Organizing A Motorcycle Road Trip

Map and brochure for motorcycling

The following 5 factors are the key elements to a trip: 

  1. Destination
  2. Dates
  3. How many days
  4. Where to stay
  5. Ride Route

The destination is usually already figured out to some degree. If not, you either decide where you as the organizer want to go or turn to your club for suggestions on where they want to go. There are lots of good materials available to come up with good ideas for trips. You can visit www.byways.org if you don’t have a clue. You can read Road Runner, American Rider and Hog Tales magazines for a host of ideas.

National Geographic Guide to Scenic Highways & Byways  Click here to buy this book

If you have a completely open slate than you have more things to figure out. As a ride organizer the less things you have to decide the easier the task. For example the dates of the trip are the most important element and I like someone else to determine the dates. When I organized the trip to The Little Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania the dates were picked by someone else as a Friday thru Sunday trip. I just had to fill in the rest of the blanks.

The length of the trip will have an impact on how many club members will participate. I imagine the less days on the trip the more people will be able to fit the trip into their personal schedule. I have not yet scheduled or organized a one nighter, so I don’t know for sure that my theory is in turn a fact. I’m thinking that if you want to take an advanced trip and you are trying to avoid having less experienced riders come or you just want to keep the group small, then a longer trip might be the answer. You should get a hard core commited group of serious riders for a 4 or 5 day trip as opposed to a 3 day weekend trip.

HOG Touring Handbook 2008 

Where to stay? This is usually where the club looks to you, the organizer, the most. So far I have organized two types of trips: Home Base and Nomad. With a Home Base trip we stay at one hotel the entire time and ride the area the hotel is in. A Nomad trip is one where we are covering too much distance to stay in the same hotel every night. We might stay in a different hotel every night of the trip. I actually try to stay at “Motels” that have the rooms opening directly to the parking lot so we can park our bikes outside of our rooms for security and peace of mind. The first thing I do is use the HOG Touring Handbook to locate the closest Harley Davidson dealership to our destination. Then I find that dealerships website and e-mail the marketing person at the dealership. Sometimes I am able to contact the local HOG chapter also. I ask them for reccomendations on where to stay. Sometimes they send me a packet of brochures in the mail and sometimes I strike out. Rebecca at Cox’s Northern Tier Harley Davidson in Mansfield, PA sent me a huge packet of travel brochures. She included one for Wests Deluxe Motel with a post it note saying “this is across the street from our dealership”. I looked it up on the Internet and it looked perfect. I also looked up a bunch of other places that looked good too. I decided Wests had the approval of the dealership and was close to the dealership if we needed emergency motorcycle services, which we did! I called and made the arrangements. All I did was make sure the rooms were available. I did not try to work out a special deal or discount that would put me in a position to get a commitment from a specific number of members from my club. I did not put myself in a position to make a financial obligation using my credit card. Basicly I just located a good place to stay and left it up to my fellow club members to call and make their own reservations. Sometimes finding the hotel requires more research on the Internet. I go to the travel sights such as www.expedia.com and enter the city we are traveling to and see what hotels and motels come up. I only look at the ones with pictures and try to find one that has room entrances opening to the parking lot. This usually narrows the field pretty well. Then I look at price because I try to make these trips as affordable to everyone as possible. This also has an impact on how many members will participate. 

Microsoft Streets & Trips mapping softwareClick here to buy this software on DVD

Ride route to the destination and back home are a key factor in your trip. My HOG Chapter does not like interstate highways. We are out to ride the scenic backroads of America and are not in such a hurry to get to the destination that we want to blow through every state at 70 or 80 mph. You can plan the route yourself or turn the ride route over to someone else. I recently turned the ride routes over to our head Road Captain for our upcoming spring trip. I also turned the ride routes for our summer trip over to an experienced Road Captain more familiar with the area than I. Planning the ride route is fun, but I am still experimenting and I’ll let you know how it goes. Whether I plan the ride route or not, I map the ride route out and give everyone directions and maps they can follow if they decide to take the trip on their own, leave later or earlier than us, or just plain get lost somehow. I think that everyone having their own map eases everyones stress. Currently I am using a software program from Microsoft called Streets & Trips to make the maps. Previously Diana would print out each section of map from www.mapquest.com and tape them all together. Then we would trace the ride route on the patched together map and scan that into our scanner to create a map we could ditribute. Also, keep in mind the HOG Touring Handbook has specific roads hi-lited as “scenic”. You should try to build these into your ride routes.

The riding you do during the trip is also a key component. For our trip to The Little Grand Canyon I was fortunate enough to have the Director of the local HOG chapter loan us some Road Captains who knew the area well. They did an amazing job and made our trip a complete success. As a back up, I had received a number of copies of a brochure called Motor Thru The Mountains of Pennsylvania. This brochure has 6 mapped out ride routes through Tioga, Potter and McKean Counties. See www.motorthruthemountains.com regarding this brochure. Similar brochures are available from a number of states, you just have to find them. I have some for Virginia and West Virginia specifically for motorcycling. I’m sure there are alot of them out there.

OK future motorcycle trip organizers, get to it and start planning your trip! Feel free to contact me for help. Please leave comments with your own ideas and oppinions on how to plan a motorcycle trip. If you have a prayer that ensures good weather on the dates you scheduled your trip, please forward that to me. So far I have just been very lucky regarding weather. I wish there was a way to control this. I’ll let you know if I find one.

6 Responses to “Organizing A Motorcycle Road Trip”

  1. You know, the hardest thing for me is to find riders who want to ride. I like looking at stuff and stopping here and there, but when you start hitting the outlets…you lost me. The only thing I have to suggest is know who you are riding with intimately. Be on the same page about why, where and what you are going to do. Decide who is in charge and agree to it. I have been on some rides where I just left because the others were fighting about the route, when to stop. Don’t have time for that. Heh, want to find out who your friends are? Take them on a week run and you will find out fast. heh.

    You have brought up a important point here at the start of the 2008 riding season. Good planning is what will make a run a memorable one. It’s got some bugs, but I have been messing with the “Ride Planner” on the HD site. In conjuction with the “Touring Handbook” it looks to be a great way to plan a trip. You can set up waypoints and specify to avoid interstates. You can save it and email it to the posse. You can even switch to areal view that zoom right down to the road. (you can even see cars in the picts)

    Thanks for the tips and recommended planning tools. I am going to check out the NGEO scenic roads.

  2. You can’t have a dozen chiefs and no indians. If you are planning the ride, then do just that. We have put together ride packets with the maps, itinerary for the trip, hotel information, etc for everyone going on the trip. It is well established what we will do, though there is always room for a little “personalization.” Anyone who goes on a side trip knows that they are doing it on their own and the rest of the pack is not expected to follow. The info has always been well received, and our trips have worked out great! I look forward to many more successful trips this riding season and for several years to come. 🙂

  3. Thats the way to do it. It’s just about having fun.

  4. I probably won’t get to do anything more than day trips this season due to circumstances beyond my current control.

    This is great advice though, and I’ll take advantage of these suggestions some day, with any luck, in ’09.

  5. Greatings.
    My name is Ben and Recently my fiance was accepted to Purdue in indiana. I however live in the Buffalo Rochester area of ny. I would like to find a road trip going near Purdue. Its about 1 hour 45 minits east of chicago. its a 9 to12 hour ride depending on route. Im trying to find some planed trips That might be going my way or if any one is just up for a ride.
    Thank you
    Ben

  6. Greetings back at you Ben. Congratulations on you engagement and your fiance’s acceptance to Purdue. Without putting alot of research into this I was thinking you could drop down into Allegheney National Forest in Pennsylvania. Then maybe you could drop down and catch the National Historic Road which will take you from Pennsylvania through Ohio and into Indiana. Check out http://www.byways.org for more info on National Historic Road which is a multi state byway which goes from Maryland to Illinois.

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