The best way to see the world is riding a motorbike. You get to be in the environment and still cover lots of ground in a day. You get sights, sounds, and smells you just can’t while being in a car. Some motorcyclists compare being in a car to that of being in a cage.
Motorcycle trips are wonderful amazing things. Undertaking a road trip is a bit more complicated than just hopping in your car and heading off into the sunset. I’ve traveled all over Texas, and have made a Dallas to Chicago trip to see my family who I’m quite sure wonders about my mental health.
Prep The Bike
Make sure the bike is maintained. Is your oil going to last the miles until you get where you’re going? Will your tires? 500 miles from home on a lonely road is not the time to find out. Make sure these are taken care of before you go. Yes it can expensive. That’s the price of admission and peace of mind. Do you really want to be worrying if your left phalange is going to hold up, instead of focusing on your trip? I don’t.
If you have fairings, make sure all the bolts or screws are present and tight. Do you have hard bags? Make sure the fasteners are nice and tight also. Feel free to have your local mechanic to give it a once over before you head out, even if you like doing all your wrenching yourself. The good ones spot stuff we don’t or have become blind to. The guy who works on my Triumph, RPM Cycle’s Ryan Church is well worth the hourly shop rate I get charged for his expertise.
A lot of people *cough BMW & FJR riders cough* make the mistake of adding features or gadgets before a trip. This is generally a mistake. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard about people having issues with that newly installed and untested device. Ya, it’s tempting to want to add stuff like grip warmers, GPS, cruise control or something else. Some say “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.” You don’t have to join the Borg Collective just before your long trip. It can wait until you get back.
Make sure you’re well rested and hydrated. There’s nothing like being worn out on a motorcycle. Being on a bike can dehydrate you and wear you out a lot quicker than you think. Distances you can crush in a car, suddenly become a slog on a motorbike. Personal example: when I moved to Texas it took about 26 hours to go from Naples to Dallas. That’s roughly 1200 miles. The most I’ve done in a day on a motorbike is about 2/3 of that.
Make sure you have the right motorcycle gear for the trip. Will it be hot? A mesh jacket with a zip in liner is great in case it gets a bit cool. Will it be cold? Wear a leather jacket also with a zip in liner. Take the liner out if it gets warmer, and you start to smell like cooking bacon at stoplights. Mmmmm…bacon.
Wear earplugs. For some reason, it really helps when you’re spending lots of time at speed, and helps with fatigue. I’m not saying earplugs are magic but I’m not saying their not.
Nothing Will Be Exactly Right: Go Anyway
John Muir once said the best way to begin a journey is to “throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence”. The same is true for motorcycle trips. You can drink all the water, get all the rest, have a moto mechanic tear the bike down and rebuild it, but nothing replaces the actual cajones of setting out. That nervous excitement of expectation and the unknown before heading is often surreal. No matter how many trips I’ve taken, I always get some butterflies in my stomach right before I go. That feeling is ultimately wonderful, as it means I’m about to head out of the known, into what may come.
Take Frequent Breaks
Staring down the barrel of a 1,000-mile motorcycle trip will make you do some research, and question your sanity several times over. In prep for my Dallas to Chicago motorcycle trip, I did a ton of reading. On ADV Rider I came across a tip to stop once every 50-75 miles, or once an hour or so. I thought this was solid advice and followed to it on my Chicago trip and every one since.
Getting off the bike to walk around, stretch, get gas, or a soda about once an hour is a great way to keep your focus, and allow you to go longer in a day. Some like to push as far as they can between stops. That may work fine in a car, but on a motorbike, it requires more physical exertion and focus than you’re average Metallic Beige people mover.
See Some Sights
Life ain’t a gulag, and neither are long motorcycle trips. Sometimes, you just want to get there, and hammer down to make time. I usually plan my stops around unique food stops. I have the rule of “if I can do it at home, I don’t do it on the road.” I typically do a search for fun spots and cool places to eat on the way.
When I go to Austin, I always stop for kolaches in West, chicken tender rolls at Bush’s Chicken or burgers from Healthcamp in Waco, and Round Rock Donuts, in …erm Round Rock. When I went to Chicago, I made sure to stop at Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous in Memphis, and Bogart’s Smokehouse in St. Louis. Both were more than worth the detour.
What spins your prop may be something other than BBQ tourism. You’d be wrong, and that’s ok. There are support groups for people who don’t love BBQ. You may like to go see canyons, hike, go river rafting, or do competitive knitting. You can do all of those while touring on a motorcycle.
I’m very convinced that the best way to travel the world is astride a motorcycle. Share your road trip triumphs and tragedies in the comments below.