Some of the elements contributing to my being a motorcycle adventure junkie are psychological and societal, while others are simply physical cravings.
Admittedly, I have a disease best diagnosed as wanderlust. After my first 10 days working at a career-beginning and well-paying government job, sitting at a gray government desk, looking at a map of the world I had tacked to the gray wall of my gray government cubicle, my gray government supervisor looked at me and asked why I appeared to be so depressed. While starting to pack my personal items before quitting, I said, “I’d rather be riding my motorcycle.”
Years later I study a similar map of the world pasted to the wall in my shower and contemplate, “I wonder how I can get by motorcycle from there to there?” The disease of wondering and wandering has remained no matter how much time has elapsed; I haven’t been able to scrub away the wonderful disease of motorcycle wanderlust.
(Above) Some of my most extreme off-pavement adventures have been while using motorcycles some would opine were best suited for high speed autobahn travel. (Below) Like a Timex watch, this 1983 Honda keeps on ticking at comfortable speeds next to modern, 120 horsepower adventure models.
Old or new, foreign or domestic, I admit to always having an interest in the mechanics of how motorcycles work. Having raced motorcycles and being blessed by BMW to work on a series of their older ones, I can be described as a shade tree mechanic. This limited skill level has allowed me to make repairs on a wide range of other models of motorcycles that have broken or died as a fault of their own or mine in some of the ugliest environments on the planet. At other times my surgery has created more problems and the motorcycles have been subjected to humiliating rides on the back of trucks, stuffed in the trunks and back seats of cars or being pushed or pulled great distances. However, when I am able to make a repair and return to riding there has always been a high degree of satisfaction as my psychological payoff.
The motorhead curiosity has exempted me from committing to one brand over another. I can happily say that I have broken, repaired or blown-up one of the widest ranges of motorcycles of anyone I have met, a qualification that makes me non-brand centric.
I can still ashamedly remember when my first Harley-Davidson quit running one hot and humid afternoon on a dirt road between corn fields in Indiana. After tinkering with the points, spark advance, carburetor and kicking my guts out while dripping enough sweat to make the front of my T-shirt look like I had been doused in a wet T-shirt contest, I gave up. I jumped off the dead Harley, pushed it over on its side and threw my helmet at it while yelling, “You %&^*#*&, you break down just like the Indian I sold to buy you! I’m going to sell you and buy a Honda!” And I did.
The net result of 50 years of motorcycle ownership is my being an agnostic when it comes to answering a question often asked, “What is the best adventure motorcycle?” My answer is religiously something like, “Whichever one you can have fun with.”
Whether on an organized tour, two-up or going solo, I admit to being a lousy tourist.
A restored castle in Germany filled with antique motorcycles was a welcomed pit stop well away from the pages of the regular tourist guide books.
One summer I was in Europe for a month on a BMW with a lady friend as my pillion. She complained that I was passing all the tourist stops, not stopping to purchase souvenirs or take photographs. I explained that I had come to Europe that summer to explore by motorcycle as many of the small roads and high passes as we could on the limited time and money I had, not to follow the recommended routes and stop at the tourist spots described in her guide book. This brought a frown, followed by a suggestion that we could stop and look inside at least one castle, to which I replied, “I think castles look good at about 70-80 mph as we go by them.”
That night in out tent I could have been sleeping next to an iceberg. The next day, to warm my evenings up, I stopped at a castle, the Deutsches Zweirad – und NSU – Museum (www.zweirad-museum.de) in Neckarsulm, Germany. Inside the restored castle were hundreds of vintage and antique motorcycles. While I spent an afternoon looking at motorcycles my pillion spent her afternoon studying the castle and enjoying coffee and cakes in the attached cafe.
Whether in a town or on an unknown track, my adventures often find me focused on motorcycles and not the surrounding scenery. It is not unusual for me to pass a natural or architectural wonder of the world and not take a photograph or even stop, but later spend an hour poking around the inside of some parts room in the back of a motorcycle shop or stopping to take photographs of some motorcycle that I found interesting. Some of the most interesting people I have met on my adventures were owners of motorcycles or somehow connected to the motorcycle business, but they were never mentioned in a tourist guide book. I spent more time in a used motorcycle market in New Delhi, India than I did at any single tourist point in the city.
I have concluded there must be a motorcycle course that all adventure motorcycle designers have to graduate from before they are allowed to design motorcycle seats. To score the highest grades the student must make the hardest, narrowest, most horribly angled seat for their brand of adventure model.
Some support the hard-seat concept and why the motorcycle seat is uncomfortable with “It’s a dual-sport motorcycle so you’ll not be sitting on the seat, you’ll be standing on the pegs.” Others suggest, “The seat fits the lines of the motorcycle, doesn’t break-up the artistic flow.”
I believe these seat designers are giving the customer what they believe the customer wants: an economical seat that looks good, but have added in their design course teachings.
My physical demand is simple; I want my butt to be happy. Therefore I admit to breaking up the lines, color and simplicity of many of my adventure motorcycles by adding sheep skins, beads or air/foam filled pads.
Like the old lone wolf, I acknowledge I am better at adventure pursuits when going alone. There are ups and downs to this choice, like when the 800-pound adventure motorcycle falls over. The up is, if alone, I can stumble around lumped up and not worry about tears falling from dust that I weakly explain got into my eyes and not be ego-beaten by my pals as the result of a hammering. Another up is I can take my time to photograph the possible carnage. The downside is if I am seriously broken and somehow finding a way to be mended. Another downside is wishing there were a second person to help me upright the horizontal behemoth which had tossed me off and then rolled over.
No Adventure Bucket List
Some motorcyclists have a bucket list of adventures they work at checking off. I admit to having no bucket list. The affliction of wanderlust keeps adventure seeking on my cranial horizons, like wondering what it would be like to pilot a motorcycle to some secluded lake or stream I see on a map, and once there catch fish and fry them over a campfire for dinner. If I have to admit to any sort of adventure motorcycling list, it would be a list of places I never want to see, or see again, from atop a motorcycle. Some places on that list are there for societal reasons, like Honduras, which I enjoyed for most all of two weeks, except for the one night I spent in jail after meeting two unfriendly cops. Also on my list are cities I never want to drive a motorcycle through again, and countries where the government is going to charge me an exorbitant amount of money to follow a government licensed guide to government approved hotels, restaurants and sights, merely to say I had piloted a motorcycle in or through that country.
A Lunatic and Fanatical Motorcycle Admission
As my conjured Motorcycle Adventurers Anonymous meeting comes to a close I have a final admission to make. I have discovered that adventure seeking through hunting roads and passing castles is fun, but stopping once in a while to wander through a castle can warm-up a cold tent given the right partner to travel with, provided the castle is filled with old motorcycles.