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From Bicycle to Motorcycle

I've been a bicycle tourer for thirty years, traveling to places like Death Valley, Canyonlands' Maze District, and southern Arizona as well as the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. As I moved into my 60s I could see that my stamina was waning though my appetite for mountain passes and remote places was not. To keep this up, I'd need some external power to help me along.

Bike motor with cover to camoflage it and cut the noise. Wouldn't run well with the cover down.

First I tried a bicycle motor as an assist for long climbs - a 30cc 2-cycle kit that mounted over the rear wheel and used a friction wheel to drive the tire. It weighed about 25 pounds. Mostly, I would just pedal, with the engine shut down. For climbs, I'd still pedal, though the engine would be doing most of the work. For two years, I used it for numerous mountain trips. When I came a hill, I'd get off and start the engine, then pedal toward the hill while it warmed up. Then I'd engage the drive wheel and pedal-motor up the hill at 15-20 mph (though the engine was doing most of the work). The rest of the time I turned it off, and consequently I got 400-600 mpg! But there were two problems. The drive wheel slipped in wet weather, or on dusty roads, and the vibration was hard on both me and my mountain bike, especially the tires. More important, it was unlicensable. At least for Washington State, I would have needed a headlight, turn signals, horn, and stop light. Without that I was at the mercy of any cop that felt the urge to bust me. It never happened, but it was a matter of time.

Finally I sold the motor and went back to plain bike touring for a summer to see where that left me. I took a trip up into BC and turned back down into the States on the east side of the Cascades. I started west over Loup-Loup Pass from Okanogan one evening at five pm after an already long day, walked as much as I rode, and finally ended up at the pass in the dark at ten pm, more dead than alive.

I'd had enough of that, and decided it was time to see about a real motorcycle. I wanted something as small as I could find, and started with the Yamaha TW200, a 196cc dual-sport (also called an enduro), meaning it was equally at home off the pavement as on, fully street-legal, and highway, if not freeway, capable. Best of all, it's simple, light, and gets great gas mileage. But with rising gas prices, I needed to use the bike to go longer distances (rather than trucking it there), so I traded up to an XT250 that keeps up with traffic better, still gets good gas mileage, and is equally at home on the backroads.

I still miss the exercise of contributing at least a little to the propulsion. On the other hand I can now manage routes where the elevation gain would have been far too much for bicycling. And I'll do more hiking when I get up there.

Trips:

British Columbia, July, 2006

East to Idaho and Montana, August, 2006

Southern Utah, April, 2007

British Columbia, July, 2007

Owyhee,Oregon, June, 2008

Montana Plains, July, 2009

Shady Pass-Slide Ridge, 2009

Utah-Colorado, 2010

Utah-Arizona-Nevada, 2011