This is the fourth installment in a series about the combination of rider, ride, route and resources required to endure and enjoy long-distance riding (LDR). Our focus this month is the route.
A route is a specified course of travel from one location to another. It defines where you want to go, and how you plan to get there. In conventional travel planning, emphasis is placed on the destination and, once chosen, you simply book a flight or get in the car and go. In distance riding, however, knowing the end point of the trip is just the beginning of the process. Given the WHERE, you have many considerations for the HOW. Chief among these are distance, havens, hazards and schedule:
Distance. Whenever I plan a ride from Point A to Point B, I log onto Maps.Msn.com, click “Directions” and check mileage and time over both the Quickest and the Shortest routes. I recently planned a ride, for example, from Miami Beach to Austin, Texas for the Republic of Texas Rally. The Quickest route was 1354.5 miles in 22 hours 33 minutes, crossing central Florida on the Turnpike. The Shortest route was 1343.7 miles in 23 hours 48 minutes, crossing central Florida on US-27. I might have been tempted to choose Shortest over Quickest, because US-27 offers better scenery than the Florida Turnpike, and the price for the extra pleasure was little more than an hour’s riding time. Instead, however, I had this thought: It should only take a couple of hours to stretch this ride out to 1,500 miles, and if I do that, I can make the ROT Rally and earn an Iron Butt Bun Burner patch in the process….
And that’s exactly what I did: IH-95 north to Jacksonville, IH-10 west all the way through San Antonio into the Texas Hill Country, then US-87 north to Fredericksburg, US-290 east and FM-1376 to/from Luckenbach, then on into Austin from the west on US-290; a run of 1,583 miles in 26 hours 23 minutes altogether.
Havens. The longer the ride, the more stops you will need to make for gas/oil/air for your bike and water/food/breaks for you, and the greater the likelihood you may need shelter for sleep or a cycle shop for parts or repairs. On most U.S. highways, a gas station or convenience store is never more than 50 miles away, and restaurants or lodging rarely more than 100. As for shop locations, your motorcycle dealer or owners group should be able to provide you with a reference guide. The Harley Owners Group, for example, gives its members an annual touring handbook that includes a 50-state atlas, detailed dealers directory, and loads of other useful touring information. I never go on a long ride without it.
It is not usually necessary to plan all of your specific gas stops. It makes sense, however, to avoid stretches of empty road longer than your tank’s cruising range. Also keep in mind that the next gas station may never be more than 50 miles away, but it might not be open 24 hours a day! Same goes for restaurants and lodging facilities. If you avoid mishaps and your bike is well maintained, you shouldn’t need to stop for parts or repairs. But if you do, the closer that shop is the better off you are. Keep that in mind as you chart the specific links of your course.
Hazards. Online map services like Maps.Msn.com or Maps.Yahoo.com can tell you how you COULD go from Point A to Point B, and here is an important link to help you decide how you SHOULD go:
This is the National Traffic and Road Closure Information website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. It is a clearinghouse of information on road closures, highway construction, traffic congestion, accidents, 511 traveler information service deployment, and even the weather. Another good source of online weather information can be found here:
Schedule. Knowing WHERE and HOW you plan to go, your final route considerations have to do with WHEN. If you have to complete the ride within a certain amount of time, or be somewhere at a specific point in time, here’s some handy statistics for you:
If you ride at 70 miles an hour, cover 100 miles between each stop, and spend an average of 15 minutes at each stop, you will be traveling an average of 1 mile per minute, or 60 miles per hour: 1 Minute = 1 Mile. Using this statistic, for example, you can project that a ride of 1,583 miles will take 1,583 minutes, divided by 60 yields 26.38 hours, which translates to 26 hours 23 minutes. Right on the money, based on my recent Bun Burner ride! And knowing how long it will take to get somewhere, you can easily determine when you will need to leave to get there by a certain time….
In a perfect world, that is. Use the links above to check weather and road conditions, and adjust your route and schedule accordingly. Remember that rush hour is no time to cruise through a major city, and that wet roads slow you down even with rain gear. And finally, note that the one minute, one mile rule does not make allowances for rest or sleep, but to be on the safe side, I suggest you’d better.
Like the backsliding televangelist said, “Do as I say, not as I do!”
Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!