Bike Trips
The Power Of Love

I love traveling on my bikes. Whether it's a short errand around town, an over-nighter somewhere, or a week-plus adventure. All sorts of people who are far better writers than I have penned awesome descriptions concerning the freedom that motorcycling brings.

For me it encompasses many things. The exhilaration of speed, wizzing around corners, feeling the tires grip the tarmack and the Triumph accelerating out of the corner. Whoosh! Zip! And that wonderful sound of the exhaust! On a beautifully sunny day when I'm on a trip, the world and me seem in harmony and everything appears in much greater detail. When I look at any video I recorded, there's always a little disappointment because it fails to capture the magnificence of the forest I rode through, the majesty of the mountains. I arrive at my destination for the evening and set up camp. There's pleasure in setting my my tent, putting the cot together, getting dinner ready, and then enjoying the quiet of sitting around the campfire. Unless I'm with my friends, then it's laughter and razzing each other, and sometimes serious thoughts that you can only share with close friends.

On my Yamaha WR205R the experience is way different. Then the trip is dirt roads, sometimes gnarly trails, where the scenery is just as awesome, but the speed it passes is much slower. The skill in negotiating a tricky spot, the fact that you didn't fall on those loose rocks, and when you did, you got back up, checked the yourself and the bike, and then took off again. Many times it's conquering your own fears and improving your abilities. There's a lot of satisfaction in that. Handling the inevitable breakdowns that happen - fixing a flat, pulling out the zip-ties, bending something back into shape. It's all part of the adventure. Camping is different too. You set up camp where you stop. No organized campground, no picnic tables - just you and what you brought with you. But you have the same great relaxing time around the campfire.

I love doing both types of trips and I could do it for a long time. Traveling around the continent, maybe even around the world! What a time that would be! Seeing new places, new horizons, meeting people and seeing how they live. Making new friends and gaining an appreciation of the world we live in. I love reading stories of people taking months, sometimes years out to travel the world on two wheels. That would be awesome and only one thing keeps me from doing that: love.

You see, as much as I love motorcycles and riding, as much as I know how cool it would be to travel on two wheels, I love my wife Vicki far more. Nothing else is even a close second. Take her with me you say? Riding is my thing, not hers. While she doesn't mind an occasional spin on the bike, she would not enjoy the lifestyle of a bike trip and I would never ask her to do something she doesn't enjoy. Now, you might think that would engender some bitter feelings on my part, but you'd be dead wrong. I don't go on round-the-world trips because she doesn't want me to. I don't go because I love her too much to be parted from her that long. Plus, when I'm experiencing something really cool somewhere, I want her to be with me so we can share it together. Many times when I've been somewhere like that I mentally remind myself to take a weekend and bring Vicki there in our car, in comfort where she can enjoy it. And we've done that. If I come to the end of my days having never gone round the world on a bike, but spent the best days with the woman I love, I will consider that a life well lived.

That's the power of love. Love doesn't prevent you from doing things. It shapes the things you choose to do. So on this website you'll see reports of my trips, thoughts about riding, and all manner of things relating to motorcycles. But over all of that will be the things Vicki and I do together. It's a choice - and an awesome one at that.

Category: touring
Adventure Bikes

The first week of March 2015 I spent riding my Suzuki Vstrom 650 in Death Valley. I had always wanted to test the bike and myself to see if it and I were capable of real "adventure" riding. I'm happy to say that I survived and so did the bike, but the latter was not without some slight damage.

All four changes I made to the bike really paid off however. The Continental TKC80 tires gave me the grip in mud, rock, dirt, and sand. The skid plate? Well, let's just say that were it not present, I would have destroyed my engine. The dirtbike footpegs gave me a stable platform to stand on while the bike hopped around at times. Then there are the handguards. When I hit the rock wall (literally) it saved my clutch lever from breaking, also saving my hand from being broken. It didn't of course save my blinker, but I didn't think I'd come back with two whole blinkers anyways.

So yes, I was challenged and aside from the incident with that rock wall, I feel pretty good about my abilities. People that say that the vstrom is a proper adventure bike do have some legs to stand on. But ... I still hold with my original position that it is a bike that is about 80 percent street and 20 percent dirt. It's just too heavy. Yes I navigated some pretty rough terrain, but would it have been easier with a different, perhaps lighter bike? Absolutely.

Which brings me to my ephiphany of the trip. If you're going to go round the world on one bike, you're going to have to decide what is most important: how much gear you can take or how much handling to retain. Because you can't have both. If I had to go on a RTW trip I'd probably choose the Triumph 800 XCx. It's no heavier than the vstrom, has more horsepower, and would handle the rough stuff better. But the weight be compromising a bike's handling in tough situations. It's an academic stance however because I have no plans for such a trip.

That means I'm free to make a much more sensible decision: two bikes. The vstrom or a bike like the Triumph for adventure touring. Probably all on pavement, but with no worries if I had to pop on to a dirt road or two. But I'd get a true dualsport for the dirt adventuring: powerful enough to get me up and down hills and light enough to throw around while doing it. Something like a Yamaha WR250R or a Honda CRF250L. If I had enough money, maybe a KTM 350 EXC-F. Put an aftermarket tank to entend the range to 200+ miles, a small rack for soft luggage, and you're off!

That's my goal: to find a light bike to get into the dirt with. Because why should I make things harder for myself when I don't need to?

Category: touring
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Tom Clark
I'm Chief Technical Overlord for Behind The Gavel, living in Spokane, Washington. I also do a little development work on the side. And I love riding my bikes all over the country with my friends.

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