Some of the best ideas in life happen when two friends sit and chat while enjoying a pint of their favorite brew. In the movies, at least, napkins get tossed back and forth as rough drawings turn into something gold.
Bryce Stevens and Andrew Cull were on to something several years ago when the two motorcycling enthusiast came up with an idea to ride the backcountry trails of Washington from its southern neighbor of Oregon all the way to Canada. No, they didn't put together a rough map sketched from memory onto their napkins and head out the next morning. Instead they took their idea to the Overland Expo, a conference of sorts, held twice a year for the do-it-yourself adventure travel enthusiast.
They won an award and used that as a spring board to get Backcountry Discovery Routes started.
Today, BDR is an actual non-profit with a mission to establish and preserve off-highway routes for dual-sport and adventure motorcycle travel. The group also works with state and and federal government agencies to keep trails and remote roads on public land open to the motorcycling community.
Thanks to donations, lots of volunteer hours and serious determination from the founders and a board of directors, off-roaders can follow maps of backcountry routes through four states, soon a fifth and, if finances allow, three more states on the West Coast with opportunities to start on the East Coast in 2015.
All Photos by Jon Beck
Name: Backcountry Discovery Routes
Year Founded: 2010
Who Founded: The BDR organization was founded by Bryce Stevens (founder of Trails.com), Andrew Cull (CEO of Remote Medical, Inc.), Filmmaker Sterling Noren of Noren Films, and Tom Myers and Paul Guillien of Touratech USA.
States Mapped (Routes Created):
- WABDR - Washington Backcountry Discovery Route
- UTBDR - Utah Backcountry Discovery Route
- COBDR - Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route
- AZBDR - Arizona Backcountry Discovery Route
The organization is currently working on a fifth route: IDBDR - Idaho Backcountry Discovery Route
Number of members: Our Board of Directors consists of 6 members, we have 1 person on staff, and over a dozen volunteers who help us scout the routes, put on fundraising events, run the website, work with industry partners and promote the mission of the BDR. Additionally, we've recently did a soft launch of our membership program. So far we have 20 members but expect our membership program to grow to over 100 once we roll out the official membership program launch later this year.
Home city: Seattle, WA
Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Membership Costs: We have three membership levels $100, $250 and $500. The basic level gets you a decal and a BDR DVD and Map upon release of the next project. Higher levels come with additional perks. For more information about joining the BDR Membership program, visit Memberships.
1. How did Backcountry Discovery Routes get started?
Bryce Stevens and Andrew Cull, two passionate adventure motorcycle enthusiasts from Seattle, WA had an idea to create a route from Oregon to Canada through the Washington backcountry. The idea gained momentum when it was awarded the 2010 Overland Flag for best proposal for an expedition at the Overland Expo. Bryce and Andrew had visions of making a documentary film, website and free GPS tracks to share with the community. Inspired by the famous route in Oregon they settled on the name "Washington Backcountry Discovery Route".
By late spring 2010 the two had enlisted the support of Tom Myers and Paul Guillien of Touratech-USA, Sterling Noren of Noren Films, Helge Pedersen of GlobeRiders, local BMW dealers and a host of other sponsors, and in mid-August, six motorcycles and one support vehicle, loaded with camera and film equipment, began an 8-day expedition into the Washington backcountry.
The WABDR project was a huge success, and paved the way for the creation of the 501 (c)(4) non-profit organization Backcountry Discovery Routes that develops one BDR route a year for the adventure motorcycling community. For each BDR route, a full-length documentary DVD, a Butler motorcycle map, and free GPS tracks are produced. BDR works with motorcycle dealers across the country to organize BDR movie premieres and training seminars.
2. What's your process first in finding the available trails, and then mapping it out?
BDR relies on a dedicated group of volunteers who contribute thousands of hours each year to help make the routes a reality. Our scouting directors do a lot of preliminary research by looking at maps, researching existing off road trails, and consulting with local ADV riders and off-road enthusiasts. They then go out and ride the trails themselves, or delegate the pre-scouting to BDR volunteers, with the goal of finding the most scenic and fun trails and roads that are eventually being stitched into a single preliminary state route running south to north.
Then, the BDR expedition team travels the route, making final adjustments and changes, filming the documentary and creating photographic archives of the route. Once the route is finalized, the Butler Motorcycle Maps guys get to work on creating the waterproof BDR route map, and our film director creates the documentary movie that comes out on DVD. We release free GPS tracks of the route to the community on our website, along with a helpful FAQ and images from the expedition.
Overall, it takes hundreds of volunteer hours and thousands of dollars to produce a single BDR project.
3. You have four states four states completed and many underway - was mapping multiple states the initial objective or have you expanded on your original goals?
After creating the WABDR, and receiving the overwhelmingly positive response from riders, it became clear that we were into something special. We knew that if we continue creating the routes and linking them together state by state, the BDR project could become a unique gift and an invaluable resource for the ADV community.
We want to share the amazing off road riding opportunities and the natural beauty of our land not just with the US riders, but with adventure motorcyclists all over the world.
4. Do you ever "finish" a state or are you always finding new routes to explore and map?
We consider the route complete once we publish the map and the tracks. Of course roads deteriorate or get closed due to various circumstances, so we try to stay on top of these changes, provide rerouting suggestions and notify the public about changes to the route.
5. Can riders download a GPS route of a trail you've mapped or is it an actual bona fide map in hand?
Free GPS tracks on our website are a good start, but we always recommend that riders bring a complete set of maps for the area they plan to ride, including the BDR Butler Map and the National Forest maps. Maps have good information about roads, water sources, and are indispensable resource when the GPS doesn't work, or is giving questionable advice.
Unplanned events can occur and having paper/synthetic maps of the area can be a life saver. Each BDR route also has a dedicated thread on ADVrider.com, which might be a helpful resource in planning a BDR trip.
6. Are other specifics included in your mapping like hazards, site seeing, challenge level, etc.
The BDR Butler Motorcycle Map includes elevation profiles, climate guides, motorcycle shop lists and QR codes to link you to valuable information like where to sleep, where to eat or what to see when you're not on the bike. It is hard to assign the challenge level to the route because everyone's idea of what's easy or hard is different based on their off-road experience, and the bike they ride.
We do always note the "Expert Only" roads and include an alternative, easier route. The BDR expedition documentaries are also helpful in determining the level of difficulty of the route or certain parts of it.
7. Mapping backcountry routes is just a part of what you do. What's your involvement working with public agencies and advocating for those in the off-road motorcycling community.
One of the main goals of the BDR organization is to educate the ADV community about responsible travel on public land. In our documentaries, in seminars we organize, and on social media, we talk about rider safety, the rules of engagement with the local communities, the best practices of off-road travel and motorcycle camping, and how to be good guests in the wildlands.
In our communications with the Forest Service, and other agencies responsible for public land, we're advocating for keeping the trails open for the off-road riding community, and helping these land managers better serve ADV and dual-sport motorcycle recreation.
Another significant contribution that the BDR community makes is bringing travel & tourism dollars to small towns strained by lost industry.
8. You also produce movies?
Yes, every BDR route has an accompanying expedition documentary DVD.
9. Do you organize ride events or is BDR more of providing the information for public use?
The BDR's primary mission is to create the routes for the public. We do however host an annual fundraising ride near Wickenburg, AZ. The proceeds from this ride help raise funds that are essential to our non-profit organization being able to develop the next BDR route. The event is also a great way to connect with the BDR supporters who are eager to contribute to the mission of the organization.
The BDR organization creates the routes for the community. We enjoy seeing riding clubs, groups of friends and even families getting together and riding a Backcountry Discovery Route. In fact, we recently spoke to a woman here in Washington State who rode the WABDR with her son and grandson. At over 70 years old, she was proud of the accomplishment and cherished the time with her family.
10. What states do you have your mapping sights on next?
The next project is scheduled to be the IDBDR - Idaho. If our fundraising goals are met that project could be completed and released to the public as early as January 2015. Routes for New Mexico, Wyoming, California, and possibly an East Coast route are still in the concept phase.
There are also rumors of BDR routes outside of the US, but that is probably just the beer talking. Truth be told, the first BDR route was beer-inspired idea, so you just never know what might be next. Just be sure to do your part and become a member of the Backcountry Discovery Routes so that the non-profit organization can keep doing it's good work.
Interview with Inna Thorn, BDR Manager