Route Planning Your Motorcycle Trip: Tips & Tricks from the Asspad Tycoon

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:

  • National & State Parks
  • Twisty roads that are the only roads around (going through cuts and passes)
  • State roads going through big suburban areas.  (I try to hit freeways looping around these areas).

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!

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