November 14, 2021
Moments of true honesty with ourselves tend to surface when our comfort zone is breached; abruptly, we realize that we’ve broken a rule, one previously set based on our own perception of who we are, and now, must reevaluate just who it is staring back at us in the mirror.
For the last eleven years I’ve been riding motorcycles, the narrative I firmly believed was that off road riding was something I would never get into. Granted, I hadn’t lived in a place where it was feasible, nor did I have any connection to friends or acquaintances who rode dirt to draw me into the community. So, I stuck to the rode, burning rubber on pavement, enjoying jaunts around town or long weekend rides to travel, and it was incredible.
But sometimes, things happen, and your life takes you somewhere you never thought you’d be.
I got divorced from my riding partner. I moved to a new town. I managed to acquire motorcycle anxiety. And for a very scary few months, I didn’t know if I wanted to rev the throttle at all anymore.
My first season of riding in Bend was one of the hardest riding years I’ve ever had. Every time I got in the seat, I didn’t want to be there. With my heart exploding in my chest, some days I would hyperventilate and have to pull to the side of the road to relax and breathe, others I would feel so unsteady I would almost drop the bike for no reason, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shake it. For a few weeks, I even put my motorcycle on Craigslist, though to be fair, I had no real intention of selling Freya, my BMW F700 GS.
And then, one day in the fall, some close friends invited me out for an afternoon ride, and my anxiety evaporated as if it had never existed in the first place.
2021 has been, by far, one of the most fun riding seasons I’ve had to date, though by the end of September with only a few exceptions, I had stuck to grinding it out on the road. That is, until I managed to find a job working for RIDE Adventures, and quite abruptly, I could sense my motorcycle life was about to change drastically. It wasn’t a push from anyone in particular – instead, I was given a challenge, and I am absolutely the type of human who wants to test my boundaries. After a few off-road rides on Freya, who weighs just under 500 pounds, I knew if I truly wanted to give myself a chance at succeeding in the backcountry, I needed to ride another rig. This is by no means to say my BMW couldn’t handle the conditions presented to her; in fact, she kicked ass and it was an incredible lesson in just how capable my bike is on rough road. Still, by the time we would wrap our adventures, I was utterly exhausted - trying to learn how to handle rock, dirt, sand, mud, holes, steep climbs, tough descents, and keeping up with the boys, all while being brand new to this mode of riding, was just too much with a heavier motorcycle, even for me.
A few days ago, something shifted I can’t quite describe. A longstanding epiphany hit as I tried to hustle Freya through an off road course for work and could barely keep her upright: did I really want to ride off road? Was this the next thing for me to explore as someone who loves to be outside, who loves an adrenaline rush, and who loves two wheels? I slept on it for a few days, and then I drove to Salem to bring home a 2022 KTM 350 EXC-F without batting an eyelash. Why? My gut told me that this was it, that if I wanted to do this, I had to put every one of my chips on the table, and go all in.
Following the road trip, I got Betty, my new KTM, out in the dirt with some friends to see just what in the hell I’d signed up for. It wasn’t a huge day – a half hour out to our spot, another 90 minutes of dirt riding total, concluded with a beautiful sunset ride home. I had very little clue what I was doing, which strangely made it less scary. As expected, I fell...twice: the first was a simple drop when I got a little out of control, and for the second, I was suddenly on the ground with no clue what happened, laughing at how in the hell I’d gotten there. I probably almost killed myself about fifteen times. And oh…the swerving. But Betty? She thrashed through everything. I took trails, turns, and hills I never thought I could handle, and while I was intimidated, I came out of my introduction to dirt with a shit eating grin on my face, ready for more. What had I discovered? That I am capable of far more than I realize. That I bought a monster of a motorcycle. That I am in love with off road riding. And of course, that I have one hell of a lot to learn.
It may be November, but with a riding trip to Baja on the horizon in January, I am determined to gain the confidence I need to handle off road riding with confidence and ease. Granted, there will always be challenges, and that’s half the fun of adventure riding. Over the next few weeks, I’ve committed myself to off-road riding two days a week (weather permitting in Central Oregon), with the hope I don't do anything too stupid in the process.
If you want to follow along on my journey of learning how to become an adventure rider, you’ll find weekly blog posts right here about the good, the bad, and the ugly pieces of what it takes to get there.
Until next time, y'all.
Ride hard. Live free.