A couple from Newton has been extolling the beauty, exhilaration, relaxation and joy of motorcycle touring since 1995 through a publication called Backroads Motorcycle Tour Magazine. Their mission? Getting riders out on the road, living their adventures and discovering great people and places.
Available in select shops from North Carolina to the Canadian border, each month, Backroads suggests great roads to ride with “Rip & Ride” sheets. It is the brainchild of avid motorcyclists Brian Rathjen and Sheri Kamil. They've kept the specialty magazine going for nearly 25 years.
“I was working at a graphics/photography lab and Brian was a commercial photographer looking for a place to develop his film when we met,” Kamil said.
That was 1995 in Englewood, New Jersey.
“Brian and I and some friends had started a riding club called Sport Touring Motorcycle Club which had a monthly newsletter for the members,” Kamil said. “At one point Brian told the club that he was going to take the newsletter and make it a commercial venture, he was the president and he did do pretty much all of the work on the newsletter. There were certainly other motorcycle magazines, but they were mainly national and did not cater to our region. We wanted to give riders places to go with there motorcycles.”
Kamil and Rathjen's passion has been riding a number of different machines for years. It is not uncommon to find them at motorcycle events. Though they search the planet to discover the next great touring story, when they're not on the road they can be found in at home, nestled in the backwoods of Sussex County.
What started as a black and white tabloid newsprint of 16 pages has evolved into a full-color glossy keeping the large format. Distribution has grown from the local to global.
“We were, and still are, distributed in motorcycle shops and where motorcyclists gather such as restaurants and other establishments that welcome riders,” Kamil said. “Our subscription base grew from word of mouth and consists of every rider out there who is looking for a great day, weekend or longer ride on their motorcycles. We are also well-read by car clubs and anyone who enjoys seeking out new destinations, whether it be on two wheels or otherwise.”
Finding new locations to feature is a challenge and a reward.
“With the advent of the internet, and many people claiming that ‘print is dead,’ we have had our difficulties with the younger readership,” Kamil said. “In addition, there are fewer younger people taking to riding motorcycles, or even getting their driver’s licenses for that matter, so keeping new blood flowing into the motorcycle world is certainly a challenge. The rewards are seeing new riders coming on our rallies and lighting up when they talk about the trips they’ve taken and the things they’ve seen.”
Rathjen and Kamil have been holding their own Backroads’ Rallies for the 20 years in the spring, fall and intermittently, in the summer.
“We get anywhere from 50 to 100 riders joining us as we try to stay in smaller, boutique-type hotels in great riding areas,” Kamil said. “We have had a Backroads Rally overseas - in the Alps - which was attended by 25 of our readers that was organized by Edelweiss Bike Travel. Brian and I go on many organized tours, many overseas, and always invite our readers to join us.”
One of the most exotic places Rathjen and Kamil have ridden was om Santiago, Chile, and Ushuaja, Argentina was one of the most difficult as was a recent trip to Iceland.
“I think the most eclectic was Morocco as far as the culture and Iceland as far as beauty and starkness,” Kamil said. "When traveling overseas the motorcycles are usually supplied by the tour company. If we are traveling on our own, we either rent or get them directly from a manufacturer in the country.”
Through their magazine they try to show that motorcycle touring is an epiphany of poignant sights and scents in nature. They say that unlike traveling in a car, motorcycle riding brings uncanny sensations such as noting subtle temperature deviations, and sensing when a body of water is nearby.
The couple says that their the sense of freedom when riding, feels soul-awakening, and trips can be planned or totally on the fly. “We have grown our social media presence as well as having the magazine available online (after the paying subscribers have received it),” Kamil said.
“In the future we hope to keep on doing what they're doing as long as there are riders who enjoy traveling on their motorcycles.”
For further information about Backroads, visit https://www.backroadsusa.com/