(above)The intrepid Motorcyclist staff somewhere north of Big Bear Lake, on a dirt road op
What makes a ride an adventure? Do you have to quit your 9 to 5, sell all your worldly possessions, kiss your wife and kids goodbye and disappear for 36 months? Does only the Long Way Round or Down qualify? Must you mail post cards with kangaroos and penguins on them? Or can it be … simpler?
I’d argue that adventure is where you find it. Some of the best adventures I ever had were as a teenager on my bicycle. One’s world is much smaller with one-tenth of one horsepower. Although it was less than 100 miles, the eastern tip of my native Long Island seemed like a world away, so I felt like Christopher Columbus pedaling there.
When I got my first streetbike my world grew a little larger, as I was able to travel to the next state. Nobody told me you couldn’t ride a Kawasaki GPz305 to the AMA roadraces at Pocono or the USGP of motocross at Unadilla, so there I went. Maybe that’s better described as sport-touring, but I considered it an adventure at the time.
After the tragedies of 9/11, I made a cross-country pilgrimage on a BMW. That might seem like a cliché had I not done it on an F650GS single, taking two-lane backroads the whole way. I didn’t camp out or ride dirt roads (well, not many of them), but I’d still consider that an adventure.
Have you been bitten by the adventure-touring bug? Many riders apparently have, as the segment is one of the fastest growing, especially in Europe. But who has the money to buy a new bike nowadays? Before you plop down a couple hundred Benjamins on some high-tech Teutonic tourer and set a course for Tierra del Fuego, why not toe the waters? You don’t need a BMW R1200GS Adventure to have an adventure, and there are probably plenty of places closer to home that you have yet to discover. How many times have you ridden past a turn-off and wondered where it goes, but never bothered to findd out? Don’t consult Google Earth; that’s cheating! Point your bike down that road and see for yourself.
Should the pavement crumble or turn to dirt, keep on going. Back at the dawn of motorcycling in the late 19th century there were few paved roads, so all bikes were dirtbikes. Whatever you’ve got now is better than what they had then! Should the path prove insurmountable, double back and return with a friend who can help you push/pull your bike through the tougher parts. Channel your inner Lewis & Clark.
Never mind what the Iron Butt guys say, adventure isn’t measured in miles. For this issue’s cover story, we didn’t set out for the ends of the earth; we simply headed a few hours northeast to Big Bear. We didn’t need fancy GPS units or satellite phones either; armed with old-fashioned folding maps (plus our cell phones, first-aid and tool kits, just in case), we spent one whole day exploring the trails in the San Bernardino National Forest and still didn’t cover them all. One’s world is much smaller at dirt-riding speeds.
On the road it might take you an hour to cover 60 miles, but on the right (or wrong) trail, it literally can take all day. Riding a big adventure bike can exacerbate that, making a relatively easy trail (by dirtbike standards) infinitely more challenging. As our trail boss/photographer Karel Kramer observed after wrestling one down the steepest grade we encountered, “A GS makes every ride an adventure.” Amen to that.
Adventure awaits—go find it!