For some, motorcycling is best practiced by hopping on a bike and leaving the driveway without a destination in mind. For those of us with full-time jobs, significant others, side hustles and the like, a little planning can help you get the most out of a riding season.
For me, planning the next riding season starts when the salt trucks roll out in November or December. My longer tours (four days or more) sometimes get planned a year or more in advance, and I maintain a Google My Maps collection of overnight and local rides I want to do. There’s also a few rides I do annually – such as tours to see friends or attend MotoAmerica events – that don’t require as much planning.
Before I begin picking which rides I want to do, I first determine how many weekend days I’ll have available for riding. I use a legal pad and begin by making a list of weekend dates (e.g. April 9-10). Since I live in northeast Ohio and can’t plan for salt-free roads until the end of March. I start the list with the first weekend in April and end the list with the first weekend in November.
Next, I note which weekend days I know I won’t be free to ride due to holiday get-togethers, family commitments, my side hustle or other commitments. I make sure to talk to my girlfriend to find out what weekends she’ll be out of town (which means I’m home with the dog). I also note days that I may be able to ride part of the day and designate those days for local rides – which I call “dayrides.”
Once I’ve figured out how much time I’ll have to ride, I start going through my lists of planned rides and fill in lines on the legal pad. I usually don’t schedule specific dayrides, but I do pick out specific weekends for any overnight rides. This is especially true for tours that I need to take time off work for. I try to get my list of PTO requests to my employer no later than the beginning of January.
Another type of ride I prioritize in my planning process is an Iron Butt Association ride. I can do those rides any time of the year I like, but I’ve found it’s best to do them during May, June and July when the sun rises early and sets late.
I also try to plan out in-season maintenance. I use the mileage estimates from my plan to figure out when I’ll need to do things like oil changes or tire changes. This way, I don’t create a situation where I’m scrambling during the work week to perform a bunch of maintenance before the next ride.
My next step is putting together my motorcycling budget for the next year. This is part of my larger budgeting process, and I use a spreadsheet to cost out each ride. Dayrides are simple to calculate costs for. I estimate the fuel cost for each ride ([est. miles / fuel economy] x estimated price of fuel per gallon) and add in $5-$10 for a lunch stop. The overnight trips require more work, such as pricing out hotels and figuring out mileage estimates and stops along the way for each day of the tour.
When I have the costs of each ride in the spreadsheet, I compare that to what I’ve allocated in my overall annual budget for motorcycling. Often I have to scale back a few rides to get the numbers to work, but I’d rather be disappointed in January than get to August and not have the funds to go on a tour I’d been looking forward to.
For hotels, I prefer using Choice (Comfort Inn, Sleep Inn, Quality Inn, Econo Lodge, etc.), Red Roof Inn or Motel 6 because there are discounts available through the American Motorcyclist Association or the Motorcycle Sport Touring Association. I sometimes use Wyndham hotels (Days Inn, Super 8, Baymont, Ramada, etc.) because there’s a hotel I’ve stayed at before and had good experiences at – or it’s the only hotel near a destination.
Some riders disagree with this method and argue for making hotel reservations as you go. For me, I think the money you can save when booking in advance – especially if your tour includes attending a large event – saves you money. I only make reservations that have an option to cancel 24 hours or less before my check-in date. That way, if I’m behind schedule I can cancel the reservation without incurring the one night stay penalty.
This all may seem like a lot of effort. To me, putting in the effort before the snow melts helps me to get the most out of a riding season. Spending time on Google Maps during the winter allows me to spend as much time as possible in the saddle during the spring, summer and fall months.