Destination: Costa Rica

Adventures in Motion

Several years ago I thought it would be a good idea to get a group of friends together for an adventure ride. I rounded up a few dual-sport bikes, drove to Bishop, California, and set out on a four-day trek. Logistically it was a challenge. We were limited by the trail system and fuel mileage, and couldn't travel from point to point without a support crew. That's when I decided to look into organized adventure rides.

During the past two years I've been fortunate enough to ride in Africa, Central America, the Hawaiian Islands, South America and Mexico's Puerto Vallarta, and let me tell you, I'm hooked! That's what brought me back to Costa Rica for a third time. I called the guys at MotoAdventures, the tour operator, and asked them to plot a new course. I mentioned I was bringing a friend along, who just happens to be my orthopedic surgeon Dr. Brad Baum, and then after they stopped laughing, I explained how I wanted some new life experiences. Owners Dave Bowers and Larry Larrabure were ruthless and wouldn't cut me any slack. They recalled when I separated my shoulder over a year ago during a Yamaha WR426F intro just outside the small surf town of Jaco and had to fly back to the States ASAP. But I was willing to tolerate a lot of doctor jokes provided they accepted my challenge of customizing a tour to create memories for a lifetime.

Our adventure began immediately after stepping off the plane. We drove about 75 miles from San Jose to Jaco--yep, the place that wounded me a year ago. Their plan was for us to experience a jungle canopy ride. It's something 50 percent of their clients ask to do and they thought it'd be great. But I have this small problem they didn't know about--I'm deathly afraid of heights. My hands tremble, my voice quivers and I go into a full-body sweat, no joke. And the thought of traveling almost a mile on a cable system suspended 150 feet off the ground...I'd rather drive a Champ Car at 200 mph around Indy without a seatbelt. But with a little encouragement and plenty of assurance that it was safe and virtually foolproof, I gave it a shot. And, no, a mild sedative wasn't required.

The next four days were split between riding, sport fishing and the usual tourist misadventure. You see, when I first called MotoAdventures, I said I wanted to cross the channel and ride in an area of the country that I hadn't yet explored. I told them the idea of putting the bikes into a couple of small fishing boats and then cruising to the peninsula sounded like the perfect adventure. What I didn't expect was a trio of 10-horsepower boats trying to haul a dozen people across a vast portion of the Pacific. The local fishermen promised it would only take an hour and a half, but they were off, to put it politely. They blamed the delay on a strong current--remember, we were traveling at near swim speed--but we blamed it on plain 'ol say-anything-for-the-buck greed. So abandoning ship, no, make that dinghy, about four hours and 20 minutes into the journey in a small fishing village, we decided to ride up to a ferry to make the final leg of the trip. Since it was my idea, I took the heat, but it definitely made things more adventurous.

One key element about exploring a third-world country is that things don't always go as expected. You have to learn to go with the flow, adapt and not worry too much about keeping a tight schedule. It's a good trade-off for the freedom of being able to legally ride dirt bikes on the street and virtually all walking and hiking trails throughout the country.

Would we recommend this to other people? Heck yes! Costa Rica offers one of the best trail systems in the world, and the riding is downright incredible for the die-hard off-road enthusiast. It doesn't exactly live up to the adventure aspect of Albee's African Safari (October '01), where there is the opportunity to experience wild animals in their own habitat; instead it has some incredible single-track trails, knowledgeable guides and a large fun factor. And if there's any question in your mind, ponder this--do you really think that given my medical history and ongoing need for an orthopedic surgeon, I would really take my doctor down there if I wasn't absolutely sure he would have fun? I need Baum in my corner, especially since I rack up as many frequent surgery miles as I do frequent flier miles.

* Don't bring any nonriding friends. If your wife or girlfriend is an experienced rider, then she would enjoy the trip. But if she wants to travel around in the support vehicle, she might find it uncomfortable; it's a cargo truck.
* Get in shape to make the most of the trip.
* Prepare yourself mentally for older, well-used (though well-maintained) bikes. When we were there last August, the year-old fleet of Honda XR400Rs were in acceptable shape. But these dirt bikes see a lot of regular use, and they do show signs of wear and tear. Consider bringing a new handlebar in a bend that you like so you guarantee yourself a straight pair. If you do this, make sure to also bring a new set of grips. An extra set of Honda XR400R levers might not be a bad idea either.

* Warm-weather rain gear
* Spare gloves (to use when others get wet)
* Extra sets of socks and goggles
* Rain-X and No Fog for goggles
* Extra riding pants and jerseys
* Jacket
* Drink system
* Small fanny tool roll or at least a Leatherman-type tool
* Trash bags to conceal stench of dirty riding gear
* The usual beach locale accoutrements of sunscreen, sunglasses, sandals, hat, shorts and swimsuits
* Insect repellent
* Camera and film


440/392-0926 (U.S.A.)
011-506-228-8494 (Costa Rica)

Larry Larrabure, the guide, is a very talented off-road rider and has experience in Six-Days, GNCC, National Enduro and Incas Rally competition. He can create fun rides for a wide range of riders, from Vet Intermediate Dr. Brad Baum to Expert Ken Faught.
Dirt Rider's two favorite tours in the world so far are Albee's African Bike Safari and MotoAdventures' Costa Rican tour. Riding in Central America is a lot more technical than Africa, and demands a more experienced rider.
A day off meant a canopy tour outside the surf town of Jaco. Using a system of 11 cables, our entire group traveled almost a full mile suspended 150 feet off the ground. The feeling of this 40 mph thrill ride is absolutely intense!
Who's ding(h)y? KF's idea to cross a channel in these 14-foot-long fishing boats wasn't the best plan, but it did raise the level of adventure.
It's very rare to see an orthopedic surgeon riding off-road, but Dr. Brad Baum says it's something that he will probably do again and insists the riding exceeded his expectations.
Marco Marin handles all the maintenance during the tour.
Editor Ken Faught feels strongly that Costa Rica is one of the best places in the world for off-road riding and we think he means it: this is his third time exploring the country.
We took this kid for a ride and when "Motorcyclist on Speedvision" producer Greg White showed him what it looked like on video, the eight-year-old gleefully admitted he has never seen himself on TV before.
Talk about customizing tours. This boat trip was a tad extreme.
Accommodations aren't exactly upper-class, but the locations are generally very eclectic, full of personality and extremely beautiful.
Home away from home.
Initially we were concerned with the condition of the bikes, but after giving them a beating for four days, we decided that they were acceptable.
You never know what obstacles you will find on the single-track trails.
Baum couldn't get away from his profession. When it turned out his rear brake wasn't working, he pulled off the wheel and performed some minor trailside "surgery" to seat the pads correctly.
Single-track trails are everywhere. Costa Rica's reputation for beauty and great riding has lured famed riders like Jeff Emig, Kevin Schwantz, Kevin Hines and Jeff Fredette to what many consider to be the most civilized Latin American country.