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Interview with Mr. Pete Thibaudeau, experienced mototourist and BMW rider

Pete ThibaudeauWe recently received a visit from a very satisfied customer who was coming back from long-distance adventure trip across North America. We took this opportunity to ask him some questions to share a bit of his experience with you.

Mr. Thibaudeau, tell us about you and your motorcycle background.

I’ve been riding motorcycles for over 40 years, accumulating more than 600 000 kilometers over than time span. I have owned a total of 21 motorcycles, including britishs, japaneses and germans. I used to like japanese bikes during my racing days in Laconia and Shonnonville (road racing and endurance racing) but my all-time favorite is my current BMW R1200GS Adventure.

You travel a lot on your motorcycles, which trips did you do?

I went 8-9 times in the Atlantic Provinces, including 3 times with Newfoundland and Labrador. I’ve seen Moab in the Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon in Utah and Colorado, went at least 20 times in the Blue Ridge Mountains through the Virginias, Baja Mexico, California, Oregon, Washington and several other destinations. I have actually traveled across the North American continent 6 times (4 of them in a motorcycle) including Alaska, the north of British Colombia, the entire Central America and South America, where I went to Terre-De-Feu with a friend at the end of Argentina (Ushawia) and came back through Brazil (from November 98 to March 99). I also went to Germany where I received a training by BMW and became a Certified Instructor. Following that, I took a 3 weeks vacation to ride and visit Germany, Tcheck Republic, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, France (the Alps and Dolomites!). I’ve seen so much nice roads and landscapes!

Which motorcycle did you use for your last trip? How do you set it up for such distance?

I used a 2006 BMW R1200GS purchased in June 2006 with all the standard equipment from the manufacturer (3 luggages and ABS) plus front and rear Elka Suspension Elite Series shock absorbers. I bring my complete camping equipment, water, books, some food and clothes which almost fill up a 100 liter waterproof bag. The bike currently has 67 000 kms on it and will probably reach more than 70 000 kms by the end of the season.

Where did you go this time?

I started this trip at my home in Laprairie (Quebec, Canada) heading towards Ottawa (Ontario, Canada), then towards Sault-Ste-Marie to take Highway 2 to get in the USA, along Lake Michigan. I then went South-West to Fargo, Rapid City (ND and SD) and then went to visit the Badlands.

Next, I went back North Up the two Dakotas towards Saskatchewan, via Regina, Saskatoon and Wainwright in Alberta. There, I went visiting my son who lives there since returning from a military mission in Afghanistan. My wife flew in to join me on my trip and we went to Calgary, Banff, Jasper then Vancouver where we spent a weekend.

To go back to our son’s place, we followed the North British Columbia Road, coming across Prince Georges, Fort St-John, Dawson Creek, Grande-Prairie and the Small Slave Lake to finally arrive again in Wainwright, Alberta. My wife flew back home from Edmonton while I continued my trip.

I went again through Calgary heading for Idaho, Washington, then Oregon along the Columbia River. The Americans call these beautiful mountains the “American Alps”. I got in the Seattle area coming from the Washington, Idaho and Montana states. There, I decided to turn around and start my journey back home through the mountains by Highway 2 until North Dakota. After driving the European Alps by car, I can see the similarities when compared to the “American Alps”, except for the traffic which is less dense in America.

Overall, the trip was 16 000 km long from August 14 to September 20, 2007.

What are the best memories you’ll keep from that trip?

Meeting my son and his family, he has 2 little daughters. I am now the proud grandfather of 3 girls and a boy! I also enjoyed the unforgettable scenery of the Rocky Mountains with their eternal snow and the glaciers. I traveled a lot on unpaved secondary roads, on which I met bears (2 times), several deers in the Prairies (I once counted 12 deers in a herd!) and mountain goats who were not afraid to walk across the road.

Did you face any challenging obstacles?

Not really, this was mostly a leisure ride for me unlike when I rode in South America or in the Baja! I was really a cool ride with lots of mileage. The only hard times I had were due to some foul weather. There were 2 days coming North through the Dakotas where the wind was so blowing so hard that I had to lean the bike at a strong angle just to ride in a straight line. It was one of those rare occasions where I would have rather drive my car! Also when I came back from Dawson Creek, I faced strong winds with rain and even hail during 10 minutes! Otherwise, the weather was on my side during most of the trip. There’s an old saying that there’s no bad weather on a motorcycle, only bad equipment, which was not my case!

What do you think of your Elka Suspension?

I am very, very impressed by their performance and the increased comfort they provide. I was riding with a lot of added weight on the bike and the Elka Suspension never let me down anywhere, be it gravel roads or even off-road. It was so perfectly dialed-in that the bike was handling like if I was alone on it, without any baggage. My wife also enjoyed the upgrade and told me that it was by far the most comfortable motorcycle she’s been on. With all the mileage we’ve done on so many different bike, that says a lot by itself.

What did you like the best about your Elka Suspension?

It’s consistency. It never faded out no matter the distance nor the type of terrain. I was never worried about the suspension in any situation. I have owned several adventure bikes and I have had my share of suspension problems all over the planet. I would have liked to have Elka Suspension when I’ve been to Terre-De-Feu in Argentina and the Baja in Mexico! I also appreciated the almost infinite adjustability and the superior quality. But the best thing about Elka is the service I got from their technicians. The shocks were “tailored” for my needs and that’s what makes the big difference. My hats off to Elka!

Speaking of difference, how does your Elkas compare to other products?

My Elkas are by far superior to anything else I’ve ridden, including a well-known European company. I won’t ride anything else than Elka. You guys deserve to get known!

Visit Mr. Thibaudeau’s website for complete trip reports, photos and more about his adventures: http://pages.videotron.com/ducmtl/