By Ian Schmeisser #50592
Right up front, I fear this article will make me sound like the crusty old codger I am (:gerg for you ADVriders out there). But this subject has been weighing on me for a few years now, a concern that adventure riding, as it’s increased in popularity, is moving a little too far from its roots and getting awfully close to becoming a pose-fest, complete with rubbies in snazzy adventure suits riding shiny, perfectly-logoed bikes while standing on the pegs riding down a graded gravel road. This isn’t to insult anyone; it’s to remind us of where we came from and how memory is key to the adventure riding experience.
Search up the phrase “...as the adventurer smiled wryly...” and you’ll get some interesting reading. In the context of this article, visualize a veteran adventure rider who happens to be near enough to civilization to stop in at a Starbucks, listening and reacting to a group of riders comparing the qualities of their heavily accessorized bikes and bodies.
Again, no offense intended. Instead, the goal is to illuminate the true experience of adventure riding, not with slogans, zippy-wow Facebook videos or festooning oneself and one’s bike with two dozen different day-glow logos.
Making It Real
Sometimes it seems as if one must check all the requisite boxes to go out on a “true” adventure ride. Well, it’s pretty certain that Danny Liska, as he went adventuring in the 1960s, wasn’t wearing a whale foreskin-lined adventure suit while riding a wide-ass bike. He didn’t pay $500 for his dealer to scuff up his $2,000 aluminum luggage for that “I just rode the entire TAT (Trans-America Trail)” look.
Of course, Ed Culberson did ride an adventure-specific bike, the R80GS. But he didn’t have a support crew following him through the Darien Gap, with hotel rooms reserved and a cold beer with gourmet dinner waiting at each night’s stopping place.
Okay, enough. What I’m trying to say is that it is definitely possible to totally eliminate that which truly makes up an adventure. If you miss out on that experience, you’re missing something very special.
The Element of Risk
It’s that sorta scary feeling when venturing out into the backcountry. The uncertainty of what lies ahead. The heart-pounding rush when picking up your dropped bike. The unplanned encounters with who-knows-what in the who-knows-where. Complemented with the utter silence of the morning sunrise as the steam rises from your cup while the birds help you welcome the day. You don’t have to pay thousands of dollars to book a tour for this. A ton of adventure training really isn’t required. You don’t need more thousands of dollars for an endless number of guards, covers, shields, armor and electronic bling to experience what adventure riding is all about. Heck, you don’t even need an adventure bike. All you really need is to get out there and ride through the great, unsanitized world.
The Horizons Unlimited community has just updated its website. It’s easy to find detailed advice from adventurers currently riding around the world.
To be sure, the right bike and accessories can make life easier. A little training won’t hurt you and there are some excellent resources in the adventure riding community that can shorten your learning curve. One great example is Horizons Unlimited, an online community founded by Grant and Susan Johnson. After world touring in the ‘80s and ‘90s, since 1997 they have dedicated their lives to helping an endless number of travelers tell their stories and share their knowledge. These are not the packaged tour type of travelers, and the information on their site has more to do with the logistics of border crossings than finding good coffee or cleaning your bike. Horizons Unlimited is an invaluable resource if you want to try real adventure riding.
The community’s site has just been updated, and it’s now very easy to browse the basics and then follow links to much deeper advice from world travelers in the past, as well as those currently on tour. From inspiration and preparation, to visiting great friends you’ve never met in person before, Horizons Unlimited is the place.
You Can Do This
If you’re looking for a genuine adventure this summer, can I suggest riding in the GS Giant’s Gypsy Tour? It will be a bit different than in years past, in that it’s do-it-yourself. The tour will start from four different locations, one each in California, Nevada, Idaho and Washington. From there you take a 2–3-day ride through the backcountry to the MOA Rally in Salem, Ore., where anyone into adventure riding can camp, go to seminars, ride the track and get basic training. There’s even a lunch planned at Hat Point in Hells Canyon. You bring the lunch! Bring your friends, make some new ones and ride on a real adventure. Everything you need to know is at www.gsgiant.com.
Danny Liska: www.dannyliska.us
Ed Culberson: amzn.to/11x1ZNc
Whale foreskin adventure suits: youtu.be/_ztsPIoI65A
Adventure advice: www.HorizonsUnlimited.com
The GS Giant’s Gypsy Tour: www.gsgiant.com
*For those who do not use the forum, “:gerg” refers to a code you enter in a forum post (BB code) that generates an emoticon on ADVrider of an old-man smiley, wobbling on his walking stick and waving his finger