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Riding Cross-Country

An enduring dream of many touring motorcyclists is to ride their mount from coast to coast. Riding thousands of miles through varying temperatures and terrain is not your typical Saturday morning breakfast ride, but doing so will engender lasting memories, stories, and a great sense of accomplishment.

If you’re serious about traveling from “sea to shining sea,” here are some things to think about:

Set Priorities Brainstorm about, and write down, the potential goals of the trip: places you want to see, roads you want to ride, and/or people to visit along the way. Prioritize them and plot the higher priority items on a map. This will establish a framework.

Allocate Adequate Time Expect to spend two to three weeks for a one-way coast-to-coast trip. To have the most fulfilling experience, it’s often best to take those “roads less traveled,” which will require more time. Building in a couple rest days is a good idea, too.

After several weeks on the road, the prospect of riding another 3,500 to 4,000-plus miles may be unappealing and the time unavailable. If so, arrange in advance for your bike to be shipped home.

Plan the Route

Establishing a route will largely be determined by your highest priority goals. While some riders prefer to have every accommodation reserved in advance, others want spontaneity. If you like to wing it, consider starting each day early and quitting around 3 – 4 p.m. before hotels are fully booked, especially during the height of tourist season.

Prepare for the Ride

We strongly recommend that the ride be taken with at least one other person, but no more than two to three. Carry a few tools and any spare parts that might be needed in case of a breakdown. If new tires, an oil change, or some other service will be required during the trip, arrange for this in advance with a dealer along the route. Some areas will not have cell coverage. A portable CB radio, for contacting others in an emergency, can be useful.

When it comes to packing, take only what you need and nothing more! Do laundry on your rest days. If you’re traveling two up with a significant other, provide them with the bag liner, tankbag, etc., so they know how much room they have.

Manage the Ride

In spring or summer, severe storms can occur as if out of nowhere, leaving you with no place to take shelter. Stay apprised of forecasts and changing weather conditions, communicate frequently with your group, and be flexible with the itinerary. If you’re traveling alone, let someone back home know where you will be riding each day and then check in with them at day’s end.

Last but not least, document your experiences with photos and entries in a journal. This effort will pay many dividends after the trip. There’s nothing better than photos—or video—and a written narrative to help relive the experience over and over again.

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