A motorbike trip around the world
It’s 4:00 a.m. and JG’s watching a video he shot the previous fall of riding through Waterton National Park. The Who’s Eminence Front is playing on his iPhone and he doesn’t hear me come into the room but I can see it’s been another sleepless night.
In part, it’s due to the to-do list which seems endless but also because of the stress of the unknowns and the awareness of the inherent dangers – it’s a heavy load psychologically.
He tells me to check out the video and I do – it’s hypnotic and combined with The Who, for a moment it’s a window into the world and allure of the adventure on which he’s about to embark.
The departure date is four days away. On Thursday he leaves Summerland for Vancouver, and then on Sunday, will head off on a two year ’round-the-world’, or ‘rtw’ as it’s know in the biking world, adventure.
JG’s been preparing for the trip for the past six months.
In May of 2012, he attended RawHyde – one of Jim Hyde’s camps in California, where he spent some time riding in the Mojave desert to become acclimatized to different environments with the bike.
Prior to the course he had bought an HP2 in Washington. The bike, a BMW, was developed by a team of specialists who were passionate about off-road motorsport, and who’s motto was; “only an enthusiastic professional can offer another enthusiastic professional what he really wants”.
Originally built as a Dakkar rally bike; the HP2 is a dash of road bike, in an otherwise pure dirt bike and is one of the largest and toughest to ride.
“There’s not one unnecessary item on that bike – everything is purposeful.” says JG. His appreciation for this fact comes from having employed the same m.o. in the development of gear for the outerwear company Arc’teryx – where there was no such thing as an arbitrary line; nothing was superfluous.
JG co-founded Arc’teryx in 1989 with West Vancouver rock climber Dave Lane. A couple of years later he bought out Lane, then in 2001 after achieving preeminence in the outdoor market, he sold the company to Adidas/Salomon. Since that time JG continued to influence the gear as a consultant while also working on his own projects of passion.
A round the world trip necessitates being able to project two years ahead in terms of clothing and other necessities such as tools, navigational gear etc. Every item is weighed both physically and in it’s importance and although Arc’teryx gear was not designed for biking, its ultra-light nature makes it invaluable for the trip.
Another rtw adventurer, Charley Boorman of the Long Way Round motorcycle series, also uses Arc’teryx gear after having elicited the company’s involvement in his upcoming expedition; Extreme Frontiers: South Africa.
Guys, big thanks to Arcteryx who’eve helped us with Extreme Frontiers – some awesome equipment and clothing!… fb.me/16D52TR5C
— Charley Boorman (@charleyboorman) May 3, 2012
— Charley Boorman (@charleyboorman) June 16, 2012
JG bought the bike with only 1400 miles on it. When asked why the previous owner sold it he says it’s probably because it’s a tough ride and is known to be ‘thrilling’ which is rider terminology for way too much of a good thing.
JG’s used to tough bikes – in the past, he’s owned 3 Ducati 916′s. The first one, he crashed and broke his pelvis and shattered his arm, the second was stolen in Delta BC, and the third was also stolen and ended up totaled in a ditch in Abbotsford.
Even though the HP2 is very different from a Ducati, they share a thoroughbred-like, single-mindedness and the customizing of it means it’s built exactly for his needs.
The Okanagan Specialists
Two months ago JG came up to Summerland to work with a team of customization specialists, all of whom were in the Okanagan Valley.
Gord McMartin, a specialist mechanic in Westbank has made a number of significant modifications to the HP2. Gord is one of the top mechanics around and had worked in New Zealand for John Britten, one of the world’s foremost bike designers.
On a round the world bike trip, one of the requirements is being able to deal with more sophisticated maintenance in the field such as valve adjustment. It’s tricky and JG and Gord spent hours on that alone – filming and uploading the various lessons to youtube.
Don Robinson, a long-time riding friend from West Kelowna, has been the liaison between mechanics and parts shops around the world.
Some of the bike parts were taken to Dale Bazzana in Kelowna for painting at his paint shop. JG wanted the bike to be understated so bright blues were changed to black and flash kept to a minimum by Dale who simultaneously was working on a priceless and legendary Honda RC30 race bike.
Looking for adventure
The departure date is September 30 when he’ll head south into Washington from Vancouver, and then east across the northern United States.
Waterton is one of the first places on the agenda and from there he’ll go through Idaho and continue on until he reaches New York state where he’ll turn north to see two of his daughters at Carleton University in Ottawa.
After that, on what will be the first leg of a 150,000+ kilometer journey, he plans to travel south along the eastern seaboard, through Maine, Cape Cod, and Martha’s Vineyard area, until reaching the Gulf of Mexico. He’ll then head west back across the southern U.S. through Utah, New Mexico and California and then down through Mexico and into Central and South America. One of the stops on the journey involves living for a month in Antigua, Guatemala where he’s signed up to do a Spanish immersion course.
JG is prepared on a number of levels and is also covered for certain scenarios. An adventure riding site known as ADV Rider has been an indispensable source of information and advice. He’s equipped with a satellite phone as well as a membership for emergency medical evacuation where the company arranges air transfer if the subscriber becomes hospitalized anywhere in the world.
There is no way to avoid all dangers on a trip by bike around the world, where places like the mountains of Bogata can be deadly but the risks are the price you pay for being restless. JG’s approach is pragmatic: “You can only work on the things you can control and most of the dangers are things you can’t.”
UPDATE: November 13, 2012
JG has now been on the road for 1.5 months. In one of those “it’s a small world” anecdotal moments, after having traversed the USA from the west coast to the east, then up to Ottawa, he’s now in Texas heading west back across the country. Three days ago he met up with a Texas state trooper:
So I’m in this gas station and this Texas trooper pulls up and walks over. He sees my plate and formally introduces himself and says ‘sir’ as they all do here. I can get used to that. Heck now we’re pals, lol.
Turns out, he’s a local BC boy! Gary Wright is a Lower Nicola Band aboriginal from Merritt. His aunt is Jeanette McMaster who was a columnist before retiring, in Merritt.
His great grandfather, Joe Coutlee, was a BC mover and shaker and worked on the Douglas Lake Ranch for 51 years. We talk about Merritt and Texas, he loves both, but is clearly happy here. If they offered me that ride I would be too. Cool guy. (Photo of JG and Gary Wright – last one in the gallery)
UPDATE: December 1, 2012
As of today JG is still heading west and is now in Arizona. Some recent photos from the trip are posted on Summerland Online’s Facebook page. Check out Jeremy’s blog chronicling the trip.
UPDATE: December 3, 2013
With thousands of miles and many countries in between December 1 of last year and December 3rd of this year, Jeremy today crossed over the border from Peru into Bolivia. Some images from his trip:
article/photography in top gallery by Stephanie Seaton (all other images by Jeremy Guard)