What is the Tour of Idaho?
The Tour of Idaho is a wilderness adventure that involves motorcycles. We have several versions of the Tour, but the most popular T1 is a 10-day route through the length of Idaho. The core principle of the Tour is that it is an unsupported ride and you cannot have any pre-planned help along the way. The reason for this is that it encourages you to interact with locals and businesses along the way and use resourcefulness to help you get further down the road. We make no claim that its the hardest route through Idaho but in my opinion it's the most fun way to see Idaho on a motorcycle.
We also have other variations of the Tour of Idaho, T2 follows the same route as T1, but it is for riders who just want to ride the route and not formally participate in the challenges, T3 follows the same general South to North route but with bigger roads and more suited for larger dual sport and adventure motorcycles, T4 is an East-West route through Idaho, and we will be announcing a new route T5 in the near future. T5 will also be an East-West route but much more technical and fewer rules, just survival.
What was your motivation to create this route?
I made a really good living for many years as a college professor at Idaho State University, and during that time I had many students who came from small towns throughout Idaho. I learned that the economies in these remote areas struggled because basically nobody ever goes there. So one small way I figured we could help was to create a route that would take people to these amazing places and support these small economies. The other reason for creating the Tour was that I come from a climbing background and I found the motorcycle community lacked similar type of routes and principles that I had learned in climbing. When I did big climbing routes back in the halcyon days it was never about the ropes or equipment, it was about getting into spectacular places. That's what the Tour is all about.
What changes have been made to the Tour for 2019?
For 2019 we have added a whole bunch of reclaimed trails, these were old trails that were still legal and existed on maps but hadn't been ridden for so long that they had become overgrown and basically disappeared. With the help Brian DiLenge at Idaho Parks and Rec, we have cleared a ton of new trails in the Shoup area that allowed us to add an additional day between Salmon and North Fork. That takes the Tour from 9 to 10 days and adds some incredible new trails.
When is the best time to tackle the Tour?
July 15th to September 20th is the legal window when the trails are open; however depending on snowpack it's not always possible to ride all the trails early. My favorite time is the first week of August, but I've also had a lot of luck in the first week of September. In September the days are shorter, and it's a little cooler, but there is more chance of all the trails being cut out and clear.
What is the best bike for the Tour?
Jimmy Lewis would tell you a KTM 500, but the next time I do, it might be on a 350 four stroke. There are lots of options, but the main thing is it has to be a real dirtbike that is street legal. KTM, Husky and Honda now make some dual sports that are essentially dirt bikes with enough stuff on them to make them street legal these are all great choices. I would stay away from bikes that are more on the street end of the dual sport spectrum.
What bike accessories/modifications and additional gear does someone absolutely need to complete the Tour successfully?
If you start out with an excellent platform like one of the newer enduro/dual sport bikes you really don't need to do that much to the bike itself. You will need an excellent way to navigate. I really like the Voyager Pro plus a secondary or more form of navigation. You also need some luggage, something just big enough to carry some spare clothes and a few other items but don't go too big. And a big tank or secondary fuel storage so that you can go at least 200 miles between fuel stops. Tire choices are super important, it's worth sacrificing a bit of traction to get a tire that will go the distance and I like to keep it simple with Ultra Heavy Duty tubes. You'll need to work on your suspension to accommodate the extra weight.
Is it really that hard?
Well it depends on your definition of hard. Hard can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. The first big wall ride I did was on a 14,000 face in Colorado, the climbing wasn't that hard but it snowed and iced up so then it became really hard. The Tour of Idaho is very similar, if you get out there and the weather is good, the trails are completely sawed and you have no issues it might not be that hard. But the odds of that happening is very small. There isn't any trail on the Tour that I wouldn't take my kids on but remember that trail that you might spend a Saturday afternoon on with your buddies is a trail you need to complete in 90 mins in the middle of a 200-mile day. It's the unexpected things that make it difficult.
What are 3 tips that would help riders successfully complete the Tour?
As Jimmy Lewis says "know your size" there is no template for this ride anywhere. The TOI is its own animal. You need to understand going in that it's unlikely that you have ever done anything like this before and that you need to glean as much information as possible before you start.
Second; prepare, prepare prepare. More people fail when they are 1000 miles away prior to the start than they do on the trail. And lastly navigation is incredibly important, do your homework and if you follow our suggestions about navigation you will be well prepared.
Where is the best place to get information on the Tour?
Any last words?
Life is short and then you're dead a long time. If you are going to do this and your goal is to have a good time everyone in the Tour of Idaho community is open to help and give advice. But if you are showing up here to try and break records and try to be better than everyone else, well, have fun storming the castle. But if fun is your goal we welcome you to come on up and I guarantee you will have the adventure of a lifetime.
Interview and Photos by Stephen W. Clark.
Check out Stephen’s journey on last year’s Tour of Idaho Here>