Opinion: Heading off road

While Zac and Jacob were getting soaked in New Brunswick last weekend on the Fundy Adventure Rally, I was driving California’s arid Rubicon Trail in a new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. It’s 35 kilometres of rocks, rocks and more rocks, with plenty of sand and some extra rocks thrown in for good measure.

This was a press trip to show off Jeep’s most-capable off-roader, and we clambered over and between boulders all weekend long. Sometimes, we’d slam down all two tonnes of truck on something really hard and jar all our teeth; other times, we’d wedge the new Jeep (with less than a thousand miles on the odometer) against a rock and pivot around it with only one driving wheel, scraping most of our weight onto the steel rails. But we made it through. Slow and steady won the day.

One of the Jeep Wrangler Rubicons gets some help from a spotter to make its way over the rocks of the Rubicon Trail.

“Wow – Rubicons on the Rubicon!” called out a dirt biker, waiting along the way on a Suzuki RMX for us to pass. His friend on an RM gave us the thumbs up in the cloud of dust we created. Then they shot off the way we’d just come. I could hear them switch up into third while we stayed in low-range-crawl.

The Suzuki RMX450, on the other hand, would just skitter through the gaps in the rocks, barely slowing down.

There weren’t many bikes on the Rubicon – I saw perhaps a half-dozen on the two days we came through, compared to 30 or 40 four-wheelers. There’s a lot of shale on the trail that makes it skittery for a motorcycle, and the riders I saw were getting a real workout for their arms and legs. More popular were the Razors, purpose built for getting over the biggest obstacles as quickly and easily as possible. Our Jeeps, however, were also road legal and comfortable when the trail ended. And although we took off the doors and the roof to let in all the dust, we also had air-conditioning.

Yup, that’s Mark, with high-tech breathing equipment installed.

The point of all this? Those motorcycles were the most capable vehicles out there: light, quick, manoeuvrable and unstoppable. Not everyone could ride them – their riders seemed in pretty good shape, compared to the large Americans behind the wheels of the many Wranglers and the few FJs and Broncos we saw along the way. The bikes were also the simplest machines, cleverly engineered but not encumbered by all the extra weight needed to protect large-block engines and heavy coil springs.

There’s a role for all the machines out there, and some, like the Jeep Wrangler, try to do everything. It’s one reason why new Rubicons cost $50,000 and up. But if you just need to get somewhere with the least fuss and without breaking the bank, and there’s no road, you can’t beat a motorcycle. As the head of BMW Motorrad once told me, the last machine on Earth will be a motorcycle.

Furiosa and her sisters know how to get around in Mad Max’s post-apocalyptic world.


  1. This is reading a bit like the Motorcycle dot com disguised sponsored articles for vans and pick ups. You’ll note they are taking notable push back for that approach. Nuff said.

    • Don’t worry – there was no sponsorship of this from Jeep. We like to keep our motorcycle content on two wheels, but with all the stuff we do as automotive journalists, every now and again four-wheeled stuff sneaks in if it’s relevant. But a lot more bike stuff finds its way into our car copy, even when it’s not really relevant…

  2. Having recently (for the sheer heck of it) off-roaded a scooter for a day, I can believe that even a motorcycle not designed for the dirt can do surprisingly well.

    Light weight, single track for the wheels allowing you to go between obstacles and (in my case) having something cheap enough to bash around like I just didn’t care

    Which in terms of longevity, I really didn’t… though the Kymco in question will likely be ridden post next apocalypse as it is essentially unable to be killed by either ham fisted riding or outright horrific riding abuse.

  3. Apples and oranges Mark.
    Right now I prefer apples, but the day will come that my old teeth won’t be able to bite through the apple skin and I’ll have to switch to 4 wheels…erm, oranges.

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