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Young, Wild and Riding Free.

Posted By Natalie Ellis Barros #199011, Monday, May 11, 2015
"Young, Wild, and Riding Free"
Natalie Ellis Barros #199011

You might say it was a little allegorical that my first solo adventure on a motorcycle would be heading 600 or so miles down the “One” to pick up my college diploma. I was too cheap to pay $60 for it to be mailed, and I was in need of my first real ride, alone. So, closing one chapter of my life and riding straight into the next, I heaved myself and a bunch of gear onto the back of my beautiful GS and hit the road for Southern California.
   I know it’s not around the world or anything, but after three hours of mingling with the commuters headed to the Bay area and fighting for the carpool lane on the I-680, bending against the ocean breeze and squinting into the glare of the sun off the iridescent waters felt like a magical world all its own. The wind likes to try to knock you over on that section of the 101, and I wanted to go faster than the 70 mph speed limit because the road just sits there, open and clear for you with the sun smiling down, but the wind wanted nothing more than to throw this 23-year-old out on her first adventure ride off her poorly packed bike. It was in that moment, when all my muscles in my tiny body were tightened together in order to keep the bike up, occasionally having to punch the bags strapped up behind me to keep them from pulling me down, that I started crying. But the tears were not from some “girly” frustration and weakness, but out of pure happiness and the excited thrill of being alive that only motorcyclists can understand.
   I stopped in Monterey for a late lunch at a lovely little American diner just off Cannery Road. Ironically, I had some of the best fish tacos in my life. As soon as I took off my helmet, on came the stares and the questions. Being a strong advocate of ATGATT, I can appear pretty genderless with my helmet on, which can of course come in handy if I’m filling up the tank in a sketchy place. But once I expose my head covered in long feminine locks and features, the reactions of the on-lookers around me change and surprisingly almost always for the better.
   As a fit young woman, I’ve been objectified and harassed by men frequently. It seems that no matter what I’m wearing, be it sweat pants, dance clothes, cocktail dress, or parka, there’s always someone who feels the need to be crass or send their hungry eyes my way. But every man I’ve encountered while in my gear has treated me with the utmost respect and admiration, often asking me questions about my journey and my bike, but always encouraging my independent nature. In fact, it was usually the women who would either glare in disapproval, ask me why I was “inviting danger,” or simply refuse to acknowledge me. It seems more and more that it is women who put our gender in a box rather than men.
   Returning to my journey, the road was beautiful and warm as I headed down the coastal highway. The camping spot that I had planned on stopping at was full, so on down the road I continued. Soon, the sun was setting, and it was starting to get cold. I had passed Big Sur and was beginning to get worried about time. I had thrown around the idea of just stopping somewhere on the road and attempting to toss down my sleeping bag in some brush in the hopes of going unnoticed, but the idea of being awakened by a cop or worse in the dead of the night kept that idea as a last resort only.
   With the sun down for about an hour, I was exhausted and knew that I was entering the “danger zone” and not the Kenny Loggins one. The more I continued down the road the more dangerous I knew I became to myself and to others. “Cambria 6 miles” the road sign said, and I pulled off into what I thought was Cambria looking for some answers. My phone was almost dead. I had it in airplane mode to save energy and without it, I felt utterly lost. I didn’t remember seeing a campground on the map until SLO after Big Sur, and I was stuck in the cold in between. There were a few hotels, but this being my only night on the road before heading into to LA tomorrow, I refused to give in and stay in one. Not only was I a broke, recent college grad, but I knew that my trip would have been an utter failure. I rode all this way with all this crap on the back of my bike to prove to myself that I was independent and strong, to prove that I had grown from mom and dad’s little college girl into “adventure woman” ready to embrace the world with nothing but a F650GS and a tent, and I wasn’t just going to call it quits and pitch up in a hotel. Hell no! I took a deep breath, latched my helmet back on, straddled “Lady Godiva” once again and took off south. Sure enough, about a mile down the road, I found my deliverance from the winding One.
   “San Simeon State Park.” Apparently I hadn’t passed Cambria like I thought. That little, brown sign with the shiny triangle “tent” icon glowed in the night, and I breathed a solid breath of relief. I followed the dirt road on my trusty dual up the hill toward the inaptly named “primitive” camping. It was dark, but I found my way around to my spot. I pitched my tent and left the sill off because I wanted to “wake up with the sun” since my phone was dead and I had no alarm…terrible idea. Even though it wasn’t as cold as one might think it would be on the coast in November, it was still cold enough to wish I had put the sill over and wake up whenever my body wanted to. Nevertheless, it was a lovely night. I was freezing, but I had the luminescent full moon and howling coyotes for company. Sure, I was frightened; who knew what was out there waiting to prey on a woman alone with nothing but a bit of pepper spray and a pocket knife clung to her chest for defense?
   On my own, wherever the road would take me, on the most wonderful vehicle for adventure that humankind could’ve ever invented. This is what I had wanted out of life. So many of my friends and peers were struggling to figure out what they wanted in life, thrown into the “real world” and wishing they were back under the security blanket of student loans and grade point averages to define who they were. I didn’t want to be anywhere else but on the road.
   I woke up with the sun after sleeping but a handful of hours, packed up and hit the road. I passed Cambria with the sun in my eyes and saw Morro Bay for the first time shortly after that. I’ve grown up in California and have been up and down it a dozen of times, and yet I’m still finding places I never even knew existed. It was a quiet and fresh morning, and there sat Morro Rock, tall and magnificent, a soldier in parade position waiting at the ends of the Earth for me to pass her and salute.
   I stopped for breakfast in San Luis Obispo and discovered that it was about 7:30 a.m. I continued on along the coast to Santa Barbra and decided I’d take the 101 into LA to visit friends before heading to Newport Beach where my best friend was waiting to celebrate the weekend with me.
   By 2 p.m. Hollywood was already hell. I thought I hated driving there, but riding there with too much gear and splitting lanes and possibly denting a Maserati was even worse. Luckily, a good friend of mine lives a block away from the Chinese theater, so I parked the bike, locked up my gear at his place, and he and I took to the streets to laugh at the tourists, judge the hipsters, and admire the Art Deco that hides behind the glamour of modern Hollywood.
   I spent the weekend in Newport Beach visiting my old stomping ground and finally picked up my diploma from UC Irvine just before heading back up Highway One that next week. I had never gone up past Long Beach on the Pacific Coast Highway, so up I went with what seemed like a lot more courage and self-assurance than I had come down with. My gear never wavered, and I pissed off countless drivers stuck behind each other as I fearlessly scooted between them and past the vast and crowded city.
   I took my time on the way up, stopping at “points of historical interest” and points that at least I thought were interesting even if no one else did anymore. I visited some abandoned well, a tree that hung to the ground like an old woman, and the Inez mission that sits just past the way-too-adorable Solvang which I just couldn’t bear to stop at and take a photo of. I camped again on the way up, and this time I remembered to charge my phone longer so that I could throw up the sill. I hit the road early in the morning and got to see the elephant seals playing on the beach before the tourists swarmed them with camera lenses. My gas light went on, and I had to wait at the gas station in Ragged Point for the place to open and my phone to charge. At $5 a gallon, I was once again happy to be riding a motorcycle and not a gas-guzzler.
   When I took off again, it was just after 8 a.m. and the road was empty. I slowed down to keep pace with a Red-Tailed Hawk. At first, he almost crashed right into me, but then for about a mile he flew next to me! He was close enough that I could make out the sharp curve of his beak and the bright red of his tail feathers. I smiled from under my helmet, and when my companion finally took off and I went around a bend, I knew I could never feel more alive. I never believed in fate, but as I’m sure most of you reading this have felt, if there is such a thing then this is definitely my fate; this is what I was meant for. I startled a bobcat that scampered up the nearly vertical hill like a bullet, and I slipped past the ever-crowded Big Sur seemingly unnoticed.
   I stopped for lunch in Monterey yet again, and as I turned inland I sang at the top of my lungs. The beauty of the full-faced helmet is that you can still look like a bad-ass while screeching Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” at the top of your lungs. When I finally did arrive home I was more exhausted and more fulfilled than I had ever been in my entire life.
   Next stop, South America. Anyone down?

Tags:  BMW MOA  F650GS  generation  New 

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5 Riders, 1 Experience

Posted By Chris Hughes, Monday, May 11, 2015
Alpine Delight: The 2014 BMW MOA/Edelweiss Bike Travel Alpine Delight Tour
The very first Edelweiss tour in 1981 made its way through the Alps with five riders and two guides, including company founder Werner Wachter. Ever since then, Edelweiss has become a go-to solution for motorcycle riders of all stripes who share a common desire to see some of the most beautiful vistas and ride some of the most memorable roads all over the world.
   The 2014 BMW MOA Alpine Delight Tour explored some of the most picturesque and challenging roads in the world, taking in the Alps and Dolomite regions of Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland. Five MOA members got together over email to discuss the trip: Paul Bates #30139, Michael Diehl #89137, Chris Hughes #33373, Elaine Rourke # and Shane Whitney #192518.
   The ride began last August in the beautiful resort town of Seefeld, Austria. The group of riders rode through the green Bavarian hills of southern Germany, visiting one of King Ludwig’s amazing castles along the way. “The first riding day was easy,” said Chris, “and it gave everyone an opportunity to get acquainted with their motorcycle as well as the riding conditions we could expect for the rest of the week.”
   “The switchbacks were as awesome as we’d always heard,” added Elaine, continuing, “One mountain pass had 48 of them!” Several riders agreed that while the roads were narrow and some were subject to traffic, most of the time, there was little traffic, and that made the roads more inviting than intimidating. Paul attributed the lack of traffic to school being back in session and credited the preponderance of “Welcome Bikers” signs at every roadside restaurant, café and attraction for making him feel at home everywhere the tour went.
   “The Dolomites were the most stunning landscapes of the rides,” Chris said. Shane agreed, calling the Dolomites the absolute highlight of the tour. “The Dolomite passes were more challenging than the Alps,” Shane said, “and the views were more of a departure from what I see riding through the Adirondacks at home.  I enjoyed the total focus it takes to ride the passes at a faster pace. The feeling of exhaustion at the end of the day made me feel like I put in the work and I enjoyed the hell out of it.” Chris concurred, saying, “The unending beauty was a challenge to my senses – I didn’t know whether to keep riding or stop and admire the scenery.”
   Michael especially enjoyed Italy’s Passo di Stelvio, which features 36 switchbacks on the western side, the peak (third highest in the Alps) at 2,758 meters (9,048 feet), then 48 more switchbacks on the eastern slope. The 18-kilometer (11.2 miles) pass has numerous, mostly unlit, tunnels as well as sheer drop-offs and stone walls to greet the tour buses, trucks, motorcycles and bicycles that traverse its path. Following Stelvio, the tour wound through Glurns, a 13th century walled city that has remained virtually unchanged since its founding. Stelvio was the last pass of the tour, with the day’s ride ending back in the start city of Seefeld. Michael and Pam plan to view and review their hour-long GoPro video of the ride through Passo di Stelvio in the off-season to remind them of their time on the tour.
   Michael relied on his wife, Pam, to navigate and identify upcoming hazards, especially when riding through the tight switchbacks. Elaine has suggested that Edelweiss include GPS units, loaded with the tour routes, on each bike.  She said, “In some places the road signs were in German, Italian and a local dialect, which made it difficult to follow printed directions and maps. Having a working GPS on the bike would have added to my enjoyment of the trip.” She eagerly credited the Edelweiss staff, especially guide Michael Keller and Austria-based staffer Karin Gritsch, with making the tour such an easy, enjoyable experience.
   All the riders agreed that staying in the same hotel for two nights at one point in the tour was a real plus. “It cut down on packing and unpacking, said Elaine. “The stops gave us the opportunity to explore some quaint towns, like Seefeld, St. Ulrich and Livigno,” said Chris, adding that the rest days gave the MOA riders a chance to get better acquainted with each other as well. Shane liked the two-night stays as well, saying, “There were plenty of nice locations for several days’ worth of local riding, so the necessity to change locations everyday just wasn't there.”
   Elaine called the Alpine Delight Tour “the trip of a lifetime, a dream come true.” For Elaine and her husband, it was an adrenaline-pumping way to fight getting old as they celebrated their 25th anniversary and her 65th birthday. “Being from Florida,” she says, “the mountains provided a true departure from our usual motorcycle riding experiences.”
   Shane particularly enjoyed the ability to ride on his own or in a smaller group, and explore some of the off-route areas on his own and at his own pace. “I’m an adventure seeker,” he admits, “and that allowed for more adventure than with a group ride. I was very excited to ride through Switzerland and the Alps.”
   Paul reminisced about the weather, noting that Alpine weather in late September and early October is not unlike the eastern United States in that it brings clear vistas, clean roads and crisp temperatures. He noted that the Edelweiss bikes were all equipped with panniers and tank bags, giving enough day-to-day carrying capacity to bring along all the layers necessary to handle changing temperatures and the one brief rain shower they encountered.
   For more information about Edelweiss Bike Travel, see their website at

Tags:  Alps  Dolomites 

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An Africa Adventure

Posted By Helge Pederson, 45007, Thursday, March 5, 2015


It is all in your head. Alarms go off, warning you that you cannot do this. You fight back trying to convince yourself that you actually can ride to the top of Sani Pass. It might even feel like some kind of initiation to make it to the top of Lesotho. Everyone else has already shot ahead; who are you if you don’t make it?

As the tour leader, I try to balance pressure with reality. The day we entered Lesotho from South Africa, the main purpose of the ride was to conquer Sani Pass, hopefully without causing any accidents. Two riders listened carefully to my safety-first pep talk that morning and decided to take it easy, asking to ride with me. I would rather have been playing with the faster riders that most likely had reached the top while I was coaching these two riders to stay within their limits, but this is my job.

Read the full story of Helge Pederson's Africa Adventure in the January issue of the BMW Owners News or view the full size slideshow to to see the story in pictures.



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MOA Member Profile, Chris Lesser

Posted By Bill Wiegand, 180564, Thursday, March 5, 2015
Updated: Thursday, March 5, 2015

“Ride, Write, Win.” I still have the brochure advertising BMW’s 2001 “Great rides Contest.” When I first picked up that little pamphlet my junior year of college, I had just started looking at getting my first motorcycle for the sole purpose of taking a cross-country trip, This half-baked idea jelled somewhere between Easy Rider, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and having absolutely no idea what I wanted to do after college.

Read the full story of MOA member Chris Lesser in the February issue of the BMW Owners News or view the full size slideshow to to see the story in pictures.






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The Pyrenees by Motorcycle

Posted By David Olson, Wednesday, January 28, 2015

    Most journeys begin with some end, a destination, in mind. Unless you are a motorcyclist.  Then it is the journey, the small stops on the road, and the eventual let down: I have arrived. It is Tuesday, and I am almost on the way to Barcelona and the Pyrenees. I will meet my brother, John, and his wife Brenda, who will ride two up. Our roads, our lodgings are known thanks to my brother's planning. Yet remaining is the uncertainty of the next corner, the next village.




Early morning departure. In bed at 9 the night before, then sleep in fits and starts. Perhaps a tree has fallen on a power line in the northwest disrupting power in the southwest. I wake, check my watch...still six hours before I leave for the airport. Relieved? Somewhat, but even more tired. Finally, finally it is up and off. I actually arrive before TSA opens the security line. No photographs, no lasting memories yet, but my journey hasn't really started. I am in the aluminum sausage at 35,000 feet winging my way eastward into the Atlantic night.

   There is only the troubled sleep of a six foot body crammed into a small space. I read somewhere that one should sleep when the sun is down, sort of a circadian rhythm thing. I am a bat flying at night...not much rest. I arrive in Barcelona on schedule and the rendezvous with my brother and his wife at the Cafe di Fiore goes without a hitch. We even have all of our checked luggage. Life is good, but I am tired. Not so sure I can trick my body; it has been over 24 hours since I lay in a real bed.

   The Rambla: this is a bucket list item. The first time I walked the Rambla was in 1970 as a very fresh Navy lieutenant (JG). Now, these many years later, it is still the same. Thousands of people of all age and description. Ice cream vendors, sidewalk hawkers, the milieu making up the Rambla. Rediscover Los Caracoles, not quite right for us. Find a good restaurant and order

   Off to see Gaudi's masterpiece cathedral. Still under construction!  Then to the beach. Lunch on the beach, this is really nice. We pick up our motorcycles, and we are armed and ready to go.

   It is Friday morning. Rested, fed, and ready to ride, I feel human. First, stop for gas, an amazing quest in the city, but we finally find one after doing a bunch of "izquierda y derecho."  We navigate out of the city. The GPS is a piece of work to be sure. Totally fearless, it leads to some unnecessary directions, but eventually we escape. Many miles, now in the foot hills of the Pyrenees. We are on the green and yellow roads, that is to say the ones built before the surveyor's transit. It is kilometer upon kilometer of unending turns. Intense rhythm reminiscent of slalom skiing. We arrive in Campdevanol, a really nice hotel with an accommodating staff.

   Campdevonal is in the Pyrenees foothills. It is a small village tangential to the N152. It is early afternoon, and we encounter a group of hale and hearty Swiss motorcyclists. It is tempting to knock back some of the local cerveza. My brother and I elect to take an afternoon excursion. We pull out the Michelin Zoom map, not the book store map, and look for a devious, serpentine, green road. Our search rewarded, we remount the BMW GS motorcycles and sally forth. An hour later, we return. Holy smoley, there are no straightaways, only varying degrees of turn radius. And this is only a preview of the remaining ten days. We drink our beer, well, beers. The Swiss are still there.

   Morning, the Catalonian sun has melted away into a gray sky. We are learning the basic rule of the Pyrenees: if you can't see the top of the mountain, it is raining; if you can see the top, it will rain. Not to worry, we have our all-weather riding gear and button up. North, then at Ribes de Freser we turn northwest toward Ax les Thermes, our next haven. Warm and sunny Spain is behind us now, yet, we can still see the tops of the mountains. Growing in height, we climb and descend on increasingly higher passes. Puigcerda: we enter France and join the N20. We climb on sweeping turns that tighten as we move upward until apexing at the Col de Puymorens on the N320. We are in the high alpine region so typical of European mountains. Only the traffic mars this ride and reminds us the "N" (national) routes marked in red mean traffic.

   Ax les Thermes is a popular tourist spot and part of the Tour de France route. It is also nestled in a narrow, pretty Alpine valley and has hot springs. Dropping our gear off at our lodging, we again elect to take the afternoon excursion. The leaden skies open into a steady drizzle. We find a small cafe and stop for lunch. The rain starts. Mount up, and off again. My mid-layer is getting moist. As it turns out, I have not fully secured my jacket. A good lesson. The ride is wet and twists through the deciduous forest. Fun, but we are glad to get back to Ax les Thermes and somewhere dry. We later go to the village and discover the local street market. It is another good day.

   New morning, same gray skies. We lope westward along the north side of the Pyrenees, stopping briefly in Massat. I love these small villages. We are the aliens observing the earth people living their lives. They don't mind, actually they are indifferent to us. We continue past St. Girons and on toward Bagneres de Luchon. We are in lands similar to the Appalachians. Time for a break, we stop for lunch in a nondescript village. Pulling into a gravel parking lot, we carefully align our 600 pound bikes on the slight grade. We discover Chez Jo.

   Chez Jo is the epitome of the village restaurant inn. An elegant middle-aged woman is stacking chairs on the outer deck. No need, it will rain today. She beckons us into the old house salon. It is lush in its warmth. Regional artifacts adorn the walls, a guitar in its rack awaits the virtuoso. I offer to play “House of the Rising Sun,” but John and Brenda discourage my art with a look of constrained horror. In a form of French, we communicate our desire, and our host leaves for the kitchen. An entree of country ham and cantaloupe slices arrives, then the main plate heaped with mutton and au gratin potatoes. Could this get better?  Well, the fresh blueberry pie removes any doubt. We are warm, fed, and dry. And it is raining again.

   Did I mention the wet? My riding gear stubbornly refuses to seal. Fortunately, my companions are doing better. It is only a couple of more hours to Bagneres de Luchon, and we arrive. The rain has let up, we have a dry room, and the sun comes out. It is beautiful. The town is the nexus of bicycling. From the valley floor we look up into the high meadows and peaks. Those are ski runs!  

   Today is a big day. We are doing the five classic cols of the Tour de France. The sun is shining, our machines are ready and packed. First one then the other, the low throb of the R1200GS "wasser boxer" disrupts the morning quiet. Brenda assumes her position on the rear pillion, and after the soft thunk as we drop into first gear, we ease the clutches and move out. Mild turns and slight climbs give way to the stair stepping turns and grades. It is a synchrony of clutch, shift, throttle, brake and on and on. The sweepers are behind us, and I must perfect synchrony. Too tall a gear, a missed shift, a sloppy throttle, and I stall. The road is narrow, single lane. Close margins. I approach a tight hair pin that climbs up and right, swing a little wide, and my head turns uphill--can't stare ahead. I am in the turn, second gear, RPM at 2200, rolling on throttle, a car coming downhill slows. I straighten from the turn, a little wide on the exit but ok. Roll on throttle, prepare for next hair pin left. The road is straightening. I note the encouraging phrases painted on the pavement. I like to think they are for me, but accept this is the aerie of bicycles and montaneros. Motorcycles allowed, barely tolerated. We approach the Col de Peyresourde, and I pass bicyclists climbing an incredible grade. Descend and climb again. I summit next to the sculpture of bicyclists at the Col de Aspin. John and Brenda arrive.

   Some photos, then the comfortable throaty rumble of our engines returns. I descend, but it is a little easier. We don't lose speed in turns on descents, but this poses a new hazard of swinging wide and exiting into oncoming traffic. And then there is the manure on the road. I am in a pastoral area. Sheep, horses and cows are common on the roadway, and they mark their passage. Today is dry but still a little spooky, and I have felt the lurch as tires lose traction. Oh, this is too funny: someone has painted an image of multiple spermatozoa swimming up the mountain. Anything to encourage the bicyclists. We stop for lunch at a small cafe in the alpine valley. Start engines, climb up, go down, turn, turn...we arrive in Arette, France.

   We ride to St. Jean de Luz in the morning. It is raining. The road is slick. In the turn, a sweeper, the tires lose traction, it is so fast. I am fighting to suppress my Survival Reactions described by Keith Code. I am still up and thankful of BMW engineering. I am driving even slower, with laser focus on all road signs cautioning "slippery road."  We reach St. Jean de Luz. We are halfway through our journey.

   My brother's friends, Catherine and Truman, greet us as we arrive at their apartment. They make room for us: warm hearth, bed, and company, followed by soome great food and conversation at a nearby restaurant. Encore, one more night following a day of local riding along the Atlantic coast. It is time to return to Barcelona. We drive southeast from St. Jean de Luz, then turn east at Olague. Rolling country and forests. It is the Basque country.

   It is time to leave the valley and begin our traverse across the southern Pyrenees foot hills. We roll out of a climbing sweeper at the top of a ridge. At the crest, a parking lot with a food cart. Odd, there are people hiking across the road. We slow, stop, and park the bikes. We are in the midst of modern day pilgrims trekking El Camino de Santiago. This is an ancient road whose origins lay in the Roman times. In the ninth century it was the path home for Santiago's body, returning from Jerusalem. An amicable Australian strikes up a conversation.

   Perhaps this is a good time to reflect on our journey. It is secular, there is no spiritual basis. Yet, those who ride understand, at some point on a long ride, one finds a center. The road, the machine, the soul merge in a symphony of peaceful solitude. When we stop, we share this harmony not so much in words but in a joie de vie. We are not trekkers or pilgrims on the ancient road, but I feel we share the same inner peace.

   Isaba. A small village in the Spanish Pyrenees and a center of hiking, kayaking, and randonee in the winter. The national road bisects the town and cobbled paths lead away to secret alleys. Our lodging is deep within the ancient streets, and it is improbably modern. It is quiet. A modern complex of resort condominiums is at the eastern periphery. We convince the owner to open his bar and settle outside for our cervezas. Soon we are joined by a group of presumably German motorcyclists. It seems when we open a bottle, motorcyclists gather. I must explore this mystery.

   We continue to twist our way eastward across the supine ridges leading to faraway peaks. The country is changing and reminds me of the New Mexican Gila wilderness. An incredible formation of reddish cliffs marks our gateway into Jaca. We have a great lunch and a stroll on the local rambla, resplendent with shops, people, and music, then move on to our night's lodging in Villanua. The day is still young, the sun is shining, and we need some more turns before calling it a day. So off to the summit at Candanchu, which is also a large ski area.

   A new day, we are blessed with sun. The Aragon sky is azure and pleasantly cool. Heading south on the N330, we intercept the N260. It is an incredible road of changing conditions, canyons, and, yes, more twisties. To the west of Ainsa, we enter a narrow valley enclosing a ghost town. We stop and look at Janovas, empty structures, a single lane bridge leading into it. Seems like something from a Hemingway novel. We continue.

   Beyond Ainsa, a return to twisting single lane roads. My brother cuts in on a switch back only to encounter a tour bus, which obligingly slows to let him pass. It is close, and the driver honks. Earlier, I have had my moment by not fully slowing for a 30 kmh limit only to swing wide on a blind curve. Memo to self: You can only push these things so far. We arrive in Forcat.

   Forcat is not a village, it is more like a group of farm houses alongside the main highway. A dog barks as we drive up the access road and park. A middle-aged woman, Alicia, greets us. My high school Spanish falters, but we introduce our selves. Her daughter, Lydia, saves me...she is fluent in English. It is a rural, like a bed and breakfast. Incredible find, how my brother found it remains a mystery. Dinner at 8:30, and the day is young. We explore the Parc de Pyrenees and discover a huge dam in the high Alpine valley. Only one more stop, La Seu D'Urgell awaits us with one way streets and street dancing. Food choices are limited, and we end up eating a gyro. It is the worst food of the trip.

   Off to Barcelona via the Caldi tunnel. Normally we would avoid long tunnels, but it is clearly the best route. We emerge at the south portal, and voila, a beautiful descent through a high valley. We near Barcelona, and before us are the saw tooth spires of Montserrat. Brenda takes over navigation, and we enter the park. It is a worthwhile excursion. After a short visit, we continue to Barcelona. We find the rental agency without a hitch. Our journey complete, we prepare for an early morning departure.

   I am back on the plane with the sun at my back. The unending day.  It feels as if this journey has yet to begin, but it is past. I am left with memories, photos, and an insatiable desire for the next journey. It is why I ride.



Tags:  Pyrenees 

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Desert Racing with a Difference

Posted By Ian Schmeisser, Monday, January 26, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, January 28, 2015

  Anyone who’s seen the movie On Any Sunday remembers the scene with a starting line in the California desert that’s hundreds of bikes wide, where everyone starts simultaneously to race madcap toward the “smoke bomb,” a pile of burning tires that indicates the start of the Barstow-to-Vegas race course, the grandaddy of American desert racing.




  Fast forward 40 years, past the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Desert Tortoise decision and wilderness designation on much of the desert itself, and you wind up with today’s “race,” the AMA District 37 LA-Barstow-to-Vegas. It’s the “most famous and longest two-day Dual Sport ride in the world.” The ride is now in its 30th year, and is a huge success for both desert racers and environmentalists.

  Starting in Palmdale, California, located in the high desert north of Los Angeles, riders start out in a controlled fashion, each choosing to follow their choice of “easy” (for large adventure bikes) or “hard” routes, for experienced riders only. The promoter said that on the hard route it was possible that the jugs could get ripped right off your “adventure” bike. Ha! There were a number of BMWs in the event, and most chose the sane option for this class of bike. But not Brian Englund, James Valentine and Landon Norman. Oh, no… they’re going to do the hard course on an R1200GS, an F800GS and a darned-near-new R1200 ADV LC. Nuts.

Art of the Possible

  Brian said it best: “Difficulty is a relative measurement, and I don’t need easy. I just need possible. For the ride itself, words cannot adequately describe the terrain for someone who hasn’t been there. Some of the horror stories are overblown, and some are true. It’s hard —sometimes almost insanely so — but the true challenge is the marathon aspect of the ride. Terrain that was simple at the outset is increasingly difficult eight plus hours later. The variety spans the spectrum from deep, soft sand on giant whoops, packed dirt, dirt with large rocks, loose large rocks, and rock and sand crap in Last Chance Canyon that is probably at the outer limits of the R1200GS’s capability.”

  One interesting development is a blend of Social Media, GPS, cellular data and satellite maps that made it possible for many other interested riders to follow the riders on the course. The event ran during the Thanksgiving weekend, giving MOA and GS Giant member Jeff Kurtz the ideal opportunity to follow and report on the ride from his warm bedroom in Indiana. Hundreds of others followed along online as they digested their turkey and stuffing leftovers, enjoying over a thousand posts by Jeff and others containing GPS locations on satellite imagery and even posts from the riders themselves, many showing their motorcycles in rather interesting positions. It was a tremendously entertaining show.


  Tech inspection for the ride started at 6 a.m. sharp, so this clearly called for waking up at 2:03 am. Race day jitters… what are those? Brian posted, “Damn James and I with our military issue requirement to be early! We both fell victim to years of military conditioning, demanding that we show up early for first formation. Neither of us can turn it off. We’re hard-wired that way now.” The tech guys took one look at the BMWs and gave them only a cursory glance. OK, now *three* hours until the start… what are we going to do? Plenty of socializing, meeting and greeting ensued, calming the nerves and defining the strategy. Knowing each team members’ location during a ride is essential, so James, Landon and Brian installed “Real Time GPS Tracker” apps on their smartphones. They shared their usernames with Jeff so that he could capture images and post to the GS Giants Facebook group.

  An epic online thread ensued, with hundreds of posts and a whole bunch of friends discussing the action. The GPS images made it clear to see the hard sections… as the app (and their SPOT receivers) regularly uploaded location data. The closer together the data points, the slower the going for the riders. Red Rock Pass generated a huge blob of data points.

  Between images of location, terrain, and bikes on their side, shot and posted by the riders themselves, as well as all the messaging going on between them and all of the comments from the peanut gallery, everyone had a great time!

This Could Go On Forever

  It was truly an adventure. Falling. Fuel injection problems. Bent nerf bars. Fuel consumption rates. iTunes breakdowns. Flat tires. Broken windscreens. Lost. Dark. By 8 p.m.-ish the riders (except for Brian, who ran out of fuel) were in Barstow for the night, chowing down on the hotel buffet. As he waited for the sweeper who came four hours later, Brian sat in the cold, dark desert, sucking on his hydration bladder and munching on the half-Subway sandwich he saved from lunch. Grasping at any wisp of a cell phone signal, a quick text to James and Landon resulted in a reply containing a photo of their beer. Racing can be so cruel.

  Well, it really isn’t racing, but the open-desert hard course lived up to its reputation, and the pace was quite brisk. James and Brian struggled mightily with their 1200s and Landon did admirably with his F8. There were a number of other BMWs in the ride. MOA members Roger and Carla Norman (Landon’s mom and dad) rode the easy course. There was a sweet R80G/SPD, and a bevy of other beemers taking in the fun.

  The pictures really do tell the story here (especially the Vegas dancers at the finish line). This event is legendary adventure riding fun, but it really isn’t for beginners. However, there are opt-out sections to avoid the harder parts of the easy route, so it’s not all that bad. This was the first time the three had ridden together, and it was great fun seeing them become friends.

  Word is there’s a competition team forming within the GS Giants, and there are opportunities for racers as well as us old whitebeard adventurers to serve as their pit crew and other support services. Interested? Check out the latest news at



Tags:  GS Giant 

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Escape to the Catskills with RnineT

Posted By John M. Flores, Thursday, January 22, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, January 28, 2015


"Let's go!" exclaims nineT.
"I can't."
"Come on!"
"Gotta work."
"I know."

I never thought that I'd say this, but the New York City skyline looks my mirror. The Gotham of my childhood dreams, the city that never lets me sleep is at once invigorating and exhausting. It doesn't help that work is crazy intense. "Work hard. Play hard," they say. It's a common refrain among my friends. Some unwind in the late nightclubs and bars of the city, others with meditation or a spa day. Me, I ride.





After a delayed start, we take the standard escape route through New Jersey and are soon in the wilds of Sussex County among rolling hills, winding roads, and pristine reservoirs. We are still so close to New York yet already so far away. Greenwood Lake's shore is crowded with cottages but it's nothing like the Apple.

Soon we're in Harriman State Park, a popular destination for day-trippers. Many head up to Bear Mountain for the scenic view, but we head east.

"Hey, watch it!" nineT exclaims.
"You OK?"
"Yeah, sorry. I'm just distracted."
"That's not a good thing to be while you're riding."
"Yeah, you're right."
"What's going on with you?"
"Of course."
"Actually, it's good news...I'm in line for a promotion."
[flatly] "Thanks."
"You don't sound so happy."
"I...I...I am."
"....Yes. The promotion includes an office, more money, and more responsibility, but..."
"But what?"
"...but less time to ride."
Do you even like what you do?
"There's your answer right there."

We ride past West Point to the scenic overlook at Storm King where we watch the mighty Hudson River wind its way down to the city. Somewhere downriver is the source of my existential crisis. We head upriver, farther and farther away.

After lunch outdoors in Cornwall-On-Hudson at the Hudson Street Cafe, we wind our way up to Poughkeepsie to the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park.

Over a mile long and over 200 feet above the Hudson River, the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge was built in 1888 to carry trains. But times change, and other bridges and the interstates were built, and manufacturing began to leave the region, reducing the need for the bridge. Eventually, the bridge was abandoned. Then something funny happened–where others saw scrap metal, some locals saw beauty and a connection to the region's industrial past. They saved the bridge and turned it into the pedestrian walkway that it is today.

"The view up here is spectacular. "
"Yeah isn't it? I feel like I'm flying," says nineT.
"It's a long way down though."
"There's a metaphor in there somewhere, Icarus."
"How'd I end up with such a philosophical motorcycle?"

We head to New Paltz and points beyond. Somewhere west of town we stumble upon a little-known gem. Years ago, a man cleared a small field in the woods and began collecting the massive root systems of giant redwood trees. He'd have them transported from California to this field where they are displayed like abstract organic wood sculpture. They are at once beautiful and exotic.

"Look at these roots! These trees must have been huge!"
"Have you seen the Redwoods?" asks nineT.
"What are you waiting for? They won't be around forever."
"Actually, they've been around for thousands of years..."
"...more to the point, you won't be around forever..."

We continue west, up over the ridge to a panoramic view of the Catskills, rolling hills stretching to the horizon and dotted with quirky towns, picturesque reservoirs, and quiet backroads zigging and zagging through a blanket of thick woods. We dive in headfirst and dance, hand working clutch, throttle and front brake, feet working shifter and rear brake in a fluid, mechanical choreography.
The thick woods give way to a broad expanse of water resting beneath a big sky. The Ashokan Reservoir is one of the largest reservoirs in the New York City water supply system, the water eventually making its way into the taps and fountains and bagels and pizzas of my adopted home. It seems like I can't escape the Big Apple.

With temperatures dropping as quickly as the sun, we make our way north and end up in the small town of Roxbury and our evening oasis, The Roxbury Motel, where each room is designed with a unique theme. The Shagadelic Room is inspired by Austin Powers, Tony's Dancefloor has a working disco ball over the bed, the Genie's Bottle makes you feel like you’re in a bottle, and more. It's like an adult funhouse motel. We celebrate a great day's riding with a martini and a fine dinner before retiring for the night.

"You asleep yet?" asks nineT.
"What's keeping you up?"
"My friends. They just don't get it."
"This. Riding a motorcycle. Seeing the world."
"I wouldn't exactly call Roxbury, NY, the world."
"Yeah, but you know. I think I got the bug. My friends, on the other hand, they're going to do just what's expected of them; they're going to party in New York in their 20s, climb the career ladder, then get married in their 30s, have a kid or two, and then move out to the 'safety' of the suburbs and live the same life that they tried to escape."
"And what's wrong with that?"
"Nothing, I guess...for them. But the closer I get to that path the more I think that it's not for me."
"And the more you feel like an alien in the big metropolis."
"So what are you going to do?"
"Right now I'm going to try to sleep."


We ride into a new morning, bracing against the overnight chill still hiding in valleys and basking on stretches already kissed by the sun. We stop at Bread & Breakfast and have coffee in an old caboose.

"Crazy to think that this was once an old caboose."
"This trip's been filled with stories of reinvention and renewal," notes nineT.
"It has?"
"Yup. They've been staring you right in the face...the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, the Redwood roots, and The Roxbury last night. Those two guys left behind their jobs in New York City, found an old building in a quiet Catskills town, and have followed their own drummer to create a unique motel and something uniquely theirs. Sound familiar?"
"But I'm too young to be reinvented, to young to be renewed!"
"That's what you think. You're no spring chicken anymore."

Refilled, we make a beeline for Pepacton Reservoir. NY30 shadows the reservoir like a contour line on a topographic map, sketching long, sweeping arcs into the earth. The road crosses a long, flat bridge over to the other side of the Reservoir about halfway down. We stop to admire the view.

"What are you doing?" asks nineT.
"I'm holding out my arms and looking towards the heaven for divine inspiration."
"You look like an idiot."
"It's not cinematic?"
"Not in the least."

We run the final length of NY30, following the southern shore of Pepacton. The road climbs, dips, and soars in a series of fast, third gear bends cut through the thick trees. We push the pace to the edge of what is safe and socially responsible, nineT roaring with delight at every corner exit, howling with glee at every redline. We barely see the reservoir but we know it's there. At this pace, nothing but our velocity and trajectory matter–not the city, not the job, not the stress, not the past, not the future. All that exists is the next apex and I feel alive. I feel free.

We stop for gas south of Downsville and afterwards take the pace down considerably as we explore the New York side of the Upper Delaware River along one-lane bridges and gravel, chip-sealed, and frost-heaved roads. I'm lost in my thoughts again as nineT patiently putters along.

We detour to the Roebling Bridge, crossing the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. It's a bridge today but was originally an aqueduct carrying coal barges from Pennsylvania across the river and destined for the Hudson River Valley. Twenty years after designing this bridge, John A. Roebling went on to design the Brooklyn Bridge.

We make our way down NY97 to the famous Hawk's Nest, known as much these days for the way that the road clings precariously to the side of a mountain as it is for the fact that hawks nest here. It's a funky stretch of pavement that flicks left and right in rapid succession along the edge of the precipice. Speed is restricted, and that's just as well; it's a long way down to the Delaware River if you make a mistake.

"You would think that if you've seen one scenic overlook you've seen them all. But I never tire of these views."
"Me neither."
"What is it about them?"
"I don't know. Maybe they remind us how wondrous the world is?"
"Maybe they give us perspective?”
 "Where next?" asks nineT.
"We'll make our way down 97 to Port Jervis, and then hit some of the sweet county roads in New Jersey before heading back to the city."
"That's not what I meant."
"Where next for you? You going to take the job?"
"I don't know. I've got some more thinking to do."

We cross back into New Jersey and savor the final miles of Sussex County along county roads that follow the contours of the land. We eventually join 80 for the final, boring, stressful  stretch. The interstates plunge headlong over/across/up whatever is in front of them but there's something missing in all of that startling efficiency. Something's disconnected. Something's not right. But they are symbols of our modern times and most stick to their straight and soulless paths.

The New York City skyline grows in my visor...



Tags:  Escape  Flores  New York  rninet 

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Roughing It on the Pony Express Trail

Posted By Thomas Bunn, Thursday, December 4, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, January 28, 2015

As told by Mark Twain, Annie Lu Jarvis, and Suzan Chaffin


The Pony Express delivered U.S. mail 1,900 miles from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, Californa, and, even though the Pony Express only ran for 19 months from 1860 to 1861, it is a fascinating piece of American folklore and still invokes the pioneering spirit and ingenuity of American culture. From April 3, 1860, to October 24, 1861, it was America's fastest and most direct means of coast-to-coast communication. It ended with the first transcontinental tap of the Morse code key for express dispatches, but it was not until November that the last Pony Express letters in transit completed their journey. The Overland Stage continued to carry the paper “snail mail” and parcels.




The original route ran through Salt Lake City, then across the western desert, entering Nevada near Ibapah. Today, the Pony Express trail looks very much as it did 154 years ago (or even 1500 years ago): vast expanses of open terrain, jagged peaks, remote springs, and desert wildlife. Thousands of square miles of primal landscape.

Concurrently, and for years after the demise of the Pony Express, the Overland Stage followed the trail for cross-country passenger travel. It was this route that 25 year old Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) took via the Overland Stage in August of 1861. He chronicled his adventures in Roughing It, his second novel. The novel was a romantic, humorous, and often too matter-of-fact recollection of his stagecoach trip from St. Joseph, Mo., to Carson City, Nev., in the blistering summer of '61 with his brother Orion Clemens, the newly appointed Secretary for the Governor of the Nevada Territory.

Our modern day intrepid group of riders followed the trail, as best they could, from Salt Lake City to Ibapah in the August of 2014. The trip was not made in the sweltering, blazingly hot weather Twain experienced, but in dramatic, lightning-fisted, monsoon storms where floodwater was the antagonist.

The team was Matt on his 800GS, Suzan on her F650, Tom on his R1200GSA, and Annie in the gear-laden FJ Cruiser support vehicle. Although they had all travelled this route before, the weather made this trip an entirely different experience.

Mark Twain:
I left Great Salt Lake a good deal confused as to what state of things existed there—and sometimes even questioning in my own mind whether a state of things existed there at all or not...we had learned that we were at last in a pioneer land, in absolute and tangible reality.

And now we entered upon one of that species of deserts whose concentrated hideousness shames the diffused and diluted horrors of Sahara—an "alkali" desert. For sixty-eight miles there was but one break in it.

Mark Twain:
—but now we were to cross a desert in daylight. This was fine—novel—romantic—dramatically adventurous—this, indeed, was worth living for, worth traveling for! We would write home all about it.

Mark Twain:
This enthusiasm, this stern thirst for adventure, wilted under the sultry August sun and did not last above one hour. One poor little hour—and then we were ashamed that we had "gushed" so. The poetry was all in the anticipation—there is none in the reality. Imagine a vast, waveless ocean stricken dead and turned to ashes; imagine this solemn waste tufted with ash-dusted sage-bushes; imagine the lifeless silence and solitude that belong to such a place …

At the peak, there were some 184 stations on the route. The distance between each was how far a good pony could gallop, depending on terrain, that being between 5 and 25 miles (8-40 km). Each rider put in about 75 miles (121 km) a day.

One of the owners of the Pony Express company, the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company (the Mayflower movers of the day), was devoutly religious man. He made sure that each rider was issued a Bible to fortify courage and nerves to endure the ride through dangerous country of often frustrated aboriginals, armed bandits, deadly blizzards, relentless rain and mud, and lethal heat.

Mark Twain:
... there is not a living creature visible in any direction whither one searches the blank level that stretches its monotonous miles on every hand; there is not a sound—not a sigh—not a whisper—not a buzz, or a whir of wings, or distant pipe of bird—not even a sob from the lost souls that doubtless people that dead air.

Mark Twain:
Two miles and a quarter an hour for ten hours—that was what we accomplished. It was hard to bring the comprehension away down to such a snail-pace as that, when we had been used to making eight and ten miles an hour. When we reached the station on the farther verge of the desert [Callao/Willow Springs], we were glad, for the first time, that the dictionary was along, because we never could have found language to tell how glad we were, in any sort of dictionary but an unabridged one with pictures in it.

As appreciative as Mark Twain was for the end of the day's adventure, the team feels worn and in need of food and rest. They head into the Deep Creek Range west of Callao and find a lovely plateau overlooking the immense breadth of the western desert. The team poles up tents, collect firewood, concoct evening refreshments, fire up the stove and begin cooking.

Day 1

I loved how we hung in there with plans for doing the trip, in spite of huge storms in the area. Intent on pulling it off, we NOAA'd, watched radar tracks, and heard the massive downpour from the comfort of our beds Friday night ‘til the wee hours of Saturday morning. I was grateful to be inside, aware of how brutal that deluge would be in a tent. Little did we realize how Nature's forces would affect our journey, where flash floods raged and blasted through areas of the route. We would be so thankful for the timing and kindness of the weather-gods.

Saturday morning, with the clearing confirmed, the committed crew gathered up at 10 a.m at Suzan and Matt's in Salt Lake City. We cut due west over to Faust with the first photo op on that dirt road. Then we were off onto the Pony Express route. We stopped where the pavement ended and the fun began.

Crossing over Lookout Pass, we got our first taste of the road and land being affected by the volume of water it had seen in last 24+ hours. Since there had been a recent fire there, charcoaled rivlets carved into the gullies, making the already stark and naked landscape more sensual, even more contrasted: black on red on white and gray. Nostrils filled with the intense smells of forest fire. It was strangely delicious. Evoked by the wetness, scents were emboldened.

I was following the three bikes and began to dare to shoot pics while driving. I felt my view was too good to let awesome opportunities pass. This was fun.

The road has changed over the years and you never know what to expect. This year was mud, washed out roads, water pools, green plains, beautiful flowers. The last time I was on the road, it was 100 plus degrees and traditional desert. My experience level the first time I ventured out was beginner. If I had tried to ride the road this year with that level, I would not have made it. I was blown away by the washouts and pleased that I made it 19 miles without crashing, although there were a few narrow escapes. I was a much stronger rider after this ride.

We stopped in Simpson Springs for lunch and all the historic photo ops. The day was rare for August, with cool temperatures and rolling clouds. Shadows crept over and hugged the ranges and little buttes. I was following, and pictures were begging to be made: the vast and great wide open, freeing the heart and mind and matter. Out there is beyond words. Only rhythm. Boundless current. 

The three had stopped ahead, and it took a moment for me to see the magnificent wild mustangs getting some real estate between them and us as they funneled away into the distance. Luckily, the long camera lens could still bring them in. Tom took time to capture them, but only how he ever would...a respectful beholding. Through the camera were sacred moments, strong and wild herd of horses, roaming as they have for centuries, though not native here. Long may they endure.

Wild horses – It always feels like the Wild West on this road, and I always see the horses. The herds tend to hang around Simpson Springs and like to run as you get close. I like the painted horses the best.

The long straight stretches of road made me think of an old western, riding off into the sunset. It made me smile.

Leaving there, I went ahead for a photo shoot. Tom wanted photos of the riders with the long and open road fading to the horizon. No problem, plenty of that available. 
The next pass, I went ahead, where there were some nice “S” turns down the west side. I pulled over, climbed up, sat on a rock and steadied myself, waiting. Heard the motors coming and blasted off some shots. I had to shoot fast as they moved into and out of the frame quickly. 

We came up to the geode beds and the big lonely “alien” rock that Suzan needed to climb. We found skulls, a molting lizard, and cool rocks. 

Back on the trail and to Fish Springs, where the oasis did not disappoint. Flowing steppes of grasses, solid, but appearing like a river of greens, alternating darks to light, to dark. Sunflowers, birds and crickets. Glorious. Exotic. Precious.

The motorcyclists stop near the wreckage of what appears to be a blown-apart and bullet-riddled school bus. Any chance for a photo-op and they are on it. There appears a young woman nearby, walking towards the west, alone, carrying only a small backpack. Matt asks if she is "OK," she gives a thumbs-up.

Fish Springs’ Hitchhiker Girl: Julie. She was on a "walkabout," if you ask me. A more primal, trusting way of moving in the world. She might have made her destination afoot by next morning, but her hitchhiked ride with me in the truck may have gotten her to her friends by midnight. She was a beauty, light poured from her eyes. She is touched and has become the essence of the land out here, has her sense of place in this world, and it is that place. Surely, one of the most remote locations a young biologist could sign onto; she could not love it more. 

I offered her my sweatshirt as she had only a tank top, shorts, and backpack on. She said she'd be fine. Somehow, I had to agree. She surely was. I reflected on if I had followed my heart at that time in my life.

She was on her way to the "peacock palace," out there south of Boyd Station. Her friends have peacocks, guinea hens, gardens, and Home; out there beyond ideas of urban sprawl. Julie plans to find land there too, once she pays off her $15,000 in student debt.

The hitchhiker that Annie picked up is worth discussing. Annie agrees to take her to Boyd’s Crossing. The three of us on the motorbikes are uneasy about this odd girl and Tom proceeds to follow Annie closely. He must have been going 70 mph; who knows what is in the backpack? At Boyd’s Crossing around 5 o’clock, the hitchhiker is dropped off. It is miles to the Peacock Palace. I wonder if she will walk through the night. Does she have matches to light a fire? She says she does this often. I picture this girl being my daughter, and I am anxious for her. Relying on strangers in the desert to transport her, the elements, the animals, and the night cold. I can’t imagine doing this.

Then to camp in the Yosemite-like Deep Creeks. Remote, wild, quiet, so very special. 

The Deep Creek Range mountains are a hidden gem. I had passed by them before, but had never taken a moment to get close to them and look around. Hiking along the ridge of our campsite, I found pools of water that looked like birdbaths. I thought it was amazing that two days after a rainstorm, in the desert, there were still pools of water sitting atop rocks. The mountain profile looks like a national park with impossibly tall peaks, rounded granite faces, and deep green valleys. The variety of plant life was impressive, and the numerous groups of plantings appeared to be arranged by a professional gardener.

Camping in the desert – Motorcycle camping is for the young, the poor, and the extremely adventurous, I am the latter. After collecting firewood out of a small ravine, we had enough to build an impressive fire for many hours. We set up camp, Annie made a fabulous dinner of guacamole and turkey burritos (but we forgot the tortillas), and we drank margaritas as the sun went down. The stars were brighter than I had ever seen and with the fire, it felt like we should be dancing around it like wild natives. After a long day, my tent and sleeping bag felt like a four star hotel.

The Galaxi tent by Nemo. Perfectly named, a bedded window to the world...where far, far beyond what my eyes can see this universe continues to unfold. But I did wake often and welcomed the magnificent clear night into my sweet and modest slumber place. Oh to live this way? How tenderly could my heart feel, how aware could I become, when every breath nearly forgets to exhale, in witness to this sacred night.

I want to live like this: adventure, love, margaritas, sacred night, and mystical blessed morning. Then...more adventure.

Day 2

All peaceful, quiet, holy, in this place. Waking often through the night, opening the shutters of my pupils to take it in. Always checking the eastern horizon, then, a scarlet glow begins to break the surface of the day. Still, serene silence pounds on the inner ear. 

First sounds from any of the locals is precisely, directly and unmistakably, the very instant when sunlight pours through an opening in the long cloud hugging the distant eastern range. From my spot on the rock, the morning chant of pinyon jays encircle our camp as they fly back and forth singing, "Hooray, another day to play!" Exactly. 

Camp was quickly disassembled and onto our steeds and wagons were loaded. I went ahead and looked back to confirm my crew. My new learned practice immediately took effect; I can now quickly stop, turn off engine, set gear and brake, grab camera, and position myself to capture the splendid moments of three friends, three easy riders, descending from on high, or out across the landscape. 

Kissing the morning breeze, and with smiles and good feelings, we coasted down to the aptly named Tom's Creek to play for a moment. Before taking to the road home, Suzan and Matt took turns blasting through the stream. -Annie

The streams that run from the valleys were cold and clear. I had some fun and drove my motorcycle through and gave the bike a needed wash. -Suzan

Venturing home, we pointed ourselves northward, back past Callao, leaving the lovely and grand Deep Creeks in the rear view. After a left onto the Old Lincoln Hwy, following the Pony Express trail, we quickly came upon the evidence of Nature's movie that had played out two nights prior. I was leading the team and drove up to a great swath of mud and rock that had flowed like a river, much beyond the bounds of the desert wash. Since it wasn't clear whether it was safe to proceed, I stopped to walk the newly deposited rocky 'road'.

We decided we were fine to pass on through. That was only the first of many, many challenging passages on this day's journey where the flash flood had rearranged an otherwise graded scenic byway through Overland Canyon. Repeatedly, Nature reclaimed her path, her choice of waterway. It was satisfying to know that man's carved road could so easily be disrupted, back to what is natural. However hard on those riders, I could tell were having a blast dancing through the rocks, ruts, mud, and crevices. They probably gained some new found skills and surely should have all gotten their BMW backroad byway badges. 

The Canyon Station, built in 1861, was located northwest of this site in Overland Canyon. It was the simplest constructed log house, stable, and a dugout kitchen. In July, 1863, aboriginals killed the Overland agent and four soldiers and burned the station. The 1863 Overland Station was a more defensible location, being a stone fortress. It did not have a roof so defenders could leap or climb over the wall and fire through the rifle ports.

Coming out to the welcomed blacktop, then north on Ibapah road through gorgeously pleasurable rolling hills and softened buttes. We stopped to set up for a "photo op." This stretch of road could easily fill a day taking profoundly beautiful photographs. Subtle, remote, empty, full, rich, and encapsulatingly exquisite.

No ride here would ever be complete without a stop to the Hat Tree. Now morphing into hats-and-other-objects tree, but happily standing out in on otherwise lonely road. This was the official end of our pilgrimage, save the Salt Flats. 

The Hat Tree - a monument to silliness. A lone pine on the side of the road that now holds hundreds of hats, jackets, gloves, boots, underwear, beads and bracelets. Tom gave me a hat to throw and we played Frisbee with the wind trying to get it to stay. Tom was smart and brought a piece of rope and tied it and a rock to his hat. It is now nestled in a top branch. Annie gave the tree a beautiful purple beaded bracelet, while Matt brought a Canyons' ski resort visor. 

I wonder who started the tree? Do people see the tree and come back again to donate? Does the tree ever get cleaned up? Would the hitchhiker Annie picked up wish she would pass that tree and grab a jacket?

Salt Flats – It was an ocean. I had never seen the salt flats that close up and was shocked there was a foot of water covering the area in my view. There was no way to see the groomed track due to the water. Another day.

Salt flats and ride home. We made it through. Happily satisfied, grateful for our safe return, deeper in awe of the western desert and her secrets, tired, but overall so much more rich in heart and spirit, history and respect; we embraced goodbye, looking forward to the next ride.

The privilege we open ourselves to, when a part of the flow.

The tarmac –10 minutes into the ride back to Salt Lake City on I-80, I decided I would rather have gone home by retracing my steps. After having a great ride on dirt road, taking our time, stopping to smell the roses, it was a harsh reality to deal with semi-trucks! The speed limit increased to 80, and with the side winds, I had a hard time at 70. Just as I got comfortable, the wind would give me a nice slap on the face and remind me that it was in charge. 

At the first rest stop I could find, I went and laid on the grass and tried to catch my breath. Matt took the lead after that so I could watch him be blown over first and then I could brace myself for impact. I love the dirt even more now. 

Box Score
Total distance of route (MO to CA)

1900 miles (3100 km)

Number of days for delivery, coast to coast


Cost to mail 1/2 oz letter

$5, eventually to $1 at end ($26 in today's $)

·Number of stations (swing and home)
·Existing station ruins

Number of miles between stations and fresh horses
5 - 25 (8 - 40 km)
Number of miles riders rode in a day (distance between "home stations")
75 (121 km)

Longest single rides
· "Pony Bob" Haslam rode 380 miles (610 km)
· Jack Keetley rode non-stop 340 miles (550 km) in 31 hours (arrived at his final stop asleep in the saddle)
· William C. “Buffalo Bill” Cody rode 322 miles in 21 hours and 40 minutes using 21 horses(Cody was prone to exaggeration)

Number of Express riders employed

Number of support personnel

Number of Express riders in the saddle at any time

Number of horses

Maximum weight of pouch (mochila)
20 pounds (9.1 kg)

Speed of ponies @ fast trot to canter

@ full gallop

· 10 to 15 miles per hour (16 to 24km/h)

· 25 miles per hour (40km/h)

Pay for Pony Express Rider

$50 - 125 month

Fastest delivery (Lincoln's inauguration news)

7 days, 17 hours

Typical delivery time via ship or stagecoach

6-8 weeks

Longest delivery time (delayed due to Paiute War)

2 years

Number of miles per gallon on the trail

Suzan's F650: 110

Matt's 800GS: 72

Tom's R1200GSA: 58

Annie's FJ: 18


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Apex Garage, A Roundel in the Rough

Posted By Roger Wiles, 32797, Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Nestled in the rolling foothills and appealing curly roads of north Georgia is a BMW motorcycle mecca, an oasis of both fresh and old BMWs and other interesting Euro-bikes. This delightful and picturesque moto-retreat is operated by two young enthusiasts and BMW MOA members, Rachel and Wes Burden, who are proprietors of Apex Cycles, Ellijay, GA. Rachel and Wes have a fetching story, and a first-class vintage BMW establishment.




Rachel, a vivacious and ever-cheerful woman, grew up around motorcycles; her father, mother, grandparents and assorted uncles rode regularly, and it was only natural that Rachel began riding dirt bikes at an early age. Since her father ran a motorcycle shop, coming by a properly-sized starter bike was easy for Rachel. When Rachael began her studies at the University of Georgia, she obtained her motorcycle endorsement and commuted to classes on her first street bike, a BMW F650. Later, her regular ride was a ’92 BMW R100 with the seat replaced by a wooden, towel-wrapped board, an effective if not particularly comfortable way to reduce seat height. Her rides today are a work-in-progress 1954 R51/3, and a nice Ducati Monster. In years past, Rachael became acquainted with Dennis Kanderis, a local BMW legend wh,o has since passed away. Hanging around his Cumming, Georgia shop, Rachel found within herself a desire to become a mechanic, or as we say today, a technician. Dennis was most helpful, and not only mentored her as an apprentice technician in his shop but suggested she attend American Motorcycle Institute in Daytona (now WyoTech) and obtain a certification for one or more makes.

Wes’ parents were firmly set against motorcycles; various family members had suffered motorcycle crashes in the past and, therefore, Wes was forbidden to own a motorcycle. So, of course, he secretly bought a Yamaha YZ80 and stored it at a cooperative neighbor’s house. Wes would regularly sneak off from home and ride the YZ in the dirt, and return home dirty, battered and bruised. He would tell his parents he’d been riding his bicycle. An XR250 Honda replaced the Yamaha; later, his first BMW, a ’77 R100, cemented Wes’ relationship with the German marque.

As a younger man, Wes attended Auburn University, majoring in mechanical engineering. However, Wes left school before completing his degree. He moved to Atlanta and worked at various punk rock bars as ‘security’ – Wes is of a size, and I suspect he had little trouble keeping order at punk bars – as well as occasionally tending bar himself. Wes is an adventurous and universally competent fellow; he has taught rock climbing to inner-city youths and toured down to the south end of Mexico via motorcycle. In addition, he is a volunteer firefighter and paramedic. He traveled in the former Soviet Union as a teenager and has worked on concert festivals for the Harley-Davidson Motor Company.

During a stint at one particular such punk-rock nightclub, Wes met Rachel, who was keeping bar. Rachael and Wes discovered their mutual love of motorcycles and a relationship was born. Remembering Dennis Kanderis’ advice, they enrolled at AMI together and finished with certifications in BMW and Ducati.

“It could have gone either way,” both Rachel and Wes agreed, when asked why they decided to open an independent repair shop, instead of taking a steady job at a BMW retailer’s service department. Most dealers are always looking for competent and trained technicians, and it would have likely been possible for both Rachel and Wes to hire on with a dealer that handles both BMW and Ducati.

We really backed into the business; it grew organically, all by itself,” Rachel commented, “We had no business plan and no real idea what we were going to be doing.” But, using a two-bay garage donated by Rachel’s father, Tim Hill, Apex Cycles came to life of necessity and customer demand.

“As soon as we opened, we were busy from the first job we took in, and it’s never let up. We started in 2003, and 11 years later, we’re still backlogged and booked well in advance.” Several years later, they bought a beautifully sited home near Tim Hill’s place, and built a three-story workshop a stone’s throw from their new home. For over a decade, their business has kept both of them spinning wrenches, sometimes until the wee hours. Customers come to Apex Cycles strictly by word of mouth, and so far, it’s kept the work-lifts full, with a motley moto-collection awaiting for a project to begin, or for repairs and restorations, all languishing in the basement storage area. Since the house and business are adjacent, the business seems to demand attention nearly 24 hours a day; “We get customers and freight trucks at all hours of the day and often at night. The trucks bring projects from as far away as California and New York as well as all of the Southeast, and the trucks take someone’s new dream back to an excited owner.”

Apex Cycles inherited many special tools from Dennis Kanderis when he closed his shop, and has added a full range of tools needed for fabrication as well as normal BMW and Ducati repairs. Wes is an accomplished welder and is competent with all types of welding machines and the different metals. The shop sports an ultrasonic parts cleaner, useful for breaking up rock-hard varnish deposits in neglected, unloved carburetors, an old but precise lathe, a complex milling machine, a plasma cutter and much more. Wes has made a variety of special tools and jigs, can deal with any Airhead component, and can even rebuild final drive units up to and including the 1150cc Oilhead Boxers.

Wes says; “I love metal working, machining, anything creative that can be done in some kind of metal.” Wes used to do all his own head work. Recently, Wes established a relationship with a new mentor, NASCAR’s Bill Elliott’s legendary former intake specialist. This fellow, who wishes anonymity, now does all of the head work for Apex, and adds a higher level of expertise to the critical cylinder-head modifications for various engine builds, including complex five-angle valve-cutting, valve-seat and guide installations, and custom porting and polishing. In addition, repairs such as restored exhaust-spigot threads and new sparkplug threads can be accomplished. It’s likely that no finer head work can be found in North America.

The basement storage area is also the machine shop, and room is being made for a roller-drum dynamometer. A fully ventilated and filtered professional paint booth is under construction; Apex also deals with a powder-coating specialist to match stock or custom colors. Wes is building his pin striping skills, and may someday add that service to Apex’ repertoire.

Asked which build was their proudest accomplishment, Wes spoke fondly of a recently completed 1979 R100RS, which was given the full resto treatment, including extensive head work, a fully balanced engine and much custom engine and frame work. Apex frequently gets barn leaners and basket cases, like a recent 1968 R60US that arrived in pieces, filthy, disorganized, water-soaked and generally disgusting. Motorcycles like this leave Apex as functional, pretty and desirable Airheads that have been given a second – or third, who knows – lease on life.

In addition to dealing with customers’ commissions, Apex Cycles buys and sells Airheads, and as the business grows, they hope to do more of this. Wes has found that used BMW RT Airhead models are the least expensive used motorcycles on the marketplace, and he is able to obtain these at prices that allow Rachel and Wes to rebuild, customize or otherwise make a solid and reliable – and attractive – custom Airhead for some happy future customer. Another steady source of work and/or used bikes available at fire-sale prices comes from the archetypical rider-of-the-past, who found that mid-life has suddenly added children, mortgages, soccer tournaments and PTA meetings to life; the erstwhile rider parks the bike “for a short time” that often becomes five or 20 years. Then, kids gone and life less complicated, the fellow or gal either wants the bike restored so they once again begin riding, or are now willing to sell it. These are usually found in pretty good shape.

Readers perhaps now see that the focus of Apex Cycles is to continue to build a solid word-of-mouth clientele. “We find that people who come to us as referrals are a special breed of customer who often become dedicated enthusiasts of both motorcycling and Apex Cycles.” To earn this kind of support, Wes and Rachel cultivate contacts in Germany and elsewhere around the world that can provide new old stock parts (NOS), No longer available (NLA) parts, custom bits and technical support when needed. Airhead parts are becoming a little bit more difficult to obtain, although BMW still does an excellent job of providing parts support for their vintage machines. Sadly, prices for vintage and even modern-era (1970–95) Airhead parts have skyrocketed in recent years. Aftermarket sources in Germany and elsewhere are offering some relief with slightly more reasonable prices.

Any preferences? Rachel loves working on her R51/3, and anyone else’s Slash 3, and Wes is happy working on just about any Airhead; he tries to avoid K-bike work. Rachel was adamant in her aversion for working on Dellorto carburetors.

Why BMWs? “We like the design and are both dedicated to the old stuff. We both prefer the Slash 3 and Slash 2 eras, as well as the modern-era Airheads.” Wes explained.
What does the future hold for Apex Cycles, for Wes, Rachel and five-year-old son Race?

"We really want to finish our own custom projects!” both said spontaneously and simultaneously when the question was presented. “But the bikes keep coming and going, and we’re still out here after dark often, trying to keep up. We’ll get to them someday.” Rachel’s work in progress is her R51/3; Wes has visions of stuffing a big-pipe, big-valve 70HP 1978 R100S motor into an R80ST frame. The big motor in a light frame, with a lower final drive ratio, would make an interesting sleeper street-fighter!

Apex works mainly on BMW and Ducati machines, but will consider taking in nearly any European brand for repairs and custom work. If it can be said that Apex is a specialty boutique motorcycle works, then the hallmark would be custom retro-conversions – making newer stuff look old, and make everything run and work like it should. “We are about attention to detail, and doing it right the first time. We stand by our work and satisfaction is guaranteed.” Wes added. “I love to get a commission that requires balancing and blueprinting an engine, doing custom frame work, bracing and removing unneeded frame parts; I like the bare-bones look of a BMW – an engine, wheels, a seat and handlebars – because less is more, and lines are all important.

Both Rachel and Wes spoke of the challenge of translating a customer’s wants and needs, and the customer’s vision of how they want the finished project to look and run – translating those words, emotions and visions into steel, aluminum and rubber. “It’s very rewarding.”

The Burdens’ property is over 13 acres and adjoins the Cartecay River; they have turned several acres by the river into a campground, and plan to build an overnighters’ bunkhouse in the upper story of the workshop, along with a boutique shop of apparel and other moto-bits that show the work of local artisans. The shop will also feature Wes’ custom-made components, such as reverse-pivot brake and clutch levers, trick clip-on bar-and-lever sets, custom triple clamps that will work with the oversize fuel tanks like Hoske and others, and more. Rachel is working of getting a local artisan to build and modify seats.

If you’re considering jumping into the vintage BMW world, if you are jonesing for the familiar valve clatter, torque effect and the smooth forward progress that is the hallmark of these venerable and lovely machines, Rachel and Wes can help you get started, or can help you get the bike finished, finally.

“We live it; it’s not just work, it’s not just a job. It’s who we are and what we do as a family. We hope all our customers come to trust Apex Cycles, and will pass the word on to others.”

Apex Cycles is located at: 210 Fox Fire Trail, Ellijay GA 30536. Call 404-702.4394. GPS: N34 38.283 W84 27.150



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Introducing the 2014 R1200GS Adventure

Posted By Neale Bayly, 196896, Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Having often been reminded by my mother as a kid that comparisons are odious, when I climbed on board the new 2014 BMW R1200GS Adventure in Sedona, AZ, it was hard to erase the memories from thousands of miles riding the standard water-Boxer R1200GS. I was there for 200 miles of varying terrain to put BMW’s latest Adventure to the test. The Adventure immediately feels so much heavier, which it is, an additional 48 pounds, but the biggest initial difference was the slower steering due in part to the Continental TKC 80 tires, and a different feel from the engine. As we rolled out of town, though, all of these first thoughts quickly began to melt as I settled in to enjoy the ride.




During our press brief about the new model, BMW had called the new Adventure a “Swiss Army Knife,” but out here alone on the challenging dirt roads leading to Jerome, AZ, some 28 miles away, I marveled at the balance between the engine, throttle, clutch and other controls. I think the BMW team is wrong. It’s more like a Swiss watch

The clutch action is so light and precise, and the throttle more connected to the rear wheel than the standard GS (with its heavier crankshaft), that every input feels completely seamless. The power brakes are the most intuitive system I have used. They have to be, as they repeatedly slow over 700 pounds of man and machine into tight, gravel-strewn corners at speed. Add in the ability to set the bike in Enduro mode – to control the electronics to best serve you in the dirt – and the sophistication of the experience is without equal.

The larger-than-life styling of the new BMW R1200GS Adventure works for me. It’s pure BMW as soon as you see it for the first time, and just looks so much more aggressive and modern than any previous generation Adventure. There is a new beak, a tapered windshield, and two aerodynamic air flaps on the sides to add to the exciting graphics package. The windshield is quickly adjusted on the fly with a simple turn of a wheel; wind protection on the road is everything you’ll need for those long days making miles.

I’ll never forget my first ride on the new 1150 version back in 2002; it felt as if BMW had created the largest, wildest motorcycle anyone would ever make, let alone take off road. Yet here we are some 12 years later, and they have simply eclipsed this first model in size, power and technicality, while making it easier to ride.

I am used to standing all day on adventure bikes and have gotten very comfortable in this position, but know that is not the case for some riders. With this in mind I wanted to see how the bike behaved, so for the first 20 miles of off-road riding I sat, except if I had to raise my butt off the seat for a pothole, rut or similar impediment. I came away very impressed. Sitting will certainly not restrict your ability to explore some fairly challenging terrain, and while your speeds will need to be lower, during adventure tours it might be an advantage as you have more time to enjoy the scenery. When standing, though, you will notice the thoughtful design of a tapered seat meeting a slender gas tank. This intersection is a big part of making the rider feel at ease in the dirt and it’s a marked improvement over previous models.

Reach to the bars is comfortable standing or sitting, and having my back straight with my rear in the saddle and my knees not bent at an extreme angle was certainly similar to existing BMW GS machines. This position is also sufficiently aggressive for working on sections of twisting asphalt for the more spirited moments that arise on a long journey. Nice touches to add to this comfort are multi-adjustable levers and the ability to adjust the rear brake and gear levers to suit your needs. With wider-than-stock foot pegs allowing for a more comfortable platform, it’s clear the Adventure is meant to be ridden all day, and more.

The view forward is clean and functional, with the Navigator GPS located above the compact instrument cluster. With an analog readout for both road and engine speed, it has a highly sophisticated command center beneath the round gauges. Digesting all that this super computer analyzes takes a fair bit of reading, so I’ll leave it out for now; but trust me, if there’s any information you want – from temperature to distance traveled, fuel consumption to tire pressure – BMW has you covered.

You will also find the same multi-controller for adjusting your NAV system as found on the K1600 lineup and the standard GS1200 models on the left hand side handlebar, and this is intuitive and easy to use on the go. Usual BMW pleasantries exist in the form of cruise control, quick-change buttons for the suspension and one to turn the ABS and traction control off, as well as all the normal switchgear.

Visually, the engine is identical to the standard R1200GS, and produces 125 hp at 7,750 rpm and a healthy 92 lb-ft of torque at 6,500 rpm. Compared to the previous generation engine, this is 15 extra horsepower and three more lb-ft of torque. The result is a noticeably stronger and more linear power curve across the range. Where the Adventure engine differs from the standard GS, though, is with an additional two pounds of crankshaft mass that produces 20 percent more inertia. Acting like a heavier flywheel, this one change is the key to the Adventure’s superior power delivery.

Sorry, Mum, but here’s another comparison to the standard GS: I’ve never quite gotten used to the slightly sensitive power delivery from the ride-by-wire throttle system, whether riding two up around the UK, crossing South Africa, or riding at home as my personal transportation. On an open throttle it’s a beast, fast and with incredible power; but there’s something about the system when cold or at low speeds I can’t quite adjust to. Weaned on a diet of throttle cables opening butterflies in carburetors, I yearn for a mapping program that emulates heavier throttle return springs, as it’s a little hard for my well-worn grey matter to adjust. Not so with the Adventure. The relationship between the throttle and the rear wheel is absolutely perfect, and when navigating tighter, technical sections of the rough terrain around Sedona at slow speeds, this was highly appreciated. With virtually no traffic on these Jeep trails, and spectacular views at every turn, they are the personification of adventure riding.

Now, when I’m in complete alignment with the standard GS and the Adventure’s electronics, is when it’s time to pick a Ride Mode. Both bikes comes standard with the option of “Road,” or for inclement weather “Rain” modes, and if you order with the Premium package, the Ride Modes Pro feature adds on Dynamic, Enduro, and Enduro Pro. The last mode requires you to activate a coding plug located under the seat. Here it all gets complicated, with these last three modes working in various ways with the traction control or Automatic Stability Control (ASC) in BMW speak, the anti lock brakes (ABS) and the electronic suspension adjustment (ESA) if Dynamic ESA is selected.

For a short period of time I switched into Enduro Pro mode, which allows you to lock up the rear brake if needed. This mode retains the ABS up front, but allows more latitude before lock up occurs, which is certainly confidence inspiring. The traction control is less invasive, as I found out in the dry, dusty conditions, with an ambitious twist of the throttle exiting a corner. This broke the Continental TKC 80 loose, yanking me straight out of my comfort zone. With the sight of the rear wheel coming round to meet me, and my heart in my mouth, once back in a straight line I pulled over and switched back to regular Enduro mode.

Here the traction control will allow you to hang the rear end out enough to turn the bike, but won’t let the bike get out of control to the extent I described. In this mode the Dynamic ESA will soften the suspension settings for you automatically, so I left my bike on this setting while on the dirt for the rest of the day. More aggressive riders on these knobby tires will prefer the Pro mode I’m sure, but the standard Enduro setting was designed to work with street tires so is a good bit more invasive. The ABS is certainly not invasive; the new Adventure throws out the old wisdom of turning the ABS off in the dirt. Yes, it works that well.

As delivered, the new Adventure will have a more street-focused tire wrapped around the wider, cross-spoke wheels; the Continental TKC 80s were added specially for our aggressive day in the dirt. BMW loves to show how capable their new bikes are by taking us on long, challenging rides during press intros.

Frame and suspension are also virtually unchanged from the donor platform, although the there is 0.8 inches of additional spring travel at the front and rear. To offset this taller suspension, the rake has been steepened by a full degree and the trail tightened 0.3 inches. The net result is just a 0.1 inch increase in the wheelbase from the standard GS to 59.4 inches There is also an additional 0.4 inches of ground clearance, and while the bike will still ground out in the rough stuff if you get too aggressive, it’s a marked improvement compared to earlier generation models I’ve ridden.

In the saddle, stability is without fault at high or low speeds, standing or sitting, and I’m sure a part of this is the additional steering damper. This is true on the road also, and hustling up to Jerome on the last few miles of smooth, serpentine tarmac, we would have surprised all but the most committed sport bike riders with the pace.

You still have to be aware that as tested, with a full 7.9 gallons of fuel and luggage in place, you are in control of a motorcycle weighing well over 600 pounds. BMW is claiming a road-ready weight of 573 pounds. This means you need to make sure to “file a flight plan” if turning on the dirt, or in off-camber parking lots and when in small, mountain towns like Jerome, as you don’t want to be man handling this beast around. With a standard seat height of between 35–35.8”, depending where you set it, you can see how this is going to be a challenge if you don’t plan ahead. People with shorter inseams are going to want to opt for a low seat option, and it’s worth noting you can also adjust the tilt of the standard seat.

You are ready to vote for the new Adventure with your checkbook. For the as-tested Premium package, you will need $21,550 in ready funds. Technically, you could order the bike without all the bells and whistles for $18,200, but only two percent of all new purchasers go this route, according to BMW.

For your Premium package you get a list of all new items: Dynamic ESA, on board computer pro, GPS preparation, cruise control, LED headlight and Ride modes pro, with LED auxiliary lights, saddle bag mounts, heated grips and tire pressure monitor (TPM) as in the previous years. These are all on top of the standard ASC, integral ABS, steering damper, stepless windshield, on board computer and a host of other features that come standard. Engine protection bars, hand protection, the adjustable seat to mention a few. Color choices range from racing blue metallic matte, alpine white or olive matte, so you have an interesting choice here, too.

Acknowledging the GS as the flagship of the GS line, BMW has done it again, improving, refining and sharpening their Adventure without losing any of the character and personality that has attracted people to these large enduros since 1980. Round-the-world travelers choose it as their mount of choice for decades, for good reasons, but you don’t have to be heading across the Taklimakan desert to enjoy the new R1200GS Adventure. It’s equally at home in your own state, but with a fuel range of over 400 miles, and the ability to carry six months’ of gear, it’s ready to take that round-the-world-expedition whenever you turn the key.



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