Dr. Frazier: Adventure Touring Candy Store

December 2, 2011
Dr. Gregory Frazier
Dr. Gregory Frazier
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Having made multiple runs across the globe, round-the-world adventurer Dr. Frazier imparts some of his motorcycle traveling wisdom in his monthly Dr. Frazier Rides column.

Our trekker was surrounded by adventure models of all types during his visit to the California Horizons Unlimited Meeting.

Motorcycle adventure touring eye candy. For a motorcycle traveler seeking adventure and how best to outfit their motorcycle to find it, I found my local candy store at the California Horizons Unlimited Traveller’s Meeting in Cambria, California. With over 200 registered attendees, most arriving on adventure kitted motorcycles from as far away as Australia and the United Kingdom, the parking lot, campground and display area was a motorcycle adventure seeker’s accessory and modification candy store.

The Horizons Unlimited Traveller’s Meetings range from smallish mini-meetings where 10-20 adventure travelers show up for an evening of information sharing and camaraderie, to full blown three-day affairs with nearly a thousand attendees and seminar presentations going in three rooms simultaneously. The seminars range from how to fix a flat tire on the side of the road to what gear to take on an adventure tour and how to properly pack it.

The 2011 California Horizons Unlimited Traveller’s Meeting was the largest held on the North American Continent. Well known adventure travel luminaries Ted Simon and Peter and Kay Forwood brought their vast and hardened experiences to share during evening multi-media presentations. American author, photographer and moto-journalist Clement Salvadori offered his “best ride I have ever taken on the North American Continent,” The Continental Divide Ride. He added, “I’ve motorcycled from Alaska to Panama, from Nova Scotia to Baja California, and this trip topped them all.”

Registration parking lot was an adventure touring accessory candy store during daylight hours.
Registration parking lot was an adventure touring accessory candy store during daylight hours.

While I attended several of the seminars and evening multi-media shows, my motorhead leanings found me wandering the parking lot and camping areas looking at the various ways serious touring adventure seekers and wannabes outfitted their motorcycles. And more enlightening was what bling and farkle they chose. Most importantly, when speaking with the owners, I researched what worked and what did not.

Some accessories were clearly for show and not go. For instance, additional gas carrying capacity in the form of larger or add-on gas tanks gave owners up to a 500 mile range. I could not think of one place on the North American Continent where gas could not be found more than 244 miles between depots. However, one adventurer told me his increased capacity was to not have to stop, to make bigger jumps between gas stations. That made sense, but for me the time sitting on top of the motorcycle for those longer periods needed to be offset by a more comfortable seat and better wind and water protection. Looking at various seat modifications I found $800 custom seats that owners swore by versus hand cut sheep skin pads modified from car seat covers that owners at the other end of the budget scale said worked as well as the high-end custom seats.

As for wind and water protection, taller aftermarket windscreens were aplenty, as were various types of tank panniers that not only carried more gear but cut or deflected wind and wet from rider legs and knees. Some tank panniers were ordered from aftermarket sources while others were modified dog or horse saddle bags. Several sets appeared to be little more than small backpacks sewn to tank covers. The general basis for the optional choices was budgetary as most seemed to function equally well up to the point of water resistance or repellence. Those better able to keep wetness out topped the scales in the cost category.

This Ducati owner said his motorcycle showed him plenty of adventure when touring.This BMW implied adventure was more pavement oriented for its owner than off-road riding.Another custom seat and unique top box.
The plastic gas containers mounted neatly in aftermarket holders designed specifically for a motorcycle. I wondered if the side stand was weak  bent or easily sank into the ground  thus needing the wood base for support.Triumph Tiger sporting some large panniers from an aftermarket company.I noted another sheep skin seat pad and accessory lighting on this nearly stock BMW R100 GS.

One Kawasaki KLR650 had two bottle openers; one each affixed to the top of the rear aluminum panniers. When asked why the owner felt he needed two his answer was simple. He said he was Irish, liked his swill at the end of the day, and not the cheap stuff with a twist-off bottle cap. His back-up or fall-back bottle opener was for the time when the first one broke or for some reason would not pop the top of his favored beer. Given his stated end-of-day adventuring priority having two openers made sense.

Most adventure touring motorcycles were either BMW or Kawasaki, and in the later group the Kawasaki KLR650. However, no brand or model seemed to be exempt from the choice for adventure tourer. A Ducati was just as likely an adventure seekers choice as was a Honda Gold Wing. One rider from Salt Lake City arrived at the meeting on his Victory. He had traveled to the gathering seeking information to supplement his planning for a South America tour soon after reaching retirement, which was within the next year.

Life on the road adventure touring around the globe means carrying what you will need. How to carry it all was the trick  as seen here.
The well traveled and stickered Harley-Davidson of Peter and Kay Forwood proved a Harley-Davidson was not an adverse choice for an adventure touring motorcycle.

A crowd pleaser, if not the major collector of gawkers, was the well worn and stickered Harley-Davidson Electra Glide of Peter and Kay Forwood. They and their motorcycle had been in all 193 countries of the world recognized by the United Nations. I knew the motorcycle, having seen it in Germany and once parked in my garage. I was surprised to find amongst the many stickers one I had given the traveling duo. The red color had long washed out to black but was still readable. They asked for a fresh replacement which I provided, good I told them for another 100 countries.

Some of the seminars offered examples of how to modify pure touring motorcycles to make it more usable for adventure touring where off-road or rough road conditions were a part of the tour. These seminars covered Packing Lite, Bike Ergonomics, and Setting Up The Motorcycle For Off-Road Riding. After the seminars attendees could look at the applications on different motorcycles in the parking lot and query the owners about their choices or modifications.

There were some odd travel seminars, like one on Roadside Cooking, and another on Dehydrating Food. One seminar presented by Australian female traveler Sherri Jo Wilkins was titled One Woman Around The World “Because I Can.” I smiled when thinking of how my lady pillion on our ‘round the world ride, a 63 year-old grandmother of six afflicted with Parkinson’s disease (www.ultimategloberide.com) would have described her presentation had she made one. We used some motorcycles on that adventure that would fall outside the definition of an adventure tourer, like the 1983 Honda GL650 Silverwing Interstate, her favorite. She might have titled her seminar “One Woman and One Man Around The World, “Because We Could.”

A map of the owners route around the world  with website  saved time explaining where  what and who.
A map of the owner’s route around the world, with website, saved time explaining where, what and who.

One of my favorite seminars was that offered by Grant Johnson, Horizons Unlimited founder and web guru. His seminar, titled “Tire Repairs On The Road,” showed me why he was better at fixing a flat than I, seemingly having done it more often on his ‘round the world tour than I had on my five.

The Horizons Unlimited Traveller’s Meetings were held throughout the year. If one tried to describe the best choice of adventure touring motorcycle, after looking at those present at the Cambria, California meeting, they would likely conclude there was none “best.” The nearly dozen adventure touring motorcycles now being marketed as “adventure specific” by various manufacturers were all present, as were a great number of simple models. Some were highly modified to suit the traveler while others merely had stickers plastered on a nearly stock motorcycle, more a statement of mind over function, but both colorful expressions of dreams.

For the adventure travel dreamers who could not take the time to attend a Horizons Unlimited Traveller’s Meeting, there was available for purchase an 18-hour five DVD set titled “The Achievable Dream,” described as “the ultimate ‘round the world rider’s how-to DVD.” And for the more advanced dreamer or wanderer, there was the newly released DVD titled “Road Heros,” which “featured tales of adventure, joy and sheer terror by veteran motorcycle adventure travelers – the real stuff.” Both can be found at Horizons Unlimited. While there, look for a traveler meeting somewhere on the planet. The adventure travel accessory eye candy in the parking lot is worth the price of admission.

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