Epic Tour : Talking with Mike Saunders

You may not have heard of Mike Saunders before. In May 2014 he quit his job to ride a Honda Ruckus. So? Well Mike decided to ride his Ruckus to the four points of North America. That would be Key West, Florida, Baja Mexico, Alaska, and Cape Spear, Newfoundland.

He kept costs low by wild camping most nights and cooking most of his own meals. And then there’s the sip, sip of gasoline thanks to riding a 50 cc Honda Ruckus that he named “La Tortuga”. For a man in no rush, it was an ideal ride, but definitely an unusual one.

Logging over 66,000 km on his odometer he returned to his home in Virginia in September of last year with a leaking crankcase and flat tire. CMG caught up with Mike as his epic trip drew to a close with a Q & A that spans over several pages (see next page link at bottom of article).


What were some of the differences you noticed while riding the scooter?

Roadside Ruckus repairs.
Roadside Ruckus repairs.

There are many distinct characteristics of traveling by scooter that I was wholly unprepared for after years of touring by full-size motorcycle.

First, nearly every vehicle on the road passes me and I’m always glancing at my mirrors.  I had become accustomed to being the “passer” and wanting to have the open road ahead of me.  By traveling at 30-40 mph,  once the vehicles whizz past, I’m once again treated to open road ahead – slow is the new fast.

Second, it takes at least twice as long to get anywhere.  Gone are the days of my Iron Butt riding and cross-continental two-week journeys. Road restrictions and my speed allow for a “slow” journey wherever I’m going which turns out to be as much of a mental exercise in patience as it does an immersive opportunity to see twice as much along the roadside.  After riding with me for a stint, many experienced motorcycles remark how they noticed so many sights they’d never seen before in familiar terrain.

Third, the scooter is only 200 lbs and with the wide tires, can easily maneuver into places a motorcycle cannot.  Roadside ditches and culverts are not only for crashing anymore but have become excellent places to take a photograph or snack breaks. Parking in cities is as easy as pulling it onto the curb and throwing on a U-Lock. Stealth camping by scooter is very easy as well since I can ride it directly into the woods , lift it over logs or hide it behind a tree. I’ve even been known to park the Ruckus underneath my hammock in heavy rains.

Finally, riding the scooter slowed me down mentally as well.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still out chasing that “perfect line” through the twisties, just at a much slower speed.  The joy of riding has transitioned from the adrenaline and quickened pace, to the serenity, sights and smells along the way that are worth savoring.

Did people treat you differently because you were riding the Ruckus?

It's easy to see how someone could be curious about the scooter.
It’s easy to see how someone could be curious about the scooter.

People are very curious and open for conversation when they see I am on a scooter and not a motorcycle.  The scooter dispels the stereotypes of a motorcyclist, replacing it with the youthful and whimsical image of scootering harbored by most westerners.

The Ruckus  attracts attention from its odd appearance; bright red reserve fuel can, sticker covered body panels, bulging and patched luggage and the daily laundry of underwear or socks flapping in the breeze. I’m not sure I would have been invited into so many homes or backyards if I was riding an ordinary motorbike.

Did the Ruckus allow you to visit certain places or afford other opportunities you wouldn’t have had on a bigger bike?

On a full adventure bike, there’s no way I’d attempt a few memorable rough trails or blind hills I’ve tackled alone without someone to help me pick it up or tow it out.  On the second day of my trip after parking on a loose shoulder, I watched in slow-motion as the Ruckus slowly fell over then continued to slide 6 feet down the side of a loose hill into the woods.  Alone and on a remote forest trail, I would have been stranded for days if that was my GS below me.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, I’d often turn down unmaintained snowmobile trails or singletrack just to find out where it led.  Making a U-turn here on a Ruckus is infinitely easy, in the worst case, you can lock the front wheel and drag the back end 180 degrees.

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  1. […] The answer, of course, is the Honda Ruckus. And along with its miserly fuel consumption, the Ruckus is still a darling of the customization scene, as you can see in Honda Canada’s video above. This custom was built in conjunction with Toronto’s Mini Moto Labs (check them out here, here and here). It’s cool-looking, although we’re not sure if we’d ride this one across North America, like Mike Saunders did with his. […]

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