2014 will mark a change in my riding, an evolution if you will. Since getting my Suzuki GSX-R750 back in August of 2012, I am viewing my 2007 Suzuki V-Strom 650 in a different light. I see it more as an adventure-tourer rather than a street bike. As noted in some previous posts, I’ve dabbled in off-road riding a few times in the past but never really got the hang of it. Maneuvering a 520 pound bike loaded down with gear along a loose gravel or muddy road is not easy. Some lunatics actually enjoy it.

But there’s something to it. There is the sense of exploration, of being able to follow routes and roads that are less traveled. I’ve always had a sense of exploration in my life and in my younger days I used hiking and backpacking to fulfill that desire. Today, I carry my tent and sleeping bag on my bike instead of my back.

During this winter, I will be finishing the transformation of my V-Strom into a true adventure-tourer. It already has the skid plate and crash bars. I already have my tent (Hilleberg Namatj 3) and sleeping bag (Marmot Never Summer 0 degree down-filled mummy) and various other camping gear. The final steps will be switching from plastic Givi luggage to aluminum Zega Pro panniers from Touratech and 50/50 knobby tires from Heidenau.

I’ve already received my Zega Pro’s. I placed the order on a Sunday afternoon and received side cases, rack, and accessories the following Tuesday. I chose the 31L / 38L Zega Pro panniers in anodized silver aluminum, and they are very sexy. It’s hard to describe how an aluminum box can be so attractive until you see them in person. They are very well made, too. Expect a review of the installation process as well as another report once they’re on the bike.

For tires, I’ll be switching from 90/10 road tires like my long-mileage standbys, Metzeler Tourances, over to 50/50 knobby (but street-legal) Heidenau K60 “Scouts”. They are also high-mileage tires but offer added grip in gravel, mud, etc.

Where am I going with all this? I have several trip ideas planned out, many of which are off-the-beaten-path routes in my home state of Oregon, while others are multi-week trips that approach 5,000 miles or more. Next spring, I plan to take an off-road riding course to jack up my skills. Gear is one thing, training and skills are perhaps even more important.

Stay tuned.