The Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route is a scenic ride across the state of Colorado, beginning in Four Corners and finishing at the Wyoming Border. The route has been created specifically for dual-sport and adventure motorcyclists who are interested in exploring Colorado’s majestic high-mountain ranges and historic mining country.
This 675-mile south-to-north route utilizes many remote and high-elevation dirt roads and leads riders through a number of iconic locations including Telluride, San Juan Mountains, Continental Divide, Collegiate Range, Northern Rocky Mountains and historic Leadville, along the Colorado River.
The COBDR feature-length documentary DVD produced by Noren Films and the accompaniying Butler Motorcycle Map were released in 2013. Free GPS tracks of the route are available for download by following the 'Download GPS Tracks' link on the right.
“I’m really excited to release the latest installment in the Backcountry Discovery Route series, the COBDR. It was a wonderful motorcycle expedition and I think we’ve created a classic adventure ride. Viewers of the film will get a taste of what awaits them in Colorado – spectacular scenery, historic mining towns and exhilarating adventure riding on what is arguably one of the best rides in the country.“ – Sterling Noren, Producer, Noren Films
The expedition team included Backcountry Discovery Route board members named above, as well as journalist Tony Huegel, photographer Jonathan Beck and KLIM’s Jayson Wickencamp.
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Below are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about the Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route.
The Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route (COBDR) is a mostly off-road motorcycle route across Colorado from New Mexico to Wyoming. The South to North route winds through the high elevations such as the San Juan mountains and relaxing segments such as the Colorado River Rd. The route includes dirt, gravel, and pavement surfaces and may include rocks, ruts, sand, mud and snow depending on time of year and conditions. The route can be completed in 4-6 days depending on pace, and is also accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles, as the entire route is at least double-track.
The longest gap between gas stations is approximately 121 miles from Gypsum to Steamboat Springs. There is gas at Rancho Del Rio, but it’s not guaranteed and they only carry low octane gas.
No, you can complete the COBDR using motels and restaurants fairly easily.
In most cases camp fires are allowed, but check with local Ranger Stations to determine if campfires are allowed before you build one. Forest fires are a threat during parts of the year and the rules that manage this risk must be followed. Be sure to fully extinguish fires so they are DEAD-OUT. Use water to ensure a fire is fully extinguished and the ground is left cool and wet.
There are a few natural water sources along this route however, depending on the snow pack, some may not running. You can find potable water in the towns along the way. It is suggested that plenty of water is carried for personal and cooking use. Here is a video on water filtration filmed in the Oregon Backcountry: http://youtu.be/vqOFZAoZdTU
The tracks for the route can be downloaded free of charge online at http://www.backcountrydiscoveryroutes.com/COBDR
Always bring a complete set of maps for the area you plan to ride. They have good information about roads, water sources, and are an indispensable resource when the GPS doesn't work, or is giving questionable advice. Unplanned events can occur and having paper/synthetic maps of the area can be a life saver. National Forest maps are available at http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/map/state_list.shtml#U and local Ranger Stations. COBDR Butler Motorcycle Maps are available at www.touratech-usa.com or www.butlermaps.com.
Any bike that has a license plate, can run knobby tires, is set-up to carry the gear you plan to bring, and has the fuel range to make the distance between gas stops. Most adventure or dual-sport motorcycles will be suitable for the trip. Choose the bike that you are the most comfortable riding in desert and mountain terrain.
Any GPS unit capable of displaying 10 track logs with a minimum of 500 points each is suitable for use on the COBDR. Garmin models that work best for this application are: Zumo 665/660, Montana, GPSMap 60, 62, 76, 78 and 276. Other GPS manufacturers may have units that will work. Check the technical specs to determine suitability.
The COBDR route is designed to be ridden on adventure and dual-sport motorcycles, as well as driven in 4x4 vehicles. There are no single-track style trails on this route. Many of the roads are in remote areas and reach high elevation areas where road maintenance is minimal or non-existent. You can expect to cover sections of road with deep ruts, loose rocks, sand and other challenges. There are also sections that have deep sand. Road conditions change from week to week based on the recent weather. When you see signs that read, “Roads maybe impassable when wet”, use caution, roads become very slick and can be impassable. You may also encounter sections that have trees or branches over the road. There are alternate "easier" routes around a few of the most challenging sections. Depending on time of year and weather, there may be a few small deep water crossings. Flash floods are frequent during summer storms. Don’t cross flooded washes. Wait until water subsides.
The COBDR is best from July-September and sometimes October if no early snow storms have occurred. The route can be done in June, but snowpack in the high mtns may keep you from doing the entire route as mapped. There have been some years where the snow has not cleared from the high country until the last week of July.
Yes, there are several gates on the route. Most remain open unless BLM or NFS has closed them due to snow closure.
DOT approved knobby tires (such as Continental TKC 80 or Dunlop 606) are strongly recommended.
Colorado has fast moving thunder storms during the summer months. These storms usually build in the mountains in the early afternoon and usually contain lightning, hail stones and heavy downpours. It’s recommended you go over the high passes early in the day.
The highest elevations are reached in section where California Pass reaches nearly 13,000 feet. The route travels at high elevations for long distances and is above 8,000 feet the majority of the time.
Most people average 150 miles a day on a backcountry motorcycle trip. Plan on doing this route in 4-6 days depending on how fast you want to travel and how early you want to roll out of camp.
Much of this route is remote and out of reach for cell phone towers. There will be long sections with no coverage. Your best bet is to talk or text in the towns or on top of mountains. You will be surprised where you get coverage and where you don't. A satellite communication device is a good idea in the backcountry.
We are working to include information on current road conditions on our website based on other riders’ reports. In the meantime, you can find the most up to date roads information on www.bushducks.com
Yes the route can be done North to South.
This is a tough question to answer because conditions are constantly changing. If the weather has been moist or temps have been cool, the sand will be firmer and significantly easier to ride. If it hasn’t been hot for some time, the sand becomes very soft and deep. So the bottom line is, learn to ride in deep sand before your trip which will make your ride more enjoyable.
There are several sections where the road is a clay surface north of Haggerman Pass. When wet, these sections become very slick and virtually impassable. When you encounter wet clay roads, a higher gear selection is recommended to keep your rear wheel from sliding. Slow and steady will get you through, but in some cases travel will come to a halt due to slick conditions.
Altitude sickness is certainly possible on this ride. The COBDR reaches elevations of over 10,000 feet many times so plan your ride responsibly. The higher and faster you go up, the greater risk you are for symptoms. Consider spending a night or two at moderate elevation if you are prone to altitude sickness. It’s always best to ride up high, sleep down low. Altitude sickness, also referred to as Acute Mountain Sickness, is the illness causing effect of high altitude on the human body. The exact mechanism by which it occurs is unknown, but the severity of symptoms can vary from mild to life threatening.
Common symptoms of High Altitude Sickness / Acute Mountain Sickness include: fatigue, headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, muscle cramping, insomnia, elevated blood pressure, shortness of breath, water retention and dehydration. Recognizing the symptoms of High Altitude Sickness, getting to a lower elevation, using supplemental oxygen, staying hydrated with water and Acli-Mate® Mountain Sport Drink may help to prevent or reduce the severity of altitude sickness. (Immediate medical attention is advised for moderate to severe AMS!)
We get this question all the time. Here are some key things to consider as you put together your plan.
All of the BDR routes include intermediate to advanced terrain. If a person is on a large bike twin-cylinder bike like an R1200GS Adventure or Yamaha Super Tenere, the routes can be very difficult. If a person’s skills are not advanced level, they may consider taking a smaller bike or choosing the easier options when possible. A BDR is something a person should build up to and it shouldn’t be their first overnight trip on their ADV bike.
Although, WA and CO are less difficult than UT and AZ, they all contain difficult sections. We suggest looking at the Butler Map and take the optional easier routes to avoid the difficult sections. Even taking this approach there may be difficult stretches depending on changes in road conditions, weather, construction and the unknown. This is part of what makes it an adventure. Regardless of its description on the map or in the film, no section of a BDR should be underestimated.
Do some shorter overnight trips as practice and ride increasingly difficult terrain to build up your skills and confidence. Also remember that riding with a fully-loaded bike should be practiced prior to tackling a BDR. Lastly, always ride with a group so that you have a team to help overcome any obstacles whether it’s terrain, mechanicals, navigation, medical emergency, etc…
In summary, take baby steps and work up to doing a BDR. Don’t make it your first adventure motorcycle outing on a full-sized twin-cyclinder bike.
This advice comes from Rob Watt, BDR Board and Expeditions Member, and Wilderness EMT.
We carry items for wound management, breaks, basic meds and dental. You can buy a good first aid kit at one of the outdoor stores online or Touratech-USA. Get one that is an Extended Day Backpacker or 3-4 person kit. These kits usually have the basics for a motorcycle trip.
They usually don't have a SAM splint, so pick one of those up along with a couple ace bandages. One other thing that we do for every multi-day trip, is to gather important information about each rider: allergies, medications, medical issues, emergency contacts, etc.
Then we put that on a master sheet for each person, so if something does happen we have that information handy incase that person can't speak. Another good practice is to do a little research of where medical facilities are along your planned route. Is there a "flight for life" in the area? Where are the hospitals, Medical clinics, etc?
Here is a list of some items that you should have in your medical kit:
(This packing list serves as an example and is not intended to be a complete list for your backcountry riding needs. Feel free to customize this list to work for you.)