Kevin doesn’t give a sh*t where he and bike rides as evident in his pictures (more at the bottom of the page). Kevin has been a rider for over 30 years and an adventure rider for 8 years. He’s logged over 500,000kms+ on all sort of various motorcycles. He loves both solo adventures and group adventures. When he is not riding he is either working on his motorcycles, writing for his moto blog onewheeldrive.net, or taking photographs. Kevin also does one on one lessons in adventure riding with big bikes for 1st Gear Motorcycle Training.
When did you get into riding?
30 years ago. I bought an old used 400cc bike from a friend of one of my best friends who rode and suggested I’d like it. Took it around the block, bought it and rode it home with no license! Things were different back then. Riding in Vancouver was so much quieter and the license test was simple. They had you ride around a few cones in a parking lot and some slow skills that was about it.
What kind of riding do you do?
Everything. Right from the short trips for coffee to the big adventure rides with off road riding. Even some instructing. I have a KTM 990 Adventure. I bought this bike because it would be great to ride on the road and would get me to the off road adventures I was seeking out. Most of the riding I do mileage wise is still on the pavement so I needed something that could do both well. I’ve got 115,000kms on the odometer after 4 years, and I did have a KTM 990 adventure before this one too. It had 25,000kms on it when I crashed it on the S2S highway. A patch of diesel fuel got the best of me.
Your motorcycle has 100,000kms+ on it. Everything still runs ok?
Yes! It has 115,000kms on it and I’ll take it another 100,000kms, maybe more. That isn’t without maintenance and not all of it is easy. I recently did a refresh of the motor. The top end needed some work after I neglected an oil leak too long. The engines they are producing today compared to when I started are quite different. My first motorcycle had maybe 10,000kms on it (it was 15 years old). It was a complete wreck and it is a miracle it did not fall apart. Back then seeing 25,000kms to 30,000kms on a motorcycle was pretty unusual. These days if you take care of it I don’t see why 250,000kms isn’t possible. Regular maintenance is key.
What is your favorite motorcycle?
The KTM 990 Adventure. It does everything I need it to do. It combines really well all the types of riding I’ve experienced over 30 years, from a day trip to Squamish, to a month long trip to Baja Mexico, cruising and canyon carving. I’ve had four different styles of motorcycles. I had a 400cc standard and I did a ride to Alaska. I sold it as soon as I got home. I then got into a cruiser. It was a Honda Magna V4. I rode it for 20 years and put almost 200,000kms on it. The Honda Magna was my favorite motorcycle before the KTM. It looked like a cruiser but it had a performance engine in it. It did not behave like a typical cruiser; I could ride it fast or sit back and relax. The Magna got me into doing long tours. I had a smaller KTM for a while, and learned adventure riding on it. It vibrated like an Austrian jackhammer and I recently sold it as it was just sitting unused.
“I was told to imagine no hill and attack the corner as if it was flat. A light bulb went off and it all made sense.”
What’s one skill or technique that changed your riding?
For street riding, I was hesitant about my downhill cornering. I can’t remember who it was, but I was told to imagine no hill and attack the corner as if it was flat. A light bulb went off and it all made sense. Coming off the throttle in downhill corners wasn’t setting up the motorcycle for the corner properly. You want to be on the throttle or maintaining. It required me to get over my mental barrier of going downhill and gravity etc. As soon as I started “attacking” the corner, it really helped my confidence. With offroad riding, friends I was riding with didn’t really discuss riding technique, we just went for a ride. It wasn’t that we did not want to talk about it, we just didn’t really. Talking about riding style and specific techniques with others certainly helped.
How did you learn to ride in the dirt and off road?
We were thrown into it with our website onewheeldrive.net. We were loaned some adventure motorcycles to ride up to the Arctic Circle for a story we were doing. Before that I had almost no off road riding experience. This was the first real introduction and something stuck; I was not an expert but good enough to get the job done and not get killed! It stoked something new in my riding. I didn’t think I would ride in such remote areas. Then being on a motorcycle made it quite the adventure. I was hooked.
What are some of the mistakes you’ve made while riding?
A couple big ones jump to mind. When I bought the Magna, I was too excited to ride it and didn’t really examine it closely enough. I set off for a weekend with a mostly bald tire that ended up blowing out on the highway. 4 years ago I wrecked my KTM 990. I wasn’t getting carried away, was on a road that I’ve ridden millions of time [Sea 2 Sky]; I was complacent. I had noticed some patches of diesel fuel on the road and didn’t think much of it. I was in a hard right hand corner and I went through one and slid out. The motorcycle low sided and I crossed the oncoming lane. The motorcycle was a write off but I was ok. Any accident you can walk away from is a good one I guess. I’ve had close calls and near misses but as a motorcyclist you become quite aware of what others are doing and more importantly what they are about to do, much more so than just driving a car. I think it makes you a much better driver. [evidence and insurance companies support this]
“Heated Gear… If you’re really cold it is hard to focus on anything but being cold. So there is a safety benefit and you’re much more relaxed.”
What has been one of your best $100 (or less) purchases?
Heated Grips and Heated Vest. I have done a number of long road trips. One was a month long. I went down through the West Coast and detoured through Utah and into Alberta. All I had was my leather jacket and some layers. Sure enough I was riding in weather that was just above freezing temperatures, and I froze my ass off. After this someone mentioned heated grips and vests and I was instantly sold. It was amazing the difference it made. You’re not getting cold and you are staying safe. If you’re really cold it is hard to focus on anything but being cold. So there is a safety benefit and you’re much more relaxed. They seriously extend the riding season. The coldest weather I have used it for is -10 degrees Celsius. I was behind a mountain in Squamish BC taking some photos of frozen waterfalls.
What do motorcycle manufacturers get right?
They get a lot right if you’re my height, 5 foot 10! [that is the ideal size to ride almost any motorcycle comfortably]. The variety of motorcycles each manufacturer has. You really get to choose from so many different types. They also have implemented much longer maintenance cycles. No longer do we have to be constantly doing major service after or during every long trip. Many new motorcycles have maintenance cycles almost as long as cars. Oil, gas, and GO.
What do motorcycle manufacturers get wrong?
Warranties and service. Don’t even get me going on this!
What mistakes to do motorcyclists make that annoy you?
Being hyper aggressive around vehicles. I see a fair amount of it. You think it would be limited to the sport bike riders but you see it a lot. So many motorcycles tailgate other vehicles and almost crowd them. Any confrontation between a motorcycle and a car, we know who loses! Hang back and enjoy some extra space. The other one is how quickly new riders are pressured or encouraged to ride fast. You do not necessarily want to get to fast too quickly. Enjoy the learning curve up to the quicker speeds; it’s a one-way curve, few really enjoy getting slower (until you ride an adventure bike haha!).
Is there any bad advice going around for adventure riders?
People recommending others not to use their big adventure bikes for off road riding. It will survive the minor falls that do occur. With a bit of training, these big adventure bikes will do just fine.
“In what took me 5-7 years [to learn] on my own, I think I could have learned in 1 year or less with some instruction.”
What is the best way to learn adventure riding today?
Get a bit of instruction. I learned without any instruction and for the first 5-7 years it was a slow learning process. I’m an ok rider, but it was hard to learn just by watching or trying to keep up with other riders. A friend’s roommate, another Dakar rider, when asked for pointers, always told everyone just lean back, shoulders out and give it the gas! He wouldn’t explain why but when you do learn, it is really what works in so many circumstances to bring the bike under control. In what took me 5-7 years on my own, I think I could have learned in 1 year or less with some instruction.
What books, documentaries, etc do you recommend?
Jupiter’s Travels by Ted Simon. He rode a Triumph around the world for 4 years, essentially defining the long adventure riding back in the 1970s! The documentaries Dust to Glory, On Any Sunday, and Why We Ride. And Long Way Around, the first one.
If you could go back in time and talk to yourself just before you learned to ride, what would you tell yourself?
It has been such a fun ride up to this point. I wouldn’t change anything or alter it. I’d tell myself “do it again and don’t miss it.” Well, maybe pay closer attention to those diesel spills.
What are you excited about for the 2017 motorcycle season?
I was really excited about last year. I did some spectacular rides. I had personal instruction from Chris Birch, one of the word’s top Hard Enduro riders (who made a video doing some seriously crazy things on a KTM 1190). He passed on some great techniques he learned from Cyril Depres (Top Dakar rider). I also did a solo ride through the back roads of death valley which was incredible. Last year is going to be hard to top. This year I have no big plans but with the current political situation in the USA, I think I will spend more time exploring my own country. I think I found what may be the last dirt crossing of the continental divide in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. That will be worth exploring. It is also great to see the smaller adventure bikes that BMW and Kawasaki is making. Those bikes will not only be really capable but it will allow so many different people to ride that maybe couldn’t have before [height issues on adventure motorcycles]. I look forward to more of my female riding friends coming to the dirty side.
If you had $25,000 to spend on motorcycling. Where and how would you spend it?
I would keep my 990 Adventure. This season I am having the suspension professionally tuned for better off road performance. It is still such a great motorcycle and nothing out there to replace it with quite yet. I would definitely get new gear. The gear I have had has served me well. It is a Klim Traverse suit; great from minus 5 temperatures to plus 40. I have probably put over 200,000kms on this gear. I even use it for skiing! I would use the rest for travel.