Safe Riding

10 Simple Tips for Your Next Road Trip

Written by  May 31, 2005

Are you getting ready to take that big cross-country road trip to your favorite rally; or maybe you have a few weeks of vacation to burn and plan to hit the road to wherever it may take you? If so, there are a few things to keep in mind that might help make your trip even more enjoyable.

Taking a long trip places different demands on you than putting around town to your favorite bike night hangouts. I’m no expert, however, I thought I’d share a few things with you that I've picked up over the past 35 years in the saddle.

1) Reservations Anyone? – If you plan to stay overnight in a particular city or town along the way, call a few hotels in the area to make sure the National Hotdog Eating Championship or some other event hasn’t taken up all the hotel rooms for miles around. If rooms are scarce, make your reservations now. If there are no major events planned and there are plenty of rooms available, you can take your chances and possibly save yourself some cancellation fees in case Bubba’s bike breaks down or you’re making such good time that you want to log a few more miles in the saddle before shutting down for the night. You’re call, but if your significant other is riding next to you or sitting on the passenger pillion behind you, I know what I’d do!

2) If It's Not Broke, Don't #%*&@&# With It – If your bike is ready for it's regularly scheduled service or if making modifications or repairs, make sure the work is performed far enough in advance of your trip so you can log as many miles as possible to ensure that everything is working properly. This will help ensure that you or your mechanic didn't forget to tighten or reconnect something. It's much better to #%*&@&# with your bike in town before the trip than on the side of the road 1,500 miles from home.

3) Great Pickup Lines – Do you have a roadside assistance provider for your bike? If not, you should consider getting coverage before taking off on that long trip, and don't forget to take your coverage card with you, along with your cell phone. It's usually inexpensive and could save that trip you've been waiting all year to take. Most roadside assistance programs will bring you fuel if you run out or safely transport your bike to the nearest dealership if you break down. I look at it as trip insurance.

4) Don’t Overdo It – Unless you’re participating in a Hard Butt contest, don’t take on multiple 500-600 mile days if you’re not used to it. It may look easy on a map, but if you’re like me, and prefer scenic twisty back roads to the interstate, even 350 miles a day can take it out of you. Instead, pace yourself and work up to longer distances gradually. If riding in a group and you feel that you are riding beyond your ability, tell the rest of the group to go on ahead and you’ll catch up with them at the next stop. Besides, haven’t you heard the term, “It’s the journey, not the destination?”

5) Don’t Underdo It – I tend to ride long and hard when I travel, so this is one of my personal pet peeves. If riding in a group that keeps dilly-dallying around at every fuel/meal stop, or can’t seem to maintain a constant, safe and acceptable speed for the group, tell the road captain that you’re going to ride on ahead and will meet them at the next stop or at your final destination. Better yet, if you’ve ridden with this group before and know this ahead of time, save yourself some aggravation and plan your own route or take off at a different time and just meet everyone there.

6) Take a Break – On long multi-week trips, plan for at least one non-riding day per week. By keeping your schedule loose, you can take advantage of the opportunities that arise unexpectedly such as that local bike show or rally in Dinky Town, USA.

7) Don’t Dry Up & Blow Away – Beware of dehydration. Between the wind, sun and hours on the road, it’s easy to become dehydrated. If you wait until you’re very thirsty to stop for a bottle of water, it may already be too late! Drink plenty of water or fruit drinks every time you stop to refuel and you should be OK, and stop more often if it’s hotter than hell. Stay away from caffeinated soft drinks, coffee or tea, because they can actually contribute to dehydration, and save the alcohol for the end of the day once you’ve put your bike to bed for the night.

8) Don’t Become Loony - Some of you may have started the trip loony, but if your thinking becomes fuzzy, or if simple decisions become difficult, this could be a warning sign of dehydration, hypothermia, hyperthermia, fatigue or sleepiness. STOP immediately and figure out what’s wrong so you can address it before continuing your ride.

9) Move Around – When you stop for food or fuel, don’t just sit there. Get up off your butt and move around to get your blood flowing and keep all those old aching bones limber.

10) Don’t Pig Out – That triple cheeseburger, fries and chocolate malt may look good on the menu, but it can make you sluggish and sleepy on the road. Instead, eat light and healthy, and save the junk food for when the day’s riding is done.

I hope some of these tips help make your next road trip even more enjoyable, and above all, make sure to ride safe!

By Mike Schweder