There's a lot that comes into planning an entire motorcycle trip. One of the most important parts of the trip planning is the route that you're going to ride. In most cases, you wouldn't want to take the same route that you would do in a car. No matter your destination, you can have a much better trip overall if you choose a good route. Here's how to do it.
Pick Place to Start and a Destination
You can't decide on the route until you have a starting point and a destination. For many trips, the starting point will be your home. Other times it will be a place for you to meet co-riders or friends. Once you've established that, you need to decide where you want to end up.
What I do is choose a destination that has food, a place to rest and relax, and something fun to do. Even if you're just out for the weekend ride. It's smart to have a destination in mind. This focuses you while you ride and eliminates aimless riding, which I personally think leads to a wandering mind and that can be dangerous on the road.
Also, a destination gives a sense of accomplishment, even if you haven't really ridden that far, you've completed a goal of sorts. Small goals are always worth achieving.
Decide Number of Miles to Ride Between Stops
Everyone's different when it comes to the number of miles they like to cover in a between stops. It can vary from ride to ride, too. If you're riding with people, its important to establish this before you head out. That way, they know how far you're willing to go.
It's also smart to be prepared to pull off early if you're not really into riding as far as you originally wanted to. This is where the next section comes in. You should have ample places to stop along the way.
Choose a Few Places to Stop
Some people like to pick the road before they pick the places they'd like to stop along the way, but I do the opposite. I like to have stops in mind before I choose the road. I simply take my map, plot a few pit stops between my starting point and destination and then choose the roads that I want to travel on.
I always make sure to pick out a few more pit stops than I really need in case I decide I don't want to cover as much ground as I'd originally planned.
Choose Roads Suited for Your Bike That You Want to Ride
Once you know where you're going to start, where your trip ends, and where along the way you plan to stop, you can choose the actual road's you'll take.
I love riding smaller displacement bikes, so I generally avoid big interstates and other highways with high traffic. I choose roads with plenty of curves and bends. However, if you have a higher displacement bike and like cruising on the interstate, go for it. Just make sure you know how to do it safely.
When planning my route, I use Google Maps and the satellite view to really see the details of the road as best I can. If I see something I don't like or find out a route really isn't as interesting as I thought it would be, I move on to a different road.
Once I have the specific roads I want to use on my route, I check local news for construction along my route. If there is any, I adjust my route.
On the return trip, I often use the same route. Especially, if I enjoyed it the first time. However, if there's a road that I know I want to hit on the way back, I'll amend my route. It's important to have route directions to and from your destination.
You can follow your original route plans in reverse order, but I find it's easier if you just make up some additional route plans for the return trip.
I like to write up or type up turn by turn instructions and have them right on my gas tank. You can program it into your phone's GPS system and have your phone mounted on your handle bars, but I find that too distracting. I'd rather use something like the Iron Rider by Dowco or a similar product to hold my instructions than depend on a GPS.
Have a Backup Plan
It's always important to have options on a motorcycle route. In many cases, this means having a direct route to your destination, out of the area your're in, or to an emergency facility. You can plot these on your map and keep your map handy with you (which is usually what I do).
Another option is to have your smartphone or GPS system ready to go. I tend to avoid using the GPS on my phone while riding, but my original chosen route isn't an option and I do use GPS as a fallback. Your smartphone can be a great resource, but if you don't have one (who the hell doesn't at this point) or prefer to use a designated GPS system, check out the products below.
Wade Thiel is the creator of Wind Burned Eyes. He is an automotive journalist and a motorcycle enthusiast who lives in Indianapolis, IN. Check him out on Twitter or read his automotive work at Web2Carz.