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Exploring the country on two wheels is one of the ultimate experiences of freedom for motorcyclists.
Even non-riders have probably day-dreamed of hitting the open road on a motorcycle at least once.
It’s true, a cross-country motorcycle trip can be an extremely rewarding right of passage and a great way to enter into the next chapter of your life on two wheels.
But, it’s not as easy as picking a destination and hopping on your bike. A long trip on a motorcycle can be a terrible experience if you don’t take the time to do it right.
We’ll go over some of the best advice for making sure you have the most successful trip possible.
Tips for Riding Cross Country on a Motorcycle
Before you hit the open road on your motorcycle, it pays to do a little planning and preparation beforehand.
Long before your trip and once you’re on the road, there are some things that you can do to make sure things go as smoothly as possible.
Check out the top 5 tips for a successful cross country motorcycle trip below.
1. Planning the Trip
First, and most importantly, you should spend some time planning your trip.
This will include:
- Determining your destination(s).
- Deciding how long you’ll have.
- Figuring out if you’ll be traveling with a friend or riding solo.
- Checking out the general routes you’ll use and making sure you have the maps/coordinates you’ll need.
If you’ll be crossing state lines, it’s also smart to make sure you are somewhat familiar with the motorcycle laws in the states you’ll be riding in.
Some key ones to look into include:
Once you’ve got your rough plan in place of where you’ll be going, when the trip will take place, how long you’ll have, and how you’ll be getting there, the outline of your journey is complete.
However, remember to leave some room for exploration and don’t be afraid to deviate from your plan (more on that below).
2. Preparing your Motorcycle
Another important first step is to make sure your motorcycle is ready for the journey.
This includes a full tune up and inspection of the bike before you set off. Some key things to take care of include:
- Changing your tires.
- Changing the oil.
- Inspecting chain and gears – replace if necessary.
- Making sure all lights and electronics are in working order.
- Checking that the battery is in good condition.
Find some motorcycle maintenance tips here.
You should be confident that everything is properly tuned and in good shape before you take off.
While you should plan and prepare for issues on the road, taking care of things before you leave is always better.
And then you can hope that your guardian bell takes care of the rest.
3. Packing the Right Gear
With your trip planned and your motorcycle tuned-up, you’re ready to start packing for the trip.
You’ll want to try to keep it light, while making sure you’ll have everything you need.
For one, you’ll want to have all the tools and repair kits necessary for any minor issues you can expect to encounter along the way. A simple tool kit and a tire patch kit can come in handy on most cross country trips.
Obviously, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got all the necessary riding gear (helmet, boots, gloves, jacket, pants).
If your gear is old, it may be a good idea to upgrade to something a little more comfortable.
Next, you’ll want to make sure you’re dressed appropriately for the trip. It’s a good idea to dress in layers, that you can strip down or build up depending on weather, altitude, wind, humidity, etc.
Since you’ll be covering a lot of ground, you’re likely to experience a variety of climates and weather conditions.
It’s also smart to pack some rain gear, just in case.
Other necessities like food, water, sunscreen, and first aid items are also important to have on hand.
As you pack, just be sure to secure the load properly, make sure the most important items are easily accessible, and don’t overload your bike and bring things you don’t really need.
4. Taking Breaks
Riding a motorcycle for long distances – even the most comfortable of bikes – is tiring.
You’re going to get sore, you’ll cramp up, and you can become overly exhausted if you ride for too long.
One of the most important pieces of advice for an enjoyable cross-country ride is: Don’t try to cram too many miles into too little time.
In other words, you should plan for breaks.
Part of the fun in a cross country trip is being able to get off your bike and explore different places.
As you’re planning your journey, think about some of the destinations you’ll see along the way.
If you get tired, stop and take the time you need to recharge and refresh until you’re ready to get going again.
In fact, slowing down and taking breaks is the best way to get the most unexpected pleasures out of the trip. You’ll be more likely to talk with a stranger, find some local tips, learn about a better route, and enjoy some tasty food.
5. Enjoying the Journey
Remember, the purpose of this trip is for your own enjoyment. No need to tourture yourself to reach the end.
This tip goes along with taking breaks and the time you need.
There’s no reward in reaching your destination if you didn’t enjoy the journey getting there.
Take care of the planning and preparation before you hit the road, and you’ll be better able to enjoy the journey along the way.
Be open to changes, be prepared for setbacks, but always seek to enjoy the experiences you’ll have along the way.
Types of Motorcycles for a Cross Country Trip
Choosing the right type of motorcycle for a cross country trip is an important decision.
Not every bike is designed for long rides or comfortably holding highway speeds for long periods of time.
Plus, choosing the wrong bike for your trip can be extremely uncomfortable. Can you imagine riding a Honda Grom across the country?
Things to Look for in a Cross-Country Motorcycle
There are some common features to look for in a motorcycle that will be good for a cross country trip. They include:
- Comfortable seat with an upright riding position. (Learn what makes a comfortable motorcycle).
- Footpegs set towards the front.
- Adequate cargo and luggage compartments.
- A larger engine (1000cc+) that can cruise comfortably at higher speeds.
- Decent fuel capacity and gas mileage.
- Windshield and fairings.
Other amenities are also nice to have like:
- Cruise control.
- Heated seats and heated hand grips.
Some of the most popular motorcycle types to take cross country include:
Models to Consider
While many different motorcycles can take you across the country, it always helps if you start with a bike that’s better designed to get you there comfortably and reliably.
Some of the best motorcycles for cross country trips include:
- BMW R 1250 GS Adventure
- Harley Davidson Electra Glide
- Honda Goldwing
- Indian Roadmaster
- Kawasaki Concours 14
- Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Voyager
- Suzuki V-Strom 1050
- Triumph Tiger Explorer 1200
- Triumph Trophy SE
- Yamaha FJR1300
Routes to Explore on your Bike
The great thing about taking a long trip on your motorcycle is that you can go basically anywhere you want to.
The United States, Canada, and Mexico all offer you endless opportunities to explore and adventure.
The best route for you will depend on where you’ll be starting from, but nearly every region of the country offers some great options.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out these popular routes:
1. Route 66
Historic Route 66 is one of the most iconic cross-country routes, whether you’re on a motorcycle or in a car.
While the original Route 66 does not exist any more, you can still trace the historic route through 8 states from California to Illinois while passing through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri.
The way is well mapped, so you’ll be able to pick it up from any of the states along the way.
2. PCH (Pacific Coast Highway)
If you’re on the west coast, the Pacific Coast Highway is another great choice.
It stretches from Olympia, Washington to San Diego, California and mainly follows US 101 and CA Highway 1.
The majority of the route will allow you to trace the coastline down the entire western side of the country where you’ll encounter some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the world.
3. East Coast & the Overseas Highway
If you’re on the east coast, you can race Interstate 95 and its surrounding north-south routes from northern Maine until you catch the Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys.
Like the PCH route on the west coast, you’ll get to see a huge variety of both natural and manmade landscape and scenery.
4. The Great River Road
If you live in the midwest or the south, the Great River Road follows the Mississippi river from Minnesota down to where it terminates in the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana.
The route covers 10 different states, and can be picked up in any one of the going north or south.