Scott Brady Rides the Trans-Am Trail
While Oregon is the least technical riding of the western states, the navigation is the most intenseAll of this added to the sense of adventure, and we used my Delorme PN-20 GPS with topo maps installed to find a bypass. There is a great sense of anticipation in Oregon though, as you know the trail is coming to an end and that you will eventually smell the salty air of the Pacific. The final leg of the route rewards you with a beautiful ride along a ridge-line, with the ocean visible in the distance. After crossing Highway-1, you can ride down a sandy slope out to the cold waters. Just don't get stuck in the sand below the high-tide mark. The Trans-Am Trail can only be described as epic, with every ingredient for an exceptional adventure represented, and it can all be accessed without even having a passport - exceptional indeed.
The Trans-Am Trail can only be described as epicChoosing the Right Adventure Moto The Trans-Am Trail is not for the faint of heart or for the typical moto. The route places several distinct demands on the motorcycle you choose. The first option for the TAT rider is to go light and fast, and trailer a 250-550cc dual-sport to the start of the TAT in Tennessee, and then run with a support crew, or eliminate camping all together. Most lighter dual-sports cannot run the TAT self-supported. The advantage of a lighter moto is that all of the challenging segments of the trail are much easier on the bike and rider. The downside is that you are always looking for the next fuel stop and motel. The second option for crossing the TAT is to use an adventure-class of motorcycle, like a KTM 640/950/990, or a BMW F650 Dakar or GS Adventure. These larger bikes have the framework to support expedition loads and have the fuel range to travel unsupported. Riding the TAT on a large adventure moto is much more demanding physically, but you are rewarded with night after night of remote camps and fewer dependencies on towns along the way. I chose to ride the TAT on a big-bore KTM Adventure and my travel partner rode a BMW F650GS, which was heavily modified with new suspension and skid-plates. Both were well-suited to the trail, though the KTM had a visible advantage when the TAT was at its most technical. The BMW yielded amazing fuel economy, nearly doubling efficiency over the big KTM. The basic requirements for a motorcycle traveling the TAT:
Packing the Best Gear As with most adventures, success often depends on solid planning and high-quality gear. Taking the trip of a lifetime across the TAT is not the time to skimp on equipment, repair and service of your moto, or not wearing the best riding gear. Traveling 5000 miles across the U.S. will guarantee that you encounter severe weather, mechanical problems and navigation challenges. Here are some key pieces of equipment to consider: A dual-sport or motocross helmet to manage dust while ensuring good visibility. High-quality riding gear that provides good fall protection, breathability in hot weather, insulation in cold weather and is also waterproof. We used BMW Motorrad equipment, though companies like MSR and Moose Racing also produce quality adventure moto gear. Soft Luggage - It is possible to ride the TAT with hard luggage, but the chance of damage to the panniers or your legs increase significantly. I recommend using Wolfman luggage, which is designed specifically for lightweight expedition motorcycling. Ortlieb also makes a good-quality dry-bag pannier and top-bag set.
- A dual-sport or adventure motorcycle designed to be operated on dirt trails for extended periods
- 160+ mile fuel range (dirt)
- Good skid-plates for the motor and extra fuel cans
- A model known for good reliability in rough terrain
- A good GPS with detailed base-maps and a roll-chart case
- DOT-approved dirt tires (like the Continental TKC80 or the Dunlop D606, etc.)
- The moto should be street-legal as 7% of the trail is on public roads, and many of the dirt roads require a license plate
Success often depends on solid planning and high-quality gearLightweight camping equipment - You will not find any of this at Wal-Mart, so save your pennies and buy a lightweight and compact tent from Nemo or Snow Peak (the founder of Nemo tents owns a nice BMW 1200GSA). We used the Nemo Morpho AR, which utilizes air beams instead of poles, and sets up in about 30 seconds with two people, or 40 seconds with one person. For cooking, we used an all-titanium Snow Peak cookset and a Brunton Vapor, all-fuel stove. The Vapor will burn nearly anything, including unleaded fuel, diesel and compact fuel canisters. Our entire cook kit. There are plenty of attractions that will demand futher exploration. It's important to allow some extra time for checking out unexpected interests. weighed less than two pounds. Spares and tools - With more than one rider, share the load and split tools to one moto and tire repair equipment to another. Bring along spare parts for known failure points on your particular bike. The fuel pump of the KTM was a known problem and I had a spare along. We needed it 100 miles from the end of the trail. Cameras - Each member of the team should bring a camera along to document your adventure. Modern digital cameras can be both light-weight and also capture beautiful, high-resolution images and video. For our trip we used a Leica D-Lux 3 and a Canon G9. Both shoot in RAW and have better than 10-megapixel resolution. For video we carried a Samsung HDV unit, which captures 720P onto flash memory.
~ Scott Brady, Overland Journal
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