5 basic steps on planning the ultimate motorcycle journey.

I get asked routinely by new riders and riders that have many miles under their belt, how I plan my motorcycle trips. I have written down the workflow or general formula I follow when planning our journeys. These easy steps will get you started on the right path. 

As riders, we all have different criteria for what makes a great motorcycle trip experience. Some riders want to get on the bike and ride. No destination is needed, The open road is all they need for their journey.  While I can appreciate that type of trip, the reality is most riders have a limited amount of time to ride and they want to maximize the time that is available. These steps will help you plan that perfect trip.

Here is a 5 Steps that will help guide you in planning your next epic motorcycle trip.

#1 – Choosing your trip destination.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but the best trips are focused on that one destination that you have always wanted to visit. Or you are going to visit friends or family in a certain area, and you want to explore while riding to this destination.  Some of my best trips have been planned around visiting family or friends. 

Take a moment to look at the destination and ask yourself a few questions. Is it peak tourist season for the area? This is a very important question to ask. It will impact the number of folks in the area along with the cost and availability of lodging. What type of weather should I expect to experience? No one can forecast the weather. Even those professionals that are trained to forecast rarely get it right. This aspect is important for a couple of reasons. Packing the correct clothing and gear will be easier if you understand the type of weather usually encountered at your destination. Don’t forget the miles traveled to and from your destination. Will you be riding over mountain passes that lend themselves to late afternoon showers, or will you be riding through long stretches of hot desolate roads before you get to that finishing location?   Will I need any special documentation for this destination? Passports, National Park reservations, and current immunization may be needed for your location. Better to research now than have to adjust when you get to your destination. These simple questions can help you fully prepare for your journey.

#2 – How many days are you planning to get to your destination?
One of the first things I do is some basic math. How many miles away is your destination (M)? Then how many days do you have available for this journey (D)? Divide the Miles by the Days and this is the average miles needed to be ridden each day (A). So M/D=A. Who said you would not need math later in life? This will give you the foundation for your trip. 

This is when you need to look in the mirror and be truthful about a couple of areas concerning your riding style. How many miles are you comfortable riding each day? If you have a pillion, how many miles are they comfortable with? What type of bike do you ride? A bike with wind protection is a lot less fatiguing than a naked or standard type of machine. Choosing a route that hits the backroads also will need to be brought into the equation. Riding 100 miles of the interstate is completely different than 100 miles of twisty tarmac. These questions will help you plan a great trip, without the frustration of late arrivals or riding after dark if you don’t choose to. I like to choose between 4-6 hours of ride time per day. This allows for breaks and photo stops without totally disrupting my ride day. 

Sometimes I plan my riding days depending on the trip. If I need to get a lot of miles in on the first and last day, then I will do the interstate shuffle and log as many miles as I can. This will allow for a slower pace and fewer miles when I reach my destination. Remember to plan accordingly to your trip expectations. 

#3 – Budget
So many riders get caught up on the cost of road trips. I can assure you, that riders of almost any budget can get out and explore. It’s as easy as this. 

Lodging; Do you want to stay in a hotel, air BnB or another type of lodging? Do you want to stay in 3-star facilities or are you 5-star all the way? Do you like to camp? Can you stay with family or friends? 

Food; Are you a 3-meal-a-day rider? Do you mind eating at hotels that offer free breakfast? Do you like mom-and-pop places or are you more into fine dining? If camping, do you want to cook at your campsite? 

Fuel: In today’s world, this is an item that will make or break a lot of road trips. With gas right around an average of $4-5 a gallon, you will need to look at your total miles, the mile per gallon that your motorcycle averages, and plan accordingly. Remember that if you are riding two-up and loaded down your fuel costs will be higher and your MPG will be lower. 

These are the three main factors when looking at your trip budget. However do not forget to take into account, any National Park fees, and those crazy tourist-type purchases such as t-shirts, mugs, and other collectible items. Remember space is limited, so plan accordingly. 

These are all factors that will impact the budget you make for this journey. If you want to make a trip happen, you can always find a way. For example, when I had all my children at home and money was tight, we would plan trips where we could stay with friends, or we would decide to camp. We have never been 5-star hotel folks so the local Best Western or someplace like that always works for us. Where there is a will, there is a way. Don’t let money persuade you from exploring on a motorcycle. 

#4- Motorcycle prep
I can’t tell you, how many times I have heard stories of great trips cut short due to overlooking basic bike maintenance. Will your tires make the trip? How many miles are currently on the tires? Will you be riding on chip seal roads? This will eat up a set of tires quicker than could be expected. (Don’t ask me how I would know this?) Is your battery in good shape? Have you been experiencing any strange behavior from your machine? Being 1000 miles from home and realizing that there is a major issue that could have been avoided will be a quick way to dampen any great road trip. When was the last time you changed the oil and filter? All of these basic things will make for a more enjoyable journey, along with the peace of mind, that you have prepared yourself and the machine for the trip.    

#5- How and what to pack?
I have to admit, that it has taken years for me to learn how to pack correctly for a road trip. In the beginning, I would pack way too many things that I never used or touched. I now feel that we are pretty efficient in our packing. Here are the things I feel make for a good journey.

#1- Clothing
This is the area where folks usually pack way too much. Remember that most motorcycle journeys are spent riding on the motorcycle. This means that your riding gear will be the most used clothing for the trip. So I pack a few shirts, some underwear, socks and usually one pair of jeans and some shoes. That’s all I need. I will usually pack a light jacket or hoodie that can be used with my riding gear if needed. You can always do some laundry during your journey. Most lodging will have the option to wash clothes. 

Don’t forget the rain gear and one set of extra gloves. Nothing ruins a trip faster than being uncomfortable because you forgot basic riding gear. 
#2- Tool kit
I carry the basic tools that are needed for small the road type of repairs. This has to include a motorcycle tire repair kit. Remember to have some sort of device to put air into the tires. I do not have the skill needed for major roadside repairs, so I do not have a huge toolkit that I take on trips. See step # 4 to help prevent road trip disasters. 

#3- The Basics
I use a tank bag to carry most of my essentials that are needed throughout the day of my journey. My glasses, lens cleaner, earplugs, and other things I might need are easy to get to in my tank bag. I like to keep sunscreen, a paper map, and a kickstand puck in there as well. It has been a tool I have used for touring for many years and feel naked when I do not use one. All of the things listed above need to be with you, and the tank bag allows for a quick and easy place for these items. Most phones today have the ability to take fantastic pictures. Having the phone handy is just another reason for a tank bag. 

Each of us has different goals when planning our motorcycle journeys. These tips are a guideline for you to expand on and make your own. The goal is to get out and explore on your motorcycle. There is no better way to travel than on two wheels. Taking a few minutes to plan your journey will make your ride a good one.

Each of these categories could be explained more in detail, so if you like this type of information, we will do more articles that will dig deeper into the aspects of planning a motorcycle journey. Until then, if you follow these easy steps you will be on the way to a great motorcycle adventure. Until next time, Ride safe!