A little planning goes a long way


It’s riding season, and time to plan those bucket list road trips you’ve been dreaming about! How do you make those dreams a reality? The first secret to a successful ride is proper planning. Whether rolling solo or leading a group, developing a simple plan is always the best way to go. Let’s get started.

When I was a much younger man, I would take off on the road with a general idea of a destination and then just take everyday as it came. While this approach resulted in some very interesting times, I don’t think it works very well for group rides in today’s world. Over the last few years I have been planning and leading both local day rides in our area, as well as rides over several weeks and many thousands of miles. I always come up with and ride a plan, however simple or complex it may need to be.

Planning any ride obviously requires a destination to begin with, or at least some broad goals. On my day trips I always pick a restaurant that is generally around one hundred miles from our starting point. These trips are easy to research using tools such as Google Maps. You can find restaurants and see the menu with reviews and pictures, and check out the reviews. On these rides I plan a stop at around fifty miles to take a break, stretch and allow for some visiting. These rides are after all, a social event.

Ah, the thrill of the open road, the world before you. Let’s ride. Photo by Mike Boyd

As for the trip route, you need to consider the skill level of the riders accompanying you. Some might not be as confident as others on mountain roads, for instance. Plan with your lower/newer skilled riders in mind. You were once one yourself. I also consider the parking lots where we are going. Flat paved lots are best for a group with varying skill levels, but not always possible. Those are usually discoverable with a little online research as well, fortunately.

As for the ride itself, I find that the standard staggered dual riding formation is the safest. I don’t like a group to ride “CHiPs” style, as in side-by-side. Too potentially hazardous, with less options for emergencies. I always tell riders not to run stop lights or do anything dangerous. Often at stop signs with larger groups, riders can roll out together in a “box” of four bikes at a time, the general space equivalent of a car. I say, “If we get separated due to traffic lights, etc., we will stop at the first safe place, pull over and wait for you.” I think a group of twelve bikes or less work best for these rides. Larger groups over a dozen can become unwieldy and difficult to keep together. But it is doable, of course.

Planning long trips over hundreds or thousands of miles and multiple weeks is a different beast but a lot of the same kind of planning goes into it. I plan most long rides to try and cover five hundred miles per day. That way we have time to stop every one hundred miles or so for a short break and time for a nice meal or refreshment (and some self-chiropractic). As with all my rides I research interesting things to see and do that are along our route. These are always the kind of elements you will remember later. Make time for them in your trip planning.

Road tripping is best enjoyed with companions. Photo by Mike Boyd

As for hotel/motel reservations I like to find the actual hotel phone number and call them directly. Always check their cancellation policy as plans can often change. Also, look for inns that have eateries nearby so you can walk over. This is nice after a long day on the bike, for the group to unwind and reflect on the day together. I also recommend avoiding city centers for safety’s sake.

As for those longer trips, make sure your bike is recently serviced and in good condition- tires, brakes, fluids, the whole “T-CLOCS” checklist. Nothing screws up a trip more than a bike on a wrecker and at the mercy of an unknown motorcycle shop. Also pack smart. It might be hot where you are but if you’re going to the top of the Rockys it will likely be darn cold. Always carry a good rain suit and do not let your boots fill up with water! Research the weather apps to see what is forecasted where you’ll be riding to and through, and pack accordingly. And save room for those souvenir t-shirts.

Failing to plan is planning to fail! Put a little grey matter into your next solo or group ride, whether across town or across the country. The memories you’ll make and remember will be worth all the preparation you put into it.

Ride Life!

Mike Boyd


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  1. Hawkeye

    Great tips. If I may add a few ideas I learned over the years? In the offseason, I save all my nastiest underwear and Tshirts, and Sox. I pack those and toss them each day. That makes room for the inevitable new T-shirts and other stuff you accumulate. And I use “space bags” to pack whatever I can so the other clothes also pack more compactly.


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