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The 2010 IAMC Challenge

By Toni Toepher
Originally Published in the IAMC Newsletter, August 2010

The 2010 IAMC Challenge provides an exciting way for adventure riders of all levels to explore the Idaho outdoors. As a newcomer to dual sport riding, I view the Challenge as a good encouragement to get to know the surrounding country, by bike and myself.

Having grown up in Germany, Idaho is still new to me. In Europe one cannot experience the outdoors being secluded more than 10 miles from civilization. With outdoors as untouched as here in the Northwest, I would feel foolish not to be exploring.

The westerns I watched as a kid (“The Indian in the Cupboard,” for example), the stories I grew up with of Native American living, and the idea of wildlife such as bears and rattlesnakes roaming freely made me want to further experience what the Northwest is all about. My family went on road trips into the Idaho mountains to go camping occasionally, and I regularly visited a friend’s cabin north of Boise in High Valley. I always had a lot of fun on these retreats although the idea of adventure motorcycling was still remote to me. This helped me realize that what remains of the wild west and its history is right here all around us.

After receiving my driver’s license at age 17, I bought a worthless car that was quickly replaced by my first motorcycle. A close friend’s father (Sam Stone) actually introduced me to motorcycling when the car broke down and I needed another form of transportation. Sam gave me his Yamaha TW and pulled me into adventure riding by the aid of abundance pictures and stories he returned with after every one of his rides. After 4,000 miles of riding to school, along the Boise Ridge, and around Lake Cascade, I was looking for a bigger bike, and I purchased my current Kawasaki KLR650 in July 2009. The extended range and comfortable highway speeds of my KLR were the last encouragement I needed for extended trips on a motorcycle.

My KLR is a 2003 model that I purchased used through Happy Trails. Beneficial to me, this meant it came with several extras that would be basic additions to anyone interested in adventure riding. These include a luggage system (metal panniers), nerf bars to protect the front and a bash plate to protect the engine. Additionally, the doohickey had also been done, something every KLR should have before thinking about relying on the bike in remote places. I cannot think of a dual sport bike that doesn’t need additions to make it more reliable before taking it out into the back country. Besides the additions the bike came with, my philosophy has revolved around riding what I have until it needs replacing, and making sure to keep up on the maintenance meticulously along the way. Additionally, I try not to polish the chrome too much – when I go for a ride I would like to enjoy myself without worrying about what might break. Being new to the sport, these ideas may change, and I am also not riding a $15,000 dream machine. Having put more and more miles on my bike, there are upgrades that I now would not want to go without. I replaced my gas tank with a plastic one, adding protection and expanding the bike’ range to 350 miles. I purchased a used GPS that is a comforting addition when exploring (though a detailed map nevertheless always stays with me). And on my last three-day trip, I carried a SPOT, an assuring safety device in case I ran into trouble. These are all items helping me get out into the country more easily. As far as departing goes, I generally leave spontaneously as I am a college student with relatively few ties.

When I first found out about the Challenge last winter, I saw it as a very fun way of getting into dual sport riding. Since day one of riding, I have loved getting out on two wheels – whether by myself or with friends – but being a rookie I never used to open a map book, point at a random location and say, “This is where I will explore.” The Challenge provided a guarantee for me that whatever site I ride to, these are fun places that experienced riders have previously approved.

About 8,000 miles later of riding to 38 challenge sites, I have learned several valuable lessons. While it doesn’t take a motorcycle journey to help me realize to love the place I live in, I have nevertheless definitely learned to love it. Wherever I have gone on these rides, the incredible scenery and the profuseness of wildlife have astounded me. Loving where I live is important when it comes to adventure riding. As I am out there so often, I do my best to practice responsible behavior. This usually holds as easy as following the Forrest Service instructions, but also includes rules everyone should always follow, like leaving nothing behind and not disturbing the wildlife. There are simple things I have learned expanding my common sense, like staying off a muddy road. My clutch always thanks me, and ideally, when the road dries, no fellow rider will face a potential crash from a foot deep rut. Expensive road repair costs are avoided that way too. I have also learned my lesson about staying off very snowed-in roads. I find much enjoyment in pushing my limits as well as those of my bike, but after pushing said limits, it is more enjoyable, as well as admirable, to trust oneself and be able to turn around, for example when seeing muddy roads that initially appear harmless.

While the Challenge provides a fun way to explore, it goes without saying that the people I have ridden with and the experiences shared have been the primary components in contributing to my passion for adventure riding. This first season has taught me the value of exploring the outdoors together. I cannot thank fellow riders enough for being there when I was stuck in the mud, when my chain came off in the mountains, or the numerous times I have been shown how to change tires and how to replace valve-shims. Exploring together, setting camp at night and chatting over the fire are activities I cannot see myself getting bored with. Lastly, the Challenge has taught me that preset locations are not necessary to help me realize wherever I go, the place we live in is amazing – there is an endless amount of destinations and every one is worth the journey.

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