Rider Profile: Around-the-World Rider Rene Cormier

Rene Cormier
Rene Cormier spent five years traveling around the world on a motorcycle.

It was when Rene Cormier was pulled over in Tajikistan that a man in fatigues with an assault rifle asking about official documents made a sudden move.

He threw his firearm into the hands of Cormier’s travel companion, Guillaume, and started to pirouette.

Cormier had stopped his BMW F 650 GS Dakar and was offering to take photographs to ease the tension at this Russian military checkpoint on the southern border of the small country. It seemed to bring out the inner ham of an underutilized, underpaid soldier.

Rene Cormier
Don’t judge a Russian military checkpoint soldier in Tajikistan by his fatigues…he may strike a pose or do a pirouette!

Let’s go back to the beginning….

In 2003, Rene Cormier was the communications manager for Colorado-based RockShox when he discovered a Chicago firm was buying the bicycle suspension manufacturer. He would need to move with the company. He declined the new position and instead roared off from Colorado Springs to Alaska on a used orange BMW R 1150 GS. It would be Cormier’s first big trip on a motorcycle.

Rene Cormier
Rene Cormier before his trip talk.

Good conditions and enjoyable roads allowed Cormier to consider his future plans as a soon-to-be-unemployed communications specialist. What would he do upon his return? The answer would come to him. Two Colombians, traveling on the same model motorcycle Cormier was riding, convinced him to ride to South America. They told him Spanish was easily learned, accommodation was cheap and the women were beautiful.  Cormier was in. He would ride for a year solo through South America. But first he would ride to Colorado to finish up his work with RockShox. He had an epiphany in his helmet on the way down: Why not continue past South America? Why not ride around the world?

Rene Cormier
Crossing the shallow edges of Lake Turkana, Kenya.

Time? He had plenty of that. Money? With a little research, Cormier believed he could do it for $25/day. Fuel, food, beer, Internet café, camping. OK. He would sell everything he owned to finance the trip.

“I thought the route was going to be easy,” Cormier tells me at Vancouver BMW Ducati, where he is hosting a presentation on a rainy Thursday evening. “From Canada I’d spend one year riding to South America. I’d spend year two going from Africa to Russia and year three going from Russia to Australia and New Zealand then back to Canada. What could go wrong?”

Rene Cormier
A lunch stop with a travel companion at Lake Assal, Djibouti.

A year later he found himself riding a BMW F 650 GS Dakar with his eyes closed across the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, the world’s largest salt flat.

“It was actually kind of terrifying,” Cormier admits. “But it was a cool thing to do.”

The Salar camping experience was one of the most memorable of the trip.

“You find the campsite by pulling the clutch lever in and coasting to a stop,” he says. He would camp under the stars at nearly 12,000 feet, his bike covered in salt, while he played a 3/4-scale guitar he bought in Mexico and bungeed to the bike.

Rene Cormier
In Namibia, Cormier reaches the Tropic of Capricorn.

He rode Ruta 40 and made it to the southern tip of Argentina. He found himself back in Canada, in Edmonton, where he slept on his brother’s couch for a year and gathered the funds to return to motorcycle travel full-time. After that time, he crated his F 650 GS Dakar and shipped it to Johannesburg, South Africa.

Rene Cormier
Cormier rides the twisties in South Africa.

He would soon find himself riding on compacted sand in northern Kenya past herds of wandering camels. Standing up on the pegs, he found comparisons to skiing. But, like skiing, he found weaving his bike through sand exhausting. One day, traveling 100 miles took seven and a half hours. Then finding a campsite on the shores of Lake Turkana proved not to be easy. The guard at Sibiloi National Park told Cormier that it was an “easy” road, which turned out to be a 12-mile dead-end road of sandy riverbed and deep water crossings. When he arrived Cormier found no other campers.

The roads in Tajikistan.
The roads in Tajikistan.

After five years of travel, Cormier returned to Vancouver, his point of origin. At the helm of his GS, no day was the same, but each was an adventure. Although he wouldn’t stick to his original plan, he would ride through North, Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, Mongolia and Russia.

Rene Cormier
Riding the dirt and gravel of Mongolia.

It was back in 1992, as a biology student traveling in Kenya, that he first looked on in admiration as he was passed by motorcycles packed for long-term travel: three dusty BMWs loaded with fuel containers and spare tires. Cormier still thinks motorcycle travel is the best way to journey to distant horizons.

Rene Cormier
Cormier contemplates some roadside cuisine (mouse, anyone?) in Malawi.

“I think I had some pretty remarkable foresight at that time,” he says with a smile. “That style of traveling…I still think it offers the best way to see a new place,” Cormier tells me as we chat surrounded by adventure motorcycles on the showroom floor at Vancouver BMW Ducati. “For exploration, for smelling, for seeing…with just enough risk that makes the reward very sweet.”

Rene Cormier
Cormier parks his F 650 GS Dakar next to a massive baobab tree in Zambia.

Cormier’s background in communications served him well when he began his own motorcycle touring company, Renedian Adventures. Throughout the year, he organizes and launches guided tours of southern Africa and Mongolia. This year he’ll start offering adventures through South America.

“It’s a dream job,” he says, smiling.

Rene Cormier
Arriving at Cape of Good Hope.


  1. I met Rene a and his family a couple of years ago when he was on a speaking tour at a motorcycle dealership in Monticello, Minnesota. I bought his book which has fabulous photos and details of his above-mentioned world travel. What an awesome experience he had, and my husband I were able to enjoy it through is speech and great photo slideshow.

  2. Very interesting, my brother and I have been riding from Alaska to the tip of South America over the past six years. Because of family we have to go for a month or so. Usually Jan and Feb. The trick is leaving a bike in a country and coming back 11months later to start riding again. We have many stories on dealing with that from changing dates on forms to paying $200 a piece to broder guards promising to “you no come back”. Our initial plan was to reach the tip sell the bikes(it’s a free zone) and fly home.(Arizona,Wisconsin). My brother had the great idea of heading back, I went along with it. I crashed in Argentina and my 1999klr 650 was toast. I gave it to a mechanic and caught a plane. The next year rented a bike in Brazil to ride with brother. It just is not the same so I retired from riding back. Brother is now in Peru leaving bike there this year. I am very interested in doing South Africa but wait till brother is done. Thanks for info and pic’s. Sticking to Mexico this year.


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