The sign moved around the USA in 2010 to one of four HU Travelers Meetings for adventure seeking motorcycle travelers.
Want a real taste of motorcycle adventure riding over some of the toughest roads on the globe, or do you want to watch others do it? Try one of the adventure traveler meetings offered by Horizons Unlimited. For many motorcycle travelers these meetings are where their adventure begins, literally, as they leave the meeting and start on a long trip, possibly around the world. For other adventurists these meetings are where their successful adventure ride ends, having completed their journey and sharing the experience with other attendees.
Travelers funnel into the annual gatherings of the Horizons Unlimited community around the globe for various reasons, but likely topping the list is the camaraderie of motorcycle travelers and dreams they share. Whether planning a ride around the world or merely a summer vacation to Alaska, at a Horizons Unlimited Travelers meeting fresh and sought after information can be gleaned rather easily.
For Kawasaki KLR650 owners in the United States these meetings draw a considerable number of participants compared to other marque owners. At the Colorado HU Meeting in August of 2010, nearly 50% of participants owned this well-known adventure travel model. Some attendees had been to the ends of the earth with their KLRs, while others were planning or outfitting for their dreamed-of journeys.
The Colorado Meeting headquarters and seminar room was the lodge at the base of a ski slope with camping on the green grassy field where, in the winter, skiers slowed and stopped on cold white snow.
Horizons Unlimited is known as the motorcycle traveler’s website, a place where hardened global motorcycle trekkers freely share information with fellow riders, newbie adventure seekers or those who are desk-bound and day dreaming of joining them on the road. An off-shoot of the website and forums has been the traveler meetings held around the world. Smaller “mini meetings” are less formal gatherings where HU enthusiasts meet for an evening, or have a day meeting to exchange ideas and make new travel-oriented motorcycle friends.
The usual format for a larger travelers meeting has been a three-day weekend of camping with some common meals as part of the registration package. Important to the participants were the numerous volunteer seminars given throughout the day and well into the evenings, where presenters ranging from experienced travelers to wannabes served on panels or did major multi-media presentations. The main focus of the presentations and seminars has been independent travel by motorcycle or sidecars, and for a small part some 4 x 4 travel. Those attending are concerned with the elements of planning and organizing their own journeys, going solo or with like-minded travelers and generally those not seeking an organized tour company for a packaged adventure.
Seminars varied from meeting to meeting depending on who volunteered to be a seminar presenter or panel leader. The content offered and information exchanged came with titles from Basic Roadside Repairs, How to Prepare for Medical Emergencies, Fix That Flat, and Photo Composition to Motorcycle Ergonomics.
Horizons Unlimited founder and HU Meeting guru, Grant Johnson, gave a seminar on ergonomics and answered questions about the best set-up for an adventure travel motorcycle.
The largest 2010 HU Travelers Meeting was held in Great Britain with nearly 600 attendees. Seminars and multi-media presentations were offered with titles such as: 193 Countries On A Harley In 13 Years, Six Month Solo Tour of India On A Honda 125, Going Where No Motorcycle Has Been Before – Into The Ultimate Depths of Siberia, Across The ‘Stans and Central Asia To The Corners Of Outer Mongolia, Touring New Zealand’s South Island, Six Weeks In Australia, Tales From The “Canadian Highway,” Including The Labrador Territory, 23,000 Miles Coast-To-Coast Across The USA, Overland To Kathmandu and Riding Asia-The Silk Road.
Three smaller meetings were held during the summer of 2010 in the United States, ranging from 60-120 attendees. The content of these meeting seminars varied widely from one meeting to the next. Attending a meeting in California found a traveler who had an entirely different experience than another traveler sharing at a Colorado meeting, with both having covered the same ground. While one may have encountered problems with customs requirements while entering Colombia by boat, another traveler discovered that entry was far easier and less expensive by air cargo from Panama City.
(Above): Several All-You-Can-Eat buffet meals were available for those not wanting to cook. (Below): After attending the HU Travelers Meeting these BMW and Kawasaki adventurists were off to travel the world, seeking adventures over the horizon.
Common to all the meetings in the USA in 2010 were presentations by the Horizons Unlimited founders, Grant and Susan Johnson. They shared with the participants their experiences after having traveled the world two-up for over 10 years. These included seminars on how to make a roadside repair, adventure motorcycle ergonomics and what to pack and where to carry it.
Unique panel presentations at the meetings were those confined to “Women Only” travelers, consisting of experiences and stories by a panel of lady travelers. Men could attend, but women travelers had the floor and presented the content.
At the Colorado HU Travelers Meeting, Chris Bright from Great Britain shared his humorous experiences after riding through India, and another attendee shared her travel tales of a lengthy journey through Australia. Marty Deffenbaugh, a Kawasaki KLR650 enthusiast, made a lengthy presentation titled Around South America, Alaska and Central America, having tagged all those points over a period of two HU Travelers Meetings.
A question often surfacing at all the meetings had to do with tire selection and availability. While 90% of the roads often traveled to reach distant points were paved, the remaining 10% were gravel, sand or mud depending on the weather. Adventure travelers debated at length how best to deal with both types of surfaces with a fully-loaded motorcycle. Factored into the discussions were elements like tire compound, composition and tread design choices weighed against the availability and cost of tires when needed, for instance at the southern tip of South America. While a road tire was the agreed choice to reach Argentina, experienced travelers revealed the lack of tire availability once gravel or dirt were encountered. Options such as shipping tires ahead were discussed and generally discarded due to importation and customs requirements, and shipping costs making a $100 tire cost $300 or more.
The crowd was asking: “All this just to change a sprocket on a BMW?” The owner had plenty of free advice and numerous helpers as he worked through his problem.
Options for outfitting adventure motorcycles were also debated. The camping area and parking lot found owners throughout the three days of tire kicking exchanging opinions on the strength and weaknesses of various luggage carrying systems, wind protection and seating. While one owner made his decisions based on cost and opted for inexpensive US Army surplus ammunition boxes for carrying luggage, another traveler touted his high-tech set of imported aluminum panniers costing 10 times as much. At another campsite not far away, two KLR owners were seen lightly pushing and pulling on the top of an aftermarket windscreen installed on one KLR. They were testing how it would flex at varying highway speeds or over rough roads, and whether the mounting system was durable enough to withstand tough riding conditions.
With so many choices of adventure motorcycles present to offer a wide variety of travel options, the Horizons Unlimited Travelers Meeting was a real hands-on, show-and-tell seminar. This set the meetings widely apart from internet discussion forums, making the Horizons Unlimited Travelers Meetings a valuable experience.
Whether riding with a 30-year old model or a brand new bike, each was widely represented. If they weren’t being dissected in the parking lot or campground, they were being tested by owners on some of the numerous roads and trails around the base camp for the meeting. Attendees would set-off in the morning for 100 miles of dirt and gravel riding, then spend the afternoon
Highway 550 through the San Juan Mountains was the paved route in and out of the Colorado Horizons Unlimited Meeting in Silverton. The road is known as one of the top-10 motorcycling roads in North America.
attending seminars and engaging in evening discussions of how their motorcycles performed or would perform in similar environments half-a-world away.
Three and possibly four Horizons Unlimited Travelers Meetings are slated for 2011 in the United States. To find when and where, visit the HU website and look at “Meetings.” If time and travel routes allow, attending one of the many meetings around the globe while on a trip is an opportunity to see how adventure riders from different parts of the world travel. To fully engross yourself in one of these unique experiences, volunteer to present a seminar or be on a panel.
If you dream of your front wheel touching places like Deadhorse, Alaska or the North Cape in Norway, this world of physical meetings mixed with daily opportunities for serious adventure riding will help fulfill your travel dreams.