Riding long distances with nothing but an endless stretch of road ahead - your cares, cars and concerns left behind - is oftentimes revered in the Gold Wing community. Iron Butt riders are given high praise and esteem. Many of us long for the days when we will have enough free time to trek across the country or finally check elusive destinations like Hawaii or Alaska off our lists.
Maybe we don't have a month to spare on a long trip but certainly a week or even an extended weekend to ride a few hundred miles and back. Yes, that's doable, right? We start to prepare, plan and research our upcoming trip. We want to be sure we get all our ducks lined up in a row. There are some of us, of course, who are more spontaneous and don't like to over-plan or overthink it. Whether you prefer planning, "winging it", or somewhere in between, there's a good chance you might make one (or more) of the following mistakes on your next tour.
1. Too. Much. Stuff.
Pro Tip: Use a scale to weigh items. This forces you to ask yourself, "Is it that important to lug this thing cross-country?"
There are many of us (you know who you are) who er on the side of packing too much gear. It's typically the rider who wants to be ready for any situation. They bring a change of clothes for every day they're gone, plus some extra for just in case. They throw in several jackets, pants and a handful of ear plugs.
While it's great to have everything you might possibly need on your trip, the fact of the matter is that it's really difficult, sometimes impossible, to fit it all on a Gold Wing (Unless, of course, you are towing a trailer). Plus, storing an excessive amount of gear can negatively affect handling.
For longer rides, we suggest that you pack enough clothes for half the length of your trip and wash them in the middle of it (or wear clothes twice if you don't sweat in them too much). Obviously, if it's only for a few days you should be fine. Bring one jacket with a liner that can handle warmer or cooler weather and a set of Frogg Toggs to wear over it if you think it might rain where you will be riding (or a spare trash bag might do in a pinch). Frogg Toggs are lightweight and take up less room compared to a waterproof riding jacket. Lastly, bring travel size versions of items like shampoo, toothpaste or a compact towel. For the low maintenance riders a bar of soap just might do the trick.
Also consider compartmentalizing items using WingStuff Saddlebag and Trunk Liners or plastic bags. Are you a collector? Leave some extra space for the "stuff" you might purchase along the way.
Do you have a story about overpacking for a trip that you'd like to share? Tell us about it it in the comment section below and you can earn WingRewards Points to be used as discounts on thousands of Gold Wing products.
2. Not Having A General Trip Plan
Pro Tip: Add a couple "buffer days" to your trip to account for unforeseen stops. If that's not possible, consider reducing your trip mileage
There are riders out there, especially experienced ones, who fall victim to overconfidence in their ability to "just Wing it." As many of us well know, things happen out there on the road and it's good to be at least somewhat prepared. There are a handful who are true "Free Spirits" who enjoy getting lost or caught in a rainstorm, but the majority of us want a smooth, stress-free experience.
Our general rule is the longer the trip the more planning it requires.
Going for a day ride close to home? You don't need to pack clothes or map out a route. All you really need is your riding gear, wallet, phone and some sun screen. Did I forget anything? Taking a weekend trip? Time to start packing some clothes but not as much as, say, a month long ride. See, the longer the trip the more preparation needed.
At a minimum we think it's a good idea to have a notion of how long the trip will take and where you will be riding during certain times.
I went camping in the Yosemite Valley this past May. As part of my planning I checked the weather forecast and saw that they were predicting snow one of the days. Snow in May?! If I failed to check the weather before leaving I might have packed for warmer temperatures and found myself in a stressful (and freezing) situation.
There was another time (in my younger days) that I rode down through Mexico's Baja peninsula to stay at a "beachfront lot" that belonged to a friend of a friend. Turns out, not only was it not beach front, but it was full of prickly plants, rocks and trash (and most likely some varmints and vermin too). I probably should have made sure it was an ideal camping spot before investing my time, energy and money for the trip. Instead I relied on others to plan the trip and had an "it'll work out" attitude, keeping my own planning to a minimum.
One final aspect to poor or no planning is the time to distance ratio. Say you're on a two month long trip from your hometown of Springfield to Nashville, Tennessee and back. In the first month you absolutely loved every small town you came across and stopped to explore them. As a result, you are halfway through your trip time-wise but only a quarter of the way regarding distance.
You see the problem? The back half of your trip will leave you with little time to explore because you're going to be spending long days riding just so you can get back home in time. Obviously, if you don't have time constraints (i.e. you're retired) then this might not affect you. Either way, be sure to consider the pacing of your trip so you have ample time to relax and reflect after riding a stretch.
Do you have any poor planning stories you would like to share with us? Leave a comment below and earn WingReward points!
3. Not Being Flexible (Refusing to Deviate From Your Plan)
On the opposite side of the spectrum is over-planning your trip and following it down to the letter. Listen, it's good to have an idea of where you will be going and how long that will take, but some of the best memories are made when we lean in to an unexpected turn of events.
The trip to Mexico I mentioned earlier? Once we found out our camping spot was a death-trap, we could have turned around and headed home. After all, we were in a foreign country and this was before Google Maps and Yelp. However, we decided to reexamine our options over some ceviche and chips and salsa. While there, we heard from the locals about a lovely beach where we could camp and that's exactly what we did! Best of all, we met several other friendly travelers who let us ride their ATVs, borrow their kayaks and ride in their ultra light. IF we had rigidly stuck to our (ill-formed) plan we would have missed out on all that great fun.
Point being, sometimes we have to open ourselves up to the possibility of an impromptu, spur of the moment change of plans. Because oftentimes they end up being our most cherished adventures.
Has your spontaneity while on a trip led to some great memories? If so, we'd love to hear about it!
4. Traveling with Another Rider or Group Having Never Done It Before
Pro Tip: Before committing to a group trip, meet as a group and clearly communicate your expectations, riding styles, preferences etc. Don't be afraid of politely declining if you think it won't be a pleasant experience
It's one thing to travel with someone new for a day or even a weekend. If they have riding quirks or habits that don't align with yours you can probably tolerate it for that amount if time. It's an entirely different situation, however, when riding long distance. There's an initial period at the beginning of the trip when everyone tends to be polite and on their best behavior. A week or so into the trip and the niceties usually go out the window and we simply are who we are.
Maybe they talk too much, not enough or perhaps they're too loud for your liking. Maybe he's on his phone all the time or he keeps interrupting you while you're on the phone. He forgets to cancel his turn signals. He blasts his music for the world to hear. He rides too slow or too fast. He rides too aggressive or too conservative. He refuses to lane split in traffic. He keeps lane splitting, leaving you way behind. There are a million different ways another rider might wear on your nerves over time because we all have unique personalities and riding styles.
That's why it's so important to spend some time taking several short-distance trips alone as well as with others to get a feel for your difference in riding preferences. Before heading out on your road trip, we also recommend you sit down with your prospective fellow riders and talk all this out. What time do they like to get up and hit the road? Are they more the scenic route type or "A to B" type rider? Are they more conservative or aggressive? Do they like to stop a lot along the way?
In other words, do you have similar goals, attitudes and riding skill levels? Are you like minded when it comes to motorcycle rides? If so, chances are you will get along fine on a longer trip. Remember, you are taking time off work, possibly time away from family and likely spending a good amount of money on a long-distance ride. You're investing a lot. So you might as well make sure it's the best experience it can possibly be. Clearly communicate your rules for the road and make sure you come to some form of agreement with the other riders.
Do you have any funny or crazy stories about a group trip that went haywire? Share it with us in the comment section below and earn WingRewards!
5. Too Much Focus On the Destination
Pro Tip: Instead of planning around destinations, focus more on route
Are you ready for one of the most over-used cliches in the motorcycle world? You know the one...It's not about the destination, it's about the journey. It's said so much that for many of us it has lost its meaning. So try and trick your brain into hearing it for the first time: It's not about the destination, it's about the journey. We know that this is true, but being human, we tend to forget it.
We get so excited to plan our trip and the places we want to explore, we have a habit of forgetting that the whole point is to get on our Wing and ride; to be out there on the open road. To shift this way of thinking, instead of focusing on destination, we recommend that you focus on route. What's the most scenic way to get there? Chances are, you will have a better overall experience this way.
If you are too focused on getting to a specific place by a certain time and feel rushed or anxious, you lose focus and run the risk of making a costly mistake while riding. Having goals for your trip is smart planning, but don't sacrifice the adventure for them. Above all else, make sure that you stay in the moment and enjoy the ride!