Saturday, September 29, 2012

My First Taste of Black Forest Roads

Today I rode all day in the Black Forest guided by locals that knew all the best routes.  I don't quite have the words to describe how amazing this riding is.  It is like nothing I've ever ridden before.  There were times I was literally laughing out loud in my helmet I was having so much fun.  We'd climb over a pass on a one-lane, beautifully paved road, then drop down a 17% grade into a village that looks like it came out of a movie set, then follow a river through a valley, then back up another pass, and repeat over and over again.

The roads we were on would be considered "logging roads" or "fire roads" in the U.S.  The only difference here is that they are all paved. Not just rustic, patchy pavement, but glorious hiking path style asphalt.  Imagine riding through a golf course on the cart paths at speed.  These roads are twisty and technical enough that a supermoto or streetfighter style bike would be at home.  Big horsepower isn't going to get you far here; nimble handling is key.

A stop for a cup of coffee at a small roadside cafe completed the whole package:

It's been a couple hours since I've been off the motorcycle, and I still can't stop smiling.  It is going to be difficult not starting the riding part of our trip for another week knowing those roads are out there.  I can't wait for Brayde to experience this for herself.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Jet-Lag and Motorcycling

I've been in Germany for two days now.  Last night I was able to sleep for about 6 hours, and that was the first time I had slept in about 36 hours.  One thing I always forget on overseas trips: jet-lag is a bitch.  I can't even imagine leaving for a motorcycle trip being this tired and having my eating schedule this messed-up.  The lesson to be learned here? ALWAYS give yourself an extra day to adjust before hopping on a motorcycle and riding in a country you're not familiar with.  Luckily this is a lesson neither of us will have to learn the hard way.

Another thing I forgot about:  European breakfasts are the BEST


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mapping things out

Usually, we loosely map out our routes before we head out on trips, based on places we want to see and terrain we want to experience. We always allow generous wiggle room for unpredictable weather patterns and tips from people we meet along the way (like last year's impromptu excursion to Helmcken Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in North America). This trip, though, we're relying more heavily on others' advice because we can't just sit down with our trusty gazetteer and estimate how long it'll take to get from one place to the next. And we're fine with that.

... well, for the most part...

Still, I found myself looking at travel guides. Don't get me wrong--I have complete faith in the recommendations from our friends at Touratech. Being able to reference basic road maps and suggested routes, though, allows us to stay flexible and informed as we go along. Plus, we don't have much working knowledge of the region's native languages, so a few phrasebooks couldn't hurt. So, with those reasons in mind, I purused a couple book stores and managed to track down a few road travel books and quick reference guides that are sure to come in handy. While I haven't used their language material yet, I've generally had good experience with Lonely Planet in the past. Travel books designed for driving/riding, though, were a bit more slim pickings, so we'll see how those work out. If nothing else, they'll pass the time on the flight over anyway!


Monday, September 24, 2012

Euro Trip - Packing for the Flight

We've pretty much got our motorcycle trip preparations down to a science by now, but this new trip is unlike anything we've ever done before.  We're basically throwing out everything we've learned and are starting from scratch on this one.

Touratech will have two fully-loaded bikes ready for us at their factory in Niederschach, so that instantly takes away half my stress level for the trip prep.  I normally have the bikes torn down to the frames, rewiring, installing, maintaining, or modifying something into the wee hours of the night before we leave.  Check out my post on bike prep from the Cycle World Roadtrip to see what usually ends up happening:

The first logistical challenge to address will be getting ourselves and all our riding gear on a plane to Germany.  The tickets have already been bought, so we'll have to come up with a way to pack two helmets, two pairs of boots, and two bulky riding suits into our checked luggage.  Our usual luggage isn't shaped or sized adequately for carrying these large and oddly-shaped items, so I've brought two different bags home from work to try out and see what'll work the best:  The Ortlieb 60 liter waterproof duffel bag that will double as a backpack, or the KLIM "Kodiak" bag that is designed for transporting riding gear.

The KLIM bag is massive and packed with features.  It has a hard bottom, roller wheels, retractable handle, and is sized according to airport regulations.  As you can see in the picture, my entire Badlands Pro riding suit, both our helmets, both pairs of boots, thermal liners, gloves, and socks fit in with room to spare.  The Ortlieb bag at 60 liters is big but not quite enough to fit all that bulky riding gear.  I checked the airline's rules, and it is about the maximum allowed size for carry-on luggage.  It would be perfect to use for carry-on because of its backpack straps.  I think the choice is clear: buy both bags and use them together.  The Ortlieb bag will be perfect for our side trip to Berlin, and I can also strap it to a motorcycle if needed.  The Kodiak will take the bulk of both of our gear over with me, and Brayde will only need to carry her jacket and pants in her own checked luggage when she flies into Cologne.

We have nice clothes for travel that can be washed in a hotel sink then hung to dry in a matter of minutes.  Being able to do laundry on the fly helps keep the clothes you pack to a minimum.  We'll be in riding gear 80% of the time, but it's also nice to have a good button-up or something to wear out at night.  Columbia makes some nice convertible pants and button-up shirts that wick moisture, pack small, are wrinkle free, and dry fast.

I won't bore you with details on tool kits, camera equipment, or navigation equipment.  Let's just say I'm an Eagle Scout, so I tend to over-think, and over-pack when I'm allowed to.  I think this method of fly-and-ride travel is really keeping those "Be Prepared" tendencies in check.

- Matt

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Opportunity of a Lifetime Comes Up - Euro Road Trip

When opportunity knocks, you damn well better answer it.  Well, that's the way we feel at least.  

Two weeks from now we'll be riding BMW motorcycles through the Swiss Alps. This trip came together quickly, and wouldn't be possible without my job in the motorcycle industry and the friends I've made along the way.  Long story short, if you ever offer us a place to stay or a motorcycle to ride in your home country, you better be ready for us to take you up on it.  We're serious about this kind of thing and don't hesitate to reciprocate.

It all started with a business trip. My boss asked me to come along with him and the owner of the company to the annual distributors meeting.  I work for the U.S. distributor for an accessories company called Touratech. Touratech is based out of Niedereshach, Germany.  This meeting takes place around the same time Brayde and I are finally free from the busy season to take a nice two-week motorcycle trip.  I jokingly told Paul that this would get in the way of our vacation.  He said, "Well, fly Brayde over after the meetings and take your vacation then!"  DONE.  I don't know if he was joking or not, but before he could retract his offer, I was back at my computer booking plane tickets.

Next was the email to Touratech:  "Hey Martin, remember last month when you were visiting and said we were welcome to borrow motorcycles if we were ever in Germany??"  Fortunately, Touratech is like one big family, and there was no hesitation to set us loose in Europe with two of their fleet motorcycles.

Everything is set now.  After the distributors meeting, Brayde is flying into Cologne, and we're going to attend the Intermot motorcycle show for a day before beginning our vacation.

My best friend Ian and his wife Ebe both live in Berlin.  I have known Ian for most of my life and both of them are like family to me.  We couldn't possibly visit Germany and not spend a couple days with them.  Plus I know that they will show us a great time with plenty of good food and drink while we're there.  Check out their blog  "Back to Berlin... and Beyond" and their claim to fame on the show "House Hunters International" (Brayde and I can be spotted in the U.S. segment of the show which was filmed at our house.)

After a couple days of living it up in Berlin with Ian and Ebe, we'll fly back to Niedereschach, borrow a BMW R1200GS and F650GS-Twin from Touratech and begin a nine-day ride.  Martin from Touratech has sent us some ride ideas, and we have complete trust in his taste in motorcycle roads.  Hopefully, we'll have enough time, and the weather will cooperate, for us to ride a bit more than the roads on his route.  You never know with all the stops we'll be making in small villages for a cup of coffee if we'll put on the amount of miles in a day that we do here in the U.S. We don't have a set plan; we know where the good roads are but don't necessarily feel the need to stick to a planned route.  We'll play it by ear and choose our roads day-by-day like we usually do.  Stay tuned for more on our preparations for the trip.


Martin's suggested route.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Little Bit About Brayde...

Like Matt, I grew up around motorcycles, although I spent the majority of my time on the back of them. As I got older, I was ready for a view that wasn't 80% helmet of the rider ahead of me, and I was tired of begging friends and family to take me for a ride. Taking the plunge to get my motorcycle endorsement was one of the best decisions of my life.

My timing for that decision could have been better, as it was just months before I moved to China. I've always had the bug to travel, near or far, metropolitan or off the beaten path, with others or solo. So, when I was granted the opportunity to experience eastern Asia on a Fulbright Scholarship, it was like Christmas! Naturally though, as fate would have it, Matt and I met just weeks before I was set to move abroad for a year... but we met over motorcycles, flirted over travel, and fell in love across the miles and time zones.

On the way home from the airport when I returned, Matt and I stopped at the local BMW motorcycle shop on (somewhat of) a whim, and there we were ruined: we just had to get the R1200GS. Not so long after that, the F650GS joined it in the garage. Between our adventures (big and small), I often commute for work on my bike, which scores me big points with the kids I work with when I roll up at their houses. Like everyone out there, though, I always look forward to the days when I don't have a destination and schedule.


A Little Bit About Matt...

I figured it would be a good idea for both of us to write a little bio for you to get to know us better:

I've been into motorcycles as far back as I can remember.  Just about every member of my family rides.  It's in my blood I guess.

In college, my uncle Roy introduced me to travel by motorcycle. After that, I was hooked.  It was cheap, fun, and adventurous. What else could I ask for?  After college, I started work as an engineer in the aerospace industry.  I burnt out quickly, but my once- or twice-yearly motorcycle trips helped keep me sane.  Nothing is better for clearing your mind than an open road and no plans.  
The whirlwind of events that happened next changed my life forever:  I fell in love with a girl who also rode motorcycles, got married, left my career in aerospace, and got a job in the motorcycle industry.  I've never been happier. We make it a point to go on at least one ride a year.  We've explored most of the Western Unites States and Canada in the last 3 or 4 years.  I ride a 2006 BMW R1200GS and Brayde rides a 2007 BMW F650GS. They're perfectly matched bikes for traveling together.  

I have tons of pictures of my trips, both solo and with Brayde, but have never really written any of my stories before.  In May of 2012, I was selected by Cycle World Magazine to work on their "CW Roadtrip" project where riders were picked from different parts of the country to ride to Miller Motorsports Park in Utah for the World Superbike Races and document their journey through photos and writing.  You can see the CWRoadtrip blog by clicking HERE. This experience helped push me to start writing more about my trips, and thus inspired me to start this blog.  

I'm excited to have everyone along for the ride.

- Matt

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


We are not professional writers or photographers.  We're just two people with a passion for motorcycles and travel.  Over the years we've learned to make the most out of our short motorcycle trips.  We've been inspired by dozens of world travelers we've met that have sold everything they own and live for years on the road.  While this is our ideal situation, it's just not in the cards for us right now.

Being average young Americans with full-time jobs, our vacations are typically limited to about two weeks at a time.  Throughout the years we've learned to make the most out of a two week motorcycle trip.  We're able to pack in an instant, and escape on our bikes to some very remote locations in the U.S. via dirt roads and backcountry highways. We have a lot of pride in being able to travel off the beaten path, seeing small towns, camping on the side of the road, talking to locals, and eating and drinking the local fare.

We've decided to start this blog to encourage anyone out there to make the most out of their trips.  You don't have to sell everything you own and ride around the world to have an adventure.  Some of the greatest adventures can be had within a week's ride from where you live.  In our opinion, the term "Adventure Touring" is overused and is starting to describe the motorcycle itself, not what you do with it.  You don't have to buy an expensive, heavy dual-sport bike and treat it like a dirt bike around the world to enjoy it.  Adventure is what you make of it, and it doesn't matter what you ride, where you're going, or how long you take to get there.  With any luck, you'll be inspired by our two week adventures and go out to ride your own, then share with others.

In the upcoming posts we'll write about our upcoming adventure, and as we have time, we'll post stories from past rides we've done.

-Matt & Brayde