Top-5 Motorcycle Trip Planning Tips From A Pro

Long-distance motorcycle travel mistakes and how to avoid them.

Top-5 Motorcycle Trip Planning Tips From A Pro
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“The intelligent have plans; the wise have principles.” ―Raheel Farooq (Janelle Kaz/)

Have you ever felt like you’re receiving mixed messages in regard to long-distance motorcycle travel planning? You’re warned not to over-plan, that doing so will lead to increased stress if you’re not able to see everything you intended. You’re also told that planning is essential, that setting out on a longer journey with no plans leaves you with no realistic idea of where you’re going to be and when, and how much it is all going to cost.

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“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” <em>―Gloria Steinem</em>
“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” ―Gloria Steinem (Janelle Kaz/)

Change the Way You Plan

Consider changing how you plan for your motorcycle trip. Traditional planning questions revolve around the where and when of traveling, which only skims the surface of why you’re embarking on this adventure in the first place. Rather than creating a list of destinations and sites you want to see, consider what it is you would most like to experience on your journey. Do you want to immerse yourself in culture? If so, you’re going to need to have more flexible plans, because who knows where you might end up at the end of each day if you’re making friends with locals and they offer to share a bit of their world with you.

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Or perhaps what you’re most aching to experience is true freedom, and if that’s the case, you may just have to go it alone. Traveling with others can be tricky, as each person has their own perspective on what they want their days of riding to be like. Some people have a racing mentality and want to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Others like to take it all in, soaking up the landscape and stopping often for photos and curious roadside attractions. People have different ways of existing in the world and it can be challenging to meet in the middle, especially when it’s during the motorcycle trip you’ve been dreaming up for so long.

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If you do intend to ride with other people, don’t let a long-distance motorcycle trip be your maiden voyage together. Even if you get along really well with someone else’s personality, their riding style might be completely at odds with your own, and you’re not going to know this unless you’ve ventured out on motorcycle trips together already.

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Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.” <em>―Allen Saunders</em>.
Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.” ―Allen Saunders. (Rafael Lopes de Lima/)

Freedom Limited

Taking a long motorcycle trip comes with this larger-than-life feeling of freedom, of being able to go wherever your bike can carry you, just with the twist of the throttle and fuel in the tank. If you’re riding with others, there is a high probability that you won’t be able to fully experience this freedom exactly the way in which you’d like to. It is therefore important to know where you’re willing to compromise and where you’d prefer to draw a hard line in the dirt.

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It’s hard to put into words just how freeing it is to be able to go wherever you please and not have to check if your riding partner or group is willing to get sidetracked. I’ve had some incredible experiences exploring this way, such as that shaded road in Thailand which escaped the tropical sun up into the misty mountains, a road which left the paper map I was using to navigate, carrying me off into the unknown. I’ll never forget the surprising beauty I saw that day on my ride, the hill tribe residents with darkly stained teeth from the chewed betel nut, brilliant silver jewelry and colorful tassels they adorned themselves with, and the old woman who approached me with a large hat full of wild mushrooms to sell while I was parked near the top of a mountain trying to figure out where I was. I ended up sleeping in an orphanage that night, welcomed in by a kind nun and taken on a mini-tour of the village by the children.

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“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” ―<em>Albert Einstein</em>.
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” ―Albert Einstein. (Jaume Galofré in Villa Cerro Castillo, Chile/)

At the same time, you can’t put a price on how wonderful it is to share experiences, creating memories together that you can look back on and get all nostalgic about. There is something extremely bonding about those moments, especially the challenging ones, and they remain rich memories after you’ve made it through and can look back on them together—often with laughter. Some say happiness is only real when shared; I don’t necessarily believe this, but I do appreciate being able to share a beautiful landscape with someone I care about, or even just sideways glances with a friend when something strange and hilarious is happening.

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So you’re going to have to ask yourself what it is you’re after. Is it the feeling of true freedom and independence you seek? Or are you content to sacrifice a large portion of that in order to share your experiences, both the fun and the tough, with another person.

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Would you turn around to take a better look at a toad? What if, in the middle of a Peruvian desert, it seemed incredibly out of place as it crossed the road? Clearly, I would; a roadside example of how different things motivate different people.
Would you turn around to take a better look at a toad? What if, in the middle of a Peruvian desert, it seemed incredibly out of place as it crossed the road? Clearly, I would; a roadside example of how different things motivate different people. (Janelle Kaz/)

To Plan, Or Not To Plan

As for the stress-induced perils that come with over-planning or setting out with no plans, the reality is that both of these contain truth. Obviously, that means the middle ground is a good place to be. Overall, it’s wise to have your main route planned, which I like to imagine as a main river, but you can expect to want to explore many of the little creeks and tributaries that branch away from it. Perhaps some of these diversions will even run in the same direction as the main route, only with more twists and turns. When you’ve got an overview of the primary path you want to travel, add an additional percentage of distance to that total. Many people seem to think adding a solid 20 percent distance to your estimated travels is reliable, but in my experience, I have to add much more than that (more like 80 to 100 percent). Since the majority of us are not traveling at or near the speed of light, the more you veer off the main route, the more time your trip is going to take.

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Rolling hills and undulating roads in the Ecuadorian countryside—on the way to Quilotoa.
Rolling hills and undulating roads in the Ecuadorian countryside—on the way to Quilotoa. (Janelle Kaz/)

No matter which country I’m traveling in, I’ve found that I always need more time than anticipated, as I always want to stay longer and explore further beyond nearly every destination (that’s correct, my trips have doubled). My distance traveled has ended up being far greater than I originally estimated because I had the time to allow for that, where the only constraint was my visa.

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So plan your main route and, depending on how much you like to explore, add on to that total distance, within your time constraints—but be aware that you may have to scrap a large portion of those plans. If there’s anything the current pandemic has taught us, it’s that everything can change in an instant.

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“An unhurried sense of time is in itself a form of wealth.” <em>—Bonnie Friedman</em>.
“An unhurried sense of time is in itself a form of wealth.” —Bonnie Friedman. (Blaz Erzetic /)

Allow Cushion Days

In addition to the desire to wander (and flow like water), you may have setbacks that demand more time. There’s always the possibility of breaking down, needing replacement parts, becoming ill or getting hurt, and other unforeseen events (road closure, civil unrest, etc.). Consider that a lot of things, from big to small, are likely to go wrong on your journey. How you deal with these issues—your mentality—is what really matters.

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A roadside stretch. Checking in with yourself by scanning your body and mind to assess what you might need in the moment is an essential practice during long-distance motorcycle trips.
A roadside stretch. Checking in with yourself by scanning your body and mind to assess what you might need in the moment is an essential practice during long-distance motorcycle trips. (Janelle Kaz/)

Mindset

I can’t tell you how many times on the road I become aware that I’m just wanting to arrive at my destination, rather than being present with where I am at that moment. Usually it is discomfort that drives this, maybe I’m wet and cold, or I made a couple of wrong turns and am now berating myself in my mind. Whatever the situation, it helps when I stop and take a minute to assess my current state. How is my body doing? Do I need water? A snack? A quick roadside stretch? How about the scenery? What is there that is beautiful or interesting to notice? How’s my bike running? Usually these all end up as points of gratitude that come into focus, which completely shifts my mindset. I feel gratitude that my body is healthy enough to allow me to travel via motorcycle—an activity that requires a tremendous deal of stamina and endurance. I start to appreciate the landscape in an intentional way, and I feel thankful that my motorcycle is running strong, even though I am fatigued. Just a few moments of this and I’m able to ride away from the frustrated, grumpy version of myself (thank goodness, though I may have to stop and do it again in an hour).

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Plan to travel with intention, to purposefully choose your mindset so that your emotions or short fuse don’t get the best of you on your journey.

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Fully present while immersed in natural elements and curvy roads during the summer months in the Chicamocha Canyon, Colombia.
Fully present while immersed in natural elements and curvy roads during the summer months in the Chicamocha Canyon, Colombia. (Janelle Kaz/)

Self-Actualization

Let’s face it, when you’re out on the road long enough, you’re going to make piles of mistakes—or let’s call them learning opportunities—that will shape not only your future adventures, but you as an individual. Sometimes, it’s a simple mistake that we only have to make once, such as inviting along a person who has a completely different perspective on what a long-distance motorcycle trip should look like. Other times, we seem to make the mistake over and over again, like not staying fully in the moment, before we finally start making the changes necessary to fully enjoy our ride. Regardless of the error or its frequency, do your best to be honest and kind with yourself and others around you, and remember that all mistakes are simply a road map to becoming a better, more experienced version of yourself. Savor the long-distance, gritty motorcycle journey of life, because in reality, without those twists and turns it would be an awfully boring ride.

Source : Motorcyclist More