It was because, somehow, I kept meeting motorcyclists on my backpacking trip who, although they were traveling the same routes in the same country as me, were having experiences that were wildly different. I got intrigued: what did these riders know that I, a lowly bus-riding civilian, didn’t know? To find out, I bought a small Chinese motorcycle in a washing machine shop and took off across the whole South American continent.
Similarly, I didn’t decide to enter Hellas Rally, the biggest cross-country roadbook navigation rally in Europe because I’m an expert rider or because I have a shiny KTM. Quite the contrary. It all began when I chased Rally Dakar in January this year; after one of the early stages, I pestered Nathan Rafferty, a U.S. privateer, for a short interview. By then, I was already so fascinated with the Dakar riders that I found myself wondering, once again, what did these people know that I, a mere mortal adventurer, didn’t? As if guessing my thoughts, Nathan casually mentioned, “Hey, maybe you should enter a rally yourself, you know? A smaller, easier one, just to get a taste.”
Two months later, I was loading Lucy, my DR650, on a container ship in Chile bound for Europe. By some amusing twist of fate, I got invited to race the Hellas Rally in Greece and, although I was absolutely terrified, I knew I had to give it a go.
Hellas Rally Raid is a seven-day roadbook navigation rally that takes place in the mountains of Greece. There’s plenty of technical riding, demanding terrain, tricky roadbook navigation, and jaw-dropping scenery. But the best thing about Hellas is that it isn’t just aimed at the pros. It has Hellas Lite, a class designed specifically for amateur riders. Hellas Lite riders do 70% of the rally route and are allowed to have a GPS as a backup to their roadbooks, which sounded awesome to me because, as a geographically challenged traveler, I wasn’t very confident about my roadbook skills just yet.
Back in Europe, I did a three-day training rally in Evora, Portugal. Transalentejo Rally taught me a lot about roadbook navigation and rally riding, but Hellas was going to be a whole different ball game. Still, the only way to find out whether I could survive this was to do it. I had no sponsors, no support team, and no clue.
After riding across Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, and Albania, I finally arrived to Karpenissi, Greece, where Hellas was going to take place. Every day for a week, we would do loops around Karpenissi, coming back to the same bivouac. Surrounded by scenic mountains, gorges, and valleys, the small town of Karpenissi welcomed the rally with open arms. I had one day to settle into my little hotel, unpack Lucy, and get ready, which involved stocking up on canned tuna salads from Lidl (my prime rally nutrition) and doing a quick oil change.
Rolling into the rally bivouac set up just outside town felt surreal. Support teams were setting up their paddocks, bikes were being unloaded from trucks, and riders were gathering at the rally office for scrutineering. In the sea of professional racing teams, elegant KTMs, and busy mechanics, my filthy DR650 and I stuck out like sore thumbs. Everyone looked cool as hell, hanging out at their paddocks looking like they knew exactly what they were doing, and I felt very small on a very silly bike. Still, Lucy and I passed scrutineering, got our lucky bib number “807,” a GPS tracker, and a Hellas Rally T-shirt— there was no turning back now!
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THE YOUNGEST TO TRAVEL AROUND THE WORLD? JACK GROVES
In the age of electronics, hyper-communications, and convenience, it’s untrue that the world’s youth have lost the taste for adventure. There will always be an element within the human spirit that demands and grows from new life experiences—an instinct as old as Mankind. And you don’t have to look far to find it.
Alpinestars Tech 7 Enduro Drystar
Motocross boots have evolved considerably over the last 20 years, but that hasn’t been the case in the ADV segment, and we often have to sacrifice proper protection for dry feet. Meet the new Alpinestars Tech 7 Drystar enduro boot. We’ve been waiting for a boot like this for quite some time and, to this day, it still boggles my mind that it took so long.
SLIDING FOR ADVENTURE
For the last 25 years I’ve been riding off road on everything from a 450cc lightweight to a heavily laden 1200cc adventure motorcycle. Although I was usually able to handle anything through rough terrain at slower speeds, I struggled at higher speeds on loose surfaces. And the biggest pucker moments occurred while approaching tight turns on gravel roads at high speed—barely navigating them safely.
National Cycle VStream Sport Windscreen for Honda Africa Twin
There are many ways to improve motorcycle rider comfort, covering everything from bar risers to footpegs. Having done almost all of them, I decided to switch out my stock windscreen to see if it made a difference, especially on long trips.
TIN CAN TO TIN CUP A LONG OVERDUE TRIP
Long before the modern U.S. highway system was built, with rest stops, 24-hour fuel, and every imaginable packaged food choice on hand, there were the “Tin Can Tourists,” the original American motorized overlanders. As early as the 1900s, these wanderers faced many of the same challenges we live with today. But life was far simpler for the Tin Can Tourist traveling dusty, rutted tracks in meagerly powered vehicles, camping off roadsides in canvas tents, and eating cans of beans over Sterno stoves. Fifteen months ago, we sold our house to join this rambling lifestyle.
R&R for an RN IN BRITISH COLUMBIA
A mid the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic, I needed to find the quiet serenity that comes on two wheels. As a nurse educator in a trauma-based tertiary hospital, I’m deep in the trenches, responsible for disseminating information and implementing health regulations to frontline workers. Inundated with fear from global news, increasing numbers of the infected, lack of resources, and a palpable universal panic as the world began to shut down, I needed to be away from it all for a while.
RAM Tough-Charge X-Grip Waterproof Wireless Charging Motorcycle Mount
RAM Mounts were first introduced in 1995, and over the last 25 years their ball and socket system has become the most ubiquitous way to mount devices wherever you need them. Recently they increased functionality to include Qi wireless charging with the Tough-Charge line of mounts.
HOW TO SURVIVE an Adventure Ride
I’m no expert endurance rider or a professional fitness instructor, but what I can do is ride my motorcycle continuously for five long days and feel physically content at the end of the trip. Okay, maybe after the celebratory beers, I might not feel as good on the morning of the sixth day, but at least my muscles will be relaxed. So, what can you do to prepare for an upcoming off-road adventure to stay strong, enjoy the ride and be able to dismount at the end of the day without calling friends over to pry you off your bike? Here are a few tips from personal experiences that will help you succeed.
Touratech Aventuro Traveller Carbon Helmet
Touratech has a long history of taking great helmets and adding their own features to make them stand apart. Their newest offering, the Aventuro Traveller Carbon, is no different. It’s built upon the Nexx X.Vilijord, a helmet not sold in North America but one that sits at the pinnacle of the Portuguese brand’s line-up. The Aventuro Traveller becomes its own with a full carbon shell, signature Touratech look, and easy accommodation for just about any communication system available.
2Up and Overloaded
Chicago to Panama