Tag Archives: plan a trip

Planning Motorcycle Trips

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To me, planning motorcycle trips is a necessity for a good motorcycle trip. You can never over plan but you can under plan…

In 1977 I took my first long motorcycle trip of 1800 miles. The only thing I planned was the start date, return date and destination. In spite of the lack of planning it was a good trip. Fast forward to June 2002 and I’m a lot older and I would like to think a lot wiser (I may get an argument from Janet on that point). This was my first long ride in 25 years and it was Janet first long ride ever. To top it all off it was to a place (Big Bend National Park) that is not forgiving if you have not planned. Because this was Janet first long ride, I wanted her to enjoy the ride and continue riding with me. I planned every detail of the trip. Because everything is “few and far between” in West Texas I knew where every gas station, lodging and places to eat were. I did make some mistakes. Nothing that ruined the trip but we learned from the mistakes. We have learned a lot and continue to learn more as we travel by motorcycle. This post is about my method of planning our trips.

Destination or Destinations

Every trip begins with a destination or destinations. We pick destinations in various ways. Some of the ways are…

  • Destinations come from places I have always wanted to ride or after traveling somewhere and realizing the trip would be a great motorcycle trip.
  • Friends are always telling us about some of the places they have traveled and have suggested rides. It’s always good to get first hand information, recommendations and you can always ask questions and get suggestions.
  • Some destinations come from reading blogs like this one. Some of my favorite blogs are Coyote , Moto Hobos, Observations of a Perpetual Motorcyclist, Crossings and alison’s wanderland to name just a few. The nice thing about following blogs is you can always get more information from the bloggers. Bloggers are always happy to share their knowledge. Just ask…
  • Some destinations come from motorcycle publications or travel publications. My favorite publications for destinations are Ride Texas, Roadrunner and Rider magazines.

Route Planning

Once we have chosen the destination, we start planning our route. Not a simple task. When riding with the wives I try to keep the mileage per day from 200 to 350 miles. The wives have things they like doing, so I plan accordingly. If just us guys are riding I try to keep it under 500 miles per day and plan the route accordingly.

The routes are not always direct. We try to see what interesting things are along the way and plan stops if they aren’t too far off the beaten path. The stops can also limit the mileage per day depending on what the stops are. You can’t see something like Big Bend in an hour…

Another consideration is lodging. We might be able to travel further on a particular day but our lodging options maybe “slim to none“ in some of the more remote areas. I am a member of most of the motel chains reward programs so I check their websites to see what is available at the planned days end. Depending on the time of year, its popularity and the remoteness I may make reservations. In places like Big Bend National Park don’t expect to ride there in the spring when the cactus are blooming and expect to get a room. It ain’t happening, reservations need to be made a year in advance in Big Bend!!! Do the research before you go… Reservations are always a good idea if traveling to popular areas at popular times of the year. Unless you like sleeping on picnic tables… You should make reservations.

The availability of gas (petrol) is a consideration in route planning too. Depending on the range of your bike and the remoteness of the area it might be a good idea to know where gas stations are before you go and plan gas stops accordingly. If you don’t have many options in an area you might want to call ahead to know business hours. Sometimes they maybe closed or out of business.

I have several road atlases that are a good source for finding scenic routes. I usually google the routes to read about what touristy things are on the route as well as what others have written about the route. We don’t want to miss anything. It might be a while before we can get back to the area.

Once all the information is collected, I start planning the routes for each day. I use google maps the most. It allows me to plot a route with via points, determine mileage and if there is a question about road quality you can check the satellite view or use the street view to get a really up close look. This has been very handy over the years. I have changed routes when I realized the road in question was a gravel or dirt road. We have traveled a few of those roads and prefer not too. You can also check for motels, restaurants, gas stations or other services you may need.

Road construction could be a big issue so I check our routes before we leave. Each state in the U.S. have websites to check road construction areas.

As I map the route I enter mileage, stop information and other need information into a spread sheet. When I make changes the total mileage is recalculated. I print out the spread sheet so I can refer to it on the trip and I use it for entering destination and via point into the GPS each day. Below is the information for one of our riding days.

Itenary example, spread sheet, trip, plan, ride, motorcycle

Before I used a GPS I would printout each day as above and placed it in a map holder on my gas tank as a “quick reference” while riding. It was a great low tech method. The mileage between via points helped to know when my next turn would be and onto which road. Then came the GPS and now I don’t travel without a GPS or maybe I should say I would prefer not to travel without one..

Weather Information

The weather on the trip is good to know but the weather history is useful too. I always check weather.com for the average high, low and record temperatures and the average perception of each area we are traveling. This also helps me determine the best time of the year to travel “weather wise” and it helps to know what to pack and not to pack.

This summer we are planning ride to 4 national parks, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier and Banff. We will be leaving Texas in 90/100 degree heat but in the parks it will be 20 or 30 degree colder in the northern higher elevations and much colder at night. Needless to say we need to pack accordingly.

I hope this is of some use to novice and seasoned riders. One thing I’ve learned while traveling by motorcycle is you can never know too much but you can know too little. Be prepared…

I hope we see you down the road somewhere… Ride safe…

Long Distance Motorcycle Touring Tips

Just sharing some of the long distance motorcycle touring tips we have learned over the years. In 2002 we rode to Big Bend National Park. This was the first long ride for Janet and only my third. On my first two trips I was much younger and the only thing I planed was the date of the ride. This ride was much different because…

  1. We had to pack for two people.
  2. I didn’t want any surprises since this was Janet first and hopefully not last long ride.
  3. Last but not least, there are limited gas stations and they are few and far between in West Texas.
  4. The accommodations are also few and far between. During the busier times reservation should be made a year in advance. It is always a good idea reservations when traveling in remote areas.

We learned a lot on that ride and because planning made the ride go fairly smoothly I have been planning every ride down to the last detail. I always want to know where we will be and the distances in between. We are still learning better ways and methods and reading everything we can find about touring. Below are some of the things we have learned and hopefully they will be of good use to you and yours.

Planning

As we have gotten older we are learning we have limits and you should know yours as well. Don’t make your first long ride a week. Start out doing on weekend or long weekend trips. You will learn a lot from those trips and you can extend those beyond your comfort zone. Unfortunately we have made a few rides with too many miles and not enough days. Learn your limits. When riding with others don’t let a marathon rider push you beyond you comfort zone.

Long day rides will help you learn what mileage you can handle before fatigue sets in. Fatigue and concern about getting there before ____ (you fill in the blank) causes you to make bad decisions or react inappropriately to your riding situation. Ride as much as possible before a long trip to get you prepared physically and mentally for what is in store.

I’ve found you can never do too much research. I use various online route planners to come up with approximate mileages between via points. These planners can also show you where restaurants, motels and gas station are located. In places like West Texas it is a good idea to call ahead to verify they are still there and find out their hours of operation. You don’t want to get to Marathon, Texas after everything has closed!

Weather is another very important part of your trip. You can’t control it but you need to be prepared for it. When traveling long distances the weather at home can be completely different from where you are going. In Colorado for example the mountains can be really cold even in the summer and they can even get snow! I always check the weather averages and records for the dates of our trip at http://www.weather.com/ for several points along the way.

Always consider when to take the trip. Seasonal weather and tourism can make a trip a trip from hell. Traffic in some places can be a nightmare during some of these times. We try to avoid these times if at all possible.

Lodging can be a problem at times if your destination is small or remote. We always make reservations for these places. When we do, we call ahead to confirm reservations before leaving. Sleeping at a picnic area with your wife won’t be fun. It hasn’t happened to us but I have heard some horror stories.

If possible always ride with another rider. It’s always good to have someone with you just in case…

I always carry a map even though I use a GPS. Maps are handy when you need to make route changes. Maps are good to get the big picture. Sometimes GPS’ need a bit of guidance by specifying via points otherwise the GPS will take you the most direct route and that is not always the best or scenic. A GPS has become invaluable in the car and on my bike. Besides routing you to your destination they also provide other useful information like…

  1. What’s ahead? Glancing down at the GPS can show you there is a tight hairpin curve ahead or that a hard curve is ahead.
  2. The GPS can give you a good guestimate when you will arrive at your destination.
  3. The GPS informs you to the distance to your next turn and future turns.
  4. The GPS keeps track of how far you are way from your final destination.
  5. If you need gas, food or lodging it can show what is available and the distances to them.
  6. It can locate many other points of interest… Police, Hospitals etc…

I hope I have convinced you how useful they are. If you haven’t got a GPS you need to get one and learn everything you can about how to use it. One word of caution about using a GPS, keep the GPS maps up to date. Even with an up to date map they can lead you astray. Sometime the maps have errors. When riding in a city on freeways with multiple lanes with access roads they sometimes get confused because of their accuracy and think you are some place you are not. This can be distracting and confusing to you also… be careful… It’s a good idea to get familiar with your route ahead of time so if the GPS starts confusing you, you can read the signs (old school). Again take the time to learn how to use it. Not the day before you leave on your trip. If you don’t do this you will hate the GPS

and it will become a problem instead of a help.

The most important thing of all is, make a checklist of everything and check things off as they are done. You won’t regret making one but you will regret not making one… Trust me, been there done that.

Getting the Bike ready

Make sure your bike is ready for the trip. Do it yourself or have your dealer do it but do it. Make sure the tires, brakes, lights are in good condition and change the oil. Unexpected things are inevitable but you can be ahead of the curve if you do this.

If you are adding extras to your bike for the trip do so well in advance so you can take them on a shakedown run. Do this at least a week ahead. Surprises aren’t fun in some place like West Texas.

Bikes don’t have a spare tire so get a good plug kit, a can of Slime or Fix-A-Flat. There are also small air compressors that are made to carry on bikes. You won’t regret this… I know, been there done that…

If you pull a trailer all of the above applies to the trailer.

Packing Bike

We started out with the bare necessities when we started touring. We didn’t think we needed a lot but over time we have realized that good gear makes for good rides. Comfort, durability and functionality cannot be over looked.

You can make space by putting soft items in ziplock bags and compress them by sitting on the before closing the bag. Don’t laugh it works. Carry extra ziplock bags to keep things dry or keep something wet from getting everything else wet.

Don’t forget the camera and charger.

Your Maintenance

As I have gotten older I have found fatigue is my worst enemy. Plan you trip so you can eat and drink regularly. Carry water, fruit power bar, nuts, and dried fruit or granola bar. Beware of things that melt, they are messy. When you stop for gas replenish your supply.

Wind and heat are quick to take their toll on you. Fatigue will sneak up on you. Recently I purchased a cooling vest for those hot days. It worked amazingly well and I highly recommend using them. Stop often and hydrate. Mental and physical fatigue can affect you judgment. Last but not least don’t forget the sun block and use it often.

Don’t ride past your limits; know your limits they will keep you safe. Be aware of other people’s limits that are riding with you and respect them. Plan your trips with everyones limits in mind.

What If… Plan

Always plan for the unexpected. Carry a flashlight, first aid kit, tools and tire plug kit. You can never over plan a trip but you can certainly under plan it. Know the limits and range of your bike and don’t put yourself and others beyond their limits. Your precautions should increase with the remoteness of your route.

Don’t forget your cell phone and charger, license and insurance.

Some one back home should know of your plans and you should check in regularly.

I will update this post when I can so keep checking back.

Ride safe and have fun…

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