Touring on a Bonneville in Oregon Heat

A Triumph Bonneville In the Heat of Oregon

I’ve become a real fan of the four-day motorcycle trip. The logic of it goes like this: most of my friends are, unlike me, not retired. A four-day journey that begins on a Friday and ends on a Monday consumes only two days of vacation, leaving whatever is left for those other people – families and relatives and such. Of course, this is the second trip of the year, so the logic begins to weaken. In addition, a motorcycle trip can be wearying, particularly if your choice of motorcycle is not a “touring” rig and if your chosen routes include as many corners as possible.  Four days allows for a pretty rapid resumption of normal energy levels when you return,

Distance per day is also a factor of choice.  If you’re on a Goldwing or other luxo-tourer, I am sure you can consume 500-600 miles of freeway on the trot, and be ready for more the next day.  That does not appeal to me. In fact, I’ve begun to reduce the mileage for each day to allow more time for photo stops, a gander at an interesting site or three, and a total lack of stress when we come to a delay of 5 to 25 minutes for road construction or whatever.  I’m now down to a planned 250 – 300 miles a day, as much of it as possible on remote and curvaceous back roads in spectacular scenery. We like to have a lot of time in the evening to sit around and discuss – whatever, while enjoying beverages of choice, pipes, cigars, etc.  The trip just completed took four days and consumed 1143 miles. Paltry by most standards, but perfect for us.

My 2016 Bonneville is equipped for “touring” with a flyscreen, tank bag, and Cortech saddlebags and top bag.  That’s it, and that’s all I want. Your own choices may, and probably will, differ.

From years of leading motorcycle rides for customers when it was part of my job, I have the luxury of a great many friends who are experienced riders with good equipment and a refreshing ability to adapt to route and schedule changes on the fly. Each time I cook up a ride concept, I send out the concept to my friends, and a motley assemblage of fine folk decide to go – usually 4 to 7 or so.  All are naturally pleasant people, and all come from different backgrounds and sport a wild variety of motorcycles.  This time we had my Bonneville, a BMW R1200R, a BMW R1200GT, a Ducati Multistrada, and a Honda CFX 700 cruiser.  Can such a disparate group of motorcycles tour together?  Most definitely, with the right attitude.

The first day began with breakfast, and then the sacrifice of 200 miles down I-5 to Oregon.  This slabbing was accepted as the best way to get to experience Oregon on a diagonal slash from Portland to Sisters on some truly epic roads that take in Estacada and Detroit and other towns you’ve never heard of.

We stayed at the Sisters Inn and Suites, because we had enjoyed it last year.  Unfortunately, this time was not as charming.  It seemed the place had been left to rot for the past year, and the air conditioner in the room Brian and I shared put out some asthmatic cold air for about two minutes and then subsided to a warm trickle of air that was almost liquid.  No biggie, but we paid for better than that.

Instead of partaking of the motel breakfast offering, which was also far below last year, we stopped in town at the Gallery Restaurant, and had the best meal of the trip.  Highly recommended.

We’d been concerned about heat, because the previous week had seen temps over 100 on our route, but for us it was usually in the low 80’s, and since all of us have vented gear it was pretty much perfect. No rain for the entire trip, and few bugs, which I do not understand.

In any case, you need to select your gear with heat in mind.  I have a Fieldsheer jacket for fall and winter, and a Rev’It Jacket for summer heat.  It has all sorts of vents, and with the liner removed and all of the vents open it keeps me cool up to well over 90 degrees. In fact, when it is fully adjusted for heat it actually gets too cold at less than 85 degrees! I also have some Rev’It “dirt” gloves which are light and yet have padding on the knuckles and also flow air.  My riding pants are Triumph “mostly” waterproof pants, and Rev’It boots and an Arai helmet complete my ensemble. Of course there are a myriad of gear choices for heat, as long as you realize that you need to be prepared and geared for it. And water!  Drink a lot of water. If need be, I take out the throat sock that I carry and soak it in water.  In really extreme heat, every time you stop for fuel, place your helmet in the large cooler outside that holds the bags of ice they sell.  By the time you have fueled the bike, gone to the bathroom, and enjoyed a cold drink, your helmet will be ready to go again.

Many people ask about seat comfort on a long ride, or (more often) complain about it.  The Bonneville is a perfect example, as the seat is fine for around town on an hour or two, but it not really designed for long haul comfort.  You have many choices of course. You can have a custom seat made to your own specification and individual derriere shape and size. If you live in England, I would recommend Trimfix, operated by my name twin David Preston.  Or you can purchase fir covers or beaded thingies or air bag thingies – the list is endless.

But what if you like the look of the standard seat?  (Yes, I am that vain) Now your choices are fewer and simpler.  The easiest is simply to get your own butt in better shape. A visit or three per week to the local gym and moderate exercise will do wonders.  And then there are padded shorts.

Here my thinking is diverging. For years I had two pairs of padded undies made for bicycle riders.  The first pair were cheap and worked well.  That pair has disappeared. The second pair were expensive and came from REI, and never really worked all that well.  Lately I have begun to think that it is not the padding that is the issue, but heat. I find that merely standing up for a few seconds whenever the mood strikes (on a straight or nearly so section of road) works much better.  Simply wear underwear that is thin, and stand up once in awhile and I think you will be better off.  Here again, limiting the mileage to less than 400 miles a day also helps.

This only works if you can stand up easily on the pegs. A Bonneville is great for this. I could stand up on my Speed Triple, but it was awkward.  Donna is so short and the pegs so far forward on her Honda cruiser that she cannot stand up at all, which is just not ideal at all, but if you have any of the many Bonneville variants you should be fine.

In the little town of Heppner we had our only close encounter with deer.  Four of them, who were polite enough to cross the road in front of us in a pedestrian crosswalk – much appreciated.  From Heppner we discovered 53, which runs Southeast to our destination of Ukiah, and it is a treat.

Our stop was at the Stage Stop Motel and RV camp, which we had enjoyed mightily last year. Alas, the charming owners had sold out and moved away. The new owners were pleasant, but had brought in a whole slew of RVs and trucks, which killed the ambience of just a smattering of small cabins.  When I made the reservations, I was told they only had one cabin available for that night, so that went to Donna. The four guys would stay in the “bunkhouse.”  OK.  The bunkhouse turned out to be one of the small cabins with everything removed, including the bathroom, except for two sets of bunkbeds. Fortunately, they also had a “barn” with 7 beds, and a bathroom, shower, fridge, etc.  More money but much better, except the beds turned out to be sagging springs with little support.  The rat droppings on the window sill were also not a charming touch.  A second disappointment, but oh well.

One thing to note that you may want to add to your own group trips. Different people may wish to travel at different paces at different times, and this is to be expected with such a variety of bikes.  In our group, everyone wants me to lead because I laid out the trip and it is more fun not to lead. 

Except once in while…

There are times when the roads demanded of some of my friends a higher rate of speed, and this is fine. Just request that they pass on the left and you can listen and watch as they disappear up ahead.  Donna rides the slowest bike and is the slowest rider, and always wants to be the caboose. Again, not a problem. Every once in a while, we pull over and wait for her – usually for less than 30 seconds.  How big a sacrifice is that to have a wonderful person enjoy the trip with you?

In group rides it is much more about the attitudes of the riders than the capabilities of the machines.  Flexibility and a relaxed mind make the day better for everyone.

The third day was the short one, mostly because I had planned to take two or three hours for a hot rod show in LaGrange. Somehow, I had messed up the dates, and discovered a couple of weeks before the trip that the hot rod show was…last month. No matter.  More time for photo stops and other sundry diversions.  We enjoyed riding the famous Rattlesnake Grade up to Lewiston, a fine lunch at the café in Anatone, and stayed at the Cedars Inn in Clarkston, Idaho.  Another cheap motel, but this one was fabulous.  A pool for one important perc, and my favorite, one of those do it yourself waffle makers for breakfast in the morning!

Two friends drove all the way from Walla Walla to join us for dinner, and a festive and hilarious time was had by all.  After dinner we went back to the motel to sit and chat.  I wanted to smoke my pipe, and Brian wanted to enjoy a fine cigar, but there was a “No Smoking in The Pool Area” sign.  Wanting to be polite, I checked with the motel manager, standing in the parking lot with cigarette in hand. His definition of “pool area” was “in the pool.”  Fine then!

During the evening discussions we chucked my intended route for Monday in favor of jogging north of Wenatchee and coming home via Highway 2 instead of the mind-numbing slog that is I-90.  A very worthwhile improvement over what I had planned.  The day was spent in a smoky haze due to massive forest fires all over the Northwest, but perhaps that also kept the temperature reasonable.

Not much exciting here, but there are two things I will share with you that might make the last few minutes of your life worthwhile.

  1. Again, you can “tour” on any motorcycle that is street legal and can maintain speeds of 70mph (or a tad more here and there – wink wink). You do need to make sure the bike is in sound mechanical condition, and you do need enough capacity to carry spare clothes and gear for a wide-ranging span of temperatures – although we hardly needed it this trip.  Among our group we had air compressors, tire repair kits, tools, cell phones with GPS, first aid items, etc.  Make your plans and go.
  2. For this type of touring a Triumph Bonneville is a fine choice. It took everything in stride – comfortable, fast enough, and also turned in over 50mpg.  It did not use any oil, or need air in the tires, or any of the stuff we used to need to keep an eye on.  On the one brisk morning the heated grips were lovely.
  3. It was also, I must say, the only bike that strangers wanted to ask questions about, if that is important to you.
  4. An excellent idea that is not mine was shared with us via Pat’s wife. In the evening we would play “Roses and Thorns.” Each person relates things from the day that were high or low lights. This is fabulous. You learn how other people view the day, and it may change your perception of things. It also spurs a lot of great stories.

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!


Copyright 2018                      David Preston




About david

I am a 73 year old motorsports nut who lives in Snohomish, Washington. After a 31 year career as an English teacher, I segued into a self-created job in the motorsports business. Now retired, I was involved in customer relations for Ride West BMW in Seattle, after almost 10 years of similar work for the Cycle Barn MotorSports Group. I own, at the current time, a Triumph Rocket 3 (2020) and a 2016 Ford Focus ST. What else would you like to know?
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2 Responses to Touring on a Bonneville in Oregon Heat

  1. David Preston says:

    Another interesting account of your four day road trip Dave and thank you for the mention.
    David Preston.

  2. Eric Bell says:

    Sounds right on the money for a Preston trip. Sorry I missed this one. Thanks for the write-up.

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