Food, sex, genius, conflict…death

Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

The Breakfast Club. And you can’t forget Soylent Green if you’ve ever seen that twisted classic. It’s not just food, either; there’s other basic human needs: Atonement, for example — which showcases more basic human needs than just atonement… Citizen Kane, for goodness’ sakes! Ghostbusters – okay, maybe not Ghostbusters

Come on, you get it right?

Libraries.

That’s where it all happens. Food, sex, genius, conflict…death. Libraries are where it’s at, and the great movie directors realize it.

And, if you’re heading out on an adventure motorcycle journey, you should realize it, too.

You need to take a library with you.

It’s the 21st century – or so they keep telling me.

Wireless, cellular, satellite… we’re relentlessly awash in a flood of signal.

But if you think your devices are gonna pull down a signal while you’re riding off-road, you’re gonna be disappointed.

The left half of the United States; the northern three-quarters of Canada; in fact, vast swaths of the globe — have only intermittent cellular reception.

Ride into a valley, forest or canyon, and even that signal often disappears as quickly as your friends do when the cleanup starts at the end of the party. Even your phone-based or dedicated Garmin GPS device won’t always work.

So here’s the moral of the story: you can’t rely on using Professor Google to find a pair of fork seals for your F650GS – or, in my case, the valve shim calculation procedure for a Husqvarna TE510.

But you can take it with you.

That’s why I always prepare a library of critical information to take with me when I ride in remote areas.

But I’m all about going light, remember?

My library is a USB drive.

They’re small, durable, inexpensive and easy to waterproof. They also might be as close as I ever get to owning a Lamborghini.

Of course, you can’t access the information stored on it without using another device, like a computer. But much of your library is really only needed once you manage to get back to civilization anyways, and have to find a repair shop, or a part for your bike, or an explanation of a complex adjustment procedure. And they have computers there, in that civilization place.

Anything that’s critical to have while I’m way out there in the dirty parts is stored on *gasp!* paper. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Why not use my mobile phone? I do. I always load a copy of the library onto my phone. But I won’t surprise anyone when I say that mobile phones break, lose battery charge, and are occasionally vulnerable to infuriating software gremlins.

Plus: dust, moisture and vibration are an iPhone’s worst enemies – after Samsung, of course. And dust is why you left the blacktop behind, isn’t it?

So: USB drive. You can shake it around all you want, and it’s still going to work.

Put stuff on it.

You could collect all the information below for all the bikes in your group of riders. You could, because you’re just that kind of person. Personally, I’d tell them to do it for themselves. I’m just that kind of person.

Bike information
*Thanks to ElectroSport Industries (PDF - 302 KB)
  • The maintenance, repairs and upgrades record for your bike. You have one, right?
  • Details for current settings on the bike, like…
    • Suspension compression, rebound, and sag
    • Valve clearances (shim sizes if you’re a bucket kind of rider)
People who can help
  • Contact information for all the motorcycle dealers and shops in your intended riding areas
  • Contact information for off-road riding clubs, meetups and events in those areas
You also need some information about your other equipment
  • Cell phone user’s manual
  • GPS user’s manual
  • Manuals for any other electronics you plan to stuff into your luggage or onto your bike. For example, I use a Trail Tech Vapor gauge and load a digital copy of the manual on my USB drive.
the new-age hippy gurus says it’s good to be self aware
  • Credit card, debit card and banking information
  • Driver’s license details
  • Passport information
  • Health information, including health insurance
  • Emergency contacts

Your situation might call for additional – or less – documentation. Generally, if you’re riding in a country you don’t call home, this fourth list grows long and tall with things like visas, carnets, etc.

And all of this documentation needs to be in universally accessible file formats like PDFs.

 But I still like paper!

It doesn’t break down, glitch out, need a signal from these clouds I keep hearing about, or rely on batteries that always die at precisely the worst possible moment.

So I carry a few critical documents on paper, printed double-sided in a ridiculously tiny 6-pt font.

Oh, and there’s some more old-tech you need as well: a plastic bag. They have these things called “Zip-locks.” Very fancy. I like ’em.

Here’s what I print out on good old reliable paper:

  • My bike’s specifications, including fluid capacities, etc. You’ll find a couple pages of this stuff in the front of your repair manual.
  • Wiring diagrams for the ignition and charging systems
  • Electrical troubleshooting diagram (474 downloads)
  • The troubleshooting procedures from the owner’s or repair manual for your bike
  • Suspension set-up instructions (I always forget…left for softer, right for harder? Or…?)
  • An image showing the engine’s top-end parts in detail. You’ll find one in your parts catalogue.
  • My maintenance record
  • List of known or common issues for the particular bike I’m riding

Yeah, I know: it sounds like a lot.

But, with the exception of information specific to a new riding destination, you only do this once for each bike in your garage.

Enjoy your library: it’s where everything happens.

Except the riding. That doesn’t happen in a library. It should — but it doesn’t.

 

My Husqvarna runs really hot

I’ve got a few simple bike preparation tips for you this week.

You vibrate

As you may have noticed, there are a wide variety of appliances that vibrate (…wait for it…) and one of them is an off-road motorcycle.

Your bike’s wiring is susceptible to wear because of this vibration. Bends in wires, or routing that runs wires over other components, can result in insulation wearing through in just a few hours of riding in rough terrain. The resulting shorts and electrical failures will leave you stranded and wondering why you didn’t try the simple solution I use.

Get some silicone hose, slice it lengthwise and use cable ties to protect vulnerable wiring. Picture. Words. 1,000.

If you’re really obsessive — and let’s face it, you’re reading this, aren’t you? — use colour-coded cable ties, so when you’re working on your ride, you can distinguish different electrical circuits that aren’t as easy to trace out on a muddy trail as they were back in your garage. Make sure you write down your colouring system somewhere.

You’re hot

Your bike might be hot, too. From personal experience, I can tell you Husqvarnas run hot. And, conveniently, their (initially Swedish, then Italian, subsequently German, and now Austrian) engineers situated the coolant hoses right in behind the exhaust headers, where it’s easy to see them when they melt. You could make some popcorn on the exhaust can, sit back and watch the show.

Solution? Yep, we got that. Find the locations where your coolant hoses are at risk of overheating. Then cut a length of spare hose long enough to cover that location; a slightly larger diameter of hose makes this fix easier and more effective. Split the spare hose just as you did the silicone ones described above. Wrap the coolant hose with your spare and then wrap it all in aluminum foil tape. Cool! (hose)

And you never forget our anniversary

While you’re working on your bike, you might have to disassemble some this, remove some that…and you may worry that you’ll forget steps in reassembly. Or forget flowers on your anniversary. But I say, fear not!

I just mark each spot that requires my attention with a bit of coloured tape. Once I tighten the bolt or attach the whatchamalit, I remove the tape. Never forget again.

I’m not gonna forget to bend that little flange that holds the end of the clutch cable in place. Because yellow tape.

Motorcycle riding schools don’t teach you this stuff

I like riding alone. Especially when I’m in expedition mode: way off the pavement, picking a route through the back country towards some lake or ghost town.

And I like riding with friends even more.

But most of the time, I’m by myself out there….

Be honest: do I smell?

I think more riders would hit the trail with me if either, (a), I showered more frequently, or, (b), they had the skills necessary to take their dual-sport and adventure bikes on long off-road trips: equipment selection, bike preparation, route planning, navigating, camping — you get the picture.

I want to change that. I want more riders to feel confident tackling multi-day trips in the dirt. So I’m sharing my own practical, proven techniques and systems for adventure riders.

This isn’t about teaching you how to ride your bike off-road; there are already lots of schools that do a great job of that. In fact, I’ve created a list of dirt and adventure riding schools. Those guys are the pros. Attending one of their programs is certain to teach you something valuable.

Adventure Ride Guide will teach you something else: the techniques you need to put those riding skills to good use, way off the blacktop.

These are techniques I’ve learned through experience out there, off road, through trial and error and hours in the saddle in the middle of big blank spaces on the map.

Your bike belongs in the dirt. And so do you.

I’ve talked to many riders who want to enjoy epic trips like mine.

But they say they don’t have the knowledge or confidence to get off the beaten path.

Skilled riders, some of them more capable than I am, tell me:

  • I don’t have camping or wilderness experience.

  • I don’t know how to start planning a motorcycle camping trip.

  • Specialized equipment is just too expensive.

  • Once I get my gear on the bike, it’s too heavy to manage off road.

  • I’m not a good enough rider.

That list is probably why I meet those riders, on their GS1200s or their V-Stroms or KLRs, on the pavement.

“I could never do what you do”

I’ll be rolling onto the pavement somewhere in…let’s say, Idaho…dirty and grinning. A guy riding past on a sweet Triumph Tiger waves and pulls over to ask where the gravel road goes. He’s a great guy, friendly and genuine, like most riders.

After I tell him I’ve been out in the mountains for a few days, the conversation usually goes something like this:

“I’m an okay rider. But I could never do what you do.”

“Really? Why not?”

“Well, I’ve never done that much camping and, like, wilderness stuff.”

“You know,” I say, “that’s easier than you think. You just need someone with experience to get you started.”

“Well, I’ve read lots of stuff on the forums…but it’s kind of overwhelming. There’s so much information, and I’m not really sure what to focus on.”

I nod my head. “Yeah, I get that.”

“Then when I pack up my gear for a road trip, it looks like I’m ready to go around the world, and my bike handles like I’m doubling a sumo wrestler. I’ll probably just stick to the pavement. Maybe take the occasional gravel road….”

It kills me

‘Cause he’s a great guy, and he’s got a bike that could take him almost anywhere he wants to go. I’d happily ride with him for a couple days, and I know I could learn lots from him, too.

But then he waves again, and turns back onto the pavement.

While I turn up the old logging road to Fourth of July Lake….

lake-sawtooths-adventure-motorcycle
Fourth of July Lake, Sawtooth Range, Idaho

Let’s change that.

Ride farther. Stay out longer.

Don't keep it to yourself. Share the adventure!