Overland Expo: The Ultimate Destination for DIY Adventurers
From luxurious, million dollar earth roaming travel machines to Adventure motorcycles and fat tire bicycles, the Overland Expo has everything an aspiring adventure traveler could possibly want to get out and explore the world.
This year's Overland Expo West convened in Mormon Lake Arizona, as a late season storm made its way through the Southwest. While hundreds of exhibitors and vendors set up displays for 4WD vehicles, adventure motorcycles, camping gear, & services, many more hundreds of attendees braved the weather forecasts and set-up camp for the three day event. Even as cold rain turned to sleet and finally snow, "Overlanders," off all types attended classes, training seminars and workshops ranging from 4WD Advanced Driving: Terrain Management, to wilderness survival techniques known as"Bushcraft." Both aspiring and seasoned adventurers could bone up skills like building primitive fires, field knife techniques, tips for traveling with your dog, and even photography.
Sena Bluetooth in the Motorcycle Village of Overland Expo West.
For those of us predisposed to two-wheeled adventure, Overland Expo had an entire section known as the Motorcycle Village which is completely devoted to dual sport and adventure motorcycles. The latest dual purpose motorcycles from BMW, KTM, Ural, and even electric bikes Zero Motorcycles were all on display. Adventure specific clothing and apparel companies were out in force, with brands like Rev'it, Aether, Klim and Icon Raiden all showing off their most current top-shelf gear. And if all that's not enough to get you excited the Motorcycle Village was also packed with ADV Moto accessory companies like Sena, which was showing off their latest Bluetooth communication systems and action video cameras. There were motorcycle bags and panniers from Giant Loop and Mosko Moto and tour companies offering moto adventures in the worlds most exotic locales.
Jim Downs, (author) getting over a log in the "RawHyde Rodeo" on his BWM R1200 GS-ADV. (Alfonse Palaima FotosByFonzie.com)
At the center of the Motorcycle Village was the Adventure Touring and motorcycle training company, RawHyde Adventures which hosts it's Arizona Adventure Rally in conjunction with the Overland Expo. Rawhyde's Arizona Adventure Rally offers packages that include motorcycle rental, riding instruction, classes and guided adventure rides through some of the most impressive terrain in Northern Arizona. Being an alumni of Rawhyde Training, I can attest from first hand experience how instruction can improve your off-road skills on a 600 pound plus ADV Motorcycle. The RawHyde instructors and coaches are fantastic teachers and highly capable riders. Even better, they're all friendly and fun to hangout with for a beer after the day's riding is done.
Altrider's Jeremy LeBrenton tears it up on a BMW R1200 GS Waterboxer
Since the 2015 Overland Expo was spiced up with freezing rain and snow, RawHyde's Arizona Adventure Rally guided adventure rides were more limited than previous years. The terrain around Mormon Lake, AZ consists mostly of red clay. Which when dry makes a great riding surface for adventure bikes but when wet, transforms into a hellish morass. The wet clay is slick while riding over, yet sucks motorcycles into a gooey, sticky slop when stopped. Stories came back from one ride of front tires frozen in place, clogged with mud under front fenders, and even seasoned adventure riders spilling their twenty thousand dollar machines in the quagmire. You can imagine how the novice and beginner riders fared.
(This is the part where dual sport riders and and small off-road bike advocates can start squawking about how modern ADV bikes are too big and heavy. Feel free, that's what the comments below are for.)
An electric KTM?
Fortunately, the Rawhyde team set up a closed course in a converted rodeo arena, called the "Rawhyde Rodeo." With obstacles like logs, table tops and jumps, riders could practice bike handling skills in a controlled environment with help and instruction of RawHyde coaches. For the more advanced big bike handlers, the rodeo was a fun place to scratch the riding itch while waiting for the weather to pass. I spent my afternoons at the Overland Expo having a blast, jumping and power-sliding my 2013 BMW R1200GS-ADV through the mud. Living in Southern California and doing most of my off-road riding in dry conditions, getting to play in the mud was good practice, and I didn't dump it even once, which was good because there were dozens of on-lookers in the rodeo stands.
By Saturday afternoon, the weather had cleared and attendees got back to enjoying the Overland Expo free of rain and snow.
If you missed this year's Overland Expo West, Don't worry. The Overland Expo East is coming up October 2-4, 2015 at Taylor Ranch, Asheville, North Carolina. For more info get all the details here.
EarthRoamer customs conversions like this one, are some of the most capable overland travel machines.
Overland Camp Trailers were a popular attraction at Overland Expo.