Archambault’s Angle: To Build A Fire

To start a fire…

This story is more ‘On Any Sunday’ than the tale that Jack London told, but it’s still a solid reminder to be prepared.  A few weekends ago a bunch of us from Touratech-USA met up early on a Sunday morning at the shop to load the Sprinter van and trailer and head over the Cascade mountain range to Mattawa ORV park.  Even with the mild winter this year in Seattle, getting out of the wet and into the sun of the desert sounded good.  There was a nice collection of moto-vans when we arrived to meet up with our buddies and even socked in with fog it was going to be a good day.

Since I am currently without a modern dirtbike, and my vintage race bike is still apart getting a fresh top-end, I took this chance to log some miles on my KTM 950 Adventure in preparation for the Desert 100 that is only a few months away.  It took a few miles to shake the cobwebs loose after a few month hiatus from riding the big KTM off-road and the reduced visibility cause by the dense fog didn’t help this much.

The group split up a few times and we lost each other in the fog but we regrouped and decided to drop down into the Beverly Dunes to get out of the fog in hopes it would soon burn off.  With visibility down below 35 meters it made for an epic trip down the ridge to the sand.  Even middle of the pack you couldn’t see the leader, all big picture perspective was lost.  Once in the dunes it was a new experience for me, as I had never ridden dunes.  I can tell you the big KTM was a handful, but at least I had plenty of power.  This is where things started to go bad for me.


After getting the feel for riding in the deep sand I blasted my way towards my buddy Alex, since he had a camera out on the top of a dune.  There was a brief, exciting moment when the front-end got pretty tank slappery (I need to get a steering damper one of these days) after rolling off slightly and then I decided not to jump the dune, but carve it.  I proceeded to get a bit stuck, that is when my clutch, unbeknownst to me, gave up the ghost.  Revving to the to the moon in a few gears trying to get out, Alex yelled to me asking if I had a Recluse auto-clutch, which I do not, because even with all of the noise and fury my back wheel was not turning.


“Once in the dunes it was a new experience for me, as I had never ridden dunes.  I can tell you the big KTM was a handful, but at least I had plenty of power.  This is where things started to go bad for me.”

We let my KTM cool down for a while, since it was on the verge of over heating, and hoped the clutch would come back enough so that I could ride down to the highway a mile or so down hill, then on the road back to the van.  Everyone else blasted off to take turns on a huge hill climb.  With the engine cooled down and a few guys pushing and pulling, the KTM was rescued from the sandy trap.   On making it to the highway the oil pressure light started to flicker on, the clutch had shed enough debris to clog the screen on the oil pick-up.  I wasn’t heading back the van anymore, I was going to have to wait and get picked up later.  The bank of the Columbia river is far from the worst place to have to wait a few hours.  

With the air temperature in the upper 30’s, the wind coming off the water soon had me wishing I had not left the sleeves to my enduro jacket in the van.  I donned the beanie that I keep under the seat of my bike and walked about a bit.  There were some fire rings and wood down on the banks of the river.  I drained a little gas out of my tank into an empty beer can that I found, took the lighter from my toolkit and made a fire.  Other than wishing I’d brought a book to read, I was comfortable lounging my little fire waiting for the rest of the crew to finish their ride and pick me up.  

Like I said in the beginning, this was not the peril of Jack London’s story, but the fire made the difference from being just bored and being bored and cold for a few hours.  I have not always been as prepared as I should when riding.  The feeling of being broken down and thinking, ‘A fire would be good right now’ and then being prepared build one was awesome.  No one likes thinking they will be stuck with a broken bike, but it happens.

I can fit my beanie and Bic lighter in the palm of my hand, and they made all the difference that afternoon.  Review your kit, think of the weather conditions you are riding in, be ready.  I’m going to be in my garage replacing a clutch assembly now.  The rest of you guys, have fun out there and godspeed.


To read more of Archambault’s Angle CLICK HERE. 

About the Author: Eric is an incurable motorcycle nut. He’s owned everything from scooters to vintage motocross bikes and now spends much of his time riding and talking about adventure motorcycles. If you have been to the Touratech store in Seattle or called the offices, chances are you’ve talked to Eric. Eric recently came in second place in the adventure class at the Desert 100 Race. He’s a key part of the Touratech race team and when he’s not at the local Harescramble or Enduro event he can be found roaming the Cascade mountains on his KTM 950 looking for new routes for the Touratech Rally.