View from our tent Stefan goes electric Jayne rides an electric bike Rally in the Gorge 2012 logo


SoundRider! Rally in the Gorge in Washington & Oregon
(the Columbia Gorge) August 2 - 5, 2012
My review
 
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My tweets here are about travel, motorcycling, tent camping, bicycling (mostly as a commuter), and things I find amusing. I tweet maybe up to half a dozen times a day, on a really good day - usually much less.

International trips by motorcycle
Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Northern England & Scotland, France, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Macedonia (the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), Montenegro, Norway, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden

Trips riding my own motorcycle California ("Lost Coast" and gold country), Idaho, Montana (Glacier NP), Nevada, Oregon, Washington (state), Wyoming (Yellowstone), Canada (Alberta and British Columbia, Jasper, Banff & Kootenay).
 
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  Trolling around on the Internet lead to the discovery of the SoundRider! Rally in the Gorge - the Columbia River Gorge, July 30 - Aug. 5. It promotes itself as four rallies - for sport bikes, for sport touring bikes, for dual sports, and for maxi-scoot (scooters) - combined into one.

We decided to give it a go - we really love talking with other motorcyclists, particularly those that travel by such, at least a bit (as opposed to just day rides around town).

Because of work, we couldn't be at the rally until Thursday evening - after the rally had already been going for two days.

Some things we really liked about the rally:
  • The test rides. I never get to test ride motorcycles, because the motorcycles are always too tall. This time, however, a guy from a Triumph dealership brought two Zero electric bikes, and one was low enough for me! That ride was the highlight of the entire rally. There's no klutch, no gears, and no sound - and that motorcycle is super zippy! CRAZY. Stefan had the biggest grin on his face I've ever seen when he came back from his ride. Huge shoutout to Joel Walson of Cycle Barn for being, by far, the friendliest, most helpful sales associate we've ever encountered. Stefan also got to test ride a BMW 1200 GS and a BMW 800 GS - the first time he has ever ridden a BMW (can you believe it?! Don't all Germans grow up riding BMWs?). The BMW folks were also super nice.
  • The route maps. We know this area fairly well - it's our favorite local place to ride - and the group ride on Friday was through and to places we had been before. But the Rally makes all of its suggested rides in the area available, on both paper and via GPS. They even have two off-road routes they classify as "easy" that we're excited to give a try later this year. We really appreciate having these routes all mapped out, with lots of commentary from previous riders, that we can do any time, not just during the rally. 

  • Access to Maryhill Loops Road. It's a private, super-winding, short dead-end road with about 9 sharp turns near the Stonehenge monument. The Rally rents it out for an entire day, and for one afternoon, all attendees get access to it for as many trips up and down it as they like. I  went just once - I'm a slow poke, and I knew I'd just hold everyone up. Stefan went up and down twice. He would have done more, but it was too hot.
  • The facilities at the Skamania County Fairgrounds in Stevenson, Washington. Plenty of well-maintained bathrooms and showers - at least for the women (because there's always less women at these kinds of events than men). 
  • Breakfast and supper Saturday being included in the price. And the food was decent both times. AND the meals were in an air-conditioned facility!
  • Some of the other attendees. Through a lot of walking around and greeting different people, we finally found a few who were friendly and happy to talk (took a lot of effort on our part, however).
Those things, and the location in general, with its gorgeous views of the Columbia River Gorge, made the rally worth going to. We're glad we went. We're really looking forward to trying some of the routes that seem so well-described and mapped out.

If you aren't from the area, or you don't know the area well, from a motorcycle riding perspective, then the rally is worth going to, if nothing else than for the gorgeous scenery and beautiful roads.
 

I want to say that up front before I list the things we didn't like, enough that we don't think we'll go again:
  • The "outsider" feeling. SoundRider is, basically, a club, and if you aren't a part of that club, you may never feel like a part of the event. There was never a "welcome to the rally!" moment - at least not for people like us, that arrived Thursday evening or later. We were frequently asked to show our wristbands, sometimes by the same person, and a couple of guys seemed disappointed when we were able to show that, yes, we're supposed to be here. We often felt like maybe we weren't supposed to be there. 
  • The programs/presentations/workshops, both in terms of content and timing. In the evening, for instance, when all the riders are supposed to come together, the announcers never opened with "Welcome to the Rally! My name is ______, and this is ________. If you've never been here before - a big welcome to you!" Instead, two guys would get on stage and just start rambling - no introduction - and with all sorts of inside jokes that you had to be a frequent attendee or a member of SoundRider! to understand. They also always seemed lost - what are we supposed to be doing now? We never knew if the evening program was something that was going to have any information of any value for us, and often ended up giving up and going back to our tent or to walk around the grounds. What few presentations were available in the mornings we were there didn't appeal to us at all - most of the daytime presentations happen on Wednesday and Thursday - you miss those days, you miss 75% of the presentations/workshops.
  • The changing rules. Our first night (Thursday), we were in the closed beer garden (it closes at 10), getting to know some other riders and having a really nice first few minutes at the rally. A rally organizer came over as 11 neared and told us that it was quiet time, we had to stop. That's fine. But then the next night, the evening program went on... and on... and on... until midnight, at least. Apparently, when the rider organizers want to sleep, they enforce quiet hours, but when they want to stay up, EVERYONE stays up.

   
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Motorrad Aluminium Topcase

Motorrad Aluminium Topcase

Motorrad Aluminium Topcase

This small version of the top box is 20 liter (5.3 gallon)

400 x 250 x 200 mm
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Motorrad Aluminium Topcase

Motorrad Aluminium Topcase

  • completely welded, not glued or riveted
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  • lid completely removable, which makes loading and unloading much easier
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  • gasket in the lid makes the aluminum box completely waterproof
  • all attachment parts (loops, tie down hooks, and screws) are made of stainless steel
  • all corners and bends are rounded
  • light weight, only 2.3 kg (5 pounds)
  • spare parts available

Available in custom sizes.


So, if you go to the SoundRider! Rally in the Gorge, here are some things to keep in mind:
In short: the rally is worth going to if you can be there starting Wednesday morning, or if you aren't familiar with all the various roads in the area, from a motorcycle riding perspective. If you are from the area, and you know all of the roads well, you might be bored - the rally isn't going to take you anywhere you haven't already been.

Postscript: An organizer for the rally called me a few days after I published this review. He didn't ask me to take this review down or to edit anything - he genuinely wanted to address my concerns. That says a lot about the rally, truly. I hope he took this review in the spirit it was intended - to be helpful.

How does this rally compare to the five others I've been to? You be the judge:
Also see:
What makes a great motorcycle rally (& rallies I have attended)
Disclaimer
Any activity incurs risk. The author assumes no responsibility for the use of information contained within this document.

 
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