10 Essential Tips for Your First Motorcycle Road Trip

Several years ago, back when I was in college and could afford to make rash decisions, some friends and I found out our spring breaks lined up that year. If this had happened several months before, we could have planned a trip together, but it did not. Instead, it happened less than a week before they were scheduled to fly down to West Palm Beach for a week of fun in the sun. I was invited and would have a free place to stay, but I would have to figure out how to get there.

Being a college student, I had very little money, so the prospect of flying was out of the question. It looked like I was destined to spend the week at my parents’ house instead of the beach until one wise friend suggested I ride my motorcycle. To my cash-strapped self, it made perfect sense. I’d get amazing gas mileage, do something cool, and then have my motorcycle at the beach. What could be wrong with that?

As it turned out, being young and dumb while making rash decisions did not lead to me making the best choice because, as I quickly found out, I was woefully unprepared for a solo motorcycle road trip. I got there and back safely, spent some time with good friends, and saw family members I hadn’t seen in a while, but boy, did I have some things to learn. If you own a motorcycle and are considering taking a road trip, here are a few things I learned the hard way.

Motorcycle-Rider-in-Rain-e1431021058751

1. The road is longer than you think

Open-Road

The first day of my trip was a relatively short ride between the cities of Athens and Statesboro. It was about a three-hour ride, and at the end of it, I met a friend for dinner and drinks, then spent the night before my big push to West Palm Beach. While three hours on the road was no big deal, the drive from Statesboro to West Palm Beach was more than twice as long. When I was planning the trip, six or seven hours didn’t sound horrible, but for someone who had never ridden a motorcycle for that long, actually doing it felt like an absolute eternity.

If you aren’t accustomed to riding for more than just a few hours, don’t jump right into a road trip. Try taking some practice rides to get used to being on a bike for longer periods of time. Experienced riders regularly go on much longer trips than I did, but they’re just that – experienced riders. The more prepared you can be for how endless six or seven hours is going to feel, the better.

2. Windshields are great

Harley_Davidson-Windshield-e1431021462275

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10 Essential Tips for Your First Motorcycle Road Trip
Collin Woodard MORE ARTICLES
March 29, 2016

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Motorcycle Rider in Rain
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images News
Several years ago, back when I was in college and could afford to make rash decisions, some friends and I found out our spring breaks lined up that year. If this had happened several months before, we could have planned a trip together, but it did not. Instead, it happened less than a week before they were scheduled to fly down to West Palm Beach for a week of fun in the sun. I was invited and would have a free place to stay, but I would have to figure out how to get there.

Being a college student, I had very little money, so the prospect of flying was out of the question. It looked like I was destined to spend the week at my parents’ house instead of the beach until one wise friend suggested I ride my motorcycle. To my cash-strapped self, it made perfect sense. I’d get amazing gas mileage, do something cool, and then have my motorcycle at the beach. What could be wrong with that?

As it turned out, being young and dumb while making rash decisions did not lead to me making the best choice because, as I quickly found out, I was woefully unprepared for a solo motorcycle road trip. I got there and back safely, spent some time with good friends, and saw family members I hadn’t seen in a while, but boy, did I have some things to learn. If you own a motorcycle and are considering taking a road trip, here are a few things I learned the hard way.

1. The road is longer than you think
Open Road
Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images
The first day of my trip was a relatively short ride between the cities of Athens and Statesboro. It was about a three-hour ride, and at the end of it, I met a friend for dinner and drinks, then spent the night before my big push to West Palm Beach. While three hours on the road was no big deal, the drive from Statesboro to West Palm Beach was more than twice as long. When I was planning the trip, six or seven hours didn’t sound horrible, but for someone who had never ridden a motorcycle for that long, actually doing it felt like an absolute eternity.

If you aren’t accustomed to riding for more than just a few hours, don’t jump right into a road trip. Try taking some practice rides to get used to being on a bike for longer periods of time. Experienced riders regularly go on much longer trips than I did, but they’re just that – experienced riders. The more prepared you can be for how endless six or seven hours is going to feel, the better.
2. Windshields are great
Harley-Davidson Motorcycle
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News
Getting my start riding mostly in the city, I didn’t see much use for windshields. My foolish, young mind thought they ruined the look of the bike and were for the kinds of people who ride from Miami to Seattle on $60,000 customs. For city riding, I still prefer the look of a bike that’s as naked as possible, but once it’s time to hit the highway, I am fully aware that my position on windshields was entirely wrong.

Feeling the wind blow as you ride is one of the most wonderful parts of riding, but two or three hours at 75 or 80 miles per hour gets exhausting. Five, six, and seven hours into riding, it’s even worse. As I slowed down to 65 miles per hour to give my arms a rest, I realized that not only did I need to work out more, I needed a windshield if I was ever going to do this again. If you’re looking to road trip, save yourself the exhaustion and spring for a proper windshield.

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Oliver Lawson

Oliver Lawson

Oliver loves his motorbikes. When he's not in the garage working on a restoration project, you can find him on the open road.

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