Harden's Hints - Adventure-Touring Prep - MC Garage

Hard-Earned Advice From One Of The World's Most Experienced Off-Roaders

If you've paid any attention to off-road racing over the past 25 years, you've probably heard of Scot Harden. As a three-time Baja 1000 winner, multi-time ISDE medalist and Dakar Rally veteran, the guy knows a thing or three about doing it in the dirt. His expertise extends to adventure-touring as well, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a more knowledgeable guy in the field. We asked Harden what advice he'd pass along to folks looking to get a bit adventurous with their touring.

"First off, you can't really talk about adventure-touring without mentioning the impact GPS has had on the sport. A GPS receiver puts so much information at its user's fingertips, better information than you can get anywhere else. In the old days you'd be riding, say, on some really bad trail, and you wouldn't really know what was coming; sometimes you'd follow it and it'd get worse and worse, and suddenly you'd be trapped and would have to backtrack. GPS eliminates that and allows your rides to be a lot more efficient -and fun!

"Just look at what you can do before your ride, during the route-planning stage. Once you've downloaded topographical maps (highly detailed maps that include such information as elevations, dirt roads and trails, etc.) of the areas you're going to be riding in, you can get a really specific idea of where you'll be going, on what roads and trails, how near or far they are from main routes, where fuel is located -all sorts of stuff. You can also use routes others have used successfully; there's a lot of route-sharing on Web sites such as www.adventurerider.com

"There's also a major safety factor with GPS. With a receiver that tells me exactly where I am and a satellite phone that allows me to call anywhere, I'm comfortable doing solo rides, which I normally don't advise because of the risks involved. Two to four riders is a good number, especially for those new to the sport. But having a buddy is always better than going it alone; too many ugly things can happen out there.

"I encourage adventure riders to be totally self-sufficient. That means carrying all the stuff they might need: water obviously (with some sort of electrolyte mix added), tools (better to mount them on the bike than on your body; you want to be light in the saddle), epoxy and duct tape to fix things that might break en route, a good first-aid kit (including aspirin, gauze bandages for tourniquets and painkillers if possible), food in the form of Power Bars or something similarly easy to pack and, of course, a cell phone if you don't have a satellite phone. Also try to limit alcohol the night or two before a ride; it only dehydrates you.

"Dressing for the ride is equally important. I always wear an enduro jacket, even if it's hot out, and an armor-mesh suit underneath to protect me in a fall. Sturdy boots, pants and gloves, of course, and a helmet you're comfortable in.

"For me, half the fun is in the planning. That way I get to experience it twice: once in my imagination beforehand and again on the ride itself."