I’ve now had my 2012 Electra Glide Ultra for two years, and the last “major” ride I did was the Tail of the Dragon with my Softtail.  Thinking back, I haven’t taken my dresser out on any major ride since and I’ve accrued over 19,000 miles on the bike.  This year I don’t plan on making that same mistake.

What is a long-distance ride?

What do I call a long-distance ride? Well, according to some of my riding buddies, any ride that is 300 miles or more equates to a long-distance ride.  REALLY!?!  I can ride that just going to my weekend military duty.  The definition of a long-distance or cross-country ride can vary as much as riders vary.  Personally, I consider a long-distance ride to be any ride where a one-way direction is longer than 1000 miles.  I know I can ride 500+ miles in a single day, so you need a trip that requires the ride to stop at a hotel or campsite.  If you arrive back home on the same day, then that’s considered a day ride.  Mind you, I’d enjoy the ride regardless of its length as long as I am riding, which is why I have 19k on a two-year old bike.

Go it alone or with a group?

There are many factors that must be considered when planning a long-distance trip, such as where to ride, where to sleep, and where to eat as well as emergency procedures and who will accompany you on the ride.  You can plan a trip with a crew of people or choose to run it alone; no one way is better than another and both have its advantages and disadvantages.  You may have many riding buddies with a wide range of bikes from sport bikes to HOGs, but I can almost guarantee that not all of them will be able to handle a serious ride.  Once you are on the road, there is no turning back if it’s rainy or chilly.  Maybe there is a higher than expected traffic volume or the bike seat isn’t up to par.  Whatever the case, when someone isn’t comfortable, the entire group will hear about it, and the more who chime in, the louder the complaints become.  Constant complaining and whining can hamper anyone’s ride. Believe me, I’ve ridden with some low-stamina people who have resorted to crying about not being comfortable an hour into the ride. Those types of riders can make a long trip or even a day ride long and annoying. So consider very carefully who and how many friends you want to invite on your ride.

Time to pay the toll!

The toll placed on the body during a long ride can be extensive.  There will be points during the ride that you might consider stopping, getting plane tickets home, and shipping your bike back.  Don’t give in too quickly; it is the ride itself that makes the trip.  If you want to get to your destination, then taking a plane would probably be the fastest route, but if it is the ride that you want to experience just remember you will have to pay the toll with your body.  Understand that you can prepare yourself for this type of ride.  You’ll need a fair amount of stamina to avoid becoming the group whiner. Looking inwardly, you may not realize how much stamina is required to ride 1000 miles or more.  It isn’t something a monthly rider may be able to pull off.  It can be taxing for those who ride bikes geared towards short city/country riding.
If you haven’t taken a long day trip, then I suggest experiencing one of these before embarking on a trip 1000 miles or more. A warm-up trip will give you the opportunity to learn how you ride, how the people in your riding group ride, and your level of stamina for sitting in that seat for hours upon hours while being pounded by the wind and other elements.  Remember, the effect of wind on your bike translates to your arms, and your muscles have to counteract those effects.  After 8 hours of riding, this can be exhausting.  If you plan on taking your better half, it is also a good idea for them to warm up to the thought of riding long hours in the passenger seat.  They may sit a little higher than the driver and may experience a different level of wind.

Ahhhh…where are we going?

I think one of the hardest parts of any ride is deciding where to go.  One of my friends made a suggestion that we ride either northbound to Canada or southbound to Florida.  Personally, after all the snow we’ve had, I am not up to traveling anywhere the temperature is lower than 60 degrees, especially during the time period we are planning to ride (mid spring).  Choosing a destination can’t be all that difficult….is it?  When traveling as a group, there must be a consensus on the destination, as well as the potential route taken.  You must determine how many total days to take, as well as how you plan on handling the sleeping arrangements and the security of people and their equipment. One of the biggest problems is finding consecutive days that are available on everyone’s calendar.  Dealing with all of these issues can be challenging but not impossible.

As I mentioned at the outset, I am planning a ride to the south.  I’ll provide the details in my next blog.  I’ll also outline some of the steps you can take when planning a ride.  I am no expert, but by taking a little knowledge from here, there, and the Internet, I hope to have a thorough list of what to do and what to expect when embarking on a long-distance ride.
Until then, be safe.