I’ve been writing for Adventure Rider (ADVRider) for about 3 years now.  I really love motorcycles and traveling the world with them.  They’ve brought both Kim and me so much joy over the years that it’s hard to imagine not being able to travel the world on two wheels.

We’ve been fortunate enough to moto travel on four different continents and see so much.  We’ve learned more about the people we share this planet with during these journeys than we could have learned watching TV or videos for millennia. So for us, it has become an eye-opening experience with both greatness and tragedy.  And after having enjoyed ADVRider since 2006, I have to say that the site and its inmates are a blessing to me.  And I would suggest it is a blessing to millions of others all over the world.

“Real” adventure questions

But there’s been something gnawing on me as I write content and read comments from the people here that we lovingly call “inmates.”  Our inmates generally get along, but not always.  Nonetheless, you can feel the passion that emanates from their electronically generated text.  And some of those comments have to do with who is “worthy” to call themselves an adventure rider.

real adventure

Adventure? Chain jumps the sprocket and locks the rear wheel in the middle of a water crossing in Iceland? Photo credit: Gudrun H Vilmunddardottir.

By way of background, ADVRider got its start when our founder, Baldy, took a trip to Mexico that I dare say changed his life and certainly changed that of the adventure riding community.   His story is recorded here on ADVRider, and I recommend taking the time to read it if you already haven’t.  When you have finished reading, I think you’ll quickly conclude that ADVRider’s genesis was from motorcycle travel.  That’s not to say that ADVRider isn’t meant for other forms of motorcycling.  It pretty much covers almost everything about riding on two wheels.  There’s so much to enjoy that you could easily “waste” days, months, and years prowling everything you can find here.  I have.

What makes a “real” adventure rider?

But let’s get to the point of this discussion.  What makes a “real” adventure rider, and probably more importantly, why do many of us care so much about the words “adventure” and “adventure rider”?  It seems there are many riders out there who profess to know what constitutes a “real” adventure and what does not.  And they say they know what kind of bikes “real” adventure riders ride.

What makes a “real” adventure bike?

The selection of “adventure” bikes is huge.  So large, in fact, that it’s difficult to classify exactly what an adventure bike is.  For some, an adventure bike has to be a lightweight, single-cylinder machine that can tackle the toughest terrain.  For others, the adventure mount must be a comfortable chariot that can carry them to locations where they can experience what they envision as an adventure.  Complicating matters is that there is a huge selection of bikes somewhere between the big machines and the little ones.  If variety is the spice of life, then the range of adventure motorcycles is an epically spicy one.

What is “real” adventure?

And this is where I begin to wonder what “real” adventure is and what constitutes a “real” adventure bike.  I’ve read many comments that say, for example, the big GSs aren’t real adventure bikes, and their riders only ride to Starbucks for coffee on the weekends.  Others seem to think that the only “real” adventure riding is on a lightweight machine balancing on a mountain precipice in the sand while dodging baby head sized loose rock.

So what is it about adventure motorcycling that causes such a deep divide over what constitutes a “real” adventure, a “real” adventure rider, and a “real” adventure bike?  Why do so many of us care about what someone else rides on their own adventures?  Why do many of us insist that only a certain type of bike on a certain type of terrain constitutes an “adventure?”

From my perspective, what constitutes an adventure lies firmly in the mind of an individual rider.  It is not their choice of mount, or the type of terrain traveled. Instead, it’s what stimulates the rider’s brain as a new  and challenging (for them) experience, perhaps but not necessarily with a bit of fear thrown in.

For example, a Dakar competitor riding through 500 meters of sand would not even bat an eyelash at the short trip.  But if you take a newly minted rider and ask that rider to ride the same course, it would likely be quite an adventure for that rider.  And, it probably wouldn’t make much of a difference to that rider on the bike they rode.  It would still be quite an adventure for that rider, wouldn’t it?

Why do we care?

So what do you think the definition of “real” adventure, a “real” adventure rider, and “a “real” adventure bike is?  And more importantly, why is the definition so important to many riders?  Let us know what you think in the comments below.


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