Your first road trip to Sturgis, or anywhere, may find you with a mild case of the jitters. I have had conversations with seriously experienced bikers who have had the jitters prior to their first cross country trip.
I remember the summer prior to our first trip. I was so pumped I didn’t think about being nervous. Until one day while watching the weather, the US map was on display and I actually looked at the distance from my state to South Dakota. That is when I thought, shit; that is a long way to go on a motorcycle.
Not wanting any dread for this trip I had been so excited for; I instantly began thinking of ways to minimize the distance. First, my Dad was our Road Captain and his goal was to enjoy the journey as much as the rally. We only traveled 500 miles a day and didn’t travel at night. We allowed enough time off for travel & the rally so we weren’t in a rush. So I thought 500 miles, no problem, we burn 250+ mile days without realizing it.
The second technique I used to minimize the distance was gas stops. We can all easily ride out a tank of gas. If you can ride a tank of gas without hesitation, then think of the trip as ONE gas stop at a time. Mentally divide your day into gas stops. Allow enough travel time per day to use your gas stops to rest from any fatigue and fuel up with fluids and food, if necessary. The adrenaline also helps. While you are on the road, embarking on this journey, it all feels different than a routine trip or familiar weekend ride.
If the distance doesn’t make you nervous, the stories are killer. Everybody has a story. Wind, Rain, ROCKS, you name it – a biker has experienced it. And we all love to tell our stories. Shit happens on the road, no doubt. And if you are not an experienced, confident rider you should not make a cross country journey. If you are a passenger you have to endure the travel and all the elements just the same, but you don’t need the skills required to maneuver the motorcycle through the things you might experience. But you do need to be a skilled passenger, read the article on passengers on a motorcycle if you are new to riding.
An experienced rider shouldn’t have problems with ‘situations’ that you may, I repeat, MAY, encounter on your journey. It is not necessary to ride through hail storms, or lightening strikes. You always have the option of pulling over. Pop up storms happen and you may get caught in something temporarily.
Maybe you have a Road Captain that doesn’t see ANYTHING as a challenge. I would suggest getting together days prior to leaving to discuss what you feel would make you uncomfortable enough to diminish your ability to travel safely. Keep in mind, however, that every time you ride outside of your comfort zone you are gaining skills as a rider and each situation becomes less of a big deal.
A perfect example of this: When I first started riding my own Harley, I hated passing semi’s on the interstate. Especially since our speed of travel was already at my highest end of comfort, (the sweet spot between smooth and the infamous Sporty death wobble) and passing a semi meant not only bracing for the wind, but also increasing my speed to minimize the time spent along side of the semi.
One spring, after a long, snowy, crappy winter, my husband and I got on our bikes, desperate to ride. I don’t know what the wind speed was that day, but the white caps in the pond should have clued us in. The wind was blowing so hard that every gravel driveway we passed sand blasted our bikes, not to mention our faces. Debris, such as limbs & garbage cans, were flying across the road. Needless to say, keeping the bike on the road was a challenge. That trip lasted 15 miles, that’s it. But now. . .semi’s? Ha! They are NOTHING!! I learned that day that I could handle my bike in sustained winds at least 2-3 times stronger than those coming from a semi for a brief moment.
I am not recommending going out in dangerous situations to improve your riding skills! But embrace the learning opportunity if it does happen. Somehow that makes it easier to deal with.
The most important thing you can do before heading off on a long journey is to have confidence in your abilities. Your state of mind plays a big role in your riding abilities. If you feel you are lacking a little in experience but still plan to go, take as many road trips that you can before the big one, to gain more experience and exposure to ‘situations’ that occur while riding.
Everyone I have talked with that had experienced a little nervousness, agree, that it was all for nothing. The trips were awesome and the ‘situations’ just add to the whole experience for the better. Have fun, ride smart, and be safe!
Keep the amount of miles traveled in a day manageable and reasonable.
Do not travel at night.
Look at the day of travel as one gas tank at a time, in other words, gas stop to
Have a meeting with your traveling group and Road Captain about limitations.
Don’t push yourself beyond what you know you are capable of handling.