Life is an adventure . . . and also a highway (at least according to the pride of Lynn Lake – Tom Cochrane). For Epic Rides Host/Writer/Producer, and Epic Rides Moto Tours Owner and Principal Guide, Noel Linsey, there’s an overwhelming truth to that statement. From living in the mountains to a decade travelling North America as a musician and more expeditions to remote locations than he can count as an adventure junky, Noel has made a life and career of travel and adventure.
Over the last decade, Noel invested in his love for outdoor adventure, becoming a proficient hunter and fly angler as well as a die-hard backcountry canoe tripper, which has formed his professional life in many ways; first using his unique skillset to teach newly minted outdoors people how to catch, hunt, clean and cook their game and fish through his work with Manitoba Wildlife Federation and later through his own outdoors network – The New Tradition Outdoors.
Before founding Epic Rides MB and Epic Rides Moto Tours, Noel worked as a professional photographer, videographer, and writer working with tourism operators, television networks, and the federal government to produce captivating, entertaining content for digital platforms and television.
Noel’s love of all things motorcycle stems from spending lunch hours at a now-defunct motorcycle shop during middle school, dreaming about exploring the world by motorcycle. In his 20s, Noel finally got his hands on a dirt bike – a clapped-out YZ250 which solidified his love for going fast and getting dirty. Later in life, Noel finally got his first adventure bike and fell deeply in love with the freedom of 2 wheels. As an adult-onset motorcycle addict, Noel quickly learned that many of the skills he’d learned bombing around single track on his dirt bike transferred to heavy adventure bikes, and Noel found his passion in all things dual sport and adv bikes. (Don’t worry all you Harley heads out there, while his preference is for knobbly tires and long travel suspension, he absolutely sees the joy in a beautifully built bobber, cruiser, café racer, and anything else that has 2 wheels and a motor . . . yes, even you sport bike nerds have a place here with Noel and Epic Rides!)
Today, Noel is a skilled outdoors adventurer, be it from the stern of a canoe to the saddle of his motorcycle, exploring the backcountry lakes, rivers, backroads, and hidden highways of Manitoba, Canada, and the world.
So that’s Noel; now why the hell should you try moto camping? Okay, picture this . . . it’s the summer of 2021 . . . powersports retailers can’t keep stock on the floor. Partly due to supply chain issues and partly due to a steep influx of freshly minted new riders buying bikes faster than dealers can bring them in . . .
I’m going to break a basic law of narrating at this point and switch to the first person because . . . well because . . . as Judas Priest frontman and OG leather daddy Rob Halford says, I’m “Breaking the law! Breaking the law!” (No shade here, Judas Priest is amazing, and Rob Halford is a badass.)
Aaaanyways – I remember walking into a dealership one sunny day in June 2021, asking about the possibility of taking a Yamaha Tenere 700 out for a test, with the plan of purchasing if I liked it. Looking around the sales floor didn’t fill me with great hope that they would have one in stock. In fact, the only thing on the floor at the time was a couple of MTs and a BMW – I think it was an R nineT . . .
When I inquired, the bored-looking and bemasked sales guy simply laughed and said, “good luck finding one!”
In 2020 and 2021, powersports sales in Manitoba, at least, and my guess is the whole country, hit an all-time high. My example is simply one story in a sea of similar tales I’ve read online. Over the course of 2 years, people have been bored out of their minds, and with nice weather finally hitting after another long, lonely winter, folks that had always wanted to learn how to ride decided “now is the time.” New riders snapped up motorcycles, emptying the dealerships faster than the woefully unprepared supply chains could support.
In 2021, it was also nearly impossible to book a motorcycle safety course as well, a trend that continued well into 2022 and an issue that I predict will continue this year.
So, what does a couple of years of banner motorcycle sales mean to moto camping? Simply this; as we slowly creep into another riding season here in the frozen prairies, there are currently countless shiny new motorcycles sitting in garages all over the country. The riders of those motorcycles are champing at the bit to get out and experience what those of us with a few miles under our belts already know – the freedom and dopamine dump that comes with throwing a leg over the bike and cracking the throttle; the visions of adventure and the promise of the open road dancing through our heads . . . The reality? Many new riders (and more seasoned riders, I’ve come to find out) know that they want to get out and explore, however, they look at the cost of moto touring, and suddenly that promise of freedom and adventure seems a little further off than they initially expected.
So many riders stick to the same tired routes that they learned early. A quick ride to the local coffee shop, maybe a ride to the beach or an afternoon of pretending to be interested enough in the world’s largest wood tick statue in Armpit Hair Manitoba to cajole a buddy into a day trip. There’s nothing wrong with any of these rides, but speaking from certainty here, I doubt these are the kinds of adventures many riders dreamed of when they brought their new ride home.
Motorcycle riding for many is about the freedom of adventure, and the ultimate way to experience it is to sell everything, pack what’s left and head out on an around-the-world trip . . . or so it would seem, but that’s an unfeasible dream for many. For one, many riders are in long-term relationships or have children, and their partner probably doesn’t share the dream of picking bugs out of their teeth in some small town in the middle of an unfamiliar country for a year so that their partner can “have an adventure.”
Look, I get it. Hotels and restaurants are expensive, and taking a year off of work seems a little unreasonable to many. Plus, many people enjoy hanging out with their significant others . . . oh, and it takes saddle time and skills training to build the necessary confidence to be comfortable off the beaten track.