P

eople often ask us for tips on how to plan a motorcycle trip, so here’s the basic scoop. Planning a motorcycle trip starts by deciding where you want to go, when you plan to hit the road, and how long you can take to get there. After that, your focus shifts to choosing the roads and routes that make the most out of your available time. In the good old days we highlighted the roads on a map. These days you can simply plug in the route on your GPS and, voilà, you’re on your way. Where you are going is the most important decision you have to make. It often dictates when you are leaving as well if you happen to be traveling to an event like a rally, show or race. If you choose to go to a tourist attraction like a national forest or a city you’ve never visited before, it’s important to check out an events calendar. You don’t want to go adventure riding in Colorado during the opening weekend of hunting season, nor do you want to ride into a town that’s holding a parade or state fair because the roads can be a mess.

Like we said, when you are leaving is also important. While events and stuff like that will dictate your start dates, weather is also an important factor.

Unless you're tough, avoid touring the deserts of Arizona or Death Valley in the heat of summer. Same goes for Florida, Georgia, and Alabama during the humid months. We've been there and it is not fun. On the same note, you don't want to tour Boston, Sturgis or Milwaukee in January either. One thing we have learned over the years of planning and riding on a deadline is that you should always leave a couple of days earlier than you expect. This gives you leeway in case you have troubles along the way.

This is a good segue into how long you should plan to be on the road during your ride. When your plans are all dialed in, add a day on either side in case you have a mechanical issue or maybe you just find something you want to check out for an extra day. Having the ability to improvise is always a blessing. So to wrap things up: Check for cool things to see along the route, make time to check it all out and then take it easy and enjoy the ride. Below are a few additional motorcycle travel tips to help you get started.

Motorcycle Travel Gear & Packing Tips

Equipping yourself with the best motorcycle travel gear you can fit into your budget will pay huge dividends in the long run. There are plenty of shortcuts you can take to make the best of the gear you have, but it is always nice to have quality gear. Here are a few tips on motorcycle travel bags and how to pack for a motorcycle trip that we have found work well for us.

Motorcycle bags or motorcycle luggage come in many shapes, sizes, and have a variety of functions. Saddlebags are the most common and are fixed to both sides of the back of the bike alongside the passenger seat. They usually allow you to take a passenger without getting in the way. They are available in hard or soft designs, both of which have benefits over the other. A tank bag rests on top of the tank and is ideal for the various sundries a rider wants close at hand. Phones, GPS, wallet, snacks, personal protection, bike locks, and stuff like that are easy to access from a tank bag. A tail bag is where you would store your bigger bulky items like clothes, camping gear, and things of that nature for which you don't need easy access.

Motorcycle gear is last but arguably the most important of all things on this list. You will want the most comfortable gear you can afford. Your helmet should be a quality lid with a good, undamaged visor. If you only have one, make it a clear visor. If you can bring two, have a tinted and clear and take the time to swap them out at sundown. Your motorcycle riding jacket, pants, boots, and gloves should suit the climate and terrain you are riding in.

If you are going to ride in the cold, then for the sake of all things holy you should have excellent gear and consider heated gear to help you survive the ride. If you are in average or warm climates, then vented gear is a must. No matter where you ride, always bring a set of rain gear because regional weather is difficult to predict and getting wet on a motorcycle really sucks.

Packing your motorcycle is a big deal. You only have a finite amount of space available and it is dictated by your luggage and the size of your motorcycle. It is imperative to know the load range of your bike and tires and go through great lengths to avoid overloading your machine. Some people even pull a motorcycle travel trailer like the Mini Mate or Kompact Kamp unit behind their big bikes these days. Anyway, when you are packing, think about the least amount of gear you need, lay it all out, then remove a quarter of it. When it comes to packing for a motorcycle trip, less is more and if you plan to go to events, bring a backpack so that you can haul a little bit of extra stuff on the way back home.

Motorcycle Trips and Destinations

One of the great parts of planning a motorcycle trip is the prospect of checking out new places to ride, and new landmarks to explore. When you are putting together your cross-country motorcycle trip make sure to look for motorcycle events like rallies, races, and consumer shows taking place along your route and plan to attend it if you have time. Some of the best motorcycle destinations will have events going on throughout the year and you can make the best of your motorcycle trip by incorporating it into the plan.

If you are on the East Coast, consider riding to Daytona for Bike Week or New England for the annual Laconia Rally or check out Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama for any of the races held at that amazing venue. For those in the middle of the country you have the Harley-Davidson factory in Milwaukee, Road America or any number of rallies and parties between the borders.

On the West Coast you have World Superbike at Laguna Seca, the Long Beach Motorcycle Show, and so many regional events we could never name them all.

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Other great motorcycle road trip ideas include touring national parks like the Grand Canyon, visiting historical points of interest like Kitty Hawk or Gettysburg, or just seeing family and friends who you haven't seen in a while. When you are putting your route together try to take advantage of the roads less traveled, the byways that connect to the main interstate so you can get away from the main flow of traffic and enjoy the scenery.

Best Motorcycles for Traveling

When you are looking for the best long-distance motorcycle there are a few things you need to keep in mind. Your motorcycle should be large enough to carry you and your load, including a passenger, gear, and any additional stuff. It should also be comfortable with amenities like a great seat, upright riding position, windscreen, and bodywork that protects you from the elements. It should also have a good fuel range based on tank capacity and average mpg.

After you take those factors into consideration you need to figure out what motorcycle fits your budget, your lifestyle, and your particular needs. The most popular touring bikes are the big, heavyweight V-twin cruisers. Lately the sport-touring segment combines fast, sporty bikes with touring amenities like powered adjustable windshields, heated grips, electrical ports, and much more. For those who prefer to be off the beaten path, the adventure-touring bikes like the popular BMW GS series have taken the world by storm.

If you and your friends are eager to caravan to Sturgis and roll with the V-twin crowd, you should look at the touring lineup from Harley-Davidson and Indian. The H-D Electra Glide, Road Glide, or Ultra or the Indian Roadmaster are amazing long-distance motorcycles. If you prefer imported bikes, the Honda Gold Wing has been the premier touring bike for decades and there are a lot of options from the Japanese brands. A good used Wing is a great way to get into long-distance riding without breaking the bank. Beyond that, every manufacturer builds a touring-class cruiser-style motorcycle.

Sport-touring is a great way to follow the pavement to your favorite motorcycle destinations. Bikes like the Kawasaki Concours, Yamaha FJ1300, and Honda ST have opened up a world of exploring coastlines and backcountry byways across the country. Adventure-touring is the next step in the pecking order. The ADV bikes are designed to go hundreds of miles either on or off the highway. Some are geared more toward street; others are built for the dirt. Either way they feature an upright riding position like you would get from a dirt bike and most have aftermarket crash bars and tough luggage to keep your gear safe.