It’s a full day’s ride from Sandpoint to Calgary, but this far north the sun is already hanging high far into the evening. I’m off to finally meet Mirko and Claudia Nagler who are staying with a friend in the suburbs and they’ve invited me to join them. Their friend is German expat, Tobi Langer who runs the service department of Blackfoot Motorsports in Calgary. Interesting, Tobi got his job with the help from another friend and world motorcycle traveler, Rene Cormier, who’s also from this area.
Mirko and Claudia Nagler, riding the Americas to raise awareness for children’s charity.
Mirko and Claudia are planning to spend about a year and a half on the road. Their route will take them completely around North and South Americas, where they plan to work at various children’s charities (in South America) as well as raise money along the way. They’re riding twin 2014 Suzuki V-Strom 1000s (standard models) that have been modified by Touratech. Because they’re riding for a children’s charity (EBM Projects), both Suzuki (Europe) and Touratech (Germany) have donated their gear, including their customized Companero riding suits. However, they’re responsible for all other expenses, including servicing the bikes. Mirko is a bike builder and mechanic so all he needs is a garage, and Tobi has arranged for a bay at Blackfoot, which is where we spend the following day.
Mirko and Claudia’s fully rebuilt Honda African Twins, the bikes they were going to use before Suzuki donated the new V-Strom 1000s.
Back in Germany, while saving and preparing for their journey, Mirko had purchased and completely rebuilt a twin set of Honda African Twins, a popular overlanding bike that’s mysteriously has never been available in the U.S. However, just as he was finishing up the project, Suzuki came forward with their offer to supply a pair of new V-Stroms as a contribution to the charity ride. Mirko ended up selling off theAfrican Twins for the support money they’d provide, and the V-Stroms went to Touratech for a makeover -- and are they beaucoup sexy!
They’re raising money along the way and also doing portrait photography for hire to add to the charity’s kitty. You can see samples of their photography, find out more about their journey and charity atwww.2ar.eu (German and English).
I’m struck by the number of motorcycles up here. For such a short riding season there may be more bikes per capital than in southern California. Riding around Calgary, our V-Strom 1000s make an unusual trio. Everywhere we go these bikes are head-turners -- especially Mirko and Claudia’s unique Touratecharized models. And we’re often asked about them.
Here’s Mirko reinstalling the air box as he wraps up the service check.
Mirko (right) talks with Tobi Langer, friend and service manager of Blackfoot Motorsports in Calgary. The owners of the store were kind enough to allow Mirko to use their service bays to work on the twin V-Stroms. Mirko really knows his way around these machines, and my hat is off to him for tackling the job. Mirko also installed a higher set of handlebar risers for better off-road control and comfort.
Blackfoot partner and factory racing maven, Jason Mitchell, helped us out with riding tips for the area. I ended up following some of his routes and was blown away. This is easily some of the nicest riding country I’ve been in. Yeah, I know I say that about almost everywhere, but… it just keeps getting better.
The day at Blackfoot proves to be an interesting one. They sell all kinds of motorcycles and a few ATVs, but ironically no snow mobiles. Most of their business occurs during only six months of the year. But during that time they sell between 2,000 and 4,500 bikes. There are 85 staff manning the operation, and their service area is huge!
Mirko and Claudia once again remind me that travel is all about the people we meet, with everything else being the backdrops. We only had a couple of days together by vowed to meet again, possibly in Seattle, definitely in Los Angeles (my home) and I might join them on part of a ride through Central America this fall.
Almost across the street from Blackfoot is the Wild Rose Motocross Park, it’s a full-on motocross track that’s been located there since 1964! After the service, we headed over to the park to meet some of the riders, and check out the action.
That’s Tobi on the far right.
One of Dave's selfies outside of Blackfoot Motorsports where we met. Actually, we met on Facebook, and it turns out we share a whole mess o' friends.
One of our jaunts was to the Calgary Stampede, perhaps the most famous rodeo in the world, and an event that takes over the city for a few days every summer. It was a bloody hot day, too! And fortunately a couple of new friends (thank-ee Dave and Skip!) came to the rescue with a nearby place to park the bikes and get out of our 45 tons of armor and riding gear.
Our shortcut into the Calgary Stampede, nice going down, difficult coming up!
Claudia looks over the center of Calgary on our approach to the Stampede grounds.
Long before motorcycles were these animals, they called ‘em horses….
A literal four horsepower saw.
Mirko and Claudia entering the Calgary Stampede’s midway.
Del Pease, our brush with a genuine Albertan cowboy. This kind and generous soul allowed us into the press area of the main staging arena for a close-up view of the events.
Up front and personal….
A glimpse of the Calgary Stampede’s grandstand.
How does a horse do that?!?
I reckon you’ll find this yoga pose in a book somewhere….
This one is providing an antigravity demonstration….
Honey, who shrunk the horse?
More on this later, but this bearproof trash can is located in the CENTER of Calgary – a hint as to the extent of how prevalent this critters are in these areas.
Before: Skip, Claudia, Mirko and Dave at our secret parking location.
After: Our bikes were stealthily hidden from prying eyes while we attended the Stampede. Special thanks to Skip for the place and cloak of invisibility.
Here’s our Stageside pass provided by Del Pease.
Three V-Strom 1000s and two BMWs, they’re finally outnumbered!
Me, Tobi, Mirko and Claudia at Blackfoot Motorsports in Calgary.
I specifically wanted to capture shots of the Touratecharized V-Stroms from Europe. Mirko and Claudia rode them off-road a lot. And they were also carrying a HUGE load of gear. These bikes, in particular, garnered a lot of attention, and the way they were set up is consistent with how most big enduros are outfitted for adventuring.
My favorite picture of us. It’s a parting shot from the foothills of the Rockies, about an hour outside of Calgary. I’m looking forward to meeting them again in Seattle within a few weeks (after I return from Alaska). And I’m hoping they’ll make it for a stay at my home in Los Angeles in a couple of months. Nicole and I will attempt to talk them into coming along to the HU (Horizons Unlimited) meet in Mariposa in September (it’s only a day’s ride from LA!). Lovely people, and their adventure is only beginning.
Text and pictures by Paul Smith.