Ambassador Highlight: Hitting the Trails with Anna Baklund
Anna has been chasing adventure on motorcycles since 2015. Whether she’s camping off her dualsport or riding remote enduro, it’s the beauty of the wilderness that keeps her coming back for more. She enjoys sharing her adventures and hopes that by sharing, it encourages others to find what they’re passionate about. With trail stewardship at the forefront of her message, she hopes to promote responsible riding so that future generations can enjoy access to our public lands.
You can follow Anna on Instagram @AnnaBaklund
TT: How did you first get into riding motorcycles?
AB: My life changed when I was 24.
Up until then, I hadn’t spent very much time outdoors. I was lucky to have a gentleman in my life at the time that introduced me to many of the things I now know and love. In a very short time, I had completely fallen for the magic of the outdoors. Every squishy mossy patch, crystal-clear creek, and deer-sighting left me excited and in awe.
While I hadn’t been interested in motorcycles, that gentleman offered to take me for a ride out towards the mountains near home. So off we went, with me on the back of his Husqvarna Terra 650, down a gravel road into the woods. There was something about the spring air whipping through my borrowed helmet that felt very similar to my truck outings- familiar and comforting- but now a little exhilarating too. I was starting to see why someone might ride.
I’ll never forget the moment when we rounded a corner and had the mountain, I’d only ever remembered seeing from afar, now staring us in the face. There aren’t words to describe how I felt; I was speechless. We pulled over, popped a couple cold ones and took in the view. I feel very lucky to have a picture of myself and that mountain at the exact moment when the light bulb went on for me… “This is what I want to do with my life”. Another picture was taken with me pretending to drive the Terra (I’m sure for nostalgia’s sake); little did anyone know that would soon become a reality. It took less than 2 months, and with only my mom knowing what I was up to, I went out and bought my first motorcycle. As cliché as it sounds, that’s when my life truly started.
TT: What was your biggest challenge when learning to ride?
AB: The biggest challenge I faced when learning to ride, and still struggle with, is being patient with myself. I want to be able to do everything right now; ride to the views that lie at the top of the toughest peaks. Right. Now. And that’s not always possible.
Double-edged sword, I’m also fairly cautious and logical by nature. I’m not willing to go big without calculating the risks first. So, I want to be able to ride everything right now but want to be smart about it. Damning, right?
As a kid, my impatience led to me giving up on things I wasn’t immediately good at. If it took too much time, or was too frustrating, I’d just bail and move on to the next thing. But now I’ve seen how much fun motorcycling is and where it can take me. For the first time in my life, I don’t feel like giving up on something that’s not inherently easy.
TT: What has been your favorite part about motorcycling?
AB: Simple. My favorite part about motorcycling is still the same part that got me hooked in the first place: getting deep into the mountains. When I first rounded that corner on the Terra and saw the mountain, it made me thankful to be alive. There’s no material item or person that can make me feel that way. But that mountain, and the ones since, sure do. The trees, the mountains, the creeks; they take my breath away. They make me feel whole. It’s like a switch – a few hours out there and the weight on my chest lifts and I feel like I can finally breathe again. This is why I ride. For some it might be cruising down a paved backroad, or railing the inside corner at the road races, or being midair on a table-top… whatever it might be, I hope everyone finds their passion – the thing that makes them feel whole.
TT: How did you get involved with responsible trail use and the Tread Lightly! principles? What does your involvement look like now?
AB: There’s been a lot of little factors in my getting involved with responsible trail use and spreading the message of Tread Lightly!. I’m always learning more about how we as the outdoor community can do better, and I’m actively seeking that information out on a continual basis. In the meantime, I try to share what I have learned with others.
How I got involved with responsible trail use was ultimately born out of my love for the outdoors. It started with being upset that someone had shot at trailhead signs and left trash in a still-burning campfire, to being upset that the ruts on the trail were to my pegs and seeing offshoots on the trail that shouldn’t be there. It seemed like simple but depressing logic: when things are trashed- they’re no longer pretty, when things are abused- they get taken away. I fell in love with the non-littered and non-abused trails version of the outdoors. The hopeFUL (not less) romantic in me is advocating for that same version of the outdoors… that includes motorcycles.
My discovering of the Tread Lightly! principles came out of a search for moto-applicable standards of the old Leave No Trace principles. Tread Lightly! has thoroughly outlined how we can do our part to ride responsibly. The major T.R.E.A.D. principles are: travel responsibly, respect the rights of others, educate yourself, avoid sensitive areas, and do your part. When we’re out riding, it’s so easy to get caught up in all the fun we’re having that we might forget some of the things that will keep our sport sustainable. What I love about TL is that they don’t just outline tips for offroaders, they outline tips for other recreational users as well. At the end of the day, it takes cooperation from all recreational users to keep our trails open and in good condition.
Where I live, we get snow every year in the mountains. The trails and gravel roads shut down for a time and become snow bike/sled paradise. Come spring, there’s a lot of erosion damage to the trails and too many fallen trees to count. Those things don’t magically fix themselves – hard-working folks do. It means getting out there with tools and putting in countless hours to restore the trails and keep them rideable. Last year, the small local trail group I participate with put in over 2,000 hours of trail maintenance. This past year I spent a lot of time learning about how we can prevent some of the damage that occurs, the efforts that go into repairing the trails, how to properly fix the trails, as well as doing some form of maintenance on every ride.
Motorcycling has shown me some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. What it’s taught me is that in order to keep those places beautiful and accessible, we all have to work together to be good stewards to the land, the trails, and each other.
TT: What are your goals as a rider?
AB: I have so many goals as a rider. Some of those goals are about personal growth, others about technique development, and of course, getting more involved.
Motorcycling has brought about a lot of personal growth for me. One of the avenues of growth I’m excited to embrace more has to do with slowing down and enjoying the ride. Sounds silly, right? Of course I enjoy riding motorcycles. What I mean is learning to enjoy the journey and not just the destination. I get target fixation in a broad sense. I get so hung up on sticking to a specific route and getting to a specific destination, that I forget to be flexible and enjoy all the things in between point A and point B. You might miss the best view you’ve ever seen if you’re not willing to take a detour and get to camp a little later.
One of my goals is to continue to improve my technique. I’m not looking to be the next Graham Jarvis, I’m just looking to be able to go farther. Some of the most beautiful views require a little extra technique to conquer the trail. I want to be able to take in those views. Improving my technique also means I can take in more. The easier the trails become, the more ground I can cover in a day, and the more things I can see. I’m always stoked for what’s around the next corner!
I’ve come to enjoy the challenge of trying something out of the norm. It’s not often you’ll find me in an arena or on a track, but when I’ve partaken, I’ve had a lot of fun! I ran an Enduro Cross in January of 2019 and have been itching to do another ever since. It was one of the most nerve-racking, intimidating things I’ve ever done, but also one of the most rewarding. I remember being so proud of myself for not crashing even though the obstacles were daunting. I’m looking forward to working on my technique so that the next time I’m just flat proud of myself – not just for not crashing.
Probably my biggest goal this year is to become more involved and give back to the sport I love so much. This comes in the form of advocacy, maintenance, and getting involved at a higher level. Advocating for responsible trail use as been a theme in my social media stories as well as some of my posts. I’m hoping to continue that conversation with folks and spread that message so that we can continue to enjoy trails 50 years from now. I’m also looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and spending more time maintaining and clearing trail than I did last year. We saw trees and do minor maintenance every time we’re out, but some of more time-consuming tread maintenance is necessary too. Getting involved at a higher level is probably the most obscure goal I have. I’m still learning about this piece and have some cool things in the works, so I’ll have to get back to you guys in a later post about what I find out.
Looking up at what I just wrote… maybe I’m chewing off a lot? It seems like a lot of goals. What I’ve learned though is: if you acknowledge the things you want to achieve, you naturally make decisions that will yourself towards those goals.
TT: Do you belong to any riding groups or clubs?
AB: The local trail maintenance crew is the probably the only group I participate with year-round. We have a few big work parties where we all get together, bring friends and family, campout, and do maintenance for an extended weekend. More often than not, a handful of us get together and spend weekends riding and clearing/maintaining trail.
I find it really hard to dedicate my time to more than a couple groups because I enjoy traveling and meeting new people so much! It’s awesome to have a local or online group of friends to share your passion with, but some of my favorite memories are of traveling a long ways to meet new groups of people and go ride.
If you can call it a riding club, the one I participate most with is the online community of riders on Instagram and Facebook. What’s really neat is that it transcends all limitations. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what color you are, what you ride- there’s other folks out there that are into what you’re into. Some of those Instagram connections have become my best friends. And it’s amazing that through that sense of community, I’ve seen many folks offer to lead rides, help work on bikes, or offer up their yards for camping or their homes for visits! That’s the kind of club I enjoy being part of- a global one, united by a shared passion.
TT: Who do you look up to in the riding community?
AB: Most folks would expect me to say I look up to Rider X or Rider Z because of the talent they possess on a motorcycle. To be honest- that doesn’t matter to me. I recognize the talent, and applaud their efforts, but I’m far more interested in the backstory behind the rider and/or how motorcycles have improved their life.
On a very personal level, I look up to the people that go above and beyond to help our trail systems. These are the guys and gals that work behind the scenes to clear and maintain trails, push to keep trails open for motorized use and advocate for new trails. Ever ride a trail and think, “gosh, this is amazing… there’s no ruts, there’s no trash in sight”? It’s the folks that make those dreamy rides a reality that I look up to; they inspire me to do more and be more involved.
I also draw inspiration from folks I see online! I’ll preface this with: social media seems to only show the highlights of any one person’s life. But I look up to the people who are authentic, who are working hard and letting us all in on that progress. Why do I admire that so much? Because I personally struggle with letting folks behind the scenes on my “fails”. What I’m learning from these brave individuals is that the reality is: we all fail. I admire the people who own it and show us that it’s only a building block – not a determinant.
At the end of the day, in the motorcycle community, we’re all just people who happen to ride. I don’t think any one person should be viewed as “better” just because they’ve put in more time in the sport. More practiced? Sure. At least for my avenues of the sport though, it’s not about who’s more practiced, who’s got the bigger following, who’s doing something “cooler”- motorcycling is about doing something you love and doing something that brings you happiness. So, who do I look up to in the riding community? Kind, authentic, salt-of-the-earth people that are chasing down what they’re passionate about.
TT: What has motorcycling taught you?
AB: As I mentioned, motorcycles are continually teaching me about patience and perseverance. Through motorcycling I’ve learned about the world around me and how important it is to be good stewards to the land. And most importantly, motorcycles have taught me that finding what you’re passionate about can be life-changing.
Each avenue of riding has taught me something.
Dualsport riding on my Suzuki DR 200 and KTM 690 Enduro has taught me about independence and self-reliance. Early on, when I was first learning to ride, sometimes I didn’t always have a buddy that was willing to pick me up, help load and unload my bike, and take me out. I had to learn how to load a bike that seemed awkward and heavy and plan my own routes. Even now, when I’ve come back from a solo mission, I feel really empowered that I’m the one who made it happen. No one else, just me. That being said, it’s also taught me that I’m responsible for my own happiness. I have full control of when I get to ride. On the flip side, it’s also highlighted that I’m responsible for my own safety. It’s forced me to play through scenarios of what could happen out there and how I can best prepare.
Dirtbiking on my KTM 200XC and 350EXC-F has taught me that I’m stronger than I thought both mentally and physically. Remember me mentioning that as a kid I would punk out and give up on anything that was hard? Well, you can’t punk out when you’re 30 miles away from the truck on a nasty section of trail just because it’s hard- you have to fight through it and that’s just as much a mental game as it is a physical one. I remember a ride last fall that lasted longer than I had hoped for, I was dealing with carpal tunnel-like symptoms (numb hands and throbbing wrists) and naturally all the challenging parts were at the end. I was feeling mentally and physically defeated. After pushing through an especially ugly part on the trail, I’ve never rode smoother and faster than I did the remaining few miles back to staging. But that’s what dirtbiking has taught me- that I don’t have a choice, I have to try, and really, I have to overcome what’s in front of me.