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The Tour of Idaho FAQ

We make our Tour website more decipherable and user friendly - one insensitive dope smack at a time.

Warning - some useful insight may actually be gleaned between the taunts!

Got a question? Go to our reader forum and post it there for a respectful response, visit the route description page for a detailed description of the Tour, check out the Letters to the Editor if perusing our gigabyte-sized files on the Tour are too much or email Turbo for inclusion in the FAQ below - and gird your loins, pilgrim!


Robber's Roost

Q: I am a rider of ________ experience. Can I do the Tour of Idaho (T1)?  
A: Although riding experience and skills are important, they are not the most important factors in determining your success. Your choice of bike and equipment, your attitude, your commitment, your sense of adventure and your level of fitness and determination will all play more of a role in the outcome of your Tour adventure than just your experience. The most important characteristic that prospective Tour riders could possess is probably feeing good about spending a lot of time alone in the outdoors. Beyond that, any rider of intermediate ability probably has the necessary riding skills if they have the will to succeed. If you are the kind of person who, when necessary, will ride 40 miles on a flat tire and with your handlebars bent sideways, without a lot of carrying on about it, you are a good candidate. If you can fix your bike in the middle of nowhere, by yourself, with a bear watching a few meters away, the Tour is for you. If you are the kind of person who just doesn't get discouraged or quit you'll be just fine.
Q: Why did you guys put so many waypoints in your gpx files? These are useless to me because I might have to actually do some work to make use of them.
A: Our files do not contain tracks, they are a series of waypoints that you may use to put together your own route. It is something that you should take on in order to best acquaint yourself with what you are getting into. When you are putting together your own route, from our waypoints, you will have an opportunity to engage in some map study, think about the terrain, consider emergency alternatives, etc., all things that might just come in handy when you find yourself in a fix right smack dab in the middle of some of the biggest nowhere you've ever been.  
Q: Can I do the Tour (T1) on my _____, _____, or _____ 500+ lb dual sport, without messing up the wax job?  
A: How the heck should we know?  It ultimately depends on if you can ride the damned thing, doesn't it? In point of fact, the Tour has been attempted on bikes as small as a YZ250F and as large as a KTM990 dual sport. It has been attempted by individuals perched atop nearly every type of knobby-shod motorcycle imaginable as well as some that are not. As for us - we think that the average pilot of a big Beemer dual sport will really wish that they were on a KTM500 much of the time - unless they happen to be Ned Suesse in which case it won't matter in the least bit. You will probably get tossed from whatever you ride more than once so make sure that you can pick it up and that it doesn't break easily.

There is a variant of the Tour, T3, that is larger bike and dual sport friendly. 

Have a look at the route description. Notice that the T1 goes over many impressively tall mountains, with contour lines really close together. Beyond that, technical challenges include miles of rocky single track trails, steep side hills, deep sand, numerous swift water crossings and enough down trees for an episode of Axe Men. You will probably go "Whoa!" quite a bit. The lighter your bike is, the easier it will be to lift off of you after you've dumped many times.

For most riders we'd recommend large displacement dirt bikes with lights (bodacious lights). Something light enough to pick up, but powerful enough to go fast for long stretches. If in doubt, small is better than large.
Slap a plate on the back of whatever dirt bike you have and you should be good to go. Make sure that whatever you ride has a large gas tank (or invest in comfy boots).

If you choose to ignore our warnings and set off on your KLR650, or something equally ill-suited, please forget that you know us.

Q: Can I do the Tour (T1) two-up on my R1200GS?  
A: No.
Q: OK. Can I do T2 two-up on my DRZ400?
A: No.
Q: Can I do the Tour North to South? 
A: You can certainly ride the route (though it's not as much fun), but T1 goes South to North.  
Q: Is the Tour a camping along the way kind of deal or can I stay in motels?       
A: As long as you can make the recommended daily mileage accommodations are not a problem. You are supposed to follow our intervals so if you do camp you'll be camping on the outskirts of a town. If you fail to make your daily nut due to indolence, mechanical failure, getting lost, or any number of other calamities you may end up sleeping under your bike with the engine running to keep warm. It's very cold, btw, everywhere along the Tour after dark, even in the middle of summer. No tents or sleeping bags though - too much bulk and extra weight. We do not recommend carrying "just in case" camping gear unless you are into self-fulfilling prophecies.
Q: Is the Tour self-supported or can we use a chase vehicle?
A: For a Tour of Idaho you must be self-supported. For riding on your own terms it's possible for the first couple of days without a lot of miles on the chase vehicle but after that it's more difficult. Consult an Idaho road map. If you do plan on having a chase vehicle shadow your entire journey, be sure to factor in 2000+ miles for the round trip to and from the start.    
Q: Why?
A: Although we have no objection to riding the Tour route in any manner that one pleases, to complete the event known as The Tour of Idaho one must be prepared to accept some challenges and to play by a few rules. The Tour was set up for self-contained small groups and solo riders. Support and large parties make for a much different experience. 

Even the most difficult parts of the Tour, done as individual day rides, are not beyond the realm of journeyman riders. It's stringing together 1700+ miles of challenging bits and pieces, over ten days, with logistics, that make the Tour what it is. Day 2, for instance, involves long distances in lots of heat through fine, deep sand. This happens to be much more difficult on a fully-loaded bike with the 40 lbs of gas required to get you from American Falls to Arco over the front wheel than it is on light bike with just enough fuel to get you to the next road crossing. Self-supported groups must carry tools, food, emergency supplies, and live by their own wits. This requires much more planning and changes the way you must approach every day. The Tour is simply much more difficult without a chase vehicle.

As for large parties, with enough people to lend a hand you can push, pull, or drag even very large bikes over and around obstacles you can't ride without using up a lot of energy (we've watched many of these little dramas unfold over the years). While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with having lots of help, it's an option that smaller groups, and especially soloists, don't have. Large groups are able to share loads and effort in ways that smaller groups cannot. That's why we regard small, self-supported groups, in the highest esteem.

Tour soloists face the greatest challenges of all. There are a lot of places along the Tour where the concept of launching a bike off a the trail, while riding solo, is almost to awful to even consider. Soloists must be prepared to navigate, fix their bikes and fix themselves, by themselves. I can attest, from personal experience, that the difference between riding the Tour solo and riding with even one other person is immense. This sentiment echoed by others. 
Q: Why don't you keep track of fastest time records. I think that I own them all and I'd like the credit. 
A: The Tour changes a lot from year to year. Sometimes it changes from day to day depending on the weather and fire conditions. That makes comparing things like elapsed times difficult. The Tour is not a controlled course - in fact, it's not a race course at all. Nothing would make life more difficult for those of us who maintain the trail than having someone trying to make it out to be a race. Lots of unwanted attention. No, no, no. I don't know how Casey Folks did it.

We are equally proud of everyone who finishes. We think that everyone else should be too. It's all about having the time of your life. If you want to race there is nothing wrong with that, just get a number and go to Baja, V2R, etc. Plenty of room, no waiting, lots of very fast people.    
Q: Do I need a street legal bike? 
A: The short answer is yes. There is a longer, more nuanced answer but the short answer is probably the best. If you live in Idaho you know the rules. If not and your bike is licensed out of state you will be fine. Be especially careful around Ketchum if you are on a bike without a street plate. 
Q: What should I pack? What do you consider indispensable items? 
A: Not much. Light is better than heavy. Just make sure that you use moto-specific gear likely to survive instead of ultralight backpacking equipment that may not. We use KLIM Krew Paks (with 2.0 liter bladders) and Giant Loop Mojavi bags to pack our stuff. We carry Kate's Real Food energy bars, a wilderness emergency and first aid kit, a tool kit, a bike rescue kit, survival equipment (bivy sack and fire starter), Silky Saws and shovels, a DeLORME inReach beacon, camera gear, a GPS unit, a bike computer/backup GPSGiant Loop Fuel Bags and that's about it. A WiFi capable cell phone with a good browser is also necessary to upload the required photos at challenge points and is handy as a backup GPS (don't use a cell phone as a primary GPS). Pack the minimum that you think you can get away with then chuck half of what remains. Light is right. If you carry a lot of heavy stuff you will end up needing every bit of it. I also recommend carrying as much as you can in your backpack and as little as you can on your bike (unless you plan on never having to pick your bike up). 
Q: What about tires and tubes?
A: I like the stiff-sidewall desert racing tires for the rear and the GoldenTyre GT Enduro 216aa "Bigfoot" for the front. Anything that is compounded for intermediate to hard terrain and has stiff sidewalls will do. Just make sure that you run real knobbies and not dual sport tires (some of the steep climbs encountered during the first few days of the Tour are often so slick that they are a challenge even with aggressive knobbies). Also make sure that your tires are fresh when you hit the trail (or have them changed in Pocatello) or else you'll be riding slicks by the time you get to Wallace. You might also consider taking it easy on the occasional paved roads you'll encounter.

You'll pay a penalty in traction running stiff-sidewall tires but you'll probably get through the entire Tour without a flat with knobs still left at the end. You can also motivate when the need arises without a lot of squirm. I use high quality (Bridgestone) ultra heavy-duty tubes in my tires with Slime (inflated to around 10 psi). This system is so reliable that I don't even carry a spare anymore. With twin bead locks you can run these flat if you have to. In six Tours I've never had a flat with his setup. Check your tire pressures daily and you should be just fine. The beauty of this system, aside from simplicity, is that every town along the Tour has someplace to puchase motorcycle tire tubes. Tubliss, mousse inserts, etc. - not so much. 
Q: How good are your time/distance estimates? Some days are 250 miles. That seems like a lot. 
A: They are great - for us. But your distance traveled per unit time may vary with skill, inclination or trail conditions. If you like to ride at any reasonable clip and don't stop a lot you'll do just fine. If you need to commune with nature around every corner and be photographed beside every pine tree in Idaho then things will take longer - in which case we recommend that you check out Trail Tech or Baja Designs who make the bodacious headlights you'll need.
C: I did the __________ part of the Tour and I didn't see any of the stuff you guys said to watch out for. It was also way easier than you said. Where are you guys getting your information on trail conditions? I didn't post to complain - it's just that I am way cooler than you guys will ever be. I eat nothing but nuts, berries and elk droppings AND I am faster than even that lame poser Johnny Campbell. I also have a thing about fat motorcycle guys in their forties. Did I mention that I was cool?
A: We think that narcissism is a wonderful form of self-expression but please, no confessionals here. If you are conflicted about your weight cut back on the elk burgers or try a wrap.

Trail conditions along the Tour can change radically within a matter of just a few hours. The Tour of Idaho is in the mountainous western USA and is subject to vicious cold, blistering heat, deluges of biblical proportions, snow/sleet/graupel dumps, extremely high winds and wildfires - sometimes all within the same few hours. We have described various sections of the Tour with respect to the average conditions we've encountered in a decade of riding them. Nonetheless we have seen many sections of TID deteriorate from completely casual to unrideable after a single summer storm. Fortunately the converse is also true. There is continuous maintenance of the trails all along the Tour and if your luck is good you might just hit something we describe as the edge of death right after the maintenance crew has smoothed out all of the wrinkles and buffed it to immaculateness.

As for the rest, well, may we suggest Lasik? 
Q: What parts do I have to ride in order for my trip to be considered "legit?"
A: First a proviso - as far as we are concerned you should just go ride and have fun and not worry about what anyone else thinks about what you are doing - especially the likes of us! The maps, descriptions and gps files we provide are free and you may do with them as you wish. Go have fun.

Now if your question is "What do I have to do to complete the Tour of Idaho?" The answer is all of it, on your bike, rolling under its own power. You start at the Utah border and follow our route 1700+ miles to Sundance Mountain without support other than what you find along the way, either alone or in a small group. That's it. That's the Tour of Idaho. Variations on this theme may constitute a wonderful ride (honest and no lie), but not the Tour of Idaho.

T2, T3, T4 and T5 have enough variations to make your head spin - there is something there for everyone.

Although we respect everyone (at least in principle), years of bitter experience have made us a wee-bit wary motorcycle-related claims. Over the last 13 or so years we have ridden every nook and cranny of the Tour, many times, in all kinds of weather, on many different types of motorcycles. We are pretty familiar with how it all works. When you claim to have "covered every inch of the Tour" and it turns out that you forgot that you skipped sections, trailered your bike here and there, had a lot of support, etc., then no kudos for you.  
Q: I've read trip reports of the Tour elsewhere on the web. Are these good sources of information?
It depends on who wrote them. Our friend and T1 alumnus Wade Popham has an excellent, independent perspective of the Tour that he wrote about on ADVrider. Wade's chronicle of his solo T1 adventure is well written and essential reading. Ben York also wrote an excellent trip report, also on ADVrider

Almost everything else that we've read (apologies to anyone who's account we have not read) is somewhere between not so great and so completely misinformed as to be hazardous to your well-being. If you want some help ascertaining the veracity of claims of success on the Tour of Idaho, a list of finishers is here.  
Q: Why did you route the Tour the way you did? 
Two words: maximum fun. We always chose the route that we felt provided the best riding. If there is a choice (as is the case several times) between a boulder-choked, cow poo infested single track and a scenic farm road, we take the farm road. Even in places like Boulder Creek or Custer LO, where the riding is burly, you won't notice the difficulty as much as how cool it all is. 
Q: Anything else?
A: Make sure that both you and your bike are capable of taking a beating for 1700 miles. The Tour of Idaho is probably the most difficult long ride you have ever attempted. If you are completely whipped at the end of the first day, you will have come a long way for a short trip.

If you can't run a mile on flat ground in less than eight minutes, you are going to have your work cut out for you. Unless you live somewhere in the Western USA, well above sea-level, you'll need a few days to acclimatize to the rigors of hard work at altitude (9000' the first day). Your knees are going to take a pounding. We recommend a steering damper to minimize arm and shoulder pump. Beefy pegs and real boots are essential. Full armor, tinted goggles and a good helmet are a must. Do not embark on the Tour without either a good roost guard or some form of stout, protective body armor. Stock up on ibuprofen because you are going to need plenty of it. Be ready for excessive heat and freezing cold in the same day. Be prepared to get rained on, get snowed on, and to dodge forest fires. You are going to lose some sleep and probably some weight. You will be very tired. It's all part of the deal.

Mental preparation is as important as physical fitness. Do not assume that GPS, sat phones (and our favorite comic relief, tablets) are a substitute for wilderness acumen. Study the maps we've provided and familiarize yourself with the route as much as possible. Each year we speak with a fair number of TID riders who got lost, got into trouble, or both, in spite of possessing enough high-tech wizardry to make a HAL 9000 jealous. The TID is as much a wilderness endurance/navigation festival as it is a dirt bike ride. 

Make sure that your bike's brakes, tires, chains and sprockets are fresh (you will completely shag even a fresh hard compound rear tire over the course of the Tour). Also make sure that you are jetted for 5000+. Don't bring a bike that you are unable to either ride or drag over large rocks and logs because you are going to be doing a lot of both. There are a few places along the Tour where you are literally riding along a razor's edge of catastrophe. It's best to have a bike you really trust and can handle with confidence. You might get away with riding a 600lb, poorly suspended motorcycle over a single log or rock step - but are you prepared to do this hundreds of times over 1600 miles? 

A fit, experienced, intelligent rider, on a suitable motorcycle, traveling light, should have a reasonable chance of successfully completing the entire Tour. There is also an outside chance that a complete rube on a rusty Honda Trail 90 could roll the entire distance if the alignment of the stars happened to be just right (just as Denali is occasionally summited by lucky church groups equipped with WalMart boots and sleeping bags). The odds, however, favor the former more than the latter. Most successful T1 riders spend an entire winter in preparation. So what are you waiting for? Get to work! 
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