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ADV EventsChoose Your Own Adventure at the Overland Expo

Choose Your Own Adventure at the Overland Expo

 Riding RawHyde gives ADV Riders even more to experience at the show.

Published on 05.29.2014
RawHyde riding instructor Jake Orchard log jumps his Yamaha Super Ténéré for the crowd at the Adventure Motorcycle Rodeo.

The Overland Expo is the largest event of its kind in North America, providing adventure motorcyclists and other off-road enthusiasts everything they need to get inspired, trained and outfitted for their next adventure. This year, more than 8,000 overland travelers attended the event (up 30% from the previous year). Roughly 2,600 of the attendees were motorcyclists and their presence continues to grow at the show every year.

The event is held at Mormon Lake, high in the mountains above 7,000 feet (2,100 meters), in the heart of the Coconino National Forests. Our plan was to join up with the RawHyde Adventure Rally, which runs in conjunction with the Overland Expo. The Rally provides motorcycle specific off-road training, clinics, tours, group rides and full access to the adjacent Overland Expo festivities.

Upon arrival at the Overland Expo Thursday evening, we were amazed by the gigantic Unimog, EarthRoamer and Sportsmobile rigs on display ranging from $100,000 to more than a half million dollars. We cruised through a sea of Adventure Motorcycles as we entered the RawHyde Adventure Rally base camp in the center of Motorcycle Village.


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We arrived just in time to set up our tents and check-in for the orientation. Jim Hyde, founder of RawHyde Adventures, took center stage welcoming the crowd and providing details about what to expect over the next few days. During dinner, we had a chance to socialize with a few of the other Adventure Riders we’d be spending the weekend with.

Friday morning we awoke excited about all of the of activities available to us. We had signed up for the standard RawHyde Adventure Rally package, which gives you access to the Overland Expo, meals and beverages (including some adult beverages) for the entire weekend. Your ticket also includes guided tours and GPS routes of the surrounding area. Bike rentals, demo rides and RawHyde’s world class two-day off-road training program are also available at additional cost.

We were immediately impressed with all the GPS tracks we received from RawHyde. There were over 1,300 miles of tracks tailored to different skill levels and organized by half or full-day rides. Many of the routes traveled to the Grand Canyon with highlights along the way including volcanic fields, Sunset Crater, a lava tube, ancient cave dwellings and more. You could literally spend weeks exploring the area with the GPS tracks provided.

We ran into Jim Hyde during breakfast and asked him a few questions about his background. Jim described how as a middle-aged man, he got interested in Adventure Riding and ended up taking several different off-road training courses over the years until finally developing his own program. This gave him a unique insight into the challenges novice riders experience, allowing him to relate to what they were going through better than your typical ex-racer turned riding coach.

The two-day off-road skills class offered at the Rally is designed to teach students fundamental off-road riding techniques that will give them a solid starting base. They also offer a free hour and a half clinic that provides basic off-road tips and techniques from their professional instructors.

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The rest of the morning was spent observing some of the training and checking out the vendor booths. We had a memorable time participating in RawHyde’s Adventure Motorcycle Rodeo, which demonstrates to the crowd what Adventure Bikes are capable of in the hands of experienced riders. The rodeo takes place on a motocross style track which is also opened up to the general public under the supervision of RawHyde’s riding coaches.

After lunch, we were anxious to get out and do some riding on the GPS tracks RawHyde had provided. We chose a half-day expert ride called the Mormon Canyon Loop that took us on some of the forest roads and trails around the Flagstaff area.

Mormon Canyon Loop Creek Bed
Rocky creek beds made for a rough ride on the Mormon Canyon Loop.

The ride was only 62 miles, but it included 30 miles of challenging off-road terrain that ranged from rocky dry creek beds to rutted out mountain roads. Views of the 12,562 foot (3,829 meters) Humphrey’s Peak off in the distance were spectacular. We passed several tranquil meadows and rode along part of Section 6 of the AZBDR for a time.

Humphrey's Peak
Views of Arizona’s tallest mountain off in the distance were spectacular.

Back at camp, night two was much more lively than the first with live music at RawHyde’s Dakar Bar. We met a lot of other riders that shared stories of their adventures on their way to the event. With the Overland Expo being situated in Arizona, there are plenty of opportunities for riders from around the country to create interesting routes on the way to and from the event.

Saturday morning arrived and it was time to decide how to spend our last full day at the Overland Expo. There were overland travel seminars offering trip preparation tips, travel films were playing at the Overland Theatre and RawHyde was offering a guided tour of the Mogollon Rim. One of the RawHyde instructors told us about a scouting ride he was leading down to Sedona that caught our attention.

They were all good options, but we chose the Sedona ride. Sedona is known for its beautiful orange sandstone formations, as well as challenging off-road trails, art galleries and fine dining. We headed west from the Expo traveling through Mund’s Park down the hill to Sedona on Schnebly Hill Road. The terrain quickly transitioned from green alpine forests, to the red rock desert Sedona is known for.

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After reaching Sedona, we toured Vultee Arch road, Boynton Pass and the Red Rock Scenic Loop. We stopped in town for some fish tacos and a cold drink at the Sound Bites Grill before heading back to camp. The loop was a total of 100 miles with 42 miles of dirt.

Sedona Loop from the Overland Expo

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The final night was the most lively with drinks flowing at the Dakar Bar and more live music from the band. Even the car guys had a big party going on at the Fox Racing booth. As we partied through the night, we caught up with some of the riders that participated in RawHyde’s two-day off-road training program to see how the class went. They said the training moved a bit slowly on day one as they learned the basic concepts, but by day two the pace picked up and they were definitely feeling challenged. They were excited about the new skills they had developed and felt more confident about riding off-road.

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Sunday morning people were starting to clear out early, but there was still plenty of activities going on around the Expo. The real world was calling us back and it was time for us to say goodbye to our new friends and make our final rounds. As we headed home, we felt like we had just scratched the surface on the Overland Expo. The show offers so many great opportunities for Adventure Riders and we liked that you can pick and choose the activities that interest you the most, without feeling tied to an itinerary.

If you missed the Arizona Overland Expo this year, you can still attend the inaugural Expo East event in Asheville, North Carolina October 3rd. The RawHyde Adventure Rally program will also be at the new East Coast event. Just enough time for you to start planning your trip!

More Photos from the Overland Expo

Author: Rob Dabney
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5 thoughts on “Choose Your Own Adventure at the Overland Expo

  1. I hear a lot of great things about RawHyde training all the time. I’ve been riding for many years now but I’m starting to consider taking a training class. Over the years I’ve acquire many bad habits. I can definitely see how having a solid starting foundation is really important.