If you had a BMW GS sitting in the garage and a ten-foot-long chopper by its side, a burning itch to go on an adventure through multiple countries most riders would choose the BMW…not Charlie, he chose the chopper!
Adventure comes in all shapes, sizes, and…lengths
Tell us a little about you as a person?
My name is Charlie Weisel (pronounced Wisel, not Weasel!), 43, a self-employed electrician by trade but recently (as in very, very recently) retired from that. Landlord…not to be confused with a slumlord. Chopper enthusiast to the core but not one to look down my nose at any motorcycle, literally.
I also own a BMW 1200 GSA that is currently collecting dust but I’m sure will see its fair share of miles at some point. My chopper does off-road just fine for the most part. If I see a guy traveling by moped I’ll take his picture, give him a high five, and holler “Hell yeah!”.
Married to my beautiful wife, Kayla, no human offspring but there is a 4 legged fur ball in our life, and been living in the Boulder, Colorado area for 21 years.
At the end of the day, and to answer the question of “who I am”, I am an adventurer at heart, all sorts of adventure will do but moto travel is my favorite. I am a storyteller and a picture taker. I love pushing the envelope of what’s possible.
What bike are you riding and why?
My primary bike is a Harley-Davidson Chopper. It measures in at 10’ 4” from tip to tail, fully rigid both front and rear, foot clutch, hand shift, Twin Cam 95” motor that’s full of piss and vinegar.
It has drag pipes a knobby tire upfront (usually a Michelin Anakee Wild), car tire in the back (15” Vredestein). 220K miles on the odometer, all that mileage was accumulated through 17 countries and 48 states. I love it, and most of the time, it seems to love me back.
Why do I ride a machine like this you ask? That’s an excellent question that’s difficult to pinpoint the answer to but I’ll do my best. I suppose I like the challenge of it and the different-ness of it.
Additionally, I feel like there is a huge negative stigma around Harley riders, chopper riders in particular, that we are nothing more than a bunch of bar hoppers that are scared to cross a city limit line let alone a state or country line.
As I am fully aware that there is some truth to this (sadly), it is not entirely the case. There are in fact plenty of Harley guys out there putting down huge miles to remote and distant places.
I enjoy breaking from that norm and essentially being the ADV rider who left his ADV bike at home and showed up on his chopper.
Do I do it for the attention? No. Do I do it because I think it’s the most fun thing imaginable and to show the world that “choppers can do”? Probably.
Am I a one-man crusade out to change everyone’s mind about chopper jockeys? No, that would be a pointless waste of time. More than anything it’s because, up until a few years ago, it was the only bike I owned and I sure wasn’t going to let the bike stop me from seeing all the amazing places this spinning blue ball has to offer.
Most people hit the road on a bike they owned already, was this the case with you?
This was absolutely the case.
How long have you been on the road, and a rough idea of some of the places you’ve visited?
I’ve been on the road part-time, and solo until recently since the day I turned 16 and the last 15ish years have been on a motorcycle.
During this time I’ve seen 20 countries, mostly European and Mexico, 17 of those on my chopper,
1 (India) on a rental bike, and the other by foot…my wife and I enjoy backpacking as well.
I’ve been to 48 states on the ol’ Harley, still waiting to check Alaska and Hawaii off that list. I don’t think Kansas is as bad as everyone claims. I appreciate the wide-open spaces of the prairie just as much as the tall craggy peaks of the Himalayas.
I’ve done (12) 1000+ mile days on the chopper, 1250 miles being my record, and 13hrs 16min being my fastest…I think I can do faster though.
Did COVID-19 stop you in your tracks, where were you supposed to be riding right now?
Definitely. We were supposed to be riding from our home in Colorado to the tip of South America right now. Instead, I ramped up work and checked off some financial goals. Not even remotely glamorous but not terrible either. It actually opened up some much larger long-term advantages. Just trying to find the shiny side of a rusty coin.
What are some of the challenges of riding a bike like yours, and what are some of the positives?
Challenges? Sand and tight rocky switchbacks can get a bit dicey. The front end can have a mind of its own that needs to be put in check every once in a while.
Positives? I think that same answer that any motorcyclist would tell you, two wheels is better than four. I don’t think that my particular bike offers a better or worse experience than any other, just different.
Are you a ‘darkside’ rider? Can you explain that for readers who don’t know what it is, and why?
I am a darksider, as in, I use a car tire on the rear.
I do this for two reasons. One, with my complete lack of suspension I can run the car tire at a very low pressure to assist in keeping my kidney in its proper place, and two, I get way more miles out of car tire than I would ever get out of a motorcycle tire.
Replacing tires is an expensive pain in the neck. People will often tell me that it is a terrible idea, that it destroys the handling and I’ll wash out in a corner…have you seen my bike?
I usually just tune out their “know it all-ness”, especially when they tell me they have zero personal experience in the matter, and go about my business. I’m not concerned about high-speed cornering, if I was I wouldn’t be on a 10’ long chopper.
Plus, most of the guys arguing about the best tire for cornering will never push a tire far enough for it to matter. I see nothing wrong with running a car tire on any bike, they work just fine unless you are racing a sportbike on a track which 99% of riders are definitely not doing.
When did you get into riding, and why?
About 15 years ago because it’s when I could finally afford a motorcycle. A simple answer I know, but it’s the truth.
I always wanted a bike as a kid but I wasn’t raised around them and I didn’t really know anybody who rode them. In my late teens and early 20’s, I would occasionally borrow a bike for a day but that’s pretty much all it was.
I think I pulled my first clutch lever when I was 17 which also coincides with the first time I dropped a bike and broke said clutch lever. I never borrowed that guy’s bike again.
I suppose the exposure to the elements and adventurous nature of them is what drew me in. I traveled in my old Volkswagen van up until then, but would always look on in envy at the motorcycles passing me on the road. In fact, in that old van, pretty much everybody was passing me.
What was the turning point from living a ‘normal life’ to make you change and hit the road?
I think I’ve just officially hit that turning point. Up until recently, I’ve been hitting both the work and travel buttons hard, to the point where it was becoming unhealthy.
I push myself so hard at work that the stress levels became unbearable and I started having honest concerns about my health and well-being because of it. I am a huge advocate for a sturdy work ethic but also feel that it should be rewarded.
Was your first major destination a bucket list place or just somewhere along the way?
Just somewhere along the way. My first real moto trip was from Boulder, Colorado to Jackson Hole, Wyoming with some buddies. I had no idea what I was doing but immediately fell in love with it. It wasn’t that road-tripping was a foreign concept, I had tons of solo miles under my belt at this point, just not on a motorcycle.
Where would you consider the toughest area you’ve ridden, and why?
I got myself into a precarious situation in Utah once. Super rutted, sandy and steep dirt roads with water crossings, which I somewhat anticipated, but didn’t expect to take so long.
It took me nearly 6 hours to cover approximately 40 miles…one of the most fun days I’ve ever had on a chopper! I definitely remember times where I thought to myself “I may have found my threshold”, but that being said, I’d do it again.
Is there anywhere you look forward to returning to, or are you always looking for new adventurers?
India. I’d definitely like to go back there but on my own bike. My goal would be to get my chopper over the highest motorable road in the world. Not only are the roads and scenic views there absolutely incredible but the people and culture are fantastic as well. And Indian food, I just can’t get enough of it!
Where is your favorite country to ride and why, and which other two round out your top three?
India, because of the above answer. Austria and Norway for second and third place primarily for the unrivaled scenery, pristine roads, and quaint villages.
A dream location to ride to that you have yet to visit?
Russia and the Trans Siberian Highway are pretty much at the top of my bucket list. A sizeable task on a chopper I know, but to totally doable. I do also have an Africa/Middle East trip on my radar.
Scariest moment on your travels?
Good question and I’m racking my brain for an answer. The truth is I can’t pinpoint any one particular experience but can say that I’ve gotten stuck in some pretty serious snowstorms in remote areas that had me pretty on edge.
Not so much the concern of sliding out on an icy road, though that certainly is a concern, but more the thought of getting stuck out overnight where I think the real danger would lie. The fact of the matter is that I ride a pretty radical chopper into inappropriate places so having my nerves pinned isn’t an uncommon experience.
Most memorable day?
To date, I would have to say the day I strapped a 5-gallon auxiliary fuel tank to the back of my bike and raced a buddy of mine 1000 miles to Coos Bay, Oregon.
He proposed the challenge and I sure as Hell wasn’t going to say no. I beat him by three hours and completed the 1000 miles in 13 hrs and 16 min…a lot of laws were broken that day.
Do you have a dream bike, if you had an unlimited budget?
I think I’m already riding it, I honestly can’t think of a better bike for me.
Do you think more people should travel and why?
Yes and no. I’m typically always an advocate for getting out and seeing the world but the fact of the matter is that not all people are built for it.
Some people are better at reading about the adventures through other people’s experiences and there is nothing wrong with that. That being said, I do think everyone should try it for themselves at least once to find which category they belong in.
Top 3 tips for a new rider?
- Remember that you are capable of far more than you think.
- Take it slow. Motorcycling is not about proving who’s fastest or more skilled, it’s about enjoying the ride.
- Figure out what kind of rider you are and harness that. i.e. long-distance tourer, bop around towner, long weekender, etc.
When you aren’t riding what do you do for a job?
I spent 20 years as a self-employed electrician but am currently transitioning into full-time travel and building our new website roadsareforjourneys.com
Our goal for Roads are For Journeys is to share stories from adventurers of all sorts to inspire others to get out and do more.
The proceeds from the subscription go back into the pockets of the writers in order to fund future trips and therefore more stories.
This a group of dedicated and skilled individuals who want nothing more than to show others the world we live in, and for those who may not be able to see it for themselves or are maybe just looking for travel ideas/inspiration of their own.
The website is still somewhat in its infancy (although picking up steam quickly) but I think has a lot of potential to assist, inspire and educate adventurers of all types.
If you enjoy reading stories such as these we would greatly appreciate you purchasing a subscription to help offset the cost of fuel and equipment for all of our contributors!
What does the word ‘adventure’ mean to you?
To me, adventure is synonymous with a challenge.
An adventure is when I commit to a trip where I know that clear challenges and tasks are on the table. Often times the challenges are lofty and borderline dangerous and other times pose no risk at all.
At the end of the day, adventure is putting myself out there, into the unknown, to experience our world in a new and exciting way.
I can be followed on Instagram @travelingchopper