Extreme scenery and challenging riding make this competition a must for any experienced trail rider
Story by Emily Roberts
When I was younger I would daydream about the Dakar Rally. I would rush home from school and watch the Dakar or any other motorcycle movie I could get my hands on at the time, with my parents and dream that one day I’d be doing this type of disciplined riding. In Grade 6, I even wrote my speech on the history and evolution of the Dakar. That was the only time I had gotten the best mark in my grade for public speaking. Not surprisingly, as the years went on and reality set in, I realized this would not be an easy venture to tackle.
But the Dakar isn’t the only serious challenge. Throughout the years, we’ve seen many extreme trials come about: from the Baja 1000 to the Orange Crush Rally, Romaniacs and the Erzberg Rodeo in Austria. While mostly suitable for professional riders, some of these challenges are offered to experienced enthusiasts to test their abilities and have a glimpse of what some more serious challenges may look like. The BMW GS Challenge is one of the only challenges where recreational riders can test their riding and navigational skills in a two-day event. The winners then move on to a world competition.
Another challenge for the everyday rider is the Horizons Unlimited Mountain Madness (HUMM), which had its North American debut during the summer of 2016 and is geared toward the regular motorcyclist wanting to challenge his or her navigational and riding skills. Originating in the Spanish Pyrenees in 2007, this event has been running ever since in various parts of the world. The challenge features different classifications for riders based on single- and multi-cylinder engines, and GPS or map and compass categories.
Some may be familiar with the organization known as Horizons Unlimited (HU), an international hub for motorcycle world travellers and enthusiasts. With gatherings in various countries throughout the year, its goal is to bring people together and share the potent desire that urges us to throw a leg over a bike and ride. Canadians Susan and Grant Johnson started HU in a roundabout way. Leaving home in 1987 on a BMW R80 G/S, they spent the next 11 years travelling around the world by motorcycle, and once the Internet took off, they began sending emails back and forth to their loved ones. They then discovered that a website could be created and their stories could be accessed and read by anyone using the Internet. In doing so, they inadvertently set up the base for the extensive community that now has followers from more than 150 countries. Since the website’s founding in December 1997, HU has grown into a main hub for many thousands of motorcycle travellers around the world to become inspired, ask questions and give advice.
HUMM’s North American Debut
The first North American HUMM challenge took place in the heart of the B.C. Rockies. Based out of Panorama Resort near Invermere, this two-day challenge saw riders gathered in teams of two to four riders, ready to test their wits, teamwork and skills. HU worked closely with Wanduro, a group of riders focused on minimalist off-road exploration, to set up tags and map the routes for the HUMM Rockies.
As soon as I heard of this event, I decided to give it a go and see how it worked. I had been on the lookout for a partner for quite some time, when one day at work I was sharing this story with my boss, Daniel, about how I wanted to enter this challenge but couldn’t find anyone to ride with. He immediately said, with great enthusiasm in his quirky Australian accent, “Oh, Em, I’d love to ride with you!” Although at the time I wasn’t formally inviting him, I was happy to have him as a riding partner. I would be riding a KTM 500 EXC and Daniel would be on his KTM 350 EXC.
Plan Your Strategy
We arrived at the HUMM challenge, set up camp and registered for the single-cylinder map class. As we awoke the next morning, we could feel the energy among the riders as they prepared to start their first day and plan their routes. The seconds counted down to when the riders could receive their maps and waypoint descriptions so they could get on the road. Once we received our maps and began planning our route, it became immediately apparent that my and Daniel’s map and compass skills might have not been the most up to date. “Although they can’t be worse than everyone else’s, right?” we thought. During the ride, we had to gather tags at waypoint locations that were determined by the level of rider skill, ranging in complexity from 1 to 5 (with 1 the easiest, 5 the hardest).
We decided to head out for some 2s, 3s and 4s and see how we faired. Daniel and I quickly planned out a route for the day and thought it’d be best if we just hit the road and see what came naturally. As the flood of riders dispersed through different routes, we found ourselves alone, navigating through forestry roads and old 4×4 trails to find our tags. Some waypoints were obvious and easy to get along the way; others required a hike and turning over rocks or searching old cabins to find a tag.
As we made our way back to base, we attempted to get one last tag before the end of day. Riding up a beaten track with switchbacks, we made our way to the top of a mountain where the trees opened upon a vast view of peaks for as far as we could see. It was hard not to stop and take a moment to realize what we were really accomplishing, but about five minutes later, we remembered that there was a deadline that we had to be back for, or else our points would mean nothing.
We made it back just as the deadline hit – and may have even lost a few points for our tardiness. Feeling a mix of mild disappointment and bliss from a great day of off-road riding and from the number of tags we had actually picked up compared with what we had planned, we drank beer and enjoyed hearing the stories of the day from other riders. At the end of the first day, Grant posted the standings, and to our surprise, Daniel and I had actually…