The Ride Approach: Carving Snow and Riding Motos
One of the most rewarding aspects of being part of the adventure motorcycling community is getting to know the people in it. ADVMoto interviewed Oregon native, Jesse Swickard, who is planning a creative way to combine two thrilling and unique passions - ADV riding and split boarding. When we first heard about The Ride Approach, we couldn't resist reaching out to Jesse and his team. Now we're excited to work with them through their exciting journey.
• When did you start motorcycling and are there people in your life that influenced you?
When I was a child, my father used to give me rides up and down the street. I’d sit on the tank while he rode wheelies with no helmet, wearing flip flops and shorts. Ever since then, I’ve tried to replicate that kind of feeling with my dad by racing motocross, arena cross, enduro; you name it. Sometimes I’d even place in the top five in a race, but nothing really felt as gratifying as simply enjoying motorcycling with my father.
Fast forward 37 years later, I’ve gotten into adventure style riding. The feeling after a long day on the trail to reach that camp site with an epic view; there’s something about the experience that offers fulfillment similar to what I felt riding with my dad. It’s led me to meet amazing people, explore incredible places, and make friends for life.
• What is split boarding and how long have you been doing it?
A split board is a snowboard that converts into a pair of approach skis – one for each foot for cross country and climbing. It is a very efficient way of long or short distance travel in deep snow. Instead of picking up your feet to climb, you slide your feet to save energy. This type of travel also helps keep your body temperature stay consistent so you’re not too cold by the time you switch back into snowboard mode.
Split boarding does come with its hazards, and although mistakes will be made, it’s important to try and be as cautious as possible. Sometimes you’ll end up 10 hours from civilization. I even take pictures of what I’m climbing to find a safe way back. Split boarding is a niche sport that most don’t know about, but it becomes a way of life for those who engage in the sport. For me, it’s an artistic expression, where the mountain is the canvas and your board is the paint brush.
• How did you come with The Ride Approach? Who else is is on The Ride Approach team?
It started from simple conversation at a party that snowballed into a great idea. My friend, Elliott, invited me to a volunteer work party at the Tilly Jane Cabin on Mnt. Hood. Hearing him say, “free beer” was enough for me to attend. Snow was in the forecast, and talking about it would ultimately start a flurry of ideas to create The Ride Approach.
At the event, I met two employees from Oregon Public Broadcasting who were on site to film a separate project. We spoke about many things, including motorcycles and snowboarding, then eventually adventure biking and split boarding. Although OPB didn’t become a part of the project, they did provide inspiration to put together an adventure film. The idea was to combine adventure motorcycling with split boarding. We plan to explore five mountains by split board, and use bikes to get to each location. The team will consist of my friends Shawn and Elliott, our camera man, Sam, and myself.
• What kind of modifications did you need to make to the bikes to support split boarding?
We’re using a good mix of bikes for the project (a single, dual, and triple) - Elliott’s Kawasaki KLR 650, Shaun’s KTM 950 Adventure, and my Triumph Tiger 800 XCx. The first thing we needed to tackle was luggage. Soft bags are safer in the back country and hold lots of gear that we’ll need over the course of the trip.
We modified split board racks that mount to the sides of the bikes. Fortunately I have a machine shop in my studio and milling custom parts became accessible. The challenge was coming up with a system that was light and sturdy enough for extended travel and possible crashes, and the fact that we had three different bikes didn’t help. After lots of testing, we’ve come up with some really creative ways to carry everything we need.
• When does the ride begin and how long will it take?
We depart April 1st, 2018 but this will depend on road conditions and how packed the snow is. That time of year should offer sunny climbs and some deep powder days. Our plan is to ride all five peaks in 14 days. The mountains we’re currently scouting include Maiden Peak, Mount Bailey, Mount Thielsen, Mount Mcloughlin, the Steen’s Mountain Ridge, and possibly Drake Peak (some will be alternate locations in case weather affects the course).
• What kind of feedback and support have you gotten from the community?
The community has been really excited about the idea and everybody agrees its innovative. The only funding we needed to generate was to support Sam, our photographer. We’re fortunate to have him on the team, as he is very talented, whether it be behind the lens, on the slopes, or on the saddle.
We wanted to reach out to companies close to us in the North West. Mosko Moto makes some of the finest luggage systems in the industry and they’re in Washington so we reached out to them. After visiting their factory, they decided to come on as a supporter and we can’t thank them enough. Next Adventure, an amazing outdoor shop here in Portland helped us with gear we need to pull of the project.
We reached out to anyone and everyone we could think of in motorcycle media. Carl at ADVMoto took a leap of faith with us to support the project, even coaching me as I speak to all the wonderful folks in the moto community. Now it seems like outside support is coming in like crazy.
• Is there a message that you'd like to share with your community?
A lot of folks dream about adventure but never make a commitment to embark on their own. We hope to inspire others to plan something outside of their comfort level. Using motorcycles is a perfect way of doing so. Split boarding, ski touring, and mountain climbing is also a great way to get outside in the winter and really challenge yourself. I think each viewer will get something different out of it, hopefully encouraging them to get out, camp, explore, climb, and take risks to get lost, as there is always a way out and something to learn.
• Where can someone follow The Ride Approach's progress?
Our next big event is sponsored by Team Latus at the One Moto Show, February 9-11, 2018, in Gladstone Oregon. We have a dedicated Facebook page and we'll have more online presence through ADVMoto. The final product will be presented around May of 2018 to be shown at local release parties, ride clinics, and film festivals.
About the team:
• Jesse Swikard
Jesse has 37 years of motorcycling experience. His love for bikes came from riding with his father who gifted him his first bike - a 1982 Honda Elsinore 250. A lifetime of riding and racing has brought experiences that he now hopes to share with others. Jesse hopes The Ride Approach project will inspire others to embark on their own adventures.
• Elliott Martin
Elliott first began dreaming of motorbikes on a trip to Asia while dodging bikes on the roads of Kathmandu. After 25,000 miles of dirt and mud on his KLR, he's now ready to face any climate, including snow in the winter. To prep his bike for The Ride Approach, he learned to weld and created his own “Frankensteined” ski rack.
• Shawn Fowler
Shawn has been feeding his wanderlust fresh air and gasoline since his early teens- When people ask why Oregon is home expect to get an earful about throttling hard through wide open desert and the benefits of having volcanoes to snowboard off of. And that magical overlap where both passions can be combined? Absolute bliss. Currently he rides a heartily used KTM 950 Adventure with a custom fab’d snowboard rack and has done several BDR’s through Arizona. It’s not the miles ridden, it’s the time spent.
• Sam Slater
Sam is a professional photographer and filmmaker based in Oregon. He's just at home shooting in the studio as he is on a remote mountain range. You can see more of his portfolio at SamSlaterPhotography.com.