Category Archives: Motorcycle Touring

Fast Mike’s favorite motorcycle destinations, Part 1 (Rallies)


Any new sport touring rider should know that there are plenty of top-notch motorcycle-related gatherings each year to fill up one’s calendar.

There is hardly a weekend that goes by during the spring, summer and fall that there isn’t at least one rally or race to attend or landmark or museum to visit that is within a day’s ride from most anywhere in the United States.

I went to write this series of articles as an email to a new sport touring rider about rallies, races and places he should check out. Then I realized it may be worth placing such a list somewhere that all new sport touring riders could find it.

This list is restricted to events I have attended or visited at least once. The following articles in this series will cover races, landmarks and other points of interest.

Geographically speaking, the list reflects my residence and upbringing in the northeastern and mid-western United States.

AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days (Lexington, Ohio)

I call this one “the Woodstock of motorcycle events,” because it’s such a friendly and care-free atmosphere. A fundraiser for the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, the event takes place once a year (usually in July) at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. It includes North America’s largest motorcycle swap meet (read: motorcycle flea market), along with bike shows, lots of different types of motorcycle racing and seminars.

Of all the events I describe in this article, this is the one that packs the biggest punch. Tickets are very reasonably priced and you can ride your motorcycle around the facility. The event attracts a wide range of motorcyclists and is very family friendly.

Web: www.amavintagemotorcycledays.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/AMAVintageMotorcycleDays

Daytona Bike Week (Daytona Beach, Fla.)

2019 was my first year attending Daytona Bike Week and I was very impressed with the experience. The event claims to attract about half a million riders to the Daytona Beach, Fla., region, and is held annually in early March. While the majority of attendees appeared to be cruiser riders, you’ll see and meet riders on every kind of road-going motorcycle imaginable.

At night during Daytona Bike Week, riders gather along Main Street . The crowding of so many motorcycling enthusiasts along the Main Street strip delivers an electric vibe to the beach-side town, and there’s plenty of food and live music along the strip to keep everyone entertained all night.

In addition to the party on Main, there’s the midway at Daytona International Speedway that features plenty of vendors and demo rides, not to mention lots of racing taking place throughout the region (more on that in the next article). The weather can be brutal in parts of the country during early March, but if you can make it to Daytona Beach, it’s more than worth the trip.

Web: officialbikeweek.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/officialbikeweek

Americade (Lake George, N.Y.)

Nestled in a picturesque little lakeside village in Upstate New York, Americade has been attracting motorcyclists to its scenic, history-rich region since 1983. It began as the east-coast rendition of the Aspencade touring bike (read: Goldwing) rally, and claims to attract 100,000-200,000 attendees.

The event location in the Adirondack Mountains means lots of opportunities for riding scenic, twisty roads, and there are lots of test ride opportunities, seminars, vendors and live music within the Village of Lake George. For history buffs, there’s the replica Fort William Henry (site of the events in James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans) that is worth a visit.

Oh, and there’s plenty of motorcycle parking. You’ll have a chance to meet riders on every type of motorcycle you can imagine in a fun, relaxed atmosphere.

Website: americade.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/americade

 

MSTA Mail Pouch Fly-By (Marietta, Ohio)

This annual road riding event takes place in the heart of one of the best riding areas in the nation. Based out of the Best Western hotel in Marietta, Ohio, the now week-long event offers attendees the freedom to ride alone or in groups during the day and enjoy great company each morning and evening. Attendees are just a short ride away from some of Ohio’s best roads, including State Routes 26, 555 and 800.

The door prizes tend to be pretty good too. Those attending also can ride up to the MotoAmerica racing event at Pittsburgh International Race Complex for a day.

The event is associated with the Motorcycle Sport Touring Association.

Website: ridemsta.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/RideMSTA

 

International Motorcycle Shows

Each year, several International Motorcycle Shows events take place across the nation. The exhibition-style shows feature displays of the current or upcoming model year’s machines for several motorcycle manufacturers, as well as vendors, seminars and product demonstrations. Some shows also feature vintage motorcycle displays, test rides of electric motorcycles and more.

I have attended their show in Cleveland every year since at least 2011. While the show has gotten smaller the past few years, it’s still well-attended and allows enthusiasts to get their fix of motorcycling during the cold winter months in Northeast Ohio.

Website: www.motorcycleshows.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/InternationalMotorcycleShows

AIMExpo

In a word, this show is “overwhelming.” It’s one of the biggest (if not the biggest) motorcycle expo in the United States each year. The show often features 500 or more exhibitors and covers every kind of motorcycle and part or accessory one could ask for. The first two days of the show (typically Thursday and Friday) are reserved for media and dealers to check out the latest and greatest motorcycle models and products. The remainder of the show (typically Saturday and Sunday) is open to the general public.

The location of the show has changed several times in recent years. For 2019, it takes place at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.

Website: aimexpousa.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/AIMExpo

Handbuilt Motorcycle Show (Austin, Texas)

This is probably the most exquisite motorcycle-related event I have attended. It’s not tuxedos and ballroom dresses, but the year I attended it (2016) features a sophisticated ambiance that jived with the complexity, beauty and authenticity of the wide range of custom motorcycles on display. The event is normally held the same weekend as the FIM MotoGP Grand Prix of the Americas at nearby Circuit of the Americas, which helps bring diversity, culture and many different perspectives to the atmosphere of the show. It’s a motorcycle show that reflects the values and vibrance of its host city.

Website: revivalcycles.com/handbuilt-motorcycle-show

Facebook: www.facebook.com/thehandbuiltmotoshow

 

From determined newbie to sport tourer for life


Joshua Giannini’s first long-distance motorcycle ride

As the baby boomers, who lived through the “golden age” of motorcycling, begin graying out, the motorcycling community needs more riders like Josh Giannini.

A young man, and relatively new motorcyclist from King of Prussia, Pa., Giannini recently completed his first long-distance motorcycle trip.

Riding a small-displacement machine about 3,000 miles through sun, wind, rain and snow, Giannini never wavered in his determination to complete his journey, and in doing so found a life-long passion for two-wheeled exploration.

It is a passion that only those of us who ride to explore can understand, and it is something our entire community needs to do a better job growing if our lifestyle is to be carried on by future generations.

An interview over burritos 

I met Josh while I was having lunch on the patio at the Chipotle restaurant across International Speedway Blvd. from Daytona International Speedway during 2019 Daytona Bike Week. I was pounding out a story for work when I noticed Josh parking his Honda CBR300R. There are lots of small-displacement motorcycles running around Daytona Beach during Bike Week, but not many have soft saddlebags attached to them.

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Josh Giannini and his 2016 Honda CBR300R

I was intrigued by the prospect that someone had toured their way to Daytona Beach on a single-cylinder, 300cc sport bike, but figured he wouldn’t have ridden in from too far away. I asked him about where he’d started riding from, and when he said, “Philadelphia,” my interest was piqued.

After allowing him to eat his lunch in peace while I finished what I was working on, I asked Josh if he could talk more about his trip on the record. Obviously, he obliged.

Love at first ride

Giannini said he began riding motorcycles in August 2018 and credits a close friend of his for getting him into riding.

“I knew I was searching for something in my life,” he said. “One of my friends learned to ride from his uncle and got a 2017 Yamaha R3. He got super passionate about it and taught me how to ride.”

Giannini said from the first time he swung a leg over his friend’s machine he knew motorcycling was what he had been looking for. He described the experience as, “love at first ride.”

Unlike most riders who gradually build up the tolerance for long distance riding, Giannini said he had about 1,500 miles of riding experience before embarking on his first-ever long-distance motorcycle ride.

“I think the longest ride I had done before this was from King of Prussia to Philadelphia,” Giannini said. “That’s only about 30 minutes.”

The trip was not supposed to be a solo effort. Giannini said he had planned the trip with a friend who was an experienced rider and had remained committed to the trip even after his friend backed out.

His said his parents were not exactly in favor of him taking the trip.

“My family is very against motorcycles, as a lot of parents are,” he said.

He didn’t tell them he was planning the trip until he was about to head out the door.

“They were very upset as first, but I think they realized how important this is to me,” he said. “They warmed up to it and are now super excited that I made it.”

Gettin’ ready for the open (and cold) road

To his credit, Giannini added some farkles to his little Honda that made his first touring experience a success. Realizing he wasn’t going to be able to fit everything he needed for the trip in a backpack, Giannini purchased a set of SW-Motech soft saddlebags.

He realized early in his trip planning that he would need something to combat the cold temperatures and a better seat, so he installed a set of heated grips and an Air Hawk seat cushion.

Giannini picked up his last farkle on his way out of town, riding to Cycle Gear in Allentown, Pa., to purchase a Sedici tank bag.

The long and snowy interstate

Giannini’s journey to warm, sunny Daytona Beach, Fla., began under adverse conditions.

He said it was about 18 degrees, snow on the ground and light flurries when he left the Allentown Cycle Gear parking lot and began heading south toward Daytona Beach.

He said the ride to Daytona didn’t end up being exactly the way he had envisioned it. He had hoped to take his time and ride as many scenic routes as possible in warmer conditions.

“When I was planning this December, I figured it would be a lot warmer this time of year, and it’s not,” he said. “I ended up trying to get here as quickly as possible and stayed on I-95. It was a lot more difficult than I was anticipating.”

He said the low point of his trip was the previous night. He was staying in a hotel in Jacksonville and was physically and mentally exhausted from putting in 600 interstate miles that day. Though his outlook on his endeavor had darkened, it became as bright as the sun when he arrived in Daytona Beach.

“I was really contemplating why I did this and was thinking it wasn’t worth it,” he said. “But when I saw that Daytona Beach sign, got off the highway, and saw all of these motorcycles everywhere, I realized this trip was worth every second of hardship.”

Giannini said he spent most of his first day at Daytona Bike Week in the vendor area at Daytona International Speedway and was planning to head over to Rossmeyer Harley-Davidson that evening. His plan was to stay in Daytona Beach for the weekend, but he was considering staying longer.

He said he was planning on taking three days to ride back to Philadelphia and was expecting the return trip to be easier than the ride down.

“I was worried about missing things going on down here and wanted to make sure I got to Daytona Beach in time,” he said. “I feel like I can take my time more on the ride home now.”

Advice and the future

For others who are planning their first long-distance motorcycle trip, Giannini’s advice is not to worry too much and just do it.

“I think I’ve proven a point here that you can do this on a bike that’s really designed for beginners,” he said.

The trip has also changed what Giannini is looking for in his next motorcycle. He said he was previously thinking of getting a bigger sport bike. With the desire to explore now firmly a part of his psyche, he’s now considering naked bikes that are better suited for long distance riding.

As for his next touring destination, Giannini said he’s interested in riding to Sturgis or exploring the old Route 66.

Epilogue

I saw Giannini again in Daytona Beach when I was covering the sights and sounds of Main Street the night of Monday, March 11. He said he had been having a great time at Daytona Bike Week since we met.

He said he took my advice and went to the Monster Energy AMA Supercross event at Daytona International Speedway on March 9 and had a great time at the event. He also said he was following through on his plan to leave the next day, but would definitely be back next year.

After I got home from Daytona Beach, Giannini sent me an email that said he made it home safely from Daytona. He said the trip ended up being about 3,000 miles.

“The experience was incredible and without a doubt one of the greatest things I have ever done in my life,” he wrote.

The Takeaway

Giannini’s story is a happy one, in that it ends with him discovering the passion to explore on two wheels, as well as an infusion of youth into the motorcycle sport touring community. While the challenges he persevered through on his first long distance journey are remarkable, his perseverance is the heart of this story.

Giannini showed great poise in his preparations for the trip (adding the heated grips and seat cushion) and remained committed to the journey despite all of the unknowns he faced. He had very little riding experience and rode his undersized machine on roads he may have never seen before.

He was willing to do all of that. Not many other riders may have been willing to take that leap. While I am happy to welcome Giannini to our community, it is imperative we realize that we cannot depend on having people like him come along and replace those who are graying out.

Each of us needs to take a more proactive role in helping new riders have positive experiences like Giannini did in Daytona Beach. We need to make them feel welcome, teach them what we have learned through trial and error and show them that there’s so much to learn and explore and experience as a sport touring rider.

For us, the journey is never over. There’s always something more to see, to learn, to do. Giannini now knows what we knows and his life will be ever better for it. It’s time that each of us did more, even just a little more, so that the passion and the happiness only we know reaches as many people as it can.

2009 Kawasaki Ninja 500 Review


Introduction

My short time with my Ninja 500 began with near tragedy. I was rear-ended on my previous street motorcycle in April 2017. I was very fortunate to have walked away from such a severe impact, though I did break my collarbone in the crash. While I was waiting for my collarbone to heal (and was down to one, track only motorcycle) I had time to consider which motorcycle I wanted to buy next.

I knew in the long-term I wanted to go back to a dedicated sport-touring bike. My deceased 2003 Yamaha FJR1300 had given me a taste of the comforts of touring on a true touring bike. I had found that I greatly enjoyed its touring-oriented features like shaft drive, hard saddlebags, and wind protection.

However, my budget and healing collarbone made buying another heavy, dedicated touring bike not feasible before peak riding season was over. Determined to not miss any more riding time than I needed to, I started looking for smaller, budget-conscious motorcycles I could afford that would also work for long-distance riding.

I decided to view my misfortune as an opportunity to try something different. I had been riding 1200cc or larger motorcycles since 2009. I decided it was worth taking a step down in displacement for the first time in my riding career.

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The Ninja 500 was one of the bikes on my list from the start, along with a Suzuki GS500, Kawasaki Ninja 250, Suzuki SV650, or Kawasaki 650. After 10 years of riding four-cylinder motorcycles, I definitely wanted to give a twin a try. I wasn’t interested in finding something that had lots of creature comforts. All I was looking for was something that could be used for long-distance riding by adding soft luggage.

After a couple weeks, I found the all-black 2009 Kawasaki Ninja 500 that I would settle on. The old owner had bought it new off the showroom floor and said she hadn’t had time to ride it much. Other than a crack on the right side of the upper fairing from a tip-over, the bike was in cosmetically good shape.

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The bike’s motor was also relatively fresh with just under 10,000 miles on the odometer. Because the bike hadn’t been run much, it had some trouble idling smoothly but seemed to run okay when the throttle was applied. After getting the bike home, I pulled the carbs out and gave them a thorough cleaning. I also did a valve adjustment that was overdue and re-synched the carbs when I re-installed them. I also changed the oil, oil filter, air filter, brake pads, and coolant, and installed stainless steel brake lines on the front and rear. I also adjusted the choke and throttle cables and changed the brake fluid for both braking systems.

After doing the above preventative maintenance, I rode the Ninja for about 4,000 miles from July (when I was medically cleared to ride again) to the end of September. I traded the bike for another FJR in December 2017.

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Engine/transmission

The engine power and performance were my biggest concerns when I bought my Ninja 500. While I was buying the bike in part to try a smaller displacement motorcycle, the Ninja 500’s engine was a lot smaller than what I was used to. At 498cc, the Ninja 500 is the second-smallest displacement motorcycle I have owned, and the smallest since 2007. My first motorcycle was a 1982 Honda CB450T, and that bike’s mill did not churn out a lot of power. Since May 2009, I had not ridden a motorcycle smaller than 1157cc.

I have to say the engine power and performance were one of the bike’s strong points. The motor was certainly not an FJR mill where I could pass interstate traffic with a slight twist of the wrist. However, I found the power just fine for all types of riding. My Ninja 500 would show 6,000 rpm in sixth gear at 75 mph, which was less than 2,000 rpm more than my 2003 FJR would do in top gear. Engine vibration was minimal and throttle response was excellent. I did have to get used to shifting a lot more with the smaller motor, as the engine did not put out the kind of torque I was used to. The additional shifting actually made riding a more involved experience did not detract from the bike’s fun factor at all.

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Suspension/steering

The Ninja 500 comes with non-adjustable front forks and a single rear shock with pre-load adjustability. The front and rear suspension settings were a tad on the plush side. The bike absorbed bumps in the road smoothly with little headshake

The bike’s biggest drawback was its handling. I couldn’t determine whether the problem was the front suspension, bike geometry, or the ancient Bridgestone Exedra tires that came with the bike.

One of the things I was really looking forward to with a smaller bike was quicker turn-in and better flickability. Instead, I had little-to-no confidence on the front tire and found myself taking corners I was familiar with even slower than I did on my old 600-pound FJR1300. I wish I had had more time on the bike and had been able to change the tires out for Bridgestone BT45s or Pirelli Sport Demons. However, without more seat time and different shoes, I have to report the handling was sub-par and disappointing.

Another problem with the bike was is susceptibility to crosswinds. The bike would become noticeably unstable when passing tractor-trailers or when there was a strong crosswind. I could not tell whether this was due to the bike’s weight (relative to my previous motorcycles) or a geometry issue. Either way, I found myself having to fight to keep the bike in line in heavy wind conditons.

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Brakes

The brakes were another weak point of the bike’s overall performance. Despite weighting in at nearly the same dry weight as the Suzuki SV650, the Ninja 500 only has one front brake. Before I even rode the bike, I sensed that the single brake may not provide enough power in emergency stopping situations. I replaced the front and rear brake lines with stainless lines from Galfer.

While the stainless steel lines had the positive, consistent feel that I was used to from the Spiegler Brake Lines-equipped FJR1300, the overall stopping power was not enough for me. In emergency situations the front brake did not stop me as quickly as I was used to. Nor did the combination of front and rear brake provide the stopping power I was looking for.

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Comfort

The bike’s ergonomics were good for a medium-sized sport bike. The clip-on handlebars were mounted to risers that produced a slight forward lean from my 6’2 frame. I did not experience an abnormal discomfort in my wrists. My legs were a bit cramped with the bike’s sport-oriented pegs. I eventually adjusted to them though and found the pegs to be acceptable in the end. Wind protection was acceptable from the small windscreen, and I did not experience any ill effects from wind buffeting.

One aspect of the bike I could not adjust to was the seat. It was awful. I could only ride the bike for about an hour and a half for the first fuel stint, and then only 45-minutes to an hour after that. Had I kept the bike as a back-up touring bike that would have been the first upgrade I would have made.

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Long-distance riding

Comfort issues aside, the bike performed much better as a touring bike than I had thought it would. The 4.2-gallon fuel tank and the 55-60 MPG fuel economy allowed the bike to tour 180-200 miles before hitting reserve.

I was able to mount soft luggage to the bike with ease, and the extra weight of the loaded luggage did not noticeably change the bike’s handling.

The chain drive requires regular chain maintenance. The little space between the bottom of the swingarm and the chain made chain lubrication somewhat difficult. The bike comes with a centerstand as standard equipment, making chain lubrication much easier on a long trip.

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Ease of maintenance

Overall the bike was relatively easy to maintain. The single front disc makes accessing the front wheel’s valve stem easy. The centerstand makes is also a big help to performing maintenance.

The bike’s turn-and-locknut valve adjusters are not real difficult to get to. The only annoyance is having to remove two coolant tubes in order to remove the valve cover. Removing the tank is relatively easy, as is removing the front fairing. The rear bodywork is moderately simple to remove as well.

The oil drain plug, oil filter, coolant drain screw, radiator cap and coolant reservoir are relatively easy to access. The air filter is an older foam design that needs to be coated with air filter oil before being installed.

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Conclusion

Overall, the mid-sized Ninja is a great budget-conscious bike. I would have liked to have kept it as a back-up bike and outfitted it with a better seat and better tires. Unfortunately, my budget and available garage space did not afford me the luxury of having more than two bikes at a time. Even with its several weaknesses, I was very impressed overall by the Ninja 500.

It is an ideal bike for new riders, re-entry riders, urban riders, or a rider who is looking to give long-distance riding a try on a budget. The bike’s bulletproof engine, strong engine performance, ease of maintenance, and ergonomics make it an ideal bike for a young person who wants to take up the motorcycling lifestyle.

While the Ninja 500 is an older design that was phased out of production in the late 2000s, many Ninja 500s are available in the used bike marketplace. New riders or budget-conscious motorcycling enthusiasts looking for an affordable, high-value bike would be well-served by the 500’s ease of maintenance, low maintenance costs, and adaptability.

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Going the (First) Distance: An Introduction to Long-Distance Motorcycle Riding, Point #15 (Travel in the Light)(Last Point)


For many touring riders, motorcycle touring is something they do on vacation. It is a time to relax. No emails or faxes pouring in, office insanity, or alarm clocks. While motorcycle touring is a great way to get away from work, the alarm clock is worth keeping around. While some prefer traveling long distances in a car at night, touring by motorcycle in the daylight is best for several reasons. 

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The first and most obvious reason is safety. Motorcycle riders are much more vulnerable to road-related risks like wildlife, distracted drivers, and the like than cagers. While some touring riders have their motorcycles outfitted with eight sets of driving lights, the sun provides a rider the best possible visibility. 

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This holds true for any weather condition as the worst visibility levels occur when riding through fog or rain at night. Moreover, riding at night puts more stress on the eyes, as most motorcycle headlights are not as bright as their four-wheeled counterparts. This can lead to eye fatigue setting in more quickly. 

Another benefit of riding during the day is visibility when not riding. If a rider needs to make a roadside repair or find something in his or her luggage, it is much easier to do during the day.  

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Leaving early also helps a rider ride in the light even if unforeseen circumstances occur. For example, if a rider hits a three-hour lightning storm around lunch time, the rider will have to wait until the storm has cleared to get moving again. If the rider had left at 7:00 a.m. and ridden until noon, he/she may only have 3-4 hours of riding left. With the long days during most riding months, the rider will still be riding in the light for the remainder of their trip. Now let’s say the rider had left at 9:30 a.m. after a hearty sit-down breakfast and a few phone calls and did not stop for lunch until 2:00 p.m. After a three-hour delay, the rider is not moving again until 5:00 p.m., and not getting in until probably 9:00 p.m. Even in mid-summer, it is starting to get dark at 9:00 p.m. almost everywhere.   

Try to leave as early as you reasonably can when on a trip. I usually shower and re-pack at night when on trips. I then get up at 6:00 a.m. and try to be checked out of my hotel, fed, and on the road by 6:30 a.m. or 7:00 a.m. at the absolute latest.

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This article concludes this series on long-distance motorcycle riding. I hope my readers have gleaned the information they need to make their first tour an enjoyable and successful one. I happy to answer readers’ questions if they have any.

Going the (First) Distance: An Introduction to Long-Distance Motorcycle Riding, Point #14 (Stop Frequently, and for Fun)


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As was discussed to a lesser extent in Point #12 (Trip Planning), touring is often not just about the destination. Sometimes time restrictions, limited PTO, and the like force a rider to focus only on the destination. When I was doing my first cross-country ride (Buffalo, N.Y. to Salt Lake City, Utah) I had very limited time for sightseeing due to time constraints.

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However, I have found multi-destination tours are by far the most fun. There were a lot of things on my Utah trip that I got to see, but not experience, like the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument or the Iowa 80. As new touring riders build up their riding stamina, they can plan longer stops and do more sightseeing.

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When time constraints are present, a rider can try to do his or her sightseeing on one leg of the trip. For example, a rider could focus on getting to the trip’s furthest point quickly, then take an extra day or two riding back to experience what their route has to offer. Keep in mind that touring often involves going a long way from home to areas of the country you may not see again for a long time. Make the most of that time and experience everything you can while there.

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Meeting new people and experiencing new regions and local cultures becomes very enlightening and even useful. If you work in an industry that requires making business connections across the country, sharing your experience in a contact’s home region can be very meaningful and powerful. Your bike also helps you meet new people on the road. I have lost count of how many people will just walk up to me at a rest area or in a restaurant parking lot and just want to chat about bikes and riding.

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I am currently working on a database of tourism attractions for long-distance riders to use. Whenever I cross a state border on an interstate, I look for the “welcome centers” that are usually full of tourism brochures. I have built up a healthy collection of them and am in the process of turning them into a searchable database. Hopefully I will have a prototype finished before the end of 2018.

Until then, here is a list of tourism-related activities that a wide range of riders may enjoy:

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Museums/Landmarks: History is everywhere, and therefore so are museums. Most any place on earth has some sort of story to tell, and many of those places have a museum to tell it. Museums that are not tied so tightly to their locality may be of interest as well. For example, there are several notable motorcycle museums across the county. These include the AMA Hall of Fame Museum in Pickerington, Ohio, the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, N.C., the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa, the Motorcyclepedia Museum in Newburgh, N.Y., and the Barber Museum in Leeds, Ala.

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Museums can also be found in nearly every corner of the country. For example, in tiny Hammondsport, N.Y. we find the Glenn Curtiss Museum. Such an iconic name in American aviation and motorcycling history’s namesake museum is not found in a huge metropolis like New York City, but rather in a small Finger Lakes village.

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A related category of touring stops is a landmark. While many landmarks are accompanied by a museum, not all are. Riding to New York City from points north or west? Make time to stop and see the curvaceous NY Route 97 at Hawk’s Nest that is featured as the backdrop in so many motorcycle ads or posters. Another fun landmark is the Four Corners Monument, which is the only place in the United States where four states border each other. Visitors can lay on the middle of monument to be in four states at one time.

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Festivals/Events: Almost every region has at least one annual celebration of some kind. Look for events that are of keen interest to you. For food connoisseurs, the grape festival in Naples, N.Y. or the bacon festivals held in several parts of the country may be worth a stop. Motorcycle road rallies also make ideal stops. These can include Americade in Lake George, N.Y., Laconia Bike Week in Laconia, N.H., AMA Vintage Motorcycles Days in Lexington, Ohio, Daytona Bike Week in Daytona Beach, Fla., and and Johnstown, Pa.’s Thunder in the Valley Rally.

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Another good event stop can be motorcycle races. Never been to a flat track race? Check the AMA’s calendar and see if there is a flat track race along your route. These events usually occur at night, so find a nearby hotel, check in, then head over to the track to check out something new and exciting. Is a Grand National Cross Country race sounds more like a marathon than a motorcycle race? Ride up to the Snow Shoe ski resort in the Pocahontas Mountains, West Virginia and watch the dirt fly in ways you’ve never seen before.

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Activities: Never tried ziplining? How about sandboarding? Look for the opportunity to engage in new activities along your chosen route. Heading down to the Tail of the Dragon? Try stopping in the Gatlinburg area (preferably off of peak tourist season, the valley gets really, really crowded) and give ziplining a go. If you’re planning to cruise down the east coast, don’t miss a stop at Jockey’s Ridge State Park in North Carolina’s Outer Banks and try your hand at sandboarding.

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National/State Parks: One of my favorite things about motorcycle touring is getting to see the diversity of scenic setting we are blessed with in the United States. If you’re riding across southern Utah, do make time to take the loop road through Natural Bridges National Monument. You will be glad you did. Similarly, if you riding to the Tail of the Dragon, take some time and drive northeast and see the majesty of the Great Smoky Mountains.

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Going the (First) Distance: An Introduction to Long-Distance Motorcycle Riding, Point #13 (Go with a Group)


One of the smartest things a new touring rider can do is go on their first tour with one or more experienced touring riders. This is not a topic I have a lot of experience with. I have only done one non-solo tour, and I was the more experienced rider in the pairing. However, if you have friends or family who are already long-distance riding enthusiasts, use their experience to your advantage.

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Among the benefits of doing one of your first tours with a group are:

Experienced perspective: Doing a group tour will give you insight into how other touring riders perceive long-distance riding, how they handle certain situations, and whether something you are experiencing is a normal part of touring or not.

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Pace setting: Allowing an experienced rider to lead the tour would allow a new touring rider to learn what touring pace they are comfortable with. Some touring riders really like to put the hammer down on the road, but take long breaks at each stop. Some touring riders are the exact opposite. By going with an experienced group, a new touring rider would be able to observe several different individuals’ pace, and find what pace is right for them.

Regional familiarity: An experienced touring rider may have knowledge of the area you are going touring in. This can make trip planning a lot easier, as the experienced rider can help find interesting things to see along the way and help you better plan the tour.

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Pooling tools: If a group is staying together for an entire tour, each rider does not need to bring their full tool set. Instead, the riders can divide tools among the group, giving everyone lighter luggage.

Safety: In the event some goes wrong and someone in the group crashes, breaks down, and/or is injured, the other riders can help out. Another rider can call for help or give the injured rider and ride to safety. It is also easier for motorists to see a group of motorcycles stopped on the side of the road rather than the narrow profile of only a single bike.

 

New touring riders also may have a hard time knowing when and how badly fatigue may start setting in. An experienced touring rider can look for signs of fatigue in a new rider on the road and at stops. This can be a literal lifesaver for a new long-distance rider.

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Before embarking on a group tour, it is important to know the norms of group riding. To review the AMA’s rules for group road rides, visit: www.americanmotorcyclist.com/Riding/Road-Riding-And-Touring.

 

Going the (First) Distance: An Introduction to Long-Distance Motorcycle Riding, Point #12 (Start Short)


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Chances are a majority of people who read this article are researching long-distance riding in anticipation of a long-desired, cross-country trip. Some may have a week-long, coast-to-coast tour in mind. Others may dream of riding up and down one of the coasts or venturing to scenic places or motorcycle rallies afar.

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Whatever the case may be, you may want to start with something a little shorter than a week-long or month-long tour. A common piece of advice experienced riders give new riders is, “Your first bike should not be your dream bike.” The same goes with touring. It would be wise to make your first tour something relatively short. You do not want your dream trip to turn into a uncomfortable, expensive, or even dangerous learning experience. 

This is not to say one should start too short. The best thing to do is take a weekend or a long weekend and try to stay within a reasonable ride to home (say, 3-4 hours). Also, do not try to push on mileage. Aim for 400-500 miles per day by Interstate, and less by back roads.  

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Not sure where to go? Use county and state tourism websites to find a few things of interest not too far from home. Museums, some national parks, landmarks, and events make great destinations. For example, if a rider lived in Columbus, Ohio, they could do two loop routes on two consecutive days to get a feel for touring. Day one would take him or her from Columbus to Pittsburgh, Penn. to see Point State Park and visit the park’s museum. Our rider could then head up the Pennsylvania and Ohio Turnpikes to Warren, Ohio’s National Packard Museum. After seeing the antique cars and other artifacts, our rider could then head back to Columbus for the night.  

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The next day our rider would head southwest on I-71 to Louisville to visit the iconic Louisville Slugger Museum. After a couple hours seeing timber artifacts, our rider would ride north to Speedway, Ind. to visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s museum. The last leg of the trip would take our rider home to Columbus via I-70. A sample trip map can be found here. 

In short, there is no need to make your first tour epic. Your first tour is more of a classroom than a vacation, and you will be surprised just how much you will learn about yourself as a rider, as well as your bike. In looking around for local places to tour, you may also surprise yourself with how much there is to see in your home region.

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