I am riding my motorcycle more lately, after pondering selling it and settling into old age gracefully. I have decided to ride it as long as I am able, but not to trike it if I become unable to ride on two wheels. The motorcycle in question is a 1998 Honda Gold Wing SE. The wife bought it new for my Christmas present in early 1999. I had been riding a used Honda Gold Wing Interstate, GL1100. I rode the 1100 down to the Atlanta area where we sold it to a friend, then drove over to Lawrenceville and picked up the brand new GL1500SE. The next day we rode it to Northern Virginia. It was January, and cold, but I had had enough experience of touring by then to keep warm during the whole trip. Of course, after that initial ride, I had to take it to my local mechanic for its 500 mile oil change.
We have ridden all over the Commonwealth of Virginia, to Lake George, NY, to Northern Ohio, to Greenville, SC, to Springfield, MO, to Dallas, TX, then on to Cripple Creek, CO, at which time we made trips to Wyoming and down to the Four Corners. The wife in all this had the worst of it, riding behind my motorcycle on a Yamaha Virago, but she never complained. I think she has ridden with me on the Gold Wing only once. After a long trip she rode in the back seat to a restaurant for dinner and back. We rode back from Springfield, MO through Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, to Atlanta, then onto Northern Virginia the next day. Of course that doesn't count the countless poker runs and visits to other chapters, and various charity events. I think I would have toured more then, but I was working and didn't have the time.
I was the safety officer for Goldwing Road Riders Association, Chapter VA-A for three or four years, and in that time of writing monthly safety articles, I did accumulate some knowledge and statistics. For example, a motorcyclist is 24 times more likely to die in an wreck than a car driver. That grim statistic can be mitigated by wearing proper clothing, jacket, boots, and a full face helmet. It can also be mitigated by constantly working on your motorcycle operating skills, and riding defensively. Oh, and don't drink and ride, and only in moderation when you do drink. There are old motorcyclists, and bold motorcyclists, but there are no old bold motorcyclists.
Motorcycle riding is a perishable skill, and one needs to practice it often to keep fresh.
A new rider is most likely to crash during the first 3000 miles of riding. I consider that when you switch brands, or styles of motorcycle, that 3000 miles starts again. Also, most motorcycle accidents happen within 3 miles of home. What that tells me is that a lot of motorcyclists figure that going to the store for a loaf of bread or something is not a big deal, so they don't take the precautions that they might take when going on a longer trip. A lot of motorcycle accidents are one vehicle accidents. A motorcycle rider is not up to riding that day, and his mind wanders, or he is worried about an upcoming meeting and so he doesn't watch the road ahead. For motorcycles, you need to lean the bike into the turn, and because you are using more of your available friction to both keep you going forward and turn the bike, you must get below the speed in the turn before the turn. If you brake in the turn, you may well use up your available friction, with the result that you and the motorcycle may start sliding toward the edge, and if the edge of the road is a drop, well...Motorcyclists need to always stay in the moment.
Something happened when we came to Raleigh, NC. The summers were incredibly hot and muggy. It is like living in someone's arm pit. My old leather jacket is too hot to ride in during the long summer. Even my AeroStitch Darien jacket, with all the vents open, is too hot. I have finally settled on a Firstgear net jacket, and that has been working for me since the weather turned warm. I don't feel as secure in this gear, but I have made the compromise for the sake of at least riding. Most NC riders I see are wearing short sleeved shirts, sometimes shorts as well, and tennis shoes. Such would never have done where I learned to ride, but I do understand.
Motorcycle touring is a specialty all of itself. One can go fully rugged, camping in a tent, and cooking over an open fire, or one can go the motel route. I prefer the motel, with a comfortable bed, air conditioning, and a hot shower to start the day. Coffee is nice too. Today I plan to go no more than 300 miles a day. I have gone as far as 600, but I was beat at the end, and today I would have to rest a day before continuing. If you are one of those people who packs everything but the kitchen sink, motorcycle touring will turn you into the quintessential light packer. You will be amazed what you can live without when on the road. It may have been years since you stepped into a laundromat, but you can wash your clothes there and keep going. Many hotels have washing facilities also. I have washed out several pairs of briefs in the sink and hung them to dry overnight. Then too, you can mail yourself, care of the postmaster at some distant location, pick up your supplies, and mail your dirty laundry back home. People pick up tee shirts from rallies they attend, wear them for several years, until they shirts are pretty worn out. So, they wear these old rally shirts along the road, tossing them in the trash at the end of each day, and pick up new ones at their destination.
I have tried many solutions to the inevitable rain. Most riding suits are rather worthless. However, FroggToggs do indeed work, are light, breathable, and keep a person dry. Of course, if it is raining a frog strangler, it is best to take cover and wait it out. If the weather looks to be an all day rain, stay in the motel, or plan a walking trip to visit local sights. Remember that a road trip on a motorcycle is not a sprint, and the journey is more important than the destination. A first aid kit, and knowing how to use it is good insurance. Some reading material is also a good idea for those days when you are kept inside by rain. Having a plan for what to do when things go sideways is also a good idea. Many of us have AAA or other roadside assistance insurance. But these guys are not going to be of much help when a motorcycle breaks down. Goldwing Road Riders Association has roadside assistance and you can call on members pretty much anywhere in the United States, Canada, Mexico and some European countries. One final tip on touring: don't plan to take the Interstate if you can map out a route along US highways and State roads. You may not get there as fast, but your route will take you through more interesting places.
For now, most of my riding is around town, as I get back into it. You have to work up to riding say, 6 or so hours. If I can, I would like to go to the Wings Over the Smokies rally. To prepare, I plan to have several shorter trips to this summer starting at around 2 hours, then 3, then 4 to build up endurance.