The Achievable Dream 5-part series - the definitive guide on DVD for planning your motorcycle adventure. Get Ready! covers planning, paperwork, medical and many other topics! "Inspirational and Awesome!" See the trailer here!
Gear Up! is a 2-DVD set, 6 hours! Which bike is right for me? How do I prepare the bike? What stuff do I need - riding gear, clothing, camping gear, first aid kit, tires, maps and GPS? What don't I need? How do I pack it all in? Lots of opinions from over 150 travellers! "This DVD will save you a fortune!"See the trailer here!
So you've done it - got inspired, planned your trip, packed your stuff and you're on the road! This section is about staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure. And crossing borders, war zones or oceans!
On the Road! is 5.5 hours of the tips and advice you need to cross borders, break down language barriers, overcome culture shock, ship the bike and deal with breakdowns and emergencies."Just makes me want to pack up and go!" See the trailer here!
Tire Changing!Grant demystifies the black art of Tire Changing and Repair to help you STAY on the road! "Very informative and practical." See the trailer here!
Ladies on the Loose! For the first time ever, a motorcycle travel DVD made for women, by women! These intrepid women share their tips to help you plan your own motorcycle adventure. They also answer the women-only questions, and entertain you with amazing tales from the road! Presented by Lois Pryce, veteran solo traveller through South America and Africa and author of 'Lois on the Loose', and 'Red Tape and White Knuckles.'
"It has me all fired up to go out on my own adventure!" See the trailer here!
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Achievable Dream The definitive guide to planning your motorcycle adventure! This insanely ambitious 2-year project has produced an informative and entertaining 5-part, 18 hour DVD series. "The ultimate round the world rider's how-to DVD!" MCN UK.
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Ride TalesAn easy way to post your ride reports, whether it's a weekend ride or around the world.
Please make the first words of the title WHERE the ride is.
See the announcement in the forum for details on posting.
Please do NOT just post a link to your site. For a link, see Get a Link.
NOTE: I have decided to continue this next leg of the ride report in a new thread. Come follow along here for the next chapter: No-Moto-Boundaires
After graduating from university in 2010 and getting right into the workforce I have decided to shift gears and re-prioritize my personal life a bit. Although I am very fortunate to have a great job in a bad economy, I am slowly realizing that we really never know how much time we have here on this planet, and what you choose to make of that time, really is what you make of your life. I have always been driven to travel and inspired by those with the freedom and ability to do so. Thus, I have decided to sell-off most of my possessions and head out to see some of the world that I am so intrigued by, while doing it in the most engaging way I know how, via motorcycle.
I don't know where I'm going, or for how long I'll be doing it, but I've freed myself from responsibilities, rid my mind of expectations, and am heading out. I'll start with the Americas. I have named the trip Tanning a Ginger Tip-to-Tip. There is no doubt in my mind that things will go wrong, plans will change, and no matter how much research/prep I do, in the end I just have to get out there and experience it for myself to really know. I am doing the ride report to keep track of it all, from how the idea came about and prepping, to the day-to-day thoughts and activities that I find myself engaging in along the way.
Fear of the unknown can be one of the greatest fears of all, but there are times in life when you need to value adventure above comfort and security.
Trip Prep Posts: I wrote up a lot of prep info in my pre-daparture boredom before leaving and it can be lengthy and winded so I have included links below if you want to read it and TLDR (Too Long, Didn't Read) summaries next to it so you don't need to. Planting a Seed: I got the idea while working and backpacking in Central America in 2010
Planting A Seed:Where to start, well I guess I’ve decided Seattle, but let’s start with where the idea actually sprouted from.
It’s summer 2010 and I’m wrapping up a research field-season in Central America for my undergrad program at University of Washington. The critters I studied at the time lived in the tropics, so you have to go to the tropics to study them. I wonder why I chose them???
I’m literally sifting through hundreds of mason jarred samples of what equates to tropical bug-soup and living in a cabin up in the cloud forests with my buddy and colleague, Tom.
We have been trundling through the rainforest covering miles and miles of terrain every day for future thesis material to graduate and hopefully publish with in 9 months. I’m having a good time and I love the outdoors, roughing it, and the work is interesting for the opportunity that it has provided me…but I’m ready to move-on to a different area of study. No matter how many cervezas I use to lubricate the old trusty microscope knobs, I can’t seem to see a long-term future in this line of research for myself and am ready to shift gears to something new. After two months living in a primitive cabin in the jungle even Tom has begun to go a bit crazy.
Luckily Tom and I are of the same humor and mindset so living together in that setting made it quite fun no matter what we were doing. In addition, my university lab overlord is quite the relaxed chap and I’ve swung getting him to book my return tickets to the states to instead occur 4 weeks after my field season actually finishes, allowing me some time to see more of Central America. Now I’m prime to meet up with my girlfriend at the time, who has been traveling around Central America already with a friend for several weeks. I’m stoked and ready to freely go wherever we so desire. The thought of which has been the only thing keeping me going for the last several weeks and the opportunity to do so being inevitably what made all the work prior, 100% worth it.
Jump ahead a few weeks and I’ve finally met up with my girlfriend. We’ve been meandering for a while now with no real plans besides hopping buses from one beach town to the next, working south as we get bored, and enjoying the lifestyle of almost complete freedom. I’m really getting used to the routine and as I’m sure many know, it’s pretty rough living this sort of lifestyle.
We had heard great things about Panama so figured we would keep heading South with the few weeks we had left. On our last day before the border we found an awesome Crepery which was pretty random but a nice surprise.
It was at this purveyor of delicious crepes that everything changed for me.
After scraping up the last bits of food on our plates we pay our tab and head outside to go negotiate a undoubtedly sweaty bumpy ride into Panama. We are about to cross the street when on the other side of the road I see a cheery chap and his lady friend stroll on over to their splendidly rigged and gloriously dirty BMW 1200gsa that’s parked by the road. This is where you can que the dreamy montage as I look at them with instant envy. My reality warps and everything I see starts going slow motion, like when something super sexy is happening in a movie and wind from apparently nowhere is blowing through each of their hair as they head to their noble steed. They mind as well been the Beatles crossing Abbey Road, for to me, they were just as much superstars. I watch them kick their legs over their freedom machine, look pleasingly at the road south, and with a blip of the throttle pull out onto the open tarmac.
That solidified it for me, travel via motorcycle. Having everything you need mounted on a traveling home with two-wheels. No buses, no schedules, no worries besides maintaining your machine and deciding which roadside food-stand to hit-up? That sounded fantabulous and in my eyes, the ultimate way to see the world.
That trip in Central America was by far the best trip I had ever been on. I had traveled a bit before but never like that, with no agenda, no goals, and no real time-frame. I left that trip with a much better idea of what I wanted to do with myself in the near future. I don’t think I fully understood it at the time but I had gotten a taste for a style of traveling that I would later yearn for, and a seed had very quietly been planted that would drive me to return for more.
One Year Later: Cut forward 1yr and a lot has changed. My parents have split, my girlfriend and I have split, I have finally graduated but I’m pretty much spent both mentally and emotionally and have decided to delay applying to grad school. For the first time in my life I feel genuinely low and completely burnt out. I was very lucky though and got offered a great job with a great organization which I sure was stoked about. Ever since I had returned from Central America there had been a small part of me though pushing to find a way to buy a motorcycle and get back on two-wheels, a small subconscious step towards motorcycle travel. I had grown up riding dirt bikes but after I took a spill that hurt a good friend, as well as myself, I had largely moved on to other hobbies. I hadn’t owned – let alone ridden – a bike in over 6 years. Now that I had gotten a job and had the free time, I really had run out of excuses. As soon as my first paycheck was crossing the digital oblivion that is the the banking interwebs I was simultaneously sitting at a table signing it all away in trade for my first street legal motorcycle. Getting rid of all that green had never felt so good.
I chose a used Buell Ulysses XB12X with all the goodies, race kit, heated grips, full pannier set, blah blah blah. This is Zack and Alex, they are the coolest kids I know and the little brothers I never had, there approval of the bike was key.
I was promptly leaving every weekend and flogging the bike around the PNW and BC racking up 10,000 miles in the first 8 months, riding every day straight through winter.
I’ve realized that although I love the Buell for this sort of docile tarmac crushing tom-foolery, I can see that I need a different beast for a bigger more adventurous trip.
But what bike, and just as perplexing, where should I go with it?
The thought process didn’t really take too long as I had never gotten that image of the chap and his lady friend riding away on their motorcycle in Latin America. I had whole-heartedly dug my time there and had fantasized of going back and continuing on ever since I returned home, maybe even all the way to the bottom. In that moment, in my head, I had committed to heading back South.
Though this time, I made up my mind that it would be by motorcycle.
Decision Made: So Latin America it is. Weather is good, no costly carnets to hinder travel budgets, cheap , nice beaches, and arguably some of the best adventure riding to be found. Deal. The Buell will have to stay behind though, it’s a great bike, but not the one for this trip. Nor is it up for the challenge. For this sort of travel it’s overpowered, under-sprung, too heavy for any serious off-road duty, and attracts the wrong kind of attention for my traveling preferences.
So I need a different bike…in my previous research I had seen all kinds of bikes go around the world. Everything from Harley’s to scooters and all the feedback I had gotten told me that you really can take whatever you want. Yeah sure there are pros and cons to every bike but in the end you just need to take what fits in with how you want to travel and what you will enjoy, almost everything else comes second and can be worked out provided you have the time, patience, and resources.
In the end I knew that for me it was the Kawasaki KLR650 that would be just the machine for me. This video, put together by another adventuring KLR lover, was the final thing that made me make the decision.
As an adventure bike it’s tried and true, cheap as dirt, and is as reliable as a Himalayan porter. Not to mention parts are easily sourced throughout Latin America and I am already familiar with working on single cylindered carburated motors. Sounds like my kind of bike, I’ve found my noble steed.
So now I’ve got a location, and know what bike I want to take…but when should I leave? I need more green, and I need to plan a lot more. From the people that I’ve spoken with and what I’ve read on the almighty interwebs, 6-months is the minimum prep time for a trip of this sort. Well alrighty then, leaving in a year and half sounds good I suppose. That should give me plenty of time to research, save, and set-up a bike for the journey. It will also allow me to put in some time at my recently acquired job and fulfill my responsibilities there. Great, that sounds swell. That means fall of 2012, I mark it in my calendar to try and make it seem a little more solid. Realistically it is still merely just another mark on a page that is many, many, months away.
As I look at the date marked for September 2012 I drag an arrowed line out across it’s blank, barren, 2012 pages in search of an end-date…2 months…3 months…I keep dragging and I realize that no matter what I put down it likely won’t be enough. There will always be more to see. I know that for me, barring any major unforeseeable calamity, the most probable limiting factor will be finances. Quitting your job and deciding to travel the America’s while documenting the trip doesn’t sound like it will be very easy on the pocket book. But hey, we are all on this planet for a limited amount of time, some of us are lucky and get to spend many years living out our lives exactly the way we wish. I’m willing to work hard to be one of those people, I would hate to look back on a life with regrets about what I wished I had tried to do. So I decided to make it my priority to find a way to make it happen.
Flash forward 10 months of interweb surfing and countless hours of lurking on the Horizons Unlimited HUB and the ADVrider forums and my plans are coming together.
I found a good deal on a 2004 KLR 650A and liberated it from it’s previous home of sterility in a fancy neighborhood, in a fancy garage, of a fancy engineer’s summer home. This is no place for a KLR, and I think the owner, knowing what my intended uses for it were, was happy to sell it to me.
Bike procured, check.
I purchased the bike mostly stock but in 7-months I have done a fair bit of work to it and turned the bike form this, into this. I have named her Keepa, which is a spin-off of the Basque word for stone, kepa.
I’m a tinkerer and love getting my hands dirty wrenching so I’ll post more information in the Bike Prep page about what I’ve done to set her up the way I want for this trip.
Now, the waiting part. As I’m updating this I am now ~3 months away from leaving. I have made almost all of the changes and farkles to the KLR that I desire, although as I have come to know, there is always more you can do. However, as of now with only a few more projects left to finish, I am content. Now I must sit, and play the waiting game….
Well shit, the waiting game got boring right quick. So I have devised an excuse to get out and do a smaller trip first to test out my gear and bike set-up. Just a little one to wet my whistle and tide me over. I was looking at a map of North America, and what do you know, living in Seattle actually puts you geographically fairly close to the top of the America’s, relatively speaking. I heard that the riding is quite good up in Alaska and it would be awesome to to ride from the very top to the very bottom of the America’s. After a couple days of interweb and forum sleuthing I see that it is actually possible to ride up into the arctic circle and put your toes into the arctic ocean, and you can also ride all the way South to the southern tip of Argentina and dip one’s toes in the ocean there as well, so that’s my plan. Ride tip-to-tip.
Between doing endless info-seeking, drooling over other peoples past as well as present trip-reports, and working on setting up my bike, I’ve decided to create a website and try to learn the modern craft that is blogging. Although I like to think that I’ve always been a pretty introspective person, I know that I have never been good about writing my thoughts down, and I have never had any sort of outlet or good reason to do so. My mentality on it has been “If I spend so much of my waking hours thinking about life etc, why would I ever take the extra time to write those thoughts down? It’s not like I’m going to forget or that they are going to get lost.” Well seeing as life seems to change so quickly nowadays and that it can’t hurt to be more open about my thoughts, maybe by creating a blog I can try to get a bit better at sharing things about my personal life in addition to keeping my friends and family updated while I’m out riding.
Maybe, just maybe, what I learn along the way may help another person get out there and do something new that they never thought they would, or always wished they could.
I have decided to break up the trip into two separate legs. The first being Seattle, WA –> Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, which I have apply named Sea-Town to the top, and the second leg being from Seattle, WA –> Ushuaia, Argentina, named Sea-Town to the bottom.
I’ve decided to make Prudhoe Bay my destination as it is the unofficial terminus of the Pan-American Highway. I don’t really have a good excuse for going to Prudhoe Bay aside from that I was itching to test out the bike and had some saved up vacation to burn before I head south in the fall. In reality though it does in fact serve a great purpose, by adding this leg to the overall trip I create an opportunity to test both myself as well as the bike in a fairly forgiving setting and location. Although the terrain, culture, and scenery are obviously different up north than compared to Latin America, conceptually the effect on the bike as well as myself will be similar with long hours of seat-time and consecutive weeks of riding on varied terrain while living out of my motorcycle. It’s a good opportunity to see if I like my current set-up and, if there are any glaring changes that need to be made they will likely show themselves.
After spending some more time researching where I would like to go and trying to ask around to other veteran adventure riders what they say I really shouldn’t miss, I get the feeling that there is quite a lot to see between Seattle and Prudhoe Bay. This is great news as that means I have plenty of options, after solidifying my plans I talk it over with the office overlords at my work, get clearance for 4 weeks of vacation in June-July, pee my pants with excitement, and then promptly remember that I still have 6 months to wait.
After riding Sea-Town to the top I’ll be doubling back and having a stop-over in Seattle for the rest of the summer before I head south in the fall. This will allow me to make any changes to my gear and bike set-up (if need be) and will also allow me to finish up my work responsibilities at my current job. Although I am excited about the first leg heading north, I have named the trip “Tanning a Ginger Tip to Tip” as I am hoping to get some sun on this fair skin of mine and in the end, South is where I am most excited about heading.
‘Merica: My general plan is just that, general. I am planning to head down the west coast through Washington, Oregon, and California following the 101/1 primarily.
Central ‘Merica: As of now I believe I’ll be riding through southern California and crossing at Tijuana and then continuing down the peninsula through Baja to La Paz. From there I plan to take a ferry to Mazatlan and continue on south, hopefully hitting up the Yucatan Peninsula as I have been fascinated by the Mayans and it’s about time I see first hand some of the business they have been uncovering lately. Caves and anything of the sort blow my mind so I should probably find some cenotes to get all up in while I’m there since the region is full of them.
I firmly believe that the single most powerful thing one can do to enrich their travel experience is to make every effort to learn the local language. If one even has a basic grasp of the language it opens up so many doors and allows you to listen to and speak with the local people. If I never speak with the local people I feel I will be missing out on an integral part to experiencing an areas culture. Seeing as my Spanish will be nominal, and is currently closer to nonexistent at best, I would like to take a Spanish immersion class in Guatemala. I hear they have all inclusive home stays with classes during the day for about 2-weeks and that they are worth every penny and are quite cheap. This sounds great to me.
After I finish up with an immersion class I’ll have a better idea of where I want to go next and what I want to see. I do have my eyes mostly set on South America as I have never been there before but there is a lot to see in Central America along the way. I plan to swing by some of the places that I have been before in Costa Rica and Panama and then, if there is any luck, the new ferry will be up and running between Panama and Columbia to transport me over the Darien Gap which, although I’m always up for a challenge, trying to drag my bike through the infamous gap is not a bite I’m looking to chew down. If no-go on the ferry, I’ll negotiate a rate with a local boat, optimally aboard the Stahlratte, to take me and my bike (Keepa) from Panama to Cartagena in Columbia.
South ‘Merica: This is, as of now, wide open. I am prioritizing the west coast on the way down (Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Argentina) as these currently seem the most interesting to me but I here that all of South America is full of great riding and I intend to spend the majority of my time here as it is the region I know the least about. I would love to ride around all of South America and it seems that fewer riders/travelers make it out to the east/northeast coast (Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana). I have yet to deduce whether this is due to an overall lack of interest from other riders or if the weather and road conditions/logistics make it less common. In either case, I have a strong interest to see the east coast, Brazil is massive part of South America, but it will be dependent on funds and I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.
The bike I have chosen for the trip is a 2004 KLR-650. There are many bikes that I could have chosen to go with for this trip and there were many factors that went into the final decision. I’ve written a brief overview and outlined some of those factors in the Choosing page of this site. Seeing as it will be my roaming home for a while, I have done a lot of work on the bike to set it up for the way I like to travel and to make it more comfortable for the trip. It is by no means stock anymore and I have cataloged the changes that I have made in the Bike prep page.
It took me a while to come up with a name for the bike. As most motorcyclists know, every bike has it’s own character and a mannerisms, but I knew that a name would eventually come to me with time as I got to know more about the bike. After ~7 months of working on it and now riding it everyday, I have named her Keepa. The name is a spinoff of the word Kepa which is the Basque word for stone. Seeing as she’s built like a rock and strong as an ox, the name feels fitting.
I purchased the bike pretty much bone stock off craigslist with 14k miles on her. I have made a lot of changes to the bike before leaving for this trip and all have been with the intention of setting up the bike to be better prepared for long distance adventure riding. Not all of these modifications are necessary. Some changes make the bike perform better, some make it more comfortable for my desired type of traveling, and some are purely for my peace of mind while I’m out on the road as everything I own will be packed on this bike, which will serve as my home away from home.
688 Over-bore Piston and cylinder: little more boom-boom for the zoom zoom, but really just done to tighten up the rings and prevent oil burning. *
Dynojet carb kit, stage 2
Big gun header and exhaust system (opens up the motor to help her breath a bit better)
K&N Reusable filter
Drilled out the airbox under the seat to allow more air into the motor, sealed up the side of the airbox to be able to ford deeper river crossings
Iridium spark plug: lasts longer and doesn’t foul as easily.
Carb breather re-route: allows deeper water crossings without sucking in water to motor.
Eagle Mike balancer chain adjustment lever (doohickey): stock lever and spring have a history of failing, parts then get blended up inside the engine causing more damage.
14,15, and 16 tooth counter sprockets: currently running the 16, have the 14 for really low gear mud/sand.
Scottoiler: automatic adjustable chain oiler *
520 X-ring chain *
ALL BALLS sealed wheel bearings (front and rear) *
Continental TKC80 (front/rear)
*Added after round-two (after riding Sea-town to the top)
Engine front bash gaurd w/highway pegs
Engine bash gaurd/skid plate
Upgraded Sub-frame bolts: stronger bolts more capable of handling the extra weight and abuse to the frame of a fully loaded bike.
Cycra Handlebar protectors
Cogent Dynamics dual rate front springs: got a custom wound set rated to .7kg for greater load carrying, dual rate to better absorb varied road conditions.
Cogent Dynamics Moab Shock: increased load carrying capacity and better build quality than stocker. *
Cogent RaceTech Fork Emulaters: better dampening for off-road riding, better overall handling. *
K9 fork brace: braces front forks to make them sturdier and more composed for off-road riding.
320mm front rotor kit: larger rotor for improved braking and to help dissipate brake heat.
Braided steel brake lines: better brake line protection and improved braking.
High output stator: generates more power to run electronics and accessories.
Hella Rally headlights: better low/high beam lighting, draws less power.
SPOT GPS Personal Tracker: to update blog and provide my GPS location.
LED rear brake light: lower electrical draw, brighter light, and pulsates to better indicate when breaking.
LED turn signals: lower electrical draw, brighter light.
Rear turn signal relocation: relocates turn signals to accommodate panniers.
Euro electrical switch: has push to cancel signals, high/low beam, flash to pass, and running light adjustments to save power if desired.
Wired for 12v accessory plugs (one in tank bag, one under the seat): tire pump, heated vest, battery tender, charge my electronics such as camera/video camera while riding, etc.
Trail Tech Vapor digital dash: better engine and trip travel monitoring abilities, lighter, draws less power.
Garmin 60CSX GPS: for navigation and tracking, hard-wired to bike in locking Touratech mount.
Britannia Composites Phoenix Twin fairing: better buffeting and wind protection, adjustable windscreen, better dash mount location.
IMS Military fuel tank: carries 6.6 gallons of fuel for increased range and helps protect radiator from impact.
Acerbis front fender: better debris protection, better aerodynamics at highway speeds.
MSR long shift lever: easier shifts and can get my motocross boots under the lever.
Gel seat: much more comfortable and durable than stock seat.
Bar risers: brings handlebars higher to help handle the bike while standing for off-road riding.
High-rise ATV bars: more comfortable for off-road riding while standing.
Off-road foot pegs: better boot traction.
Vista-Cruiz Throttle Lock: cruise control, give the ol' throttle wrist a break.
Happy Trail Teton Panniers: each hold 38L of luggage, are lockable, and waterproof.
Happy Trail luggage racks: strong and durable to easily attach/remove panniers.
Wolfman Ranier tank bag: storing important documents / items for easy access while riding. Also holds paper map with clear see-through insert.
Wolfman Expedition dry duffel: large duffel bag holds camping equipment and clothes in a dry, easily transported duffel.
Happy Trail Center-stand
Tool tube: waterproof tube attached low on bike to carry tools and keep center of gravity low.
12v power tire-pump: for fixing flats and adjusting tire-pressure for off-road vs. tarmac riding.
Tool roll: all the tools necessary to perform routine maintenance as well as completely disassemble and reassemble the bike and motor while on the road.
Tires: When available I prefer TKC80 front and rear but these will not always be available and thus are merely what I am heading out with. There are many other great tires available.
Continental TKC80: great for touring and off-road riding.
Making decisions on what bike to take can be difficult and there will always be different recommendations from different people, and none of them are necessarily wrong, nor will they necessarily be applicable to you. The way I went about choosing a bike was to gather as much information as I could from as many varied sources as I could find. I then compiled that information, weighed what my travel priorities and preferences where, and then went with my gut.
For me and my trip, my priorities where:
Budget: I want to travel for as long as possible on this trip thus the more money I spend on a bike, the less money I’m going to have to travel with.
Reliability: a strong reliable bike is key for me, and if/when it fails, I want it to be easy to work on by myself. This means strong and simple.
Rideability: I am young and no softy, but I still desire a reasonably comfortable bike. The more uncomfortable the bike, the faster I will tire while riding and the more likely I will be to make a mistake and have an accident. With that though the bike needs to be able to basically get, past, or through anything that I decide to point it at, so it needs to be capable.
Fun factor (poweeerrrr!): I like to go fast and rip around in the loose stuff, as far as I'm concerned the more power the better, however, for this trip the ‘fun’ factor comes from where the bike is capable of taking me, not necessarily speed and HP.
Given my priorities and desired trip region, Latin America, I could basically whittle my options down to large single cylinder carburated bikes of Japanese origin. This left me with the Kawasaki KLR-650 and Suzuki DR-650 as my two main competitors.
The main difference between them for me being that the KLR is slightly taller/heavier and water cooled, whereas the DR is slightly smaller/lighter and air-cooled. After doing a ton of research and considering all the pros and cons, it was the KLR that came out at the top of my list. It’s cheap as dirt, incredibly reliable, parts are interchangeable across the 20 year time-frame that it was built (2008+ models got a face lift and slightly more street focused ergonomics, I prefer the ruggedness of the ’87-’07 bikes), parts are widely available across Latin America, and there is an endless list of aftermarket parts and modifications that can be made. Because of these aftermarket options, any area that the KLR may be weak in I will be able to easily improve on by myself. Not to mention it is the only motorcycle in use by the US military and special forces.
The bike I picked up off craigslist is a 2004 Kawasaki KLR-650 and was mostly stock when I purchased it with 14,000 miles on the odometer, it looked pretty much the same as the one in the picture above. I've spent a fair amount of time in Farklandia on this bike and I have more information about the changes I’ve made in the Bike Prep section.
In the end there is no one perfect bike for adventure motorcycle travel. It will always be a blend of personal preferences, the type of terrain that will be ridden on, and the type of experience I want to have while doing it. People have gone around the world on all kinds of bikes from Harley’s to scooters and everything in between. There are many great bikes available on the market and lots of aftermarket suppliers that can offer almost any accessory or upgrade that could be desired. With a little know-how and patience one can find or build the bike that will be best for them and their trip needs.
I carry a SPOT GPS Personal Tracker with me. I believe this gizmo is run by magic and a vast network of garden gnomes working tirelessly around the clock. It allows me to check-in via satellite with my current GPS location which then automatically updates on the interwebs my location. This way even if I don’t have internet access I can keep the 'mother'-ship placated and sleeping relatively peacefully back stateside.
I would be lying if I said that my sole purpose for this trip is to volunteer. That being said, I have always believed in engaging in the world around me in a positive way. In all of the complexity and variability of life that exists on this big beautiful wet rock of ours, we are essentially all trying to do the same thing - survive and live a reasonably comfortable life. The time that we have available to us to accomplish this seemingly basic life achievement is relatively short too, and our time can be up just about as quickly as it came if you aren't paying attention, sometimes maybe even before you thought it would be. Once it's gone you don't get a redo, and I don't intend to be caught later in life with full 20-20 hindsight thinking "Well shit, I wish I had done that different". Realizing this drives me to try and live life fully for myself, but also to strive to help others have the best shot at living their life well too. We have an opportunity to make our time here meaningful, valuable, and dare I say "fun", and it's important for me to do what I can to help others have a shot at that same opportunity.
Public health and global health has been an interest of mine since I was in high school. Over the years I've been lucky enough to have opportunities to get involved with things here and there and they were always great experiences, but I would like to do more. Although I have delayed applying to grad school for now (maybe forever?!), I haven’t forgone the idea completely and am still considering going back, eventually. But right now, the opportunity that presents itself is the chance to experience and immerse myself as much as possible into new things that I haven't done before. and I intend to make the most of that opportunity while it's here.
As I head south I will be actively looking for chances to get involved and engage in the community/environment around me. Seeing as I'm quitting my job I really have no time frame and am free to to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. As with most of my trip, my plans are very open ended. I have poked around on the internet a little but what I have come to learn is that anyone with a bit of money can make a nice looking website and ‘talk-the-talk’. Sometimes though, the people doing the best things or great work may not even have a website. I think that the best way to find people/groups/organizations/programs worth looking into will be to through word of mouth. By talking with locales, other travelers, and people in related lines of work I hope to hear what they have to say and who they recommend checking out. In addition, if anyone via this trip report has a group or organization they recommend looking up, feel free to send the info my way.
Currently finishing up on some bike suspension projects, Googling the interwebs working on trip logistics, and slowly selling the majority of my possessions. I just got the site up but I am actively filling it in as I get time so in the coming weeks it will be gaining content.
I finished up my last large project on the bike (I have named her Keepa) which was upgrading my suspension. Rode back to Whidbey Island, WA where I grew up to complete the project as I have way more tools to play with there than at my place where I live in Seattle. The suspension is from Cogent Dynamics out in North Carolina, Joyce and Rick are top-notch and they sure know what they are talking about when it comes to suspension systems. There level of detail and care in helping me get a suspension just the way I want it just shows how devoted to customer service they are. They were a pleasure to work with and I will certainly go to them in the future for any suspension related decisions.
In addition to the Cogent products I also threw in a pair of Ricor Intiminators to help with dampening. So far I am pleased with the result and I’ll get a good chance to see how the overall set-up works when I start the first leg of the trip and head to Alaska next weekend.
I have broken up the Tanning a Ginger Tip-to-Tip trip into two separate legs, the first being Sea-Town to the top and the second leg being Sea-Town to the bottom. For the first leg, which will be up to Prudhoe Bay in Alaska via British Columbia and the Yukon hitting up Dust-2-Dawson's 20th anniversary "not a rally" meet-up, I have convinced my Fasha (dad) to ride along with me for the first couple weeks on his Kawasaki KLR-650 he just bought. We’ll ride for a couple weeks then he’ll be flying back home from Fairbanks Alaska around the beginning of July.
Afterwards one of my best friends, roommate, and riding buddy, Koshal, will be flying in to Fairbanks and riding the rest of the trip as we come back to Seattle. I say “convinced” but I don’t really think it took much convincing…taking a few weeks off work to go ride around Alaska, British Columbia, and the Yukon, isn’t exactly pulling teeth for these two.
Getting all your ducks in a row seems to always be left to the last moment. No matter how much is done in advance it always seems like there is an endless list of things to get checked off before heading out on a trip and it always comes down to the wire. The things that I know I don’t want to forget are, for the most part, things that I have already taken care of.
Last weekend Koshal- my good friend/housemate/and riding buddy, and I took the bikes apart to do some preventative maintenance and check all the valve clearances on both motors. Seeing as both bikes will have somewhere between 5-7k miles added to them in the next 4 weeks it’s always smart to go in and do the maintenance before-hand that can be done now instead of trying to do it on the side of the road somewhere. Valve clearances as many people know tend to tighten up with distance so it’s smart to adjust them to the outer-end of their spec before heading out so they have the greatest amount of room to tighten up while still remaining within the normal operating range. Koshal and I had never done this before but there’s a first time for everything and I would much rather learn how to do all the maintenance myself and get to know the bike a bit more, besides, how else am I supposed to take my relationship with Keepa to the next level?
So again we headed back to Whidbey Island, WA to do some work on the bikes.
After stripping them down and opening them up we went through the valves and all of them were within their specifications but were at the bottom of the range (had the smallest recommended clearance between the valve shims and the lobes of the cams) and it made sense to put in shims that would bring the clearance more towards the upper end of the range (having the largest recommended clearance).
So we pulled all the timing chains, cams, and old shims out and calculated what would need to be put in based on the current shim sizes and desired clearances.
After wrapping everything up we put the bikes back together, made sure they ran and we hadn’t completely dickered things up, and then headed back to Seattle, WA. We were eager to get home and knock a few drinks back with some friends after a long day of wrenching but just missed the ferry by about 2 minutes so we waited for the next one. All-in-all we felt accomplished and finished what we had hoped to.
Other items on the list of preventative maintenance are replacing the brake pads all around, doing a clutch adjust, and changing all the fluids. By doing these things now it will make the amount of maintenance I have to do on the side of the road less and increase the amount of time I can spend enjoying the riding.
There’s always other miscellaneous things like replacing my sleeping pad, patching the hole I burned in my tent with a hot ember, and wiring up a 12v power source to my tank bag so that I can charge my electronics (camera, video camera, etc). All of these don’t need to be done before heading out and could be done while on the road but it sure would be handy if I got my shit together and finished them up prior. I’ve two days though (aside from the 9-5 grind) so I should be able to knock a few more things off the list.
Luckily anything that I’m forgetting to pack-up or get done is likely not to be that important…right?
The saying that being "over-packed is under-prepared" is a saying that I have come to find very true when it is applied to traveling. Just like in choosing a bike, everyone has their own preferences on how they like to travel and thus what they like to pack. By no means am I an experienced backpacker but I have definitely learned the hard way about what to bring, what not to bring, and how I like to travel. My preferred style of travel can be best described as functional-minimalist. If you are prepared you will know exactly what you will need in addition to knowing exactly what you will be fine without, preventing you from bringing pointless or excessive amounts of stuff. Thus the saying goes: Over-packed is Under-prepared.
My hierarchy goes something like this:
Bring what I imminently need on a day to day basis to get by: this usually means stuff to sustain life (food, water, synthetic/wool layered clothing appropriate for full range of potential weather conditions that could be encountered)
Bring what will make travel easier and more efficient were you to have these items than to not have them. (small amenities such as headlamp, cooking items, tent, water filter/iodine tablets, medicine aside from basic first aid in case of sickness)
Bring what may not be necessary and even slightly cumbersome but will make the trip more enjoyable than if you were to not have these items (this is highly subjective and dependent on each trip, ex: books, electronics, hobby items like climbing gear etc)
When I apply this hierarchy to long distance motorcycle travel though the important aspect of mechanical maintenance comes into play and what I need changes slightly. This “need” part is important seeing as “need” doesn’t just encompass line 1. above. Need encompasses everything that if I didn’t have it, and I were to need it, I would be screwed. For example, when talking about the more specific topic of motorcycle travel, I may never need a chain-breaker or a master link throughout the entire duration of a trip, but IF I were to break a link in my chain and not have those items to repair it my bike ceases to function as motorcycle and it quickly turns into just a sturdy stationary heavy hunk-0-steal to keep all my shit off the ground. Because not having these items would be a game-ender until the problem is fixed, I consider these items to be a part of the “need” category, even though the likelihood may be small. A clutch cable is another great example, without a functioning clutch cable the bike doesn’t function as a bike without it. On the opposite end there are many other items that are just as likely to be utilized but are far less important.
For the first leg of the trip this is what I have packed for my personal gear not including my items related to motorcycle equipment/gear (riding gear, tools, spare parts):
*everything fit into the duffel and panniers with extra space in all for food and taking off clothing layers.
Clothes (layers for warm as well as cold weather including shells for rain, prefer synthetic always but I do have cotton based items with me right now. Contrary to what my Mom always beet into my brain growing up, cotton sucks, real bad...possibly even more than trying to check the rectal temperature of a wild jungle cat. Cotton soaks up and retains water like a sponge, doesn’t dry easily, and ceases to retain heat when wet, unlike other modern synthetics or wool)
Basic first aid kit (nothing elaborate here though, just enough stuff to treat, stabilize, and transport myself seeing as medical facilities will be a plenty for the most part on the first leg)
Electronics: not in picture (digital camera, laptop, video camera)
Motorcycle related gear:
Riding gear (pants, jacket, helmet, enduro boots, gloves. I won’t rant at someone not wearing all their gear but if you’ve ever seen a body that has met the unlucky end of that gamble it is quite persuading to trade being heavy, sweaty, and cumbersome for not having your skin/bones ground down like a block of soft cheddar after having a spill)
Tools (all the wrenches, sockets, drivers, tire pump, tire irons, etc to perform all the maintenance that could be necessary on my bike specifically and nothing more. For example if not a single bolt on my bike is a metric size 7 I don’t pack it. I do however throw in a few universal tools that have multiple purposes such as monkey wrenches and vice grips etc)
Spare parts: (tire tubes, patch kit, fuses, light bulb, masterlink, spark plug, clutch cable, miscellaneous parts that are hard to come by on the road such as carburetor parts)
Miscellaneous items: items that are handy to have but don’t have an immediate one-purpose use (JB-weld, epoxy, zip-ties, twine, small bit of duct tape, ohm meter for diagnosing electrical problems, etc)
After packing everything up late last night I was pleased to have extra space in both paniers and the duffel which is important since I don’t want to have everything busting at the seam. It’s taken me a while to get decent at not just filling up space because I have it and it sure pays off later when you wish you had left some room for other items.
Moooonths ago when I decided to set a date for leaving for this first leg of the trip I had apparently put a reminder in my calendar to actually leave. I can only imagine it was a way for me to put pressure on myself to make it happen. I woke up to my phone buzzing with an ADVrider background image reminding me to head out in 24hrs, I guess it’s lucky I actually prepped beforehand!
Cruising down the super slab at 60MPH in torrential downpours was what the majority of the day yesterday consisted of. The Pacific North Wet lived up to it’s name and graciously dumped for several hours giving the bikes as well as ourselves a good rinse. Seeing as I was so stoked to be on the road for the first day I didn’t seem to care too much.
The night before I had replaced the breaks all around and put a new Continental TKC80 on the rear rim and adjusted a few minor things. A cold really helps with this process.
Fiona, the resident Frenchie roommate (I live with 6 other people in a big house we rent together) took a photo-op on Koshal’s bike. He'll be leaving the hell-raiser here though when he flies in.
I had planned to wake up at a reasonable hour, wrap up some last minute stuff at the house and be gone by 9am. Of course, this was foolish of me to actually believe would happen because I had done the reasonable thing the night before and gone out drinking with my friends that I won’t see for a month. We kicked a quite a few back and had a good time which lead to a fair bit of sleeping in.
There wasn’t a big rush to make a ton of ground though that day since my Fasha-ling (Dad, father, giver of life, etc)- who is riding his KLR650 for the first 2 weeks of the trip, had some paperwork to sign in Vancouver BC that same night. Eventually though I did get under way, met up with my sister to say by as the local kids wondered what planet I was from. I entertained their intrigue, informed them I was from mars, and shared some energy bars that I had made, however energy should have been the last thing these kids needed.
My dad met up with us there and then we got underway. Leaving Whidbey Island and going over Deception Pass it was hazey, just beginning to mist, and absolutely gorgeous. I have crossed it many times, usually appreciate it, but for whatever reason it was in one of it’s prettiest states I had seen it. Maybe I can chock it up to the good mood.
It started raining about this time and absolutely dumped rain for the rest of the day. That was the wettest I had been while riding and felt like we were literally in a swimming pool. We burned up I-5, rolled through the border, and 40 minutes later we were at our friend Shiela’s house in North Vancouver. Got a drink/food at a local pub, caught a bit of the soccer game (football for the rest of the world) and then packed it in. It felt like a long day by the time I crawled into my sleeping bag but in reality I think it was more of general decompression after several days of running around, getting stuff in order at work, and kicking it with friends before heading out that really got me tired.
Next stop, Squamish, Whistler, and then…well we’ll see where we get. Glad to be on the road again.
Like a school kid putting off homework, I felt that the miles that we hadn't been doing due to our late starts where beginning to pile up. My fasha has been pretty busy with getting stuff in order before he left so there have been some bike maintenance/changes to his bike that we have prioritized doing over worrying about it later. Seeing as we had the use of a garage it was smart to do the tasks there but has meant that we haven’t been able to put in as long of days as we would have liked. With all the wet that we had yesterday we took the chance to grease bomb our boots. This Hubero's Shoe Grease is the jam, pops said he used to use it when he worked in a logging camp back when he was in college. We'll see how it holds up to modern day rain and wet.
We did get underway though and got into Squamish BC and saw The Chief . I’m a climber and had still never made a trip to Squamish so seeing it for the first time was pretty impressive.
While in town we picked up a few food items and fasha picked up some raingear to through over his riding jacket. After the downpoor the previous day and the subsequent demise of his phone he was keen to ameliarate that problem. While ringing up his items he commented to the cashier that he knows as soon as he buys them it’ll stop raining, she chuckled and responded that they had already had there one sunny day this month.
We headed out again and rolled through whistler a bit later. We were making good pace cruising along the scenic road that goes through whistler and then heads north when I got a nice speed-woble via my rear tire blew out and the tire-bead separated from the rim. I was able to slow the bike down and come to a stop without dumping the bike along the side of the road. The feeling of your bead coming off the rim is a very distinct feeling and I new immediately that I had gotten a flat, though it was alarming as to how fast it had happened?! This meant to me that it was unlikely to be something small and must have been a large object or something more egregious.
I limped the bike to a better spot about 100meters down the road as we were currently on the apex of a narrow shouldered turn and began taking the rear tire off the bike.
As I removed the first half of the tire I could see that the valve stem of the tube had almost completely ripped clear of tube and was only hanging on by a thread.
This was an irreparable fix and was going to need a new tube rather than a patching. I had a spare front tube but no rear and so my dad set out to see if he could find a place in the nearest town. Seeing as it was Sunday & Father’s Day though we weren’t ambitious. I stayed with the bike and began trying to see if I could jerry-rig something to get us to a place to camp for the night until Monday when stores would be open.
Shortly afterward two people pulled over and offered me a hand and tried contacting a few of the local shops to see if anyone was open. No luck on the shops but I got some addresses of places to check tomorrow and jotted them down. Thanks for the stop Nathan and Lindsey, hope your hike at Nair Falls was nice!
I figured as I was stranded there on the road I mind as well do some maintenance and be productive so I bled my rear break as it hadn’t been biting very well since I changed the pads so I assumed I had gotten a small air bubble in the line causing the hydraulics to not work. After that I adjusted my shift lever to fit my big ass enduro boots and adjusted my rear break lever to better suit my right foot as well.
Another motorist, Dave, pulled over and asked if he could help, he happened to own a Suzuki DR400 and just may have a spare tube back at his house that might fit. He kindly offered to go check and I got back to McGivering a plan B. I took my spare front tube which is for a 21″ rim and began stuffing it into the 17″ rear rim. I packed it in, evened out the bends etc as much as I could and then pumped it up. It was fairly rigged considering but the bead wasn’t exactly set and the tire sure appeared wobbly.
I heard the distinct brrraaaaaapp of my dads KLR returning in the distance.
As he pulled up though it was a thumbs down, valiant effort though thanks dad. Dave returned shortly and he had brought his tube although it was a slightly different size. It was MUCH closer to spec than the front tube that I had stuffed in there but we heard there was a place to camp a mile down the road so we just decided to ride what I had there and wait for the local shops to open in the AM. We all got to chatting and it turns out that Dave and my Dad grew up near each other (my dad is a Canuck and grew up in Vancouver) and went to neighboring schools, and had several mutual friends! Small world “A”? Small world in deed.
They say that it is common to want to put miles under your belt the first few days and that until that happens, people sometimes get a bit antsy. As our second day ends and we still have many more miles to go until Dawson City Yukon, with not too many days to do it before Dust-2-Dawson begins, I was definitely feeling antsy. Though as we rolled into our quaint and groomed campsite for the night and cooked up a hearty dinner, a strong feeling of simple appreciation washed any negative feelings of being antsy away. Appreciation for the simple enjoyment of just being out and riding, the great roads, and the kind people you meet along the way were the only feelings I had as I went to sleep.
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