Making a Motorcycle Trip Memorable
Planning for a Long Road Trip
By: Debbi Serafinchon
There is seriously nothing better than experiencing the open road on a bike. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the pure exhilaration of a motorcycle trip are why we ride, right? The open road has a way of calling to those of us that ride, and it whispers so seductively we cannot ignore it.
Planning a more extended trip on a motorcycle takes a little more effort than a car ride, but it is so worth it, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. I have just returned from a three day, 2100 km trip through the mountains and down into Montana. This was my first ‘big’ trip with another one planned for even longer! I am capable of putting on kilometers over a weekend on a single overnight trip, so I thought I was prepared to spend the majority of my days on my bike. I thought wrong. It takes more than buying waterproof bags and planning gas station breaks. Here are some of the things that should be incorporated into planning a lengthy trip.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been riding if all you’ve ever done is city riding. You will want to plan according to your riding ability. Highway riding is different. The twists and bends are taken at higher speeds. You will want to understand how your bike handles when passing other vehicles. You need to be prepared for the faster speeds, be able to anticipate the next move, and be able to read the traffic. A long trip is not the best time to learn to ride your motorcycle. Make sure you have a good understanding of how it handles before you set out.
Packing for a longer trip needs some thought as well. Not only do you need the regular gear you usually wear but it is wise to take rain gear and dress in layers as well. Each morning on my recent trip we started off with jeans, a t-shirt, a hoodie, heavier riding gloves, riding boots, riding pants, a mesh jacket, and a bandana for my neck and face under my full face shield helmet. By our lunch break, we were peeling off layers and switching out the heavier gloves for mesh riding gloves, wearing a light t-shirt under the mesh riding jacket, with riding pants and boots still on. It was at the hottest that I wished I had my ankle boots rather than my tall boots I had on!
I can do 500 km a day on a bike no problem. So adding another 200 to 250 km didn’t seem like all that much but when this pattern is on repeat, it can take a toll on your body. When you are planning a trip, keep in mind the time spent on a bike. On a bike, you have limited positions you can change to relieve a sore back or cramped calf muscle which is why breaks are so significant.
Each time you stop for gas take time to get off your bike so you can stretch and walk around before getting back on the road. This is also a great time to have a snack if it is not a meal break. Snacks such as jerky or trail mix are perfect for keeping in your saddlebags. Don’t forget the water! Staying hydrated is vital to a successful ride and our bodies depend on water to survive. Leave the sugary, sporty, or energy drinks at home or drink them in limited quantities.
By day two, I was surprised at how tired I was. Who knew steering a motorcycle around twists and turns could be so exhausting? Of course, I am kidding. I was well aware of how much energy it takes to ride. For this trip, we were staying in motels with reasonably comfy beds. You will want a good night’s sleep after a day on the road. For my next trip, I will be tenting it along the way, with a backup plan of motels if the tenting proves to be too much. Of course when you travel with others there needs to be time to laugh and share pictures from the day but make sure you also get some quiet time to yourself to unwind.
The best memories from your trips will probably come from who you choose as a travel companion. You get to know a person when on a trip. While there will be the times you are on your motorcycle rockin’ out to your tunes or enjoying the scenery, you don’t want to have to try and figure out why your riding buddy bit your head off at the last stop or question why they are being reckless on the road. Know who you are traveling with before you leave. Try a day trip with them first to see if there is a fit. Of course, we are all known to have a bad day now and then, make sure it is not going to ruin your fun or safety.
Last but certainly not least of the things you can do to prepare for an extended trip is to prepare mentally. 8 hour days behind a visor gives you a lot of time to think. Staying alert is essential and being prepared for whatever might happen is necessary. This last trip, I downloaded a book to listen to, and that was an interesting experience that I enjoyed and will do again. It’s great to be in the moment on the bike, but make sure you’ve pack your brain and it is alert and ready for whatever comes your way.
Buying the road trip books, talking with friends about their experiences, and understanding the route you are going to take are all necessary tools for ensuring you are making memories that will last a lifetime! Being prepared mentally is just as important as packing an extra layer of clothes. Our summers are short so take the time to enjoy the open road when you can.