Between racing and rubbing elbows with folks in the local motorcycle community, the impressively diverse nature of the motorcycle population has really grabbed my attention as of late. In a world where senseless (keyboard) arguments explode on social media about motor oil, tires, and who makes the best adventure motorcycle, folks need a rude awakening. Most folks DON’T motorcycle the way you motorcycle.
And you know what? That’s okay.
He’s the other dirty secret, those folks that ride a different bike, in a different place, at a different speed, might know something you don’t. Moreover, you might even discover you enjoy riding the way they ride, it’s just that you haven’t been exposed to it yet.
“I don’t want to ride a little 250”, something I never said, but probably thought; yet now I want to ride a 250 about every other day. Three years ago, I enjoyed wrestling the 500-pound high-pipe-café-racer through the trails and I thought that was as good as it could get. Then I took a small bike on single-track… and then I raced a small bike… and now I’m hooked. Admittedly, I’m weird, I love riding small bikes, so much I’m even considering buying a one-two-five two-stroke. And yet, I also enjoy riding twisty pavement and I still get silly kicks out of playing in the dirt with the trusty Warthog.
So, in an attempt to spread the gospel of “all motorcycles are awesome, and all kinds of riding are fun”, I wanted to talk a little bit about how I like to “Adventure”.
“Adventure” means different things to different people. For me, it’s mostly doing something new, typically in an unknown place, likely including some level of risk (i.e. motorcycle involved), and lastly I sprinkle in a little randomness by throwing out the plan from time to time.
If I have my druthers, I pack the bike the night before. Invariably, I end up lying awake all night, trying to suppress the excitement of the next day’s ride, then roll out of bed before dawn. Assuming things go as planned, I’m throwing a leg over the bike right at twilight. A good morning ride with the sun poking through the trees just as the fog starts rising from the cornfields is heaven on earth for me. The direction is almost always due south, and while I typically have a destination in mind, these days the “path” to said destination is more flexible than ever. I used to plan every stop and every route days in advance. Nowadays I carry a 20oz fuel bottle and keep a general idea of where local gas stations will be.
If it’s not overly obvious, I’m usually an adventure “day-tripper”. I fantasize about the idea of living off the bike for weeks at a time. Unfortunately, the reality is that I have a wife with a health condition and like most mortals here in the Midwest, I have limited vacation time. It’s going to happen eventually, but I need things to calm down a bit at home in the meantime.
I also have another dirty secret to share. Despite 6 years in the Army and riding my bike for 365 straight days… I hate being wet. Seriously, it ruins my whole day (so much for being a water sign). I wear rain gear religiously, I “shower test” all of my rain gear right after buying it. I don’t mind riding in the rain (for the most part), but at some point, some piece of gear gives up the ghost, and your feet are crotch end up being soaked. No Beuno.
All that aside, the biggest peeve I have it trying to break camp in the rain, pack the bike, and move out when it’s pouring. I could write an entire article about “all-weather travel”, so let’s just say that (if I was young and single again) I would just as soon quit my job and live off the motorcycle. When it rains, just take a lazy day and read a book. But that’s a goal that will have to wait for at least a couple more years.
Similar to my taste in motorcycles (I love them all, for different reasons), I also enjoy group riding, almost as much as I like riding solo. Sharing the experience with other riders, especially if I’m playing the tour guide, is something I really enjoy. Group riding off-road offers another layer of safety and I feel like folks are more willing to challenge themselves when they’re not solely reliant on self-rescue if things go pear-shaped. Obviously, you need to have that understanding with your group before you start ripping down creeks and over boulders. That’s actually what this is discussion is all about; promoting conversation about what you like and understanding what others prefer.
I like to get outside my comfort zone when the time is right, but I also love to stop and take photos, and sometimes just stop and listen to the silence; especially when I’m deep in the woods. I find I skip out on photos when I’m group riding, while at the same time I fear I’m WAY too focused on riding and not “resting” and “talking” when I’m with a group. I tend to lean on helmet communicators as a way to socialize when riding, that way stops are shorter and more distance can be covered. That turns a lot of people off, and thus I enjoy riding alone in a lot of circumstances.
Worse still, I typically eat at gas stations or pack food on the bike so I can maximize seat time. It’s not uncommon for me to grab a biscuit for breakfast at the first gas stop, eat a cliff bar or a sandwich on the trail for lunch, and then grab a quick burger in a parking lot at dinner, hoping to make it home just after dark. For what I can’t do over multiple days I tend to jam into one day. 500 miles in the saddle and diet of “speed dogs” is certainly not for everyone (nor is it helping my waistline). In my case, this evolution came out of riding solo, not what caused it. I’ve said it before, for as much as I enjoy sharing the experience, I also find serenity when riding down a deserted (dirt) road all by my lonesome. If something goes wrong, it’s completely on me (mostly) to fix the situation and continue the journey. That sounds like a nightmare for some, but for me, it’s empowering.
So this standard “adventure” procedure for me right now. Three years ago it was very different, as I suspect it will be even more different three years from now. What about you? Do you prefer to ride solo or with your friends? Is the ride to the “destination part of the fun or do the truck and trailer make for better action on the trail (or pavement)? Are the food stops the best part of the trip or is it a snack in the woods? Do you like riding the big bikes because they’re challenging and can do it all or do you like the small bikes so you get deeper in the holler? How do you adventure?
note: If you don’t ride off-road, it’s still “adventure” and I still want to hear from you.