Scott Schilder is thinking of taking a used 2004 Ural Patrol from Prudhoe Bay to Tierra del Fuego, but first he'll ride it from Dallas to Belize by way of Cancun, then through Guatemala and up the west coast of Mexico to Nogales, to Phoenix, Tuscon, Tombstone, then back to Dallas. (Some test ride!) He asks:
I have lots of questions--some I intend to discover the answers while on the trip, others it might be prudent for me to know the answers before I leave. If I live through that trip, I would like to drive up the AlCan Highway and maybe on to Prudoe Bay. The ultimate adventure, though, would be to ride from Prudhoe Bay all the way to Tierra Del Fuego. Maybe attempting the Darien Gap on a Ural?
I had fun thinking about this one. Go, Scott! Because I'm not going to do it. (Famous last words.) First, I'd be remiss if I didn't recommend joining the Internet Sidecar Owners Klub. The folks there are the source of infinite knowledge on sidecar motorcycle modifications, trips, and capabilities of the machines. I'd be surprised if somebody hadn't tried to take a sidecar bike over the Darian gap
Having done the USA and China on Ural or Ural-like bikes, I have to say that the ability of this bike to slog through mud, water, shale, to climb up hills, even navigate riverbeds a foot deep in the kind of large smooth rocks a 2-wheeler would sink in, is phenomenal. It's also excellent for carrying all the gear you need on a big trip, plus hitchhikers. It's also very easy to fix, and doesn't need any precision parts. Tolerances are "generous."
There's a book about such a trip - Odyssey to Ushuaia: A Motorcycling Adventure from New York to Tierra del Fuego - I haven't read it because it was not reviewed well, but maybe some valuable insights could be gleaned from it. Better reviewed is Helge Pedersen, author of 10 Years on Two Wheels, which as you probably know, is a coffee table book with glossy photos and lots of maps. I seem to remember photos from the Darian Gap that showed his dragging his bike through it with ropes. A quote from his site includes this telling information
Helge is the first motorcyclist ever to ride overland from South America to North America via the infamous Darien Gap—80 roadless miles of virtually impenetrable, bug-infested jungle and swamps, nothing but Indian trails—emerging in Panama City three weeks later with infected legs and broken bones. Crossing the Darien proved to be his most difficult endeavor.
But hey, he did it! And so have others. I wonder if something as wide as a sidecar motorcycle - even equipped as it is with serious off-road capabilities - can get through. Adventure Rider has a thread and also this guy just did it on a GS - the trip, not necessarily the Darian Gap. I think he went around.
I can't wait to hear about your adventures, Scott. Hope you'll be blogging!
Got advice for Scott? Comment below or email him here.