Shrinking The Planet – One Ride At A Time

Posts tagged “riders

Motorcyclists: Our Differences Bind Us Together

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?


Why We Ride

We recently had a wonderful experience that we would like to share with you.  As you can tell, we have always been a big proponents of the community that is the motorcycling family.  For over 30 years, motorcycling has always held a cavernous place in our hearts.  To  us, it has been a means to explore, share, learn and enjoy.  As we’ve ridden, we met new people and made long term friends.

We’ve discovered that motorcycling is more than a “lifestyle”, “brotherhood”,  “fraternity”, “sorority”, or “club”.  To us, motorcycling is all about family.  There are no individual boundaries, barriers or divisions.  Just a large and open family that invites all into its waiting arms with no expectations or requirements other than enjoying travel on two wheels.

While there may be differences between family members as in all families, those differences are transcended by the larger community that is the motorcycling family.  We all have a common bond and we believe that the world is a little better because of it.

While the motorcycle family is quite encompassing as a whole, its role as a builder of family relationships is clear.  Families that ride together stay together.  They develop a bond made stronger by the sharing of the ride.  Kids hanging out at malls, or staring into electronic devices for hours on end is replaced by sun, wind, exercise and most importantly of all, communication between family members.  The very task of riding in itself brings us all together.

“How did the ride go?”  “What’s the track like?”  “Did you work on the bike this weekend?”  “Do you want to go for a ride?”  All these things bring us together and cause us to talk and share.  They constitute a bond that is nearly unbreakable and the more people participate, the stronger the bond.

So what caused me to write about the motorcycle family?   Frankly it was a film that all motorcyclists should see.  It’s called “Why We Ride” and it captures the essence of the motorcycle family.  Even if you or someone you know is not a rider, you should see this film.  You may just end up joining a new family.

Check out their trailer below.  It’s just part of the story.

Why We Ride is an independent film and as such, screenings have been limited.  They try to show the film where they can gain maximum impact; check their website for showings.  It’s well worth a trip to see this film.

Finally, we would be extremely remiss not to mention our friends Charles Sandoz and Jim Smith of Seacoast Sport Cycle in Derry, NH  who sponsored the showing, generously permitting about 150 of our motorcycle family to see this film.  Ride2ADV does not accept advertising, but we felt it very important that Charles and Jim get the credit for all they’ve done for our family.

Go see the film.  Take your family and some non-riding friends.  You may find that your family grows even larger, and that’s a good thing.


Does Your Choice Of Motorcycle Helmet Say Something About You?

Over the years, things in my life have changed; a lot.  I’d like to think that as I’ve grown older, I’ve learned quite a bit, hopefully become somewhat wiser, experienced life’s ups and downs and generally lived the life that I wanted, to the fullest.  However, what is important to me now may not have been so important to me years ago and vice versa.

This came to me a little while ago as I passed through a small space where we keep the bikes and much of our motorcycle gear.  A part of the garage that we lovingly call “The Shrine”.  While there, I was hit with a revelation (pun intended) of sorts that over the years, perhaps my motorcycle helmets said something about me.  For some reason that resides deep in my subconscious, I’ve kept almost all of my motorcycle helmets as well as many of Kim’s.  Seeing them all sitting there lined up on the shelf, they spoke to me.  You’ve changed, you’ve abandoned us!

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They may be right.  What was the single most important thing to me when I was younger was high speed performance.  My fear of death or injury was practically nil.  I can recall pavement escapades that today seem like insanity.  Nowadays, high speed performance is not nearly as important to me.  I now know when I fall off, it takes longer to heal and it really hurts!  My focus is more on the ride itself and what happens during it, than going from point A to B as quickly as possible.  Pavement riding, once the sole realm of my motorcycle riding is now secondary, and riding the gravel or woods is what really burns in me.

So as I stared at the helmets on the shelf, they spoke to me without speaking.  Sleek, solid black Simpson Bandits in different versions cloaked with dark visors reminiscent of Darth Vader glared back at me.   Several Arai RX series helmets adorned with factory racer replica colors practically screamed high RPM.  The ones with the deep scratches from falling off during the years that I was competing in road racing told a story of excitement and falls.  Then there were the helmets painted to my specs based upon my somewhat bizarre sense of humor; including one with an attached 18″ black braid of hair which contrasted with my bald head. Finally there were the visor-less dirt bike helmets and helmets designed specifically for adventure riding.

As I stared at them, I think they had a story to tell.  They told me that my life had changed and my priorities were different.  Perhaps they also reflected the importance I’ve assigned to taking things as they come instead of trying to catch a glimpse of life fueled with adrenalin at warp speed.

So do our helmets say something about us, or was that shrine driven revelation merely a dream?

Oh, yeah; one other thing.  My current helmet is a fluorescent “Don’t Run Me Over” yellow.  What does that say?

Ride2Adventure – Shrink the planet one ride at a time.


Traversing The TAT (Trans-America Trail) Chapter 10

Riding the TAT we’d been in rural areas for quite some time.  But the deeper we ventured into Mississippi, we began to notice that we’d entered another level of rural and got the feeling that we had really passed into an era where time may have stopped for a while.

On the gravel, we found remnants of old farms and homesteads.  It was a little mesmerizing riding through this part of the country.  You could really get the feeling of old-time farming and people scratching a living from farmland carved from the thickly wooded earth.  Each farmer cutting down trees by hand and pulling the stumps with horses or oxen.

By the way, if you don’t know, click on any one of the pictures in the gallery below and it will open that picture into a full size picture and then you can click your way through the remainder of the pictures in either direction in full size.

Then suddenly, the farms disappeared.  Fields gave way to forests once again.  Forests partially relented and gave way to water.  We were in the true wetlands of Mississippi.  When I was a kid, we called these places swamps.  We weren’t in a swamp, we were in the true definitions of wetlands.  The swamps of my childhood were a smelly, litter infested, mud and still water mess.  These were different.

Green and brown never mixed in such symmetry.   The brown water was tinged with green and rolled lazily past the shores.  Trees sprouted from the depths of the water on roots that gave the trees a “standing on tip-toes” look.  The roots arched from the water forming a triangular base from which the tree trunk sprouted.  Although they provided a platform out of the water for the tree trunk, the moss-covered roots reached away from the base and dove into the water.  A clear sign that the tree needed water to survive.  These rounded tubular roots were a natural straw, feeding the ever-growing trees life-giving nutrients and fluids.    It was a great example of the circle that is life, be it human or otherwise.

We stopped to take a few pictures of this natural wonder and in the 30 minutes that we were taking pictures, not a single soul passed by.  We were enjoying our frozen moments, but we had to get moving in order to make it to the Arkansas border for the day.

Before we knew it, we had transitioned into back onto hard surfaced roads and farms once again began made began dotting the landscape.  Most were fairly large and crossing from one to the next took some time.  We had passed several and as we rounded a corner and headed down a straight stretch of road, we came across a somewhat immovable object.  There was a very large animal standing in the middle of the road.

Tracy had already ridden by the large animal but the rest of us were stuck behind.  Kim saw it before I did and said into her communicator, “Oh look, there’s a cow in the road.”   I paid more attention than I had been and sure enough, there was a very large animal standing in the middle of the road.  I muttered into my comm back to Kim, “Um Kim, that’s not a cow, it’s a bull.”  “Oh” was the somewhat unimpressed response.  But the bull wasn’t going anywhere fast and he was in a somewhat testy mood.  He stood his ground and stared directly at us.

Somewhat surreal, in a fenced field beside the road, a group of cows and calves stood at rapt attention watching and waiting to see what might happen.  While the cows watched from the side of the road, the bull watched us and we watched the bull.  We yelled at him and revved our engines, but still he remained unmoved.  Now we were stuck.  What could we do to get this bull’s attention and make him move?  After a lot of shouting and revving of engines, I decided that we had to do something different.  What could we do?  There was only one thing left to do.  I reached over to my handlebar and gave my NH approved street legal horn a blast.  Said horn was of the rubber bulb type normally associated with little children’s bicycles.

After about the 6th “honk”, the bull slowly walked to the side of the road and stared into the brush.  MaryLee took off in a flash and was past.  Kim and I revved our engines, I engaged the clutch and…  stalled my bike.  Great!  I immediately pushed the starter button and… silence.  My battery was now dead, it had given up but we hadn’t.  I kick started the bike furiously and it caught on the fifth or sixth kick and we were off.

With the bull facing to the right we rushed to the left side of the road and we were quickly past.  Not happy with trespass, the bull immediately turned left and started chasing us!  He followed for about 50 yards and then stopped.  But in the end, I guess he felt had to show his bull chivalry and put on a show for the cows who had been watching.

With the bull dispatched, the next item on the agenda was to try to find a replacement battery for my KTM.  I thought to myself, “Oh great, we’re out in the wilds of Mississippi.  Where are we going to find a motorcycle shop and better still, one that is familiar with KTMs.   As we trundled on, I resigned myself to kick starting my little KTM each time we stopped.

We hadn’t been back on the road for more than an hour when Kim called through the communicator, “Look on your left!”  I didn’t see anything and motored on.  She said “Turn around, there’s a KTM shop on the left!”  Amazed, I said, “What?  Did you say that there was a KTM shop?”  “Yes!” somewhat loudly she responded, “turn around we’re going to pull in.”

I made a very rapid U-turn and sure enough, it was a combination farm store and motorcycle shop, complete with KTMs!  I couldn’t believe our luck.  I walked to the back of the store to the parts counter and asked them if they had a battery for a KTM 250XCF-w.  Sure as heck, they did.  They also had oil, filters and other miscellaneous parts that would come in handy.  While I waited for the other parts I wanted, little did I know that Tracy had taken the battery, had it installed and I was ready to go.  Wow, he had done that in the stifling heat and had never said a word about it.  I was so grateful, I didn’t know what to say other than thank you.  True friends are amazing.  With a new battery in place, the bike fired right up and we were back on the road and hightailing it to our rest stop for the evening, a moored riverboat that was also a casino.  The best part, only about $40 a night.

As we motored on towards the casino, we decided that the heat was too much and we needed to stop get into some air conditioning and quench our thirsts.  We found a small roadside market and went inside.  There we met some of the nicest people.  One gentleman came over and sat down at our table and asked us where we were from.  We told him a little about our trip and he told us about himself, his family and his farm.  I was a great little chat, and I think he wanted to invite us over to his house for dinner, but just couldn’t get that part out.

It was just as well, as we’d walked into the market, there on the counter were two large gallon jars filled with picked pigs lips and pickled pigs feet.  Help yourself.  We just couldn’t bring ourselves to try that delicacy.  But others had enjoyed it because both jars were only partially filled.

Having had a nice chat and cooled of in the air conditioning, we walked outside once again into the thick and muggy air.  Kim was just finishing off her Coke when she decided that her “cool vest” had dried out.  These vests are made to cool by being immersed in water and then as you move through the air, the water evaporates and cools you.  “No worries”, I said, and quickly readied my hydration system to cool Kim off.  One of the nice things about my hydration system is that it keeps the water fairly cold, especially when it had been filled to the brim with ice cubes that morning.

Before she could say anything, I had the hydration system going and ice cold water was shooting out at her.  At first I don’t think she knew what to do.  Be angry or be happy that she was being sprayed with ice cold water.  Luckily for me, she liked it more than the initial shock and ultimately asked me to spray her all over.  But I must tell you, when the water first hit her, her expression was priceless.  Surprise, dread and relief all at the same. I was a wonderful sight and one that Tracy caught on film.  It is one of my keepsakes from the trip that she and I now both enjoy.

A couple of hours later, we were pulling into the parking lot with our dusty and dirty little machines.  We parked in front and went inside to the front desk outside of the casino.  After about 15 minutes, we had our rooms and headed to the bikes to get our gear.  We asked the doorman where we should put our bikes and he said, “Leave them right there, We’ll keep an eye on them for you.”  Wow, we’d never been treated like that and after gathering our gear to go to our rooms, we left the filthy bikes next to the sparkling clean limousines.    What a great scene!

Even better was our walk to our rooms.  To get there, we had to walk through the casino.  With people sitting at tables and at slots, we “moseyed” our way though.  Some people were dressed to the nines and we had our own attire.  Dusty riding pants and pressure suits were our wardrobe and they created a bit of a surreal picture.  I just had to stop to take a picture of Kim.  It came out wonderfully with Kim’s bright smile and dusty gear providing an amazing contrast to the well dressed people, flashing lights and ringing bells.

We’d had a long day, and it was time to turn in for a good nights rest.  For tomorrow, we would make our way into Arkansas and start another hot humid day on the TAT.


Traversing The TAT (Trans-America Trail) Chapter 9

With Tracy’s pannier repaired we were once again underway on the TAT.  The day had been filled with enchantment and excitement and we wondered what other treats the TAT could drum up on this day.  It wasn’t long before we would get a taste of some of the twists and turns of the TAT.  Literally.

We found ourselves on a gravel road somewhere in Tennessee.   The joy of travel sort of overwhelmed us and we just decided to go the way we thought we should be going instead of taking the time to properly assess where we were.  What else could happen on this day’s journey?  As the TAT wandered and snaked its way westward, we found that it still had a few tricks.

As we made our way, I guess we zigged when we should have zagged.  Suddenly we seemed to be making a lot of turns when the route sheet said we should have been going straight.  We had become wanderers instead of travelers and that was ok with us.  Winding roads changed from gravel to asphalt and back to gravel.  Soon we were pretty much lost but we were having fun.

We guessed where we were and turned left onto a gravel road.  Shortly thereafter, we came upon a wooden bridge without guardrails of any kind and we decided it was worth a try.  Boards laterally placed on beams comprised the base with with three rows of boards running along its length for each tire track.  It was an easy crossing of a lazy stream and it sort of represented the kind of day we were now having.  Easy going.  We thought, what the heck let’s go and see where it led.

The road snaked through a short section of forest and then into an open field.  Soon we found ourselves at a farm house with a gate at the end of the road.  Wow, we had not been on a road, but we had been riding someone’s long driveway!  A woman came out of the house and made it clear that we were on her property and she’d like us to leave.

By the way, if you don’t know, click on any one of the pictures in the gallery below and it will open that picture into a full size picture and then you can click your way through the remainder of the pictures in either direction in full size.

We said we were sorry for trespassing on her property and soon she calmed down.  We told her we were riding the TAT and told her a little about it.  She said that we weren’t the only ones to ride down her driveway without permission and asked us to tell all those TAT riders that they should keep off her property.  Well I guess we weren’t that far off course then.  All those TAT riders on her property?   We must not be that far off course then.  We finalized our apologies and rode back the way from which we had come.

Soon we were back on the trail and going in the right direction.  The roads were good to excellent and we were once again having a lot of fun, wicking it up a bit through some pretty rural areas.  Tracy and Mary Lee had the need for speed more than Kim and I did and soon we had nothing but their dimming dust trail to follow.

But Kim and I were not worried, we knew they would stop and wait for us at some intersection ahead.  We were enjoying ourselves and took our time dawdling along.  The road was covered with a thin layer of pea gravel on top of some very hard dirt.  Not super challenging, but enough to make the bike move around underneath you a bit.  Kim was doing great and she was merrily chugging her way along and I was just as happy to follow in her wake and take in the sights.

About ten minutes after we lost sight of them, we once again found Tracy and Mary Lee.  Tracy’s bike was facing the wrong way, parked in a shallow ditch at the side of the road.  Mary Lee’s bike was on the correct side of the road but sat in the middle of her travel lane.  The two of them stood standing at the side of the road and they looked like they were in conference.  They stood shoulder to shoulder, looking across the road hands gesturing as if explaining some exciting event.

Kim pulled over and stopped beside them both.  I on the other hand went past them and pulled off to the side of the road and walked back towards them.  Now I could see that Kim was in discussion with Tracy and MaryLee.  All were animatedly chatting at a level that did not allow me to hear what was being said.  When I arrived at the group, they told me that MaryLee had just crashed but was OK.  That’s strange, I thought to myself.  Mary Lee’s bike is parked on the road and Tracy’s bike is in the ditch, but MaryLee crashed?  Hmm….

They proceeded to tell us the whole story.  It was a minor crash and Mary Lee’s bike had escaped mostly unscathed.  The bike and MaryLee had only picked up a few scratches in the incident.  The only remnants of her fall were some shallow gouges in the pea gravel.

I was amazed at Mary Lee’s enthusiasm.  She had just crashed and was relating the incident more like a war story than something that had just happened.  One thing we learned about MaryLee, she did not do anything half way.  She either went for it all out, or didn’t do it.

It turned out that she too had her own little secret (to me anyway).  MaryLee is the first Woman’s Downhill Bicycle World Champion and she knows how to ride bikes (obviously)!  She was also an Olympic Nordic skier and has retained her competitive spirit and drive throughout her life.  Every time Tracy wicked it up a bit, MaryLee was right on his tail, on all sorts of terrain.  Her spirit is indeed impressive, but she was fairly new to motorcycling and at the speeds she sometimes traveled at, I feared for her safety during parts of the ride.

But Mary Lee was unfazed from her little get off and she was raring to go. All that was left of her crash was a small spattering of pea gravel and some marks in the road.  She was ready to go and so were we.  So once again, we hopped aboard our little machines and headed toward new trails.

The TAT was once again going to deliver special sights, sounds and smells.  The trail squirmed and twisted its way southward leading us towards Mississippi.  With the southerly turn, the temperature started to soar even higher.  It was well over 100 degrees F, and the humidity was unbearable.  It became apparent that we would soon need to stop to hydrate and rest.

Passing through a small town, we arrived at the Olive Hill Store.  Inside it was cool so we purchased some drinks and decided to stay a while.  The proprietors for the day were a pair of 16-17 year olds talking about things that kids their age discuss, while apparently running the store.  Soon a friend of theirs came in and the two girls talked about their friends while their male acquaintance passed judgment on the girls friends.  It seems that small towns are the same the world over, people just being people.

After our brief respite, we returned to the bikes for some more heat, humidity and amazing sights.  Riding along, it soon became apparent we were getting to places where not many people go and time slows down.  It seemed we were going back in time and we were willing time travelers to this very special part of the TAT.


Traversing The TAT (Trans-America Trail) Chapter 8

A narrow gravel road greeted us shortly after we got back on the TAT.  Sunlight beamed through the trees and lit a sparkling path before us.  It was like nature was putting on a little light show for us, egging us on to go further and faster along the TAT.  The beauty and the excitement got the best of all of us but Tracy and I were the first to succumb to the enticing TAT.  It sparkled our eyes and whispered to us sweetly. Enjoy this as much as you can for it may not be here forever.

For a short while, Tracy and I apparently lost our minds and we raced along, dust rising in our trail with the sun flashing through the green canopy like a golden strobe light.  It was a mesmerizing environment and somehow time stopped.  We had become as one with our surroundings.  I knew we were moving at a rapid pace but the sense of speed was gone.  The feel from my fishtailing bike in the soft gravel only made me feel more part of the environment.  As the bike slowly swayed back and forth beneath me, I imagined being part of a school of fish.  I followed the swaying tail of the bike in front of me, and sped forward trying to keep up with my fellow school member on a stream of gravel,  not water.    I knew something was propelling me.  It was not fins, but the fire from within the bike as well as the fire inside me.  Ultimately we came to a “T” in the road where we were forced to stop and the magic moments were no more.  But we both exchanged knowing smiles, we both knew that we had been enchanted by this particular section of the TAT.  The ladies of our group, apparently much smarter than us, caught up to us at the T junction.  Tracy and I just smiled but I know the ladies knew we had been enchanted and our little escapade was a joyous event for Tracy and I.  We sat at the junction for a brief time and told MaryLee and Kim how much fun we had just had.

By the way, if you don’t know, click on any one of the pictures in the gallery below and it will open that picture into a full size picture and then you can click your way through the remainder of the pictures in either direction in full size.

Our little jaunt over, it was time to get going.  As we rode the narrow gravel, we started seeing the first signs of water crossings.  Small slabs of concrete had been poured over narrow creek beds.  Most were less than 100 feet wide with a one inch deep flow of water lazily crossing half the width of the concrete.  We straight lined most of them and before long, we got cocky.  Once again, we started enjoying ourselves and Tracy and MaryLee quickly vanished into the distance while Kim and I dawdled along enjoying the green canopy that surrounded us.

I had almost forgotten about the our travelling companions when we rounded a corner and started down an incline.  There in front of us lay Tracy’s bike on its side.  A downtrodden looking couple stood and gazed down at the machine which seemed to be taking a nap in the very shallow water.  It was a sorry sight.  They both stood there for a while, a bit dazed about the whole event.

Tracy, a veteran rider of more than 30 years fell off his bike in less than an inch of water?  How could that happen?  I quickly got my answer as I stopped and dismounted my bike to assist.  As I hurried over to them, I stepped into the tiny stream and almost ended on my backside.  This was no ordinary water crossing.  This water crossing was over a layer of stone, not concrete.  An on that stone was an almost invisible very slippery and slimy algae.  No wonder Tracy fell off!  I have walked on skating rinks in my shoes before and I can honestly say that this rock was far more slippery.

Now the three of us stared at Tracy’s stricken machine while Kim stood at the side of the crossing taking pictures.  For posterity!  Surely three of us could easily pick up a 650cc motorcycle!  But it was not to be.  Each time we reached down to pick it up, we started scrambling for footing.  This algae was slimy!  So in a concerted and coordinated manner we proceeded to pick the bike up.  After a couple of tries, we were able to get it back on two wheels.  Now all we had to do was push it across the water crossing.

Very carefully, the three of us slowly pushed the bike to the opposite side of the water crossing.  We decided that we had better get the other three bikes across as well.  So Tracy and I agreed that we would take the ladies’ bikes across the water crossing ourselves.  It wasn’t that the ladies were not good riders, it was the thought of either of them going down on this slippery rock would not be pleasant.  But how to do it?

Riding with legs outstretched like outriggers, Tracy slowly rode MaryLee’s bike across.  Then it was my turn, first Kim’s machine and then mine.  But it must have been a real sight watching two middle aged men taking the bikes across the crossing.  With only an inch of water, we must have looked like we were 4 year old beginners.  It was not a difficult task, but it sure was a slow one.

When we had all four bikes across, it was time to inspect Tracy’s bike for damage.  His right pannier was damaged significantly.  It was bent backwards and downwards and its perfect rectangular shape was now a very interesting trapezoid.  The lid lay hanging at the side of the pannier but it had retained its shape.  Once we flipped the lid over the top of the pannier, two separate gaping isosceles triangles appeared under the lid leaving the contents of the pannier in the elements.

We would have to make a field fix if Tracy was to be able to use his pannier for the remainder of the trip.  I got out my toolkit, but there wasn’t really anything that would help this mangled pannier.  So we’d have to improvise and improvise we did.  We roamed the area and found a fist size rock.  That ought to do the trick I thought as Tracy prepared to do his best McGyver impersonation.

With a little pounding and tugging, we were able to get the pannier to be rectangular enough to be able to close the lid with the assistance of some good old duct tape.  That stuff is great for everything!

After about an hour at and on the side of the trail, Tracy’s pannier was sealed and we were once again on the TAT motoring towards the evenings destination.  Little did we know it but we were to have another challenge that day and let me say that this challenge was no bull!


Big, Medium or Little? What To Do, What To Do?

I was at another website the other day and found a post that asked whether true “adventure bikes” should be big, medium or small.  It was and excellent and interesting question.  So I had to stop and ask myself, “do I really think there is a best size of bike for adventure riding?”  After some thought, I came up with an answer that really wasn’t an answer.  From my perspective there were a bunch of variables that could define what the “best” adventure bike would look like.  If I were on a long ride with only pavement and well maintained gravel roads to deal, it seems to me that the full size adventure bikes (e.g. BMW GS1200 or GS800, KTM 1190 or 990 etc.) would be the “best” for covering those distances in comfort, load capacity and speed.  However, if there was some real rough stuff ahead, I’d rather be on a lightweight easy handling bike (e.g. Yamaha WR250, Honda CRF250L etc.) might make it the “best” choice.  I wouldn’t have to worry about the technical tracks, but of course the light weight nature and size of the bike would limit the amount of cargo I could carry and potentially impact range.

So where does that leave us?  Do we need to compromise comfort, range and speed over ease of handling on technical sections?  Perhaps not.  What about those middleweight machines like the KLR650, Vstrom 650 and KTM 690E?  Could they be the answer?  Well, after I thought about it a while, I came to the conclusion that everything is a trade off.  The middleweight machines weren’t especially heavy, nor were they exceptionally small.  They provide the rider with relatively good  comfort and can carry quite a good amount of cargo.  Not bad, not bad…  But when you looked at the entire equation, the Middleweight bikes really constituted a trade off on just about everything.  They were neither highly comfortable platforms, nor were they light and “flickable” as the lightweight small bikes.

So where does this leave us?  Big bikes do certain things very well, little bikes do certain things very well and the middleweight machines don’t do much with excellence.  Therefore, it would seem that the right size for a true adventure bike is the bike you feel confident on that will get you through the terrain you plan to travel.  Kim and I travel all sorts of terrain, the majority of which will be maintained gravel roads and fire roads.  As such, we’re taking the middle ground and going on middle weight machines.  We’re planning a 2800 mile ride through six states in the west this summer, so it’s a KTM 690 for me and a DR650 for Kim.  I still have to get Kim’s bike into “adventure” shape, but I think my KTM 690E is coming up to snuff.

So what do you think?  Let us know what you think the best size for adventure riding is.  We want to hear from you!

Mike and Kim

Ride to Adventure – Shrink The Planet, One Ride At A Time