Wolfman Blog

Rider Stories from the Road 3 of 8, Thomas Bowen and Dan Swart

20 September, 2016

Here is our third incredible rider story, part of our word-of-mouth customer feedback, voices from the road series.

Tom Bowen WERA North Central #280 and Dan "Danimal" Swart are road racers who are practicing three motorcycle disciplines--road racing, dirt riding and now ADV riding.  Here are excerpts of their AV ride reports and a review of our Wolfman Explorer Lite Tank Bags:

"Dan and I have recently discovered Adventure riding, and became obsessed after watching the Long Way Round and Down Series. We have grandiose plans to circumnavigate the globe ourselves, though perhaps when I get out of the Air Force in 10 years or so. We decided to start out small with an 8000 mile US trip, but then realized we needed to go smaller still. As such our March trip to Key West was born. Having lived in Florida, Dan and I wanted to fit SCUBA diving somewhere in our trip and the only place warm enough in March with good diving would be Key West. With that as our base, we used Furkot trip planner, along with searching for dual sport trails online to plan our route. It was to be a mixture of super highways, scenic byways and dirt, totaling 3500 miles in 10 days. However, our March trip became a balance of sticking to our original itinerary while accommodating uncertainties that came our way.

While on Hwy 1, we saw threatening thunderstorms in the distance and became weary of how our night SCUBA diving trip would go in the rough seas. Furthering our concerns were the high winds; on some of the high bridge spans we got buffeted around quite a bit. The storms had soaked everything as they passed before us, and while we avoided the rain our Klim gear and Wolfram Luggage bags kept everything dry from the spray.

We then came to our first river crossing and my heart started to beat faster. This one didn’t look too deep but having recently flooded my dirtbike in a 4ft “not so deep” pond, I was a bit cautious. Luckily, this crossing went without a hitch and we kept going. The dirt turned back to gravel which lead to larger rocks and we saw our second river crossing. This one was much more serious, and after pumping each other up, we decided to go one at a time. I was up first and the river crossing wasn’t bad, maybe only a couple feet deep and I made sure I kept up my momentum on the loose rock bed. What awaited me on the other side proved to be a massive challenge. Here with my loaded F800GS, I attempted something that would have been a bit tricky on my much more nimble KTM 250. Needless to say I didn’t make it up the rocks on my first attempt, or my second or third. I finally had to unload my luggage to lighten my bike, and had Dan help push while I power walked the bike the remaining sections. After 25 min we managed to get my bike up this 15ft impasse. Next it was Dan’s turn. He rides a BMW G650GS, which is quite a bit lighter, not to mention Dan wanted to show me up! He crossed the river without trouble and chose his line up the rocks. He ended up dropping the bike in the exact same spot as me, but insisted on trying it again by himself. The second time around he got further than I had but needed help lining up a continuing run. Together, pushing and driving up the rocks we got Dan’s bike up and over. After a short break we continued on."--March

"Dan and I just completed our adventure training course and had a blast.  I left the weekend truly impressed with what bikes of this size can do; on the trails I can pretty much throw my BMW F800 around like my KTM 250. 

We were primarily in Bald Eagle State Forest in Pennsylvania and were truly impressed with the sheer number of trails and unexplored areas.  Having gone to school in Colorado I had always assumed the Rockies would be the closest true adventure riding to Ohio, and was pleasantly surprised to find the Appalachians have a lot of hidden gems!

Dan and I both got to our campground late Friday and were up early Saturday to meet with our instructor and other students.  Our instructor, Alain, informed us the other students had a mechanical breakdown and would be unable to attend, leaving the class to just me and Dan.  We started the morning with drills in a gravel parking lot.  This is where I noticed just how much harder it is to maneuver the F800 in tight spaces than my 250, but Dan picked up on the techniques very quickly on his G650.  We stopped for lunch and went on an afternoon ride.  Most of the trails were spaced 20min apart by gravel roads, but each trail had something different to offer.  One was fairly rocky but wide, another narrow with lots of washouts.  In all cases it was truly amazing how fast these big bikes could tackle the trails we were doing and in some instances, trails that would still be challenging on my KTM 250.  The entire weekend was hot, reaching 95F in the afternoon so I was thankful when we stopped at Poe Lake for a swim to end our day.

Day 2 started again with drills, including obstacle clearing, as well as K-turns (stopping on a hill and turning around), but mostly the last day was all about riding trails.  We were on one of the trails for several miles away from the "main" access road when we stumbled on a hunting cabin.  Apparently you can rent cabins from the forest service and they are completely isolated, reinforcing my amazement with just what Pennsylvania could offer.  The highlight of the weekend without a doubt was our last ride.  Our instructor called it a "hero" section and it sounded like just a step above what we had done before.  He let Dan lead and fortunately for us Dan took a wrong turn that put us on a very difficult trial that had clearly been forgotten.  While that trail took several times longer to complete, and caused us to shed some sweat and tears (Dan's bike took a few tumbles), it provided a true adventure experience and gave us a first hand look at what a real ride would be like.  Some sections we had to walk, but mainly we rode... steep descents, loose rock, log crossings, low hanging branches, etc.  It was a great 3 hour ride and we were all glad to see the exit, but sad our adventure had come to an end.--June

 

Wolfman Explorer Lite Review (updated)

I love the versatility the Explorer Lite tank bag provides.  While I don't use maps often I like the fact that I can put them in the top pocket for easy viewing while riding.  The tank bag makes it easy to get to items that I regularly use, as well as grants access to items while riding:  I keep my 2L Camelbak bladder (I had room for an extra 1qt water bottle in addition to these other items), a rain poncho, various electronics (iPhone charger, bluetooth comm charger, Powerlet, GoPro accessories), head lamp, pocket knife, but mainly snacks to much on while riding.  When making long trips I hate stopping more often than I need to for gas, and with a 7gal tank, that can be as much as 4 hours between stops so having items close at hand is crucial to comfort.  As long as I stage my snacks appropriately I can get to them while riding.  Meat sticks are the easiest because I can shove them into my helmet and still hold on to the other end; bite sized items are quite a bit harder to manipulate with gloves.  For riders who also go off road, this bag is perfect because it doesn't get in the way at all while standing.  I'm 6'2" so shorter individuals might be impeded a bit, but the bag is soft sided so it shouldn't make much of a difference.  If the bag had any flaw it would be the lack of weatherproofing.  It can certainly hold up to a quick rain shower without concern, but a waterproof liner and zippers would be a huge improvement for serious storms.  I've never liked rain covers, and I feel they merely mask an issue that could otherwise be solved.  I may try spray on weatherproofing to see if that helps, but hopefully future versions of this bag have some level of integrated waterproofing."

Rider Stories from the Road, 2 of 8--Motoex_Jordan

13 September, 2016

We are proud to highlight eight incredible stories of passionate #WolfmanLuggage riders and their detailed feedback for you.  

Moto Expedition's Jordan review of our Enduro Tank Bag and E12s is number 2 of 8:

Wolfman Luggage: “Perfect for the smaller dual-sports”

If there’s one thing I don’t want to deal with while riding, its wearing a fully loaded backpack. The only backpack I can tolerate is my camel back, and that’s only for overnight campouts or multi day motocamp trips. Not wearing a backpack was difficult to do, seeing as how I ride a DRZ with virtually no storage capacity. Enter Wolfman tankbag, fender bag and E-12 saddle bags! I like to refer to myself as a comfortable minimalist rider. Thanks to the people at Wolfman, I have everything I need to be as self-reliant as possible on the trails yet still jump, drift, climb hills, cross streams, ride whoops, sand, mud, single track, try to wheelie and even the occasional 1000 + mile trips to southern California to ride twisties with my best bud, or Mendocino National Forest for some moto-camping with my best moto-camping bud. I ride it all, and often I ride aggressively. When I ride off-road, I’m standing most of the time. My Wolfman luggage keeps all my gear securely with me, but I can’t even tell its there!

The Wolfman Fender bag does exactly what it claims. It holds my extra tube, tire irons and tube patch kit. On the DRZ-400, it doesn’t block the headlight at all. My Enduro tank bag holds most of my EDC(every day carry) stuff: Wallet, keys, cell phone, tools, fire-starter, Life-straw, headlamp, emergency fishing kit, paper funnels, latex gloves, lighter, whistle, earplugs, registration and insurance, small air pump, microfiber towel, compass, hand warmers, soft-loop tie-down straps, extra hardware, charging cables for my phone and GoPro batteries, bluetooth speaker, more tools, snacks, and a beanie or hat…depending on the weather!

The E-12’s still surprise me with how much can fit in there. I’ve had my entire sleep system in them (hammock, tarp, thermal air mattress, 30degree lightweight military sleeping bag) along with my MSR pocket stove and fuel, Glock, survival knife, sierra saw, para-cord, medical kit, siphon hose, zip-ties and some food. I can’t tell you how happy I am that I don’t have to wear a loaded backpack when I ride anymore. I prefer the machine to do all the carrying.

The bags are all easy to access, mount very easily and they simply just don’t budge. Even on the harshest terrain or after some pretty nasty “dirt naps!” They are small and compact, yet carry so much more than you would think. The adjustment straps easily adapt to different load sizes to keep everything tight. They also keep the load low and out of the way. They are super durable as well. I’ve had the tank bag for over 11,000 miles now, and the only sign of wear and tear is on the zipper pulls. When I clean them, they still look new! They have reflective material striping for added safety. They can be moved from bike to bike in only a few minutes. They have never gotten in the way, even during the most aggressive riding. They offer a competitive warranty period, and to top everything off: They are 100% made in the U.S.A.. Enough said! Oh, and did I mention that they can double as a beer cooler? That’s Awesome.

The only con I can come up with is they are not waterproof. However, the bags I use don’t claim to be, and Wolfman does offer dry saddle bags. I sprayed all my gear with silicone spray and it does a pretty good job of keeping my things dry while riding in light rains and splashing through streams and puddles. I have been caught in a few epic downpours and even a couple of blizzards during my time in Reno/Tahoe, and the zippers did let some moisture in. As an adventure rider, I do get caught in thunderstorms from time to time. To deal with this, I carry a couple 10L dry stuff sacks to put the E-12 contents into. On multi day trips I bring a dry bag and all my gear that really shouldn’t get wet goes in there.

We all know the saying “you get what you pay for.” When it comes to Wolfman, you are getting the best. They are dependable, durable and among the most versatile soft luggage I have seen. Wolfman Motorcycle Luggage literally took the load off my back. For that I am very grateful. motoex_jordan tested and approved!

Rider Stories from the Road, 1 of 8--Mike Reid

06 September, 2016

Wolfman believes in word-of-mouth advertising and for years it was the only advertising we did. "Naturally occurring" sharing is the original connecting instead of collecting social media fans--a way to create experiences worthy of being passed from person-to-person or in our case, rider-to-rider.

We are proud to highlight eight incredible stories of passionate Wolfman Luggage riders and their detailed feedback to help you enjoy our premium quality, Made-in-USA products for your next adventure.

Mike Reid is the first of eight rider voices from the road.  His journeys have included his completed Miles for Peace ride and his newest is his Guinness World record attempt for "longest journey on a pocket bike" 1500 miles across 9 states in a Honda CRF-50.  

See his website blog and photos here:  http://globalmikereid.com https://www.facebook.com/GlobalMikeReid/videos/1733283360269897/

We proudly support Mike and his adventures and thought you might like his stop motion video on packing our Rocky Mountain Saddle Bags:

https://youtu.be/y_Gu4lvHL5o

Times-Call Newspaper features Wolfman Luggage

04 January, 2016

Longmont's Wolfman Luggage focuses on the adventure motorcycle community

By Vince Winkel, Staff Writer

Daniel Hernandez sews straps for hydration packs at Wolfman Luggage. (Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer)

When Eric Hougen launched his motorcycle luggage company in the spare bedroom of his Nederland home in 1992, he didn't imagine that one day his line of products would be sold all over the world.

Today his Wolfman Motorcycle Luggage Company is based on the first floor of the former Longmont Times-Call building at 350 Terry St. Besides being available at more than 150 motorcycle dealers across the U.S., his gear is sold in Australia, Europe, across Asia, Canada, Mexico, Chile and through the Wolfman website.

"We've come a long way from that little room up in Nederland," Hougen said from his office.

Earlier this year Wolfman moved from a space on the east edge of Longmont to its downtown location.

Hougen and his crew make a variety of bags - soft luggage for motorcycle riders. The showroom on Terry Street is lined with black and yellow panniers, wet bags, dry bags, tank bags, saddlebags, tool bags, large duffels and small map pockets. They are designed for every style of motorcyclist: street bikes, cruisers, commuting, weekend rides or full-scale adventures.

Most of his sales are in the adventure market. Those are the riders who go off-road, into the back country; the type of rider that will ride north to Alaska or deep into Mexico for weeks if not months.

The adventure market is the fastest growing segment of the motorcycle industry, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council .

"The offerings from the motorcycle companies have changed, and they have given the industry direction. There are a lot more dual-sport and off road motorcycles available to the consumer today," said Hougen, who began riding dirt bikes when he was 10.

"I think people always wanted to go off road, but years ago if you wanted to go off road you were on a dirt bike, a bike that wasn't street legal. Today that isn't the case."

"Today's adventure bikes and dual sport bikes are street legal, but ready for going off road," he said.

When he started his company in Nederland, Hougen was essentially a one-man crew. He did the designing, the sewing, the selling and the shipping. Eventually he moved his small outfit to Boulder and then to Longmont.

Everything is made in the U.S., and the Colorado State University graduate wouldn't have it any other way.

"As the industry has grown, and the adventure segment, we began being seen as a premium brand. Now the competition has grown, but we've been able to keep up," Hougen said.

"It's difficult manufacturing in the U.S. and being price competitive," he added. "So my designs are more functional than fashionable. Because we have to look at where we put our manufacturing dollars. Do we want all sorts of zippers and add pockets and so on, or do you really want a sturdy bag. I'd rather have a sturdy bag that is simple, with less to go wrong."

That simplicity is known and respected within the industry.

"It's built to a much higher standard," said adventure rider Ian Schmeisser of Atlanta, who writes for Cycle News and Rider Magazine. "Wolfman Luggage is known far and wide in the adventure riding community for its durability and quality design. The gear is clearly the result of many a tough mile of testing, refinement, more testing and talking with customers."

"The practicality of soft luggage over hard bags is great, too. It's lighter, compressible and more flexible for packing odd size items," said Ariel Krawczyk of Anchorage, who leads adventure rides in Alaska.

"It's good looking, waterproof, and sturdy. It's perfect for the Alaska climate."

Today Wolfman has nine full-time staff, and does some production at its headquarters but also uses outside seamstresses and production workers. In January they are bringing their fulfillment services back into the fold.

Wolfman Luggage founder Eric Hougen bought his first sewing machine with money given to him by an aunt. (Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer)

"My job here as a designer, an innovator, and creator is to change. I'm always changing something. I make the bags more efficient. I change the way we manufacture the gear because we do it all in the U.S., and labor costs are not cheap," he said over the buzzing noise of a sewing machine.


"Our competition goes overseas, to places like Vietnam and China, where people in production are paid a buck or two an hour. So our margins are narrow."

As for the company name, some of the credit goes to his friends at CSU in the 1980s.

"I had hair that was quite long, a big mane of hair. When I was in college people called me Wolfman," he said with a laugh.

"When I trademarked it I spoke with a trademark attorney who was doing the search, and he said 'what does this have to do with Wolfman Jack?' and I said hey, I just make bags. I'm not a radio personality."

The 49-year-old, who still does all the design and pattern work, said he is still learning something every day.

"It's been quite an education. An education I get from customers, industry peers, our employees. I have learned a lot from them."

Vince Winkel: 303-684-5291, winkelv@times-call.com or twitter.com/vincewinkel

Coping with Oncoming Traffic Around Precarious Bends

23 December, 2015



Roads of Argentina Series: 3 of 3 by Sarah Tesla, lostnotfound.in, @lostnotfoundin

Argentina is huge and you need at least few months to to explore its full diversity. But don’t let that dissuade you. If all you’ve got is a couple of weeks, there are plenty of day trips where you’ll find yourself happily in the middle of nowhere, or at least happily far far away from the tourist types. This series will focus on not-be-missed roads and the special places they will take you.

Ruta 83 Calilegua National Park

After spending time exploring the painted beauty of the Quebrada de Humahuaca, it’s time for an abrupt change of scenery. A lesser known, and therefore lesser explored area of Jujuy is on the eastern slope on Ruta 83, home of the lush Jungas of Calilegua National Park.

An easy and not particularly scenic drive, you’ll head south on Ruta 9, skirting the main city of San Salvador de Jujuy and connect with Ruta 34 north. You’ll pass through mostly rural landscapes and the occasional scrappy little industrial town, before you reach the entrance to the park after about 2.5hrs (181km). This is where the fun really begins!


Look for a clearly marked turnoff into Calilegua, it’s hard to miss because you’ll notice the Rio San Lorenzo, where you’ll find local families cooling off in the water and enjoying an asado along the roadway. It’s a good place to stop, stretch your legs and also assess your supplies. Because where you’re going, the amenities are very few indeed. From experience, snacks and petrol are the keys to success. If you’re in good shape then onward for the next leg of your journey onto the gravel of Ruta 83 and deep into the Jungas!


Ruta 83 is a single lane gravel road which runs deep into Calilegua connecting the world with several small villages. To reach our destination, the village of San Francisco, it’s a modest 39km, but you’ll be driving much slower, along medium to poor gravel with potholes and baby heads, switchbacks and coping with oncoming traffic around precarious bends. So speed is not an option here. Slow and steady, to keep safe, but also enjoy several views along the way. Honking as you approach blind corners is good etiquette.


Two hours would be a good approximation of time to reach San Francisco. When you finally make it you’ll certainly be ready for a beer and food, but suppress the urge and instead sort our your accommodations before dark. It will be extremely hard to find a place to sleep while wandering around with a head-lamp. There are a few families in this tiny village who let out rooms and offer meals in a bed and breakfast style. The local hostel might catch your eye first, as there are two on the main road as you enter town, but we recommend seeking out more familial accoms.

A local sent us in the direction of the Sabastien family who had a small, but clean and comfy building on their property with rooms and private baths and a garden. They were more than happy to include us in their dinner and breakfast planning for the time were were there. The cost was 200 pesos, which is approx $25 Cdn. They also had secure parking, but I’m not so sure that would be needed here. Worth noting that they don’t speak English, but basic Spanish and sign language goes a long way.


Once settled you now have as much time as you like to explore the area. The village itself has a lot of character as developing features such a power generator rather awkwardly sit in plain view, mixed with the serene beauty of the jungle and local farms butting up against the scattered homes. Horses roam freely all over town, as do dogs, chickens and of course the local kids playing football. As aforementioned, there are not many amenities. We found the local “restaurant” which doubles as a community gathering space among other things to have beers and snacks. There is also a TV with satellite for watching football matches, the news and daytime dramas.

On our second day we hired a local guide to take us for hike into the Jungas to a popular waterfall. It was not a strenuous hike, but very pleasant with views of the valley below. If you’re more athletically inclined there are many more adventures hikes in the area that take you to see some dramatic features, such as watering holes and more spectacular waterfalls. If you’re feeling lo-key like we were, there are also lots of nice walks into the rural outskirts. It doesn’t take long to adapt to the easy-going pace of village life and all those horses milling around.


One thing to mention, is while village life has a sleepy quality to it, the nightlife is VERY active. So bring earplugs if you want to get a wink of sleep, because the cacophony of dogs, cows, horses and insects go from dusk till dawn.

For active news about the area visit Parque Nacional Calilegua Facebook page or National Parks Argentina

Nothing Except Vast Skies and Wild Donkeys

19 October, 2015

Roads of Argentina Series:  2 of 3

by Sarah Tesla, lostnotfound.in, @lostnotfoundin

Argentina is huge and you need at least few months to to explore its full diversity. But don’t let that dissuade you. If all you’ve got is a couple of weeks, there are plenty of day trips where you’ll find yourself happily in the middle of nowhere, or at least happily far far away from the tourist types. This series will focus on not-to-be-missed roads and the special places they will take you.

Ruta 51, 40 and 52: Salta & Jujuy Province

Welcome to the north! Salta is a place of colonial beauty and it’s surrounding area is a juxtaposition of lush greenery and rocky red soil. As you venture further north into Jujuy you are greeted by colourful mountain landscapes painted in purples, pinks, greens and orange minerals. This region is an explorer's paradise, well worth spending at least a week getting to know. In the interest of time we’re going to take you through one long day filled with cactus forests, lonely plains, high altitudes, and an ocean of salt flats and purple mountains. Ready?

Departing from Salta City you will make your way West along Ruta 51. This quiet stretch of road will eventually, and abruptly turn to gravel and bring you alongside a river bed in a deep valley. Looks like this area of the river bed is used as a gravel pit, but the further along you go the more interesting things become. Soon you’re surrounded by a sea of 10ft tall cacti that dot the hills casting their shadows. They seem to grow on every precipice and is the only green contrasted against this rocky terrain.



This stretch eventually turns back into tarmac and you can get a sense of some of the local communities along the way. We liked the colourfully decorated cemeteries, and if your eyes are sharp you might spot one that has become overgrown by vegetation. The road gradually starts to gain altitude, with you eventually reaching 4080m at Abra Blanca. As you begin to descend the road turns back to gravel, and if you’re depending on Google maps, be prepared for some confusion as Ruta 51 and 40 start to blend together.


The town of San Antonio de los Cobres is your jumping off point to a lesser used, poorly marked leg of Ruta 40. The town has a strong frontier vibe to it, with very basic amenities. We arrived with a flat tire, but considering how common flats are on these dirt roads, we found a Gomeria quickly. Once we got patched up, we spent a bit of time circling around looking for our entry way to Ruta 40 and thanks to helpful tips from the locals soon found our way.


This stretch of road has nothing except vast skies and wild donkeys, which we thought was pretty cool. This road will take you to the famed Salinas Grandes and also across the border from Salta Province to Jujuy Province. Take time to get out and walk around the salt flats. There is an incredible spaciousness to this alien surface. If you’re out there on a sunny day cover up, because you’ll burn to a crisp in just a few moments!


Once you’ve got your fill of salt and sun, get ready to enjoy some epic curves! Following Ruta 52 East you’re going to start to ascend to your next vantage point at 4170m. It’s a bit of a tourist stop, so be prepared to wait in a cue to get a photo with the sign if you wish. Then from here it’s down, down, down along what feels like a spiral staircase into the valley that leads to Pumamarca.



As you enter the valley you’re greeted by purple and orange hues as the mountains along side you transform. Pumamarca is a key jumping off point for buses and popular with backpackers. We weren’t too keen to battle our way through traffic and vendors. Instead, we had our sights set on reaching our final destination of the day.



The 52 intersects with Ruta 9, which runs North to the famous hills of Humahuaca (stunning!) and South to the capital, Jujuy City. We headed south into a beautiful valley just outside the village of Volcan. If our day wasn’t already an adventure, the dirt road and cattle gates added to the rugged landscape as dusk fell with us finally arriving at our destination.

Rumiyoc is a beautiful country estate and active farm that has been lovingly restored and turned into a B&B. The stone turret and cozy valley transport you back in time nearly one hundred years. Our host Joaquin, and the estate's caretaker Rodrigo were incredible hosts. This would serve as our HQ for the next few days, while we went out exploring the natural beauty of the area before heading out on the next leg of our adventure!



Road Notes:

Salta to San Antonio de los Cobres approx 174km
Gravel road begins just outside Campo Quijano
Limited services
San Antonio de los Cobres to Salinas Grandes 101km
Old Ruta 40 is gravel, travel with a spare tire and lots of water
No services
Salinas Grandes to Pumamarca approx 65km
Petrol, food and accomodations
Rumiyoc bookings: https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/2493745

Maps:

"Argentina is huge, you need at least few months to to explore its full diversity"

27 July, 2015

 

Roads of Argentina Series: 1 of 3 by Sarah Tesla of LostNotFound.in

On special assignment for Wolfman Luggage on our recent adventure to Argentina:

Argentina is huge and you need at least few months to to explore its full diversity. But don’t let that dissuade you. If all you’ve got is a couple of weeks, there are plenty of multi-day trips where you’ll find yourself happily in the middle of nowhere, or at least happily far-far away from the tourist types. This series will focus on not-be-missed roads and the special places they will take you.

Ruta Provincial 52: Province of Mendoza

Welcome to wine country! This region is internationally known for Malbec production and many luxurious wineries offering a taste of the high-falutin lifestyle. While it’s a pleasure to sample the regions varietals, the real luxury is found in the remote villages that dot the area and the fantastic roads that get you there.

Escape Mendoza City quickly and head north to Ruta Provincial 52. Most people take this road to reach the famed Gran Hotel de Villavicencio, which was built around the areas thermal baths. If you’ve ordered mineral water in Argentina, odds are you’ve ended up with a bottle of Villavicencio. The hotel has been closed for more than a decade, and isn’t in our opinion worth stopping. Instead, what you’re really here for is the road -- past the hotel, Ruta 52 starts to get interesting as you go up, up, and up around switchbacks and sweeping views to reach the Rutas Sanmartiniano.


The Rutas Sanmartiniano were forged by General San Martin and his Army of the Andes, who set off to battle Chile in the 1820’s. Later Charles Darwin followed this same route and made discoveries of a petrified forest which is now marked along the way. 

This gravel road has tons of look-outs, and when you reach the summit you’re likely to catch glimpses of wild Llamas and maybe a Zorro (fox) or two. The change in biodiversity is equally as cool as the road. You leave green forests for high altitude plains, then enter an area of rock formations and lunar landscapes. Gradually you will begin to descend into the village of Uspallata.


A word to the wise - bring lots of snacks and water and make sure you’ve got plenty of fuel. There are no petrol stops or places to eat until Uspallata. This road is single lane, but accommodates a 2-way traffic flow, so you will need pull over to allow others to pass, so mind those corners. 

Uspallata is a nice place to stop for lunch, but you do start to rub shoulders again with the tourist set here. The local parilla’s are hot spots for bikers and there is a lot of camping and cabins here. It’s also a jumping off point for white water rafting. Rather than staying we suggest pushing forward and heading to the village of Portrerillos. 

Follow Ruta 7 along the river and through spectacular ravines until you reach this sleepy village. There is good camping here and if you’d like to spend the night in a bed we suggest reaching out to Eduardo and his partner Sonya for a few nights at their beautiful cabin with a stunning view of Los Andes. There is a little bodega near by for groceries, wine and beer so you can cook your own frontier style meal. Or Sonya is more than happy for a little extra cost, to prepare you a delicious Argentine meal. 


Road Notes: 

Mendoza to Upsallata - Approx 95km, no services
Gravel road begins as you enter Aconcagua National Park
Small fee for entry, approx $2
Upsallata to Portorellios - Approx 50km
Tarmac
Petrol, food stops and accommodations
Camping and cabins

Bear Aware--food is food to bears no matter where it is located

11 June, 2015

This is from Wolfman customer, Ian Mumblo at Halfway River, near Nakusp in the Kootenay region of British Columbia, Canada.  We are happy to report a happy ending but definitely a good public awareness story.  (There was no food in the bag itself just beer and toiletries):

...So this story starts with complacency and came inches away from ending in tragedy. With a little luck and a lot of patience my girlfriend and I were able to ride out of the forest happy and alive, but it could have very easily been a different outcome.


This was my first motorcycle trip going two-up and I don't think either of us were sure how it would turn out. Mostly I was worried the KLR would dislike long days on the highway, and too much weight on the forest roads. But aside from almost being killed by a bear, everything else turned out great. I was dead set on returning to a favourite natural hot springs of mine in an isolated section of the Kootenay region of British Columbia. On the second day we made our way out there and enjoyed a great ride through the mountains to the forest road that leads to the hot springs. This road is known for being in poor shape, so my main concern when we turned off the highway was going down somewhere along the way. I always carry survival gear and a SPOT so with that in hand off we went. The road was a mess, but everything went fine. We got to a camp spot, set up and headed for the hot springs which sit right on a river and are just about as good as it gets. We spent way too long soaking and taking cold dips in the river and by the time we started the hike back up the cliff to our camp it was after dark and we were dead tired. This is where we got lazy and it almost cost us. After a quick can of soup we set about getting ready to hit the sack. I hung the garbage in a tree and put anything else I thought might be a problem in a few dry bags and stowed it in my faithful Wolfman Expedition Dry Duffel. What we failed to do was clean up other peoples garbage around the site and we completely failed at properly stowing ANYTHING THAT SMELLS LIKE ANYTHING in a tree and far away from our tent. The bear was after our deodorant, toothpaste, wetnaps etc. He got our beer and coolers too, but I doubt he smelled those through aluminum.


Around 7:00 am I woke up to sounds in our site. I have spent countless nights camping in the wilderness, many alone and am used to this feeling so I wasn't too alarmed. Until I looked under the fly towards my KLR and saw four very large bear paws just feet away. I told my girlfriend we had a bear and we both moved quietly to the center of a very small tent, grabbed our knife and bear spray and sat quietly. She is a Professional Forester and also has years of experience in the bush, but I don't think either of us were totally ready for what happened next. The bear moved around the site, stealing a lawn chair from one of the three vehicles around us. He then walked past our tent and we looked at each other through the small window on the fly. Keeping our calm, he wasn't too interested and moved off towards the bike. We then spent the next 30-45 minutes with this large, mature bear just feet away trying to break into my Wolfman bag. He eventually got tired of not being able to totally shred the amazing material the thing is made out of, so he just knocked the whole bike over and opened the bag normally. It was a painful moment to hear the bike go down and the bags contents spilling out. He spent a while consuming our beer and generally being a curious guy while we sat silently hoping he would move on. Every once in a while he would move around the site, but never far enough to afford us the opportunity to do something other than sit and wait. Eventually, our worst fear was realized. He got bored with the bike and drank all the beer, so curiosity got the best of him and he came back to the tent. We weren't totally sure where he was until we could see him bearing down on the corner of the fly. It still seems like a movie to both of us, completely unreal, but there he was. Suddenly there is his paw on the fly and he is pushing forward crushing the corner in towards us, we could see his face through the grey fly material and even worse, his paw, large and deadly was right there, literally inches from us. A gun would have been a godsend. Bear spray works, but not if you spray yourself because you are in a tent. That would likely lead to you being mauled, you just wouldn't be able to see it happening. We both stayed silent and calm and leaned back, both fully aware of the gravity of what was happening. I'm not sure what happened next, maybe it was our silent movements or he didn't like nylon, but he suddenly gave up and went back to lap up more beer. At this point I said it was time to do something, the longer we waited the worse things got. I grabbed the pepper, gave my special lady the knife, we grabbed hands and I slowly and quietly unzipped the fly. Not sure exactly where he was we made our move, jumping out of the tent, hands held, bodies close waving and yelling like lunatics. The bear was close, too close for comfort, but we had committed, so we stood our ground and began to move forward making the biggest racket we could. Suddenly he had had enough, grunted and ran up the hill.

Again, we made a few mistakes, but in the end it was our awareness and outdoor skills that kept us alive once we had gotten ourselves into this mess. It would have been very easy for this to have gone a very different direction. We camped the very next night, and it will never stop me from enjoying the wilderness, but it was a good lesson and something neither of us will ever forget. Especially the next time we are in a tent and hear something go bump in the night...

Simon Pavey behind the Scenes at DAKAR

15 May, 2015

Simon behind the scenes at DAKAR.  Words & Photos: Sarah Tesla & Richard Rae

On our recent adventure to Argentina we were extremely fortunate to catch up with the Dakar Rally Raid and get an up close and personal look at life at a bivouac. We linked up with the traveling circus at Stage 12 in Rosario at the Hipódromo parque de la Independencia . It was the 16th of January and competitors had only one day left before reaching the finish in Buenos Aires.

Dusty, weather worn and exhausted, the Dakar crew tirelessly setup after traveling all night in anticipation of the afternoons race arrivals. We really didn’t know what to expect. It was organized chaos with the saving grace for us being a tent setup by the country of Argentina to host VIP spectators and press. Drinks, wifi and shade were an oasis in an otherwise barren race track.

The real excitement came late in the day when the bivouac began to spring to life as riders arrived. Fans who had come earlier in the day to line the roadway began to cheer and it wasn’t long before crews were in full throttle attending to their teams. It was like a ballet.. of carnage; everyone moved in a well rehearsed dance, while the riders littered the camp finding moments of quiet or a medic to tend to their hurts.

We had kept our eyes on how Simon Pavey and his son Llewelyn Pavey (Llel) were doing, the first father and son to race together in the Dakar. Simon is a bit of a adv figurehead for us, after being featured in the documentary Race to Dakar with Charley Boorman in 2006 we became instant fans of this race ethos, as well as the work he does running Off Road Skills in England. We didn’t get a chance to meet Simon in person during the Dakar, but we did catch up with him on Skype after he returned to England for an interview. After a day at the bivouac, our conversation with Simon really brought the whole experience together for us.

Here are a few excerpts from our interview with Simon on what it was like for him a Llel to race together.

LNF: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with me, I know that your life has probably been total madness over the past few months, especially recently around the race.

SP: Ya my life is always like that, and I’d say it’s been like that the past 45 years. (laughing)

LNF: How are you feeling and recovering after the race?

SP: Yeah, I’m alright to be honest. Just really tired actually. Yeah, it’s taken a lot longer to recover from this one then the last one I did.

LNF: I spoke with a photographer in Rosario who said he’d been doing a lot of shots of you both (Llel) during the race, and that the night before you’d both arrived at the previous bivouac at 4am after a crazy long day, and then had to get up and do it all over again with little sleep...

SP: There were plenty of people having those problems, that night was crazy.. a crazy one! We were also pretty late to Rosario, I think we got there like 11pm. That special was one of the days since the salt lake that we didn’t actually have any problems, we finished the special in pretty good time, but it was a really nice afternoon and we only had that liaison to do and our assistance crew were at the end of the special, so we all found some steak house on the side of the road and had a great dinner and ice cream and all that, and it was totally worth getting late to the bivouac for.

LNF: That’s amazing, that’s actually really funny because we spoke with a few support trucks that had arrived quite early like around 4:30pm, and Chile was one of the first trucks to get in and they’d said they had just spent 14hrs driving from the previous bivouac. So we were thinking, “my God, that’s an 800km day at least”?

SP: Yeah, it was 900km the assistance had to do, but because we were still having so many problems with the salt, especially on Llels bike, and on the way to the special in the morning Llels bike had played up again, so we actually said to our assistance to not go the bivouac. Like normally every day it’s better that they go to the bivouac, but we said come to the end of the special just in case. So yeah, we all kind ended up there (steakhouse). It was fantastic, it was so good. Even though we knew it was going to make us a bit later to the bivouac, it was really, really good steak. (laughing)

LNF: You’ve done Dakar 10 years now? What is it about that race that has had you hooked for so long?

SP: It’s actually my 10th one, but it’s been 17 or 18 years I think? The first one was 1998. When I was growing up racing and stuff, it was the most famous event and the biggest kind of event really. And once you see it’s just such a different scale to any other race event in the world, it’s just so massive 4000 people on bivouac and the craziness of all the cars and trucks and the support teams. It’s a little bit amazing to be a privateer, to be a person (guy or girl) who can show up and ride next to the factory stars and it’s pretty amazing to become friends with those people just because you’re in the same event, when you’re not in their level. Ya it’s pretty cool. Dakar because of the scale of it, is a little mad and a little bit chaotic riding all through the day and all through the night. As much you don’t want to be doing that at the time, there is no other event in the world where you can do that?

LNF: You’ve remained relatively unscathed after this many years of doing the event, where obviously people have died, or had extremely serious injuries and had to be airlifted and this kind of thing. What’s your secret? How have you been able to keep yourself in relatively good condition from year after year?

SP: Just as well that I haven’t got the video on, or you’d see the big hump wouldn’t ya! (laughing) (Note: Our Skype video was not on, so I couldn’t see Simon’s postrace condition) I think a couple of things really, I think it is a dangerous race there is no doubt about it. I’m always riding for a finish so I’m kind of always riding a bit too reserved maybe. And ya I dunno, I think I’ve just sort of found a good line between riding fast enough to not get into too much trouble, and not riding so fast that I’m taking big risks. But having said that there were times this year, where you just felt like you were on the limit of what you can do. Everyone is, and I think that’s the point of that event. There are definitely times when you think, I don’t know if I can get through this. You say unscathed, but both Llel and I had a couple of really close calls this year. On the second day when it was really hot, it was in the 50s, there was a lot of us that pushed ourselves as close as you can get, without pushing yourself and ending up like unfortunately our Polish friend who died the next day. I don’t think anyone really knows the circumstances, but the end of day 2 I was throwing up in the hospital and spent a couple hours on a drip. I didn’t eat all night, so I went out the next day pretty depleted, but I had actually been rehydrated.

LNF: It must really be an extraordinary place where you are mentally, because physically things are going wrong and you’re exhausted and dehydrated. Truly you must have to psyche yourself up for it. And think, this is what it is and that you’re going to push through. Where do you pull that out of?

SP: Yeah, I don’t know really. I honestly don’t know even after all these years. But for some reason I seem to be able to do that. And Llel was talking about it afterwards, that it’s almost opposite to what you think. In some ways it’s almost easier to keep going than it is to quit. When you quit things get really difficult. Honestly the medical support on that rally is so fantastic. Anytime we had a problem, the doctors were really, really good.

LNF: Was there any anxiety for you, or your family about taking your son on this race?

SP: No one said anything beforehand, but ya my wife she obviously has been super, super involved in everything we’ve done right since the beginning of racing and traveling and the business, she’s been instrumental to every part of it. She said to me afterwards that was the first time she’d ever been a bit nervous and a bit worried was having us both out there in the event. It was definitely kind of hard on her, and she’s never ever said that before. But yeah, everyone was really good and didn’t say anything before hand.

LNF: Seeing that you’ve been part of the evolution of Dakar since you said 1998? And seen the race evolve and change, and seeing it move from Africa to South America, are you feeling confident that you will continue competing into the future, and are there any other parts of the world that you’d like to see the race move too or evolve?

SP: Um, that’s always too soon a question to ask a week after Dakar (laughing).. are you doing it again? Um yeah, the race has changed dramatically and most of the things they’ve improved and changed are for good reasons. The professionalism, the organization and the safety is fantastic now and the terrain they’ve got to work with in South America, they’ve got so many possibilities there. There is money for them there, so I can’t see them moving it anywhere else for some time, because it’s very much a business now. From my point of view, what has always driven me to go to big rallies is going to different places as well. When it was in Africa I had sort of said that was it, enough’s enough, but when it moved to South America that’s what reignited it for me. There has been been some other great rallies in other parts of the world and I’m definitely inspired to try do more of those if the opportunity is there. There was one that only ran once in 2008, the year that Dakar didn’t run, the Transorientale rally from St. Petersburg to Beijing, that was one of the best event I’ve ever done a fantastic experience. If there is an opportunity to go race somewhere else I’d be well up for that.

 

Wolfman WolfStore SALE February 19 and 20th!

07 February, 2015

Wolfman Luggage is having a once-in-a-lifetime WolfStore Scratch, Dent and 2nds Sale* this February 19 and 20th!

Our hours are 10-5 on 2/19 Thursday and 10-6 on 2/20 Friday. This is a we-don’t-want-to-move-it sale (yes, we are moving to brand new digs in historic downtown Longmont--a booming food, microbrew, shopping, festival scene in March. We are excited and proud to be part of this downtown small business community with Wolfman’s Made in the USA, Colorado Small Business focus. Yay!) and you-don’t-want-to-miss-it sale!

*This sale has 2nds at deep discounts, discontinued items, one-of-a-kind samples, scratched/dented hardware and lots of pre-season gear to add to your Wolfman collection for the 2015 riding season. Come enjoy the fun and leave us your business card for a drawing for a FREE Wolfman Colored Ridgeline Plus Duffel! (Retail value of $170.99.) You do not need to be present to win. If we pick your name, we will call and ship the color of your choice to you (within CO only). The Colored Ridgeline Plus Duffel is available in Charcoal, Navy, Dark Brown, Green, Red or Sky Blue. You can see the actual colors in the WolfStore while you are here for this amazing sale.

(All 1st quality products are not discounted. Go to your local dealer or wolfmanluggage.com if you want those. All items sold at this sale do not come with warranties. Sold as is.)

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