Originally published in the Boise Weekly:

image

Tackling the Lolo Motorway
A motorcycle haven in North Idaho
by Andrew Mentzer

The Lolo Motorway provides the adventurous with access to countless mountain lakes and viewpoints.

From Boise, head north on Highway 55 through McCall. Continue on Highway 95 to Grangeville. Turn right toward the Harpster Grade and take Highway 13 to Kooskia to the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River and Highway 12. You can head left to Kamiah or right toward Lolo, Mont. The Lolo Motorway (officially dubbed Road 500) runs parallel to the north of Highway 12, with a handful of steep, often rough, perpendicular access roads along the way.

image

Peering over the endless expanse of the Clearwater National Forest from my 7,000-foot perch above the Lochsa River, the realization that I had waited all these years to explore one of the coolest places in Idaho settled in. I have reported on dozens of epic stretches across the Gem State, but the Lolo Motorway might take the cake for scenery, solitude and sheer enjoyment.

It may have been the perfect weather that made the trip especially good, but most folks would feel a similar appreciation on their first trip out. Its rugged ascent from Highway 12 to countless mountain lakes and overlooks which provide a peace hard to find elsewhere. This is the backcountry, so staying aware amid the temptation to let your head float off your shoulders is paramount.

My early September run on the Lolo Motorway was with the folks from Happy Trails Products in Boise, a dual sport motorcycle gear company. The second installment of their annual Lolo Motorway Rally utilized the town of Kamiah as home base, which proved the perfect location for each evening’s meeting of the minds.

Each morning, dozens of hardcore dual-sport and enduro enthusiasts convened in small groups to decide which way to go. Some chose remote single-track routes. Others (like myself, coming off a recent knee surgery) chose one of myriad Forest Service roads to explore. While I only completed a roughly 50-mile segment of the Lolo Motorway, there are hundreds of miles of rides/drives in the area that are sure to adequately whet your adventure whistle.

image

Details:

A good orientation point is the Lochsa Lodge on Highway 12, just a stone’s throw from the route’s eastern origin. We accessed our route from Road 107, between Lowell and Lochsa Lodge, and came out at the Powell Junction. Side routes include scenic Horseshoe Lake and the overlook at Indian Post Office. The more adventurous can get off the Motorway and head toward Superior, Mont., from routes adjacent to the North Fork of the Clearwater River. A long weekend is best to cover a respectable amount of ground, but you could spend a week in this region and not scratch the surface. Bring fishing gear. Lastly, be prepared for anything and make sure you have a back-up map in the event that your GPS leaves you hanging.

I have no clue why Lewis and Clark ever ventured any further west after stumbling across this pristine gem

KLR Rebuild

Posted: September 6, 2013 by andrewmentzer in Gear
Tags: , ,

20130906-123853.jpg
Heading to the Happy Trails/Sound Rider AMA rally in Kamiah this weekend on the freshly rebuilt Green Hornet–now a slightly darker hue thanks to a new black IMS 10 gallon tank and some powder coated odds and ends. Big thanks to the guys at Happy Trails for restoring the KLR to pristine condition following its ride from Sydney to Bangkok. I’d also like to welcome IMS tanks to our sponsorship line up. Keep an eye out for a future post and pics from along the legendary Lolo Motorway…

20130906-124228.jpg

Pace

Posted: August 4, 2013 by andrewmentzer in Transworld Tour
Tags: , , ,
image

Krabi Town, Thailand

Originally published in Trail Dust.

Make Time to Take Time

By Andrew Mentzer

In 1977-8 my father, Terry Mentzer, circumnavigated the globe on a Honda XL 250. He did so solo, taking 207 days to complete his epic journey. He never broke down, and his cultural experience seldom required him to employ the guarded headspace that would be requisite of a circumnavigation today. Having completed nearly half of his route myself—recently completing rides across Australia and SE Asia—I often wonder how he got through it so seamlessly. How did he avoid not only mechanical catastrophe, but never even got a flat tire? No wrecks, never mugged—in combination these realities would seem a miracle by today’s adventure riding standards.

The world seems so very different now, but one thing remains exactly the same in 2013—pace.

I turn 31 in a few weeks and I have had some time to consider what the keys are to a successful around the world journey. Above all, I have realized the value of slowing down and looking at the road ahead not in terms of where I have to end up for the night, but rather how I will feel about the body of work when I return home. As with anything worth doing, there will be good days and bad. How you handle the bad is far more important than anything else. The pace with which an adventurer addresses what is in front of him/her, especially in foreboding territory, will ultimately determine the value of any tour.

image

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I recently took some time to peruse my father’s article from the November and December 1978 installments of Motorcyclist Magazine to see if I could identify some take-aways that support my recently enhanced perspective. Here’s what I found:

On a freight ship between Perth, Australia and Singapore—“The next day we sail, and to my delight I have a four berth cabin to myself. Flies follow the ship until nightfall. In the morning they are gone, lost at sea like small carrier aircraft. The six-day passage is a fine affair: good company, 25-cent drinks, six course meals and a good library.”

After crossing into Thailand from Malaysia—“There is much less traffic in Southern Thailand than Malaysia. The countryside is a fairyland in shades of green encompassing miles of rice fields between low mountain ranges and beautifully maintained Buddhist temples, resplendent in gold leaf. It’s sunny and warm.”

A moment of introspection in Kathmandu, Nepal—“I’ve been away in foreign lands almost three months and my past no longer seems very real to me. The pressures of the business world have faded away. My daily concerns are simple: food, shelter, safe riding. The adventure takes care of itself.”

A windy ride outside of Tehran, Iran—“The next day the winds have shifted and come from ahead, gusting to 40mph. Oncoming trucks spin off vortices that slam against the Honda, wrenching against the fairing. The bike doesn’t want to pull the tall fifth gear, so I run in fourth for miles.”

There are countless examples of times when choosing the right pace was the difference between success and failure, efficiency and recklessness, or making it or not in my father’s RTW tour. It seems that no matter whether it is 1977 or 2013, the key to enjoying long tours is taking the time to consider what is around you. If you don’t, you are likely to miss the bigger picture while putting yourself and your machine at risk. I reckon there is nothing more detrimental to the mission of an adventure rider than a time constraint.

To read Terry Mentzer’s complete article, check out 1977-78

Summer

Posted: July 15, 2013 by andrewmentzer in Transworld Tour
Tags:

Riding Thailand
This summer has been rough. I’m not complaining, but a busted leg, torn ACL, torn meniscus, bruised ribs and a lot of missing skin has put a damper on many of my summer plans. That said, I imagine this will all prove to be a blessing in disguise–as TWT will have an extra few months to plan the next leg.

Next week I will have a surgery to replace a few missing items in my right knee, after which I should be back in the saddle within a few weeks (light duty). We are nearing completion of the first TWT video from the Australia leg, and have a good portion of the 2-part SE Asia series complete. The Green Hornet is getting a full tune from the good folks who built it at Happy Trails Products, and a few upgrades for the next segments across N. America and Europe.

I’ll have more up on the tour over the next few weeks. In the meantime, check out the Trail Dust Blog for some great adventure moto reads.

Thanks for following

photo (6)
After four painstaking months dealing with one of the most incompetent freight forwarding companies on earth (they are based in Bangkok and it was by far the sketchiest transaction I have ever been a part of), the Green Hornet is finally back on American soil. I drove to Seattle on Monday to collect it, and put it back together Tuesday. After so many months in a dank storage container, I expected numerous mechanical items would need attention, however it turned right over and appears to be running well.
photo (5)
Leg three of Transworld Tour is in the works, however I tore my ACL and lateral Meniscus, and fractured my tibia 2 weeks ago and will have to see how quickly my knee heals. All things held constant the next segment of TWT will embark eastbound in July–retracing a portion of my father’s 1991 RTW attempt that took him as far as Red Square in Moscow, Russia. I plan to ride as far as New York this year, and finish the tour next summer with a burner ride from London to either Almaty Kazakhstan, Calcutta India, or Magadan Russia.

Thanks for following, and keep an eye out this summer for additional installments of the Motojournal in the Boise Weekly!

Andrew

Originally published in Trail Dust:

Shipping Woes

by Andrew Mentzer

Perhaps the most time consuming, soul crushing and expensive logistic of any RTW motorcycle tour is bike shipping. I can only speak from my own experience—I’m betting there are a few folks out there who have had good experiences—but I have yet to meet anyone who enjoys shipping motorcycles overseas.

For the first phases of my around the world ride, I had to ship my custom built 1988 Kawasaki KLR650 from Boise, Idaho to Sydney, Australia. My father had completed a similar trip in 1977, and upon my return I learned that a lot has changed in the last 35 years when it comes to international freight practices. He told me about the days when you would simply ride up to the port, ask around, and generally within an hour you had found the arrangement you were looking for. This could range from loading the bike in a sleeper cabin and riding along on the boat, to simply leaving the bike at the port and it would be waiting for you on the other end 2 weeks later. The endless import/export red tape and relentless penciling for all sorts of barely legitimate administrative fees didn’t exist in 1977, making the whole process much easier.

Carnet du passages en douane (customs bond)

Carnet du passages en douane (customs bond)

I had to get a carnet du passages en douane (customs bond) in order to import and export the bike to and from various countries. The carnet usually takes about 2 weeks to secure, and costs a few hundred dollars plus a deposit based on the value of the bike. I ended up getting an “equipment” ATA carnet through my business, which took 2 days and cost about $1,200 in total. When you arrive at a border crossing, you simply have the carnet stamped into one country and out of the other and you can avoid having to pay any duties up front.

Getting the bike to the port at Long Beach was no problem. Using Ebay’s UShip website, I located an independent trucker in Boise who was heading to Los Angeles. 36 hours later the bike was in the hands of Schumacher Cargo. Schumacher had verbally guaranteed me that the bike would be on its way to Sydney by the end of the next week, and would arrive within 30 days of disembarkation. They ended up sending the bike on a transshipment through SE Asia, and it arrived in Brisbane (not Sydney) nearly two months later.

Lesson #1: You get what you pay for. Schumacher is easily the cheapest (my cost was $640) freight forwarder from the west coast, but they make you pay with their lackluster customer service and appalling disregard for time frames.

Collecting the bike in Brisbane, Australia for the start of the trip

Collecting the bike in Brisbane, Australia for the start of the trip

After a few days in Sydney, I took a train north to collect the KLR from the port in Brisbane. By then, it had sat in a musty shipping container for the better part of 3 months, which resulted in numerous carburetor and fuel problems.

Following a whirlwind ride across Australia, I ended this leg of my around the world ride in Darwin, Australia—gateway to SE Asia. I left the bike with one of the shop managers at Cyclone Honda for safe keeping, and made arrangements to have the bike shipped from Australia to Singapore upon my return a few months later. Toll Marine Logistics (AKA Perkins) were very helpful and fair in how they handled this shipment across the Java Sea. The bike left and arrived on time, and their staff was very helpful. About $900 later and I was on my way in SE Asia.

There were a few administrative battles in Singapore and Thailand with the carnet, but nothing held me up for more than 4 hours. Crossing into Malaysia was a breeze. When I crossed the border from Alor Setar, Malaysia into Sadao, Thailand, the customs officials appeared to have no clue what to do with the carnet. I attempted to explain that they needed to take an importation sheet from the counterfoil and stamp the “import” box on my carnet, but the futility of trying to navigate the language barrier proved too much. I simply left them with the import sheet and had the official stamp and sign the carnet. They gave me a letter stating in Thai (the lettering looks like spaghetti thrown against the wall) that I would be responsible for 360,000 baht (about $11,000 USD) in customs fees if I were to leave the bike in Thailand. In other words, the bike would have to be exported at the end of this leg of the trip.

SE Asia

SE Asia

Following a mystifying ride across peninsular SE Asia, I found myself at the end of the road. I couldn’t get into Burma or China, so I left the bike with some friends in Bangkok and began working on a plan to have the bike shipped back to the USA before the expiration of the carnet (they are only good for 12 months), which would trigger the enormous customs charge noted earlier.

So here we are today. I first attempted to have the bike exported from Thailand on January 17th. It took nearly a month just to find a freight forwarder who could get it back to the USA, not to mention nearly $2,000 worth of customs, crating and shipping fees. After nearly 120 infuriating emails trying to decipher the freight forwarder’s broken English, and two months of back and forth, the bike ended up being shipped west—through the Middle East and across the Atlantic—instead of east like I had requested. It is now in New York and the shipping company is attempting to charge me more money before they release it for final shipment via truck back to Seattle.

Lesson #2: Getting a bike shipped from Thailand to the USA is a doozy. Hopefully the bike will arrive in Seattle in the next 2-3 weeks…

Next up is a ride back across the USA before heading off to Europe for a barn burner transcontinental ride across Europe, the Stans, and Russia. Keep an eye out for future posts on my father’s ride from 1977-8.

Trail Dust is a publication of happy-trail.com

What Makes the Perfect Dual Sport?

Originally published in Trail Dust March 5th, 2013

by Andrew Mentzer

What makes the perfect dual sport? Is it better to rely on technology and performance or durability and simplicity? What bike would you choose if you were riding around the world tomorrow?

These questions have plagued adventure riders for decades, and absent the introduction of anything too dramatic from the world’s biggest motorcycle manufacturers, it will continue to plague us for the foreseeable future. While the one bike quiver appears to be coming ever closer each year—compliments of recent additions like the BMW 800GS and a slough of performance oriented KTM single cylinder bikes—there still isn’t a clear winner that can truly do it all.

I recently returned from the first two phases of what will ultimately be an around-the-world ride that retraces a similar route my father completed in 1977 on a Honda XL250. I began my journey in Southeast Australia and have made it as far as Bangkok, Thailand, thus far. When choosing the right bike, I had to weigh countless elements: weight, fuel capacity, dirt-worthiness, top end, reliability, availability of parts and ease of maintenance—among others. After several thoughtful rounds of ‘what-if’ and an extended Q&A with the guys at Happy Trails Products I landed on the ever-capable Kawasaki KLR 650. There were other suitable options, but having already owned 3 of these bike previously, I decided to go with what I know.

Click any photo for a larger image

Collecting the bike in Brisbane, Australia for the start of the trip.

Collecting the bike in Brisbane, Australia on May 24 after 5 days of planes, trains and automobiles

As most of you are probably aware, the KLR does almost nothing exceptionally well, but everything alright. It is perhaps the most vanilla of the 650-class dual sports, boasting a deadly simple design that has changed very little over the last 20+ years. It is widely manufactured/distributed and parts are consequently available world-wide. For just over $7k, you can get a basic set-up that will adequately address your need for adventure, with aftermarket customizability options galore.

The pros of the bike are its incredible versatility—it’s able to tackle literally any riding conditions you can throw at it—and foolproof ease of maintenance. Its cons are just as apparent—with a limited top end, single cylinder configuration, and obviously simple stock suspension.

So how did this jack-of-all-trades perform in a real world long haul adventure riding scenario?

Just fine, although in all fairness, there were a handful of noteworthy issues, some of which I brought upon myself:

One

The petcock assembly

The petcock assembly

The bike was left to sit in a shipping container for roughly 2 months longer than it was ever intended, resulting in several initial carburetion issues on the front end of the trip. Following a sputtering start from the port in Brisbane, the bike made it less than 150 miles before I torched a vacuum seal in the petcock. This was partly because I had the wrong jetting for a sea level ride, and partly due to poor fuel quality. Good gas can be found typically at Shell or BP stations as a 95 octane non-ethanol blend. In SE Asia, this is referred to as gasohol. If you go with Caltex or any other generic brand of fuel, it is likely distributed by one of the big box supermarket retailers, and is generally of lower quality. It took about 3 hours to locate, diagnose and fix the problem, after which I was promptly back on my way without issue. Had I been on a BMW GS or KTM, I probably would not have had any fuel issues in the first place, however I would likely have been delayed several days.

All Cycles and Kart in Gimpie, where Wayne Mackaway dropped what he was doing to help me pull the bike apart and diagnose the problem.

All Cycles and Kart in Gimpie. Wayne Mackaway dropped what he  was doing to help me pull the bike apart and diagnose the problem

Two

As previously noted the stock jetting on the KLR was not ideal for my sea level ride across Australia. I elected to have the carb completely rebuilt and rejetted at Trinity Kawasaki in Cairns, before heading out into more unforgiving territory—the Outback. This turned out to be a wise decision, as the bike ran beautifully from the Savannah Way all the way through to Tenant Creek, and into the heart of the Northern Territory.

Riding solo across the outback

Riding solo across the outback

Gilligan's Pub in Cairns

Gilligan’s Hostel in Cairns, a massive 700 bed facility bustling with travelers from every corner of the globe

Savannah Way

Savannah Way

Three

Following a 7 month stint back in the states, I shipped the KLR from Darwin, Australia to Singapore for leg #2 of my ride. This go-round, the issues appeared to be with the bike’s charging system. What I thought was a dead battery turned into a torched stator. Lesson learned: never push start a bike that won’t turn over and has been sitting in a dank storage container for more than half a year. Turns out, push starting the bike can put an excessive load on the stator and regulator/rectifier because it will not get enough juice to charge. This was entirely my own fault, but the repair was (again) fairly quick, affordable and straightforward.

The KLR turned out to be an excellent fit for this type of trip because—despite a few minor issues—it was cheap and easy to fix, and it performed brilliantly on two-lane tarmac and dirt roads alike when I got it settled into its groove. Had I elected to endeavor on a more complicated bike, I doubt I would have had the luck I did with maintenance and repairs.

Atop the tallest peak in Queensland

Atop the tallest peak in Queensland

A nice day at Airlie Beach, Queensland

A nice day at Airlie Beach, Queensland

The pros of the single cylinder 650’s (i.e. KLR, DRZ, etc.):

  • Parts are cheap, generic and widely available.
  • Fuel efficiency is typically in the 45-55mpg realm.
  • Customs bonds and insurance tend to be very affordable.
  • Inconspicuous and low profile presence.
  • Very capable off-road.
  • Extremely simple to repair and maintain.

The pros of the 1000cc multi cylinder dual sport touring bikes (i.e. BMW GS, KTM 990/1190):

  • Bombproof durability.
  • Typically very comfortable.
  • Endless powerband.
  • Longer maintenance interval.

The cons of the single cylinder 650’s (i.e. KLR, DRZ, etc.):

  • Most stock equipment is of mediocre quality (suspension, seat, etc.)
  • Shorter maintenance interval, especially if running highway speeds.
  • Functionally tops out at 75mph.
  • Requires more preventative powertrain maintenance at over 12,000 miles.

The cons of the 1000cc multi cylinder dual sport touring bikes (i.e. BMW GS, KTM 990/1190):

  • Attracts much more unwanted attention in developing and undeveloped countries.
  • Expensive to ship, import/export.
  • If it breaks down, plan on spending at least 1 week getting it fixed.
  • Expensive to maintain/repair.

Next up, the tour shifts directions, heading back across North America before pushing off in Europe—gateway to a massive, 8,500 mile transcontinental haul through Central Asia.

Keep an eye out on Trail Dust for future posts about bike shipping nightmares and success stories, riding misadventures, and my father’s trip from 1977-78.

Croydon with dennis and steve

Croydon, with Dennis Wheeler and Steve Humphries, a pair of dual sport riders

trying to get dry with dennis and steve atherton tablands

Trying to get dry with Dennis and Steve at Atherton Tablands

beef and barra feast

You have to order in advance to guarantee a spot at the table for the legendary Daly Waters Beef & Barra

darwin

Darwin, the last stop on the first leg of this trip