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Backcountry Discovery Routes
A Decade of Adventure
Eglė Gerulaitytė

Backcountry Discovery Routes, a unique adventure motorcycle community project creating and sharing off-road routes across the U.S., is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. Thousands of dusty miles already behind them, the BDR team is still going strong releasing a new BDR route each year and creating stunning video and photography documentaries to showcase the best of adventure motorcycling in the U.S. Backcountry Discovery Routes have now become as iconic as the Trans-America Trail, with countless riders enjoying the off-the-beaten-path experiences and rediscovering America offroad.

To find out what’s next for the BDR founders as well as the project itself, we chatted with Paul Guillien, BDR President and Co-Founder, and Inna Thorn, Director of Operations.

ADV How did the BDR program start?

BDR As with many good ideas, this one began over a beer when Seattle-based entrepreneurs Bryce Stevens and Andrew Cull discussed the idea of making a route for adventure motorcycles that would cross the state of Washington. They were inspired by a YouTube video they’d recently seen by Touratech-USA’s Tom Myers and Paul Guillien who had chronicled their ride of the Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route (OBCDR) with photographer Helge Pedersen and filmmaker Sterling Noren. Stevens and Cull wanted to also create a video of the route they had already begun mapping. They reached out to Noren who found the idea appealing and the trio sought out a company willing to lend financial support. A lunch meeting ensued and Touratech-USA’s Myers agreed to fund it and Guillien to manage the project. Stevens and Cull completed the route, a documentary of the first ride was created by Noren, a story by Guillien ran in RoadRUNNER Magazine, and the GPS tracks were made available on WBCDR.com.

Before that first expedition was complete, the group was already dreaming about creating a similar route in Utah. Guillien suggested they set up a non-profit organization so the projects could be “by the community, for the community” with free GPS tracks for each route. Although Touratech-USA continued to be the principal financial backer for the first few years, a non-profit was created and additional companies including Butler Maps, KLIM, Trailmaster Adventure Gear, NEMO, and others joined. Fast forward to 2019, and the organization has support from over 50 companies and hundreds of individuals who contribute to cover the operating costs. The volunteer-powered organization sees its work carried out by dozens of volunteers, ambassadors, and seven board members, in addition to one part-time employee and a handful of contractors who provide professional services. For 2020, the BDR is celebrating its 10-year anniversary while introducing its 10th route.

ADV In the last ten years, what difficulties were the most challenging to overcome?

BDR The largest challenge has been keeping up with the growth and popularity of the Backcountry Discovery Routes. While the work of creating one new route each year has remained steady, the ever-increasing workload of managing the growing number of existing routes is difficult.

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January-February 2020