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Trip Planning - Part 1

The dark days of fall and winter are kicking in, making it the perfect time to kick back and get into a little trip planning for the coming year. Or - if you live in the Northern hemisphere, it may be the perfect time to head to the southern hemisphere and take in a tour. Whatever your next long trip will be, there's always some planning that needs to happen.

Are you ready?

How long have you been riding and, more importantly, how comfortable are you with your riding skills? Getting whacked or otherwise crashing during a tour can be a serious issue you'd rather avoid with the skills necessary to avoid such. It gets even creepier if you're taken out in a second or third world country, where you'll most likely need to be shipped home or elsewhere for the proper care. More on this later in part 2.

The bottom line is if you didn't become a motorcyclist and learn to ride it six months ago so you can leave on a tour today. Do it when your riding skills are at a more comfortable level.

Where to?

Picking a destination means committing to it and building a trip around it. You could select a specific date to arrive there, or simply select a country with a time period you plan to travel there. It's a different ball game for everyone.

Younger riders have more years ahead of them, so the world is their oyster. Older riders have less hours on a bike left. If that's you, it's time to write up your bucket list and start hitting your targets. Many tour companies won't accept riders over a certain age, so if you're planning to ride with a tour company, that's something an older rider needs to check out right at the start of planning.

Being a world traveler is decidedly different today than if was 100 years ago. There are many places today that are unsafe to travel into, or can't even be accessed at all by Americans. Typically, the closer to the equator a country is, the more politically and socially strained countries are. So yeah, that trip to New Zealand or Norway may make more sense than traversing the central African landscape.

Tour with a group, or do your own thing?

Some riders like the idea of having the route laid out for them in advance and riding with a group. This can be a wonderful way to travel, especially the more reputable and seasoned the tour company.

It can also be more expensive since tour companies need to profit, staff needs to be paid and all the hidden things you don't think about like insurance, pre-ride expenses and otherwise need to be paid.

Doing your own thing means a lot more planning, but a vast savings on overall expenses.

Either way, find the sites for tour companies who offer trips in the areas you want to travel, read about your options and use their FAQ and resource pages to help you better understand what's ahead.

When to book?

If you plan to join a group and use one of their bikes, the sooner you book, the better. Bike choices get slimmer as the clock ticks. Most groups are only 10-20 riders, so again, the sooner you book, the better. Be sure you understand all the tour companies' refund policies before making your commitment. Some offer no refund at all.

Theme

If you want to spice up your own tour of several days, weeks, months or longer, attach a theme to it. "John's quest for the perfect BBQ," "Marla's Monuments and Museums folly" or, always a favorite, "Hot Pools Hydrotherapy ride." By attaching a theme to your tour, you'll be pushed into doing a little research about where you're going which will undoubtedly lead to some off-the-beaten-path side trips and scenery you may have missed breezing from town to town on the main roads. It's also going to make for many more photo ops and you'll be meeting others who have some of the same interests as you.

How long

Depending on where you are in life, how long is an open-ended option. Some us only have time for a few weeks on the road each year, while others can take off for several months and explore. While some think they are restricted by available finances, it's surprising how far some riders get on a small amount of money a day. And yes, if an extended trip is what you want, but don't think you have enough cash to swing it, look into some of the ways other riders have stayed afloat on the road. Help from friends, picking up an odd job and networking with other riders to locate low-cost to no-cost accommodations can make a dream reality.

Rent or Ship

Many tour companies will allow you the option of renting one of their bikes, or getting your own there. The plus side to brining your own, is if it's cheaper to ship your own you'll be saving some money. But remember, you'll have your bike tied up shipping several weeks in advance and several weeks after. That's okay, if you have another bike at home to ride in the meantime.

Days off

We once knew a rider who traversed the entire globe in under 7 weeks. That sounds like 6 weeks of hustle and bustle, long days, multiple border crossings compressed into a short time and no doubt paying higher prices along the way to make a deadline.

Trips more than a few days deserve one to two days a week off the bike. If your idea of motorcycle touring is to have fun, be sure to relax a day here and there off the bike and soak up your surroundings without the worry of gearing up every single morning.

Tom Mehren/December 2017


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