Tuesday, May 30, 2017

6 Tips For Savvy Solo Riders


6 Tips For Savvy Solo Riders

Story and photos by Jim Foreman

For many riders, the thought of riding all day or over multiple days alone is frightening.  An insurmountable litany of ‘what if’ and ‘how do I’ thoughts begin to overwhelm one’s psyche to the point of paralysis.
Of course, there are also many riders who will read the paragraph above and scoff with a chuckle. 
Riding in groups or with friends does have its rewards and this should not, in any way, be misconstrued to suggest not riding in groups.  Rather, see this as an opportunity to consider a much more dynamic and freestyle form of traveling.
Either way, take a few moments to consider these real-world tips and see if any of them make your style of riding more enjoyable and rewarding.

1. Turn off or put away the GPS and buy some paper maps

GPS systems have their place.  They can be particularly useful in navigating an unfamiliar city or determining how far it is to the nearest hotel or gas station.  Sadly, what they have become for most people is an adventure chastity belt that inhibits all of the pleasure of owning a motorcycle and negates it to a purely functional object.  It’s just like a personal chastity belt.
When you take orders from Mary or John on the GPS, you miss out on opportunities to take more interesting back roads or sidetracks.  The psychology of a GPS user is strictly as a follower, doing as their told. That mentality goes against everything a motorcyclist stands for.
Consider one aspect; The Arrival Time.  Because a rider has an artificial time set as a goal, one is far less likely to venture onto a side road to see where it leads or explore a state or county park that is along the path.  This act alone of obediently conforming to the GPS’s will is the antagonist of freedom and motorcycling. 
Each morning, plot out directions from a paper map for the next 2-4 hours of riding.  Then at lunch ask locals for things to see and do in the area.  Reviewing a paper map on your table will bring about good wishes, interesting advice, and friends to make along the way.  Butler Maps makes maps specifically for motorcyclists.  They are easy to use and highlight incredible motorcycle roads.
By turning off the GPS, you’ll also be seeing more scenery, potential hazards, and be better able to spot those special people eager to hand out personalized, high-performance awards with a subsequent court date.
Turn off the GPS, Turn on the adventure!
A hotel found at the last minute.

2. Avoid making hotel reservations

Chasing down hotel reservations cause people to do foolish things.  Unless it’s a holiday weekend or there is a special event in the area, forgo the reservations.  That way, if you find a place or person that is interesting to you, you do not have to prematurely curtail the visit.
Apps like Booking.com make last minute accommodations easy and affordable.  A side benefit of traveling solo is that it’s much easier to find one available room than two, three or four. 
Chasing down pre-made reservations also leads to one taking risks such as riding at night on unfamiliar roads or riding while tired or affected by drink.  Countless stories of tragedy, including Harry Devert’s ordeal, all stemmed from a desire to chase down a distant pre-planned hotel reservation.
Don’t be afraid to stay at a small non-chain hotel or motel.  Even if that means backtracking a little.  If you’re uncertain of its suitability, ask to see a room before you book it.  It can be fun.  Often, it’s tremendous fun.  Clean up after your ride and visit a nice restaurant or bar.  It’ll be obvious you’re a visitor.  If you have a positive and friendly demeanor, you’ll be part of the town in no time.

3. Don’t overthink the trip 

Place a change of clothes somewhere on your bike in case you have to stay somewhere overnight and just go.  You’re not traveling on the moon.  There are markets for toiletries, if needed, restaurants, and accommodations throughout most of the civilized world.
Americans, Canadians, Brits, and Australians seem the most obsessed with planning every detail of a trip before departure.  Don’t!  Unless you’re a robot and opposed to anything spontaneous, let your travels guide you and determine how and where you go.   
It doesn’t have to be a round-the-world endeavor.  Even just one overnight can provide unique opportunities to discover interesting places and people, close to home if you let it.
Motorcycles don’t lend themselves well to Obsessive-Compulsive personalities.

4. Break Free from routine

Don’t go to the same places each time.  Specifically, target a region or destination you’ve never been.  Set out generally in a direction and after a few hours, look at a map or ask someone for directions.
The intention is to force oneself to go a different way without knowing the exact route ahead of time.  Let go of any fears and follow your whimsy to great delight.
By allowing time for the unexpected,  interesting and fun opportunities will begin to present themselves.
Personal True Story: While wandering about on a dealer's demo bike a curious and playful situation unfolded.  I noticed a fit lady, later introduced as Christine, taking selfies at a vista point for a profile picture.  Sensing opportunity to enjoy the afternoon, I pulled the bike in close to her and centerstanded it.  I took off my helmet, smiled at her and offered to take her photo for her.  Within moments, Christine asked if she could take photos with my R 1200 RT.  I willingly obliged.  A crowd began to form as we took all sorts of shots and poses.  We both kept in touch and I shared the photos with her the following day.  When the story was told to the dealership upon my return, they couldn't believe it.  They still think this was a planned happening, but it was truly a right place, right time scenario.

5. Don’t be afraid or too proud to accept help

An interesting phenomenon happens when one is traveling solo by motorcycle.  You are much more approachable by others.  People will often come up to you and comment on your bike, relate their own riding stories, and often offer encouragement.  Warmly embrace this.  It’s a great opportunity to make friends, encourage others to take up or retake motorcycling, as a sport.
If you’re comfortable with it, let someone sit on your bike and take a photo on it.  Don’t be surprised if that same person is one who stops and offers help, further down the road.
Likewise, if you’re in trouble, such as running out of gas or have a flat, be gracious and willing to accept help from others.  Someone stopping may simply offer a bottle of water.  Others may offer to give you a ride, get gas, or a tire patch kit for you.  Bruce Springsteen recently found out how other motorcyclists with help fellow riders.
A vast majority of people are good people who will stop and help another person in need.  Most travelers put that number well above 90%. 
If someone does offer to help, make sure you get their number so if other arrangements are made you can contact them.  Also, sending a small token of appreciation by email or text such a cool photo of your journey or coffee gift card can go a long way to paying it back or forward for the next person in need. 
Even if you have called for roadside assistance, it may be much faster than the 1-3 hour response time for someone to get you gas or give you a ride into town.   It’s much easier to cancel a roadside assistance call than to burn a helpful person who went out of their way to help you.
Just remember to stop and check on others by the side of the road, in case they need help. 

6. Most importantly, remember why you bought a motorcycle

Don’t make the motorcycle conform to a pre-bike dull lifestyle.  Let it be a constant source of adventure, freedom, and excitement. 
Lose yourself in the trip, however long or short.   Disable the auto-pilot, in your brain, which often accounts for one’s typical week.




Whether you are new to motorcycling or have been riding for a long time, please visit Irv Seaver BMW in Orange County, California.  There you’ll find the full line of new BMW Motorcycles alongside a vast selection of pre-owned motorcycles from all brands.  Parts, Apparel, and the best service available in the country are at your pleasure.  
No performance awards from this crew.
A random stop inspired these grads to begin posing for the camera.
Lowell, AZ right next to Bisbee, AZ.  One never knows where one will end up.
Mission San Xavier del Bac

29 comments:

  1. I have to disagreed about the GPS vs paper map. I can use Google maps, paper maps, including Butler Maps, to create a backroads ride using BaseCamp and upload it to my gps. If I see an interesting road while I'm on my route I can and do leave the route to explore. .Just because I'm following a route doesn't mean I can't stop and explore, or that I can't ask for recommendations from locals. I don't have to finish at any particular time or even finish the route. It's all about choices.
    Wandering about can and is a great way to explore, but looking at maps to find the squiggly roads that follow rivers, and that little grey road that goes over the mountain, and putting those into a prep,annex route is also a great way to find fun roads and explore new places.
    Nancy
    www.motomartins.com

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    1. Hi Nancy,
      The greater point was to not be a slave to the GPS. None of these are commandments but rather tips and perspectives to see if they improve your riding.
      Love the travel photos on your site!
      -Jim

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    2. I get your point. I posted on the FB thread about my directionally challenged husband's recent and rare solo ride. The GPS is a great tool.
      As I get older and find that sneaking peeks, or worse, at the map while riding not terribly safe, advance planning makes for a less stressful ride. Not a slave to the route though.
      Thanks on the pix. Just got back from a women's only off-road tour in Lesotho and South Africa. Must get those amazing pictures up. In the middle of planning Iceland so SA pix wait. Good winter project.
      Cheers!
      Nancy

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  3. Thanks Irv,
    A great article with commonsense suggestions. I like to look at a map before a trip to imprint a basic picture of the route in my mind, and from that I can extrapolate and tweek my route and still have a baseline to work from.

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    1. Good Move, Ed! This technique works well for me as well!
      -Jim

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  4. My only additional comment (made from a motel as I near the west coast after leaving from the East coast a week ago), never have to be anywhere on a motorcycle. Allow yourself extra time. I allow a full day. It keeps me from doing something stupid in order to meet some timeline. It's a safety thing, and good for your overall mindset.

    Riding solo to me is a guilty pleasure, so I try to make the most of it..

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    1. Great Point Don! Thanks!!!
      -Jim

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    2. Excellent advise for pilots and motorcyclists both. Called Get-There-Itis in aviation, we've all been guilty to some extent of this unnecessary behavior.

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    3. RidePower cell phone chargers for motorcycles and all other power sport vehicles will keep your cellphone safely charged.

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  5. Nice tips. As one that prefers to ride alone, these were great. When I road across the country, I didn't make any reservations, and purposely looked for locally owned 'mom and pop' hotels. Often I got a deal on the room. What i didn't do was allow myself LOTS more time. Nicely done, thank you.

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  6. Today's adventure riding had become so controllable it is not even an adventure.

    These are some beat tips to help you feel the adventure again.

    You can always mix and match of course.

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  7. Great practical tips for someone who is new to planning a solo trip, as well as a reminder for those who are seasoned solo riders. I agree with nancym's comments. I use a map and a GPS, but my GPS mistress is Suzy. She has been the recipient of both praise and scorn (the latter with language I won't post here). I support the booking.com use to make reservations late afternoon. Sometimes it can bring very pleasant surprises.

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    1. Thanks Dennis. I remember Suzy. Quite the source of curious destinations. Can't wait for more.
      -Jim

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    2. We often use Priceline.com late in the day. Great last minute deals though you don't know exactly where the hotel is until you book.

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  8. Great article!
    Thanks!

    Question: for travel outside of the USA Butler maps don't seem to be available... I've used the National Geo. "Adventure Maps"... have you found other options?

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    1. Yes, but it largely depends on where you are. In Europe, the Michelin driving maps are also remarkably good for motorcyclists.
      For Mexico and Latin America, the local motorcycle clubs will be your best bet. Meet with them for dinner and take out a map with a highlighter and work out some exciting and safe routes.
      -Jim

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    2. I'll be traveling Central America / Mexico...
      I've found the Nat'l Geo. maps to be a good map to "highlight" but wonder if there are better options?

      Just FYI:
      The Nat'l geo. maps are made from some tyvek-like substance and are very durable....

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    3. As you realize, the Nat Geo Maps are very limitied and often exclude some great small towns with fantastic riding. Connect with me on FB. I know a thing or two about riding in and through Mexico and may be able to help.
      https://www.facebook.com/jim.foreman.986
      -Jim

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  9. I agree on the paper maps as well for one can see an entire region opposed to just the information reflected on a 4 or 5 inch display. I will say some gps units have an option to seek guidance on only back roads or curviest roads which has provided some really cool rides for me in the past otherwise I wouldnt have traveled. In addition, always carry some cash for some off the beaten path gas stations do not take credit

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    1. Agreed, Scott. The GPS has its uses. I'm saying turn it off for most of your riding. Only use it when you need to or as an additional way to look into possible road suggestions.

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  10. Hi Irv
    Great piece, 2015 I did my first international ride across the USA on the British registered bike, people want to take and get their pic with my bike, gladly let them, I bumped into Conan O'Brien (very nice bloke) and chatted with other bikers at most stops, 2017 will hopefully bring my back to the USA again to ride coast to coast!

    Carlos Tilbury

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    1. Thank You Carlos!
      It's sometimes surprising how nice people are when you're riding solo. In the US, people are generally nice, but reserved and inclined to mind their own business. Traveling solo on a motorcycle instantly makes you vulnerable but also accessible. This is particularly true if you have a warm smile.
      Can't wait to have you back in the US again.
      -Jim

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  11. hi, I agree with all in yr post, and I shared it in my blog http://moto-explorer.blogspot.pt/ thanks,

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    1. Thank You! I like your blog and what I could translate from Portuguese. The English translator link is broken.
      I see we have similar mindsets!
      -Jim

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  12. Nicely done! Thanks for your insights!

    Bob Wagner

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