Going the (First) Distance: An Introduction to Long-Distance Motorcycle Riding, Point #11 (Trip Planning)


Introduction

For a new touring rider, planning is an essential component of a successful first tour. Some riders may enjoy intentionally getting lost on back roads while exploring their home countryside. Long distance riding, however, can easily lose its fun factor without proper planning. Many new touring riders wrongly write off long distance riding after one trip. What they do not realize is that they dislike their failure to properly plan, not long distance riding itself. For those reading this who have had a bad experience with touring, follow the advice below and give it another try. For new touring riders, hopefully this advice will allow you to never know the pain of a poorly planned tour.


What you Need Before You can Plan

In order to properly plan a tour, a rider must be able to answer the following questions:

How many miles can your motorcycle cover on a tank of fuel?

This is one of the most important things to know about your motorcycle, whether you are touring or just riding around town. Even though motorcycles are a lot easier to push than cars, running out of gas is a real inconvenience. The inconvenience is exacerbated on a long trip, and can even become dangerous. Out west, gas stations can be 50 or 100 miles apart, even along interstates. If you pass an exit with a gas station, and do not know when the next one will come up, you are playing Russian roulette with your trip. Being “pretty sure” you can make it to the next stop is not good enough. Chancing it can leave a rider with a long walk (think 50+ miles) to get gas, and can leave them exposed to the elements or wildlife with no means of escape. A motorcycle will easily outrun a mountain lion or bear. Unless your name is Usain Bolt, I guarantee you that you cannot.

When I say “tank of fuel”, I am referring to the main tank, or the tank before it goes onto reserve. For carbureted bikes, this is usually when the fuel level gets low enough that the rider has to switch from “main” to “reserve” on the petcock. For fuel-injected bikes or bikes with a fuel gauge, this is when the fuel light comes on or the gauge is reading near the bottom. The reserve fuel is meant to be a cushion in case your bike is using more fuel than normal, or you get stuck in several long traffic jams that eat into your fuel economy.

To figure your bike’s fuel range, fill your motorcycle’s tank and go for a ride. Stay on roads you know well and ride until you get your motorcycle’s low fuel warning occurs (petcock/light/gauge). Repeat this process two or three times (not necessarily on the same day) to get several different results and get a general idea of fuel range. Do not worry about how often you need to stop and get off the bike for this part. Your only goal is to see how far your motorcycle can go before you have to refuel.

Some motorcycle tend to have wider variations in fuel range than others. My old Suzuki Bandit 1200 would get somewhere between 150 and 165 miles on a 4.2-gallon main tank before I went onto reserve. My FJR1300 was not as consistent, but would stay somewhere between 210 and 240 miles per tank (5.3-gallon main tank) depending on ambient temperature and how fast I was riding. The Ninja 500 I used this past summer after my accident had a bit more variation in its fuel range. I would get anywhere from 175 to 215 miles per tank (4.2-gallon main tank).

 

How long can you ride before you need to stop?

Once you know how far the motorcycle will go on a tank of fuel, a rider needs to figure out what their fuel range is. Many long-distance riders, like myself, like the idea of riding from fuel stop to fuel stop. This limits the amount of time spent off the bike and saves a lot of time. However, every rider is different, and new riders need to be especially conscious of this. Getting tired behind the bars is not the same as getting tired behind the wheel of a car. Drifting off while driving is dangerous enough, but car drivers do not have to worry about keeping their cars balanced. The need to keep a motorcycle balanced makes riding more physically and mentally demanding than driving, which in turn makes fatigue set in much sooner.

All riders who are new to touring need to go out on another couple rides after they figure out how far their bike will go on fuel to see how long they can comfortably ride. Just start riding away from home until you start to feel a little fatigued. Find a place to pull off and rest (like a gas station or diner), refuel the bike and body, then get back on and head toward home. Try to note if the fatigue starts to set in around the same time on the second part of the trip as it does in the first. Organizations like the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) recommend for no longer than two hours at a time (http://www.msf-usa.org/downloads/mom_v16_GS_low_res.pdf, page 45). I think that is a little conservative, but I personally try to not ride for longer than 3-3.5 hours at a time.

 

What kinds of roads are you planning on riding for your tour (interstate or back roads)?

The next step is figuring out how many miles you can reasonably cover in a day. For really short trips, this may not be a big deal. For example, a ride from Columbus, Ohio to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is only 3 hours each way. A rider can relatively easily leave around 7am, get into Pittsburgh around 1030am with a fuel stop, see all things Pittsburgh, and be back in Columbus at a reasonable hour. The problem arises when distance begins to increase. A rider can easily make it from Columbus, Ohio to Philadelphia’s western suburbs in a full day by interstate (7.5 hours riding time per Google Maps). If that same rider attempts to take all back roads to get to the same destination, they may find themselves arriving well after sunset (almost 13 hours of riding time).

 


Preparing the Plan

The best way to do trip planning is to use an online mapping site like Google Maps or Bing Maps. Online mapping allows a rider to easily play with route ideas and trip stops while getting updated trip mileage and riding time. While nearly everyone has used Google Maps to figure out who to get to a bank, repair shop or motorcycle rally, planning a multi-day, multi-stop trip is a more advanced process. Try following these steps:

 

Pick your overall starting point and destination

This part is pretty straight forward. Simply enter into Google Maps where your trip is starting from and what you final destination is. For demonstration purposes, let’s do a trip from the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA)’s headquarters outside of Columbus, Ohio (13515 Yarmouth Drive, Pickerington, Ohio 43147) to the Circuit of the Americas race track outside of Austin, Texas (https://goo.gl/maps/2gj1KtHHSb22).

Photo 1

There are two things to notice after getting directions from Google Maps. First, the trip would be 1,257 miles long using the most direct route. If your motorcycle has a fuel range of approximately 200 miles, a rider would be looking at approximately five fuel stops (six, 200-mile segments) during the total length of this trip. The second thing to notice is how many hours you will likely be on the road. In our example trip, it takes (on average) 18 hours and 34 minutes to reach Austin by interstate. For an experienced touring rider, this is likely a two-day trip. However, if you are a new touring rider, or find that you need to rest every hour and a half to two hours of riding, you may want to make this a three-day ride.

 

Pick your route

If we use the “Options” menu in Google Maps to select “Avoid Highways” and recalculate the route, we see a major change. While the trip mileage is essentially the same, the projected riding time has increase by approximately six hours.

Photo 2

While a very experienced tourer may be able to tackle this trip in two days, choosing to stay off of interstates has greatly increased the time needed to comfortably complete the trip. There is nothing wrong with taking back roads, as they usually offer a combination of more fun roads to ride and more interaction with local culture. However, touring riders need to set reasonable expectations for themselves as to how much ground they can expect to cover each day. There are additional factors that influence route choices, which will be covered next.

 

Pick your voluntary stops

Sometimes a tour is really only about the destination. Some parts of the country simply do not have attractions that a particular rider is interested in stopping to see. Sometimes a touring rider cannot afford to make stops along the way because of how long it will take to reach their destination. In those situations, interstate rest areas/service plazas or gas stations provide adequate places to stop. All a rider is looking for is a place to get something to eat or drink and get out of the saddle for 10 to 20 minutes.

However, more often than not, there is something worth stopping to see along your chosen route. Whether it is a monument, an old friend, or an event, a tour is often more enjoyable when there are things to experience in addition to the ride itself. Every rider needs to take at least a couple breaks during a day-long ride. You had may as well make the most of those stops when you can.

Sometimes there is plenty to do along a planned route, while other times a rider will need to develop a new route to accommodate a stop. Let’s say we wanted to stop at the National Corvette Museum outside of Bowling Green, Kentucky (37.00406° N, -86.37453° E) on the way to Austin. We are in luck. The museum is right off of I-65’s Exit #28.

Now let’s say you have an old friend from high school who lives in Terry Haute, Indiana (39°28′11″N 87°23′23″W). They are a little way off the shortest route, but you may not have another occasion to ride through that area and see them in the next year or two. So, you decide to add Terry Haute to your tour.

For purposes of this exercise, let’s say our friend will meet us at the Denny’s on U.S Routes 41 & 150 (https://goo.gl/maps/PfBtztmmTHB2). Just click “Add destination”, type in “Denny’s, 3442 U.S. Route 41, Terry Haute, IN 47802”, and hit return. Then move the new destination between the starting address and ending address.

Photo 3

The good news is the change has only added 20 minutes and 38 miles to the trip. If the new stop was somewhere further away (let’s say, Omaha, Nebraska), it would change the trip significantly in terms of riding time and require a completely new trip plan.

 

Pick your fuel & overnight stops:

Once the “fun” stops have been selected, it is time to figure out where to stop for fuel. Let’s use our example trip from Columbus to Austin via Terry Haute. With the slight increase in trip length a rider would need to average around 215 miles between fuel stops in order to maintain the original five-stop (six segments) plan (1,297 / 6 = 215.16). This is a little bit longer that our known fuel range of 200 miles. Personally, I would probably try to chance it for just 15 more miles per segment. However, in most cases, it is not worth it. So, now let’s recalculate our planned fuel windows. If we add a sixth fuel stop (creating seven trip segments), we end up with an average segment length of roughly 185 miles.

So, the projected riding time for the trip is 19 hours. Now add 15 minutes for each of the six-fuel stops (usually they do not last that long), and we are now up to 20 hours and 30 minutes. Since this trip is for a new rider, let’s say they want to plan to be off of the bike every 2 hours or so. Since the fuel stops are roughly 3.5 hours of interstate riding, we would need to add a stop between each fuel stop (seven stops, times 10 minutes per stop), increasing our total trip time 21 hours and 40 minutes. Let’s not forget about our friend in Terry Haute as well. Let’s say we are going to have brunch with him/her, and that will take an hour and 20 minutes. We now arrive at a grand total trip time of 23 hours.

Now we can start working the more detailed parts of trip planning. Go back to your Google Map with the trip route. Our fixed stop in Terry Haute is 265 miles away. This is too far to make on one tank of fuel, so we will need to look for our first fuel stop somewhere between Columbus and Terry Haute.

The first thing I did was locate an interstate exit that looked to be about the right distance and clicked-and-dragged the route to the surface road (in this case, US 231 at I-70). I then right-clicked on the little dot, made it a destination, then moved the new destination between Terry Haute and Columbus.

Photo 4

Unfortunately, this stop, while having several gas stations, is too far from our starting point (229 miles). I then pan eastwards looking for another suitable exit and use the exit numbers to roughly figure out how far east I need to pan (40 miles or so). This takes us back into the Indianapolis metro. From experience, I know that there is an exit off of I-465 on Indy’s south side that has several gas stations (I-465 Exit #4). So, I pan over to that exit, highlight and delete the old location for the fuel stop on US 231, and click on the Pilot Travel Center on the north side of I-465. Google Maps tells us that the Pilot is 194 miles from our start point (still inside our fuel range) and is only adds three miles to the trip length. This would be our first planned fuel stop for this trip.

Photo 5

Our next stop would be Terry Haute to see the old friend from high school. Terry Haute is only 73 miles from our fuel stop, and much too soon to stop for fuel. We will count the stop as a rest stop and look for the next fuel stop. Keep in mind we are looking for a second fuel stop that is 185 miles or so from the last fuel stop, not from our stop to see our friend. Using the same technique outlined above, I found several gas stations off of I-57 Exit #116 (https://goo.gl/maps/ji1DLwaJYFn).

Photo 6

Now we need to pick where our first overnight stop will be. With stopping time, we are looking at roughly 8 hours of travel time each day. Since we decided we do not want to push too hard and will do this trip over 3 days, we will need a total of two overnight stops. Do not forget to factor in the longer stop in Terry Haute to see our high school friend.

After our second fuel stop, we will have approximately an hour of riding left for the day. About an hour south on I-57 we find a Comfort Inn near Marion, Illinois (https://goo.gl/maps/6T8bPGWWUZ82). We can use our American Motorcyclist Association or Motorcycle Sport Touring Association membership to get a discount on the hotel room. To finish this trip plan, continue using the techniques outlined above until all fuel stops, rest stops, and overnight stops have been plotted.

One of the most important parts of planning fuel stops is finding locations that have more than one gas station. Why is this important? Say you’re riding through Wyoming on I-80 where the cheap gas is 50 to 100 miles apart. You do your trip plan and start into the trip, only to find the only station near a planned stop has gone out of business. There isn’t another station right off of the interstate for 50 miles in either direction. If you’re close to reserve and do not have 50 miles of fuel range left, you’re screwed. If you had selected a different exit with multiple gas stations, one of them being closed is not a big deal. In situations where an exit with more than one station is not available, try to pick a cluster of them spread over several successive exits. You may have to ride backward to the last open station you saw. However, it would only be a few miles the wrong way, and a minor inconvenience compared to running out of gas in the middle of nowhere.

 


Conclusion

The directions above may seem complicated and laborious. They can be, but better to put in the work before you leave than have to try salvaging your very first tour. Once you have a couple tours under your belt or know areas of the country well enough, you may not have to plan as much. However, with a plan in place, it is much easier to figure out which assumptions you had about touring were not as expected, as well as figure out what to do different on your next tour.

Going the (First) Distance: An Introduction to Long-Distance Motorcycle Riding, Point #10: Dressing for the Occasion (aka Riding Gear)


Riding gear is one of the hotly-debated topics within the motorcycling community. Many riders suit up and look like storm troopers, while other will go riding in a t-shirt and gym shorts. While the debate rages on, riding gear can be even more important to a touring rider than a casual rider for several reasons. 

The first reason is safety. Many riders forego some or all of the riding gear that is available to riders. The risks of doing so are evident, but touring riding can greatly increase those risks. Let’s say a rider goes down while going through a corner on a country road. If the rider is not too far from home, someone may be available to come aid them. When that same accident happens in rural Wyoming where there may not be help for miles, injuries can grow far worse by the time help arrives. This is particularly true for large areas of road rash. Wearing proper riding gear can limit road rash and allow a touring rider to patiently wait for help rather than have large open wounds. 

The second reason is protection from the elements. A rider only needs to try riding in the rain once without enough protection to know how painful it can be. Plus, rain is only one of the elements that can dampen a tour (pun intended). Even the best sunscreen can wear away on hot days, leaving a touring rider with a nasty sunburn. Cold weather can also be a tough adversary. Once a rider gets cold, it is very difficult to warm back up without heated gear or stopping and resting in a heated building.  

The third reason is comfort. Gloves can make holding onto motorcycle grips more comfortable. Jackets and pants that are equipped with vents can move air around a rider’s body to keep them cool yet protected in hot weather. Face shields can keep bugs from making it into a rider’s teeth. Heated gear can extend the riding season by months for those living in cooler climates.  

Personally, I subscribe to the all-the-gear-all-the-time (ATGATT) philosophy. I wear a full-face helmet, riding jacket, riding pants, motorcycle boots, and gloves. I also carry a balaclava several different kinds of gloves with me that cover almost any riding condition. I do not criticize those who choose to wear less gear: I simply choose to take every precaution I can to ensure my safety. Distracted drivers, animals, and the like make motorcycle dangerous enough. Personally, I do not see the need to risk even more to have the same experience. 

My decision to adopt ATGATT is in large part based on my riding experience. When I first started riding, I wore the riding jacket, helmet, and gloves. I usually just wore jeans or even sometimes shorts, and typical work boots. That changed when my best friend crashed in front of me. He went down going over a set of railroad tracks on a curve. He lost traction on the front and his bike almost took me out. At the time I was only wearing a t-shirt and jeans with a helmet and gloves. If I had gone down as well, I would have been looking at some pretty bad road rash on my upper body. While I escaped unharmed, my best friend did not. He was wearing a helmet and gloves, but was also wearing a long-sleeve polyester shirt. The portions of the shirt that made contact with the pavement melted into his skin. He told me cleaning out the wounds was the most painful thing he had ever endured. After that I began wearing my riding jacket all the time, and eventually added riding pants as well.  

A full complement of riding gear for touring consists of the following: 

 

Helmet

Helmet 

While the debate rages on about helmet use, a helmet is especially important for touring. Full face and three-quarters helmets help knock down wind noise and provide maximum protection in the event of a crash. Many full face and three-quarters helmets with face shields have swappable shields. That features allow riders to carry multiple shields (clear, tinted, amber, etc.) for different riding conditions. It also saves a touring rider from having to clean their shield every time it gets covered with bug guts. 

Any helmet used for on-road riding needs to be DOT-approved, and are recommended to be Snell 2010 (or newer) approved. Additionally, a rider needs to find the helmet that is the right fit for them. For newer riders, a helmet the “feels” comfortable may actually be too big for them. When I started riding, I was wearing an XL-size HJC helmet. When I had my measured by an Arai sales rep, he told me I should be in a medium Arai, which is roughly the same size as an HJC medium. I took his advice and bought a medium HJC and it made a huge difference. 

The most important part of the fitment is the “crown”, or how the helmet fits with the curvature of the top of a person’s head. Another fitment factor is the length and width of a head. This involves measuring the circumference of one’s head at its widest point (just above the eyes). Most helmets are sized off of this measurement. Additionally, some heads are more oblong, while others are more rounded. Most helmet manufacturers who offer several different shell sizes. Riders need to try on different sizes find the one that fits them best. For more information about fitment, consult we resources like The Service Pavillion’s Online fitment service, or RevZilla’s write-up on helmet fitment. 

 

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Jacket 

A riding jacket is extremely important to successful and enjoyable motorcycle touring. A jacket protects a rider in case of a crash, can help keep a lot of precipitation out, is a place to carry items needed in an emergency, and it essential during cold weather riding. 

Motorcycle-specific riding jackets offer riders several benefits over non-specific leather or textile jackets. For one, motorcycle jackets will often have armor built into them in high-impact zones like shoulders, elbows, and back. Motorcycle-specific jackets will also be constructed of abrasion-resistant materials like thicker leather or treated textiles that hold up much better in a crash (especially when sliding). The choice between leather and textile is really rider preference. Leather provides maximum protection, but is harder to maintain, is much heavier, and is usually more expensive. In my experience, it is best to find a jacket that has as close to an exact fit as possible. This prevents the jacket from “puffing” out when wind gets inside of it and allows for additional layers (like a long-sleeve shirt) to be worn underneath it. 

Additional features such as high-visibility materials and reflective piping can make it easier for drivers to see a rider in dark or inclement conditions. Many jackets include interior pockets which can be useful for carrying a cell phone and/or small first aid kit. In the event of an accident, a rider may become separated from their motorcycle and not be able to walk or crawl back to it. Having a means to call for help and tend to minor injuries on your person can make all the difference in an emergency. Many jackets also come with vents to allow air to flow into the front of a jacket and out the back. This can make wearing a jacket much more comfortable in hot weather .  

Some companies also make “air” versions of their jackets, which use less material and allow maximum airflow over the rider’s core. While the cooling of such jackets is desirable in hot conditions, it can also represent a major safety compromise. While more traditional motorcycle riding jackets can become extremely hot during hot weather, modern venting and pre-hydrating can alleviate the majority of the discomfort. 

 

Pants 

One of the most neglected pieces of riding gear are dedicated riding pants. Motorcycle-specific riding pants are usually constructed with waterproof and abrasion-resistant materials. Those features provide additional protection to a riders’ lower extremities in a crash (which are the most likely to come into contact with the ground), as well as make wet-weather riding less uncomfortable. Additionally, many sets of riding pants are designed to be worn over regular pants. Many also feature full-length zippers for easier dressing and undressing.  

Like with jackets, it is important to find as exact a fit a possible with riding pants for maximum crash protection and comfort. Pants that are too big will flap in the wind and can come into contact with hot engine or exhaust parts. 

 

Boots 

Motorcycling-specific riding boots often include several design features that make them more comfortable and safer for long-distance riding than typical work boots. Motorcycle-specific boots usually extend several inches above the ankle and include armor in the ankle area. They usually use zippers instead of laces, which increases their waterproofness. Many motorcycle-specific boots also have hardened toe areas to help with shifting without the added weight of a steel-toed work boot. Wide-footed riders should be advised that many motorcycle boots tend to be on the narrow side. 

 

Gloves 

Unlike other types of motorcycle riding gear, gloves tend to be made for specific riding conditions. Regular riding gloves are designed to be comfortable in warm to hot, dry conditions. However, they provide little protection from the elements. Rain gloves provide excellent protection from the elements but can provide inadequate warmth in cold conditions. Cold weather gloves provide excellent warmth and comfort on cold conditions but can become unbearable in hot weather. During a tour, a rider can encounter a wide range of weather conditions, and therefore needs to carry several different types of gloves with them. 

The good news is that gloves are the smallest and cheapest of all major riding gear. Personally, I carry a couple sets of traditional riding gloves, a set of rain gloves, and a set of nitrile gloves to wear underneath the rain gloves for additional cold protection. For safety reasons, gloves with a full gauntlet (go over the wrist) are usually best. The gauntlet provides maximum crash protection and does not allow air to shoot up into the jacket through the end of the sleeve. I do carry one set of non-gauntlet gloves for hotter weather when I want additional airflow through the jacket. Some riders also carry heated gloves for cold weather riding in lieu of using heated grips. 

For fit, it is best to find as close to a perfect fit as possible. Gloves that are too tight will easily become uncomfortable on an 8+ hour ride. Keep in mind that some gloves may be a tad bit tight at first, but will adjust to your hand after a few rides. Gloves that are too loose can bunch up and make it hard for a rider to operate their bike’s controls.

2018 Cleveland Progressive International Motorcycle Show Highlights


This year’s Cleveland Progressive International Motorcycle Show delivered its usual charm to Northeastern Ohioans. While the show seemed a little smaller than previous years, it nevertheless allowed motorcycle enthusiasts to escape the reality of winter and load up on information about new bikes and products for the spring. The show featured its usual combination of OEM displays, vendors, seminars, a stunt riding show, and a custom bike show.  

One of the biggest differences from this year’s show to previous years was the weather. The unseasonably warm weather allowed attendees to actually see the parking space lines, as well as not have to navigate a slippery, icy parking lot. While ice and snow were missing, so was a major OEM. Ducati had had a display at the Cleveland show for several years but were noticeably absent this year. The number of vendors appeared to have gone down slightly as well. Other noticeable absences included the Penton Owners Group and the Iron Pony (spare its Bell Helmet display). 

The brands and vendors who did return to the show made the show enjoyable. It was great to see many of the same brand representatives returning to the show and taking the time to chat about new products and answer attendees’ questions. Here are my highlights from this year’s show: 

 

Bridgestone T31 Sport Touring Tire 

I stopped by the Bridgestone Tire display and had a long chat with sales rep Jim McDeavitt. In addition to discussing our mutual interest in MotoAmerica, Jim and I discussed the new Bridgestone T31 sport-touring tire. Jim explained that the T31 was not as radical of a redesign as the T30 had been, but still boasted improvements in compound and construction. Jim and I also discussed the possibility of the TWPH doing a product review on the new Bridgestone T31s later this year. Hopefully the TWPH will be able to provide our sport touring listeners with a full review of the T31s on my new-to-me 2008 Yamaha FJR1300.  

 

 xsr700

Yamaha XSR700 

The XSR700 is the retro variant of Yamaha’s FZ-07 mid-sized naked sport bike, and little brother of the FZ-09 derived XSR900. The bike boasts an attractive retro-modern appearance, and I particularly liked the bike’s neutral ergonomics. Yamaha designed the bike to be easily customizable and therefore attractive to professional bike builders and amateur enthusiasts alike. The combination of the XSR700’s new rider-friendly engine, comfortable ergonomics, and customization potential could attract more new riders to motorcycling than its more modern-looking competition. It will be interesting to see how this new model performs on the sales floor compared to the larger XSR900, the closely-related FZ-07, and other motorcycles in the popular mid-sized twin class. 

 

Vstrom 250 

V-Strom 250 

Kawasaki’s release of the Ninja 300-derived Versys 300 last year was a game changer in the small motorcycle market. The model defied the convention that dual sport motorcycles had to remain firmly inside the single-cylinder heritage of most small-displacement off-road motorcycles. Suzuki appears to be following Kawasaki’s lead by developing its own small-twin ADV motorcycle. The V-Strom 250 on display boasted the same styling as its larger brethren, while sharing its 248cc, liquid-cooled parallel twin engine with Suzuki’s GSX250R and GW250. While the little Strom’s specifications are similar to the Kawasaki, the Suzuki appeared to be the better choice for new riders. The seat height on the Suzuki was noticeably lower than the Versys 300.  The ergonomics also felt a little more street-oriented, and likely more comfortable for on-road riding. I have not seen any official notice as to whether the little Strom will make it American dealerships this year. If it does, Kawasaki may have some unexpected and strong competition in this emerging motorcycle category. 

 

paul

Long Haul Paul 

Yamaha’s display at the show featured an appearance by “Long Haul” Paul Pelland. The TWPH first met Paul at the AMA’s Vintage Motorcycle Days in 2016, where he put on a seminar about long-distance motorcycle riding. The Yamaha Super Tenere-riding Pelland is using his love of motorcycling to raise awareness of multiple sclerosis, as well as raise money to help fund research on the autoimmune disease. Despite being afflicted by the illness, Paul has committed to riding one million miles with his condition. In an interview with the Two Wheel Power Hour, Paul stated that he rides every day, rode his current Yamaha Super Tenere to the show, and is 300,000 miles into his million-mile journey. Our interview with Paul can be heard this coming Tuesday (February 6, 2018) on the TWPH show on Youngstown, Ohio’s 570AM WKBN, as well as the iHeart Radio App. We wish Paul the best on his journey and look forward to checking with him in the near future. Follow Paul’s journey at http://www.longhaulpaul.com/, or on Facebook or YouTube.

 

Condor 1

Condor 

Making its second-consecutive appearance at the Cleveland show, motorcycle storage and lift solutions company Condor was showing off its wide range of products. From its wheel chock that won the TWPH’s wheel chock shootout in 2016 to its motorcycle dolly and trailer/ramp unit, Condor’s products are known for being high quality and easy to use. The TWPH chatted with Condor’s founder and owner Teffy Chamoun, who gave us a sneak peek at an exciting new product Condor is developing to complement its existing product line. We cannot share more details yet, but we will bring you more information about Condor’s newest innovation as soon as it becomes available. 

Stars, Stripes, and MotoGP: What the Opening at Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Really Means for American Riders


The American motorcycle road racing press has been whipped up into a frenzy since news of Jonas Folger’s unexpected departure from the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 MotoGP team broke last week. Several of my colleagues in the MotoAmerica press corps., including Lance Oliver at RevZilla (https://www.revzilla.com/common-tread/will-a-us-rider-get-an-unexpected-shot-at-motogp), and Dave Swarts from Roadracing World (http://www.roadracingworld.com/news/motogp-who-will-monster-yamaha-tech-3-choose-to-replace-jonas-folger-in-2018/) have penned articles about the possibility of an American rider taking Folger’s place on a satellite MotoGP team. The possibility of having an American back in the MotoGP paddock after a two-year absence is worthy of the attention it is receiving. Despite how ripe conditions are for the stars and stripes to re-enter the MotoGP paddock, we need to look at why there have not been any American riders in MotoGP, as well as whether an American rider would get a fair opportunity to keep his or her ride. 

If there was going to be a team in the MotoGP paddock where an American rider would get a shot, it would most likely be Tech 3. Over the last ten years or so, the Yamaha Tech 3 squad has represented a rebellious departure from the MotoGP satellite team norm. The Ducati and Honda satellite teams have primarily chosen either proven talent in grand prix motorcycle racing’s lower ranks, or well-funded European riders. Since 2008, Tech 3 has fielded two full-time American riders and one American wild card, as well as several former superbike riders in lieu of the talent on their own Moto2 effort. Having access to essentially last year’s Moviestar Yamaha engines, chasses, and other parts has no doubt been a major reason for Tech 3’s success as a non-factory effort. However, it is interesting to note that some of that success has come from riders who are sometimes less familiar with grand prix motorcycles than other comparable team/rider combinations. Tech 3 team principal Herve Poncharal’s leadership and decision-making seem to embody the saying, “Fortune favors the bold.” 

There are also several synergies between the Tech 3 team and the American Monster Energy Graves Yamaha team that could heavily influence the situation. For one, both Yamaha-supported teams are sponsored by Monster. Given the political insanity the defines the microworld of the MotoGP paddock, common sponsorship can be a big factor in decision-making. Moreover, two of Tech 3’s sponsors over the last few seasons has been DeWalt Tools/Stanley Tools (https://motogp.teamtech3.fr/index.php/en/sponsors-en), which are brands owned by Baltimore, Maryland’s Black & Decker corporation. It would not be surprising if an American sponsor lobbied to have an American rider on a bike they sponsor.  

Despite all of these forces working toward getting an American back on MotoGP machinery, we need to keep in mind the overwhelming financial and political forces that drove American riders out of top-level grand prix racing. Even though Tech 3 has not exhibited the financial struggles of some other satellite or privateer MotoGP efforts, American riders are usually backed by American sponsors. Those sponsors are often less familiar with MotoGP than European sponsors, and are disinclined to pony up significant sponsorship for a racing series that only visits the United States once per year. Even the American sponsors who are in MotoGP (like Tech 3’s DeWalt/Stanley) have remained financially involved in MotoGP despite the absence of American riders. This would appear to signal that those sponsors are confident they will get good value for money in MotoGP with or without an American rider. 

Additionally, as my colleagues have already pointed out, there are question marks hanging over all of the potential Yamaha riders currently competing in the American MotoAmerica series. Out of the three, Cameron Beaubier is the most likely to move up. Beaubier has the most experience on literbike machinery, two top-class national championships, and rode admirably in his surprise World Superbike debut last season. However, Beaubier had a nasty shoulder injury near the end of last season , and MotoGP decision makers may remember what happened to Ben Spies after his shoulder injuries. JD Beach is likely the next best candidate for the Tech 3 seat. Beach does not have any experience racing literbikes and was overlooked for Josh Hayes’ vacant Superbike seat. Moreover, Beach struggled in the second half of the MotoAmerica season, in very large part due to the Supersport class’ switch to a more GP-spec rear tire. However, Beach is the least happy with his Graves seat out of the Yamaha three, and made European headlines by winning the Superprestigio in December. Beach is also the 2008 Red Bull Rookies Cup champion, and no stranger to grand prix racing. While Gerloff beat out Beach for the MotoAmerica Supersport title the last two years, his new deal with Graves and lack of experience on either a literbike or grand prix motorcycles likely hurts his chances and grabbing the Tech 3 seat. 

Even if one of the American riders ended up being selected as Folger’s replacement, there is no guarantee that they would get a fair shot at keeping their ride. Barring a Spies-like performance at Tech 3, several factors could easily conspire to force an American rider out at the first sign of trouble. For one, Tech 3 has a Moto2 team. Although being a Moto2 Tech 3 rider has not historically led to a Tech 3 MotoGP ride, Moto2 riders are often expected to bring six figures of sponsorship to teams and have usually come up through the grand prix ranks. It would be very easy for Tech 3 to drop an American, superbike-oriented rider for a better known, experienced grand prix rider. Additionally, there is a more general knack on superbike riders moving up to MotoGP. A few former superbike riders (Ben Spies, Cal Crutchlow) have won grads prix. Most other AMA Superbike/World Superbike riders who have moved over to grand prix racing (Colin Edwards, Nori Haga, James Toseland, and for the most part Troy Bayliss) have enjoyed far less success in MotoGP. The track record may cause a MotoGP team principal to put a former superbike rider on shorter leash than a grand prix rider. 

While the opportunity to get the stars and stripes back in the MotoGP paddock is as good as it has been in the last few years, the conditions that drove American riders out of MotoGP in the first place are still firmly in place. MotoGP has shown a commitment to opening up the American market to its brand. Their first, short-term approach of increasing the number of grands prix in the U.S. did not pan out. In response, MotoGP has switched to a longer-term strategy. The centerpiece of that strategy is MotoAmerica. The hope is likely that the re-emergence of a popular, competitive national road racing series will prime the American market for MotoGP’s eventual return to multiple U.S. grands prix. However, until MotoAmerica begins to bloom, and right now it is still digging its way out of the mess that its predecessors left the sport in, American riders have much, much less to offer a MotoGP team than an Italian or Spanish Moto2 rider. Between sponsorship, nationality, riding style/experience, and internal politics, talent is only a small part of what is needed to reach and succeed in MotoGP. Until economic and internal political conditions change in the microworld that is MotoGP, American riders will continue to struggle to find top-class rides, let alone hold onto them. 

Going the (First) Distance: An Introduction to Long-Distance Motorcycle Riding, Point #9 (Preventative Care aka Motorcycle Maintenance)


#9: Preventative care:

Previous articles have discussed the importance of having the ability to call for help in any situation and having the right tools packed to make roadside repairs. However, both situations can often be avoided by keeping your motorcycle properly maintained. This is especially true for long-distance riding, where riders are usually far from their home garage. It is much, much better to make repairs or perform maintenance in the comfort of one’s own garage than on an interstate shoulder. Moreover, there are many repairs that cannot be performed roadside, like fluid changes.

Each motorcycle’s specific maintenance needs are different. For a general listing of common motorcycle maintenance information, see this PDF: Motorcycle Maintenance Chart

The complexity and costliness of performing the above maintenance will vary from bike to bike. For example, most motorcycle batteries can be found underneath the rider’s seat. My old FJR1300 had the battery located within the right side of the front fairing. Instead of simply removing a seat and disconnecting battery cables, I had to remove several pieces of bodywork to get the battery out.

One of the most important components to performing preventative maintenance is having a good manual for your bike. An official shop manual from your motorcycle’s manufacturer is often the most detailed and accurate manual available. However, those manuals can be expensive and often lack illustrations. Personally, I have had good success with both Clymer and Haynes motorcycle manuals for almost all of my bikes. They offer pictures to illustrate parts and procedures, and can often be purchased for less than $40.

In the long run, performing your own maintenance can save touring riders thousands of dollars in as little as one year. For example, a set of chain replacement tools usually sells for around $100. A shop will often charge an hour and a half for labor for a change replacement, at $100/hour. I have used my $100 chain tools several times, which has saved me $300-$400 over the last 10 years. The same holds true for replacing cables and fluids that are easily accessible. In short, making the upfront investment in tools can pay large dividends for decades to come.

Personally, I try to perform as much of my touring motorcycle’s maintenance in the off-season as possible. This is advantageous for several reasons. First, it keeps me from rushing to finish maintenance work in order to not miss riding time. When I bought my FJR1300, I did not do the valve clearance check over the winter like I should have. I ended up doing it the night before I was supposed to leave for a multi-day trip to Americade, and it was the first time I had had the FJR’s gas tank off. I stayed up far too late, got little sleep before I left, and did not reinstall a coolant pipe correctly. Fortunately, the pipe was located on top of the engine in a small gulley and did not cause a problem during the trip. However, I ended up spending extra money to replace gaskets and lost riding time later in the summer because I had to re-do my work. It is best to perform maintenance in a relaxed atmosphere so that problems or mistakes can be more easily spotted and corrected.

Second, it allows the motorcycle to remain torn down for an extended period of time. Instead of having to button the bike back up right away to get back to riding, the bike can be left in a state of un-dress for months on end. This allows a rider to perform maintenance at their own pace and saves a lot of time. This is especially true with sportbikes, sport touring bikes, and touring bikes like a Honda Gold Wing. The bodywork on those machines can be a real pain to take on and off. Personally, I used to remove almost all of the side bodywork from my FJR1300 for the entire winter. After performing all of the needed maintenance and rechecking everything a couple times, I would then re-install the bodywork when riding season was at hand.

Third, if there is work that needs to be done by a shop, motorcycle shops are usually very slow during the winter months. Some shops also offer discounts on labor in order to bring in at least some business. Some shops will even pick up your motorcycle and bring it back to you if you live close enough. The winter is a great time to get tires changed or have more complex work done.

Going the (First) Distance: An Introduction to Long-Distance Motorcycle Riding, Point #8 (Motorcycle Shoe [Tire] Shopping)


#8Motorcycle shoe shopping (aka tires): 

Just like carrying the right tools can be a tour saver, so can having the right tires on your motorcycle. Certain types of motorcycle tires last longer and therefore perform better for long-distance riding than others. Having to lose a day or two during a long-distance trip to having new tires installed can ruin a tour.

Tire life if chiefly determined by a tire’s rubber compound. Tires with a softer rubber mix, like sportbike tires, provide excellent grip at the expense of longevity. Cruiser tires tend to feature harder rubber compounds that provide excellent tire life at the expense of cornering grip and performance.

Sport touring riders used to have to make a choice between tires that would provide enough mileage for touring but lack grip for sportier riding, or have to change tires much more often. Over the last 10 years or so, tire manufacturers have begun producing dual-compound tires. Those tires feature a harder rubber compound along the center of the tire, and a softer compound along the sides of the tread. This innovation has allowed sport touring riders to have access to tires that will allow them to ride to the Tail of the Dragon and back, as well as have plenty of edge grip for carving up the Dragon. Most manufacturers use the dual compound construction on the rear tire only, while Michelin uses it for both its front and rear tires. Many of the dual-compound sport touring tires are also available in a “GT” spec with extra belting for heavier touring motorcycles (Yamaha FJR1300/Kawasaki Concours 14/etc.).

A strategy some riders use is buying inexpensive tires that do not have features like dual compound and change them more often. I used such a strategy for a while with my FJR1300. I was living in Columbus at the time, which is blessed to have the Iron Pony motorsports store. They were selling Continental Motion tires for $142.99 a set and $92.99 for a rear tire. Even though it costs $30-$50 to have tires installed (more on that below), it was still cheaper to do that than buy fully-featured sport touring tires.

Each rider needs to first determine which tires are the correct construction (radial or bias ply), size, load rating, and speed rating for their bike. Riders should then try several different brands of tire until they figure out which one is best for them and their bike. Some tires wear better or handle better than others for different rider/motorcycle pairings.

Touring riders can also save money when changing tires by removing the wheels from their motorcycle themselves. Many motorcycles can be lifted using motorcycle lifts with one or both wheels off the ground. Some motorcycles also come equipped with a centerstand that allows the removal of one wheel at a time. A rider can then take the wheels into the shop with their new tires, and only have to pay for the mounting and balancing of the tires. This can save a rider $100-$200 a year or more.

Going the (First) Distance: An Introduction to Long Distance Motorcycle Riding, Point #7 (Bring the Right Tools for the Job)


#7: Bring the right tool(s) for the job:

In the words of fellow long-distance riding enthusiast Paul Pelland (http://www.longhaulpaul.com/), “If your idea of a bike tool kit is a cell phone and a credit card, you’re in trouble already.” While carrying cash and alternative means of calling for help was covered in the last article (Point #6), the need to call for help can often be avoided by carrying the right tools on your bike. Unless you are not straying far from home and have someone who can bring you tools or a trailer on short notice, it is imperative that you have the ability to make simple roadside repairs yourself.

The goal here is not to carry an entire tool chest when you tour. You will not be doing a complete engine tear down and rebuild on an interstate shoulder. What a rider does need to carry is enough tools to perform the following:

  1. Remove front and rear wheels
  2. Tighten loose nuts and bolts
  3. Test electrical wires/switches/fuses/etc. for voltage
  4. Check battery voltage
  5. Remove/retighten clamps
  6. Remove/reinstall bodywork
  7. Change lightbulbs (headlight/taillight/turn signals/meters)
  8. Adjust/replace cables (clutch/throttle)
  9. Check tire pressure
  10. Add air to tires
  11. Cut and crimp electrical wires
  12. Replace brake pads
  13. Change spark plugs

Each bike will need different tools to accomplish those tasks. It is therefore best to check your bike’s stock tool set to see what size wrenches it includes. It is also important to include any special tools that accessories may need. For example, when I put a Givi luggage rack on my old Suzuki Bandit 1200, it used two 13mm nuts to secure the brackets to the motorcycle’s frame. The Bandit’s stock tool kit did not include a 13mm wrench, so I needed to add that to my bike tool set. Another example is my old FJR1300’s front wheel. The front axle needed a 19mm allen key socket to remove it.

In general, the tools needed to perform the above procedures will include the following:

For carrying the tools listed above, I use two small tool bags for the tools I store in my saddle bags (https://www.harborfreight.com/tool-storage/tool-bags-belts/11-in-tool-bag-61835.html), and a plastic bag or drawstring bag for tools stored underneath the seat.

The list of tools above may seem excessive. Why would a rider need to carry a wrench and a socket in the same size? The reality is different tools are needed for different parts of the bike. My old FJR1300 had two 10mm bolts that held the fuel tank down. The bolts were located in a small space between the tank and the steering stem. If I only carried the wrench the FJR’s tool kit came with, I would not be able to raise the fuel tank to make repairs. A rider also needs to be able to make repairs as quickly as possible when stuck on the side of a road. A road shoulder is a dangerous place, especially with the modern problem of distracted driving.

Additionally, carrying so many tools has proven invaluable to me on more than one occasion. The best example was a Memorial Day ride in 2016. I pulled over to check weather on my phone. When I tried to start the bike again, there was no power when I turned the key. Because I was carrying my tools with me, I was able to use a ratchet with an extension and a 10mm socket to unfasten the tank and a multimeter to find the electrical problem. I then used a wire key ring to bypass the failed wire between the main fuse and the key cylinder, and got the bike running again. Had I not had my tools with me, I would have been stuck calling a friend and leaving the bike on the side of the road. In that story, I was only about 100 miles from home. Imagine if I had been 1,000 miles away. Carrying the right tools can deescalate a nightmare situation into a mere inconvenience.

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