big, heavy adventure bikes in off-road environments.

For the afternoon jaunt, I rode Aprilia’s Tuareg 660 and was a lot more comfortable aboard the smaller, lighter motorcycle. The route was the same as the morning’s 60/40 ride but traveled in reverse with the twist of having Toby Price, and former Nitro Circus rider, Jolene Van Vugt, joining our group.

Red Bull Factory KTM’s Toby Price aboard his KTM 450 Rally bike.

Witnessing Toby skillfully defy gravity aboard his KTM 450 Rally bike was a real treat, while poor Jolene struggled to keep the traction control turned off on her borrowed Triumph Tiger 1200. Understanding her frustration was easy because I too lost the ability to turn off traction control when the Pan Am’s instrument cluster went blank earlier in the day. With the TC on neither bike would accelerate in the dirt. After getting the TC sorted on her Triumph, and as the only local in our group, Jolene was able to omit much of the paved portion of our return route, leading us to other connecting fire roads and back to base camp at The Outpost.

The Outpost is a motorcycle-friendly lodge located across the lake from the town of Big Bear in Fawnskin, CA. Formerly known as the Quail Cove Lodge, the renamed Outpost is co-owned by Jolene, her brother, also a Nitro Circus alumni, and the mayor of Fawnskin, Billy Van Vugt, Billy’s wife Alyssa Roenigk, and two other East Coast friends. The facility touts five cabins and space available for camping, weddings, and other events such as Babes in the Dirt. To provide enough sleeping arrangements for all attendees, Alpinestars filled the extra spaces with glamping yurts and RVs.

It was the mayor himself who designed the ride routes and led the dual-sport rides. All attendees had access to the routes via the onX Offroad app which acts as a one-stop-shop for your mapping, tacking, waypointing, customizing, and sharing needs. One of the app’s coolest features is the ability to save an unlimited amount of zoomed-in and zoomed-out maps for use when you're riding off the grid.

The night before our departures was when attendees sat in a semi-circle around the campfire with the three Dakar specialists. The intimate evening (evident by the fact that Toby Price and Skyler Howes were sharing a blanket) began with the three men explaining their input into Alpinestars’ forthcoming Tech-Air Off-Road system. Which led to tales of woe and broken bones prior to having the protective air device. When the floor was open to questions it was Kawasaki’s Brad Puetz who asked about crazy Dakar experiences. The answer was a surprise.

The KTM/Husky boys don't mind sharing a blanket. Notably, Mr. Brabec chose to grab his own.

According to all three off-road racing professionals, the craziest man at the Dakar Rally in 2022 was none other than current WSBK rider and two-time MotoGP race winner, Danillo Petrucci. Skyler Howes remarked how he was sharing an RV with Petrucci during the event, and tried to help the Dakar virgin by explaining that, unlike a road race that only lasts 45 minutes, the Dakar is a days-long event and pacing oneself is the best way to finish the race. Skyler said Petrucci would smile and say thank you, and that Petrucci was the politest guy he’d ever met. Then, the next day, he’d get on his bike and ride WFO all day long. “The guy’s a beast!” exclaimed Howes.

And with that, I’ll end my summation of Alpinestars inaugural adventure tour. It was a brief but fun and entertaining event that Alpinestars hopes to become an annual experience, and one I hope to get invited back to next year. Cheers to the Dakar riders, and the owners of the Outpost for being the kind of down-to-earth people you want to spend time with. And thanks to Alpinestars for hosting the event and putting in the effort to keep all motorcyclists a little safer.

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Tom Roderick
Tom Roderick

A former staffer who has gone on to greener pastures, Tom Roderick still can't get the motorcycle bug out of his system. And honestly, we still miss having him around. Tom is now a regular freelance writer and tester for when his schedule allows, and his experience, riding ability, writing talent, and quick wit are still a joy to have – even if we don't get to experience it as much as we used to.

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