SomedayNeverMaybe | Denver >>> S.A.
ADV Rider Community,
Hey guys, I'm David. First off, sorry for the incredibly long-winded intro here, but I wanted to get it all in. So, here goes...
Seven years ago I received a promotion to move my wife, life, and me to Denver from sunny San Diego. I got to Denver and loved the city, culture, and people, but HATED my job. I spent two years in front of a computer trying to figure out what I'd gotten myself into. Luckily, I found ADV Rider, which kept me occupied during those long days in the office. I read RR after RR and thought to myself, "people actually do these crazy trips?!?". The seed had been planted, and fast forward to now I can't believe I'm actually writing my own. I feel that I owe it to the community to share my story since some of you kept me going during dark times in corporate hell (and dark times in general). I thought, "someday I'll escape and do a trip like that!"...
Rewinding back a bit further, and a little more about me, I'm originally from Atlanta. I grew up there and had a good childhood. I eventually went on to move downtown and study marketing at GA State Univ. From there (after a fair amount of partying, dj'ing, and general rabble-rousing) I got a job out of college in consumer electronics sales. I excelled and flourished in my career and eventually moved into management, and larger territories. The job I hated in Denver forced me to switch companies and I moved into the wireless industry. I worked for a carrier in B2B sales and management for awhile, and for the last five years I've worked for an OEM handset manufacturer. I always thought climbing the corporate ladder and making money would provide happiness in life. Well, I was wrong. So long story short, I've quit. My last day at work was this past Friday and I feel fantastic!
Learn more about who I am here:
Other big life changes that have recently occurred are A) sold my car, B) sold my house, C) got rid of a lot of possessions and moved the rest into a 10x10 storage unit, and D) got a divorce. The car and house things are HUGE, and necessary steps to take this trip, but I'll touch on the divorce thing. I met M (we'll call her M) in Atlanta. She is originally from Medellin, Colombia and moved stateside to attend college. She was exotic, beautiful, charming, well traveled, and essentially everything I wanted in a partner. Problem was, she didn't exactly feel the same about me. However, like the salesman I am I was persistent and finally 'closed the deal' a year or so later. We were married in 2004 just prior to the move to San Diego (another job promotion). We stayed married until May of this year, so that was approx 9 years. From the time I was 25 to 35. I'll spare you the gory details of the divorce, but long story short, she changed, I changed, we changed, so decided to split. It has been incredibly hard for me, but has also been a major impetus to do this adventure/journey/motorized walkabout.
See more reasons for the trip here:
Another major stressor in my life currently is that my stepfather is in the final stages of his battle with cancer. A few years back he was diagnosed with colon cancer during his first routine insurance approved exam at 50 (side note - get checked!). It was stage IV out of the gate and has since spread to his liver and lungs. The first few chemo treatments worked, but recently the docs decided it was time to stop all treatment and let nature run its course. So, I'm actually heading out from Denver this Friday (Nov 8th) to first go to Atlanta. This in an effort to spend time with and care for both my stepfather and mother during the transition. It will be very, very difficult to be there for that process, but it is the right thing to do. And to be honest, I'm honored to have been invited in during such an intimate moment in someone's life. It will certainly be powerful to say the least leading into my own trip/journey.
On a less somber note, my passion for motorcycles started when I was a young boy. In fact, I don't remember beginning to like them and have no idea why the urge to have one was so strong. I do however remember dreaming about my first dirt bike night after night - year after year, and my dad finally surprising me with one on my 12th birthday. It was a huge old Yamaha Enduro 175 that I couldn't even touch the ground on. On my first ride, I kicked the bike into gear, grabbed a handful of throttle, and immediately crashed directly into the back deck in front of all my friends (got that out of the way early!). I learned to ride the heck out of it though and never looked back. Since then I've kicked my leg over and/or raced too many bikes to count.
I started racing motorcycles in 2008 with the MRA (Motorcycle Roadracing Association) in and around Colorado. I had a decent rookie season with a handful of podium finishes, but a nasty 100+mph crash at Pueblo Motorsports Park left me on the sidelines for the last few races of 2008 and all of 2009. I came back in 2010 and got back up to speed relatively quick. In 2011 I decided to get back to basics and race in the inaugural season of the Ninja 250 spec class. This in an effort to get more comfortable braking later and carrying more corner speed on the smaller bike. I also picked up supermoto riding/racing and took home several first place trophies in the Colorado Supermoto Series. All the training, money, time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears paid off in 2012 as I was able to win multiple races, and win my first class championship. Crossing the finish line in the final race was a feeling like no other and something I can't explain. It was definitely one of the most exhilarating and emotional experiences of my life.
The rough plan for the trip is to leave Friday (Nov 8th) for Atlanta. Then depending on happenings in Atlanta I plan to depart on the 'real' trip on/around Dec 15th. If I'm a day, week, or even a month late it shouldn't matter much as I'm not booked on the Stahlratte until March 3rd. I plan to do Mexico and the remainder of C.A. I'll spend some time in Panama City with a friend of mine Estefania prior to setting off for Colombia. Then my thoughts are Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and possibly Argentina. I have plenty of experience traveling and of course plenty of experience on bikes. However, I don't have much experience traveling long distance on a motorbike or maintenance/repair know-how (I know how to ride em', but not how to work on em'). Due to the racing over the years I can perform all necessary prep and maintenance (i.e. wheel/tire changes, chain adjustments, lever/cable repairs, oil and air filter changes, etc), but when it comes to electrical and/or cracking a case, I'm clueless. I guess that's part of the adventure eh?
Get more specific route info here:
So that's probably enough for one post... I'll continue in the next with bike and gear info. I'm excited, scared, nervous, but as ready as I'll ever be. Thanks for letting me share and I hope to take some of you along for the ride!
PS... I'll try to keep it rubber side down. Well, at least one wheel. :evil
Enjoy your journey.
+1 and subscribed
+1 on good intro. I actually appreciate a little background as to who you (the RR writer) are and what drove/allowed you to take on whatever trek you're setting out on.
So thanks for opening the door...
Subscribed, looking forward to it, and of course sorry to hear about the first leg of your trip to help out your Mother and Step-father. That process will probably make your trip that much more memorable though.
Subscribed. Look forward to your adventures through Central and South America. I've lived in Central America and traveled in S. America. I definitely look forward to reading about your experiences.
Ok, so here is a post about the bike (copy and paste from my blog)...
... Well, even though my first bike and passion for motorbikes began on a dirt bike, as you know by now I love racing! I'm a road racer at heart and it is one of my greatest passions in life. The vast majority of my learning, riding, experience, and of course crashing has been aboard competitive sport bikes on paved road race circuits. In fact, the only experience I have off-road is a bit of time on the first dirt bike I acquired at age 12, some supermoto cross-training in 2012 (to get better at road racing and comfortable with the rear stepping out and sliding around), a stint at Danny Walker's American Supercamp (amazing experience), and several shakedown trips that I've taken recenly to prepare for the upcoming journey, and to test out gear and equipment. That being said, this whole ADV thing is relatively new to me. I feel I've taken to it quickly though and am very much enjoying the experience. I've definitely had my fair share of mishaps along the way, as you can see in some of the pics below.
Who is Chloé you ask? Well, I'll tell you... Chloé is my 2012 BMW F800GS Triple Black. In 2012 I had just won a motorcycle roadracing class championship, which was one of my goals in life. There was talk about growing up, having kids, and all that jazz (which obviously didn't come to fruition if you read the 'why' page of the blog). So, I decided to hang up the leathers and sell off the race kit. I offloaded race bikes, stands, gear, warmers, extras, tires, and a boat load of additional stuff. With the cash that I received from the fire sale, I decided that I would finally purchase a dual-purpose adventure bike to someday do some epic trips on. *side note - I ended up getting a full-ride sponsorship for 2013, so ended up buying another full race effort, which I was able to perform very well on. Picked up several wins and podium finishes and have since offloaded that as well.
I had looked at several different bikes. I liked the Yamaha Super Tenere, but didn't like the weight and bulk of the bike, and also didn't like that you couldn't shut off ABS from the factory without 'tricking it'. Overall the bike handled well, felt like a capable beast, but simply wasn't for me. Having ridden and raced on Yamaha for years, I was bummed that I couldn't make it work. I'm also bummed that Yamaha chooses not to import the Super's little brother the Tenere 660 to the United States as that would have probably been my bike of choice. I looked at a TON of other bikes and it came down to the Kawasaki KLR 650, Triumph Tiger 800, and BMW F800GS (no clue how some dudes tour on those MASSIVE 1200GS adventure tanks). I liked the price point and reliability of the KLR, but didn't like the midrange and top end power, and capability on long paved hauls. Also, I'm a bit of a wanker (I'll admit it) and pay WAAAY too much attention to the looks of a bike. I know it sounds ridiculous, but the main reason I swayed away from the KLR was that both the Tiger and F800 were much sexier bikes IMO. I rode and liked both of them, but the decision came down to the renowned reliability of the BMW GS series and availability of parts and accessories. Plus, I found a killer deal on the BMW slightly used on Craigslist.
Why the name Chloé??? When I got the bike I realized that I was buying all of these ridiculously overpriced accessories. Almost like the bike craved them, and I felt obligated to purchase them (i.e. hand guards, header guards, radiator cover, brake reservoir covers, crash bars, GPS, mounts, and bags, bags, bags!). It dawned on me that I was treating the bike like a girlfriend of sorts. I was in a new relationship and felt obligated to please her with the purchase of new bags and various other accoutrements. The bike was also a bit finicky when I first got it and required a bit of maintenance. A fork seal here, an oil change there, nothing big, but maintenance nonetheless. Also, the 'legs' on her were aging and a bit discolored. Apparently, there was an issue with the fork legs on the Triple Black version of the F8, so they were bleaching and turning a splotchy shade of purple. Again, like a girlfriend, her legs weren't aging gracefully. So what did I do, I took her to the shop for some 'surgery' and they replaced the legs with younger, newer fork legs under warranty. All that said, the first German name that came to mind was a mocha-skinned 'dancer' that I met once during my travels in Berlin named Chloé. She was absolutely beautiful (and I'm sure handled quite well - sorry mom), but also seemed temperamental, expensive, and requiring a ton of bags, accessories, and maintenance to keep her happy. Seemed fitting! :)
Since acquiring the bike, I've added quite a few accessories. I purchased the majority of the parts and accessories from the guys at ADV Designs. Their customer service has been great and they send a free bag of M&M's with every shipment! Several other, harder to find small parts and accessories were purchased from Touratech USA. They also have fantastic customer service, but I find their prices to be slightly steep, which is absolutely not their fault as Touratech makes amazing product and kit, but it is costly. Ask for Marshall if you work with them as he is nice, and will walk you through any installation issues you may have (I tend to have a lot since I'm an idiot - I can ride em', but can't seem to work on em'). Very grateful for a company with fantastic customer service where you can call a person direct for product/installation assistance.
Here is a list of the parts/accessories that I've added to Chloé...
AltRider skid plate
Factory BMW hand/brush guards
Remus slip-on exhaust can (from my friend Tally at BMW Denver - sounds amazing!)
Kaoko throttle lock (cruise control)
Touratech side stand large footprint
Touratech clip-on windshield extension
Touratech front brake reservoir cover/guard
AltRider rear brake reservoir cover/guard
AltRider crash bars
Saddlemen Adventure Track seat
ADV Rider complete tire change kit
ADV Rider micro pump kit
ADV Rider F800GS Ultimate tool kit
AltRider lexan bulletproof headlight cover
AltRider luggage rack
Wolfman pannier rack
Wolfman Expedition Dry pannier / side bags
Wolfman Explorer Lite tank bag
RotoPax mount w/ 2-gallon reserve tank
BMW adaptor to multi american cigarette power outlet
AltRider header guards
AltRider radiator guard
Touratech locking GPS mount w/ crossbar install
Garmin Zumo 660 GPS
A set of new shoes - Heidenau K60's
And a post about the 'gear'. Again, copy/paste from the blog...
The Gear - Layout, Review, and Shakedown
So, I finally got a chance to lay everything out and see what I'm working with... And ultimately, what I don't have. The great thing is, all of this 'stuff' is easily packable onto the bike, leaving my Ortlieb pack and Wolfman Expedition Dry duffel fully available for electronics, clothing, etc.
Please feel free to shoot me a note if you have experience running trips like this and see essentials that are missing.
First, I plan to camp as much as possible to save cost. Plus, I just like camping! The picture below shows the bulk of my gear to survive in the wilds of LatAm. I received the majority at a deep, deep discount from Backcountry.com through a close friend hook-up. Thanks Chris!!!
Ortlieb Track 27 gear bag
Big Agnes Spur UL2 tent
North Face sleeping bag
REI Flex-Lite camp chair
Big Agnes inflatable sleeping pad
Therm-A-Rest pillow bag/sack
Two Otterbox hard cases
SPOT II GPS tracker
Katadyn water filtration system
Waterproof medical kit
MSR WhisperLite stove
Misc gear/kit stuffed in ADV Designs bag
Mini Maglite flashlight
Glowsticks for random jungle rave
Heavy duty pliers w/ wire cutter
Heavy duty drive w/ adaptor
Handy 7-Eleven lighter
Set of front/rear EBC brake pads
Trusty Schwinn hand pump
Several CO2 bombs w/ adaptor
Target latex hand gloves
Two front / one rear spare tubes
Several patch kits
Chain lube (not shown
Finally, I figured I would put a small blurb to discuss my GPS setup (separate post coming soon w/ more detail).
I'm running a Garmin Zumo 660LM and currently have North America maps, South America City Navigator, US Topo 100k, and BiciMaps Mexico/Central America loaded. I decided to go with an Apple Macbook Air 11-inch as my base computer to sync it all together and will be using Garmin Basecamp, Express, and MapInstall to link Zumo and computer. On the bike, I picked up a Touratech locking mount, which is a beautiful piece of kit I might add, and have mounted it on a cross bar. I'll also be bringing along a handful of maps and will most likely pick some up during my travels as well.
So that's it for now! Again, please feel free to send me a note with any questions, comments, and/or concerns. Advice is ALWAYS appreciated.
Chat soon... ~ D
*UPDATE - 3-OCT-2013* - So, at the recommendation of several more experienced ADV riders, I've added a few additional items to my stockpile.
Haynes F800 manual
Add'l oil filter
Add'l air filter
Crush rings for oil changes
Motion Pro 3-1 chain tool
And one final copy/paste (from blog) post about suspension upgrades before I set off tomorrow...
STM Suspension - Service & Upgrade
***Note - This post gets a bit technical, so read before bedtime for a good night's sleep. In addition, all product recommendations are my opinion only, and you should do research for yourself to see what works for you.***
So, as stated before one of the weak points on the F800GS (IMO) is the buttery soft suspension. I think the problem is, BMW is trying to make a shock and spring setup that is a one size fits all solution. The good news in that is, it will work OK for everyone. The bad news in that is, it will only work OK for everyone.
I decided to work with Dave Rose at STM Suspension. The shop is located at 216 Commerce Drive Fort Collins, CO 80524. You can reach Dave by calling the shop at 970-682-2071 or e-mailing him here. I've been working with Dave for the last two years to get the suspension dialed on my race bikes. He truly is a genius when it comes to setting up and tuning race suspension, so I figured I would work with him on this project as well. In fact, I was able to shave two seconds off my fastest lap time during a track day at High Plains Raceway the first time I spent time with him, after that I was hooked! Dave has become my go-to 'suspension guy' and STM is a nice place to be able to take my bikes when parts, service, repairs, and/or support is needed.
I called Dave a couple of weeks back and told him about the issues I was experiencing with my bike. During my recent shakedown trips, the bike felt incredibly 'soft' when off paved surfaces. The front was incredibly quick to dive and would stay essentially bottomed out when riding hard. When skipping over whoop-like dirt/rock sections, the bike would cave in both front and back. Long story short, it was far too spongy, which limited 'feel' and didn't inspire confidence or aggressive riding of any sort.
My first thought, maybe I'll just add some preload and adjust compression and rebound on the front end. Uhhhhhh, that was impossible as there are no adjustments available. My second thought was, maybe I'll just add heavier fork oil to see if I can stiffen it up. Well, I tried that and it didn't help much. Along the way, I played around with preload and rebound on the rear (compression not adjustable), but couldn't seem to make enough of a difference in a positive direction. So, I scrapped all of those ideas and started researching suspension upgrades and what others have done out there in ADV land. Turns out, there are several options. Touratech has several options for the rear, but as with everything they make, it was a bit pricey in my opinion (I know, I know, you get what you pay for). Hyperpro makes progressive front/rear springs at a decent price point, but I don't have a shock/spring compressor.
Long story short, I called my suspension guy (Dave), and he said, "let me do a little research and I'll call you back". In a couple of days he had ordered both front and rear springs from Race Tech (Eibach springs). In the rear we decided to increase the spring rate from 900 lbs/inch up to 1000 lbs/inch. Dave decided against the Hyperpro setup as he didn't want a progressive spring for this application. He doesn't like the "initial movement" allowed by progressive springs because it "allows for the wheel to come back too soon". This is especially problematic when there are no compression settings on the forks, as is the case on the F800GS.
In the front, we decided to increase the spring rate from stock, which was somewhere around 5.5. We put 7.5 in one, and 9.5 in the other, which leaves us with a stiffer 8.5 overall average. In addition, Dave concocted a magic fork oil blend. He was throwing around terms like centistokes (unit of measure for viscosity) alongside other mad scientist calculations, and finally came up with an Ecto-Cooler looking liquid that was around 35'ish in weight (all Silkolene product). Our fork oil blend was heavier than the recommended stock Sizzurp (aka Purple Drank) fork oil that is around 10-20'ish.
All-in-all, the install took us around three hours start to finish. Overall cost came in literally a fraction of what it would have been at the dealer. Seriously, probably half the cost!!! In addition, the dealer recommends the Hyperpro kit over anything else.
I took the 'long way round' on the way home and rode approximately 100 miles on highway, side roads, and packed dirt. WOW! It feels like an entirely new motorcycle. The rear doesn't squat as much when hard on the gas, making the throttle feel much more peppy. The front end doesn't dive as much and inspires MUCH more confidence on dirt. I haven't ridden hard trails yet, but can't wait to do so and am sure it will be a much needed improvement (will update this post after I do so). I also hopped up and over a ton of parking blocks in a parking lot and the bike seemed to leap with ease and didn't sink to the ground or bottom-out coming down the other side. I'm loving the changes...
So, if you want incredible ROI, go see Dave at STM Suspension, or mail him your shock and forks. For the money, I feel it has been the best upgrade that I've done to the bike thus far.
Hey Dave: I got the same bike and wish I was going with you. I opted for the wife and kids thing so I'll be watching you on my computer till I can go in 6 or 7 years. Have fun and stay safe.
PS...you make no mention of your route through CA so let me know if you want some highlights.
Highlights would be great. Here is the route that I have planned thus far...
Cross into Mexico at Brownsville/Matamoros
South to Tampico, then to Xilitla
West to San Miguel de Allende
West to Guanajuato
South then east to/through Uruapan, Patzcuaro, and Morelia
East through Mexico City to see Tiotihuacan
Tiotihuacan was a pre-Columbian Meso American city with pyramids and ruins
Southeast through Puebla, to Oaxaca
South to Puerto Escondido/Angel
Northeast to San Cristobal de las Casas
Southeast from San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico to Antigua, Guatemala
Possible camp sites on Lake Atitlan en route
East to Copan Ruins in Honduras
Northeast to Punta Lzopo Nat'l Park and possibly a ferry and a couple of nights on Roatan Island
South then slightly east to Granada, Nicaragua
Through Comayagua, Honduras
Southeast around Lake Nicaragua
Possible detour to explore and sleep on Ometepe Island
Southeast to Monteverde, Costa Rica
Possible La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano exploration in area
Southeast to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica
Southeast to Bocas del Toro, Panama
South to Boquete, Panama
Southeast to Santa Catalina, Panama
Then north to Panama City, Panama
Ultimately ending in Colon, Panama
Boarding the Stahlratte on March 2nd for ocean journey into South America
Also thinking about Tulum for NYE if I can make it (probably not). There is a music festival there put on by Young Turks (record label) that would be amazing I'm sure. Pipe dream for now... Then again, this trip is to get away from it all and become comfortable being uncomfortable, so maybe I'll steer clear of that anyway.
Mexico and CA Route
Hummmm...Looks like you got some good advice as your route is pretty complete. There's not much along the coast from Matamoros to Xilitla so I would cross at McAllen and ride some dirt south of Monterrey and pop out in a town called Galeana. I rode here with a buddy of mine in 2010. Here's a link to the ride report...
The rest looks good except you'll not get any better beaches on your trip than in the Yucatan. You might make it to Tulum by New Years. Then go through Belize and into Guatemala through the back door. Hit Tikal ruins and then connect up with the rest of your plan. If you have time...before Tulum...stop in Palenque and stay at the Mayabell campground next to the ruins. Its a really cool crowd and they have live music almost every night...good times!
Good stuff, thanks for taking the time to share the advice. Only reason I'm not hitting Tikal and/or Belize is because I spent some time there a couple of years ago.
Gonna take you up on everything else. Thanks brotha!
This is going to be good...
Ps - Tulum is sick, hope you have time.
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