A 10-Hour Commute

Steve Lita American Iron Magazine Editor

Steve Lita, American Iron Magazine Editor

…you need to add time for gas station visits,
meals, and a couple of rest stops

I just got back from a quick trip to Columbus, Ohio, for the annual AIMExpo motorcycle trade show. Being based in Connecticut, I was glad to hear the AIMExpo selected the Columbus Convention Center for this year’s event. The four previous years it had been held in Orlando, Florida, and I was always able to coordinate a fun ride to the Barber Vintage Fest in Birmingham, Alabama, then AIMExpo and Biketoberfest the following week. I’ve always attended the event on a bike, so I wanted to keep up the tradition and ride to Columbus this year. (Yes, industry pros sometimes fly to these events due to busy schedules and the distances involved.) I found a bunch of new parts and tools that we’ll be sharing with you over the coming issues, so watch for that.

I was thanking my lucky stars that I would be riding this year when a colleague of mine regaled me with a tale of how his flight out was riddled with airport terminal bus rides, long lines at TSA checkpoints, and even a power outage that prevented travelers from passing through security checkpoints. Yep, riding a bike was the way to go.

Back to the ride: I found both Mapquest.com and my smartphone app to be a little off in estimated travel time. Approximately 600 miles at a (hopefully) 60 mph average should get me there in about 10 hours, right? Then again, you need to add time for gas station visits, meals, and a couple of rest stops to, ahem, take care of business, and I found it to be closer to 12 hours of actual travel. It might not seem like a long rest stop, but sip a cup of coffee, gobble down a power bar, and check some e-mails on your phone, and before you know it you just spent 25 minutes with no asphalt flying by under your tires. As riders, we all learn things every time we ride. So I thought I’d share a few tips on things I experienced on this ride.

Bundle up. Even if it’s a relatively warm 65 F, traveling at highway speeds there’ll be a windchill factor. A common conversion I always remember is 55 mph at 55 F is almost freezing (feels like 33 F). And who really rides around on the highway at 55 mph? If I’m warm I can always open up vents and pull the zipper down on my jacket front to let a little air in. But if I’m chilled while riding, I’m miserable.

Full-face helmet for the long haul. Anytime I know I’m going to be hurtling down the highway and larger vehicles will be doing the same, I gear up to the max. DOT half helmets might be fine for a ride to the local cruise night, but I like more protection on long-distance trips.

Earplugs save your hearing. If I know I’m going to be on my bike for more than 20 minutes, I always wear earplugs. Even cheap foam plugs will help keep the blustering wind noise muffled, and I can still hear the cars around me. A long ride with no hearing protection just leads to ringing in my ears for hours afterward.
I like to carry a couple bottles of water with me when I ride, and maybe a candy bar. So, I leave a little extra room in one of the saddlebags for roadside snacks.

Highway pegs: I’m a big fan of stretching out my limbs on a long ride to avoid getting cramps. Having a choice of places to perch my feet while on board helps me avoid fatigue and leg cramps. This bike mod needs to be done prior to departure. Better to have them and not need them than hit the road and regret not having them.

Lock your helmet. I’ve heard too many tales of unsecured items being taken from motorcycles. So I lock my helmet to a fixed point on my bike even if I’m only going into a gas station to use the restroom. While the locals might be very nice people, unfortunately there are unscrupulous crooks who prey on travelers. I carry a purpose-built helmet combination lock. But even a common padlock through the D-rings to a sissybar upright will do.

There you go. A couple basic reminders for your next open-road ride. Nothing earth shattering, but hopefully something that’ll make your next ride more enjoyable.