Going out for a long multi-day motorcycle trip is my favorite type of riding. Whether it be on or off-road, the idea of exploration, seeing new sights, and having new experiences is what keeps me going. Anytime life starts to get me down, I begin planning my next excursion. Where do I want to go? Where haven’t I been? What could make the journey as exciting as the destination? I enjoy planning, it’s kind of like daydreaming in the beginning and it’s all part of how to plan for a motorcycle tour.
Pretty broad questions, I know, but this is where everything starts. What kind of trip do you want to have? What kind of riding do you enjoy? Have you picked a destination? Are you planning to camp or use hotels only on this one? Do you like long days in the saddle or lower mileages so you can fit in a bit of exploration on the bike or off? What kind of bike will you be riding? How will it be loaded down? How much time do you have?
My apologies for the barrage of questions, but you’re the one curious about the topic. Help me help you in helping yourself. I made my living creating motorcycle tours at one point, and these are some of the questions and conversations I would have with my clients. Discussing the questions above allowed me to tailor a trip to the client’s expectations, and more than that, it allowed the client to verbalize their expectations themselves so they too had a better understanding of the kind of trip they were looking for. That’s an important part of the equation; set the expectations you hope to achieve and work from there.
Choosing your destination isn’t always as easy as one might think. There are plenty of factors that will come into play when choosing your destination. Not to mention there is basically a never-ending list of places that most of us want to see.
You’ll want to choose a destination that works for the time of year you will be visiting and that works with your preferred daily mileage. I have gone on a few trips where I’ve tried to cram as much as possible into the little time I had, and it can result in a hurried pace where you feel like you’ve missed out on the areas you rode through.
Once the destination has been chosen, you can start plotting your route, which is arguably the most fun part of the trip.
Let me say this really quickly: I love spontaneous fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kinds of trips. LOVE ‘EM. And while those trips can produce an entirely different kind of adventure, the simple framework of a plan can make a trip just as fun and perhaps even more fulfilling.
When deciding your route you’ll want to consider the type of riding you enjoy. Do you want to find the squiggliest blue lines on the map or are you ok connecting some cool locations with a super slab stint here and there? As mentioned before, mileage comes in to play as well. Typically, I think we all like to stay on twisty back roads, but sometimes the allotment of days that you have doesn’t agree with it taking eight hours to go 200 miles.
You can plan your route around interesting areas to ride through such as national parks and ghost towns, or maybe you’re a foodie and want to hit some hole-in-the-wall spots you’ve heard about or seen on T.V. It can be fun and rewarding to do a little research about the areas you’ll be riding through so you don’t miss out on that hidden gem just off the beaten path.
Again, I have done my fair share of jumping off the highway and pitching a tent, but planning your nightly accommodations can also be a good idea. Camping in one (or more) of our 58 national parks will likely be spectacular, but if it’s busy season – and you didn’t realize it – you’re likely to be left figuring it out in the waning light of the evening. There’s also the chance you could meet some awesome people who are willing to share their campsite with you. It’s happened to me, which just goes to show, sometimes too much planning won’t allow for an unexpected turn of events. Am I confusing you? Good. I’m confused myself. I’ve gone both ways… not like that.
I would say the one thing you will need to keep tabs on, regardless of your spontaneity, is your fuel range and mileages between stops. Reliving the Easy Rider route on your chopper? You better bring some gas with you, hombre. Even folks on large touring bikes with large tanks will want to keep an eye on gas levels. I once almost ran out of gas on the outskirts of Vegas after a 750-mile day from Colorado, and I had a 6.1-gallon tank plus an urge to push the limit. While most of the U.S. will be easy enough to gas up when you need to, there are still vast remote portions of the country that can leave you stranded petrol-less. One miscalculation could leave you stranded and the next sorry soul to make their way across your path will likely find your sun-bleached bones picked clean by desert creatures of all kinds while one rattle-equipped desert dweller has made its home in your newly vacated cranium. Sorry, just trying to drive the point home. Plan your gas stops, kids. And if I’ve made you worry too much about the prospect of getting eaten by desert critters, just carry some gas with you.
Planning a trip to the T and picking a direction and twisting the throttle can be equally rewarding and vastly different in their outcomes and definitions of adventure. I suggest… both. Just be smart and pack appropriately. Wait, what’s that? You don’t know what to pack?! Say no more, fam. I gotchu. Remember, relax, have fun, roll with the punches, and as Brent J always says: Don’t forget to keep the rubber side down!
Don’t hold out! I know you’ve all had plenty of insane experiences of your own, as well as tips and tricks for new riders. Do us all a favor and leave them in the comments.