The Finest Motorcycle Road
Speaking in absolutely glittering generalities (the very best way to make a point you do not want rebutted) motorcyclists and car people approach trips differently. Car people want to journey to a fascinating destination, while motorcyclists enjoy fascinating roads and the destination is… er… not all that important, actually.
While on a motorcycle trek, what defines the best road? Not to be facile, but it depends on the desires of the rider and the capabilities of the bike. Traveling across America you will find the Interstates alive with large touring bikes – comfy for long distances and an ideal perch to soak up the surroundings – perhaps literally if dealing with inclement weather.
However, for some, (and by “some” I mean “me” and many others) off the beaten track is better. Riding on a freeway is referred to contemptuously as “slabbing,” and such routes are used begrudgingly merely to get from one interesting locale to the next. Far better are the lacy cobwebs of two lane roads, many of them all but forgotten to travelers save the highway departments that maintain them. Little traffic then, which is best. Full of curves, scenery, and occasional potholes, they are a tapestry of challenges for the intrepid to paint an adventure to last in memory for years.
For such a trip, you need a bike with at least some luggage capacity, and with adequate power and handling to allow winding back highways to be enjoyed. For that reason, you will find that long-distance motorcyclists are all about efficient packing and light gear, as extra poundage on a motorcycle is so much more noticeable than in a car. Add two hundred pounds of stuff to a 4,000 pound car and who will know? Add a similar weight to a 500-pound motorcycle and the handling is severely impacted, and the situation is exacerbated if you are traveling two up – no matter how lithe the passenger.
Riding on a winding back road at a brisk pace on a fine day makes me wonder if there are similarities to doing brain surgery. For both, you need a lot of concentration that cannot waver for a second. All of your mental powers and senses are attuned to any information they can glean – is the sun-baked asphalt in that corner up ahead, or sand? If there is one cow wandering onto the road, where are the others? Do I smell smoke? Where is it coming from? Can I pass that RV safely? The result of this is, at the end of the day, a combination of tremendous exhilaration, a feeling of accomplishment, and a pleasant exhaustion. I would imagine brain surgeons might feel the same way. We will leave for another time the daunting thought of who pays more for any error in judgment.
That night you will sleep very well – on almost any surface. On a long trip like this, I like to take a day off every three or four days just to sit and relax and unwind, either visiting friends or relatives of sitting at the side of a motel pool and remaining inert for the day, except for perhaps cleaning the bike and my riding gear.
Some prefer to go further and purchase a “dual-sport” motorcycle – one that is capable on the road, and off the road. Such tourers can add forest roads and goat trails to their adventures, bringing into range ghost towns and old mines, etc, – thousands of places to explore.
For me, a sport-touring bike and ten days or so and I can literally plan a trip by direction – like “East.” A perusal of a few magazines will give me all the ideas (or excuses) I need, and a plethora of historically significant, or just plain odd, destinations, await. The only problem is finding the requisite period of days to squeeze into other little responsibilities, like a job, family, etc.
A ten day ride on winding back roads? Bring it on!