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The Ride

More significant than the motorcycle is how you approach the ride.  It has always been my philosophy the journey is more important than the destination.  I look at the ride itself as the reason for going, not the destination.  In my opinion that approach makes a world of difference.  When I ride to California, or far into Canada, I'll use a hundred different roads.  I like to see things along the way, and meet people.  Back roads offer adventure, and something new each day.

My basic days are 400-500 miles.  Far enough to get me somewhere, but not drudgery.  I plan my tours with that in mind.  Don't fall into the too ambitious trap.  It is easy to look at a map in your study and link a series of 700 mile days, thinking it won't be difficult to pull off.  I can tell you those tours quickly become a grind.  I ride too many back roads to get that far anyway, my style of riding is just not conducive to that kind of mileage.  For sure, I've had a few long days on the interstate trying to get somewhere, but none of them were fun.    

I believe there is a difference in long distance riding, and touring.   The first is all about the miles, but in the later, the miles are only part of the equation.  When I leave out on a tour, I don't really care when I get there, and that separates me from riders who focus on the miles or the destination.  Yes, there might be a day or 2 in a long tour my focus is on getting there, usually the first day, and every once in while I just want to ride, but outside of that I don't ride with a sense urgency.

On a 21 day, cross country ride, I treat each day as a separate, tangible ride.  The purpose for the ride for that day is not to get me 500 miles further west, but to enjoy the road, the things I might come across or the people I might meet.  I want to take pictures and absorb my surroundings.  The goal of my West Coast Tour is not really getting to California, but enjoying at least 18 days of great riding!  It just so happens California is as far west as I can go.

Out on the road I'll stop whenever I feel like it.  I don't carry a camelback.  I seldom work up a thirst just riding a motorcycle, but if I do, I'm going to STOP, get off the bike, find a nice shade tree, and enjoy a Mountain Dew, not in that big a hurry I need to drink on the fly.  I hear some guys use a bladder bag so they don't have to get off the bike when the call comes, are you kidding ME??  

I recommend getting off the bike at least every 2 hours or so.  I try to do that about every 100-150 miles.  If I see a good photo op, person to talk to, or interesting place, I'll take it.  It is my belief long stints in the saddle, are not healthy, if you're young might cause you problems later in life, if you're middle aged like ME, could cause immediate bad things, and if you're already having tribulations, that kind of riding is probably going to exacerbate things.  

The human body is about blood flow, the stiffness and soreness you feel on the bike, or when you get off for a break, or roll out of bed the next morning, is your body telling you it went too long without something good.  You know the stuff the body uses to flush out acid buildup, and bring oxygen rich cells to joints and muscles?  Its called blood!  Joints and limbs wither when they don't have it.  Riding constricts blood flow to a lot of places, so yes, I get off the bike whenever I feel the need, and sometimes even when I don't, because I know its good for me.

There is a reason you don't see any old truck drivers.  And the young ones?  How often have you seen a 40ish truck driver, old beyond his years, walking stiff or with a limp?  Heck, I've seen them barely able to get out of the cab.  The years of sitting on their butt, 12 hours a day, has taken its toll.  And they were sitting on a air cushioned seat with a back rest, and you're on a motorcycle seat!

I've ridden many, many miles the last 7 years, and so far I have no back, joint or muscles problems, despite my age of 52.  My motorcycles are bone stock, no custom seats, handlebars etc.  I ride not only for today, but for tomorrow, if you don't practice that you're asking for trouble, the check ALWAYS comes due.

After parking the bike at the end of day, and settling in, I suggest go out for a walk.  When I can I'll run a few miles, but that is not always possible, in the least I like to walk a mile to my evening meal.  This simple act opens the circulation that was shut down most of the day sitting on the bike.  This, joined with a couple of aspirin will reduce the soreness getting out bed the next day.

I give my body a break from the road every 5-6 days while on a long tour.  I just get away from it for a day.  I give it a chance to rest, and I refresh my mental state of being.  Even on the longest of tours, I don't ever recall dreading getting on the bike.  If you have days like that, you need to take a look at things.  I try to schedule my off days on a Saturday.  I'll use the down time to run, go to church, wash clothes, and enjoy where I'm at.  

A good cross country ride is 2 weeks.  For sure you can do it in 7 days, but more than a few of those days won't be any fun, only you can make the call if its worth it.

Before embarking on a 8,000 mile cross country ride, a good idea is to PREPARE.  A week long regional ride is a good way.  It will get you use to the miles, and offer a chance to test your equipment.   If your physical shape needs help, I suggest working on it.  Being in shape makes everything you do on a long ride easier.  Being light in the saddle with a good midsection ( you don't need 6 pack abs, a few sit ups will work) alleviates back problems, and improves your ability to handle the slight lean of most sport touring bikes.

I've found cycling to be a excellent way to prepare for a long ride.  The seat of a Trek, combined with the extreme lean of a road bike, makes any motorcycle feel comfortable.

Understand a long tour ebbs and flows.  Somedays are better than others, you might have feelings of homesickness, you WILL have days where every decision you make is the WRONG one, don't worry about it, just adapt and keep going.  Why they call it ADVENTURE!  I can promise, you won't have to make a single call sitting in front of a TV about what to do when caught in a storm high in the Colorado Mountains.  But think what you WILL miss by living the safe and secure way.  No glorious mountains vistas, desert sunsets, or curve leaning in the Blue Ridge.  Just you and the clicker, and when you see pictures on TV of beautiful places you can keep on saying to yourself, "man I'd like to ride there someday, but that's a long way!"  Or I don't have the _____ (fill in blank with time, money, permission etc)

I'm just saying do the best you can, in the situation you're in.   

On long tours I prefer riding solo.  Not that I'm anti social, just quirky.  I like the fact I'm the only one that has a say in the decisions I make.  Where to eat, what roads to ride, when to stop.  I've always been the loner type.  Yes, I enjoy people and the social interaction, but it usually wears on me kind of quickly.  I don't mean to hurt anyone's feelings, but I believe the true freedom of the open road can only be experienced solo. 

Besides, I don't know why anyone would WANT to ride with ME?  I might stop to take a picture of something meaningless, or ride miles out of the way to check out some tacky tourist trap, or spend time talking to a few locals about the upcoming crop.  Riding with a group means compromises that I'd rather not make.  My tours are special to me, I plan them, and I want to execute them to my liking.  

On occasion I have been known to ride with a partner, but those individuals are going to be someone I know very well.  I get my social needs at the rally site, and mingling.  I'm more inclined to ride with a group if the ride is going to be a limited one.  Like rallies, or a day or two of a couple hundred miles.

If riding with a partner is a key ingredient in your tours, by all means carry on.  It is not wrong to feel that way.  There is much to be said about a group ride, most significantly security.  Like I mentioned, this page is about what I like.

Why I ride Sport Touring Bikes

Let me begin by saying there is no right or wrong choice, what kind of motorcycle you choose is entirely up to to you, and whatever you choose should reflect your style, wants, and needs.

I'm not going to discuss the different type of bike genres, but instead focus on why I choose to ride sport touring bikes-what this section is ALL about, what I like, and why.  My choice of bikes doesn't make me more elite, or better, it just says who I am.

I ride sport touring bikes because they are fast, agile, and mostly comfortable.  They lean well in the mountains and canyons, have things like adjustable wind protection, FI, ABS, and hard bags.  They are not Gold Wing comfortable or Ninja fast, but not far off the mark.  Outfitted with smaller, slicker fairings, they shoulder away the rain and cold, and on the open highways make 115 mph seem like a reasonable speed.  Most are shaft drive, with large gas tanks to zap me across the vast expanses of the American West, not worrying about where the next gas station is.

Sport tourers have most of the amenities of a full touring bike (especially the BMW RT) but without all the weight and bulk, which depending on what you like or need, can be a good or a bad thing.

These versatile machines, are mostly limited production bikes of the various manufacturers.  Outside of BMW,  you probably won't walk in a dealer showroom and see one on the floor.  They cater to a unique brand of Long Rider.  Usually their owners ride a lot miles, in all kinds of weather and terrain.  They use them for cross country tours, and everyday commuting.  In the Iron Butt Rally sport tourers are the overwhelming choice for a reason, mainly because they do so many things well, at little or no cost in performance.

Good info here.  Check it out.