As with anything, the more often a rider fills their holiday with motorcycle adventures, the less likely any of the following mistakes will be made. If readers put themselves firmly in that veteran category, they should bookmark or forward this article to possible riding buddies who may not have put as many vacation miles down. After all, what’s worse than your own foolishness ruining a biker holiday but a riding buddy tarnishing your motorcycle vacation through their accidental ignorance?
Don’t skip that motorcycle service before the trip
While this may seem like an obvious item on the top of any motorcycle preparation list, judging by the number of broken down bikes on the side of any given summer road, too many skip over this crucial step.
Today’s motorcycles are complicated machines, becoming more complex with every new model. Add to this, any long road trip takes riders away from their local mechanic and more importantly, that support system of friends at home.
While some may use the T-CLOCS review instead of a professional check-up, preventative maintenance may be required based on the miles expected to be laid down during the road trip. Tires, early oil-change or even thinning brake pads are all items a qualified mechanic can review and advise on.
It may seem like an unwanted cost at the beginning of a motorcycle vacation, but it’ll be much less than something going wrong or breaking miles from home.
Enjoy the freedom of the open road through planning
Understanding road trips are about leaving the daily doldrums behind and riding into the unknown, even the most free spirits need to plan somewhat. To use a Donald Rumsfeld-type saying to make our point, ’There must be some known knowns in any unknown, otherwise how could you know?’
The very basics of what to see, fuel-stops, how often they’re made and overnight accommodations should be among the ‘known’ unknown. Not planning any of these can lead to mild inconveniences, frustrations among the group and simply dangerous riding.
Whether camping or taking the more luxurious route of hotels, knowing where the riding group will lie their heads after a long day on the road is crucial keeping the fun in the motorcycle vacation. Admit it, a good night’s sleep will be hard to find if the riding party is worried about their motorcycles because the hotel or camping spot is in a bad area, or everyone’s ticked over paying too much for terrible accommodations that were taken out of necessity.
An extreme example of this would be not having a place to stay long before the first mile is laid down when heading to the famous Sturgis motorcycle rally. Not only are camping sites and hotel rooms in short supply months before the rally even kicks off, the rates for both are considerable.
Doing some online research about the area the road trip is riding through will save further disappointments. Imagine taking the 441 through Greenback, Tennessee only to find out later Deals Gap, the famed ‘Tail of the Dragon’, was only 13 miles away? Or a worse scenario, a local mentions how close the well-known 318 curves in 11 exciting miles is but the group’s riding schedule is too tight to take a quick detour.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe,” ― Abraham Lincoln
Try not to underestimate distances
This tip applies to various aspects of the motorcycle vacation.
First and foremost, the distance expected to be covered on a daily basis shouldn’t exceed the abilities and skills of the riders included on the road trip. Exhaustion comes to individual riders differently with some more comfortable with longer distances than others.
A debate of how many miles is too many can be avoided through planned fuel stops. By stopping every hundred miles or so allows for everyone on the road trip to top off gas tanks, stretch the legs and take those very important bathroom breaks.
Another reason for planning fuels stops; for many, the best open roads are often the most remote. Taking into account the performance of all the motorcycles involved on the road trip, fuel stops should be cautiously planned as not to make any riders nervous about low fuel levels.
Wild Hogs - Touchstone Pictures
Using online maps to gain a rough idea of gas stations also helps prevent rider fatigue. Not only does riding while tired suck the fun out of any road trip, it’s also dangerous, dulling senses and awareness.
This leads us to the basic premise of this tip, the daily miles should be achievable, fun and safe. Pushing the envelope may sound sexy but makes for some tough miles when trying to stay on whatever schedule may be laid out for the motorcycle vacation.
This tip covers a category of sins, from not having rain gear for unexpected showers to under-packing medical supplies or toolkits.
Everyone knows the longer the road trip, the tighter the space available to pack. Clutch and Chrome goes over packing for a road trip in more detail in its article ‘How to Plan Road Trip’, but the basics of coordinating among riders is the best foundational advice. Having one or two bring first aid kits, another pack agreed upon tools frees up space for all those going on the motorcycle vacation.
However, everyone should make sure they bring their own needed batteries and charging cables for electronics such as cameras, smartphones and lamps if camping.
Forgetting any of the above could lead to being stranded without these crucial items or spending valuable vacation time looking for a store to buy what should’ve been packed in the first place.
Finally, make sure every rider has their registration and insurance not only current, but valid throughout the time of the trip. With proof being 'in the pudding', insurance and registration documents need to be stored safely and everyone knowing where they are. This leads us to our final tip for this article.
Easy Come, Easy Go
Again, another broad tip that applies to many parts of the motorcycle vacation.
Starting with the basic premise the road trip will most likely take riders through areas no one has enjoyed, unfamiliar roads and towns with their own unique laws and ordinances, behaviors and attention should be aligned accordingly.
The easiest way to navigate all of these is to under-ride the road. Pay attention to road signs for sharp turns or changes in speed limits and never ride beyond the collective abilities of the group. Erring on the side of caution, stay below the posted speed limits and be aware of what’s going on around the riding group.
Riding off the road from distraction or going into a curve too fast isn’t only dangerous, but embarrassing!
Harley-Davidson's Sportster Roadster - Source Harley-Davidson
Remembering this is a vacation, keep the attitude in check. There seems to be a growing amount of road rage across the country and while there is never a good time to engage in arguments with other drivers, on strange roads far from home certainly isn’t the place.
If stopped by law enforcement, show the requested documents, answer the questions and if needed, take the ticket and move on. Many municipalities allow for paying fines online, allowing riders to take care of the ticket when the motorcycle vacation is over. It only takes one person to have problems with other drivers or even local police to delay or ruin the road trip for everyone.
These are just a few of the tips that came to mind, do you have any that come from past experiences?