Touratech Rally recap

Riders Embrace The Spirit Of Adventure

An event participant takes
his best shot at the Challenge Course.

By Heather Wilson

If you’re looking to get to the root foundation of adventure riding, the Touratech Rally in Plain, Wash., is an event to mark on your 2020 calendar.

I had the opportunity to join nearly 1,000 riders and 55 vendors at this year’s rally, June 27-30, in the beautiful mountains of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

KTM, Honda and Triumph were onsite with demo bikes and adventure riding experts taught classes during the event.

“The Touratech Rally began nine years ago as a small customer-appreciation weekend that involved riding, camping and sharing good times around the campfire,” said Touratech CEO Paul Guillien. “With this simple formula, and a whole lot of fun, it’s grown into the largest gathering of adventure motorcycle enthusiasts in the country.”

Today this AMA-sanctioned adventure rally relies on the small-but-mighty staff of Touratech and the power of 68 volunteers throughout the weekend.

An adventure rider traverses
the whoops section of the Challenge Course.

Back to basics

In Plain, Wash., across from the small lodge, hardware store/gift shop and café, sits a field where the event takes place.

This is not a “hotel and hot shower” kind of event. The majority of riders prefer to pack it in and pack it out, staying in tents strapped to their bikes and taking (hasty) cold showers provided by the event organizer.

A few participants brought campers and even fewer stayed in the nearby town of Leavenworth.

While I admire the tenacity of the adventure lifestyle, I am more of a “glamping” gal. I enjoy a hot shower and electricity at the end of the day—whether in my camper or a hotel. So I stayed at the quaint Beaver Valley Lodge across the street.

Riding with friends to the top of a
mountain at the rally. That’s Gala Schip, left,
and Donni Reddington.

Emphasis on safety

Emergency medical support and rescue for the event were provided by Adventure Medics from Bend, Ore. This was the staff’s fourth year at the event. In addition to providing support in case of an emergency, they led seminars on first aid and were riding with the participants.

“The Touratech team and volunteers really know how to put on an event, with an emphasis on safety,” said Matt Sabelman, owner of Adventure Medics.

Most of us understand that motorcycling injuries and equipment can sometimes be tougher for medical personnel who aren’t familiar with the sport. Not to mention that sometimes getting to a downed rider can be a challenge in traditional equipment.

Sabelman, a licensed paramedic, said he was inspired to start the company because he was attending and participating in a lot of sporting activities and started to look at the medical side of things.

“It was a bit shocking, to say the least,” Sabelman said.

He said adventure riders should know that they can make all the difference when it comes to first aid. Even a basic first aid class can teach someone how to manage a wide variety of injuries.

“Having a well-stocked first-aid kit, with a focus on bleeding control, is vital for off-road riding,” Sabelman said. “Do not rely on your buddy to carry one; everyone should have one.”

He also advised riders to carry a satellite communicator with two-way texting.

“Instead of just having to use the SOS button, riders now have the option to text a friend or perhaps a support vehicle back at base camp,” Sabelman said. “Carry it on you, not on the bike. You want to be able to reach it.”

When it comes to adventure riding, Sabelman said to know your skill level and the capabilities of your bike.

Rides and camaraderie

The event participants had the option of downloading the 12 GPS tracks to their personal devices or signing up to go on one of the guided rides. The routes ranged from beginner to advanced and featured a variety of mileage.

AMA Charter Life Member Barry Ault of Burien, Wash., has been attending the rally since 2014. He became a ride leader for the event three years ago.

Originally from Pennsylvania, Ault started adventure riding about 10 years ago.

“I had been dual sporting and thought it’d be cool to have a bike that you could actually ride to the trails,” Ault said.

He moved to Washington in 2014 and met someone who invited him to the rally. “It was my first adventure rally,” Ault said. “I took my F800GS and my KTM 500 that year. Now, I’m all orange. I have a KTM 1190 Adventure. I love that the event gives everyone as much adventure as they want. West Coast for adventure riding is where it’s at.”

He said his wife, Tennille, has attended several Touratech Rallies with him.

“We test rode the KTM 790 Adventure at the event this year and ended up buying one a few weeks ago,” Ault said.

Some of my favorite memories are the rides I’ve done across the country and the people I’ve met who turned into friends.

I had the chance to ride with the participants, as I rented a Yamaha WR250F from Northern Rockies Dual Sport Adventures of Deary, Idaho. Owners Ryan and Jill Groseclose immediately welcomed me into their tribe and guided me on a few rides.

I’ve attended several adventure rallies during the past few years. At most of those, I rode as a passenger due to the size of the adventure bikes and not having access to rent a bike onsite. I was stoked to finally get to be at the controls.

I had never set foot in the Pacific Northwest before and was absolutely engulfed by the beauty of the scenery.

Gravel isn’t a common terrain for me. I’m either riding dirt or pavement. So, I started off timid on the mountain passes. Hey, I didn’t want to brake over a cliff!

Groseclose gave me some pointers on cornering in gravel, and I put them to use.

I started to feel more comfortable, and the next time we stopped, Groseclose said, “Well, you’re getting a lot more comfortable on the gravel. I didn’t know that was you. I saw someone catching up to me and was like, ‘Somebody passed them [Jill and myself].’ So I kicked it up, and here you are.”

Evening Festivities

Seminars were offered in the afternoon and evenings, and each day ended with a campfire, cold drinks and conversation.

The popular Friday night attraction was the Challenge Course that Jimmy Lewis and Guillien prepped. The duo provided some humorous emceeing while the crowd cheered and roared with laughter. Some talented, and maybe some overly confident riders, gave the course a go.

Paul Neff, former International Six Days Enduro competitor, took home the honorary trophy aboard his KTM 950 Adventure. His finesse on his machine was incredible.

Saturday was an evening filled with music, a friendly bracket-style competition to remove two panniers the fastest from a bike (the winner got a set of Touratech panniers!), and slow races.

An Event Worth Attending

It was amazing to witness 1,000 riders converging at one destination, living the authentic adventure lifestyle.

If you’ve never been to the Pacific Northwest, and/or if you’ve never truly “adventured” on your bike with camping supplies, give this event a try. At least if you forget something, you’ll have 999-plus buddies to lend you a hand.

Maybe, one day, this “glamping” girl will give tent camping and a single change of clothes another go… Just maybe.

Heather Wilson is the AMA recreational riding manager.