During the 2016 season, Motorcycle Experience featured a “Red Adventure” segment where, in honour of the newly released Honda Africa Twin, we invited expert off road riders Lawrence Hacking and Toni Sharpless to share some important lessons for heading off the beaten path.
Honda manufactured the first Africa Twins and sold them in Europe and Asia between 1989 and 2003; however, the 2016 reboot model bares the distinction of being the first Africa Twin sold in North America. With the (re)introduction of such a powerful dual sport machine – one that’s designed to transport you to some of the most remote places on the planet – Toni and Lawrence took the opportunity to share some of their hard-won wisdom that will help you have fun and bolster the longevity of your excursions. The promise of dual sport motorcycles is that they can take you from the highway to pretty much anywhere you dare to go. That can mean a winding logging road in the BC interior, or, if you’re Lawrence Hacking and Toni Sharpless, through the deserts of North Africa. No matter what your goals are, Toni and Lawrence offered some basic advice that will help prepare you for just about anything.
One of the first things to consider is what to wear. Adventure riding can take you away from civilization for days at a time, transporting you through rugged terrain and variable climates. For example, while riding through a mountainous region, it can go from blistering heat in the middle of the day to freezing cold as night approaches. Toni always recommends looking for clothes that won’t make you overheated and will wick sweat away from your body. Toni uses a mesh jacket and pants that have the armor built in. During this past season’s Red Adventure segments Toni showed us a mesh suit, made by EVS, with armour built into an easy slip-on jacket and pants.
Of course, the mesh under-armour won’t protect you when weather conditions get harsh, so it’s important to bring additional protection against rain and cold. Toni brought an Olympia jacket, which has a rain liner built-in as well as the option for full ventilation. The zip-in rain liner gives her the option of removing it completely when it’s hot or using it as a shell when things get cold and wet. And for the shoulder season, Toni recommended a pair of heated gauntlet gloves. Lawrence never goes out for an overland adventure without a fully waterproof jacket demonstrating his Klim ‘Dakar’ jacket as an example of design that will keep you acclimatized in many extremes. A little insider trick that Lawrence shared is that he carries a small piece of foil insulation folded up in his pocket so when the wind becomes too bracing he can slip it into the front of his jacket where it helps him retain body heat and buffers the wind.
Once you’ve suited up, you’ve got to figure out what to bring and how to carry everything. Since it’s adventure riding, every single item you bring should be essential – conversely, ensure you pack everything you’ll need to keep you moving and out of danger. You’ll need enough tools to feasibly repair ordinary malfunctions out in the field – Lawrence never goes overland motorcycling with out a Leatherman utility tool. He also carries zip ties, duct tape, and a flat repair kit. In the name of self-sufficiency, Toni carries a micro jump start battery so she can recharge her phone or GPS or boost her battery if she gets in jam.
Electronics, like GPS, can be important tools although it’s always good to have an old school compass and a map. Toni carries her cellphone in a Hitcase to protect it in the case of a fall. Not only is it fun to capture your adventures on your cell phone camera, your cellphone can be a lifeline in the event of a fall, so you want to make sure it emerges unscathed. Lawrence is even prepared in the event he’s out of cell service range – he carries a Spot tracker, which sends coms via satellite from anywhere, to anywhere in the world. It also has an insurance feature should you end up in really dire straights; there’s even a 911 button that will send up a signal from your location and instigate a retrieval effort. Finally, in the electronics department, Toni showed us her Drift camera. She swears, with the Gorilla Glass, the Drift cameras are nearly impossible to break. So when you get back from pushing the limits off road, you can review the video and revisit rugged terrains and awesome rides.
The final challenge is figuring out the best way to carry it all with you. Toni brought along a couple examples of backpacks she likes to bring on her adventures. She prefers her hardback OGIO backpack that has lots of compartments and a chest strap to keep everything in place and prevent things from crashing around while you’re maneuvering in the rough. You can carry a lot in a backpack as well – Toni also recommends using a compression pack to keep your gear compact and organized. Then, there are classic tank bags, which can keep all your important items– like a wallet, a map, a cell phone, and snacks – within arms reach.