Maybe you’ve just got your first motorcycle and want to make sure it’s well used. Maybe you’re a moto-commuter, but you’re looking for a good recreational ride. Regardless of your reason, it’s possible you have never taken a full day trip on your motorcycle. Where should you go? What should you bring? How do you plan out your first day ride? Everyone’s got to start somewhere.

Picture of a Motorcyclist on a Harley-Davidson

Planning a Motorcycle Day Trip

If you’ve never planned a day trip before, you might feel a little overwhelmed at the prospect. Fortunately, it’s not nearly as difficult as it seems. All you need to do is sit down and approach planning systematically. You might be surprised if the trip practically plans itself!

Where Should You Go?

The most important aspect of planning any trip is deciding where to go and how to get there. When all is said and done, this is the part of your trip that will leave you with the most memories.

We suggest choosing a “destination ride,” where you choose an area of the state with great views or a place you’ve never been before. This can make a trip especially memorable as you experience a scenic route for the first time from your bike or travel to that national park in your state you’ve always wanted to visit.

Let’s take a look at a few things you should consider as you decide where you will go.

Pin over New York in Map on Northeastern United States

Ride Length

The first thing to do is determine how far you want to go. That begins with recognizing how far you can go. Ask yourself this question: How long do I want to be gone? Be reasonable with your expectations, especially if this really is your first ride. You might think that you can handle a 12-hour day, but it simply isn’t worth finding yourself burned out from riding when you’re several hundred miles from home. You might want to plan your first trip at eight hours or fewer. At the end, if you think it was too short, you can always make the next ride longer.

A Pocket Watch and Chain

Categorizing Your Time

Motorcycle trips are best spent admiring the views on scenic roads and enjoying the sights and sounds of your destination. Make sure that you allow yourself plenty of time to do both. You might want to break out your time into separate categories like riding, recreation, meals, breaks and extra.

Of course, you’ll need to spend time riding – that’s part of the fun! Just don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can travel four hours one-way in an eight-hour day. There wouldn’t be any time to do anything else before you’d have to turn around and go home. Spend about a third of your time on the road. Make sure that you allot yourself plenty of time to see different attractions. Your recreational activities should be roughly the same amount of time that you spend riding.

The other third of your trip is split among meals, breaks and extra. You can decide exactly how to split up your ride, but make sure you give yourself enough time to eat and rest. And what exactly is extra? Nearly every trip includes the unexpected – unanticipated traffic, a flat tire, additional attractions worth seeing or a 30-minute discussion with a fellow rider at the pump. By planning for these things in advance, you ensure that your overall plan isn’t interrupted. If you don’t like the thought of getting home early, plan some tentative stops as part of your extra time that you won’t mind cutting out if you need to – and make sure they’re towards the end of your trip.

Planning the Route

Once you know how long you’re actually going to be on the road, you can begin to plan an actual route. Since you only have a certain amount of time allotted to riding, how far you can go is largely dependent on how fast you can go. If you stick to highways, you can go a lot farther, but you might miss out on some great views. Even if you don’t think that scenery is for you, plan a route that incorporates the road less traveled for your first ride. You might be surprised how much you like it.

There are several ways to pick a riding destination. You might already have somewhere in mind, and that’s okay (as long as it isn’t too far). But if you just want to explore somewhere you’ve never been and know nothing about, there are plenty of online tools to help you.

Using Online Resources to Choose a Ready Route

There are several great resources with routes that others have already tried and tested. Here are a few that you can check out:

  • MotorcycleRoads.com – All you need to do is make a few clicks to see great routes that others have already created. Each route is given a score for scenery, road quality and roadside amenities, making it simple to gather a lot of great information at a glance. A user-rating system allows you to easily see how popular a given route is with other site visitors.
  • Sunday Morning Rides – With a slick interface and plenty of options, Sunday Morning Rides allows you to identify a route in your area and easily access relevant information via Google Street View or Google Earth.
  • Open Road Journey – You can enter a location in the search bar to find routes that others have added nearby. It includes a description, a map and an option to download the route to a GPS unit.
  • BestBikingRoads.com – It’s easy to zoom in and click on a specific route in your area. Each route is rated on a variety of factors (including corners, visibility, hazards, etc.). BestBikingRoads.com also sports an extensive international community if you want to ride outside of the United States (especially in Europe).
  • MotoWhere – Enter your location in the search bar to see what routes are available in your area. The website is fast and direct.

In some cases, the routes available in your area may not be exactly the right distance for the trip you want, but they can be a great starting point for getting ideas.

Setting the Date

Once you’ve got your trip planned out, it’s time to set a date. You may have already started with one in mind, but if you haven’t, you might want to consider if any events are occurring at your destination. Participating in festivals or other events is a great way to enjoy the local culture and make your trip that much more memorable.

Setting a date is largely up to you, but there are a few things you might want to be aware of. Check the weather ahead of time. Sites like The Weather Channel or Weather Underground are great for this. You should also remember that in heavily populated areas, larger roads (and sometimes smaller ones) can become congested during rush hour. You may also experience heavier traffic during events or holidays.

What Should You Do?

Once you know where you’re going, you need to decide what you’re going to see or do while you’re there. Take a look at your route. Be sure to include both your destination city as well as other places along your route.

There are a number of useful websites that display information about things to do in practically any location in the United States. A few of those resources are listed below.

  • Virtual Tourist – Browse things to do and restaurants to eat at listed by real people (many of them locals or residents). The user-content aspect of Virtual Tourist means that it misses a few items picked up by other sites, but it also includes a few unique details you might not find anywhere else.
  • Scout.me – With a focus on events more than locations, Scout.me is a great place to discover what’s going on in a given location. It features a number of great categories, such as Culture and Outdoors. It will also display details for nearby locations.
  • Yelp – Search an extensive database of local businesses, complete with reviews and other details. Yelp is a great site to find restaurants to eat at. If you want to cut through a lot of the noise on the site, access the Arts & Entertainment category for a few points of interest.
  • TripAdvisor – While it is primarily a site devoted to flight and hotel bookings, TripAdvisor also has an impressive database of tourism attractions. After you search for a city under Destinations, click Things to Do or Restaurants at the top of the page.

Don’t forget that there are many more resources out there. A quick search on a search engine like Google or Bing might yield a treasure trove of results. Try searching for the city along with terms like things to do, tourist attractions or points of interest.

Timing

With as extensive as these online resources can be, you might find too many things to do even in the smallest of cities. Decide in advance how long you want to spend at each location. That way, you’ll make sure to see everything on your list, and you won’t plan so many things that you run out of time.

Alternatively, if you prefer not to set time limits, you might just want to place each item in the order you’d like to accomplish it, understanding that you won’t see everything. When you run out of time, you simply head home.

Restaurants

Of course, if you’re going to be gone all day, you’ll need to find yourself at least one place to eat. You can always pack a lunch if you prefer, but choosing a local restaurant is one more way to get to know the area and enhance your overall experience. A nice meal at a local favorite is a good way to meet to people and get great food. Avoid hitting up chains or other establishments that will not add to the unique aspects of your trip.

Gas Stations

If you’re going for a particularly long trip, don’t forget to identify where you plan on filling up your tank with fuel. There are some stretches of country where gas stations are few and far between. Don’t forget that some stations are listed online that may have gone out of business. It never hurts to call in advance just to find out if you’re worried about gas station availability.

Rest Stops

Identify locations on your route where you can take a break if you need it. Since breaks are factored into your trip’s schedule, you shouldn’t feel like you don’t have time.

What Should You Bring?

If your motorcycle is outfitted with some sort of luggage, you’ll be able to take a little bit more with you. If your bike doesn’t, you might want to pick up a day pack or saddlebags. At the very least, you can use a backpack. Other than a bag, there are a few things you might want to consider taking along.

Cash

If you plan on doing anything that costs, you’ll definitely want to bring along something to pay for it. Don’t forget that you will also have expenses for meals and fuel. But even after that, you may come across toll roads in your route that you weren’t aware of. You may also need money to pass through certain national parks. It helps to look into those details in advance, but it never hurts to keep a little cash on you just in case. Don’t forget that while credit cards offer an extra level of convenience, it’s best to carry cash as well since some places still aren’t set up to run plastic.

Appropriate Gear

A Picture of a Joe Rocket RKT – Prime Motorcycle HelmetBring along appropriate riding gear like jackets, gloves and boots. It’s important to be comfortable to avoid getting rider fatigue. And definitely don’t forget safety gear like your helmet.

Aside from riding gear, make sure you wear appropriate clothing for your excursion as well. You might consider multiple layers of light clothing that you can take off if it’s too warm or put on if it’s too chilly.

Mobile Phone

Your mobile phone is your lifeline in the case of an emergency. Make sure you bring your phone along and that it’s in a secure (and dry) location. Remember to completely charge it the night before your trip to make sure it has plenty of power.

Navigation

A Picture of the Garmin Dakota 20 GPSIf you’ve never been along the route you’ve planned for yourself, make sure to bring some sort of navigation. Today’s technology makes navigation easier than ever with GPS units. Some are able to mount directly to your bike’s frame or handlebars. Use this setup if you already have it, but it isn’t essential if you don’t. Also, many modern phones include GPS navigation software that operates in essentially the same way. Either way, make sure your device is fully charged in advance.

If you don’t have a GPS unit, don’t fret. Maps are still as useful today as they ever have been. In fact, some maps are available that are specifically designed for motorcyclists. If you don’t already have a map, you can print one online using a service like Google Maps.

Food

If you’re not the type that likes to eat out, you can pack a lunch. But even if you are, you might want to bring along some snacks. It’s also important to take water with you to make sure you don’t get dehydrated.

Camera

Don’t finish your trip with just memories. Take along a camera and take pictures. You can even submit them to our Ride and Tell section to get featured on our blog!

Emergency Kit

Nobody likes it when bad things happen, but those who don’t prepare like it even less. Make sure that you have an adequate emergency kit for unexpected problems.

A good emergency kit incorporates items for both you and your bike. A simple motorcycle repair kit is important. Keep a few spare parts and tools to fix common issues – flat tire, bad spark plug, etc. You don’t have to bring the whole toolbox with you, just take along what you need for minor repairs.

A Picture of a First Aid KitJust as your emergency kit should have basic repair parts and tools for your bike, it should also have a simple first aid kit. Even if it’s nothing more than small bandages and a tiny bottle of pain medicine, you’ll be glad you have it if you ever need it.

It’s not a bad idea to purchase an emergency phone battery just in case your mobile phone dies unexpectedly and you need it. Take along a list of emergency phone numbers as well. You may feel that this is unnecessary if you have relevant numbers stored in your phone’s memory, but if it is damaged on your trip, you’ll still be able to call important people from a payphone. You might want to look at tow services along your route in advance and write down their numbers just in case your bike breaks down.

You might be able to think of other items to pack along as well. For example, rain gear would be nice if you find yourself caught unexpectedly in a rainstorm.

How Should You Prepare for Your Ride?

For one thing, you should always perform any needed maintenance or repairs on your motorcycle before riding day ever comes. You’re going to be quite a distance away, and it’s best if your bike is in top shape for the trip.

Pre-Ride Inspection

T-CLOCS is a mnemonic acronym developed by The Motorcycle Safety Foundation and designed to help with pre-ride inspections. Each letter stands for a vital motorcycle component that should be checked.

Pre-Ride Inspection Checklist (or T-CLOCS): Tire, Controls, Lights, Oil, Chassis and Stands

 

  • Tires – Check the tires for any problems. Check the air pressure.
  • Controls – Check all levers and the brake pedal. Ensure that both front and back brakes function properly.
  • Lights – Make sure that all lights (including turn signals) operate.
  • Oil – Ensure that oil levels are appropriate. Fill up the motorcycle with gasoline.
  • Chassis – Check the suspension and drive system (chain and gears). Make sure all nuts and bolts are sufficiently fastened.
  • Stands – Ensure that the stand doesn’t swing down when you’re riding and that it securely holds your bike when you’re not.

This covers the basics of T-CLOCS. If you want a more extensive checklist, take a look at the PDF that The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has put together:

Tell Someone

Before you go, tell someone about your trip: where you plan to go, when you plan on returning, etc. Give them your specific route and the spots you plan on visiting. This is important in case of an unexpected event.

You might also find someone to go along with you. There’s nothing better than going for a ride and sharing the memories with friends.

Two Motorcycles Riding Around a Curve in the Road

Conclusion

Now you know how to plan and prepare for a day trip, even if you’ve never been on one before. Remember these key points:

  • Determine how long you want to be gone.
  • Categorize your time before you plan a route.
  • Utilize online resources to find ideas for a route.
  • Map out a route ahead of time. You can use a tool like Google Maps.
  • Set an appropriate date for the trip.
  • Identify the attractions you want to visit and how long you want to be there.
  • Make sure you don’t forget to take important objects like cash, a mobile phone, navigation methods, an emergency kit, etc.
  • Complete a pre-ride inspection before you go.
  • Tell someone where you’re headed.

Of course, don’t let the comprehensiveness of this post deter you from planning a great trip that matches your unique style. Take our advice and make it your own. Most importantly, take photos and let us know about the trip afterwards. We may even feature some of your pictures in a Ride and Tell gallery!

Once you’ve been out on the road, let us know how your trip went in the comments. We love to hear great stories about trips. You can also include any important details about planning a motorcycle day trip that you think we missed.

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