Plan Smarter, Not Harder 

Planning a long motorcycle trip can be exciting, but it's easy to get carried away. I've learned over thousands of miles and numerous trips that moderating your goals can actually improve the overall experience.

Some people think of moderation as limiting the things you do or minimizing the quantity. In these terms, moderation seems restrictive. But I tend to think of it in terms of focusing on what’s most important and then setting boundaries to maximize that goal. That’s how I approach most things in life, especially planning for a motorcycle trip. 

Welcome sign near Chicken, AK just after we finished the Top of the World Highway. Photo by Tom Barnett

In 2016 I planned a trip with two of my best friends, Tom and Greg, to ride 5,000 miles in 17 days to Alaska and back. We built it up in our heads as this epic journey to the Arctic Circle. Initially, we were so excited about the challenge that we ignored the gravity of riding over 300 miles a day for two and a half weeks with only one or two buffer days. The more we talked about our daily mileage, the amount of gear we were bringing, and the shrinking prospect of a buffer period, the more I realized we couldn’t afford to get lost in the adventure. We would need to be diligent about getting on the road every day and sticking to a schedule. As much as I like to ride my motorcycle, the best part is the freedom to explore. Sticking to a rigid structure and timeline is for work.

Loaded bikes in the Yukon. Photo by Tom Barnett.

I tried to convince my riding buddies that while reaching the Arctic Circle would be pretty sweet, actually experiencing the parts of Alaska we would be passing through would be more fulfilling. But when your mind is focused on a challenge, anything short of that goal can feel like a failure. And I get why they wanted to reach the Arctic Circle. How do you bring an ADV bike to Alaska and not try to ride the Dalton Highway? But the reality of the trip, for me, was riding 2,500 miles to reach a sign only to turn around and go home. 

Re-uniting with Andrea in Cantwell. Photo by Kyle Nagel

Instead, I refocused on what was important and made plans to split with my riding pals in Cantwell where I met up my wife, Andrea, who flew in and rode the train up from Anchorage. We explored Denali National Park for a day and then rode to Anchorage and stayed a couple of nights. We rode through a mountain to the port town of Whittier and took a jet ski tour of Prince William Sound and the Blackstone Glacier. 

Toklat River in Denali National Park. Photo by Andrea Kalas-Nagel
Jet ski tour of the Blackstone Glacier near Whittier, AK. Photo by Kyle Nagel

Rarely in life do we get to see how things could have worked out. Unfortunately, when I parted ways with Tom and Greg our trip became the tale of two journeys. They ran into trouble as they started up the Dalton Highway. It was July and while the rainy season doesn’t typically start until August, the road was a muddy mess. They proceeded anyway because of the tight schedule and they were on a mission. Soon after, Greg had mechanical issues possibly related to the mud and they decided to abandon the Arctic Circle. Defeated, they limped the bike back to a shop in Fairbanks and awaited some news. The shop couldn’t diagnose the problem but they cleaned the mud off the radiator and said the bike should be fine to make it home. This was ultimately proved wrong in the aptly named Destruction Bay in the middle of the Yukon. Greg, had to ship his bike home to Idaho from there. He was devastated. We planned this trip for months. We made shirts and stickers and had cigars to celebrate after they made it to the Arctic Circle. 

Tom keeping the vibe light while Greg inspects his radiator. Photo by Tom Barnett.

That trip only strengthened my philosophy of moderation and motorcycling. Keep it simple by focusing on what's most important. In my case, this was having time to explore. Ultimately, the trip was still worth it for Tom and Greg. After all, there are no guarantees on an adventure. The real tragedy wasn't that they didn’t make it to the Arctic Circle to take a picture in front of a sign. It’s that once the trouble started at the furthest point from home, Greg didn’t have the time to solve the issue and was no longer able to focus on enjoying the rest of the trip. Tom and I also suffered to a lesser degree by not having Greg join us on the final push home.

Tom, Greg and Kyle in front of a sign in the Yukon. Photo by Tom Barnett.

Get the most out of your trip with these tips and features in REVER.

If you are considering a big trip, do yourself a favor and approach it with a bit of moderation. Here are some things I've learned and some helpful features in REVER:

  • Don’t hesitate to call an audible. It’s one thing to push far on a couple of days, but doing it every day will leave you fatigued and less focused. If you need to stop and find a closer campsite, you can always pull one up in REVER through the Dyrt. 
  • Use Fuel POIs to find the best Gas Stops. Your range is probably half as much as it is in a car, which means twice as many stops for gas. It may also steer you into new towns you’ve always passed by on a car trip. I’ve found some pretty great lunch spots or coffee shops over the years when stopping to fuel up. 
  • Use the Twisty Routing planner or Butler Maps Incredible Roads. Embrace the long way around. The shortest distance between two points is often the most boring. If you want to see the best sights and experience the joy of leaning a bike over on some twisty roads, you will have to venture off the highway. Create a route with Twisty Routing or plan over Incredible Roads.
  • Use LiveRIDE to see when and where your friends stop. When traveling with a group, communication and synchronization are key. If one person stops for gas, bathroom, food, etc, the whole group should consider doing the same. with LiveRIDE, you can ride at your own pace and still see where everyone is.
  • Use weather and traffic overlays. Before you ride or when you take a break, check weather and traffic overlays to see if you need to reroute.
  • Keep up on your maintenance while on the road. Clean and lube chains, check tire pressure often, top off fluids, and check the bolts and screws that may rattle loose. You can see the total mileage tracked on any vehicle in your garage when you select the bike you're riding. On longer trips, this can help you decide when to change oil, air filters, or other consumables.

"You don't stop riding when you get old, you get old when you stop riding."
― Anonymous

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