A new blog series discussing practical information from what we have learned on our rides. We do not pretend to make this a guide on what or how you should do things on your travels. We are simply sharing our experiences on a range of motorcycle touring topics and how we dealt with them. We hope these tips will come in handy for you on your future tours.
1. Find your Daily Riding Average (DRA)
I have seen many motorcyclists take on long distance rides with no, or very little, planning on the daily mileage. For the most part, long distance riding and motorcycle touring is not a race (though there are fun competitions like the "Iron Butt", "Hoka Hey", and the "Cannonball"). For me, having knowledge of the travel time or distance you are comfortable riding each day is crucial.
How do you know what your magic number is? Doing short weekend rides around your town can be a great way to determine what I call the Daily Riding Average. The DRA is the amount of time/miles you are comfortable being on the saddle in a day. Your touring style and the physics of your ride both factor into this number.
For your touring style, think of the type of rider you are. Do you press hard from town to town through interstates in order to visit those towns more in depth? Or do you take it easy on smaller roads and do many short stops everywhere? Do you plan to stop at every state sign? Or are you touring on a mission to hit every Starbucks in America? Whatever your focus is needs to be added into your DRA equation. It will determine an estimate of how many stops you will make in the time or distance of your day ride.
I personally do not care much for miles. Hell, you can have 100,000 miles on your odometer just commuting to your office! I find it more exciting to hear about the rider who put just 200 miles into exploring the next town. Visiting their local museum, dining at a local restaurant where they tried the specialty of the town, and met some interesting people. I value the experience over anything else. For me, riding is about "the places I've seen and the people I've met" instead of a bragging number. That said, when I think of my DRA, I care about the "time" I spend on the saddle and not the "distance".
Next up, consider the physics of your riding style. For instance, I do not have a windshield on my FXDB “La Loba”. Because of that, the wind resistance increases the fatigue I get on my body from long periods of time holding onto the bike. Your seat, your posture, and your speed, are other riding factors that need to be considered into the equation of your DRA.
Once you know your Daily Riding Average, you can plan your routes easily with that in mind. A great tool at home is Google Maps. You can move the icon of your destination and see the time estimate of traveling change. Adjust the icon to your DRA and set the destination "markers" for each of your days. This also allows you to research a few points of interest in between markers that you may want to visit.
After a few local rides, I figured out my DRA to be in the range of 4 to 6 hours of riding per day. The longer 6 hour days are done mostly for recovery, if I need to catch up for an event or need to be in a place at a particular time. Otherwise I usually average riding 4-5 hours a day. This amount of time keeps me relaxed. It allows me to do all my stops for photography, gas, entertainment, and have a nice break in the middle of the day for a proper meal.
2. The magic of Paper Maps
But think of this for a minute, GPS devices eliminate the serendipity of traveling. The getting lost for a while, the right and wrong turns, the happy accidents and discoveries, the decision making... is all diminished. GPS can easily turn into a passive way to get to your destination by following the orders of a digital voice inside your helmet.
On the other hand, riding by the guidance of a good old fashion paper map engages us actively into correlating what we memorized on the paper to what we see on the road. In my opinion, it is a more "aware" way to travel. You are the driver AND the navigator. That empowering feeling is a sweet topping in the motorcycle touring experience.
Printed maps also have a strange effect on the male population all around the world. It's like they possess some sort of magic for men! Just try it. Open your map and spread it over the table while you are in a diner, at a bar, or gas station, it doesn't matter. Within seconds there will be a bunch of dudes around you, trying to help you with directions, better routes, and local places to visit. It is a cool way to meet people, or at least to have a chat with locals, that may lead to fun places or add to your story.
In my case, I use the GPS to get out of complicated city grids. The rest of the time I try to navigate with paper maps that I collect at state welcome centers. I carry them all in, the design specific "map pocket" of, my Motorwolf LOBO vest. This way I have them handy to review my route during my many stops.
Learning to navigate with paper maps has also made me more efficient on my international rides. When I ride abroad, and my cellphone signal is gone, paper maps are the only option.
3. Get Lost!
Following the line of the GPS and maps conversation, I believe strongly that sometimes I just have to turn them off and leave it all to the Gods of the road. Some days are all about filling the tanks and riding with no other purpose than discovery.
Getting lost is a great way to find new places and meet interesting people. On my rides, some of the best places I have been were by pure chance. By the conscious choice of turning off the structural navigation mindset and letting myself wander on to any road and place that the day threw my way.
The beauty of getting lost also makes me vulnerable, in the sense that I need to interact with people to find my way. It awakes my senses, makes me more alert, and strengthens my faith in the "everything is going to be ok" karma.
Tell us what you think, share some of your tips about these topics...
As always, Ride Far amigos!