Cover image: ThrottleMama in Lone Pine, CA, Mount Whitney in the background. Photo credit: ThrottleDaddy (map)
When you think about motorcycling, freedom come to mind. Images from Easy Rider, miles of open road filled with adventure. But for many motorcyclists, particularly those in the sportbike community, riding is confined to 50 mile day trips, riding back and forth to work, or even just riding to Saturday breakfast ten miles from home. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with those choices… but I am suggesting that there is a big world out there, filled with fantastic twisty backroads with no traffic, epic beauty, and quirky charm, and if all you do is putt to and from work, you are missing out. I encourage any and all riders who haven’t taken an overnight trip to just go do it. It will change your perspective, and your life. In this post I will address the top five reasons I have heard that people do not travel by bike, and prove that there is no real excuse not to get out there and do some exploring.
I don’t have the right bike for moto touring – it’s too small/big/pretty/ugly/uncomfortable/etc
This is the silliest excuse. People complete long rides on all kinds of bikes. In the adventure riding world, many extreme long distance trips are taken on very small, simple dual sport motorcycles (150cc-ish) because they are light and easy to repair (for example, Weronika Kwapisz’s 10,000 mile trip around Europe – check out her Facebook page. Also see MotoLady‘s articles on Weronika’s travels here and here) On the opposite end of the spectrum, ThrottleDaddy tours on a CBR1000RR, a supersport bike. He actually also owns a KLR650, arguably a better touring bike – but chooses the CBR because “it’s more fun to ride”. And there you have it. Moto touring is fun. The right bike to take on your first moto touring trip? Why, its the one sitting your garage right now.
I can’t fit all the stuff I need on my motorcycle
Yes you can. Need inspiration? Check out this ride report over on AdventureRider (The report is entitled “Me, a blonde, 2 Ducatis, and 3,000 miles (and then some)”. Really, go read it.) You can fit a surprising amount of stuff into a tank bag and some saddle bags. Add a top bag, and you can bring your entire wardrobe with you if you want, complete with multiple pairs of shoes. But really, you don’t need to bring that much stuff. You wear your riding gear. If you are staying in motels, then all you need is a set of clothes to wear when you get off the bike for the day, a tire repair kit, and a first aid kit. If you are camping, add on a tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping mat, maybe some cooking utensils. Done. Check out my Ninja 650R prepared for a 1200 mile moto camping trip – the only specialty moto gear I used was a set of $50 saddlebags and a cargo net. Done and done, ready for fun.
Something (bad) might happen, and I’ll be far away from home
The key to this is in your perspective.
Lets say you are in the middle of Death Valley on a sportbike with nearly-bald tires, and you come upon a section of gravel road that was not on your map. You aren’t sure if you have enough gas to backtrack. Your tires are so thin you know that one particularly aggressive piece of gravel could leave you with a difficult-to-patch hole, stranding you on an untraveled road in the hottest desert in North America. What do you do? Risk running out of gas by heading back, or go for the gravel and hope for the best?
There’s a quote that essentially says “adventures are more fun in hindsight than in the moment”. In the moment, in the desert, ThrottleDaddy and I were tired, hot, thirsty, and very stressed. We chose to take the gravel road and risk a flat. We made it through, no flat, and did not run out of gas. In the moment it was stressful, but after the fact… it makes a good story. Instead of thinking “something bad might happen”, just think “something might happen.” There, doesn’t that sound better? It’s all a matter of perspective.
I don’t have time to get away from my job/family/garden/ant farm/whatever
This is, potentially, the most valid excuse. If you have young kids at home, or some other all-consuming committment, it really might be tough to get away for an overnight trip. But, it is worth the effort, particularly if you have such intense demands in your life. Some time away doing something adventurous will refresh you so you can better handle your responsibilities. Handling challenges builds your confidence, which makes you a better partner, parent, and employee; taking time for yourself allows you to do a better job taking care of others. All you need is a day and a half, or even less, for an overnight trip. Beg your partner. Beg your boss. Make it happen.
(Other excuses that simply translate to…) I’m scared
Don’t be scared. Go with friends your first time, or find a riding buddy on a local message board or on Adventure Rider’s regional boards. You can make your trip as simple as you want for your first time, and once you take that first trip and see how easy and fun moto travel is, you’ll be ready to try something more complicated next time. Go somewhere you’ve been before in the car, and you can see how different moto travel is. Or, go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go but haven’t been able to. Camp if you’re worried about cost – stay in a motel if you’re worried about camping. Stay in well-traveled areas if you’re worried about being stranded, or go somewhere more remote if your biggest worry is traffic. Don’t be scared. All you have to do iss throw your leg over, point your front tire for the horizon, and twist the throttle. You will be so glad you did.
So, go for a ride. And tell me about it in the comments.