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Since 1999, the #1 Motorcycling Magazine for Women and the Men Who Ride with Them

25 Inspired Tips for Your Motorcycle Road Trips

Lessons learned after 25 states and three Canadian provinces

By Tamela Rich

Travel always teaches me a lot about myself and about the world. In 2011 I loaded up my motorcycle and set out for a solo trip across 25 states and three Canadian provinces. Here are the top 25 lessons I learned from my journey.
Motorcycle Road Trip Lessons Learned
Ready to hit the road with your motorcycle? These tips are sure to come in handy with your packing, planning, and traveling.

  1. Avoid fussy fabrics. This includes cotton. Get yourself some underwear that wicks away perspiration, will drip dry completely overnight, and can be washed in a sink or with a garden hose. I used to be an Under Armour gal—two pair of compression shorts, two sports bras, three T-shirts—but now I’m an LDComfort convert. I don’t know how they make them, but those LDs are the bomb!

  2. Sip water constantly. If the only time you drink liquids is at stops, you’ll be thirsty enough to drink a whole 16-ounce beverage—and then you’ll have to pull over when it passes through your system. By sipping water every 15 minutes or so, your body will use the water more efficiently, meaning you'll have little to waste. This keeps you alert, hydrated, and maximizes your time on the road. I like to wear a Camelbak or a touring jacket with a built-in water bladder.

  3. Don't underestimate the kindness of strangers. I believe we’ve become unnecessarily afraid of our fellow humans. I am often alone on my travels, and naturally, friends and family worry about me. But in my experience, 99 percent of strangers will help you out in a pinch. Don't be afraid to ask a kind-looking stranger when you're in need of directions, road-side assistance, or a hotel or restaurant recommendation. You might just make a new friend or have a great conversation in the process.

  4. Pack healthy snacks. An apple beats a bag of chips—on many levels! Packing food for the road doesn’t require a lot of advance planning, and it doesn't necessarily need to take up a lot of room in your tank bag. I've found that taking fruit, nuts, and some baby carrots can get me through a day without resorting to unhealthy fare from the gas station. 

  5. Be on the lookout for animals. That doesn't mean just deer. Elk are camouflage masters, as they often rest in high grass. Keep an eye out for antlers above the grass, and always be alert for quick movements on the side of the road.
    Motorcycle Road Trip Tips
    Deer aren't the only big animals to watch for on the road! Tamela took this photo of an elk in a recently mowed field in Oregon.

  6. Don't park broadside. Wind can blow over your bike! I learned this the hard way last year. While crossing the Canadian border into Saskatchewan, I stopped to take a photo of my bike. A second after I clicked the shutter on my camera, the 40 mph winds gusted and took my bike down, breaking my front blinker and cracking my windshield. I had to walk back to the border patrol and ask the officer to help me lift the bike. And yes, it took two of us!

  7. Pack your gear low and over the wheelbase. I had a couple of parking lot disasters before a friend helped me reallocate my gear in the correct position. In one particularly embarrassing incident, I pulled into a busy Dairy Queen parking lot, put my stand down, and the bike just kept going over. Not only was it loaded incorrectly, but I’d parked on too steep an incline. The guys in the neighboring bar had a good laugh at my expense, but luckily a kind soul from Dairy Queen ran over to help.

  8. Always carry a camera. I don’t mean pack one, I mean always have it handy. If you bring along a fancy camera with a big lens, I recommend also carrying a little point-and-shoot (or your phone). I took the marvelous shot below as I was headed north to Alberta from Glacier National Park in Montana. I was just touring along, about to enter a blind curve, when these three horses crossed my path. I stopped, fumbled in my jacket for my camera, pointed and clicked. Look at those skies!

    Motorcycle Road Trip Tips Glacier National Park
    One of the best shots in Tamela's collection, taken in Glacier National Park, would have been missed if she’d had to unpack a camera.

  9. Recharge your electronics. I love to travel alone, but one thing I’ll never do is be incommunicado. To keep my cell phone powered up, I had my mechanic rig up a cell phone charger to my battery. Yes, in ye olde tymes people traveled cross-country without cell phones, but there was a pretty good system of pay phones back then. These no longer exist, so stay charged. 

  10. Consider the "pink bra effect." When you strap a pink bra across the windshield of your motorcycle, everyone knows you’re doing something for breast cancer. This is how I learned so much about the rampant cancer rates in North America—people stopped me everywhere to tell me their stories or the stories of those close to them. There were times I’d hear one story at the gas pump, another in the bathroom, and more in the concession area. My book, Live Full Throttle: Life Lessons From Friends Who Faced Cancer, was born of these conversations from the road. 

    Motorcycle Road Trip Conga Ride
    As part of the Women Who Ride Conga, Tamela's motorcycle sports a pink bra—a great conversation starter on the road.

  11. Let inspiration in. I find so much inspiration on the road and in nature. Seeing the headwaters of the Mississippi River, for example, reminded me that even the mightiest of things can start out small. 

  12. Start every morning with thanks. Speaking of nature’s inspiration, I find I’m more open to its gifts when I’ve started my day the right way. I bring my yoga mat with me on road trips and use it as a base under my sleeping bag when I camp. In the morning I stretch and do some sun salutations before packing up. I enjoy the quiet of morning to pray with the background music of birds and crickets. The way I spend my morning sets the tone for the entire day.

  13. Embrace the unknown. Life is full of blind corners. You never know what the road—or life, for that matter—will bring, but don’t let that uncertainty stop you from striking out. Resolve to ride your best ride and take life as it comes.

  14. Pack your warmest sleeping bag. An Eagle Scout once told me to err on the side of warmth, and I’m glad I listened. You can always sleep on top of the bag if it’s too hot, but it’s hard to layer up when you’re cold—or worse, cold and wet. 

  15. Wear proper safety gear.  Can you say red-faced raccoon? Besides the obvious safety benefits, a full-face helmet is the ultimate sunscreen. To each her own, but I’m an advocate of ATGATT ("all the gear, all the time").

  16. Consider riding for a cause. You get when you give. Riding for breast cancer causes has enriched my life. Riders are notoriously philanthropic, and I encourage everyone to combine their passion for biking with a passionate cause. 

  17. Remember that everything wobbles (but not every wobble becomes a fall). We know this as bikers, and we should also remember this in life.

  18. Pack light. Clothes can double as a pillow. I pack pretty lean and use my sleeping bag’s stuff sack as an extra pillow when I camp. 

  19. Check customs before you depart. Did you know Canadian customs will confiscate your pepper spray? Why they let you into the country with bear spray but not pepper spray is beyond me. Oh well.

  20. Learn new things every day. Donkeys may look like horses, but feeding them apples will give them diarrhea. I learned that in Oatman, Ariz., where the donkeys come to town for their daily feed.

    Motorcycle Road Trip Oatman Donkey
    Tamela makes a new friend on the road.

  21. Rethink souvenirs. We Americans buy too much stuff. My two children are in their 20s, and while I'm largely to blame for their expecting a present after every one of my trips, I’m changing my ways. 

  22. Bless the detours. As in life, the road is full of detours. Next time you’re forced to take one, try to remember a time when you had an unexpectedly wonderful experience as a result of a detour. Then tell yourself you’re in for another. It may not pan out that way, but it will take the stress out of the experience. 

  23. Tune out to tune in on what matters. Taking a break from the news is good mental hygiene. I don’t watch much television, but I do listen to National Public Radio (NPR). In 2010 I spent 40 days on the road with very little exposure to the radio and, as a result, the news. When I got back to work, I opened up my radio app and found myself agitated by even the mildest level of dissension expressed on the most mundane subjects, like whether outdoor cats should be forced to wear bells to warn wildlife. Whoa! It just goes to show how much stress we are exposed to in daily life. Take a break from the news. Get some wind therapy!

  24. Turn off your ABS when riding off-road. I learned this in my training at BMW’s Performance Center, but I forgot it when I was in Port Orford, Ore. I wanted to get my front tire in the Pacific Ocean, so I headed down a steep embankment, and—well, you probably know where this is headed. The ABS kicked in when I tried my off-road braking skills, and I laid down the bike in some shrub before gravity got the best of me. Lesson learned.

  25. Watch out for squirrels! That doesn't just apply to the road. Campground squirrels are fearless thieves. I guess that’s why my spouse calls them “tree rats.” 
Motorcycle Road Trip Lessons Squirrel
Demonstrating the dangers of the open road, a campground squirrel takes off with Tamela's snack.

About the Author
Tamela Rich lives with her family in Charlotte, N.C., where she is a freelance writer of books, articles, presentations and speeches for business professionals. She based "Live Full Throttle: Life Lessons From Friends Who Faced Cancer" on two trips she took across the United States and parts of Canada with a pink bra strapped across the windshield of her BMW motorcycle to raise money for breast cancer research. When forced to travel by car instead of motorcycle, she knits compulsively; if she’s driving the car, she knits at stoplights. Autographed copies of "Live Full Throttle" are available at Tamela’s website and on         
Click to visit Tamela's website and order her book.
Click to visit Tamela's website and order her book.

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