Over the past 15 months, I have managed to ride nearly 30,000 miles on Matte. Over this time, I have taken a bunch of weekend road trips and some week long ones. As I do them, I continue to learn truths about touring around on a motorcycle. I am sure I can keep on adding to this list, but this is what I have so far.
- Longs trips work best when you spend have a long day of travel followed by two nights at a destination. I like exploring a new city, especially food. If I am going to travel far, spending an extra night is well worth it. Plus it gives your body time to recover after a 500-600 mile riding day.
- Don’t plan too far ahead. Planning two days ahead has worked the best for me. Keep an outline of what you want to do, but weather, events, and unforeseen circumstances will alter your plans.
- Look for fun routes between destinations. Sometimes I will change where I want to end up going just by the presence of a fun road to ride on.
- Look at the maps before you head out to a new area. Having a basic understand about where the relative locations of suburbs and cities are helps a lot. Also knowing what the main roads are can be helpful when you get lost.
- Have a backup route planned. You never know when the road will be flooded or
- The presence of good breweries is typically a good indication. If possible go to places that have good micro breweries that serve food. If they are highly rated on Yelp you will find a good place to eat and drink after a long day. Plus I have found they tend to be in towns that don’t give off the “is someone going to steal my bike” vibe.
- Stay at a nice hotel for longer stops. Whenever I stay somewhere at least two nights, I will try and find a nice hotel to stay at. You don’t need to go all 5-star or anything, but something nicer than a budget brand really goes a far way. This way I can arrive later in the evening after a long day of fun riding knowing I will check in, unload, change, eat at the hotel restaurant and even have a few drinks without having to hop back on the bike to do any of it.
- Hotel Tonight is a great way to find high end and nice hotels at the last minute for a good price. On my longer trips, I tend to book my hotel the day of or night before I go somewhere. I have had really good luck with Hotel Tonight in getting higher end hotels to stay at for a decent price. It’s not going to be cheap – but we are talking about staying at a place that is normally 200-250/night for about 80-100/night.
- But also check Hotels.com – sometimes they have a better deal. It’s hit and miss, but I have also had good luck with hotels.com on higher end properties. But I typically use them for when I want to find a motel. The phone app has a pretty good map search that is helpful.
- Motel 6 is universally just OK across the board. For a quick overnight stop, do you really need anything more? I have never had a bad stay at one, but never a great one either. Luckily they are cheap and have a really good phone app as well.
- Super 8 is typically nicer than Motel 6, but vary a lot in quality. Super 8 is the other Motel chain I keep an eye out for. Typically they are nicer (nicer beds and towels) and have coffee makers in the room. But the quality seems to be all over the map. Check reviews out of the individual locations before booking.
- You will always forget something at home. Every road trip I have taken I have left something minor at home. So far never anything important. On my last trip I forgot to put my SD cards in the cameras. In every case, I was able to find a Target or Walmart to fix the issue up.
- You will eventually own more bags for your motorcycle than most women have handbags. And just like handbags, each one has its purpose and you can’t live without it. At this point, I have a 25l backpack, a tank bag, a 10l tail bag, a 30l tail bag, and now the SW-Motech Blaze bags. I wouldn’t mind having a nice thigh bag for when I wear my race suit out for a spirited day ride. And I am pretty sure at some point I am going to buy a hydration pack since I sometimes want to ride without having the hydration in my tank bag and I don’t want to have a full backpack. (See what I mean)
- Bug out bags are great. About once every few months I place an order on Amazon to make bug out bags. For me they are Ziploc bags that contain travel sizes of contact fluid, contact lens case, eye drops, a few ear plugs, toothpaste, toothbrush, mouthwash, q-tips, dental floss picks, and hair ties. I keep a spare set of contacts and an old set of glasses in the one ready to use next and I am always ready to toss it in a bag and go on a trip.
- Tools and emergency supplies will take space. 8 liters in fact. Whenever I go out of the area I pretty much always have a set of tools, a trauma kit, tire plug kit, flashlight, a Li-Ion jumpstarter, and a tire infiltrator. Effectively, this takes up about 8l of space total. I leave some of this permanently under my seat, and some of the others just get swapped between whatever bag I have on me. Just make sure you plan on it.
- More often than not – your tools and emergency supplies will be used to help others. So far, I have only had to use my jump starter once when I accidentally left my lights on a bit too long in the garage. Whereas I have now used it 3 times helping strangers or a coworker. When I came across an overturned RV – I stopped and offered to help knowing that I had the emergency supplies to help out. While they didn’t need it, they were graceful for the offer to help.
- Packing for 3 night trips are the worst. For short trips, it is easy. A few extra pairs of socks, underwear, and compression shirts. Maybe jeans if you want to go somewhere that showing up in leather pants won’t go over well. For just an overnight trip – my tank bag and small 10l tail bag is more than enough. Long trips I often try and spend an 2 nights at a destination point, so there is time to do laundry and let it dry all of the way before moving again. Plus you are going to have the larger bags on anyways for it. But three nights is long enough that you are probably not going to deal with washing something. Then it becomes the question of larger bags or compromise elsewhere.
- It is easy to over pack. I have yet to have a trip where I have packed just the right amount. Every trip so far I have come back home and said “Why did I pack that? I never used it!”
- Camera Gear takes up a lot of space. Whenever I take more than the little RX100IV with me – even the small A6x00 camera, lenses, and travel tripod takes up a lot of space.
- Save some room for gifts. One of the things I do regret is not getting some little trinkets for friends while out on the road. In the past, it was because I had no space. One of my new rules is to leave just some extra for them now.
- Wear what you are comfortable wearing both on and off the bike.
- If you wear race level gear (like I do), be comfortable being called a Power Ranger or Iron Man. I have now had this happen a few times and you just have to shrug it off.
- Clean your gear nightly. One of the habits I have when traveling is after checking in the hotel, and peeling off my gear into shorts or jeans, is to grab a microfiber cloth, wet it with some water, and wipe down all of my gear. This gets all of the bugs off (and will make you look more presentable). But it also allows you to check for any damage that may have happened. It takes 2-3 minutes and is well worth it especially if you wear a lot of white or bright colors like I do.
- Internal sun visors kick ass. Yeah you loose Snell rating, but unless you are going to hit up a random track, not having to pull over and swap visors is great.
- Bluetooth is nice, but not needed. I have done my first few week long trips without it. The only reason I wanted Bluetooth was so I had voice directions in large cities that I have not been in before. But it does help breaking up boring roads like I-5
- Two piece leathers always trump a one-piece race suit. It’s not about comfort on the bike. Being comfortable off the bike is just as important. It’s nice molt off some of the gear at stops. Also not having to do acrobatics to use the bathroom is always a plus.
- Your GoPro memory card is never large enough. It seems like you are constantly deleting videos from the GoPro on a trip. I typically will tag anything that looked interesting on the ride and delete anything without a tag when I fill up.
- Finding the perfect USB cable is impossible – then when you find them they are no longer available. It seems that the cables I find are either too thick or have awful connectors. And then when I find the perfect one and get some in, Amazon stops carrying them!
- Always keep the bike in tip-top shape. You never know when you want to head out on a random trip. Make sure your steed is always ready to go.
- Sport Touring Tires – enough said. I have yet to hear a good reason to run anything else on the streets given how great the technology is now. Be it Pirelli Angels, Dunlop Q3s, or Michelin Pilot Road 4/5s – it seems like it is hard to go wrong. I have been running Pilot Road 4s on Matte since I wore out the OEM Dunlops. I am getting about 12-14k miles on a front and 8-10k on the rear.
- Be prepared for reasonable roadside repairs. Keep tools and a PDF copy of the manual that came with the bike and know how to do things like deal with a snapped clutch cable, chain adjustment, etc.
- Your hometown shop will get to know you really well. You will be in often for new tires, chains, service, etc. At the same time, you will start to get better service from them as the realize you ride a lot.
- If you own a sportbike, you will understand cruisers once you hit the flat and straight roads that compromise most of America. Seriously, I didn’t understand my Harley and Goldwing friends until I hit a 80 mile straight stretch of road in Arizona after leaving California. About 40 miles in I just wanted to kick my feet forward and up.
- People will think you are insane when you tell them you have done a 2500 mile road trip on a sportbike – especially other sportbike owners. I can’t tell you how often someone at a restaurant, bar, or hotel asked me what type of bike I was riding and as soon as I uttered the first three characters – CBR – they think I am insane.
- People will drop a zero off your mileage when they hear it – even the guys at the shop. One of the guys at my shop kept on trying to find the 3,200 mile service for my bike despite him reading and writing down the milage at 32,200 when checking me in. Somehow, people don’t process that a sportbike will see this type of mileage.
The trip itself
- Never let the gas tank get below half a tank. This holds doubly true in the desert – and then I will often fill up when I see the next gas station since the next one may not have gas or the pumps are down due to heat. My rule of thumb is that I like to always keep it above half an indicated tank (roughly 2 gallons of the 4.5 gallon tank). This way, I have 100-125 miles to find the next station.
- Cameras are great – take lots of pictures and share them. You will find out from family and friends that they are living your adventures through your photos and videos.
- Keep a written journal. On longer trips you will start forgetting the details and many memories can’t be captured with a camera or smartphone. Write down your experiences for yourself. Share only what you want to. This is your adventure.
- Text close family and friends as you go along. They are worried. It takes a few seconds to text them when you arrive somewhere and it lets people know you are safe.
- Find great places to eat. Sometimes you just won’t have the chance to do it, but more often than not, spending the extra 10-20 minutes finding the local hole in the wall gem is well worth it.
- Eat a hearty breakfast, snack along the way, and have a good dinner at the end. If you must eat lunch, do something light. Since I am on a sport touring bike that is way closer to being a supersport, than a upright sportbike, I am bent more forward than others. If I eat too much, I am physically not comfortable in an more aggressive position, which will happen when the road gets twisty. What I have found is a good high protein breakfast followed by a ride out of whatever city I am in gives me enough time for the initial digestion before any fun starts. At each gas stop, I tend to grab some sort of jerky stick and if needed a Red Bull and that will keep my blood sugars level until I can find dinner. At dinner, have something good and balanced.
- Most hotel workers will be asking all sorts of questions about your trip. Nearly every hotel I check in to someone on the staff asks about my trip as I am doing the paperwork. I have had conversations with others who ride who are shocked that it is possible to tour on a sportbike. More importantly, I have had a lot tell me about road conditions that Goggle and Waze could never tell you about.
- Be social and courteous. You will meet a cross section of America traveling. Many people may not share the same view as them. Sometimes the best thing to do is just change the conversation or walk away. But for the most part, most people I have met are nice.
A good trip clears the mind
Every time I have taken a road trip, be it a weekend trip or a week long one. I just feel better when I get back from it. I really want to do more weekend trips moving forward.
I am sure I have missed something here – but this seems to be the list I have been kicking around the back of my head on this topic.