Thursday, April 26, 2012

These Boots are Made for Riding (Off Road)

Upon verifying with Jimmy Lewis that my KLR650 MeFo tires were aggressive enough to take his two-day off-road class.  (Said Jimmy:  “[they] are the least aggressive tires we will allow so they will be ok”), I registered and, upon reading the registration materials, realized that I would be needing to make another purchase… Boots.

Street style boots are not made to wear while riding in off-road situations hence, [sic] we recommend that you have a sturdy pair of motocross or enduro style boots for your safety.

I’ve been riding cruisers for almost ten years, and very rarely wear my Red Wing riding boots.  I don’t like that they come up to mid-calf.  I don’t like that I lose sensitivity for shifting and breaking.  They are a pain in the ass to take on and off.  So I commute daily to work wearing dress shoes, and generally wear tennis shoes when I am not commuting*.  

I was not looking forward to purchasing a big-ass off-road ski boot, but lucky for me, the adventure riding craze has created demand for all sorts of new products, including “Adventure Riding” boots that (claim to) bridge the gap between on and off road, providing both protection, comfort, and the ability to walk without it feeling like a young fawn on ice.

I didn’t spend as much time as I would have liked researching adventure riding boots on the forums, but I settled on “Sidi Canyon Gore Tex” because:

  • They appear sturdy enough to get me to South America
  • They are “low profile” with one buckle, and a lot shorter than similar boots
  • “Sidi” has a reputation of manufacturing high-quality boots
  • While the Canyon Gore Tex are expensive, they are not as expensive as the top of the line adventure boots
  • The boots have received favorable reviews

I found them for sale at Helmet City for $350.00 (+ $30 tax), called them up, and they promised they would arrive by Thursday.  They never arrived (and still, one week later, have not yet arrived, or rather, I believe they arrived at the wrong address, but I am still working with Helmet City to resolve this and refund my credit card).

It was too late to order another pair online, so I found Beach Moto just down the street in Santa Monica, a brick-and-mortar retailer that carried all sorts of high-end motorcycle apparel (and no stranger to the Adventure Rider forums).  After describing my needs, the owner sold me on “Sidi Adventure” boots which, while a lot larger than I would have liked, had all the benefits of the “Sidi Canyon” boots.  He really knew his stuff, and while I ended up walking out the door (wearing the boots) with a $435 charge on my credit card, I was happy I would be prepared for Jimmy’s class.  (I'd like to point out that I am a cheap son-of-a-bitch, and never thought I would pay $430 for something to wear on my feet unless I was, like, climbing K2 or something.)

Now that the class is over, and I’ve worn them all day for four days in a row, I am really happy with them.  I do not have any basis for comparison other than my street boots, however, I am amazed at how breathable they were even in temperatures reaching the high 90’s.  I got used to shifting with them after a couple of hundred miles, and felt fine walking around in them.  Also, this was the first time in my life in which strangers complimented me on something I was wearing on my feet.

Nancy Sinatra has nothing on me, in spite of her killer dance moves:

* I really, truly need to get better about the whole “all the gear, all the time thing”

Sidi Adventure Boots:  $435 | Total Cost:  $5963

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Route Finding in Baja

One of the many ways I am clueless when it comes to The Trip is route finding. The adventure will earnestly begin in Baja, California. (Actually, the only plan I have at this point is to ride down the peninsula, ferry to mainland Mexico, and most likely ship the motorcycle from Panama City to Columbia. I have no idea if or when this trip will end, and have no "must do" items on my agenda.)

Crashmaster in the Adventure Rider forums suggested that, instead of purchasing an off-road route through Baja, to buy the Baja California Almanac, and, combined with Google Earth, plan a route that way. So I bought the "Baja California Almanac." It just arrived at work, and while it is impressively detailed, I still have no idea what to do with it other than carefully rip out the pages and post them on the walls of my office as inspiration.

I imagine that, combined with a good GPS (that I have yet to purchase), I can plan a route from gas station to gas station taking as many dotted line roads as possible. For example, the roads from San Vicente to Colonet appear to offer dozens of ways to get lost and/or kidnapped by narcos:

Is route finding that easy? I imagine, after experience, I will have a better idea of what dotted line roads to take, and what not to take based on factors that I am currently not yet aware of, but I am just going to have to work under the assumption that my route finding is nothing short of awesome because I haven't gotten lost yet (when off-road on a motorcycle).

(In case anyone wants to purchase the maps, I suggest using the above link. There are a lot of re-sellers out there *cough cough* Amazon that mark up the price considerably.)

This weekend, I am off to attend Jimmy Lewis' Off Road Riding School to go off-road for the first time, under the care and guidance of a world class instructor, in the shadow of the lovely city of Pahrump, Nevada.

Baja Adventure Maps:  $28 |  Total Cost:  $5,528

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I Have No Idea What I’m Doing

The idea for The Trip slowly materialized over many years. I don’t know when it first occurred to me to ride a motorcycle from California to South America. I remember fantasizing about quitting my job to travel around the world via trains & planes. I remember planning a motorcycle trip down the Baja peninsula to Cabo San Lucas (that never happened). I remember just wanting to chuck it all away. Marriage. Business casual. Los Angeles. The dull and numbing boredom of life.

The Trip is still coming together. Any number of things could derail it, and it very well may never happen. However, a major component to an epic adventure is the preparation. As of today, I have no idea what I’m doing. I have a terrible sense of direction and very limited mechanical ability. I only know a little bit of Spanish. I’ve never taken a motorcycle off road. I am completely unprepared. I have no idea what I’m doing.

However. I do have a heavily modified KLR650 named “Kinky”, a piece of real estate I plan on selling to fund the trip, and plenty of motivation to get the hell out of here.

KLR 650 "Kinky" 5,700 miles, many upgrades:  $5,500