What’s a Good Motorcycle “Day Ride”?

DCIM103GOPROG0804301.I’m starting to feel like a good day’s ride is ten miles and not two feet further. While things have been a shade easier, Mother Nature really hasn’t let up since my recent recount of winter weather. As painful as it is now, it’s merely a matter of time before a series of 50°F days finally arrive here in the Midwest. As such, I’m getting anxious to put together a few new adventures, including a covered bridge route in northern Kentucky.  Considering that route planning has been on my mind as of late, I figured it’s a good time to ask the question, what’s makes for a good “Day Ride”?

US129 Gravity Cavity MotoADVRI wrote in detail a few months back, describing “The Perfect Ride”, but in this case, I’m more interested in how far, and what kind of riding do you consider for “a day ride”. While I have lofty goals for 2018, including four rallies while also “building” a very special adventure bike (stay tuned), I also want to focus more on ride reports this year. I want to continue to tell stories about the struggles of everyday motorcycling, drop notes about the gear and equipment I like to use, but I also want to show the readers where my favorite out-of-the-way roads lead. That of course led me back to the same question, how far does the readership like to go in a day?

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I’m becoming the worst judge of other people’s taste. I fear my fixation with time in the saddle has warped my impression of how much riding my fellow motorcyclists enjoy. Despite my early feelings that riders are somewhat “cliquish”, or finding many motorcycle topics polarizing, after making so many new acquaintances last year, I’ve begun to realize that tastes in motorcycling vary in as many degrees as there are motorcyclists. That’s a good thing, it’s unfortunate that Hollywood and modern “marketing” has galvanized the images of the leather-clad chopper rider and the Starbucks sipping Beemer owner.

The Hub Robbinsville NC MotoADVRThis year I want to visit Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and explore more of Tennessee and Kentucky. At the Triumph Rally, the day’s route is typically determined by the best road or the best place to go find lunch. In my travels this year, I’m hoping to land in a few backcountry Mom & Pop stores and hear stories from the locals. Hopefully a notebook and pile of photos with keep my memory fresh so I can somehow put words to all the miles and smiles. But, before we get to those adventures, I want to hear from you. Triumph Scrambler Battery Dead MotoADVRHow far is a good day ride? How many hours in the saddle is “just right”? Is it about the roads, or is it about the stops along the way? Which is a better story, the awesome things you saw, or the unscheduled road-side repair you had to make on the way? Is it the photos, the smells of the countryside, the flavor of local food, or the good company that joins you on the journey? Exactly what do you look for in a “day ride”?

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22 Responses to What’s a Good Motorcycle “Day Ride”?

  1. witttom says:

    You can’t plan for a perfect ride. They just happen. 😛

    • MotoADVR says:

      Can you even spell plan?

      • witttom says:

        Funny. I went over that comment multiple times looking for a mistake. 😛 Yes, I always have a plan. 😉 They’re often not very good plans. But some of the best rides come from poor planning and bad ideas (but I’m not going to claim that they all turn out like that!). . Mostly bad ideas.

      • MotoADVR says:

        What’s a good day ride? “Mostly bad ideas.” Excellent, I think I can write about that.

  2. timtrue says:

    Took a ~150-mile ride this week. That was just about perfect. Of course, I live in southern California, where there really hasn’t been a winter this year. Starting from my home, I rode east into the mountains; then down the other side into the desert town of Borrego Hot Springs, where I took a break to walk a labyrinth and enjoy the arid sights and smells. Had to get going before too long, however, as it was ninety degrees! Headed back into the mountains, to Camp Stevens, where I said hi to a few friends who live and work there; then to Julian for lunch. From Julian I wound through mountain two-laners back home in Temecula, completing a loop in my driveway. About five hours total, with three or so in the saddle. The whole package appeals to me–the riding, the scenery, the feel of ease in the twisties, the flora and fauna, the conversations, the tastes at an unfamiliar restaurant, the behaviors (good, bad, and quirky) people demonstrate towards motorcyclists. But, because of the nature of my work, I have to say that my absolute favorite part about a day ride is alone time in the saddle–time to think.

    • MotoADVR says:

      That does sound like an excellent day trip. I look forward to the day I get a chance to ride in California, especially if it rescues me from Midwestern winters. We’re definitely on the same page, I love the solace of solitude on two wheels. Thanks to commenting!

  3. DRF says:

    A good days ride for me is 400-500 miles. It’s not so much as the distance as it is for the scenery and stops along the way though. Some days it may end up being only 300 miles if I’m not in a hurry and make a lot of stops. I’ve ridden all throughout the SW and I’m happy to say I still do. I find it more enjoyable to stay off the interstates if possible, and try to take routes I haven’t ridden before. The small towns, the off the beaten path cafe, etc. I do take some routes over again that I really enjoyed like parts of Route 66, the Pacific Coast Hwy, Yosemite National Park, etc. I just love to ride!

    • MotoADVR says:

      We’re unquestionably on the same page here. I obviously covered “The Perfect Ride” in detail, and you’re describing it to a “T”. I love “Americana” and roadside relics; I can ride backwater “B” roads from sun up to sundown, just to see “the stuff”. Thanks for sharing!

  4. MarylandMoto says:

    A good day ride is any ride I can take for fun instead of commuting. Whether it’s just 30 minutes on lunch or a little longer, I try to enjoy what I can get.

  5. Bob says:

    All of the above holds true for me as well. It just depends. Sometimes a 90 mile day to a campground where I park the bike and chill, is enough. Other days, a 300+ mile day for a lunch outing is the order of the day. If I’m in a sightseeing mood, I can be off the bike more than riding it, maybe racking up 75-100 miles. These days, if I just want to ride with no plan in mind, 125 to 150 miles gets me to scratch my itch and find time for myself alone in my helmet. I don’t much want or need to put in mega miles just to ride anymore.

    • MotoADVR says:

      I was kind of sitting back waiting for a “pick a direction and go” kind of answer. Thanks for sharing Bob!

  6. Howard Stender says:

    A good day ride depends on why you’re riding. If one is riding just to clear the work weeks clutter out of your brain, it takes about 3 hours minimum to do that, so at least 150 miles, 200 is better. Work in a stop for a burger and another for fuel, that adds an hour or so. Maybe stop one more time to watch the river roll by or kids playing on the beach or to enjoy the smell of a BBQ grill charring a good steak. Then, 200 miles and 6 hours might be enough.

    If you’re headed out for a specific destination and want to get there, a good first days ride is 300-350 miles. I’ve noticed on my longer rides that 350 miles is about anough the first day. By day 4 or 5, it’s easy to click off 500 miles. But long miles doesn’t leave much time for exploring new diners or scenic county roads. So, yo me, a good days ride can depend or your goal. But, any day you can ride is a great day. Like the saying goes, a bad day riding beats a good day working.

  7. Paul says:

    Drew, you are asking a multifaceted question. You know that I’m a street rider so my answer is focused there. I can answer that there was a time when I rode with people with similar mind sets. A Sunday ride would be around 400 plus miles. Younger and more stamina.
    How I ride and who I ride with has changed with time. A good days ride with a group is now limited to no more than 175-200 miles. The rides I do anymore has a mixed group of two up and solo. Along with the various types of motorcycles I have to keep in my skill/experience levels.
    We all know individuals who have been riding for 15 to 20 years but still are lacking.
    So the day generally starts with the meet up breakfast. Provide and pass out route information at that time and discus any know road hazards along the route etc.
    Prior to pulling out do a quick equipment check again and I look over the motorcycles that are going on the ride.
    Generally a destination of interest has been picked out because we need to be riding somewhere. Of course choosing an indirect way to get there and back is preferred.
    Experience has shown that these type of rides need to be coming to an end by around 4 in the afternoon.
    I can say that in my motorcycle travels I have found that the best riding days never exceed 200 miles if we plan to have time to stop and see things on our way to where we are headed.
    So I’m not sure how helpful this will be for you. You ride with that hardcore adventure group that drinks espresso coffee by the jug, chow on ghost pepper and jalapeño chili and wrap up the day doing ancient caveman songs. Stay safe, ride foreve.

    • MotoADVR says:

      Thanks for the input Paul. I would say 200 is a good benchmark for most folks. 150-200 is pretty standard at the Triumph Rally.

      And don’t get me wrong, yes I typically only park the bike when the sun goes down, but I find few are honesty interested in keeping up that pace.

  8. Chris Cope says:

    I used to be distance-focused – still am, mostly – but I had my impressions challenged two summers ago when I was visiting family in Lake Jackson, Texas.

    You’ve never heard of this town because it’s small and insignificant. It is the quintessential Gulf Coast Texas town: long summer nights, high school football and high school baseball are of utmost importance, churches are packed on Sunday mornings and the cafeterias are packed on Sunday afternoons. To ride from one end to the other will take you a whopping 7 minutes; you can just about get in two Jason Aldean songs.

    Anyway, most of the guys who work at the nearby Dow chemical plant have old Harleys and they’ll rumble around a little circuit on nice evenings: the Buc-ee’s on Plantation Drive to the Buc-ee’s on Oyster Creek Drive, then over into “downtown” to see if there’s anything happening at the town’s two bars (conveniently located next to each other). Depending on your luck at the stoplights the whole loop’ll take you 25 minutes.

    When I’m in town I like to go to Wurst Haus (one of the bars) and sit outside. When a bike rolls up I’ll chat with the rider about it, how their night is going, and so on, and almost every single guy or gal I meet is in a state of blissful content. You’ll get guys in such a good mood that they’ll straight up hug you. Big Texas guys in a small Texas town hugging strangers, man – that’s the effect of a perfect ride. All the result of that little loop.

    My favorite memory is of a dude who rocked up on a 1980s Harley-Davidson Electra Glide. I said hello and asked him how he was doing. His chest was puffed up and he was grinning. He said: “Brother, I am LIV-VING.”

    So, yeah. Hours and distance are irrelevant.

    • MotoADVR says:

      For whatever reason I was born with “the clock ticking” in my mind. It’s been a lifelong struggle to silence the sense of “time urgency”. To some degree the motorcycle has lessened that feeling; while other times I’m overwhelmed by the relentless thirst for “just one more mile”. Among other goals this year, I want to focus on practicing a little more “Zen”; something more befitting of the ride you described. Late last year I joined a, notably sturdy, moto-journalist on a ride in eastern Ohio. I had never seen so many rat bikes, open primaries, custom trikes, and garage built projects in my life. I was pretty amazed that some of these bikes ran, let alone made it from places as far as Minnesota to attend this ride. Despite my fascination with the eclectic machines of the crowd, I was more affected by the culture of group. It was a just a ride. There was a destination, but how and when we got there was of no concern, they were just enjoying the road. That’s probably the first time I’ve ever just “been along for the ride”. Looking back there’s no doubt I was still wound up about “getting to the next stop” for most of the trip. I didn’t realize until much later that I was enjoying the company more than the ride. I felt totally out of my element, a stranger in a strange land; but I can’t wait to do it again this year. In the “pursuit of perfection”, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

      Between that particular event (including the subsequent “solace of solitude” on the ride home through Appalachia), combined with the 10 mile regimen I’ve experienced this winter, I’m hoping to put more value on “the moment” and appreciate the little things. Riding at all in January has been a gift; I hope that sentiment sticks with me from here on out.

      I think you nailed it Chris, it’s about how “feel”; the details, not so much. Thanks for reading sir!

  9. zed14 says:

    I like what others have said but for me it depends what mood I’m in and who I’m with.

    With my wife on the back a great day is scenic backroads finding interesting out of the road places with charming tea houses and craft stores. It’s a day of just hanging out and enjoying the road together. These days are 200 – 300 miles.

    Just me or a couple of like minded friends – a great day is setting of at 3 in the morning and getting the first tankful emptied before dawn and watching the sun come up. Then blasting through the day letting the scenery wash over you as you let all your problems retreat to the far recesses of the mind. Sitting in a small country town bakery having a pie and coffee while reflecting on the ride so far. Then as the sun disappears in a brilliance of colour you are left in the dark, the solitude, with only your lights pointing the way. These are a great day on the bike, which leave your in a refreshed weariness state. Typically these days are 1000+ mile.

    And others that I love are alone and just pure exploratory. I have a final destination and a rough time but I’m free just to wander down different roads and get lost. I love discovering interesting roads tucked away, maybe laying 35miles down an unsealed section. These days are generally 250+ miles.

    I have many other riding moods but these are a few.

    • MotoADVR says:

      Zed I think we’re on the same page here as well. I seldom set out before first light unless I’m headed to work, but it’s been known to happen. I can also relate to exploring those unsealed roads; that’s become one of my favorite adventures.

      Thanks again for commenting!

  10. curvyroads says:

    Wow, what an incredible array of responses you have generated with this post! I love the variety. I may be unusual in that I almost never ride with more than one or two people. My husband and I have the luxury of being retired now, and in 20 years of riding together, we have developed a pace and rhythm that works for us. On the rare occasion that we ride with others, they often are done long before we are. We enjoy a general plan, with a general destination like a town, or area, but never hesitate to “see where that road goes”, which can add hours and many miles to a day, and amazing sights and experiences. A day ride can range from 100 miles with tons of stops to take photos, have lunch, visit with other riders or locals, to 300+ dawn to dusk (Or dark…) runs for lunch and the Cherohala Skyway. It’s all in the flow, and it’s all good! Btw, the sun is out and its nearly 60
    Degrees in North Georgia today!!!

    • MotoADVR says:

      That was indeed the plan. I’ve wanted to build this site as a “forum” as much as a place to talk about places I go and things I like to do. I’m glad folks have been really interactive in recent days.

      Agreed, I too like to see where the road goes… retirement can’t come soon enough…
      As always, thanks for sharing!

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