"Dude, what's the address here???" I said as I barged into Bud's hotel room at 9am. "It looks like you’re off the hook and they're coming to pick me up".......He mumbled something. "I gotta write that down; you got a pen?" I asked. He was still pretty comatose from the night before and I was raring to go. In the dark, I saw a pen on the kitchenette table but it wouldn't write. I pulled off the cap and pushed a button on the back of the writing utensil thinking a point would extend.......But stream of pepper spray shot out barely missing my face. "You put a fucking pepper spray pen next to a fucking note pad???? Are you out of your mind???" I said while coughing.....He had no reply as I had just gassed the room. What could he say anyway? I exited quickly and left the door open while he choked and coughed; his chica burying her head under the covers. That's how my day almost ended before it began, but I washed the still burning pepper spray off my hands and walked out to meet Rudy a few minutes later.
I had been down here a few days and was looking for something to do in this small Dominican beach town. I did a quick internet search and I was surprised to find and endless list of activities. I knew Caberete was famous for it’s kite-surfing, but there is also adventure mountain biking, zip-lining (with monkeys!), excellent surfing, horseback riding and much more. When I added “motocross” to the search, Caberete Enduro Tours came up and I sent a quick email to Rudy asking if there was any rides this week that could accommodate me. It turned out there was one on the day before I was to return to NY. I had picked a good week to got to the DR. Frigid weather moved in while I was gone and I fear there will be a thick layer of ice and snow to remove from my truck after getting off the plane on Sunday.
We exchanged a few more emails regarding boot and pant size as well as my riding ability. I was honest (I’m an over 50 vet C motocross rider, and not a very good one) He said I should fit right in on Saturday. He was going on an A ride Thursday with some off-road racers and I thanked him for not including me. I have no desire to visit the local hospitals.
Rudy picked me up in front of my hotel after waiting for 10-15 minutes in the soft morning rain. It turns out he lives less than a mile away but he never knew the Barefoot Beach Pad hotel was there. Rudy’s a friendly, good looking 50-something guy with longish hair and a Belgian accent. We chit chat about gear and riding and rendezvous with the other three riders in front a local bank few minutes later. We then all go back to Rudy’s modest house close by.
In his garage are 6 KTM 250EXCs in excellent condition. Rudy only works on his own bikes and it shows. I was offered the #72 Stefan Everts machine. I’m not sure what year it is but it doesn’t have linkage and does have a carburetor. I would guess it’s an ‘07 but I’m sure someone here will know.
He had piles of gear for us; all in fair to poor condition. While the size was right, the fit of the Gaerne boots was awful. They were fine on the bike, but I could barely walk in them. The pants also were the correct size but were well-worn and the zipper broke soon after I geared up. It came in handy in the form of extra ventilation. The chest protector was missing an upper -arm shield and worst of all, one of the elbow pads must have been slathered in a Ben-Gay or like medicated cream; my left arm was on fire and would get worse throughout the day. Remarkably he would give us full Camel-backs but NO goggles! In his defense it does say goggles are not supplied on his web-site. Rudy didn’t wear any either. I guess he figured no one in this group would be roosting him.
My three riding companions were there on an annual business retreat with the charity organization they work for. They have one free day to see the country and this year they chose Caberete Enduro Tours. Last year it was a memorable trip to the Baja. We were mostly in the same boat, skill-wise. Except Charlie; he was a bit better. All three of them are big boys; over 6 foot. At 5’ 5” I knew I would have trouble getting a foot down while riding the tall-Katoom, but as long as I had an electric start, I felt could deal with it.
We all settled up with Rudy (in cash, it’s a cash-only operation) and after a quick outline of what he expected of us and a rudimentary lesson on the pecking order of Dominican traffic (Truck, Car, Moto, Bicycle, Pedestrian, in that order) we mounted our orange steeds and took off; Rudy ripping a wheelie leading us down his street. It started on the main drag and local roads, then smaller streets, dirt roads and finally we pulled over and Rudy peeled back the barbed wire fence at his secret location and we gain access to the beach.
Before we left, Rudy asked us if anybody had trouble in the sand as we would have to travel several miles on the beach. Everybody said it would be no problem, including me as I had spent many days in deep sugar-sand in the Pine Barrens of NJ, but I had a tip over as soon as we hit the beach. It was the first one of the day, but not the last. I got my sand legs pretty quick, but the conditions of the beach were awful. The sand was soaked from torrential rain and unless you gave it copious amounts of right wrist the sand threatened to swallow the bike whole. We had to travel on the shoulder of the dunes on the logs, palm leaves and other garbage that had washed up at high tide just to get any traction. After a mile or so, he gave up and we took the dirt roads out to the mountains.
Rudy took a quick right up a very steep rocky hill, This was our first taste of technical trails we would be on. Rudy would later tell us it was our first “test”. We all made it up without any trouble. For the next few miles we would stay on unpaved rocky roads that were fun, but the locals on street motos were still able to travel on them without trouble. Here we came to our first rest stop. It was also the time I realized that I had made a huge mistake. I had not eaten anything and it was already after 12. I wasn’t starving, but I knew the day was just beginning and besides the website said that drinks and snacks (NOT!) were provided. I downed a Gatorade that was offered, and that was the only caloric intake I would have this trip.
“This next section you will have to work hard” Rudy told us in his Belgian accent reminiscent of Roger Decoster. “We have a river crossing and some challenging steep, rocky uphills to deal with” he said and gave us some sound advice on how to put power to the rear wheel and when and when not to sit. Soon we were off again. The roads were now too bad for even the local cars and motos and they were replaced by Donkeys and Mules. The first river crossing was a breeze. We all made it no problem and Rudy took pictures of us during the crossing hoping someone would provide some entertainment. We all made it easily.
The first technical hill climb was no joke. It was close to a ¼ mile of steep square edged rocky switchbacks that reminded me of The Quarry Run back home, but worse. I took a run at it and got up about a third of the way and lost it as I underestimated the steepness of the hill. It was a minor tip over (I had about three of those by now). Despite being told not to, I mounted the bike mid-hill, got started and actually made it the rest of the way up like a boss. Rudy was filming this as well and it’s one picture I really would like to see.
A few miles later we rode out of the forest into a small town and we were one bike short. Bart soon limped into town with a front flat. “What are we going to do? Do you have an extra tube?” Bart asked. “I have a piston, a battery, a set of rings but no tube” Rudy laughs. “But I do have a tire repair kit, but only enough glue for one flat, so no more!” And with that Rudy set the bike down in the shade and began to fix the flat. This town was remarkably remote. No power, internet, cell service or even indoor plumbing, yet the people seemed happy and full of life. As we waited for Rudy to fix the tire we were able to see people living life from a different perspective. No modern worries or stress. Rudy seems to know everyone.
The flat is fixed in about a half hour and we were underway again. The terrain is getting tougher now and I must admit it’s wearing me down. Rudy pulls over to give us a talk about the next hill climb. “It’s like that last one but much longer” Rudy told us. I groaned inside. “Just don’t stop” he said. As we rolled up on it I was really hoping it wasn’t as bad as it looked, but it was far worse. Not only was this hill twice as long and even more rocky, but it had just downpoured here and the rocks were covered in slick clay that coated the entire hill. Only Rudy and Charlie would make all the way up first attempt.
I gave it a good try, I really did but lack of food, hydration and fitness got the best of me and I got slammed to the ground not even a quarter of the way up. I knew I was in trouble when I could barely budge the bike; my arms pumped up and useless. I tried to catch my breath as the others ascended to the top, but was having trouble recovering this time. Rudy came down with more bad news. “There is a ton of mud near the top, you’ll have to keep the gas on as you round the last switchback…It was then that I threw in the towel and let Rudy take my bike the rest of the way up. Now it was time to begin the “Walk of Shame” ,but to me it was the “Painful Hobble of Shame” as the Gaerne boots were extremely painful to walk in. I was a mess and it seemed to take forever to climb to the top.
Rudy put it to us straight: “It’s going to be very bad the next few Kilometers, I did not expect this rain”. And he was right, the next few miles were a blur of rocks, mud and smoke. I took a wrong downhill line in one section and ended up going over the rocky embankment on the steep side. But that KTM soaked up everything and I just made it by the skin of my teeth. “I was on my knees for you” Rudy said of my balls-on-the-tank feet-off-the-pegs vertical descent. He thought I was gonna die. I really thought I had it mostly under control but it was hairy. In the first pic I am entering the steep section, in the second, I'm stepping off the bike near the bottom.
I was hurting after another pounding through a muddy rock garden. It must have showed on my face as Rudy offered to take my bike the last hundred meters. “It’s almost over” Rudy said as he mounted my bike and took it through the last gnarly technical section of the day. Yes, I had to take my second (and last) “Painful Hobble of Shame” At this point I didn’t really care, I left my ego at the 2nd technical uphill climb. I just didn’t want to be a burden on the group. “You know you have no more rear brake” Rudy told me. “I think you were using the rear brake pedal as a footpeg and it burned out” He said sounding a tiny bit frustrated. “Is the rotor hot?” I asked. It wasn’t. I really don’t know what happened as I totally had a rear brake the section before. Damn.
It really got much better after that, and lack of a rear brake wasn’t an issue. There were two more river crossings and the trails smoothed out considerably, but at the next rest stop, we had a new problem. Bart had developed another front flat. There was no more glue or any way we could do a trail-side repair so we had to head straight back. Well as straight as we could but we were almost through the loop by now and we were back at Rudy’s house in about 30 minutes.
Rudy brought us around the back of his house where we were to throw our gear in a pile for later washing. We said our goodbyes and Rudy promised to post pics of our ride on his Facebook Page and/or email them to us.. Before we got in the SUV for the ride home, Rudy told us: “Now you know, if any body tells you Caberete Enduro Tours is easy, he’s a liar!” True that.
I want to thank my new riding buddies for all their help and support, both physical and spiritual. Any time I had a problem or even mounting the tall bike, one of them was there to give me a hand. I gave them my email when they dropped me off at the hotel and promised to send me some GoPro footage and pics. I’m looking forward that and sharing this blog with them when they do.
The KTM 250EXC is one incredible machine. Every dual sport bike I have ever ridden pales in comparison to this ¼ liter woods weapon. It’s street legal but will take whatever you throw at it and will reward you with a plush ride. 6 gears means never having to over rev the bike. It has gobs of power down low, mid and well everywhere but it’s manageable power even a new rider can handle. My one and only gripe is it’s 38” saddle height. Trail riding can be tough when you can’t get a foot down.
The Price $220.00 CashThis is a very good value for $220. You get one of the best dual-sport bikes on the planet in race form, and a guide who knows the area like the back of his hand. This is about half of what I paid AdMo for a day ride in Vegas in ‘09 and they gave me an ancient DRZ-400 to ride (It was actually a pretty cool bike). The mountain views are breathtaking. I have no words to do them justice. Rudy does an excellent job of tailoring the ride to the skill level of the riders. Had it not rained in the last few sections, it would have been much more manageable. “Conditions change here in the blink of an eye”. Rudy told us often.
Bring your own gear (and maybe a 21" reinforced tube and repair kit). Rudy has tons of gear but the wet salt air climate takes it’s toll on his stuff quick. Unless it was a spur of the moment trip like mine, I would either send my gear fed-ex (or something) or bring it all with me. Another option would be to use his Helmets as he had a lot of them, a good selection of sizes and they all seemed to be in pretty good shape.
BE in good shape, especially if you’re not an expert rider. Picking up the bike and getting restarted wears you down fast. As a motocrosser, I forget how tough off-road riding can be. If you start to overheat in motocross you can always pull off the track and sit in truck with the air conditioning blasting or stick your head in the cooler (yes I’ve done that). In the woods, the only thing between you, dehydration and heatstroke is your camel back. And eat something. It’s easy to forget to eat like I did in the excitement of the moment, even if you didn’t get pepper sprayed. Had the temps been 10 degrees hotter and the humidity near 100%, things could have ended a lot worse for me.
Book a trip! If you got some skills and are in decent shape you won’t regret it. And tell him 5chord sent you, maybe he’ll give me a discount next time ;-)