I picked up the Klim Krios Karbon Adventure helmet just before our recent scouting trip to Thailand and Laos, and in doing so, went against a very obvious and basic rule I've said before: Always take the time to actually ride with a helmet and check fitting before any big trip. Waiting until you're a couple of days into an international adventure to discover that the fitting is wrong may result in a headache worse than that time you said "I'll take the cheapest tequila you've got." Once you're in the destination country, finding a replacement helmet will be an unnecessary and expensive challenge, and since the non-fitting helmet will definitely "used" by then, it'll be worth very little in terms of possible exchange or sale to another rider.
With our 8-year anniversary just a few days away and as you may have seen on our last eNewsletter, RIDE Adventures just announced that we’re starting operations in Asia, our 5th continent!
I snuck out a few blog posts back in April during the research trip in Thailand and Laos, as a few of our Customers and friends joined me for what was truly a trip full of surprises. (See the 1st post here, the 2nd one here, and the 3rdhere. What lies below is a summary of those trip updates.)
Surprises? To me, the guy that has spent most of the last 10 years riding adventure bikes through 25 countries on 4 other continents? Through places like the Skeleton Coast, the Namib Desert, the Alps, Andes, Rockies and Dolomites? Yes, Thailand and Laos still surprised me.
Trying to be as informative as we can in helping Riders choose the right motorcycle trip format, there are plenty of points to consider if you think "Self-Guided" is how you'd like to experience your next international adventure.
For some, the only way to ride is being out there solo, with no strings attached, schedules to follow, or fellow riders to wait for as they put on their riding gloves at a snail's pace. The spirit and mystery that goes into solo motorcycle travel can be felt in onlookers at the gas stations and obscure locations that we end up in, as people around you wonder "where is that rider from, and where they are going all geared-up like that?" The time to think, ponder, and pontificate within one's helmet can be found in it's purest form during these solo rides, while almost completely on the flip-side, it often makes for the best opportunities to meet new people, as we don't already have our regular entourage to confine us.
Many of our Self-Guided Customers have chosen this format for the sake of being able to form their own Private Group motorcycle trip affordably. Because Guided Group tours come with an array of fixed or common costs to consider, it's often financially unfeasible for private groups of 2-3 Riders to afford the full services we provide with a Lead Motorcycle Guide and Support Truck with Driver.
This past month of riding and exploring Thailand and Laos has felt like a gigantic riding experience, and none of us seem to believe that it only lasted month. Felt like a lifetime, with all the amazing discoveries we've made together.
As eluded to in the past couple of blog posts, I was somewhat skeptical about how good the riding could be in southeast Asia could be. Having been riding the Andes, Alps, Dolomites, and other pristine riding destinations for the last decade, and hearing the feedback of our Customers who have gone on to enjoy such jaw-dropping experiences made me wonder a bit just how much “incredible” was left out there. While I'm not going to tell you the scenery in Thailand or Laos is as dramatic as those other regions, the quality of riding ... the fun variety of mixed terrain we found here, is going to be tough to beat. With perhaps the fewest kilometers I've ever spent going straight on a bike, the Thai-Laos riding demanded an intense focus by each Rider, as it will yours if you come over for one of the riding packages we're going to be announcing soon. (That’s right, we’re going to do this!)
With sore cheeks sometimes from smiling so much within my helmet here in Thailand and Laos, oh what a trip this has been.
The last 10 years of covering the best routes in southern Africa, South America, and Europe admittedly had me a bit doubtful about what Asia might possibly have to offer. Yet here I am once again blown away by the fun that can be had on a motorcycle, in foreign lands where so many friendly people are part of making our Guided Group adventure ride feel so welcome. (Dermot and I with some Asian Water Buffalos in the background.)
“Twisties Galore” would be one way to describe what we did the first 5-6 riding days in Thailand, but as previously mentioned in my last post, there were some fun dashes through extremely remote dirt tracks as well. Through jungle-like foliage and the tiniest roadside villages, and back on to the pavement before climbing more challenging dirt backroads, the extreme variety factor in these routes cannot be understated.
As if the scenery in central Colombia isn't enough, the Guided and Self-Guided motorcycle tours we offer in Colombia also lend us a learning opportunity. By the time we're in the Cocora Valley region nearing Salento, the elevation, climate, and soil type are perfect for growing one of the most famous forms of plant life in the world: "Coffea Arabica" perhaps better known as "coffee." Maybe you've heard of it : )
As part of our regular riding routes in Colombia, we have the opportunity to tour actual working coffee plantations and see what it takes to grace us with that essential cup of joy every morning.
One of those projects that I couldn't wait to get started has finally begun ... I'm in Thailand right now at the beginning of month-long research riding project for RIDE Adventures to expand into Asia!
After a night in Shanghai on the way in (an interesting first-time experience for me in China) I arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand about a week ago, and started taking in the fantastic smiles and friendly faces of the Thai people. Particularly the Old City of Chiang Mai was quite a site to take in, with something like 40+ Buddhist temples throughout. My being a Thai food junkie even back home, I've been off to a great start on this trip.
On the heels of our recently announcement of these great new service offerings for riding motorcycles in Colombia, it's time to share some of "why" we would bother to offer trips here in the first place.
What wasn't explained in that eNewsletter was that, indeed, RIDE Adventures did have Colombian operations in place back in the first few years of business from 2010-13. Sadly, but as can happen in any situation, our working relationships with the people previously involved came to an end, so it's only now about 4 years later that we've been able to reestablish a team worthy of taking care of our Customers in Colombia. This means great things for adventure riders from around the world who might have never thought they would ride in a country like this.
So here we go, 5 Top Reasons:
1) BECAUSE "YES," IT’S SAFE TO RIDE IN COLOMBIA!!!
Are you the right type of Rider for this format?
Even though BMW's new F850GS will be available soon, this post is being written with hopes of helping Riders considering the many new and used F800GS's that will be available for years to come.
As was recently noted in my Honda Africa Twin review, comparing this bike to the F800GS comes naturally, as they share a very similar size, stature, weight, capability, fuel capacity, etc. Within these general categories below though, it'll be clear which of the 2 bikes I would choose on any given day.
If you're so inclined, remember that many Riders book one of our motorcycle trip packages so they can test ride these bikes before making a purchase. Oh, and I'll be commenting on the "base" model of each bike, not the GS Adventure version of the BMW, or the Africa Twin that is coming out with a larger fuel tank soon.
As perhaps a point of credibility, I/we have been offering the F800GS as a rental bike since it first came out in 2008, and the Africa Twin these past 2 years that it's been available. Combining the feedback of hundreds of Customers with our own experience as Motorcycle Tour Guides, here we go: