Motorcycle Touring and Open Road Travel
So you have decided you want to go Touring
If cruising with the wind in your face and appreciating some of the most iconic miles of highway in the world is on your bucket list, than it’s no surprise this article drew your attention. In our case, focusing on Runs and Events for a Nation of riders can keep us away from what we enjoy the most so we are committed to riding longer and more often this year. Of course, our families and the world as we know it don’t function well with dysfunction (things not getting done), so we have our own personal plan. And should the opportunity to break away presents itself to you this year, we hope you plan a long motorcycle tour, either solo or with a friend(s). Pacify that wild-child inside of you with a face-full of wind!
I call it my own personal attitude adjustment.What to do? – There are a number of options for Motorcycle Touring in North America. You can explore the open road without intention or itinerary, or you can determined a destination with an elaborate plan complete with route maps, gas stops and camping/motel layovers. Either will give you that just left home feeling you had way back when. And if you are not wanting to trouble with all of the plans or the uncertainty, there are a number of Motorcycle Touring Companies with guided tours. Led by seasoned and skilled riders with miles of experience these Touring Companies offer planned destinations and in some cases even bike rentals and chase vehicles. You can discover some on them on the Touring page of R.A.G. Where to go? – If you can’t travel for more than a couple of days, you’ll want to consider a destination close to home since the majority of the travel you’re looking to experience is on a motorcycle. There are endless possibilities, but if you have the money and the time, don’t overlook destinations on the other side of the country or even in a another country. The first thing to decide is what you want to see. Some of the more popular destination considerations focus on mountains, plains and deserts. For mountain lovers, there are routes and tours throughout the western states, in the north into the Canadian Rockies as well as the Appalachian Mountains that run through the northern and southeastern states of the lower 48. Of course, the Wild West with a focus on California, Nevada and the Grand Canyon, offer routes through Los Angeles up to San Francisco via the spectacular Yosemite Valley. This western route provides a diverse contrast of landscapes including deserts, canyons and stunning mountain ranges. And there aren’t too many motorcycle adventure seekers we know that haven’t longed for the 2,400 historic miles of the Route 66 highway through the plains states, traveling from Chicago thru Oklahoma City, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and ending in Los Angeles.
But don’t forget and never overlook regional destinations and small wonders and businesses that support and welcome local riders. When is the last time you discovered your own state’s north, south, east or west state-lines and all back roads that connect them? Or how about your neighboring state? Cross a border, take a ferry and ride until the end of the day and then discover the long way home. Be Prepared – No matter where you decide to wander, and we really hope you do, be prepared to ride and for the ride. How to prepare and what to bring and do before you go are all things to considered before you ever leave the driveway (but of course that could be said of a day ride as well). Paperwork: Some of the most important things are sometimes surprisingly left unattended, most important of which is the paperwork. Here we are talking about licenses and of course, insurance. Know the transportation laws governing the states/provinces you plan on riding in. A great resource is available on the Riders & Bikers page at the link for Helmet Laws from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety and State Transportation Laws from the AMA (American Motorcycle Association). Sound ordinances and laws regarding wearing headsets, among others are important to take note of and be prepared for as well. Your M-Class endorsement on your state driver’s license, a current state plate and in some states a safety registration for your bike should all be valid for the season. Of course many of these registrations renew in the spring so I’m betting you’re already on top of that little detail. There are a number of supportive attorney representatives available in case of any trouble. We would recommend having their contact information with you at the unfortunate event that you will need their help while out on the road. There are experienced firms like Hupy & Abraham in Milwaukee, WI., which has offices in multiple states and a network available supporting other areas. This is a firm who’s attorneys ride, they are very active in the community and have been representing riders successfully for years. You can find their information and others on our site resource for professional services. Mechanical Preparations: What if your bike breaks down or a tire catches a nail? Travel assistance groups like AAA and some insurance carriers offer help on the road if you can’t or don’t know how to fix the problem yourself. But it’s always a good idea to make sure your bike has had a thorough checkup before your trip; tire tread and sidewalls, oil and fluids, electrical and loose nuts will cause more grief than adventure if not attended before your trip. If you can’t service the bike yourself at least take a couple of courses at your local dealership to learn some of the basics about your particular bike so you are not left at the mercy of a roadside mechanic. Prepare yourself: Health is of course very important and worth mention here and we cover it more in another featured category on the site for health. But here I would like to focus on training which may be obvious to some but not completely utilized by all. There is no substitute for experience, but proper training and practiced skills will help you in most situations. Even riders with years of experience on day rides and poker runs won’t necessarily be prepared for everything on a long distance road trip. You should explore the many skills and safety courses available. Many state transportation departments offer Basic Rider and Advanced Rider classes and will give you the how to and direction; but practice, practice, practice gives you the skill. You can find a link to your state offered course on our state links on the Community Page. Being prepared is a safety consideration for everyone on the trip and even those you encounter. This isn’t a spectators sport; a serious accident can be caused by a mechanical breakdown, an unforeseen obstacle, losing a wheel or even rider error. Accidents are never planned for but don’t become a victim of a more serious incident if a distracted driver doesn’t notice you along the side of the road. Training classes are available through many national riding associations like the AMA (American Motorcycle Association), but one we think all riders and enthusiasts should consider is a Bystander Assistance preparedness training program called Accident Scene Management. Accident Scene Management Inc. (ASMI) offers a starter one day basic course to prepare riders for what to do in the case of a motorcycle accident. Additional levels of training are available but if every driver had the skills taught in the basic class, than even a passing motorist would have knowledge of how to assist in the unfortunate event of a motorcycle accident. And more downed riders could survive. Learn more about ASMI on other under Safety and Education on the R.A.G. site. We recommend that you know your ride like you know yourself; after all if something doesn’t sound right on the bike or you are not feeling well, you are more likely to get home safely if you take care of it and not ignore a potential problem. Additional considerations like wind chill and wind resistance can take its toll on your body. Minor symptoms like a headache, tingling fingers and toes, stiffening muscles and fatigue are only some of the body’s ways of telling us to do something different. Take a break and stretch often. Be prepared and don’t dehydrate with alcohol and lack of water, make certain to keep your strength and eat regular snacks or meals while drinking plenty of water. If your bike needs fuel, your body needs more water. What to pack: Finally the consideration of what to pack in those limited sized saddle bags is a question which will never have the same or perfect answer. Dual purpose, light weight (easily washable) clothing can and should be layered. Hygiene essentials should include the travel sized products that are readily available at most stores and travel centers. If you need regular medication be organized and don’t forget to take them along. Consider a backup plan from your doctor just in case you need your prescription refilled or replaced on the road. National pharmacies like Wal-Mart, Walgreens or CVS can access your information from their national computer network. Proper riding gear including durable coat, chaps or leggings offering wind and rain protection, gloves, boots or shoes (protecting the ankle) and a helmet (which is a requirement in some states) is always a great component of your riding gear to protect you from the elements on a long trip. We live in Illinois where we are able to choose to wear helmets or not, but we own and use full coverage helmets on a long distance tour to protect against long exposure to the elements. If your trip will include camping of any kind, we will cover that in another post because there is more to consider. But additional suggestions would be a phone or emergency GPS devise, a notebook and pencil for a log or daily journal and a camera. Many of the smart phone technologies offer all or most of these in their features and apps but then don’t forget your charger and an adapter to convert power from your bike battery. I don’t know about you but I can’t wait to go. We have a trip planned this year from Northern Illinois to the Northeast across or around Lake Michigan, up into Canada by Niagara Falls and down thru the North Atlantic States and NYC . Then back home south of the Great Lakes via hours of highway miles back home for a four day rest before we join a favorite Annual Group and Benefit Ride for the Road Guardians. We may have the added benefit of a pulled trailer for necessities and gear for camping and should our small dog “Gunthor” travel with us there is another consideration to plan for, but the experience will be the same and I won’t miss it for the world. We’ll keep you posted… Ride Safe, Hard and Smart – There are some great additional topics to be covered and we will be posting them with other great articles under our Road Trips Category in the R.A.G. Library. Please be sure you’ve joined our FREE membership for updates and we welcome your comments.
A special thank you to our good friend Ed Richtsteig Photography for his many images we feature here on our site.