After using an old DRZ400
with a homebrew bike rack to pop around the various trailheads of Sedona, AZ, I got a little inspired to carry the concept further. I saw how cheap some touring style motorcycles were, such as the older VSTROM 650 and Versys 650 models, and began to Google “what is the safest motorcycle.”
Of course, no definitive results came up, though in many forums people were quick to suggest the VSTROM name as the safest. Safest, I have no real idea, most Dad-bike,
well, it might just be that.
In early 2020, my relationship as a sponsored Ibis rider came to a conclusion, and we found a really cool way to creatively continue as allies
. This also meant I could ride bikes from other brands, which has been something really, really cool. Since then, I’ve enjoyed bikes from brands such as Chromag, Intense, Orbea, Rocky Mountain, Niner, Yeti, Norco, and Evil. Having been so focused on just Ibis, it’s been quite enlightening to ride some other bikes- and I have yet to find a dud in that selection! But since I do have such a lasting relationship with Ibis, I’ve been lucky enough to be entrusted with a few bikes to ride and film before public release, including this here Exie.
The Exie is an ultra lightweight, XC race bike with a 4.4 lb (WITH shock!) frame weight. With a relaxed 67.2 head angle and 73.8 seat angle, the geometry is well suited for highly efficient riding while seated. This is a significant departure from the slack head angle, steep seat angle, 140-170mm bikes that I normally ride. As an aging BMXer, I love to find random jump lines through natural terrain, and that means a lot of landing flat- and that’s a situation where the bigger enduro bikes do really well. This also meant that with nearly 10lbs less bicycle to hump up the mountains, I should be able to climb steeper mountains and ride just a little bit further. If you know how I think, that means the smaller bike should simply mean more opportunity for adventure. And if the theme is going to be “less is more”, then a bike-on-a-bike set up would fit with that perfectly.
Back to the moto hunt- after yet more research, it turns out that ABS brakes are a big deal on the street, and with the rain we get here in WA, traction control seemed prudent. After a bit of a hunt online, and a few phone calls, I found this low mileage 2014 VSTROM 1000 for sale across the state. After a test ride, I was going to pass on the bike entirely, and make the smart move to instead get a nicely upgraded KTM 150XCW to enjoy in our local harescramble series. But then, the seller dropped the price on the ‘Strom significantly, I realized that I could afford to try the bike for a few months and then resell it without losing my tail. Life is certainly about adventure, and this would be a turn-key way to bring the bike-on-a-bike experience to the level I dreamed about while riding the DRZ400.
The sheer silliness of this whole operation is quite amusing, but at the same time, that does add a little to the fun. Riding this beast, loaded down with the bicycle, bicycle gear, camping gear, vlogging gear, and requisite motorcycle gear, whether it be in town or on the highway, is totally fine. Up until now, I have always poo-poo’d 500 pound adventure motorcycles. Well, when you’ve got ~100 pounds of gear with you, and are riding in 30mph cross winds at 75mph, it turns out that the extra weight ends up being a saving grace. The motor is strong enough to chug along on the highway at 3500 rpm, right in the meat of the V-twin torque (76 lb-ft) and the wheelbase is that goldilocks length that cruises decently but still handles curves like a sculptor handles wet clay- cutting in where necessary, and smoothing out the rest.
My whole life, I’ve been terrified of riding motorcycles on the street. At this point, I’m still not thrilled at the uncontrollable, often unnecessary risk that comes with trusting both texting commuters and exhausted cement truck drivers to actually stop at red lights. Even a collision with a random deer jumping out of the bush goes from being a mere inconvenience in a car to a possible fatality on the motorcycle. I’ll likely sell this VSTROM and transition to something like a Husqvarna TE701, and instead focus on slower speed dirt road adventures. Complexity, however, goes way up with doing that. Bellingham, WA, is an amazing town, but to get to sanctioned alpine, backcountry riding, it requires at least a couple hours of freeway and then highway riding. Moving on to a more dirt worthy machine would require trailering, parking, and staging- or an absolutely miserable time on the interstate, at low temperatures, in the rain, in traffic. Maybe I’ll just return to camper-vanning?
Gold Creek Lodge is a famous off road motorcycle destination, and I’ve seen videos filmed here dating back a good 10 years ago. To realize it was right around the corner was pretty cool, and it was also a great spot to top off my water supplies. Greg Smtih, one of the employees, is a former RedBull Rampage competitor, finishing 2nd place, just behind Wade Simmons and ahead of Robbie Bourdon, in the inaugural 2001 event.
I’m not a big fan of trying to find campsites in the dark, but sometimes that’s the name of the game. I’d much rather be using a cell phone light in the woods than parked on the side of the highway calling hotels!
Riding home from this trip, I had removed my bluetooth headset and instead threw in some ear plugs and simply reflected on the trip. The highlights were the most spontaneous things- finding unexpectedly great campsites, meeting friendly folks on the side of the highway, high speed wheelies aboard the Exie on trails that looked to be possibly too rugged for such a small bike. In the age of information, when preparation means having a bulletproof itinerary and a purpose-built gadget for every situation, the simplicity of a trip like this hits the reset button. Each day, the trip became easier. Once you’re in the swing of things, of loading and unloading the rolling gypsey caravan of a cycle, of finding food that will last without refrigeration yet is healthy, of staging the camera and tripod for videos, everything does begin to find a flow.
The return trip to Bellingham was standard interstate affair- heavy traffic and many semi trucks. While the backcountry exploring and adventures that come along with trips like these are the stuff of memories and stories for years to come, the hours spent “slabbing away” are significantly less glamorous. Oh, and that fellow in the gray shirt? That’s a decent sized revolver hanging off his belt.
If there are any recurring themes from this, I kept noticing that I was yelling “THIS IS WHY I RIDE MOUNTAIN BIKES” from various mountain tops. Cheesy video title? Sure. But it’s honest. The physicality of doing stunts on a bicycle is one thing, and there are many places that are purpose built to practice that. But after a constant exposure to some of the best riding destinations, part of the joy of mountain biking becomes the pleasure in finding places that are so special you have to understand that your own words and pictures will never be enough to convey the feelings that they inspire. And with hours of time to self reflect, that’s completely OK.
@jeffweed / @loganpnelson