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Trip Reports from Patagonia! 2 More Motorcycle Tours in the Books

  
  
  

The craziness of this busy season sure has made for a lull in the reporting! As per usual, the Patagonia motorcycle riding season full of guided tours and self-guided riders on rental bikes sure has been a good one.

Muddy R1200GS Ruta40Back in December, Ulli and Andres led a group of riders from Italy, Ireland, and the U.S. on our "Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego & Ushuaia!" tour to the "End of the World!" in Argentina. Riders from the U.S. not only had the chance to enjoy one of the most fantastic routes in the world, but they also endured one of the many possible hardships we come across in Patagonia. In this case, one particular section of the Ruta 40 (Route 40) in Argentina had been rained on recently, and had dried to just that perfect density such that it sticks to just about anything. It builds up in the wheels, fenders, etc. and can make for difficult, or nearly impossible riding (not to mention what it can do to a clutch.) Nonetheless, the guys called some of our local friends and got everyone through this section without damaging the bikes. This made for a long day....but they got it done, and it sounds like the riders all agreed it was just one of those funny parts of travel that "makes an adventure."

In January, Eric & Andres hosted an entirely different group of riders from Canada and the U.S. on the same "Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego & Ushuaia!" tour, only this group had much better weather for the trip. (Only 1 day of rain, which is more typical.) In fact, 2 of the bikes were couples riding 2-up as they had done so before back home, and knew they could handle the roughly 50/50 paved vs. non-paved terrain.

CONTACT US with Any Questions or to Choose a Date to RIDE in Patagonia on the way to Ushuaia!

Rafting Rio Baker ChileStarting in Osorno on BMW F700GS's, F800GS's and R1200GS's, this group also had the time to do more of the rafting, hiking, and other site seeing that Patagonia has to offer. The first rest day allowed for rafting Rio Baker, a highlight for anyone on their first visit. Later on in the trip, a handful of us were able to take a boat ride and hike the Perito Moreno Glacier just west of El Calafate, Argentina. Chipping ice directly from the glacier and pouring a little whiskey over it was an experience many of us will never forget! (Bikes were not involved : )

As I've written about at length before, the scenery in Patagonia is still the same stunning collection of natural beauty it's been for years. The change we do see though is that, each year, there's a little more pavement, a few more new buildings...a new gas station here and there...maybe a few new hotels..... and more people. The inevitable fact is that Patagonia, like much of the rest of the world, is still being "discovered" and as such is growing in popularity.

Hiking Perito MorenoRelax though, you're still in a position to see this landscape before it's too late. Both Chilean and Argentina Patagonia still have a definite "remoteness" to them, and it's not like we're overwhelmed with traffic or congestion on these trips. (Well, maybe just a few minutes of traffic in a city like Bariloche.) But there are still sections where we go quite a long time without even seeing another car, truck, or person, and it's just "us" out there, enjoying the scenery, the fresh air, the tranquility, along with the challenges the Patagonia hands us.

As hinted at in the opening paragraph, do not wait if you want to ride in Patagonia this coming 2015/16 season (October through April.) As if it's still one of the last "best kept secrets" in the world, still relatively few riders have taken the time to see what we have in Patagonia. The clear majority who have been there and seen the sites we see tend to agree: It's the best riding/route they've ever experienced. Total variety, stunning beauty, cultural experiences, and great food...all combine nicely for a motorcycle trip!

CONTACT US with Any Questions or to Choose a Date to RIDE in Patagonia on the way to Ushuaia!

Welcome To Argentina

New Motorcycle Trip: "RIDE the Balkans" of Eastern Europe!

  
  
  

Motorcycle Trip MontenegroAs you might have on our Facebook and other Social Media accounts, in August 2014 I found myself out doing more motorcycle trip research...this time in The Balkans of Eastern Europe. The result of this trip is that RIDE Adventures now has another great trip so that you can "RIDE the Balkans" either guided or self-guided!

First off, aside from a troubled history still fresh in many of our memories, who knows anything about the string of countries known as "the Balkans?" Named after the Balkan Mountains that stretch through the region, a quick geography lesson explains that these are the countries that lie within the Balkan Peninsula, stretching from Croatia to the west across Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Serbia, Kosovo, and Bulgaria to Romania in the East on the shores of the Black Sea. Quite a landmass that not enough of us even know about, and all the more reason motorcycle exploration there makes sense.

SEE THIS ITINERARY UP CLOSE And ask questions about your chance to RIDE the Balkans!

Arriving in Zagreb, Croatia, a perfectly modern airport and regular flights serves as a great launch point for the trip, and a fleet of BMW GS motorcycles is being regularly maintained for your arrival. What follows from there could be described as one of the "nicest surprises" that an avid motorcycle rider might ever experience, as friendly people, excellent hotels & accommodations, and fun motorcycle riding will be on the route ahead.

Plitvice Lakes National ParkTake for instance Day 1 of riding: A little bit of the Croatian countryside, a nice ride beneath the tree canopy into Plitvice Lakes National Park, and then if you wish, a stroll by foot through the enormous collection of waterfalls and gorgeous scenery all around you. From this day on through to the end, the "RIDE the Balkans!" motorcycle itinerary makes sure you're enjoying both on the bike and off of it.

Walking through the streets of Sarajevo, we learn the full story of how Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated there, and are reminded how that moment is credited with sparking World War I. A city center rich with history as well as great dining and nightlife options, Sarajevo sets you up for an unforgettable ribbon of twists and turns through Montenegro and the Tara River Canyon, the Adriatic Seashore shortly thereafter, and lots of island-hopping fun with the ferry systems that accept motorcycles easily.

Tara River Canyon MotorcycleMy personal research trip that led to this tour offering had been planned for many months, but in the final weeks leading up to my departure, I actually started to get a little nervous about something. It wasn't a safety concern for the region I was going to though. The breakup of the former Yugoslavia and terrible 4-year war that followed has been over for like 20 years, and I knew too well that there was nothing war-like to be concerned about anymore. My concern was simply, that now I'd have to start all over again in countries where I don't speak the language. From the moment I arrived in Zagreb though, through to the end of my trip, that became one of my greatest surprises: Not only can we enjoy these beautiful countries and their rich history, culture, and cuisine safely, but if your primary language is English, you'll be greeted by many locals who speak English as well!

Overlook_SarajevoAgain, either as a self-guided tour where all your hotels are prearranged, and your GPS and maps are all set up for you, or as one of the guided tour dates where there's a motorcycle guide and support truck guide there to carry your luggage and make it as easy as possible, the BMW motorcycles are already here for you, so just let us know when you'd like to RIDE the Balkans!

SEE THIS ITINERARY UP CLOSE And ask questions about your chance to RIDE the Balkans!

Great Motorcycle Travel Tool: Just 8oz Can Jump Start a Bike!

  
  
  

LightningBatteryPack1That title sounds like a gimmick, right? It's not a gimmick though, and I think you can say "goodbye" to bulky jumper cables and dead batteries, as the future is here! (Please keep in mind, we don't sell any of these products we review.)

This week I stopped in to see Francois and Megan at Dual Sport Touring in Tennessee, about an hour from the famous "Tail of the Dragon" where countless motorcycle riders congregate for the famous paved twisties. Conversation and laughs rolled along as usual in the DST shop with all the riders stopping by, and just as I was leaving, Francois showed me the "Lil' Lightning RP Ultra Slim" Jump Start Battery Pack.

The small battery pack looks like most others currently on the market, smaller than an average hand, but unique because of the graphics scheme on it. Francois went on to claim that he could jump start a motorcycle with this battery he was holding, a suggestion that of course I sincerely doubted. To my shopping knowledge at this point, such smartphone-sized battery packs were merely meant for charging exactly those types of devices: smartphones, tablets, and perhaps small laptops or other devices.

My challenge was met as we walked out into their shop and found an old Honda Hawk that had been sitting unused for a couple of years, of course with a dead battery. Francois confirmed to me that the battery was dead by pushing the starter button, and nothing happened. Then he connected the alligagtor clips and attached the Lil' Lightning battery, and you can watch the video below to see what happened:

WANT TO RIDE THE TAIL OF THE DRAGON? See These Motorcycle Rentals Nearby in Tennessee!

All from that little 8oz lithium battery, I'm still amazed by this even after seeing it in person myself! That being said, other power sources with similar storage could probably do this as well, but I'm not aware of any that have the jumper cables that connect directly. The old Honda Hawk wasn't in running condition, so it didn't start, but Francois cranked the engine about 8 times just like you see in the video, each time turning it over quickly. After all 8 cranks by pushing the starter button: The Lightning's power indicator showed only about a 10% depletion, and was barely getting warm (I had thought it would be screaming hot after all that.)

The Lil' Lightning Ultra Slim boasts:

  • LED lights to show current battery status
  • An integrated LED flashlight with 3 different lighting patterns like, SOS and Strobe, all with a 1400-2700 luminous range
  • Will hold a charge up to 6 months in storage
  • 6500 mAH Lithium Polymer Battery storage
  • At only 8 oz, it's incredibly small and lightweight, like having another smartphone with you (plus whichever cables you bring)
  • Comes with jumper cable-type battery clips, home outlet and cigarette lighter chargers, and a USB to multi-use charging line (micro USB, mini USB, Lightning wire for Apple products, as well as the older Apple type plug)

Now all this being said, we know that a "once-dead" motorcycle battery can be hard to revive, so just because you have this excellent power source with you does not mean it'll be enough to revive the battery, or that the battery will then be strong enough to run the motorcycle, car, or whatever you're working on. Still, it's pretty rare that a such a universal tool like this could be used for motorycle travel as well, and it's even more rare that a product really amazes me...but this one sure did! Be sure to check out the Lil' Lightning Lithium Jump Start Pack on the Dual Sport Touring website and order yours before your next trip.

WANT TO RIDE THE TAIL OF THE DRAGON? See These Motorcycle Rentals Nearby in Tennessee!
Lightning Battery Pack 2

Motorcycle Safety by Accident Scene Management & Road Guardians

  
  
  

Accident Scene ManagementHave you ever taken a course or learned something that made you think, "wow...everyone should know about that"?

That thought is fresh in my mind, having just finished a weekend taking “A Crash Course for the Motorcyclist” & "Advanced Bystander Assistance" programs offered by Road Guardians in Big Bend, WI. Road Guardians is an international organization that I had merely heard about at a few motorcycle rallies previously. As it turns out, they have over 170 instructors worldwide, and have taught over 25,000 people what I'm calling; crucial information that we should all be trained on. Not just motorcycle riders, (although we in particular might be prone to injuries and danger.) I mean it...everyone should learn these "accident scene management" skills as we're all likely to come across a motorcycle rider or other person in need of help someday. Surely some of us already have.

I've had some training in First Aid, CPR, and some of the very basics of handling injuries stemming from motorcycle crashes, including my own. (I suffered a Grade 4 acromioclavicular separation or "separated shoulder" in 2007.) Of course I've also been present at numerous accident scenes now in the past 6 years since getting involved in the motorcycle touring business. Some key points I learned from this course (and there are many more) might seem obvious to some of us, but others who don't deal with these situations regularly might not know:

Recovery Position 3The "Puke & Drool" Position - Sounds funny, but it's actually an excellent position to keep an injured person in (as long as they are breathing) as such injuries can cause random vomiting and secretions that could, in turn, be choked on or inhaled if the victim was instead on their back. At least in this side lying position, the spine is straight and fluids will be out of the way.

Bandages & Gauze - After the initial sterile bandage is applied to an open and bleeding wound, it should not be removed or changed out for fresh ones until the injured person is in the hospital or with professional medical personnel. Why? Pulling away the bandage can also pull away a clot that is forming, thereby allowing blood to continue more freely again.

Eye Injuries - If a severe enough injury to someone eye means it should be covered, actually both the eyes should be covered. A person's eyes tend to move together simultaneously (obviously) and so if they were still using their 1 good eye, the other would continue to move and possibly be further damaged by the eyes moving around in unison. So if both eyes are covered, make a point to act as the injured person's eyes, as they will be frightened and you can help them relax by explaining what's going on around them.

Motorcycle First AidWait 20-30 Minutes! - We've all seen it before, and probably said the same thing ourselves numerous times after a crash: "I'm fine, let's go." Sound familiar? - Nobody wants to crash in the first place, as it can be as physically painful as it is embarrassing. Mistakes like crashes tend to temporarily inflate our egos to the point that we deny real pain and physical injury in the first place, not to mention that a state of shock can only further mask the pain. - What does all this mean? We should stop each other from just riding off just minutes after a crash, and instead make a point to slow down, do a thorough check of our motorcycles, and really wait to see if some delayed effects of a crash might be setting in. Even 20-30 minutes after a serious crash, riders can have changes in heart rate, unstable bleeding, and other physical or mental concerns that might not have been evident in the few minutes after the incident. Riding when we're not in a condition to do so ... well ... I hope I don't need to explain what that can lead to.

Longboard Motorcycle Accident SceneEasy to Remember Acronyms: PACT helps you remember what to do first: Prevent Further Injury, Assess the Situation, Contact the EMS and Treat the injured. The ABCSS of Trauma help to prioritize treatment: Airway (Jaw Thrust), Breathing, Circulation (bleeding you can see), Shock (bleeding you can’t see) and Spinal Immobilization.

Bottom line, folks: Take a course like “A Crash Course for the Motorcyclist” and if you can dedicate two days to training, take "Advanced Bystander Assistance" offered by Road Guardians (AKA: Accident Scene Management) and make sure you're better prepared to deal with these situations when they occur. These courses are now offered worldwide by a team of Certified Instructors who are motorcyclists and not only enjoy teaching, but do so with the understanding that in the end, they’re helping people. Whether it's out riding with friends or just passing by any unfortunate incident where someone was hurt, you'll thank yourself for the time you've invested in such education, and I'll be willing to bet that someone else out there will thank you as well.

Now With Motorcycle Rentals and Tours in Bolivia!

  
  
  

Motorcycle rental BoliviaIt was just a matter of time until the right connections were made and research was done. Folks, we're happy to announce that we now have motorcycle rentals & motorcycle touring options in Bolivia!

I'll never forget the first time I rode through Bolivia, as I swore it was the most gorgeous country in the world (as difficult as such a declaration may be.) In fact, some time after my first visit, I declared on my personal blog that the route from Uyuni to Potosi is one of the 3 greatest 1-day rides I had ever seen, and that remains my opinion to this day. Now entirely paved, that route is more like a half-day ride, but that route is absolutely stunning to ride.

So back to the new service offerings! It took a while to get a confirmed plan for Bolivia, as the laws surrounding rentals, border crossings, and everything else are somewhat complicated. Instead of getting into that though, let's just say "we've made it easy for you" through local contracts that you don't have to worry about. This means you can now book:

Motorcycle Trip BoliviaMotorcycle Rentals in Bolivia - Don't even think about shipping your motorcycle to Bolivia, as the complications of doing so will have most sensible riders cancelling their trip plans altogether out of pure frustration. (Not to mention the risk involved with shipping your motorcycle, and one such example shown on this link.)

Instead of shipping your motorcycle, use the Suzuki DR 650 and BMW F800GS Rentals that we offer now, based in the city of Cochabamba (CBB airport.) Just let us know your start/finish dates, which bike you want, and after the reservation process we'll have the motorcycle of your choice ready for when you arrive. Part of the service is making sure you know where you're going and offering some suggested routes. Bolivia is one very large country and there's lots to see, but we'll show you the absolute highlights!

Private Group Motorcycle TourThe "Top 7 Highlights of Bolivia" - If you prefer the convenience of having guides translate for you, show the route, inform you of otherwise unnoticed discoveries, and just be there for riding companionship, a guided group tour like the Top 7 Highlights of Bolivia tour will be an excellent choice. That really is a primary difference to consider when choosing between a guided or self-guided motorcycle trip. These guided experience are just SO much easier to carry out, as we've already made the hotel reservations, we know where to go, and what to do when situations arise with 1 or 2 guides there supporting the group the entire way. Sure, a guided trip usually costs about 25% more by the time you're done, but it's just such a convenience that many riders shouldn't pass up on. (Not to mention, we tend to meet new people and often make great lifelong riding friends after traveling in groups like this.)

READY TO RIDE IN BOLIVIA? Contact Us About Setting Up Your Ideal Motorcycle Adventure!

Custom & Private Group Bolivia Tours - Keep in mind, we'd be happy to host your private group and design the perfect custom tour that includes exactly the type of adventure riding you wish! It starts with a conversation and letting us know things like how many motorcycle riders you will have, which bikes you want to ride, any specific scenic points you want to experience, the duration of your trip, etc. Please keep in mind that private groups can be as small as 1 rider, or up to as many as you wish. The thing is, the more riders you have, the less expensive it is per person as the common costs of running the tour are spread across more people. (Common costs like the guides, support trucks, salaries, etc. have to be divided.)

Whether you want to focus on riding up in the "high and dry" plains region, focus on highlights like the "Road of Death" (the World's Most Dangerous stretch of road) or get down into the jungle where a winter riding getaway sure is more comfortable, your motorcycle trip in Bolivia starts with a conversation! Just use this form to Contact Us and let us know what your wish is. The more information you provide, the more precisely we can help you plan the exact riding adventure you've been craving. I guarantee you'll be amazed at the experience of riding in Bolivia!

Road of Death in Bolivia

Sleep Apnea and CPAP Machines for Motorcycle Travel

  
  
  

Eric Lange RIDE AdventuresAs it turns out, I'm not invincible like I once thought.

That being said, I also can't believe I'm writing about this, as my personal medical history isn't something I thought I'd ever share on this blog. Having been told I have a mild case of sleep apnea earlier this year though sure has opened my eyes about this subject, as well as taught me about the challenge motorcycle travel can be without the right CPAP machine.

Most of my first weeks with a CPAP machine were actually at home, so the only major challenge I had was getting comfortable with the mask on my face. As springtime rolled in and I started riding to various motorcycle rallies and such on the weekends, the size and bulk of my original machine really became a nuisance though.

Fortunately a few CPAP manufacturers have been focused on accommodating travelers, and I was able to get my hands on the Transcend® Sleep Apnea Therapy System back in August. Compared to the size of other machines that have their humidification options basically permanently attached, the Transcend® is significantly smaller, and lighter for that matter (check online for various product comparisons.) I got my Transcend® just days before heading to Europe in August and September, where I slept in about 40 different beds during the trip, and was so glad I did, as the space and weight savings is hugely appreciated. Some highlights:

  • Transcend CPAP Motorcycle TravelWeight: The machine alone weighs 426 grams, which is less than 1 pound! As we don't need any more weight than we already have loaded on to our adventure bikes, this is an excellent weight savings over more "traditional" CPAP machines
  • Size: See for yourself and maybe compare one to your own machine, but I think the difference is obvious. Listed as 6.1"x 3.5" x 2.8," that's about the equivalent of an XL burrito, or 1 Liter water bottle when the machine is alone, without all the hoses and such attached.
  • Power Options & Backup: For camping situations on the road, or power outages at home, Transcend's P8 battery power system keeps me from having to rely on direct power sources all the time! Although I haven't needed to yet, this battery will keep the CPAP running for at least 2 consecutive nights (based on my pressure and breathing) without being recharged in between. The battery is small (about the size of a passport, but thicker) and will be appreciated for sure.
  • Transcend CPAP ReviewHumidifying Option: While it increases the size and challenge of packing, I can bring along the Transcend Heated Humidifier™ for arid regions and or high altitude where I think I'll need extra moisture in each breath. For keeping distilled water, I've found it easy to just bring a half-gallon or so (depending on how many nights) along in something like the MSR Dromodary bag, so as the water disappears, at least I'm not stuck with a rigid hard container that's mostly empty. Point is, I've got moisture if I need it.

Packing the Transcend® system is still something I haven't perfected, as I'm looking for the right hard plastic container to fit as tight and perfectly as possible. Transcend® ships their CPAP machine with a nice "soft" carrying case, but as motorcycle riders probably know, a rigid container with a soft interior is best to keep something protected.

Aside from my own struggles to figure the best transport container, the Transcend® CPAP itself has been absolutely great though. Perfectly good for use at home or on the road, it's been an appreciated improvement over my first machine.

As your Doctor will likely remind you, sleep apnea is not something you want to let go untreated, as letting your oxygen levels drop throughout the night can lead to much more than just feeling tired and groggy throughout each day. If you are one of the growing number of people who is suffering from sleep apnea, and you also happen to be motorcycle traveler or any type of traveler for that matter, check out the Transcend® Sleep Apnea Therapy System, and I'm sure you'll appreciate the convenience and packability it brings to your motorcycle trip!

Thoughts on The Best Dual Sport Motorcycle Helmet (for me)

  
  
  

Dual Sport Helmet ReviewFor this rider, Shoei's Hornet DS Dual Sport Helmet is the best, and is going to be tough to beat.

I try not to make that declaration too often, recognizing that what's "best" for me might not be for someone else. That being said, I'm continually more impressed with the Shoei Hornet than any other Dual Sport helmet I've tried, because:

3-Point Peak Mounting - I've mentioned this in other articles before, that I think the 3 points where the Hornet's "peak" (the visor or sunblocker) are connected are part of what keeps it so smooth and without flutter or vibration. Other dual sport helmets I've tried have only left and right contact points (typically plastic screws around the ears) that can get caught in certain crosswinds and speeds and start to flutter to the point that it's actually painful, not to mention "dangerous." The Hornet DS has a 3rd mounting point though, and a rigid design to keep this fluttering from ever starting. In other words, the Hornet's peak cuts through the air best, stays stable, and doesn't vibrate. For me.

Shoei Hornet ReviewPeak. Oh Yea, The Peak! - For blocking the sun, some riders like those flip-down sun shields that retract into the helmet, and some rely on sunglasses only. I use a dual sport type of helmet for that time of day when the sun is just getting to an annoying & dangerous declination, and neither sunglasses nor a retractable sun shield will suffice. When I was younger, I could handle driving into the sunlight better, but now it seems I'd need welding goggles to do so. Obviously welding goggles are not reasonable. - With just a tilt of my head though when heading into the sun, the Hornet's "peak" allows me to knock out the bright sun such that I almost don't even need sunglasses then. Sure, this requires some tilt/adjust as I go around curves and change the angle to which I face the sun, but this constant adjusting became almost "automatic" quite quickly.

Shoei Hornet DS ReviewVersatility - That's why adventure riders choose these dual sport helmets in the first place, right?
  • When I'm getting into a dusty & dirty riding situation, the large face opening allows me to fit goggles into this helmet and better keep the dust out of my eyes (although goggles somehow still don't completely keep the dust out.)
  • If I ever really wanted to, I could take the peak off completely and have what is essentially a streamlined street helmet. As this helmet is already quite streamline to begin with, I haven't ever actually done this.
  • As mentioned above, I almost don't even need sunglasses when riding into the sun, so if they were misplaced or left behind, I'm still riding...safely!

Of course this means that my head shape seems to also be a "Shoei" type, as the other leading brands have never been as comfortable as this. I've ridden this helmet on some long motorcycle trips in Patagonia and can stay in it for 15+ hours per day if needed. Want to try one for yourself? We don't sell helmets! But you can find a trusted retailer on this link.

By the way, great looking design work here, right? I was referred to Ryan Abbatoye Designs for the custom sticker work, and couldn't be happier with what Ryan came up with. As requested, the original solid white of the Shoei Hornet is still quite evident, and the world's best provider of motorcycle tours and rentals is prominently showcased!

Eurotrippin' in Search of the Best Motorcycle Routes

  
  
  

Riding Italy DolomitesIs it too cliche to say, "It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it?"

Hey, it's the truth. This business started by riding and researching motorcycle routes, and it continues to grow partially due to such efforts. Now in eastern Europe this past week, riding the Dolomites of northern Italy and the Alps of Austria and Slovenia, I'd say RIDE Adventures will have more to offer soon!

Steve Atwill, a Repeat Customer of RIDE Adventures joined me for the first 4-5 days of this research project which was just really just a motorcycle & GPS rental starting in Zagreb, Croatia. We're also doing an actual guided motorcycle tour offered by one of the local operators, but that's down through Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro before circling back to Zagreb.

What a ride though through the Dolomites and Alps though! Unseasonably heavy rains hampered things a bit, but didn't stop us from crossing EU borders without a problem, whizzing along through beautiful valley settings, and staying at, dare I say, some of the "charming" Gastof's typical in this region.

Gasthaus AustriaWhile I'm obviously a proponent of the guided motorcycle tour format, there's something to be said about the self-guided experiences we offer as well. In this central/eastern European region, you can have so much fun if you just arrange good bike (I'm riding the BMW R1200GS,) a Garmin Zumo or similar GPS, and set the "Avoidances" to keep you off main Interstates, Highways, and Toll-Roads. These tiny villages in Austria and Slovenia are just picture-perfect, with a "Gasthaus" or Bed & Breakfast-type option available on nearly every road. It's really easy to travel here, guided or self-guided.

A real highlight (fortunately as the weather cleared for us a bit was the "Nockalm Road" or "Nockalmstrasse" named for the Nockbergs, or uniquely shaped small mountains that line the National Park here. Like they say, it's motorcycle paradise! There's a small fee of about 10 Euros to enter the 34km stretch of twisties, and as such, we could tell some riders were essentially "lapping it" by going back and forth without leaving the road. It never gets terribly high in altitude, or even in the busy season here did the road seem Nockalmstrasseover-packed. Well, if it was packed with anything, it was great scenery and fun twisties.

More on this region soon....we'll have self-guided motorcycle trip or guided tour service to offer you soon. Actually started this blog post a few days ago back in Croatia, and now we're in Sarajevo, Bosnia. What a site, and city rich with history!

Garmin Montana vs. Oregon: The Right GPS for Motorcycle Trips

  
  
  

Garmin Montana for MotorcycleIn the battle of the Best GPS for Motorcycle Trips, there are a few key reasons why I think it's easy to decide between the various options. As noted in my previous review of The Best Motorcycle GPS, Garmin's Montana GPS unit was a very clear winner amongst 3 other possibilities I tried, and I still think it's a great unit.

More specifically though, how do things play out when we ask "Garmin Montana vs. Oregon?"

Separate but similar designs, they both fall under Garmin's "On the Trail" category for hiking and backpacking types of GPS's. Both units also function with either AA battery or a proprietary NiMH battery that Garmin provides. Based on notions of versatility like this, both have gained popularity amongst motorcycle travelers as well as we continue to find ways to pack light, keep it simple, and not have to depend on nearby retail or shipping options. These GPS units are similar in size, weight, and usability thanks to a touch screen, and both are considered waterproof and extremely rugged for travel needs right out of the box. 

In the end, however, these key points should make it obvious why the Montana wins against the Oregon for motorcycle travel:

Garmin Rugged MountMount Type: Do a Google search for "Garmin Oregon Mount" and you'll see pictures of how the unit "snaps" into a simple plastic mold and clasping roller. The problem there is that the integrated clasping roller actually that holds the Oregon is subject to the same bouncing and engine vibrations as the rest of the mold, such that the Oregon could and has popped loose while riding. - On the flipside, Garmin's "Rugged Mount" for the Montana has this separate mechanical switch shown in the picture to the right. By having the locking switch a separate assembly from the rest of the plastic unit, the switch is not subject to the same flexing and vibration that the rest of the mold deals with, and therefore doesn't accidentally pop open. (At least not thus far for me, even on rugged sections of non-paved riding in Patagonia.)

WE SUPPLY THE ROAD BOOK - But you can also use a Garmin on this Peru Fly & Ride package

GarminMontanaMountContactsCharging Method: Both the Montana and the Oregon can be charged by USB cables, which of course is great when you're connected to a wall, computer, or solar panel. The majority of your charging needs will probably be while riding, so for that, nothing beats the convenience of these electrical contacts that match up against Garmin's Rugged Mount. With the Oregon, you'll have to plug in/out the USB charging wire each time you get on/off the bike (for security reasons, if you don't want to leave it on the bike.) If for nothing other than saving time and avoiding monotony, the built-in exterior contacts on the Montana (shown right) are a huge convenience, as you can snap the Montana GPS into its place in 1-2 seconds. Charging begins when you turn the key then.

Screen Size: No brainer here, "bigger is better" when you're looking through sunglasses and possibly a helmet face shield or goggles, trying to follow the route you're on. Not that the Oregon's 3" diagonal (7.6 cm) screen is awkwardly small, but compared to the 4" diagonal (10.2 cm) of the Montana, well...bigger is definitely better. Both units have a touch screen, which I've always found the most convenient and far less likely to have sun glare than the high-gloss screens of a unit like the Garmin 62s. In short, I've never really felt like I struggled to see the screen on the Montana, yet on the Oregon, maybe just a little.

Sure the Montana is slightly heavier (about 120 grams,) but when you've already got a 250-600lb motorcycle, that's hardly a difference. I know, every little bit adds up, but in this case, the choice is easy: Garmin's Montana wins again.

PREFER GUIDED MOTORCYCLE TRIPS? We guide the "Machu Picchu Express" tour in Peru!

Motorcycle Safety: Strap Your Luggage Tightly, Or Else...

  
  
  

Folks it's about time to mention once again a very, VERY important topic with regards to motorcycle safety: Make sure your luggage is strapped or locked to your motorcycle in a way that it can't accidentally fall out of place!

Motorcycle Safety Issue LuggageAs I talked about in the embedded video, a young couple riding 2-up last Sunday was very fortunate to have avoided worse injury than what they sustained in a bad motorcycle crash. Coming around a beautiful mountainside sweeping turn in Oregon, a simple duffel bag they had strapped to their bike came out of position, slid down into the rear fender area, and jammed up into the back of the bike hard enough to completely "lock" the rear wheel.

Although I didn't actually witness the moment of the crash, I took the photo to the above showing how the bag looked jammed up in the rear of the bike and would estimate that nobody could have recovered from such a surprising jolt like that. It happened at about a 50mph on a right hand sweeping turn, and again, I don't think there's a motorcycle rider in the world that could have handled this without crashing. That point alone is reinforces why we all need to pay attention to this subject.

This "loose luggage" situation actually happened to me before once too, back in 2010 when I was out scouting what would become one of the motorcycle trip packages in Peru that we offer. You can see in the picture below how I actually had a cable lock combined with my tie-down straps when this took place. This combination of strapping and cables wasn't enough to keep my luggage in place though, and at about 65mph on a windy stretch of highway on the way to Cusco, my bags also slid down and got caught up in my KTM's rear wheel, locking it instantly.

Loose Luggage Motorcycle Safety

Fortunately for me, my incident happened on a straight section of road and there weren't any other vehicles within eyesight. I was able to keep the bike upright, and the only "losses" I sustained were my destroyed luggage and clothes, and the almost fist-sized hole in my rear tire as shown below.

My 2 errors in the above scenario were that:

1) My luggage straps clearly weren't tight enough. As it turned out, I had weakened my strap-tightening hand the day before in a situation where I had to lay my bike down and avoid a serious encounter with an unseen guard gate. My right forearm was badly bruised and swollen, so only after this happened did I realize that my weak hand clearly didn't pull the straps tight enough that morning. (Yes, stupid of me, I probably shouldn't have been riding either.)

2) I was merely using that cable lock you see as a "lock" and not routing the cable in such a way that it would tightly secure the bags to the bike. If you're using a cable lock as I still do most of the time, it should at least be routed in a way that it also tightens your luggage to the motorcycle!

I had the right equipment, I just didn't use it effectively. That being said, let's spell it out clearly:

Motorcycle Luggage "Do's"

  • DO feel free to use soft luggage if that's your preference. Systems like the Ortleib duffel bag shown above, or Giant Loop's Saddlebag Systems can be mounted securely if you take the time and effort
  • DO use strong, heavy-weight straps like you see in the video and photos
  • DO make sure that those straps are pulled very, very tightly!
  • DO position the release clamps and ends of the straps in locations where your body or other gear can't accidentally loosen them (not in locations where you or your passenger might accidentally bump them and release the luggage straps)
  • DO consider using a cable lock as a back-up for tightness, in addition to what it can mean for security of your belongings

Motorcycle Luggage "Don'ts"

  • DON'T use bungee-type cords to secure your luggage unless you are absolutely, 100% certain that they have the strength and ability to remain in tact and keep your luggage in a safe position on your bike
  • DON'T use a soft luggage system unless you are 100% certain that you have the strength required to tighten the luggage properly (i.e. it's not just about the straps, it's also about YOUR strength and ability to secure the luggage)
  • DON'T rely on "balance" of your luggage to keep it in place, as wind, terrain, and other factors will constantly be changing once you start riding
  • DON'T assume that your luggage would simply fall away from the motorcycle if it came loose, as it's extremely likely that such will not be the case
  • DON'T take this topic lightly, as you can see the horrible things that can happen if you do!

Back to the situation referred to in this video though, a small group of us had rolled up on the 2 riders and were there to help until the ambulance came. Despite being very badly beaten up from their crash, it appeared that they would be okay, although in quite a bit of pain for a while with broken ribs, and other possible problems. I never got their full names, but wish them the best in recovery from this incident.

I think we all wish this had never happened in the first place, and so this remains my primary message and wishes to you: Take your luggage situation seriously, think about how you're positioning and securing bags and attachments to your motorcycle, and please think about motorcycle safety before, during and after every single ride!

Hole Motorcycle Tire

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