DIY adventure motorcycling - thoughts?
Hi guys and gals,
I'm writing an article for Outrider Journal (the rather luvverly new adventure motorcycling mag in the US) about the DIY approach to motorcycle travel, something that seems to be laregly a British/Euro phenonemon (rather than the US).
Obviously, being married to DIY AM hero, Austin Vince (!), I have his take on things but I would be interested to hear anyone elses opinion on the subject. From talking/emailing with various travellers lately I'm getting the feeling that there's a growing movement towards keeping things small and simple - 'less is more', 'back to basics', 'make do and mend' (and any other useful sayings I can think of).
Has anyone else noticed this? Is it significant? What is the driving force behind it? Is it just a reaction to consumerism, is it related to the economic situation, is it a symptom of a wider social movement towards simple living?
Woah... almost got philosophical for a moment there...
Anyway, if you have a moment, do give your beards a stroke and let me know your innermost thoughts...
See you at Lumb Farm I hope!
Lois, I don't know what the letters "DIY" stand for in this context. "Do It Yourself" in the States refers to accomplishing something without substantial aid from professionals, e.g., a Do It Yourself re-roofing project on the house, a Do It Yourself legal process without paid help from lawyers.....
So what's the adventure motorcycling version? Am I a DIY adventure motorcyclist if I change my own oil? If I don't have sponsors (*gasp*) or a wealthy spouse? Or maybe if I fund my motorcycle journey using the money I saved on my DIY re-roof and divorce?
Thanks for any clarification.
I'm not sure if there is a movement like that. To me there are still the same debates about which ali pannier etc. Which laptop and which kermit chair to chuck on the back of a 300kg Adv bike. :innocent:beer
DIY - a definition
Sorry for any confusion.
DIY does technically stand for 'Do It Yourself' but here in the UK it has also come to define a creative ethos - one that came out of the punk era of the mid/late 70s and referred to anything that was grass roots, independently produced, often amateur, self funded, and not reliant on a corporation - ie. photocopied fanzines, home recording, small pressings of records or books etc.
So I guess my query refers to that ethos being applied to motorcycle travel - making your own luggage, keeping things cheap, small, secondhand etc.
Hope that makes sense.
I think theres some truth in what Lois is saying...
My take is that Adventuer biking EXPLODED in popularity over the naughties..With E&C and all the manufacturers jumping on the band wagon with them, there was a lot of new interest.
That led to a lot of newbies all at once (me included).... Just look to how the Riply meeting increased in numbers ???
Well, what do newbies do ?? They buy all the stuff they think they will need. Expensive aluminium boxes, TT electric bum fluff removers, titanium lazer etched soap dishes etc..
All the stuff that any adventurer will SURELY need to survive yeah !! :innocent:
Well, all these newbies got out there and did some trips (me included) and realised how much money we'd wasted on pointless crap. The vast majority realised that you don't need to spend ££££££££££££ on kit to ride around the world.
I think it's a case of experience now... Where you still get a decent amount of newbies coming in and swallowing up the sales brochures, I don't think there is that explosion of novice adventure bikers with open wallets that there was even five years ago.. People got smart !!!
OF COURSE the global recession is also to blame. There just isn't that spare cash for toys anymore. Many of my riding buddies have downgraded their bikes and put those "Bike bling" toys on indefiate hold. That goes for me too. You can't justify spending £300 on a new GPS when your kids need new shoes for School.
Maybe we can put it down to Education too. With more and more forums full of experienced overland bikers showing people "HOW TO" .
You're always going to get that bling bling side of it who will continue to buy the top end metal boxes and £1000 riding suits. If it keeps them happy and the market alive, ces't la vi...
I'm not sure either.
It's still a rarity to see a 'travel bike', and most of the time it'll be a big blingy Beemer blasting by (cool alliteration) along the overtaking lane. It's only at Ripley/Tesch/HU wherever that I've seen machines and riders who travel in a minimalist fashion.
I agree with Ted that it's only once you get on the road that you realise just how little you really need, and how simple and cheap it can be. Perhaps then, with many more people getting out there (C&E effect!), there is a movement in that direction.
At the very beginning of my first trip I met a couple from Oz on Honda CT200 farm bikes, complete with pull starters. At first I thought they were mad but quickly came to realise that they got it exactly right! (Thanks Marty & Jo)
Roll on Ripley (but don't forget to take your plastic to this - NOT).
I consider 2 parts to DIY:
1. bike & equipment
2. trip organisation
For equipment prep, I liked the model someone described on another forum about 4x4 travelling: Have a reliable base vehicle, put your rucksack in the back and your ready. In essence, the reliability is inversely proportional to the number of modifications to the base vehicle and you don't need much to live on the road. There are extremes both ways - from drilling holes in your toothbrush to carrying spare spares just in case.
As for trip organisation i think it comes to personality, some people like the packaged adventure holiday, others prefer a day-by-day plan before they leave and others wake up in the morning and feel like heading west. Your preference usually depends on personality (exposure to unknown), budget and amount of time available for the trip.
Your budget does not stop you doing anything, however a larger budget allows a certain amount of comfort...
Choice of bike
It used to be for me just looking at what bike was coming around the corner I could sort of tell what rider it was to be for if it was say..... a 80's-90's single (XT/DR) or twin (AT/R80) then that'd be the more likely DIY guy, for if the bike broke then there was a reasonable chance he could repair (or bodge) the bike themself. The sort of guy who'd choose the bike for that very reason.
If it were a brand new BMW 1200GS (an example-not a dig) then the chances of doing DIY repairs are slim as new technology comes about in bikes. Necessating the need for expensive tooling, a stocked up dealership or a big sense of faith the bike will not fail.
So I would think the more mechanically minded and those willing and not too scared to open an engine would be the bigger DIY enthusiasts.
Also, from those whom I have met, I find the really enthusiastic DIY enthusiasts are either skint, bored or making a point. (Dear Austin was at least 2 of them if not 3..! LOL) Remember the BSM driving school advertisement..? "You wouldn't ask your cousin how to split an atom?" Well, I wouldn't fabricate my own pannier racks from 50p's worth of scrap shelving, ammo boxes and dodgy welding, coming out of my garage like Wesley Pegden (Last of summer wine mechanic) wearing a triumphant smile cos I know it'd be shite, no matter how much I'd saved.
When I was in the army, we were issued with bog standard, basic equipment. It was cheaply made and free, costing only a signature, did the job but was crap. Any idiot can be cold, wet and miserable and if you wanted to be warm and dry you went out and bought the right gear for the job. A soldier with good kit was called 'Gucci'! a pisstake but he was dry and smiling. Same with biking. If I'm cold, wet and miserable then I'm not enjoying the ride which the whole point is to enjoy the ride. (Money is a shite insulator)
Personally, I tried to acheive both. My chariot was something I could work on, an '03 XT600e and I purchased the rest off t'internet! Cos they were made by people who knew what they were doing. Is that DIY? I try to be more clued up than 'Blinged up!' nowadays as time and experience has accrued.
I certainly hope Outrider Journal goes well, I can't have done too bad as I made front cover, 1st issue and the story 'Into Africa' an issue I will frame! LOL!
I think there is a wee bit of a backlash amongst the AT community. I was at Austin's recent passionate talk in Edinburgh about DIY motorcycle touring and while there were a few slightly embarrased looking people who'd clearly bought the shop, most of the people there seemed to agree with his viewpoint that small, cheap and homemade is better than simply bought off t'internet.
I think (and I know this might be contraversial!) that this might in part be due to E&C (much as I'd like it not to be!). There are an awful lot of of 1200GS riders out there in their BMW 'Twat-Suits' (Austin's term, not mine!) who just ride their bike in a perfectly pleasant, ordinary biker sort of way, going to the places ordinary bikers go and having a great time while they do it.
Perhaps the upsurge in popularity for DIY biking is a reaction from those who consider themselves to be 'proper' adventure bikers to mark themselves as different from Johnny Weekender? When you see a chap (or lass) on a GS or a KTM Adv, you think - 'There's someone who's bought an adventure bike'. When you see someone on a ratty old DRZ with his underpants sticking out of his homemade luggage and handguards made out of plastic milk bottles - you think 'Ooh, I wonder where he's been!'
The 'DIY' adventure touring community perhaps seems more 'real' to people because it is so divorced from the E&C, support vehicles, sat phones, sponshorship type riding that the world at large thinks what adventure motorcycling is.
Of course, it could just be because making things is fun.
I'd say that DIY adventure has always been the 'norm', my own personal angle on it would be "why the rise in 'off-the-shelf' adventure packages/holidays". You can spend $150,000 dollars on an organised round the world trip now, or $40,000 on a Ushaia - Vancouver jaunt plus numerous 'adventure' packages round africa and the med etc
I always thought that the 'spirit of adventure' was throwing yourself into the unknown, whether its diving into an unexplored cave system, backcountry skiing, climbing new routes or motorcycling into strange lands. To go into something with little expectations of what you will find means your expectations cannot be broken or disappointed....
As such it strikes me that if you have a guide and an itinerary (and you have paid a lot of cash) then it's less of a ture 'adventure' and more of a great experience.
That's not to say it takes less 'balls' to do an off-the-shelf tour because peoples comfort zones are entirely personal and relative. Some people would consider going to a supermarket they don't usually use slightly unnerving and some people need to fly a wingsuit down the side of a mountain.
The presence of sponsors is a slightly moot point - I need some backing because I have a minimum wage job - Domino's sold me an old delivery bike for 200 quid to help me out - does that mean that when I turn it into a desert racer and cross the Sahara I am a corporate sell-out?
We definitely risk a lot of inverted snobbery creeping in here!
I have been riding for 30+ years and got only in 2006 into dual-sport and adventure riding. Here is my take:
Adventure bike travel or let's stick to "DIY" travel has evolved like everything else. Just an example: The skilled motorcyclist/traveler had to come up with solutions for luggage and build his/her own lockable aluminum box. Commercial businesses recognized a need with potential for volume. Before you know it, you could buy lockable aluminum boxes in various designs.
Once it caught on, they were building also little aluminum covers here and little aluminum "dodads" there. ...useful? Probably not. When I look at some commercial motorcycle accessory catalogs, I find now that maybe 10-20% of what they are offering might be useful to me, my kind of travel, covering my kind of needs.
And, don't get me wrong, I am the first one to admit that I fell into that trap as well when I started with my dual-sport/adventure riding "career" in 2006 :blush:.
I am now prepping for my first RTW motorcycle trip and realize that my needs have completely changed. First and foremost, I want reliability, simplicity and as little as possible. However, I am willing to spend money on good quality gear for man and machine.
If I had to scrape by to make the trip work out, I would not do it. I have had my share of world travel for business and pleasure over the past 25 years. I would want a certain quality and level of comfort, which in my case is good quality tent, -sleeping mat, -sleeping bag, riding gear etc, ...you'll get the idea.
Also, while I have the skills and tools, I have no interest in building my own aluminum boxes. I rather spend my time with route planing, contacting people ahead of time etc. Again, to achieve a certain comfort while doing the trip. That is what works for me ...beer
Sorry, Henry, definately did not intend to suggest you were a corporate sell-out! ;)
PS - I always find going the supermarket unnerving!
I dont like the 'instant biker, just add money' look. Since 'Adventure' motorcycling has gotten relatively popular, companies have huge ranges of expensive stuff to make you look the part. Problem is, the people who buy every little bit of adventure motorcycle products, most times dont ride around the world. Most times there bikes never see mud. And what the've spent on the bike and kit could have got them around the world on a ,shall we say, cheaper bike. Some might utter the word 'Posers'. Sorry, its just my opinion.:innocent:
There seems to be a common assumption that home-made is by definition not as good as bought off the shelf and that comfort is a factor of having paid top-whack for an off the shelf piece of kit. This is not necessarily true.
IMHO a piece of kit made expertly by someone in their garage is likely to be much better than something made to profit/sales tolerances in a factory by someone who doesn't actually have to rely on that piece of kit for months on end.
For example - the powder coated steel rear rack and peli case top box that I made for my XT is IMHO, the best top box for my needs that I have ever seen by several country miles. I quite simply couldn't have bought something as good off t'internet. This is just one example - I bet anyone who makes their own kit could give plenty of similar examples.
I didn't think I was an intended target for that one, just making a point (I forget which one though...)
Of course pigeon-holing people who buy a GS and a full set of touratech gubbins is fine by me! But I guess they are just doing what they think is the correct way to go about it, due to media, social conditioning, (dare I say them being a twat) etc so can't be blamed for it:innocent:
We might not like to way adventure motorcycling is becoming more of a corporate enterprise but this is in itself making more opportunities for people to make a living out of it - imagine haow succesful Mondo Enduro would have been if it was done now rather than when it was a real niche market!
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