The IRR Approach to Adventure Touring.
In an effort to bring more symbiotic approach to the Sport of Adventure Motorcycling, We are looking to bring a little localized perspective to the terminology that is used when we hear about Expeditions, Adventure, and Discovery!
Despite the fact that there is a perpetual wedge being driven between the more elite Adventure Motorcycle brands and the Dual-Sport genre on the other end of the spectrum, These very distinct genre’s of Adventure are crossing paths and quite frankly spending a lot of time together. Presently, I own a KLR650 and ride frequently with folks on dual sports and motocross bikes on one weekend and then folks who have Goldwing’s and Harley’s on the next. We think that this is healthy for the Sport of Motorcycling in general and although we are definitely more focused on the off highway adventures at IRR, we don’t acknowledge a need to send the sport back to the stone age because of our personal preferences. That being said, allow us to attempt to define what we think is the trend in adventure touring and lower some of the road blocks that keep us all from getting out there and enjoying adventure with just about anyone!
Some stick to the old axiom that any bike is an adventure bike. Any bike can take you anywhere. That axiom worked in the 1970s and through the 1990s when Adventure Motorcycling was crossing continents like Africa or South America. When routes were undocumented, even main “highways” unpaved and uncertain, and mystery was around every corner. Back in those days, when the term “Adventure Motorcycling” was born, a trans-continental motorcycle journey inherently consisted of both travel to exotic places and the adventure of expedition motorcycling to actually get there.
These days Adventure Riding has moved on, as the roads have become paved, as the mystery around each corner has evaporated due to the explosion of information available on the internet. That has caused a split in direction amongst Adventure Motorcyclists. While the majority now focus exclusively on “motorcycle travel” as being the key to Adventure Motorcycling (Thus the proliferation of 550-650 lb. “Adventure” bikes that are not well suited for the likes of mud, sand or other adventurous terrain beyond well maintained, graded, gravel roads), many, including myself, believe that some degree of expedition riding is still fundamental to the idea of “Adventure Motorcycling”, as was the case in the past. But these days Adventure riding can be characterized as riding to far away, outback places, and following the endless procession of 40 ton, 18-wheel freighters, or your GPS voice commands, and two weeks after leaving your home base you will arrive at Yosemite, Yellowstone or the Rockies. Is that Adventure Motorcycling in 2016? Is “Adventure Motorcycling” really an appropriate name for that? You can do it on a scooter, on a Goldwing, or anything in between. That’s an experience and an endeavor almost completely unrelated to the “Adventure Motorcycling” experienced by those who traveled to the same destinations even 40 years ago. Advances in both technology and road building have meant that many Adventure Motorcyclists of today now seek riding challenges beyond the main routes in order to maintain that need for real adventure riding. Seeking out more exotic routes is essential to having sense of Adventure Motorcycling. At IRR we seek out rarely visited outback corners of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana. We do this in an effort to be true to the spirit of Adventure Motorcycling, a combination of both elements; exotic destinations and expedition riding, scaled back to be an attainable experience for anyone who want to get on exploration and want to experience Adventure and Expedition on a smaller, more American scale!
For me at least, Adventure Motorcycling now does not just mean domestic off road riding, nor riding to adventurous sounding far away foreign cities. Fact of the matter is, you don’t have to be a Trans-continental traveler to go on an expedition. For me, the getting away from it all feeling of Adventure Motorcycling means actual adventurous riding in adventurous places with slightly different purposes and levels of intensity. At IRR while we look for a more purist approach to Adventure Motorcycling at time we look for a more inclusive definition of the terminology surrounding Adventure Motorcycling.
This is how we at IRR define the characteristics of Adventure Touring.
EXPEDITION LEVEL RIDING: Best described as self-reliant adventure travel to remote destinations where the journey is the primary goal. This journey is done by off-highway capable transport (Adventure Ready Motorcycles) where the principal form of lodging is primitive camping; often lasting for extended lengths of time in regions more than 100 miles from any developed services. It requires a person with the physical stamina for long days in the saddle, the highest level of preparation, a broad range of knowledge and abilities centered on personal safety and first aid, the repair and maintenance of the motorcycle you ride along with a working knowledge of how to fix it. Furthermore, It will require riding skills developed over a period of time, on heavy machines with large amounts of provisions. All of this challenges the dynamics of your riding skill and knowledge, and is much different than a ride to Starbuck’s!
ADVENTURE LEVEL RIDING: This level of riding still requires a level of self-reliance with remote destination in mind but stays a bit closer to amenities and services that will have you home or back at the hotel at the end of the day. It can be pavement or gravel focused in its nature but still comes with some of the camping characteristics of Expedition while offering lodging opportunities along with occasional the occasional “hole in the wall restaurant” for a warm meal. This type of riding allows you to carry less gear, take more time to enjoy the sites and is limited to shorter periods of time and distance on motorcycles that range from the street oriented to the expedition capable!
DISCOVERY LEVEL RIDING: Discovery level riding is open to everyone who is looking for Adventure and has a motorcycle. These riders are literally on discovery about what type of bike they want to ride and how they will purpose it to best fit their specific needs and expectations. Some are in learning process and discover that they want to go farther and to push their limits and abilities. Others have settled into the groove they like and are just looking for the camaraderie of the ride and the joy of being on a motorcycle journey. This generally looks like an over-night ride or day trip and requires the least amount of gear, preparation, and training. It has the least amount of planning involved and allows one to see new places on a low budget, without breaking the bank! Most of the discovery level riding we do is on the pavement but can definitely be an off highway experience too!