It’s winter and here in Upstate NY. That means that riding is limited to just a few days from December – February so I thought I would use this break from riding to share some of my thoughts and experiences related to long distance riding. I’ve ridden from NY to CA six times now on three different bikes and have traveled through most of the lower 48 states on a motorcycle. While that may not make me an expert, I have learned a lot over the years.
I guess that a good place to start is with a definition of what a long distance ride is. For me, this means a week or more and at least a few thousand miles. I don’t consider a 300 mile ride to be “long distance” – that’s just a nice Saturday ride. I say this because the level of planning and preparation for a 3 day weekend getaway is far less than what it takes to go away for a week or more.
Next, I think it’s important to discuss riding style. Where and how you ride will define what preparations you need to make. My cross country trips are limited to paved roads. Trips last from 2 to 3 weeks and cover 7,000 to 9,000 miles. I ride alone, stay in hotels and eat at diners/restaurants. If you spend time riding off-road and primarily camp out, your preparations will be quite different than mine.
I ride alone for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s hard to find other people who are willing or able to take time off of work for 3 weeks. I’m fortunate to have a job that provides a generous amount of paid vacation time. The second reason I don’t mind riding alone is because it gives me the freedom to go wherever I want to go and stop whenever I want to stop without any consideration for what a riding companion wants to do.
I stay in motels because after riding 500+ miles I want to be able to take a shower and sit back and relax in a room with heat and/or air-conditioning. Riding hours through 100 degree desert or cold rain makes you appreciate a climate controlled room with a real bed and is something I consider necessary to get rested-up and ready for the next day.
I don’t do a whole lot of pre-planning as far as routes are concerned. Instead, I just start going in a general direction and then adjust my route as I go along. I’ve never made a reservation at hotel ahead of time because I when I leave in the morning, I really don’t know where I’ll be stopping for the night.
When I ride, I don’t spend a lot of time stopped and just ride right through places stopping only for gas and maybe to take a few photos. This approach allows me to see a lot of places in the limited amount of time that I have but it also means that I don’t always see things in a lot of detail. I guess you could say that I tend to favor quantity over quality.
The distance I travel is based more on time than distance and typically ranges from 10-12 hrs a day. Depending on the roads I choose, the weather, and how I feel, I usually end up traveling 400-800 miles a day.
So, there you have it – my long distance riding style.