Route 66 Midpoint

What Riders Ride – Part 2

June 2005

This is the third installment in a series about the combination of rider, ride, route and resources required to endure and enjoy long-distance riding (LDR), and the second of two parts discussing the ride. Our focus last month was what kind of motorcycles distance riders do ride. Our focus this month is what kind of bikes they should ride.

Part 2 of 2: What kind of motorcycles SHOULD distance riders ride?

Last month we shared a survey showing that touring bikes like the Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic and Honda Gold Wing were popular choices among last year’s IBA SS1000 riders, and that only 2 out of 2,911 riders managed to make the 24-hour, one thousand mile run on bikes described as choppers. Those two guys must have truly learned the meaning of “Saddle Sore”!

So, what kind of motorcycle should a distance rider ride? Well, it probably shouldn’t be a Billy Lane one-off hardtail kidney-cruncher, but it doesn’t have to be a Geezer-Glide either. Simply stated, the motorcycle should be capable of covering your intended route, in your targeted timeframe, with the capacity to safely, securely and comfortably transport you and your gear. The most important criteria are capability, capacity, and comfort:

Capability: Knowing your route, stops and timeframe, you can calculate how fast you will need to run and over what distances. Is your bike engineered–and in condition–to handle the demand? If so, the next question is fuel range. What is the longest distance you have to cover between gas stops? Given your bike’s rate of fuel consumption at the speed you plan to run, is your tank large enough? Next comes maintenance and repair. What are your bike’s maintenance intervals? If unanticipated repairs or scheduled maintenance are required over the course of your trip, who will perform them and where are they located?

Is your bike backed by a nationwide dealer network like Harley-Davidson or Honda, or will you have to call Russell Mitchell at Exile Cycles, praying that he’s close by and has a clear head?

Capacity: Every motorcycle has a recommended load limit. Find out what it is for your bike, and make sure the combined weight of you, your backwarmer and your gear do not exceed it. And as for gear, test and verify that everything you need for your trips can be safely secured on the bike, without impeding maneuverability, and without impacting balance by adding too much weight to the front, left, right or rear.

Comfort: Last year, the SPEED CHANNEL‘s Greg White and Dan Parisi rode cross-country on a pair of 49cc Yamaha Zuma scooters. They didn’t cover a thousand miles a day, they weren’t packing all of their gear, and they didn’t finish without repairs, but they did make it! Check out their press releases at, and you’ll see that one of the recommendations is “Get some pillows for your butt.”

In distance riding, the comfort of your ride is just as important as its capability and capacity. Comfort considerations go far beyond the saddle, and the determinations are highly subjective. A bike that feels right to a 25 year-old taut and slender six-foot female, for instance, might bring sheer agony to a short and stocky 55 year-old male. And come to think of it, so might the female….

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!