Monday, March 2, 2009

Planning a ride has never been easier..


Gone are the days of riding off into the sunset with a full tank of gas on your way to “wherever the road takes me.”  I haven’t been able to find that one on the map, however with today’s technology I can find just about any other location you’re looking for.

Many riders don’t always know where to turn (literally) when it comes to planning a ride outside of their comfort zone.  I was one of those riders.  Reading a folding map (and trying to fold it back exactly the right way) is difficult enough in a vehicle with a passenger acting as a navigator, but going solo on the seat of a motorcycle cruising at 55 mph down a major highway is a totally different story.

Fortunately, for today’s rider there are many alternatives to what we’ve come to know and love as the folded map.  Many major motorcycle manufactures like Honda ( and Harley-Davidson ( have on-line ride planners where you can enter your starting location and click on your ending location by simply using the index finger of the mouse pointer.  In addition to zooming in and out of the U.S. map for your starting point and final destination, you can add as many stops as you want along the way. 

After your trip is planned, you can simply print out each leg of your journey (in the font size of your choice) and secure it in a plastic tank bag that sits on the dash of your motorcycle for easy reference. 

In addition to on-line ride planners, you can go with your favorite GPS device.  Many touring motorcycles come equipped with a cigarette lighter to give you the power you need to get you where you’re going.  Simply plug in your destination, choose the type of roads you’d like to ride on and you’re on your way. 

The average vehicle GPS is moderate at best when it comes to the vibration and the elements you will encounter on a motorcycle.  Most are made to be used inside the vehicle and aren’t designed to weather the elements.  That’s why I use a baggie, rubber band and zip strips.  Not exactly what Garmin, Tom-Tom, or Magellan recommends, but hey—it works!  There are companies that do make motorcycle-specific GPS devices, but the price tag is almost double that of a traditional GPS unit.

Whether you’re going across the state or across the country, having tools like the on-line ride planners or GPS devices have many advantages.  If you know how many MPG your motorcycle gets, you can plan for gas breaks along the way.  If you’re traveling more than 7 or 8 hours, not only can you plan for overnight accommodations, but you can plan for things to do in the specific town that you staying in for the night.

Not too long ago I was really hungry for an Outback Steak while staying in Lancaster.  If you’ve ever spent the night in that area you know that your selection for a meal after 9:00 P.M. is limited at best.  I punched in “Outback Steakhouse” into my GPS and found one within 7 miles of where I was staying.

Let’s face it, in today’s world many of us are too busy to “go where the road takes us.”  That’s why I suggest using an online ride planner or GPS to make the most of your ride—and your time away from work!

The writer is Operations Manager at Hot Metal Harley-Davidson located in West Mifflin.  

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