How I Plan a Riding Season

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.

Example of a preliminary riding plan

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.

Screenshot of my ride planning spreadsheet

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. 

Screenshot of part of my touring budget spreadsheet

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.

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