Trip Planning: Secondary Decisions

Talus Lake, Tombstone National Park. Photo credit: Travel Yukon

In my first post on planning my big trip this summer, I discussed the essence of the route, some preliminary considerations regarding how much dirt to ride, and got some gear to help with navigation and heat. In this one, I make a significant change in the route, start getting fit for long days in the saddle, and prep the bike for the start of season.

Change of Plans

The initial plan was to ride from Montreal to Calgary, where I’d meet up with my wife, and then we’d ride together through southern BC, including Vancouver Island. After that, I was going to head off south solo down the west coast to California and make my way back through The United States. However, after watching Covid-19 numbers in The United States climb through the winter and political tensions cause rioting on both sides of the country, I decided that perhaps now is not the best time to be travelling in The States. As it turns out, our American friends are doing better now with their vaccination program than we are, and the political tensions have calmed, but I still have concerns about the sharp rise in violent crime rates in the US. The causes of that increase are currently being debated, but no one can deny the alarming spike.

I don’t like to get political here, but there’s nothing more political than personal safety. The Grand Canyon is not going anywhere soon, and besides, I keep hearing on Adventure Rider Radio that you don’t need to leave your home country to have an adventure, especially a country as big as Canada. So while our American friends are sorting out a few things, I’ll take the opportunity to explore and discover fully the country I’ve proudly called home my entire life. When I hit the Pacific Ocean, instead of turning south, I’m heading north. The Far North.

With the US no longer in the picture, the technical riding of the BDRs and TAT was out of the equation. Most of my trip would be on the pavement, so I went looking for a new goal to challenge myself and decided to try to make it up to Tuktoyaktuk, NWT, as my final destination. A solo trip up to the Arctic Ocean seems like a worthy goal.

I’ve been trying to figure out why it’s so important to me to have that kind of a crazy goal, as if crossing the country is not enough of a challenge. It’s hard to explain to my wife and others what would motivate me to ride solo into that remote wilderness. I didn’t even understand it myself, until I read recently something by Jordan Peterson that provided an answer. In his best-selling book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, in the chapter on Rule 11, Do Not Bother Children When They Are Skateboarding, Peterson makes a case for allowing our children to risk pushing their limits, whether it’s athletically in play or otherwise. Early in the chapter, he writes:

“When untrammeled—and encouraged—we prefer to live on the edge. There, we can still be both confident in our experience and confronting the chaos that helps us develop. We’re hard-wired, for that reason, to enjoy risk (some of us more than others). We feel invigorated and excited when we work to optimize our future performance, while playing in the present. Otherwise we lumber around, sloth-like, unconscious, unformed and careless. Overprotected, we will fail when something dangerous, unexpected and full of opportunity suddenly makes its appearance, as it inevitably will” (287).

In other words, I like a challenge! Yes, there is risk involved, and I often find myself strangely reluctant to leave on one of these adventures because I am literally leaving the comfort of my home and increasing my stress level. There’s a mild anxiety that descends on me, and part of that stems from going solo. But anxiety is just another shade of excitement if you frame it differently, and once I’m on the road, that’s how it appears to me. (I’m referring to mild anxiety, to be clear, not the debilitating kind that afflicts some people.) It’s akin to the performance anxiety of a big game or a race; once the game or race has started, it’s all fun, even the tough bits. And I haven’t even mentioned yet the rewards of the ride, which in this case will include seeing the tundra, the northern lights, and the Yukon Mountain Ranges—all firsts for me. Who knows what else the trip will bring? 

Anxiety is just another shade of excitement if you frame it differently.

I have to add that this is not foolhardy behaviour. I’ve been preparing for this kind of trip since I started riding in 2015—developing technical riding skills, learning about my bike, and getting the right gear (which in this case includes bear spray). Heck, I’ve even been teaching myself this winter the 5 best knots to add to my bushcraft. Maybe Peterson could have simply said: the antidote to chaos is preparation.

Now I’m just waiting to see if the territorial borders will open. Currently, anyone crossing into the Yukon and the Northwest Territories has to self-isolate for two weeks. I haven’t had my first vaccination yet, but at 57 years old, I’m next in line, and our fair Prime Minister has promised that all Canadians will be vaccinated by July 1st, so I’m betting that they will open. This might be a game-time decision near the end of July, but I’ll ride up to northern British Columbia and see how far I can get.

Getting Fit

Sitting on a motorcycle all day is like sitting on a stool all day, unless you have a backrest (which my bike doesn’t) or have loaded the pillion seat with bags (which I can’t, leaving room for my wife when she joins me). Usually this time of year I’d be swimming and running and playing indoor soccer, but Covid has killed all that, leaving me pretty sedentary. I realized I had to get going again, so on March 1st my wife and I made a mutual pledge to do 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. So far it’s been working out (ha ha, bad pun) and we are starting to feel the effects.

For me, the key to exercising regularly is finding the right activity at the right time of day. Those two elements are the combination that unlocks the door to fitness. We decided that 10:30 a.m. was the best time for us. We’ve had our coffees and have done a little work at the computer and are ready for a break, especially one that involves moving. And since I’m mostly interested in core strength and cardio fitness, I’m alternating between Pilates and running every other day. This way, each muscle group gets a recovery day between workouts.

My wife alternates between Pilates and her stationary bike, so every other day we do Pilates together. There’s a saying in the Pilates world: do 10 workouts and you’ll feel better, 20 and you’ll look better, and 30 to have a completely new body. I’m not sure that last one is possible at our age but we certainly are feeling better after our first 10. We do a very simple routine using only a yoga mat. If you want to improve your core strength and flexibility, check out Pilates. It has cured my lower back issues and gives me better overall body awareness and posture.

I’ve had some foot issues so the running has been difficult, but a new, wider, pair of running shoes has fixed that and I’m literally on the road to improved cardio. Come April, I’ll move on to some strength training, particularly upper body, and I’m working hard to rehabilitate my thumb that was injured last fall in a little off.

Prepping the Bike

Our riding season here in Quebec officially kicked off on March 15th. I wasn’t on the road that day, but some unseasonably warm weather has allowed me to get out to the shed a little early and do what I needed to do to get the bike road-ready. This is the first year I haven’t done something major, like change my shock, chain, sprockets, brake lines, or even fluids, and it’s been nice! For once, a few little jobs and Bigby is ready to ride.

itcontroller

I mounted the Carpe Iter Controller. There wasn’t room on my handlebar for it so I had to make a little bracket that mounts on the mirror stem. I also upgraded my navigation software (OsmAnd, Locus Maps, Kurviger) to the pro versions and updated my maps. I added a little guard for my rear brake master cylinder (thanks Rick / Kildala), and flipped my auxiliary lights on the mounting bracket to get them a little lower and add separation from the main headlamp—all easy stuff and I went for my first ride last Tuesday. I even figured out a workaround for my tank bag harness that was damaging the plastics, and I’m really happy to have my Wolfman Explorer Lite tankbag back.

Also in that other post, I mentioned the product AT-205 Re-Seal I was going to add to my oil to recondition the engine seals. I’m always nervous about adding anything to the engine oil so thought I’d contact the company first, just to be sure. Good thing I did! Turns out they do not recommend it in applications that involve a wet clutch. I’ll have to make do with the bike as is, keeping an eye on the oil level throughout the tour, and switching to a 20W/50 once we get into the warmer weather.

Good to Go

I haven’t done much specific route planning yet, but with my departure date roughly three months away that is about to kick into high gear. I’m reading ride reports on ADVRider, but if you have recommendations, please let me know. In particular, I’m looking for good campgrounds, must-see attractions, must-ride roads, and good restaurants and accommodations through southern BC and Vancouver Island, since my wife and I will not be camping much while on the road. Feel free to drop them in the comments section below or send me an email through the Contact page.

Enjoy the spring riding.

4 thoughts on “Trip Planning: Secondary Decisions

  1. Enjoyed this post, Kevin. Such a stunning opening photo. While I don’t think you’d find the States steeped in as much turmoil as you’ve conveyed (news is depressing, but fortunately we are a larger, kinder land mass than media makes us appear), I think your new trip sounds much more rewarding. I appreciate your links and have just reserved 12 rules for life from my library. Your tank bag looks ideal, but is unfortunately no longer available. “Preparation” is, indeed, key. Having the security of satellite contact, ability for your wife to track your progress, emergency bailout options, would bring all a peace of mind. I look forward to following your adventure. While your bike is a bit younger than mine, if far exceeds my mileage, I’m eager to see how your venerable 650 manages. Maybe this will be the year my bike isn’t quite so needy. I agree with exploring the world one inhabits first – Maine and New England offer stunning roads for me to explore, long missed friends to visit — New Brunswick, Nova Scotia won’t go anywhere soon. Again, appreciate your blog. Best, Berry

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    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment, Berry. I’ve always found people in general to be very different than what is presented online or in the media and have always enjoyed travelling in The States. I’m hoping to get down to the NE states in the fall when I’m back, assuming the border is open.

      Yes, my tank bag is discontinued. I went looking for a rain cover and found a thread at ADVRider involving a rep from Wolfman. Their new line of bags are all waterproof, which is a bit of an issue with my current one. I won’t be keeping anything electronic or valuable in there outside of a Ziplock, just in case. (I’ve actually never had water leak in, but others have.)

      I’m of two minds about the Spot device now. I was listening to Ted Simon on ARR and he went around the world twice before such a thing was invented. Do I need it? $200 min plus $20/month . . . I can always pick one up in Vancouver before heading north if I feel I must.

      Yes, my bike has some miles on it now. I keep hearing at f650.com how amazing this engine is and am hoping it’s still got enough legs to get me where I want to go. We’ll see! Good to hear from you.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Second thoughts re. the tank bag, because I remembered you are looking for one. Check out the latest offerings from Wolfman. They’ve changed the fabric and design to make them structurally more solid and, more importantly, completely waterproof. (The old denier ones all sold at clearance prices in the fall.) https://wolfmanluggage.com/collections/tank-bags
      Their angled design fits nicely on our sloped tank.
      I also like Giant Loop, Mosko, and Enduristan products. One of them (Mosko?) has a nice one with integrated water bladder which is nice to get that weight off your back.
      I love having essentials at hand!
      The only thing to watch out for is that when the bag is off the bike, the buckles from the harness drop down into the yoke and can press against the plastic if crossways when the bike is at full lock. There’s just not much room in there. This is especially an issue on the left side if you regularly use the ignition lock, as I do. I ended up cracking the center panel and had to fix it with super glue/baking soda method. My workaround is to buy two matching female buckles and make a patch with a bit of matching nylon ribbon that I snap in when the bag is off. This prevents the buckles from dropping down into the yoke and keeps them up nearer the T-clamp. Does that make sense? I’ll be making a little walkaround video soon in which I describe some of the modifications I’ve made on the bike and I’ll talk about this issue. Anyway, happy Easter or Passover, whichever the case may be.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I just found this, Kevin. (Email is best). Just ordered a Nelson Rigg Trails End Adventure Bag from Revzilla. (I had to use my ZillaCash). A YouTube video conveys it’s simple, adjustable volume, rain cover. If I don’t like it I can return it.

        Liked by 2 people

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