Friday, May 22, 2015

10 Tips for Successful and Enjoyable Overnight Motorcycle Travel

Mike Kurthy and Jim Foreman about to embark on a fun trip.
Words and Photos by Jim Foreman (unless otherwise noted)
©2015 Jim Foreman

Spring is in full stride and summer is almost upon us.  Many motorcyclists are now thinking about going out on a trip with their two-wheeled true love.
Having done many multi-day and multi-week travels by motorcycle domestically and throughout North America and Europe, it was time to share some of the valuable insight learned.

Ewan and Charley on the "Long Way 'Round"
1) Don’t start with an epic ‘Round the World’ type of journey.
Start small.  Ideally an overnight 200-400 miles away is perfect.  So much can be learned on a small trip.  Learning the ropes on a few smaller trips should be the springboard to something bigger.  If you’re originating in Los Angeles, opt for an overnight in Palm Springs, San Luis Obispo or even San Diego. 

Just an overnight.
2) Pack Light.
Pay careful mind to this crucial point.  For an overnight, all you need is a toothbrush, deodorant, change of undies, socks, and shirt.  Maybe an energy bar and a bottle of water.  That’s it. 
If you end up needing something, there will surely be markets available and new opportunities to talk to people.  

Consider doing a hotel first unless you’re an experienced and dedicated camper.  If you typically stay at a high-cost, name-brand hotel, try a smaller mom and pop owned hotel.  They’re usually much less expensive, more interesting and can be quite helpful in keeping your bike safe, overnight.  
Camping doesn’t always cost less than hotels.  When you factor the cost of equipment, fees, services like showers and toilets, extra luggage and time, hotels become more and more appealing.  Moreover, camping tends to isolate you from people, places and experiences in the town you’re visiting. 

3) Don’t over plan! 
Muy Importante!  Have a paper map and a general idea of where you want to go.  Avoid making reservations unless the destination has a big event.  Utilize mobile apps like or Hotel Tonight or just pull up to an interesting place and ask if they are willing to offer a special rate.

Any bike can lead to adventure.
4) Don’t try new gear or equipment.
Always do longer trips with riding gear and equipment that is well worn and familiar to you.  Do not use a long trip to test out a new accessory, apparel or another element to your riding.  Test any new gear, apparel or accessory separately and on a day trip.  For example, if trying new gloves or boots, you can bring your old pair in the event they don’t fit quite right or need more time breaking in.  This principle is especially true with electronics.  If you just picked up a new GPS, run it and be familiar with its operation and handling long before you embark on your trek.  Learning new equipment on the fly will only lead to frustration and disappointment.  

Keep in mind that unless you have a custom show-bike, the bike you have and are used to will work out great. 

A chance meeting with the excellent riders of team 'Drink and Ride' led to an amazing ride and lasting friendship.
5) Be Flexible.
Things may not work out as planned.  You may meet or make a new friend who invites you to head a different path.  One may become fatigued and decide to cut short the trip, or the weather may turn unexpectedly bad.  If you remain flexible, this is no big deal.  You can head in a different direction or decide on alternate plans.  Many riders have suffered grave consequences chasing a reservation made at a distant hotel.  Don’t do this! 

Brahms-Brunnen Waterfall
6) Stop at places that look interesting.
A motorcycle trip is your time!  Unless you’re trying to complete the “SaddleSore 1000” to gain membership to the Iron Butt Association, stop and smell the flowers.  If something looks interesting, stop and check it out.  You may discover a beautiful waterfall, historic memorial or some of the best jerky or honey you’ve ever tasted. 
Motorcycling should lead to new friendships and experiences.  Don’t just pass blow past.

Gisela (driving the truck) rode a GSX-R to Mazatlán Bike Week.
7) Talk to people and ask for directions and recommendations.
If lost or trying to find a good place to eat, ask someone at a gas station or the hotel.  Cops and firefighters can be remarkably helpful, too.  Don't be shy about pulling into a fire station and asking they crew for their dining or lodging recommendations.  You'll probably meet a lot of fellow riders who are delighted to share their knowledge.  

Other riders are your best resource for hidden passes, interesting sights and where cops like to hide.  
Lastly, you never know what amazing friendship will be started by simply introducing yourself and saying, "Hello."

Is it a motorbike or jet fighter cockpit?
8) Don’t depend on too much technology. 
Mobile phones, GPS and Satellite trackers are good and important tools to a rider.  Simply, don’t make the trip about them.  I recommend turning off or not depending on a GPS.  One tends to avoid interesting detours because the GPS will try to get them back on track.  It has its uses in a new or big city, but resist as much technology as possible. 
Also, don’t forgo talking to someone for advice or directions by using your phone or GPS.  Ask people.  Let them share their experiences.  There is a wealth of experience and friendship by simply being friendly with someone.  If later on down the road you have a problem, they would be 100 times more likely to stop and offer help.

Jim Foreman with Laura Ruddy as passenger.
9) Invite a friend.
Riding with friends or passengers can be tricky.  Only consider a good-natured riding friend that you already get along well with to share the trip with you.
Please do NOT invite a first-time passenger or potentially distempered partner who often disagrees with your riding habits.  

If you decide to take a passenger, make sure they are a good and complimentary passenger with experience on previous day trips. 
Better yet, invite a riding friend you like and enjoy spending time with to join you.

10) Enjoy yourself!
An overnight trip is about having fun.  Whether you are riding a sports bike, touring bike, adventure bike or a cruiser, it doesn’t matter.  Keep the ride simple and enjoyable.  Do this a couple of times and then build the confidence and experience to go out on longer and more enjoyable journeys.

Of course, one should make sure their bike is in excellent operational condition. Most dealers including Irv Seaver BMW will perform a thorough safety check for a nominal fee.  
There's a lot a enjoyment out there just waiting for you to give it a go.

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