2013 Overland Expo: The road less taken…is taken

Overland Expo 2013

Your room is waiting: Toyota’s Land Cruiser at the Overland Expo.

Roseann and Jonathan Hanson invite many of their friends – and a growing number of off-road vendors – to Overland Expo,  held from May 17-19 near Flagstaff, Arizona. Now in its fifth year, their exposition serves as a great way to see (and experience) the latest and greatest in adventure gear, compare notes on personal adventures planned for the summer and/or those adventures considered over a lifetime.

The Hanson’s first Overland Expo, organized by Roseann when Jonathan manned the helm of the Prescott-based Overland Journal, not only rode the wave of an increased awareness of adventure travel, but helped immeasurably to grow that awareness. The Hansons differentiate an expedition – a “journey with a purpose” – from overlanding, which is where the journey is the purpose. It is also demonstrably different from rock-crawling and mud-bogging, while those doing it share a similar enthusiasm for the great outdoors and locking differentials (and mud…). And like any number of other vehicular pursuits, your commitment – and investment – can be as simple (or extravagant) as you’re prepared to make it.

Overland Expo 2013

Ural’s sidecar rig carries everything – and the kitchen sink!

Today, your inner Ewan McGregor (co-author – with Charley Boorman – of Long Way Round) can be fulfilled and expanded via adventure-spec shoes, boots, bikes and boats. (Notably, the May issue of Men’s Journal blurbed ‘Best Adventure Picks’ on its cover.) And this growth is on top of already-established offerings supplied by makers of trucks, SUV’s and – increasingly – motorcycles. A brief overview of some adventure-specific offerings follows.

Minnesota-based Salsa has been instrumental in establishing an entire subcategory of cycling. Although conventional mountain, road and cyclocross bikes remain very much a part of their lineup, Salsa has made very real inroads – and offroads – into Adventure Cycling. Designed with enough clearance for offroading and adequate stability for loaded touring, the Vaya Travel can be virtually anything you want it to be, on-road or off. Its frame is constructed of stainless steel, while S&S couplers allow the owner/rider to split the frame for easier transport. And you have a choice of derailleur-supplied gearing or a single-speed setup.

For those whose beaten path is most often coated in gravel, Salsa’s Warbird – in either aluminum or titanium – provides the answer. With generous clearance for generous rubber, the Warbird absorbs the punishment of gravel so that you don’t have to.

Of course, almost by definition motorcycles have provided both on and off-road adventure from their very inception. The category received a huge push when BMW introduced – some thirty years ago – its first GS, and was validated further with more recent intros from KTM, Yamaha and Suzuki. None of these bikes, to be sure, are your best bet for negotiating mud or deep sand, but most deliver an adventure-ready ability to navigate deserts, fire roads or logging trails without doing damage to either the rider or themselves.

Even Moto Guzzi has gotten into the act; its Stelvio provides 1200cc of healthy V-Twin strapped to a frame with an upright seating position, prodigious fuel capacity (8.5 gallons), reasonable ground clearance and sane seat height. If the Guzzi’s $16K price gives pause, consider on-and-offroad offerings from Suzuki (V-Strom) or Kawasaki (Versys); both are available well south of $10K, and both are fully appropriate to your next cruise through Central America.

If your needs include carrying everything and the kitchen sink, consider one of the offroad-oriented sidecar rigs from Ural (pictured). Based on old – make that ‘very old’ – BMW technology, the Russian-built Urals are perfect for the lonely pathway in Siberia, but seem to work increasingly well in Suburbia.