As you know from my previous post, I’m excited about my 50-state tour. Over the years, I have learned a heck of a lot about the best way to plan motorcycle rides—a lot of it through hard-won experience that you don’t need to repeat!
So without further ado, here is the Asspad Tycoon’s 4 Steps for Route Planning, to make sure your motorcycle ride is a great one:
STEP 1. I use Google maps to work out a general route before I get into the detailed mapping. This is an important phase in determining how much time the actual riding part is going to take. If you haven’t used Google mapping, I suggest that you familiarize yourself with it by doing this short but very effective training course at mapping.withgoogle.com.
You start by clicking on the “Get Directions” link. Once you’ve done that, simply enter the start and destination and it automatically gives you the quickest route, miles, and the time that it will take to complete the route. I never want to take the quickest route, because that means “Interstate”, and I hate riding the super slab unless I have to make serious time, or if I’ll be going through a boring stretch. But this is a good starting point for developing your route – now you know how much time and how many miles it will take if using the interstate. I go back roads, so I’ll be adding time to this initial assessment.
What I like most about Google Mapping is that it allows me to easily adjust my route by simply “grabbing” a part of the route and dragging it to a road that I’d prefer to use. After your “grab,” it instantly recalculates the route. In the past I used Delorme and the Garmin mapping programs, but it wasn’t nearly as easy to make adjustments. Google has really gotten it down. Plus, when you finalize your map on Google, you can save it to your Google account, which will enable you to access this map/route from any device as a backup in case your GPS goes down. Remember – Mr. Murphy is your copilot!
STEP 2. Go to motorcycleroads.com or some type of road atlas that shows scenic routes and search for best scenic routes (or twisties) along the route that Google mapped out. I then integrate these sub-routes into my Google route. Again, the Google program makes this very easy. All that you have to do is “grab” a route line and drag it to where you want it to move to. Each time you make these changes, Google will recalculate time and distance.
STEP 3. Here is where experience comes in handy. Now that you have the actual route determined, it’s time to break it down into daily routes. Hopefully you’ve had the chance to do a daylong trip before and have an idea of how many hours in the saddle you can tolerate for a day. Notice that I say hours instead of miles. I know that if I have to, I can blast the interstate for 800-1000 miles per day – but this kind of riding is more of an endurance sport than it is a fun ride! I also know that doing 500 miles on two-lane is a heck of a lot easier in the West than it is in the Northeast due to the fact that everything is a lot more spread out on the west side of the Mississippi. Maintaining high rates of speed is simple in the West as passing slow vehicles doesn’t slow you down much, and you’re not going through a town every 10 minutes like you can do in the East.
Other areas that can take a lot more time are:
So think about where you’ll be riding and give consideration to the above factors, along with weather factors when determining how many miles a day you’ll be doing, and don’t forget to add time for eating, gassing, and sight seeing. Divide the total miles by how many days you can ride and that will give you a good idea of how many miles you should map for each day.
Let’s say that given the circumstances and conditions of your route, you should be able to do 500-mile days the 1st two days and then 250 on the third day to your final destination. Starting from your beginning point, look at where 500 miles will land you. Now you need to scout out lodging possibilities in this area – I search a radius of 100 miles from this point. I normally don’t reserve anything because I ride with Mr. Murphy, so there are no guarantees on making my destination, but I will call a few hotels in the area to check if there are any conventions that have booked everything in the area. On more than one occasion I have found myself riding late into the cold night, dodging deer and other road obstacles because the town that I planned on crashing in was booked solid.
An important note: Check the state DOT websites for road construction, closures and delays, then reroute accordingly.
A cool site to check weather along your route is Wundermap. Just click on the icon of the car in the upper right hand part of the screen and it will ask you for the start and end of your trip. Like Google, it will highlight your route, but will also give you all of the weather conditions along the way – very useful.
STEP 4. Scan maps and keep them with you (yes, the paper kind). Redundancy is king. You always need plan A, B, and C because Mr. Murphy (Murphy’s Law) will always be my co-pilot!
My next installment will be on gear and packing! Subscribe and stay tuned!
AIRHAWK was again at Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, August 5 through 11, with on-site product demonstrations, seating consultation and sales. We were at the J&P Cycles at 1650 Lazelle Street in downtown Sturgis, SD.
If you weren’t able to make it to the Rally this year, watch for our posts on Facebook.
The day started around 6:15 with the push of the garage door opener, and the good mood began. Another push of a button and the office thundered to life rumbling with anticipation. The work day was about to begin.
Like any day in the office, my desk started clean. Today though, my office is a bit more appealing than the usual wood slab with a keyboard and a couple of monitors. Today it’s black with a chrome center strip that houses a speedometer and is partially covered with a map pouch. The office window? A Klock Werks Flare framed by a well-polished set of KST Kustoms 16″ apes with a view of a huge chrome headlight housing. This will be a perfect day in the office.
It’s my third annual ride to the J&P Cycles Open House Rally in Anamosa, IA. Each year I take a different route; doing my best to avoid highways and freeways. For this year’s trip, I’ve decided to take the Great River Road from Brainerd, Minnesota to the border of Iowa. After I cross the border, I will let the GPS take over and choose the shortest route to Cedar Rapids – my home for the next three nights.
When I take these rides, I have an unusual set of rules for myself.
1. I refuel at the next gas station after the gauge hits ¼ tank.
2. I stop to eat breakfast at 9:00am, lunch at 1:00pm, and dinner at 5:00pm. Once I see those three times, I have to stop at the next place food is served (unless it’s a fast food place, because no one needs that!).
3. Once the clock hits 8:00, I stay at the next hotel or motel I see. I already had a reservation this time around, so this one didn’t really apply today.
These rules may seem a bit odd, but they fuel the journey! I have found some great little dives to eat at, and not-so-great dumps to spend the night in! It’s like an adventure on every trip.
The first half hour of my ride was over roads I had previously traveled. They were quite uneventful – which was good since the coffee had just begun to kick in. The route brought me through Little Falls and for the next several hours, I was on roads I had never ridden on. Just South of Little Falls, I passed through Lindberg State Park. What’s interesting is – driving through state parks by car sucks, but on a bike, the slower speed limits force you to look around and take in the beauty of your surroundings.
This led me through a dozen back country “drag strips” en route to St. Cloud, where signage became non-existent, and it was nearly impossible to follow the route. After backtracking and looking at every post that should have a sign for what seemed like an eternity, I finally decided it was best to stop, get out the iPad, and do a little research. NO I WASN’T LOST!!
It turns out – I was supposed to cross a bridge that had been gone for over a decade! I promise you I can skip water, but I wasn’t about to attempt this one!
Headed south I was led into a short little six mile construction zone. ‘Tis the season I guess, but six miles of gravel was how I avoided the freeway. It was no big deal – just another part of the adventure. This led me through Monticello, and would be my last sighting of the freeway and the only roads I’ve ever known for the next couple hours. I was pleasantly surprised as I followed the river through what was essentially “The Cities,” but felt more like I was in the middle of the country. The only difference I could see was that the road seemed considerably wider and the surface was in great condition. I really had no idea where I was, and that made this section of the route very interesting.
I usually wouldn’t admit this, but going through the Twin Cities was probably one of the highlights of the day! Living two and a half hours northwest of here, activities that made the news were the only sightings I have seen of Riverside Park, but getting to ride through it was quite eye opening. This is an area hit hard by the storms that blew through in the previous days. As I looked to the right, I saw streets filled with fallen trees and cleanup crews, but looking to the left life was normal. This is a park that goes on for miles along the shore of the Mississippi – holding a lock and dam, green grass, people playing with their pets, and some just laying in the sun reading books. It hits me here that only 700 feet of elevation and this thing dumps into the Gulf of Mexico.
Shortly after the park, the river actually makes a bend and heads North. This confused me because I actually was thinking I had gotten on the wrong side of the river and was going the wrong way! Once I remembered that the river actually flows north for a while the confusion subsided, and I was again amazed by all of the industry in this section of river. I actually have an interest in heading back that way when I have time to see what all goes on in an area that seems so far from home.
On the south side of Minneapolis, I met up with Steve Kroyer, a distributor sales rep in the area joining me for the remainder of the trip. Hastings, MN was the lunch and gas stop where we would say our final words to each other in Minnesota. Highway 61 was the main road for the leg through the entire southeast Minnesota section of The Great River Road. Cruising along railroad tracks, you would skirt Lake Pepin and the hilly southeast – one of the few parts on Minnesota where there is notable elevation.
Once in Iowa, we followed the GPS’ shortest route, and Lansing, IA was the point where we were actually sent across the river to hook up with highway 35 in Wisconsin. According to the gas gauge and the clock, it was time to make a couple of stops! We refueled in Ferryville, WI and grabbed a bite to eat at Jake’s Sportsmans Bar and Grille. While parking the bikes on the side of the road and snapping a couple pictures, we met Neil and LaNette Sirucek (bikers always strike up conversation right?). The cool part is that I rode 12 hours to meet this couple that lives in Staples, MN, a little railroad town that is just 20 minutes from my house. What a neat coincidence!
From Jake’s we headed south to only have the route detoured because of a landslide as we would hear later. Most of the time you are frustrated by a detour, but on a bike, they aren’t always bad and in this case, it was FANTASTIC! We were sent up on the top of the ridge where we rode over a half hour overlooking the river valley on our way into Prairie Du Chien, where we would cross the river for the final time and head southwest.
If you haven’t ridden through the northwest corner of Iowa, I would highly recommend it. The view in every direction is that of those picture perfect American farmlands you’ve only seen on post cards and in commercials on TV. This describes the view for the nearly two hours it took to finish off the trip. We arrived to the hotel at 9:50pm, and yes, we rode into the sunset to finish off a perfect day in the office! And yes, this was the first hotel!
Fourteen and a half hours of being bugged in the office and I loved it!
Maybe you’ve read my previous posts where I gave you my assessment of the all-new BMW R1200 GS LC. Just in case you haven’t read it, I’ll give you a short recap; THIS THING ROCKS!
I love this bike so much that I have decided to take her into ALL 49 continental states. It’s only fair right? I’ve ridden motorcycles in 47 of these great states, so why shouldn’t she? BTW, the two states that I have yet to ride in are Oregon and Alaska. Guess where the Ass Pad Tycoon is heading to next Saturday (July 13th)? I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off this quest then to ride out to Oregon for the 41st annual BMW MOA International Rally. I’ll be there showing (and hopefully selling) Airhawks for Bob’s BMW.
I’ve worked in the motorcycle industry for 17 years and part of my job is to develop and test new products, as well as test and evaluate what the competition is doing. I find the best way to do this is ride my bikes to all of the rallies that I will be working. I feel that it’s important to know a thing or two about long distance riding if I’m going to be at a rally talking with people about enhancing long distance comfort, right?
In riding to so many great rallies over the years I’ve learned a trick or two about planning and executing multi-day motorcycle trips, so I thought that this would be a good forum to share some these tricks with you. Since I am in the process of planning my trip to Oregon, I thought that my first installment should be about route planning and navigation tools. And trust me when I tell you that this advice has been refined over the years from many blunders and mishaps that are guaranteed when your copilot is Mr. Murphy (as in Murphy’s Law) – he is my constant companion and educator!
Look for my tips and tricks in my next blog post. Can’t wait to get started!