Nate Allen is an american rider who has been on the road for some time. In the last 11 months he visited 13 countries, one of them being Romania.At the moment, due to this crazy period with the Coronavirus pandemics, he has been forced to take a break from traveling, currently being on hold in Turkey. I took the advantage of this break, to chat a little bit about his impression on Romania, about his trip so far and about all this unparalleled situation.
1.First of all , tell me a little bit about you Nate. When did you start riding motorcycles and how did you get stuck with this passion? What was your first motorcycle and what was your first long trip on two wheels?
1) I started riding motorcycles when I was six years old on a Honda CT70 that I still have in my basement to this very day. I don’t ever plan on getting rid of that beautiful little red machine hahaha The next bike I had after that was a KE100 two-stroke with a clutch, then a DR-250, then a DT400 two-stroke from the ’70s, then a mid 90’s KX125 2-stroke motocross bike, then a 2000’s KX250 two-stroke, and then at 16 years old I took my driver’s license test for the street on a CBR1000RR. After that I had a 2006 Triumph Speed Triple 1050 for a few years but had to sell it to go back to school in 2009 (universities are very expensive in the United States) After school and saving up some more money I bought a 2009 V-Strom 650 in 2015 and a week later decided to do a tour of Latin America… My first thought was I can make it down to the tip of South America in less than a year buuuuuut that trip actually took almost 3 years to go from Oklahoma City where I live in the United States down to Tierra de Fuego, Argentina the most southern point of the world. I left for that trip in 2015 and came back in 2018 to take care of my mother before she died. Awesome trip and I can highly recommend Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia on two wheels!!! The trip through Central and South America was my first big trip and was also really my first time being on a motorcycle every day all day out exploring the backcountry and getting lost for days at a time. I was hooked after that 🤠
50,200 kilometers, 14 countries, and 22 months on the road I have finally made it to the end of the world… Ushuaia
2. Last year you traveled through Mexico for 5 months and Europe the rest of the year on your BMW X-Challenge 650. What was the plan or was it a plan from the beginning? How did you come up with idea of leaving for this great adventure ?
2) That’s absolutely right man. I took the ole X-Challenge down south with no real plan except that I wanted to go completely around the planet on this motorcycle for the next 3 or 4 years… After a few months I met the right people in Mexico who were able to put my bike on a cargo ship (kind of a gray area because it’s not exactly legal) buuuuuut my motorcycle arrived safely in the port of Antwerp, Belgium from Veracruz, Mexico in about 5 weeks only missing a Chinese knockoff GoPro and a pocket knife out of my tank bag… I figured that was a sacrifice to the motorcycle gods for a safe passage across the Atlantic with the bike strapped to the deck of a ship for a month. Honestly I fell in love with Mexico on a motorcycle because it’s a giant playground for motorcycles (much like Romania) anywhere you want to ride you can go and no one is there with guns waiting to make you leave like in the USA. I have spent over a year of my life on two wheels down in Mexico and plan on returning once again after this RTW trip is over in the next few years to continue exploring her.
3. Why did you chose the BMW X-Challenge 650 for this trip and what do you like most about it? How many kilometers you have on your odometer and did you had any issues or mechanical failures?
3) When I got back from South America after my three years riding the v-strom 650 I knew I wanted a bike more dirt oriented! Don’t get me wrong the V-Strom 650 is an amazing motorcycle!!! Really great on the street but with her limited suspension travel and heavy weight it’s not an effective tool to tackle some serious dirt work. With that in mind I started the hunt for over a year for the next adventure bike… I was hunting while I was back home in the States working and saving money for this trip…. I looked at the KTM 690, the Husqvarna 701, and even the trusty Suzuki DR650… I actually bought a 2009 WR250R and prepped it for this trip after hearing so many great things about these little bikes. Sadly after taking it on several week long test rides (through Colorado and Arkansas) and putting 6,000 km on that little beast I knew I needed something with a bit more braaap to carry my 2 meter tall 120 kilo body around this planet for the next few years…. This is when I stumbled onto a random forum post on adventure rider talking about the 2007 BMW X-Challenge 650! Over the coming months I talked with several of the long time riders on that group who had over 130,000 km on their X bikes with little to no issues. I was sold on this very weird and misunderstood unicorn of a adventure motorcycle after hearing their experience with the bike. The X had everything I wanted: lightweight 152kg, a powerful Rotax engine (but still super reliable) making 53 horsepower, fuel injection, 21 inch front wheel, anti-lock brakes, and it was pretty unique. I like motorcycles you don’t see on every corner and this bike for that bill. The X-Challenge was only made for one year (2007) with a total of 3,899 of them being produced. Sadly less than a thousand made their way across the pond from Italy where they were hand built by Aprilia for BMW. Subsequently it took me the better part of 5 months to find a X-Challenge in the States… When I finally found one I had to drive 2 days across three states 2,800 km to go pick her up with a truck.
4.Since I asked you about your motorcycle, did you make any special preparation to it for this long trip?
4) When I first got this X-Challenge I spent the first 6 weeks straight prepping her for this trip! With the help from my new friends on the X-bike forums and Facebook groups I was able to knock out all of the known common issues of this amazing machine. First and foremost was the factory aluminum subframe… It could not carry any weight without cracking. One of the reasons why I bought this particular X-Challenge is because the previous owner installed a Touratech chromoly steel rear subframe capable of holding an elephant. They are not made anymore and are incredibly expensive when you finally find one for sale in the states 😰💸💸💸 He also replaced the soft aluminum wheel spacers both front and rear with custom-made stainless steel spacers which are almost impossible to find as well. He installed a hyper-pro rear shock that replaced the factory air shock (which is known to be like a pogo stick) I knew I was going to be doing quite a bit of enduro riding so I upgraded the front forks from the Mezzaconi factory forks to a brand new in the box straight out of Austria fully adjustable WP-43 mm fork off of a mid-2000s KTM 525. Then I sent the rear shock back to hyperpro to have them increase the height by 60 mm and re-spring & valve the shock for my weight plus my 52 kilos of RTW gear gear. Last but certainly not least I had a good friend of mine who builds race cars in Oklahoma where I live help me fabricate a custom made gravity fed aluminum auxiliary fuel tank that is integrated into my pannier rack. This took me from the stock 10 L of fuel to 23 L of total usable fuel which now gives me a range of 550 km fully loaded with all of my gear. My X has averaged 4.3 L for 100 km fully loaded over the last year & a half, 13 countries, 3 continents, and 34,000 km. This is much less fuel consumption than any of my friends with the 690, the 701 or even the carbureted DR650. So far the only majors issues I have had with the motorcycle have been self-induced like when I have crashed her hahaha I can report back the hyper-pro shock is not as sturdy as I would have hoped even after being resprung and revolved for my weight. If you are looking for an aftermarket shock I would recommend Ohlins or Wilbur’s over hyperpro any day. The guys at hyperpro have been more than helpful but that rear shock has cost me almost two months of traveling while waiting for the shock to be rebuilt twice 😭 I have blown her up three times on this trip. The first time on the second tallest active volcano in Mexico (5,426 meters above sea level), the second time in the Czech Republic, and the last time in Estonia riding the TET. I checked the valve clearances on this Rotax engine last December in Bucharest at my good buddy Alex’s BAD Customs Garage and they are exactly where the factory set them 13 years ago 🤯 I won’t lie… I ride this motorcycle pretty hard and was shocked when everything was still in spec. The BMW maintenance manual for this bike calls for oil changes after 10,000 kilometers and the same 10k for valve clearance checks… This was the first time the valves had ever been checked 🤯 I know this because I’m still in contact with the original owner of this bike. I do not plan on checking my valves again for another 30,000 km (unless of course something starts sounding off or the bike gives me trouble) Most guys on the forums do not check their valves until 50,000 km because these Austrian made Rotax engines are so overbuilt 💪
5. I saw in your pictures from time to time you share the road with other riders, but for the most part your are alone. Why did you decide to go alone ? What were the advantages and the disadvantages?
5) Weeeeeeell to be completely honest it’s pretty difficult to find people who can travel the world for years at a time… Seems most people in the western world are too “busy” and use the excuse of either not having enough time… Or if they have the time they don’t have enough money… Really it boils down to priorities man. Plane and simple! If you want to drive a brand new Mercedes it will be much more difficult to travel the planet for any length of time because that car requires such a huge amount of effort and money to buy and maintain… That said for the same amount of money that Mercedes costs you every month you can travel the planet living an amazing lifestyle and creating memories you’ll tell your grandchildren about… Or you can drive a nice car back and forth to work….. The choice is yours!!! I have been fortunate enough to meet up with several great people on this trip who I’ve gotten to ride with for a few weeks or even months. The internet is a great way to meet fellow riders to share the trail with by using Facebook groups like horizons unlimited or the TET group here in Europe. Sometimes just by accident I have met people who I rode with for two weeks or as long as even 8 months! Accidentally meeting these riders on my last trip through Latin America and being able to stay in touch with them over social media for years is really such a powerful tool we have available today. Once I made it to Europe I got to ride with several of my old friends I met on my last trip again on this trip! How cool is that haha Technology is amazing and there has never been a better time to be alive than right now today!!! As far as advantages and disadvantages it can be very difficult to meet people you like to travel with as well as ride with. Maybe they’re great people but suck on the bike or they’re amazing riders but are kind of douchey when having a few beers over dinner. Very rarely have I met people who are both awesome friends and good riders… Buuuuut when you run into them they add a huge amount to the trip and you will be friends for life without a doubt.
6. We know that motorcycling and traveling go hand in hand, I saw you did a lot of traveling before coming to Romania.What are the best places that you visited so far on two wheels?
6) In my experience I can say Mexico on a motorcycle is really something special! I would rank it number one for adventure travel on two wheels without a doubt. They have deserts, mountains, oceans, forests, stratovolcanos, cenotes (underwater caves), great food, and the people are super friendly. I also really enjoyed Peru on the motorcycle. Riding in the Andes Mountains doing passes that were 5,700 meters above sea level!!! They have ancient history there with the Inca people and are quite proud of them! (As they should be! It was truly an incredible culture) Really at the end of the day if you have the opportunity to explore any new country on a motorcycle you’re going to have fun… That said for me I find I have the most fun when I’m close to the mountains or rivers exploring some awesome trails with new friends.
Pietra Grande,Mexic, 4267m
7.Since we are a website that promotes motorcycling tourism in Romania, how did you like Romania? How did you end up here and what was your experience with our country, in terms of interaction with people, nature, landscapes, roads?
7) I absolutely loved Romania! I spent three months there!!! I came through November December and January and most of the real fun stuff was covered in 1 meter of snow buuuuuut even still there was some amazing riding to be done, food to be eaten, and friends to meet!!! I know I’ll be back to Romania again (hopefully in the spring or summer time) When I come back I’ll spend another two or three months exploring the backcountry, castles, and trails! I think Romania has a lot in common with Mexico from a motorcycle standpoint as well as a culture standpoint… You guys are both Latin based and have a big tie to family as well as to the community. This is something we are really missing in the United States and makes my heart happy to see it for you guys. On the motorcycle side of things you guys have mountains, rivers, oceans, and forests buuuut unlike Mexico you don’t have to travel 3,000 km to see these things! Everything is much more compact in Romania which is good if you only have a few weeks to explore because you can see a lot in a short amount of time 🏍️💨🤠
8. I saw that you also visited the moto museum near Radauti, Expo Moto Bucovina? Did you like what you saw there, would you recommend it to others?
8) That museum was fantastic! My good buddy Cezar and I got to spend the whole afternoon checking out all those sweet bikes. I have been to many motorcycle museums in my travels and have not seen a collection nearly as complete. I mean they had everything from old Russian bikes, to bikes from the Czech Republic, and even some American stuff like Mustang muscle cars and Harleys. My favorite piece in that entire museum was a 1910 Indian flat track racer that was custom built. That bike was beautifully designed and had some incredible workmanship…There had to be at least 12 or 14,000 hours put into building this motorcycle! A few weeks later down in Brasov I met a new motorcycle friend named Anca who actually knew the builder of this Indian motorcycle and she tried to arrange for he and I to get together for some beers… Sadly he had a family member who was not doing well at the time and we did not get to meet up to talk about the bike. Next time I’m back in the country I will definitely connect with him and hopefully get to see his latest creations!
9. I believe a very important part of this traveling experience is meeting different type of people. I guess you met other travelers on the way. Do you remember any funny story or interesting encounter that you had on the way?
9) A wise man once told me the people are the treasure… When I first heard this I laughed it off as being a little bit corny like something off the back of a Hallmark card but as the years have gone on I see this to be more and more true… You can go anywhere in the world and find beautiful beaches or mountains but the people are really what make a place special. The guy who actually told me this I met down in Mexico on my first trip by complete total accident on my second or third day south of the border… I was sitting in a Mexican cowboy cantina bar in a tiny little village tucked away in the mountains of Chihuahua, Mexico when all of a sudden I hear an American accent speaking English across the bar. Sure enough I look up and see an old hippie looking guy with long hair, a leather vest, and wearing sandals. (It snowed the night before in the mountains which is why the sandals were funny) He and I got to talking and he told me a month before we met while he was living in Virginia (The East coast of the United States) he was called by God to help Indians in Mexico…. He sold his house and all his belongings packed up his little Chevy Malibu and just so happened to be rolling into the exact same village at the exact same time that I arrived…. He and I spent the next month living with the Tarahumara Indians of northern Mexico bringing water to the schools in the villages…… This was his calling and I felt that the universe had put me directly where I needed to be when I needed to be there…….. 2 random Americans that did not speak Spanish, had no idea Indians even lived in Mexico a month before were now living in mud huts driving a 60-year-old pieced together log truck up into the mountains with huge water tanks strapped on the back. You can’t make this stuff up man! It was an awesome time and I’m very grateful for that experience. This man’s nickname was the “Loco Apache” (loco in Spanish means crazy. Apache was a native American tribe back in the day. This man was 40% Apache by blood lineage) He and I are still good friends to this day!!!
10. Currently you are kind of stuck in Turkey due to this Coronavirus situation. Did this threw a wrench in your plans?
10) No one could have predicted a month ago the world would be in a zombie apocalypse on the verge of a financial collapse… Here we are on lockdown with all the land borders closed, all the international flights canceled until further notice, major cities being shut down with last minute 48-hour quarantines over the weekend…… That said my plan was always to spend 3 months here in Turkey because it’s a large country (for Europe) with a lot to see and do! Plus you really cannot go farther east into the mountains of Turkey, Georgia, or Azerbaijan until the snow melts in May. A few months ago the plan was for 2 of my Romanian friends Luiza and Dayana to come meet me farther east and we would ride the Stan’s together over the summer… Now who knows 🤷♂️ All the boarders are closed for the foreseeable future. Maybe even the rest of 2020?! At this point I’m just taking it day by day dreaming of being back on the bike popping wheelies and exploring new horizons!!! I would still very much enjoy heading east but who knows at this point if that will even be an option… I’m hoping for the best with my fingers crossed!!!
11. Until now, which we could say it’s a potential dangerous or unpleasant situation at least, did you had any other issues or have you ever been in any dangerous situations during your trip?
11) That’s a good question and a valid one at that… Generally speaking I try to avoid big cities whenever possible. As a traveler there’s a lot more risk of being in an accident with crazy drivers such as with scooters, taxis and buses, having your bike stolen overnight if you’re unable to lock it up, and generally people are just busier in major cities. In smaller villages life is a little bit slower paced and people are always much friendlier. That said I’ve never had an issue in either big cities or small villages… There’s neighborhoods in any town that you would not want to go to alone at night and that situation is no different anywhere in the world. You just have to be smart and use your head… If you’re gut tells you something is not right it probably isn’t! Zig Ziglar (a famous motivational speaker) said this and I have always found it to be true. “If you go out looking for friends you find them in short supply but if you go out looking to be a friend you will find friends everywhere.” I try to live by these words especially while out on the road traveling around the planet.
12. Since one of the most common reasons or better said the best excuse for many not to leave on this kind of journey is the budget. Did you made an estimation of the amount of money you spent? Or how did you plan or estimated to have enough money for the trip ?
12) You’re absolutely right man money is totally an excuse. Generally one of the first questions I’m ever asked about my travels is about a budget, and for good reason! That is a very valid concern and most people use a lack of money as a good excuse not to make a trip like this happen (or really an excuse not to achieve any of their dreams) I live in the United States which according to gross domestic product (GDP) is the “wealthiest country” the world has ever seen but sadly the average bank account in this country has less than $2,000 USD in it… (This amount of money is not enough to live for even one month in most US cities) An astounding 87% of the United State’s population lives paycheck to paycheck according to a article in Forbes from 2019 🤯💸 This is absolutely mind-blowing to me but also I see this as the normal reality for most of the working class and even high income earners back home. My budget while traveling around the planet on my motorcycle is $1,000 USD a month… I chose this number for several reasons
A) You can not even exist on this amount of money in the United States.
B) The less you spend the farther you can go!
C) I want to create a travel TV show about lifestyle design while traveling internationally on a motorcycle with $1,000 a month budget. After this RTW trip is over in a few years I’m going back down through Mexico again but this time with a film crew to film a pilot series to pitch to Amazon prime and Netflix about lifestyle design while traveling internationally on a thousand bucks a month.
This current trip is something of a test bed for the TV show to make sure the proof of concept is even possible… Thus far after traveling for a little over 4 years total I can report back It’s very doable while still enjoying a great lifestyle full of adventure and making memories that will last a lifetime. My monthly average for traveling on the road the whole year of 2019 was $877 USD. Including my international flights and shipping the motorcycle from Mexico to Europe the total was $1028 USD a month. That includes everything! Medical bills, insurance for the motorcycle, parts for the motorcycle, every single dollar I spent in 2019 is accounted for and this $1028 is the result! I can’t even rent a shitty apartment in Oklahoma where I live, buy food to eat, and sit doing nothing but staring at the wall for $1,028 a month 💸💸💸💸💸 Believe me… I tried haha As a matter of fact the cheapest I could get my monthly budget down to while living in the United States was $1,130 USD…. I had absolutely no social life. No eating at restaurants. No drinking beers. Just paying bills and saving all I could for this trip
13. If somebody is thinking about doing this kind of trip and is currently doubtful, what would you advice them?
13) DO IT!!! Like Nike says “Just freaking do it” If you feel called to travel I can tell you for my own personal experience it’s the most rewarding thing you will ever do with your life… Make your journey a priority and don’t say one day I’ll go on a trip…. Make the goal real and tangible by making it specific and measurable. As an example you would say “On June 1st 2021 I will leave for my 5 month long trip on (whatever motorcycle you want) to see (whatever places you desire) with ($X,XXX) amount of dollars in the bank.” This is incredibly specific and measurable… If you know you want to have $10,000 in the bank for your trip and you have a year to save up this amount of money you know you need to put $834 every month into your savings account. Some months you might be able to save more… Some months you might have to save less but this will keep you on track because what gets measured gets done! Doing a round-the-world trip seems like a very lofty and unobtainable goal to most people because they’ve never seen anyone ever do it. A very similar story was said about running a mile in one minute… No one had ever done it before and people thought it was impossible. They actually thought your muscles would explode if you were able to do this… Until 1954 when Roger Bannister ran the mile in less than 4 minutes… Within 2 weeks after him completing this amazing accomplishment nine other people did the same. This RTW journey is no different. We live in a world full of technology and connectedness where you can follow any number of people’s journey around the planet 7 days a week 24 hours a day. Not only is this a huge inspiration for your trip but it also proves in fact that a trip like this is very doable. My hope is to show that a RTW trip is obtainable for anyone who is motivated and dedicated to making their dreams become their reality.
“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are built for.”