Long Term Planning

Although I’ve hardly ridden lately, I’m thinking ahead. Just because I haven’t done any long trips this year doesn’t mean I’m not interested. A cross country ride is still on my bucket list, and possible within the next few years. I’ve still been thinking about it, and pondering how to actually go about doing it.

One thing is clear. The PC800 is a great bike, but I don’t think it’s up for my cross country trip needs. Though it has plenty of cargo space, the gas tank is small, and that’s a concern in areas where there might be 100 miles between towns, and no guarantee that each of them will have a gas station. On top of that, parts availability is a concern. Even a Honda shop couldn’t get new replacement coils for my bike, because they don’t make them anymore. I’d hate to break down halfway across the country and not be able to finish the trip because my bike needs a part I can’t get. As much as I’d love to take my Pacific Coast 800 to the Pacific coast, I don’t think it’s going to happen.

I see two possible alternatives.

  1. Sell the PC800 and buy a nicer, more common bike with a bigger gas tank. I like the sport touring style, so we’re talking something like a Honda ST or Yamaha FJR or something similar. Use that for the cross country trip, and everything else I do.
  2. Keep the PC800, and rent a bike from EagleRider better suited for the cross country trip. Locally, it looks like all they have available is Harleys, but an Electra Glide would have plenty of cargo capacity, a 5 gallon gas tank would give me almost double my current range, and I know from two days on a Street Glide that it’s a comfortable bike for full days in the saddle.

The biggest downside to renting, of course, is that I’ll end up spending a whole bunch of money on a bike and have nothing tangible to show for it when I’m done. If I sell the PC and kick in another grand, maybe two, that’ll get me a nice used ST or FJR, and we’re talking about spending at least that much on the rental. The upside, though, is convenience.  If the rental bike breaks down along the way, it’s on them to fix or replace it and send me on my way at no extra charge. I don’t have to worry about prepping the bike at all – just pick it up, pack it, and go. But the most important bit of convenience would be time. If I take my own bike across the country, I have to get it back home – presumably by riding it, but possibly by shipping it as well. That costs money. But if I rent a bike, yes, I’ll have to pay a not insignificant surcharge, but I’d get to leave it there and fly home. Taking the bike only one way would double how much time I can spend getting there. This is important, because although I get three weeks of vacation time from work, it also caps at three weeks, so I can’t save up for a year and take a full month off. The quality of the trip could be much better if I can take my time doing it, rather than doing a mad dash from east to west to east in three weeks. I’d probably have to use a lot more superslab to make time and put down miles, missing out on the meandering back roads and quaint small towns that are what I think a trip like this should be all about in the first place.

I suppose a deciding factor here should be, what are my long term plans? Do I intend to do even more long distance touring aside from the cross country ride? If so, it would probably be better to buy the right bike for that job, own it, and use it for all these trips. Plus a sport touring bike is a whole lot more fun for me than the cruiser I’d end up renting. But I have a lot of interests, and already don’t have enough time to pursue all of them as much as I’d like. This year I sank a bunch of money into fixing up the PC, and barely ridden it since then. What little riding I’ve done was mostly commuting, and I’m not even doing that on a bike anymore. Would I get the use out of a bigger, better bike to justify having it? I’m really not sure.

To buy or to rent is the biggest factor for planning this trip, I think, because the answer to that determines how many miles I need to cover (one way vs. round trip), and since the trip will be time boxed into three weeks that’ll determine my pace, how many miles I need to cover each day, almost every day (I’ll rest every seventh or so) to complete the trip on time. Bamarider has done a round trip in three weeks a few times, so it’s certainly possible. I’ll reread his trip writeups for tips on how he did it to see if it’s feasible. I suppose an option 2.5 would be to rent a bike AND do a round trip, thereby saving the big surcharge by returning it to the same place I got it. That may be worth considering as well.

Regardless of what method I choose, it’s clear to me that I’m going to have to physically condition myself for such a trip before I take it. Finishing the western MA trip was all the proof I needed that I’m just not in shape for full days on the bike at this point. I’ll have to fix that before I commit myself to a schedule and find out the hard way that I can’t keep it.The earliest I could possibly do this trip is next year, and with life being complicated it’s more likely to happen the year after at this rate. So I really don’t need to be worrying about any of this right now. But it’s fun to think about, and there’s no reason why I can’t start planning it now.

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Categories: planning | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Long Term Planning

  1. I think you owe it to yourself to have a good, reliable touring bike. Before you splash down the money for an ST or an FJR, check out the Vstrom 650/1000. I know, they’re a little funny looking. But they’re so incredibly comfortable and rock-solid reliable. The 650 has loads of power (unless you’re touring 2-up, then you’d want the 1000) and is sporty enough to be really fun on twisty roads. Lots of wind/weather protection, and great on gravel roads. I have a Sportster 1200 and a YZF600R in my garage and the Vstrom is the only one I want to ride. You can pick up a first-gen used for a really good price as well. 🙂

    • Justin Hughes

      I hadn’t considered the V-Strom. One of my former neighbors has a V-Strom 650 with no luggage, and though it has a windshield there’s no real fairing, so there’s a lot less weather protection than the other choices. But if they’re as cheap as you say, that leaves enough budget to add whatever luggage I need to make it comparable. And if there’s enough weather protection for you where you live, there should certainly be enough for me! Elana wants to be able to ride with me two-up, whether she gets her own bike eventually or not, so I’d probably be looking at a 1000.

      This same neighbor emailed me earlier this summer asking, if I end up in the area at some point, if we could trade bikes for a ride. He’s shopping for something better for riding two-up and wants to try some different bikes out. This test ride could benefit both of us…

      Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. You’re welcome! I bought my 2009 Vstrom 650 used with about 6000 miles on it. It came with factory Suzuki top case and side panniers, has ABS, and still cost only $5000. You can buy an aftermarket full-fairing kit for it, which makes the bike look sporty and I’m assuming adds more wind protection as well.

    I know my opinion is biased but it’s hard to go wrong with a ‘Strom!

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