With the 2015 Dakar Rally recently completed and the final results published, I could do little more than marvel at the skills, endurance and mental strength of the riders that had completed the entire rally. One hundred sixty-one motorcycle competitors left Buenos Aires on the 4th of January 2015 and only seventy-nine arrived at the finish line once again in Buenos Aires nearly two weeks later. That’s means that more than half the field of highly skilled, motivated and driven riders were not able to make it to the finish line.
Of the 161 riders that entered the event, only two were women. Both were able to finish meaning for the women, there was a 100% success rate. Finishing 9th overall, Laia Sanz was the highest woman’s finisher in the history of the Dakar. As you can imagine, Laia is not new to the off road world and her racing resume is impressive. She is a thirteen time Women’s Trial World Champion and ten time Women’s Trial European Champion in Outdoor Motorcycle Trials. She has also formed part of the Spanish Female Team in the Trial des Nations, winning it five times (2000, 2002, 2008, 2010, 2011).
In 2010 competed in the Women’s Enduro World Championship for the first time. And also in 2011 participated, for the first time, in the Dakar Rally winning the Female motorcycle category and finished 39th overall, position that she managed to better this year.
The other female motorcycle competitor was Spanish rider Rosa Romero Font. Wife of Dakar winner Nani Roma (A Dakar champion on bike cars) Rosa finished 52nd overall at the age of 45. This was her 4th Dakar and her first finish.
In this intensely physical and mental challenge, these two women riders were able to compete with the men and finish better than most of the starting field. Yet they drew very little attention from the media on their accomplishments. You have to wonder why. They compete on the same level as men, often on “inferior” non-factory machines. This year Laia was on a factory sponsored Honda and was able to provide the highest women’s finish in the history of the Dakar.
Her result may beg a question. “Should there be separate divisions for men in women in the Dakar, or is it better to leave the Dakar as it is?” Would having separate dedicated divisions bring more attention to the women of the sport and perhaps more female competitors for the future. Would creating separate divisions create an unnecessary rift between the men and women competitors and over inflate the women’s finishers performance in light of the current small female fields?
I don’t have the answer, but would like to hear what you think.
Ride2Adventure – Shrink The Planet One Ride At A Time
Recently, Kim and I were having dinner at a small roadside café in the tiny town of Woodstock, Vermont. We enjoy it because it’s small, has a nice atmosphere and is a place where we can bring a bottle of our own wine and enjoy a meal. It was near closing time and the café was getting ready to close when a pick up truck pulled up and a couple got out. The owner of the restaurant met them at the door and told them that she was getting ready to close, but could make them a light dinner before she did so.
The couple said that they were just looking for some takeout dinner and ordered from the menu. During this time, Kim and I sat at our table and finished our dinner. Our bottle of wine had a little more than a glass left so we offered it to the couple who had walked in. The man of couple accepted the wine, introduced himself as Frank and thanked us. We told him it was our pleasure and after some very brief pleasantries, we paid our bill and left.
The following week, we were back at that same little café. The owner told us that the couple had purchased my book, “Mr. Cotton Wanders Europe. Where To Next?”, that they were long time riders and that they had a part in resurrecting the iconic Indian Motorcycle Brand. I was pleased that they had purchased my book, but I felt a little angry at myself for not reaching out to them to chat more before we headed out the door. We shouldn’t have been in such a rush.
Here’s where we get into the part of the Motorcyclist’s connection. Just a couple of days later I received a comment on R2ADV from who else but Frank. He thanked us for the wine again and suggested that we meet as a couple sometime. I immediately responded and told him that we’d enjoy getting together again to spend some time talking about motorcycles and motorcycling. We made plans to meet at the same café the following weekend.
Kim and I arrived a bit early and soon Frank and his wife Barbara arrived. For a while, we had the basic chit-chat about where we lived, what we did and what we liked about the town of Woodstock. Before we knew it, we were talking about motorcycles. Frank and Barbara told us some excellent stories about riding and how motorcycles had been a part of their lives for a long time. Frank told us of how he used to pick Barbara up on the motorcycle when they were dating. Soon, Barbara wanted to ride and Frank was the one on the back seat. The only problem was that when they came to a stop, Frank had to put his feet down to keep the bike upright. He also said that Barbara was an accomplished rider and recounted the time that he was on the back and awoke when Barbara was passing a tractor trailer at full throttle. Clearly, motorcycles had been a part of their life for a long time.
The more we chatted, the more we learned about each other. They were cruiser oriented pavement riders and we told them that we were more gravel and adventure oriented riders. Frank has been and still is a captain of industry and enjoyed several years resurrecting the Indian Motorcycle brand chartered in Springfield, Massachusetts. Barbara invests in and improves real estate as one of her many projects. She also led the Indian Motorcycle cross-country ride from the original Springfield, Massachusetts plant to the new one in Gilroy, California before Indian was sold to Polaris. We on the other hand led significantly more mundane business lives. Frank and Barbara were more comfortable wearing leather on their rides, while Kim and I were more comfortable in cordura and Gore-Tex. They enjoyed the quiet and solitude of riding without communications, their minds free to roam while they enjoyed the sights and sounds of the road. We on the other hand prefer to have electronic communications so we can keep track of each other and perhaps chat a bit about what we were seeing and feeling.
So as we talked about motorcycles and the places we had ridden, it became clear that although we had different riding styles, we were united by motorcycles and riding. It didn’t make a difference that they were more pavement oriented and we more gravel oriented. It didn’t matter at all. What mattered was that we all had a love of motorcycles that supplied a bond unfettered by any of those other life constraints.
Before we knew it, a couple of hours had passed. In fact, we connected so well that Frank asked us if we’d like to see his bikes and take a tour of his garage. He didn’t have to ask either of us twice and we both almost simultaneously said yes! When we arrived, Frank opened the door, and what a sight! Lined up neatly on the right hand side were about twenty bikes. Filled predominantly with Harleys and Indians, the space gleamed with chrome from both new and old machines. There were new Harleys and classic Harleys. There were original classic Indians and Indians that Frank and Barbara had resurrected from the ashes of the old company. There was even an old Indian side hack with a working hot dog stand attached. Seeming somewhat out of place was a red Moto Guzzi screaming to be released to the road. It is one of Frank’s favorite rides and if I owned one, it would be one of mine as well.
So as we stood there in Frank’s garage, I thought about how lucky we were to meet people like Frank and Barbara. A chance meeting had brought about a new friendship united by motorcycles and riding. We learned more about the pavement world and we shared a bit about adventure riding. It was a great experience for the both of us (I hope).
So don’t let the differences between types of motorcycles become a dividing factor. Use it as a uniting tool and learn a little more about what your fellow riders are all about. So Frank and Barbara, our invitation still stands. If you want to get a taste for adventure riding, we have the space and the bikes to give you an introduction. We hope to meet you both again, perhaps on the gravel?
I received an email the other day from a Kiara Wilson of Motorcycle House (www.motorcyclehouse.com) a few days back. She had seen our site and asked if we were interested in doing a review of some of their riding gear. They would make the gear available for free if we would agree to review it on our site giving our honest opinion.
I did a precursory check of their website and found that much of Motorcycle House’s gear is cruiser oriented, so I initially declined adding that we don’t really use cruiser gear and therefore couldn’t give an honest opinion.
Kiara suggested that I spend some more time on their site and browse through all their items and let her know if there was anything we would be interested in reviewing. While I was browsing, Kiara suggested that I might be interested in the Thor Phase Jacket. So I checked it out and it seemed to be a nice piece of enduro gear.
I reinforced the fact that I would give an honest review and that there were no promises that the review would be positive. But I did promise that the review would be honest. I also let her know that it was the middle of winter in New Hampshire, so I likely would not be able to give a full riding impression until things warmed up. Kiara agreed to all of this and as such I agreed to do a review of the jacket. Before I knew it, a Thor Phase Jacket arrived at my home.
I opened the box and was surprised at the contents. My first impression was positive. The quality seemed good, but the engineering of the jacket was what impressed me. The front of the jacket had two 12 inch long air vents complete with waterproof zippers. These types of zippers are more expensive compared to the normal zippers. The pulls are good sized and you can open and close them with a gloved hand. There was none of the “stickiness” that waterproof zippers sometimes have. The main zipper of the jacket is not waterproof but it does have an inch wide flap covering it with Velcro to hold the flap over the zipper. For normal riding it should do a good job of keeping the wet outside where it belongs. The back of the jacket has a similar 15 inch air vent zipper.
Inside the jacket is a mesh inner liner to help move the air around your body and keep the outer shell of the jacket off your body. There is also a an inner pocket lined with fleece big enough for your smart phone/music player. It even has a flap with Velcro to hold your ear bud cord in place. Nice.
An interesting feature are the zip off sleeves. So if it’s really hot out there and you are comfortable riding without the additional protection sleeves provide, they can be quickly removed and replaced when things cool off a bit.
Near the cuff of the left sleeve is a small 6 x 4 inch zippered compartment with a clear cover. It seems to me that this would be a good place to store your license or other motorcycle documents. This is perfect if you find yourself in one of those aww, sh!# situations where you have to produce documents.
The cuffs are also adjustable with a zipper and Velcro tabs to set the adjustments. So on those hot days with the sleeves on, you can also open the cuffs and leave them wide open for some cooling airflow.
In the back of the jacket is a built in ditty bag that could hold perhaps some light tools, a tire tube and similar gear. It could even hold those zip off sleeves. The compartment also contains a belt so that you can fold up the jacket into the compartment and wear it like a bum bag. This is a great idea for those “off the bike” times.
So all in all, not yet having ridden with the jacket I am pretty impressed. It seems like a good piece of kit and I am anxious to try it out.
Does the above mean that there isn’t anything I don’t like about the jacket? No, but my concerns are quite minor. This is a Thor piece of gear and has roots in the Motocross world. As such, the graphics are a bit much for me. The jacket itself is black, but there are some graphics applied that I could do without. It also has some sewn on rubber bits with the Thor logo on it that I don’t care for. But other than those niggles, I’m a pretty happy camper with the jacket and the fact that Motorcycle House made the gear available to us for free.
Stay tuned for a riding impression and video when things warm up.
I don’t generally write about podcasts, but lately I’ve been listening to a podcast that stands heads and shoulders above anything I’ve heard in the past about adventure riding. Adventure Rider Radio (www.adventureriderradio.com) has had my attention for weeks and it’s time that I let everyone in on my little secret.
Adventure Rider Radio’s host Jim Martin not only is the commentator, but also produces a high quality podcast filled with interviews from well known and not so well known adventure riders. In fact, I was quite surprised to listen to a list of guests that included:
- Simon and Lisa Thomas (aka 2RidetheWorld)
- Grant Johnson from Horizons Unlimited
- Simon Pavey (Dakar Competitor and Instructor to Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman)
- Sam Manicom (author of 4 world wide motorcycle adventure books)
- Austin Vince (round the world rider and producer of the films Mondo Enduro and Terra Circa)
Obviously, interviews with people like these is entertaining and with the thoughtful questions posed by Jim, the interviews are nothing short of spellbinding.
All in all, Adventure Rider Radio is a treat to an adventure rider’s ears. Do yourself a big favor and listen to one of the many podcasts. It won’t be the last one you listen to. You can download the podcasts at iTunes or via RSS feed at the Adventure Rider Radio site (www.adventureriderradio.com)
Give Adventure Rider Radio at try, you’ll come away impressed!