Old Guy ADV Riding Tips


Guest: Murrae Haynes, a lifetime motorcyclist who is currently 74 years old.

Episode Summary:
Get ready to unlock the secrets of continuing your adventure riding journey as you age, with invaluable insights from our 74-year-old guest, Murrae. We promise to transform how you see and handle the unique challenges of maturing as a rider. Together, we examine the shifts in mindset, the importance of self-assessment and risk management, and why riding slower might be a wise decision. Discover how choosing the right bike, planning your route strategically, and conserving energy can enhance your riding experience. Murrae shares his personal experiences, offering practical advice on navigating your adventure riding in your golden years.

Going beyond the basics, we dive deeper into the significance of energy conservation and continuous training for older riders.  Expect to learn, grow and be inspired, whether you’re an experienced rider or just starting out. So come along, as we explore the thrilling world of adventure riding, no matter your age.

Full Transcript:

0:00:15 – Bret Tkacs
Welcome to Around the Wheel with Bret Tkacs. Today, my guest speaker is Murrae. Murrae is a 74-year-old rider, and so our chat today is old guy ADV riding tips. I’m 51, which by some definitions people would call an old guy, but in the adventure world I am top dead center of the bell curve, but Murrae is on the other side of it. So whether you are already in that same age bracket or approaching the same age bracket as Murrae, all of us are headed that direction. So this is a great talk, no matter what your age or who you are as a rider. So, Murrae, let’s go ahead and jump into this and just talk about some of the concerns or some of the changes that are prominent in your thought and your mindset as a rider of your age.

0:01:02 – Murrae Haynes
Sure, well I think the easiest thing is when I hit my early 60s – because I’m a rider coach and I do training a lot, I started just kind of by habit, going into some self-assessment. I think when you and I spoke the other day it started on the racetrack in terms of what are my skill sets, how are my reaction times, what do I need to do to be safe? And then that kind of bubbled over into the street and into ADV riding and everywhere else. So I would say the main concern maybe is self-assessment and risk management. How can I look at my risk offset and how, if any way, do I need to change it or tweak it to accommodate my age, to stay active in the sport?

0:02:02 – Bret Tkacs
We could spend all day, I think, talking about this one. So, Murrae, what Murrae is referring to is yesterday we had had a get together for all the Patreon supporters and we were discussing what sort of topics or what sort of videos they like to see on the podcast or the videos for 2023. And this one came up as a video and I thought it was a much better idea for podcasts because we can dive into the details, because once we’ve started talking about that on the meeting, I started scribbling down a bunch of notes and then I had one of the other riders that was on that meeting is also just approaching – he’s 72, I think now, and he came up with some ideas as well. And a couple of things that you brought up that we should bring forward in this conversation is we’re talking about rider speed, how that made a difference. Thom brought up the greatest concerns that he seemed to notice amongst his riding buddies of similar age. There was way more concern about falling, especially falling with the motorcycle, and they’re very concerned about being able to self-recover, to be able to pick up and recover that motorcycle. Are those kind of peak concerns for you, or do you have a different direction that you’re coming from?

0:03:12 – Murrae Haynes
No, I think the baseline for my concerns would be that exactly just wanting to avoid falling – an injury and being able to, as you say, recover the motorcycle, pick the motorcycle back up.

0:03:28 – Bret Tkacs
I think that led into a couple of categories. Being an educator myself, like you, I’m always breaking things down into bite-size bits. What are the categories, as we get older, that we should be aware of? One, of course is and I’m going to run through this list I think we should go back and maybe discuss these together, because I’m not your age – 51; I’m definitely older than I used to be, but there are significant differences between 50 and 74, at least certainly from the people I’ve trained and the people I’ve ridden with. In fact, I just had a guy that rode in Nepal with me who was also 74. I’m always just impressed, amazed and envious of the stupidity at that level to be able to continue to do what we all do. Because none of us are doing this because we’re smart. If we were smart, we’d sell our motorcycles and we’d buy a Volvo.

0:04:23 – Murrae Haynes
At 51, just as a reference, at 51, I would say a lot of my riding… I was riding just like my hair was on fire. I was loaded up and ready to go and having a great time and being competitive and getting out there and doing it. At 74, now it’s kind of my hair is at a smolder, if you will.

0:04:48 – Bret Tkacs
I think the way to look at this is riding speed, because that’s an obvious thing I see every time I ride with somebody in their late 60s or in their 70s, the speeds are much slower, and there’s good reason for that. The bike choice – what bikes you ride, because you’re balancing between the smaller bike that’s easier to handle versus the lack of comfort of a smaller bike and the greater fatigue that sometimes comes from riding a smaller bike. Route choice, energy conservation, which is true for all of us. The tools that you should have with us. I think those are the big ones that I go, okay, these are the categories we really have to pay attention to as we’re getting older. Let’s just jump into the riding slower. I’m assuming that you are definitely riding slower than you did when you were 50.

0:05:37 – Murrae Haynes
Off-road? Definitely the case, and I think on-road as well. On the racetrack, as I had mentioned, I went from riding big bikes at high speed to riding smaller, vintage bikes which accommodate my reaction times I think, a little safer. So yeah, overall, I’d say yeah, slower, I’m trying to increase my risk offset.

0:06:03 – Bret Tkacs
Why are you riding slower, though? If you were to break it down to the specifics, why is your speed affected so much as you get older?

0:06:12 – Murrae Haynes
I would relate it to skill sets, which are good, but reaction times, which I think tend to tail off and we have to be cognizant of our reaction ability. But I also think, at least on the street, the increase in traffic density has been crazy. Off-road, I think it’s obvious choosing the right road and, when you get into something that’s challenging, paying more attention to your line and to your speed and just that avoidance of falling over and having the bike land on top of you.

0:06:49 – Bret Tkacs
I broke it down what I was guessing would be the reasons for that change, because obviously this happens and I mentioned earlier in this podcast – it’s a good thing – If we can only ride as fast as we can handle the situations that are coming at us. And as we get older, we know our vision changes. We can’t get information as fast. It means you have less time to process the information f you’re going fast, ;the only way to get more time is to slow down. That also goes with the mental processing. 

We know that as we get older, sometimes we can’t multitask quite as well as we used to. Sometimes we have to think about things just a little bit longer. Of course, that requires time. I think you also mentioned reflex. Our reflexes change as we get older. I think there’s a lot of natural aging that occurs that if you’re still riding at a fast pace as you get older, you’re also riding at a much, much higher risk. The only way to maintain the same risk level is to actually drop your speed. Does that sound about right? Am I missing anything on that one or – you’re there, I’m not.

0:07:58 – Murrae Haynes
Well, I think you’re absolutely right. And what’s interesting is in your mind, you can still be 30 years old and saying, yeah, it’s great to be out here and let’s have some fun. But if you’re smart, you listen to your body and listen to your reflexes and just simply step back and assess what reality is, if you will, because I think everything you just said is very pertinent, you bet.

0:08:23 – Bret Tkacs
And the other one that I didn’t mention here was, I think, fear. As a trainer, one of the things I notice is the greatest challenge for riders is the fact that fear gets in the way. Often they drop their bike, not because they’re not capable, not because they don’t have the physical skill or strength. It’s because they’re afraid of dropping it and therefore they do. And I think as we get older, because we know that we don’t bounce anymore, there’s no cartilage left, that healing takes a lot longer, that if you drop the bike you may not be able to pick up and recover the bike, I think it’s very natural for fear to come back into play where you’re more concerned about these and therefore that fear can become the same challenge or the same issue as it is when you’re a brand new rider.

0:09:09 – Murrae Haynes
I think for me, less so fear and more so caution came up. I know the recovery time from injuries and stuff from prior experience and at this point at 74, the recovery time is so much longer than it is, say, at 50, that your caution naturally goes up, and I think when that crosses the line into fear, what you’re talking about is exactly what happens. People start to make mistakes that they wouldn’t normally make.

0:09:41 – Bret Tkacs
Now. So, let’s talk about some of the ways to compensate for this. Right? We know what the challenges is and we know that riding slower is okay, right, that that’s a good thing. So, what are some of the other things that we can compensate for? So let’s jump into the kind of the list that I threw together here and we’ll start with bike choice, because it really is kind of a comfort versus size kind of a challenge, and most of the older riders – and when I say older again just to reiterate this, I’m talking late 60s and into your 70s – it’s pretty common to see riders move from bikes like the GSA or the bigger bikes down to 800’s or even down into the 500’s or 450’s or even 250’s, and that’s a much more common direction. And it makes sense if we’re thinking about – okay, it’s smaller to handle, it’s easier to pick up, but on the other side of that, what about wind, what about fatigue, what about comfort? I mean, where are you at on that scale of choice and what are your thoughts on that?

0:10:44 – Murrae Haynes
I’ve owned a bunch of different bikes over the years in terms of ADV bikes, from small to large, and currently my bike of choice is the BMW F800 GS. The weight is good, how it’s divided around the motorcycle, the fuel is under the seat, the center of gravity is nice and low. 21 inch front wheel. I’m guessing 425 or so is the baseline weight. That’s a very comfortable all-around bike, both off-road, on fire roads and that kind of adventure riding stuff.

0:11:26 – Bret Tkacs
TheF800 is actually one of my all time favorites. I absolutely love that bike. But it’s actually lighter – the scale weight, the empty weight, is actually lighter than the newer KTM 890, which is kind of the class leader for weight in that midweight category. But it does carry the weight relatively high even though it has an under-the-seat tank. It’s a tall bike. The seat height is actually taller than the 1200. How tall are you?

0:11:52 – Murrae Haynes
I’m right at six feet and I actually put a tall seat on the 800 just so my hip to knee ratio is comfortable. I’m flat footed, but it can be a challenge sometimes.

0:12:06 – Bret Tkacs
And the 800 is certainly smaller than a 1200, but it’s definitely not a 250. And I guess your take on this is you veered towards the comfort side, so you have the roadability, gravel road. Now, when you’re riding off-road again, for the listeners, because they don’t know where you ride or how you ride – it sounds like your primary riding adventure now is pavement and gravel roads, or maintained… the dirt, gravel access roads, not really challenging trails, or riding through Lockhart Basin down in Utah or something like that. Is that correct? Or what kind of riding do you do? Are you a tourer? What do you do?

0:12:48 – Murrae Haynes
Well, it’s kind of interesting. For years my wife and I led tours in Mexico into Copper Canyon and places like that, so my riding generally tends to be a combination of pavement and fire / BDR style roads. I haven’t done two-track for three or four years because the bike, at my age and its weight, isn’t appropriate.

0:13:17 – Bret Tkacs
When you’re talking two-track, you’re talking OHV, ATV-type trails. That really took me to my next category, which was route choice. You’re bringing up less challenging… the other notes I have here is when you’re looking at route choice, easier makes sense, but also, what about length? Shorter days versus longer days? The other note I have here is routes that may have help around. If the concern is how am I going to get the bike picked up if I have a problem, or how do I get the bike out if I can’t pick it up or there’s damage I can’t repair, is that something that you do consciously now is pick routes that may have more traffic or just run shorter days?

0:14:02 – Murrae Haynes
I’d say a combination of both – one of the recent challenges I have – my wife, who has been my riding partner for years, turned 70 this year and she has some bone density issues so she’s not going to ride off-pavement anymore. So I’m currently looking around for a buddy that I can go out with. Just for all of those reasons that if something happens to have some help. he and I use the monkey style pickup, if you will, which works very well with the GS, she has a 700 GS, but I think she’s even more cautious about injuries. So sure, shorter routes, better access to help. I think all of the above if we’re smart.

0:14:51 – Bret Tkacs
So the next category… I have two more categories that I touched on, and I’m just kind of looking at how much time we have to run this. Energy conservation I mentioned next, but I’m going to wait for that one for the last, because it’s one we can really dive into, also regardless of the age of the rider, I think all of this is worth considering. So let me jump straight to tools. What sort of tools do you carry that are different than, or become more of a priority now than when you were younger, when you were 50 or 40?

0:15:24 – Murrae Haynes
Sure, I picked up a hoist. Is it okay to mention a brand?

0:15:30 – Bret Tkacs
Oh, by all means, please. We’re not sponsored. We can talk about whatever we want to. Okay, so we can say good things, bad things, names, it doesn’t matter, we’re good to go,

0:15:37 – Murrae Haynes
Yeah, so initially I carried a couple of ratchet straps and I could tag one around the frame and one around my… under, over and under my shoulders and try to ratchet a bike up if I needed to. But then I picked up a moto hoist. It’s a package that’s about a foot long and four inches in diameter and it has a collapsible hoist with a foot and a ratchet strap and a ratchet on the top and you can literally attach it to a handlebar and ratchet the bike up to above 45 degrees off the ground, which makes it a lot easier to get purchase to lift it up.

0:16:23 – Bret Tkacs
I have not done any testing with those lift-assist tools, but I definitely think they’re worthwhile considering for certain riders – and they’ll always be criticized – well, if you can’t pick up your bike, you shouldn’t be riding or you need a lighter bike, and I think that’s a bunch of BS. I mean, if you can find tools so you can ride, so you can enjoy it, I think that’s worthwhile. That’s a big one. I’ve had riders who… they just need the bike an extra 10 inches. If they could get the bike 10 inches higher, they can lift it on their own, but they can’t pick it up from flat, especially when you’re talking about things like the Africa Twin or like your bike, the F800GS that when they don’t have luggage on them, they lay, or even sometimes with luggage, they lay completely flat. They have no angle to them whatsoever. And it’s that initial lift to get it to the angle that riders need, and that was, I think, those lift assist tools are worth considering, depending if you’re a solo traveler, what your strength is, what you weight, what your size is, and I always encourage people to ride and to find ways around their challenges. So I think that’s a great one.
Now the other one that I have listed here – or I have two of them for tools and maybe I’m wrong, but one is I put down a note for tire irons and I noticed I always recommend going with the short ones, but I do mention going with longer tire irons for riders with limited strength, like my wife. She can’t change a tire using the short ones as we get older. Of course, strength is also something that is… even if we try to maintain our health, that strength is something that goes. So I put down longer tire irons as a question mark and also put down like a personal locator beacon or a PLB or some sort of satellite communication so that you can call help if you need it. Are those things that you’ve made changes to, or those are not on your list?

0:18:14 – Murrae Haynes
Yeah, I actually have both two short and one long Pro Motion tire irons, just exactly for those reasons, plus the reputation of the tires that I have of being difficult to get off with tire irons, I use a tire machine to mount my own tires. And then I have a beacon that’s called 360…, doesn’t send messages but it shows my location to my wife all the time so she can track where I’m going.

0:18:44 – Bret Tkacs
At least they’ll know where to recover the motorcycle, right?

0:18:50 – Murrae Haynes
Where to send help and pick me up that kind of stuff. But I think, in terms of expanding my horizons with BDRs, I would definitely invest in a more sophisticated locator beacon that could send out a text to someone.

0:19:05 – Bret Tkacs
Fantastic. Okay, now into the fun part. This is the one that I really enjoy and that has to do with energy conservation. Anybody that’s ever trained with me knows that’s the underlying foundation of almost everything I do – is how to conserve energy so that I’m not fatigued, so I don’t make mistakes, so I have better judgment, so I don’t get injured… all these sort of aspects and knowing that the chance of injury is higher and the recovery time is longer, it becomes even more prominent for you, how to conserve energy so you can make it through the day. What are some of the steps that you’ve taken or what are some of the advice that you have for riders on how to conserve energy or how to lower the energy output while riding adventure bikes at your age or any age?

0:19:57 – Murrae Haynes
Why I think one thing that’s very important is physical fitness. I work out on a regular basis. I ride a stationary bike and I lift weights. Balance is a huge issue – if you’re concerned about balance, and we do Tai Chi regularly to maintain balance and the ability to move and have free movement. I carry water all the time, I carry snacks, I take breaks. I just make myself stop every hour or so and get off the bike and kind of refresh myself. But I think also it’s like knowing your limitations. You just have to have good judgment. It’s like we talked about in the beginning.

0:20:42 – Bret Tkacs
A couple of the other things that I’ve looked at and those are on my list, I’m not even gonna go back over. You were right there with me. We talked about the lighter motorcycle, lighter gear, which I think are things that would help conserve energy, certainly in the offroad environment but, as we mentioned, going on the road, the lighter bike may actually be just the opposite. If you’re not as comfortable, you get beat up more in the wind, everything else you may be wasting more. So your choice was to go mid-range to an 800 so that you had both the road comfort and some off-road. 

The other one that really is, and we’ve talked about most of the things on my checklist, you know, smoother routes, be better prepared so you have less fear. Lower riding speed, maybe a lower seat height so the bike has better balance. But the other big one – being a trainer, you’re there with me, is better skills. Age is not an excuse not to continue to try to improve your skills and if anything, it’s… you kind of have to double down on it watching videos, listening to podcast like this, reading books, staying on the bike so your current in your skill sets, practicing things in safe environment so that they’re automated when you’re in a less-safe environment or more challenging environment. So definitely, I think, from an energy conservation standpoint, the higher your skill level, the less stress you have, the more automated the skills, the less fatigue you’re gonna have. At least that’s my take.

0:22:08 – Murrae Haynes
I absolutely agree. Staying current and practicing… we’ve talked about before is staying in practice, but I also think it’s really important. I call it refreshing your training. You should get out there and go do another ADV course. I would love to come and do a course with you sometime, just because I think that, you know, the perspective that you have on training and skills is really good. Refresh your training, get out there and practice. Your recent videos about doing stuff, even on pavement, hopefully people are getting out there practicing some of these things. But, yeah, refresh your training. It’s so important.

0:22:48 – Bret Tkacs
That’s one of the biggest excuses I’ve heard. When I’ve been able to travel around the United States and talking to different riders, specifically when I was doing the International Motorcycle Shows and I was able to reach communities that I don’t go into to do training. They just say I don’t have any place to go, there’s no dirt, I’ve got to drive six miles before we have a trail or I’m in the city. I don’t have time to go out and do that. And that’s why I made that particular video, which was a dirt-free, dirt skills training, and I’m planning on doing a whole series of those of different levels where you can go through the muscle memory process and you can develop those muscle memories. In fact, I’ve done some… I did the poser skills. One of my favorite videos is the poser skills. It’s really… it’s a video about how to develop better confidence and balance, and clutch and throttle control, and how to be able to control the bike in a really rough situation. But because it looks good, I called it poser skills. But that particular video, although I did it in sand and I did it in dirt, can be done on pavement. You don’t need… in fact, that’s probably the best place to first start to learn that skill set is in a place where you’re not concerned about all those other challenges, and I think if you watch those videos and go, could I do this without dirt and be able to go out and do that. But also you don’t have to go to a premium school that’s expensive, like coming to me. MSF has a school that’s very basic but it’s also very inexpensive and anytime you get on the bike and you have somebody watching, that’s good.

There’s a lot of guys now that are hanging their shingle out and saying, hey, I do ADV training. Obviously it’s kind of a wild west right now. You will find some who… they rode a bike and didn’t fall down on trails, they said I can teach people and they really don’t know what they’re talking about. There’s a school in Washington that’s like that up north and I just every time I watch them teach, it just horrifies me of what they’re trying to tell people to do. Or their ex-dirt bike racers who are trying to teach you how to ride an adventure bike as a dirt bike.

So there are definitely concerns at some of these schools is you have to have an open mind. Take away what works, take away what’s useful. Don’t take anything as gospel. I mean, even if you come to a school with BMW, which is very premium, or to me, we’ll teach you things. They’re well vetted, but also not every technique is going to be right for you and for your motorcycle. So don’t let location, don’t let cost, be the limiting factor. Find alternatives if you don’t have the budget to do something that’s a high-end school.

0:25:18 – Murrae Haynes
Yeah, I recommend here, I’m in New Mexico and I recommend here. I say people look, if you want to do this, go take a basic dirt bike school. It gets you in the dirt and gets you on a light bike and gives you a sense of what goes on in those looser traction situations. From there, the next jump, like you said, it can be really significant. Yes, significant and challenging. Yes, yes, I think the closest thing to us… Dusty does some stuff up in Colorado.

0:25:53 – Bret Tkacs
And Bill does some stuff over in Oklahoma, Bill Dragoo, he does his school, and you can certainly go all the way down to California and there’s schools down there as well. But yeah, you’re right. And then you’re not just talking about the cost of training, it’s the time, the travel, the hotels, the fuel, the tires, all that kind of stuff. So it’s definitely a big investment. But of course, if you’re listening to this podcast, as you and I both know, this is not a sport for the financially challenged. Although some will ride older bikes and just get into it. I want to do a whole talk on just how to do budget adventure travel, but for most of us, we know it’s a sport that we’re invested in. We’re doing it because it’s a passion, because it’s something we love, not because it’s something that makes any sense.

0:26:37 – Murrae Haynes
Totally agree.

0:26:39 – Bret Tkacs
Well, do you have any parting thoughts, Murrae? For those that are listening, before we sign off on this podcast?

0:26:52 – Murrae Haynes
Well, I think everything that we’ve talked about: Know your limitations, do a realistic assessment, figure your risk offset and how are your skills compared to where you want to ride, the equipment on your bike. This is just all really great stuff, and I wish somebody would do something, write something or have more stuff available for riders our age -in terms of that being my age. My plan is to ride as long as I possibly can on two wheels, and at the point I can’t do two wheels, I’m going to put a sidecar on and go from there.

0:27:27 – Bret Tkacs
Work up to three and then finally settle for four.

0:27:31 – Murrae Haynes
Yeah, well, and just as a reference, my wife and I raced vintage sidecars, and so she was the monkey, so we have experience there. So, sidecars are definitely somewhere on the horizon. In the last bike that I bought, her question is well, will you be able to put a sidecar on it when you want to? So yeah, we’re thinking of the future.

0:27:55 – Bret Tkacs
Perfect. I think that’s what everybody needs to know. I think that’s a great summary on things. We really appreciate you coming on the show, Murrae, and for all of you that are listening to this, thanks for listening to the podcast. If you enjoyed this, please share it with others. If you’re interested in supporting this and the cost for hosting it so that it’s free for you and for others, consider joining me on Patreon. That’s what keeps this channel free of sponsors and continues to inspire me to do more for all of you. So, thanks for listening. I appreciate it. Thanks for joining me today, Murrae, on Around the Wheel, and until next time, guys, go ride, be safe, be smart. Well, at least go ride, smile and have fun.

0:28:38 – Murrae Haynes
See you on the road.

Transcribed by https://podium.page