I guess you could say this trip has been in the making for almost fifty years. The seed was planted in 1967, when my good friend from Arvida, Tom, and I hitchiked through Northern Europe. While in Copenhagen we met an “old guy”, probably 21, traveling on a Triumph 500 which he had bought in London. The hook was set. Three years later another good friend from Arvida, Brad, and I were the proud owners of two 1970 Triumph Tiger 650’s bought in London. Over the next several months riding around Europe, N. Africa and Western Asia really did cement the desire to travel by motorcycle. This was again repeated in 1972 with other friends and in 1979 with Marian.
Meanwhile, I was introduced to dirt biking by my good friend Brian in Kitimat in 1977 and for the next 30 years that became one of my summer passions. Many great rides took place in the valley and in Telkwa with Brian, Carl, Paul, Danny, Ernie, Kevin and others. We were looking for ways to get away from the “riff – raff”, somewhere no one else had ridden to. It was a great alternative to road riding and certainly improved my overall riding ability.
About fifteen years ago, while starting to think about retirement and travel, a chance discussion with Mats, a colleague from Vancouver, really re-ignited the motorcycle travel dream. He and a couple of friends were going to buy three Chinese made motorcycles (BMW knock-offs) with sidecars. They were going to buy a fourth bike and disassemble it and piece it up between the sidecars. They planned to ride the Silk Road from Beijing to Europe. This was the stuff of dreams and from that point on “adventure biking” was never far from my thoughts. Plans materialized in February 2011, when I bought a new KTM 990 Adventure, a bike that has some decent off road capability.
My first ride of any distance was in May to Kitimat, about 1500 km away to visit family and friends. During that trip, I knew this type of riding was really the only way to go. Even on the way home, riding all day long in heavy rain and 4-6 degrees did not dampen the spirit. Annual riding holidays then became the norm for Marian and me. Across Canada and back through the US in fall of 2011 , Alaska and the Yukon in July-August 2012, the American SW to Santa Fe, New Mexico in fall 2013. This was supplemented with several guys only rides with Jim, Wally, John, Don and Brian, in BC, Alberta and the Pacific Northwest.
Talks of riding to South America were frequent, but coordinating everyones’ timetables, availability etc. was impossible. This all changed while we were in Chicken, Alaska in 2012. Tom and Tracy from England were on a BMW 1200 GS and asked if we wanted to join them for a coffee. We ended up spending a couple of days in Dawson City with them and inevitably the talk turned to adventure riding further afield. In December of 2012 Tom told us Tracy and he were retiring in June 2014 and flying the bike to N. America to start riding to Ushuaia in Argentina. From there they were going to “work their way home”. Were we interested?? We signed on immediately. Over the next 16 months we laid out a basic plan including possible routes beyond Argentina.
Reality set in back in Janaury when we picked up our new bike. Detail planning really started in March of this year. At this time, the plan is to ride through the western US States, Mexico, Central America and South America to Ushuaia, which is where the road ends. We will ride up the east coast of Argentina to Buenos Aires and then fly the bikes and ourselves to Sydney Australia around mid January. We will spend time in Australia particularly Tasmania and the south and west coasts. We will travel from Darwin to Dili in Timor Este, before island hopping along the Indonesian archipelago, then to Malaysia and Thailand. This is where plans become less definite. Ideally we would like to ride through Laos, China, Mongolia and into the Lake Baikal region of Siberia. Riding a private vehicle through China is both very expensive and involves a lot of bureaucracy. Three months of planning, permitting, etc is required. A guide must accompany you at all times at considerable cost. At this point this is our favoured route but we will need to make a decision by the time we are in Australia. One option would be to fly the bikes from SEA to Mongolia and then ride into Siberia. We will then ride across Russia to Kazahkstan and politics permitting, through some of the other ‘stans. The most likely route at this time will be to ride through Moscow and St. Petersburg and then either west through the Baltic nations or north through Finland, Sweden and Norway into Europe. Return to Canada – Sept/Oct 2015???
The web is full of details for planning this kind of trip so I won’t belabour the point, but the major categories include;
passport, driver’s licence including IDP, visas, bike papers, insurance. (and many copies of them all)
travel insurance, medication to take, vaccinations including the usual but also Japanese Encephalitis, rabies, Hep A and B, Yellow Fever, anti- Malaria prophylaxis etc.
although another document, this one deserves its own category. It is essentially a passport for a vehicle and is available through the Canadian Auto Association. It permits the vehicle to be taken into a country which requires the Carnet, and the document “guarantees” that the vehicle will not be sold in that country. This guarantee is in the form of the hefty deposit that the owner has to leave with the CAA. Once the vehcile is returned to Canada and the Carnet stamped and filled in as required the deposit is returned to the vehicle owner. Australia is the first country we will visit that requires the Carnet.
again, the web abounds with this topic and of course what you take with you will reflect your competencies as a “bike fixer”, the age/mileage of the bike, where you will be going (mainly road riding vs mostly off road) and how remote, parts availabilty for your bike on your planned route and available space on the bike. I bought a new bike assuming that “new would last longer than used”. Tires are the most consumable part on the bike, so some planning has to be done to ensure replacements are available before you are riding on unsafe rubber. The web has a wealth of information on everything from parts availability and dealer locations to riding forums where one can get up to date information on virtually everything related to adventure riding; I particularly like advrider.com.
2014 KTM 1190 Adventure
KTM tank bag, Holan Nomada Pro aluminum pannier system (two side and one tail box), two tooltubes, one Ortlieb tail dry bag, two Ortlieb side dry bags, two Touratech 3 litre fuel gerry cans.
KTM engine crash bars, KTM skid plate, R & G radiator guard, Touratech headlight protection mesh.
Front disc lock, rear wheel cable lock.
Fuzebloc (added 2 extra fused electrical outlets), 2 Powerlet sockets, Cyclops Long Range Extreme LED driving lights, Skene controller (adjusts LED brightness), Cyclops LED high and low beam headlamp bulbs, LED tail, turn and brake light for tail pannier, tank bag electrical connection.
1 1/4″ handlebar risers (comfort), Unifilter (oiled air filter), Wings exhaust (lighter and allows for wider pannier), front fender extender (minimizes mud thrown up into engine), Heidenau Scout K60 tires (these are a 50/50 on/off road rated tire), Garmin Zumo 665 gps, performed cannisterectomy.