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How many miles for a newbie?


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How many miles (or years riding) would you consider minimum before setting out on a cross country trip? My s.o. has about a year on the bike (daily commuting etc.), is progressing just fine, but still needs to slow down in the twisties. She did fine crossing the state (Washington) a couple times this summer. She's more than up for the adventure in other ways, but I fear that this spring or early summer may still be too soon for a full coast to coast trip. Any thoughts?

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I think she would be fine.


The key here is to not set too ambitious a schedule in terms of X miles per day, or, we HAVE to be here by tonight.


Have fun, ride your own ride, and post the pics when you get back!

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As far as risk assesment goes, the only concern about a cross country trip are 2 things:


1) ALL roads will be unfamiliar.

2) The weather. Unless you are planning on stopping for days at a time, she will have to ride in the rain and/or crosswinds.


Otherwise there's nothing less safe abotu riding corss country than riding around town. Actually, urban riding around town even being familiar roads are much more dangerous that country roads or the freeway because of the volume of traffic and other drivers on the road.


All riders starting out ride slow on twisty roads. It takes time to get comfortable managing braking, downshifting, turning and accelerating all in a coordinated manner, and twisty roads make it more noticeable. Also, judging a turn and picking a line takes a lot of practice.


The single most important thing that takes practice is looking through the turn and up the road and using periphrial vision to positon your bike on the road in front of you. This will make the single biggest improvement in your riding and even when driving your car.


In 3 words "GO FOR IT!"

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When I started riding, I took off for a long trip (7+ days, 2500-ish miles) when I had less than 5,000 miles/6 months under my belt.


We did several things differently for that trip that we have done for any trip since. The biggest thing that we did was to ensure that, for the most part, I took the lead. That meant that I got to set the pace-and to stop if I felt I needed to. Of course, it turns out that I tend to go to fast for Mark's taste, and I don't stop often enough for photos, and I never stop for historical markers......


We also made very sure that we had clear hand signals worked out in advance so that I could tell Mark if something came up. We still use most of those today-but we don't spend a lot of time figuring out ALL of the possibilities and trying to make up signals for them.


We also made sure to build in some flexibility so that, if things didn't go well, we could stop early/turn around at nearly any point in the ride. Finally, if Mark was in the lead, we made sure that I knew exactly where we were going so that, if we got separated, I didn't stress. Believe it or not, given my horrid sense of direction, that was the hardest part of that first trip for me.


Oh yeah-I also overpacked by a factor of about 20. I brought everything that I might ever need. We looked like a travelling circus by the time we had everything tied onto the bikes for the trip! blush.gif


Basically, we did a lot of things on that first trip that we don't worry about, or even think about today. It was all, in my case, a matter of ensuring that I was comfortable with what we were doing and that I knew that, if worst came to worst, we could get home without any big problems.


Truthfully, after all the stressing about preparation and such, it was somewhat of a letdown in terms of difficulty. It was really a series of 300-400 mile trips. And I had already done those. In fact, spending over a week on the bike and doing a lot of riding right in a row made me a much more confident rider-and I had a really good time.

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In line with what the others have already said, here's a couple formulas:


1. Longest Day Riden So Far = R. Days available for cross country trip = D. R x D = Miles trip you should attempt.

2. Total miles for planned trip = M. Days available for planned trip = D. M/D = Average miles required each day.


Enough fooling around, here's what I did: Prior to my first cross country trip the longest day that I had ever done was about 500 miles. I wanted to get to Lincoln, NE by the end of my second day. Lincoln is about 1,400 miles from where I live. So two or three months prior to the trip but after I had aquired some of my riding gear and equipment, I rode out to Morgantown, WV and back in one day - a little over 700 miles. I had three goals for this trip,

1) see if I could ride that far in a day

2) see if I would feel like I could do it again the next day.

3) evaluate my new gear: Darien jacket (pants hadn't arrived yet), Camelback, Funky Aerostitch 3-finger over-gloves & Sargent Tank Bag. I lucked out because on the return leg, I had 3 or 4 hours of cold spring rain. Found out the 'stitch and over-gloves worked great. And as a bonus I picked up some serious wet weather riding experience, which I really didn't have yet - a great confidence builder.


Having said all that, I think the real key to successful long distance riding is "planning" not previous miles ridden. Don't forget about the physical conditioning aspect either - I find a good stretching routine for several weeks prior to the ride helps.


For planning purposes, it's hard to beat the tips you can get from the people on this board. This is where I got a lot of good info back in early 2001 when there were far fewer people here to provide it.

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Daily commuting is one of the best things you can do to build bike handling skills. It also gets you comfortable and very familiar with the bike, which are both important things.


What part of her skills/abilities do you worry about?

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Has she ever had any formal training? Might be good for all concerned to get her into an ERC, if for no other reason than collecting some pointers in a controlled environment. I've never had an ERC grad say that they thought they wasted their $ on the class.

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What part of her skills/abilities do you worry about?


I guess I'm not so much worried about her skills, but you get out there 900 miles from home and little things add up. Like I said, she still slows down in the twisties, no biggie. Long stretches of road construction can cause her to panic.


The main thing, I suppose, is dealing with poor weather. Pulling over and calling it a day is great when you're standing in front of a motel, but several straight days of crap weather might be enough to make anyone throw in the towel. A lot of that stuff is fine near home, but several days on the road and it gets amplified. Something that would just annoy me, mighth give her a scare, and that really wears a person out, being scairt. Certainly at some point I'll be on the side of the road with a dumb look on my face, wondering why she wants to check in. I expect it. And I'm a pretty patient guy, but I don't want to push her into a big trip that's maybe too much. I'm not an instructor, after all....


From the sound of it though, considering the comments posted here, I may be worried about little or nothing.


Thanks all for the advice.

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OK, that makes sense.


Lisa had the same sort of issues. Wind and rain were pretty much deal breakers....she'd get so freaked out and so worn out dealing with them, that it just wasn't fun for anyone. And then we'd still have 150 miles to go to get to our destination, and she's totally worn out and ready to stop. Not fun.


I think time and experience are really the only things that will fix that. I mean...Lisa knew what to do to deal with wind and rain, but knowing what to do, and doing it are two different things.


It sounds like what is in order is several shorter trips. Weekends. Long weekends. Etc. Preferably something where there isn't a bunch of pressure to "get there". Let her build her confidence as she gains experience.


As for slowing down in the twisties...we had that same "problem" until Lisa spent a couple of days with the California Superbike School. After that, there was no more waiting for her to catch up after the twisty bits. grin.gif

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Lisa knew what to do to deal with wind and rain, but knowing what to do, and doing it are two different things.


Beyond knowing what to do, the other thing that experience gives you is a realistic basis for decisions. Once you've been through enough bad weather, you can better judge whether you're up to it or whether it's better to change plans. On the other hand, it wouldn't be an adventure if everything went smoothly.

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My wife is an occasional passenger on my RT. She is also a willing partner on the sailboat (34 foot) sailing the coast of Maine, or Nova Scotia, or where ever. BUT, she will never sail offshore. Never be out in gale force winds. I just know (and she does as well) that her comfort zone on the boat doesn't include waking up at midnight to stand a four hour watch or having to spend a 12 hour day in rain, too much wind, and fog.

So, she will drive to Nova Scotia. Fly to Bermuda, etc.

We recognize the limits of her desire to participate and we work with that.

Clearly discussing the "rules of the game" are absolutely essential. If she understands upfront that she will have to ride many miles wet and cold, it will work. Sit down and talk...

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Destination driven riding can be difficult. If you HAVE to be there, as is often the case with my riding, you have to put up with whatever the weather and conditions throw at you. I frequently do 5-700 mile days in the saddle under these conditions and it is NOT FUN.


If at all possible, keep your travel flexible. Set your goals for the day's travel at a reasonable level and don't feel forced to "press on, regardless". Better an extra night in a motel if the weather shuts things down than arriving at your next destination tired and miserable. If the weather turns to crap during the day, seek shelter. You want her first ride to be memorable for the good days, not the bad.


Even when things are good, stop often. I take a little break about halfway through each tank of gas (100 miles or so). Rest area or maybe a small town that looks interesting, a photo opp, you get the idea.

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I agree with everyone.


"Even when things are good, stop often. I take a little break about halfway through each tank of gas (100 miles or so). Rest area or maybe a small town that looks interesting, a photo opp, you get the idea."



Hey Ed


You ever gonna post those pix, or are ya savin em??????



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As for slowing down in the twisties...we had that same "problem" until Lisa spent a couple of days with the California Superbike School. After that, there was no more waiting for her to catch up after the twisty bits.


Sharon is getting better about that too. When we first got the bikes I dxxx near rear ended her a couple of times until we learned that I'd better be in the lead on twisties. Then we learned that waiting on the other end of the stretch is better. But, now after five months with the bikes she doesn't slow that much anymore (unless she's tired, or out of sorts in some way) and if I have to I can ride behind her. In front, I rarely have to pull over and stop for her to catch up, just slow down a bit on the straights. I agree, a local school we took helped a lot with that. Cal Superbike would be better. So +1 to a riding school for you two.


I should add that I firmly believe she needs to ride her own ride... I'm willing to incur more risk in curves than my wife and riding partner. She under no circumstance should try to keep up with me if she is uncomfortable. So it's good you, the OP, say you are patient. Make sure that she understands there is no pressure to ride faster.


I think it's great that you are both riding. For me that outweighs any compromises I have to make, and I'm sure that riding with anyone else there would be compromises there too. Also, I have to remember she makes compromises to ride with me.. I just don't know what they are so much.


As to your coast to coast. If you allow adequate time so that you can stop when you want to stop, and can go at a comfortable pace, take a day off when it's nasty, you'll be fine, and she'll love it.


Have a nice ride.

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I'd probably wait another year, but I tend to be conservative. I've ridden 250,000 miles the last 5 years, all over the continient, and can tell ya what lies out there.


You are correct when you say 900 miles from home, the little things add up. Now figure 3,000 miles and those things really come into focus.


Bombed out, deep potted roads high in the mountains, long, muddy, trenched contstruction zones that sport touring bikes HATE and wiggle in, massive congestion and mayhem in mega cities, where you have to watch traffic zip by at 90 mph at the same time looking for your exit. There are no long, empty roads in the East to the next town like out West, it is a different kind of riding.


There are things that cannot be taught in books or class. A rider learns over the miles the feel of the road, and the lay of the land. The situation he is IN, doesn't count, for then it is too late, he has to KNOW the situation that is ABOUT to happen, to avoid trouble.


Depending on where ya goin, riding across Washington (especially the East part of the state) is vastly different than riding the NJ Turnpike, or anything in the Northeast Corridor like I-95 DC to Boston. It will be very different from what she is use to. Crowded, narrow, and always congested, Seattle doesn't approach that type of traffic.


I'm sure there are guys on here that gonna tell ya "well I rode cross country with less than a year experience," but I'm thinkin they're leaving stuff out, and there might even be a few offering advice that ain't NEVER done it.


I'm not tryin to discourage y'all, because riding cross country is the most fun a guy can have, there is nothing like it, and the unknown is part of the adventure, but I just don't think a rider with only a year experience and miles in his home state is ready for such a undertaking.


I've known guys, who made ONE CC ride, and never did it again because it wasn't fun. They weren't prepared, and it soured them. A 3 week ride is alot different then 3-4 days a few states over. The phyiscal side of riding should be treated with respect, and the best way to do that is a gradual increases in saddle time over a long period. Certainly you can take short cuts, many have, but I'm thinking you wanna have the best chance at a good experience.


The long days in the saddle needed to cross the Great Plains can wear on a ya, blinding thunderstorms in the middle of nowhere where there is no choice but to keep going because there is not one thing out there that can offer shelter. There are scenarios where you must draw back on experience, and it is always good to have some a cc ride.


I'd spend the next riding season getting her ready with a couple of regional tours. Ride south deep into the Hotel California, the state has alot of vaired riding that will ready her for a CC ride. Ride into the Bay area and LA to prepare her the congestion of the East Coast, or other cities like DFW, Twin Cities, St. Louis, or Houston you are sure to have to pass through on your way east. Hone her skills so she can be prepared for whatever comes her way on a cc ride. Whats the rush?


A guy can do what he wants, but I can tell ya, I'm NOT puttin MY wife on a sport touring bike, taking a 2 week, 7,000 mile ride to the Hotel California, on one years experience? Nooo, I'm prolly gonna train her for at least 2.

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Seattle doesn't approach that type of traffic.
I think you got lucky when you were in Seattle.


The rest I completely agree with, but at times, Seattle traffic is one of my least favorites (and yes, I95 is on that list too - especially Boston area.)

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Me thinks you’re dealing with two issues here. There’s her riding skills and then there’s what’s fun for her. They’re obviously connected, but it’s just not everyone’s idea of a good time to ride all day, every day, even with lots of stops. In addition to focusing on her riding skills, have a good conversation with her about what a big road trip would look like if she was to plan it according to her tastes. Then, if necessary, compromise. cool.gif

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  • 2 weeks later...

I so agree with Guy, I took a friend of ten years and what I believed an endurance type of person. We did a couple long hulls 3-400 day trips - yes he was a bit slow on the twisty, and had a challenge maneuvering his bike at slow (parking lot) speeds. I thought this will iron out at our trip progressed. Not so, the stress of riding, his luck of touring and the sport cough up with him (and the little things were huge after five days with me). The small things like not putting ear plugs and his loss of hearing, abrupt speed variation, “Must be there by,” While pulling off to discuss rout keeping the engine running (OK, petty, but he could not hear me – Haa), and it went on.


The things the Guy mentioned, as well as the rest should be considered - motorcycling is a passion; this is a beautiful country. By pushing one self and your partner and compromising did my case no good - neither one of us enjoyed the trip as it was envisioned. Plan your trip but be flexible and willing to change course (not compromise the trip), build communication strategies, and keep the newer rider in front so you can assist when needed. I lost my rider servile times when I led; that is an uncomfortable filling.


I would say take few more two three day trips; they are fun and a great way to build your riding partnership confidence. The coast will be there when you are both feel ready and are ready - don't rush and good luck to you both.




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How many miles (or years riding) would you consider minimum before setting out on a cross country trip? My s.o. has about a year on the bike (daily commuting etc.), is progressing just fine, but still needs to slow down in the twisties. She did fine crossing the state (Washington) a couple times this summer. She's more than up for the adventure in other ways, but I fear that this spring or early summer may still be too soon for a full coast to coast trip. Any thoughts?


JUST-DO-IT!!!! Just do it man you'll never regret it!!!


Only having been riding on the local roads since 1974 and racing Enduro's for 4 years,in the spring of 1981 I bought a 1981 Moto Guzzi G5-1000.

Quit work,took $300 ,a sleeping bag and left with the bike the day after July 4th. Came home 2 months and 14,000 miles later. Visited every state west of the Mississippi except Alaska,Hawaii and North Dakota.


Here's me at Yellowstone Park 1981.


80's during the day and frost at nite. Yep,no tent,froze my *#@'s off! blush.gif

Slept just about every night but one under the stars. Oh,I forgot,and a couple in an outhouse when it rained!!!! dopeslap.gif


26 years later still seeing America on two wheels! Only this time with a tent!!! thumbsup.gif I gots smarts... grin.gif

July 2007 enroute to Deadhorse AK.



July 2005 first visit to AK.



...still looking for that bridge to Hawaii..... tongue.gif

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I don't think the problem would be riding all day at whatever pace y'll find comfortable. I think the problem would be getting up the next day and the next to do it all over again. A one or two day excursion is okay for me, but by the third or sixth day, I need a longer break to let things (like my shoulders and butt) shift back to normal.

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