Last month, I wrote that as long as you have the right combination of rider, ride, route and resources, long-distance riding (LDR) is not only a great way to enhance your motorcycling experience, but also a practical transportation alternative. This month, let’s talk about the most important item on that list: the rider. In order to endure and enjoy LDR, a rider must be fit, skilled, disciplined, prepared and alert. More specifically:
FIT: Safely riding a motorcycle is a physically demanding proposition, and the longer the ride the greater the demand. If you need a buddy to back up your bike, or if barhopping brings back pains, you’d best hit the gym before you hit the open road. People start losing muscle mass around age 30. Proper diet and exercise counters that, and it’s never too late to start! If you don’t believe that, just check out the octogenarian abs at BobDelmonteque.com.
SKILLED: Skill is a combination of training and experience. I know of no formal LDR training courses, but you’ll find some good books on endurance riding at RonAyres.com. Weaving cones and reading tomes alone, however, will not give you the skills needed to survive an IBA Saddle Sore run. Those skills come from experience, and if you don’t already have them, don’t think you can develop them overnight. Start out with short trips, and work your way up the mileage meter. Know your limits and grow you limits, but never push yourself too far beyond them.
DISCIPLINED: Distance riders often ride alone, especially where validation is involved, and certainly in competition. When you only have X hours to cover Y miles, you don’t want to lose time because your buddy has a smaller tank or bladder than you. You’ll be riding with no Road Captain to guide you, and no Road Guard behind you. Congratulations! You are now experiencing true freedom of the road! You are also taking your life into your own hands. How quickly and well you make judgments and react will be a primary determinant of your success (and survival). This is where the discipline comes in: Anything that impedes your judgment or reaction time should be avoided, and alcohol tops the list.
PREPARED: Riders should prepare for LDR as they would any other event involving risk, i.e., hope for the best but prepare for the worst. And guess what? My experience is that the more you prepare for the worst, the less likely it is to happen! And what is “the worst” that can happen? Going down or breaking down top my list. A capable rider on a well chosen route minimizes the chance of the former. A well-maintained motorcycle, with adequate rescue and repair resources, mitigates the latter. The World Wide Web offers a wealth of motorcycle riding preparedness tips, guidelines and checklists, such as those available here.
ALERT: Whether you are riding one mile or one thousand miles, the primary goal of every sane motorcyclist should be to avoid injury and arrive alive. That requires untiring vigilance … being constantly on the alert for road hazards, changing road conditions, and clueless or careless cagers. Always watch out for the other guy, ’cause you can pretty well bet he’s not watching out for you! And speaking of alertness, this is a MUST READ:
Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!