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Old 8 Mar 2011
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New to motorcycling, planning a longish trip

I live in Seattle and have purchased a Honda transalp down in Los Angeles. My plan is to fly down and pick it up and take 4 days to drive it back to Seattle. I received my motorcycle safety foundation certificate in November, but the only times I've been on a bike other then that was driving a 125 around the Dominican Republic, about 50 mph on the highways, and test driving a KLR 650 for a little while. I haven't seriously been out on the freeways yet.
Anyways, I thought the trip sounded like a pleasant ride up the coast, but a concerned party (parents) have become concerned about the idea and are offering to pay to have the bike shipped. I already purchased the plane ticket and don't like to waste other peoples money, but all of their fretting has worked its way into my head and now I'm questioning the trip. Is 1200 miles in 4 days for a beginner rider a good start or a bad idea, assuming the unseen bike doesn't blow up along the way.
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Old 8 Mar 2011
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sounds like a great idea. you're realistically looking at riding a couple of hours in the morning, and then another couple of hours in the afternoon. not much of a big deal once you get going.

motorbiking's not actually that difficult (as you probably know), but the more practice you get the better you become. I can't think of anything better for your riding skills than 4 days of riding in a row. well, 6 months riding would be better...

the distance, over 4 days, is nothing. so you're going to get a few days to ride without pressure and just get into it. much better to learn a new bike that way than riding with your head full of work/college/whatever once you get back home.

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Old 8 Mar 2011
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Hey Tyler,

Many people have hopped on a motorbike with less than adequate experience, the vast majority of times it works out fine and they grow up to be crusty old bikers who warn their kids about not doing the same crazy things that they did when young.

Having said that, I would suggest the freeways around LA are not the most forgiving place to get your feet wet initially though. To mitigate this less than ideal starting point, you may want to strongly consider starting off on less busy days ( i.e. the weekend), riding off peak hours, (i.e. crack of dawn) and taking secondary routes for at least the first bit until you begin to feel more comfortable. Your skills will improve with practice and rider training courses.
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Old 8 Mar 2011
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Hi Tyler,

I live in Sacramento, and I have ridden from Sac to Seattle. I think riding from LA to Seattle in 4 days will be easy, and I think taking your time is smart.

If you want to enjoy the ride - and you certainly have plenty of time - from LA, follow US HWY 1 up the coast to where it intersects with US 101 in San Francisco, take 101 north, then get back on 1 at Bodega Bay, and follow it north until it becomes 101 again. Then just stay on 101, and follow all the way up the Oregon coast.

Continue along 101 to Astoria, cross into Washington there, and continue north/east on 401 to where it becomes 4, then 101 again. At Aberdeen (Grays Harbor), turn east on 12 and follow it to Hwy 8, and continue to I-5, then to Seattle.

This route is slow (not like I-5 all the way), extremely scenic, and will give you all the time in the world to get used to the bike. By the time you get on I-5 in Washington, it will be no problem.

Bring rain gear and a camera. You'll love the trip.
"The highway became their home and movement their means of expression." -John Steinbeck

Last edited by Bain Dramage; 8 Mar 2011 at 02:45. Reason: Typo
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Old 8 Mar 2011
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Fly down there and if the owner is about have him get the bike to a larger semi deserted parking lot for you and practice a while there. Then sneak out of L.A. very very early and hit the coast headed north. Maybe watch some old "then came bronson" clips on utube. Once you get thru big sur get on 101 and head north.
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Old 8 Mar 2011
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Agree wih everybody here, ride the off-peak hours and stay away from the highways if you can. I've been commuting on the 101 from San Fran to San Jose (albeit in a hire car) last week, and if I were new to bikes I'd a) take the centre lane and leave a large gap to the vehicle in front, allowing me to 'appreciate' the awful road surface, and b) take the 280 over the 101 wherever possible. Highway 1 would be my route of choice, but you'll need at least twice as much time as you'd take for the 101.
More malformed, irrelevant opinions here.
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Old 8 Mar 2011
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Experience on a motorcycle isn't neccessary for doing a long trip at all, you can't get experience without riding so rather I would say a long trip is the BEST way to get experience!! I'd done about 150 miles in total (apart from the 5 days getting my license) when I set off on a 20,000 mile trip and after a few days the nerves had gone and after a month I felt like a seasoned biker.

Go for it, if you're feeling out of your comfort zone with the traffic then as suggested avoid peak times. It's OK in the UK because we're allowed to filter through traffic so it doesn't slow you down too much. I believe that in the US 'lane-splitting' is frowned upon?
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Old 8 Mar 2011
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just remember to check the oil every morning before setting off. Ask the owner if he's got any spare oil you can have to save you buying any and how to check it. He should know how to do it and have some oil, I'd question it if he didn't!

As has been mentioned about experience, you'll get plenty on your trip.

A guy who rowed across the Atlantic was once asked what training he did before the trip. "none, the first 2 weeks was all the training I needed"
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Old 11 Mar 2011
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Thanks for the encouragement and advice everyone. Really excited for the trip now.
See you on the road.
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Old 12 Mar 2011
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It's OK in the UK because we're allowed to filter through traffic so it doesn't slow you down too much. I believe that in the US 'lane-splitting' is frowned upon?[/QUOTE]

Lane splitting is OK in California, but, you should get some riding experience before you try to much lane splitting. After you ride a while you will have a better idea of what the cars might do and you will be better prepared.

That said, sounds like a great ride, have you decided on the route you will be taking, coastal (more traffic and cities), inland (back roads, smaller towns). I would suggest going up through the Sierras along the central valley of California, you might miss the coastal scenery but it will be a more relaxed ride and less traffic.
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Old 14 Mar 2011
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I would ship the bike if I was you, unless you can find a riding partner going the same way (not difficult on horizons). I don't want to sound like the crabby devil's advocate, but the distance is vast on an unfamiliar bike. It would be very difficult to get used to the bike, and head out of L.A. If you had a week or more, than you can get used to the bike for a few days, but it all would depend on what part of L.A. you would be staying in. Plus, it would help if you had someone to stay with down there.

To me, being unfamiliar with the bike, and biking in general, I would not want to be stranded and have to deal with all of that--plus shipping the bike or abandoning it. Not to discourage you, and if you have plenty of $, then the adventure might be something fun. But with 4 days and an unfamiliar bike riding 1200 miles...

My advice--ship the bike. Get it sorted out with a good mechanic once it gets to you (I am assuming you don't know bike mechanicals--I admit that I don't know them that well) and get used to it. Do a long trip later on once you know the bike and you know how it runs.
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Old 14 Mar 2011
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Hi Tyler:

I'm in agreement with Simon (directly above) - I think it would be better for you to ship the motorcycle to Seattle. Here's my rationale:

1,200 miles in 4 days is not going to be a pleasant trip for a new motorcycle rider. First of all, that's pretty hard riding (at least 6 hours in the saddle each day), and second of all, you are not used to the bike, to your riding gear, likely not used to your helmet, and you have no prior experience making long road trips. Even a person with a fast sport tourer (like my ST 1100, which I keep in Europe) will not forecast progress that is faster than 50 MPH on average, after you factor in eating, fuel stops, restroom stops, etc.

My Honda ST1100 presently has 120,000 miles on it. I bought it new and put all those miles on it myself. The bike has a custom saddle (to fit my butt) and I have 3 sets of riding gear, each set worth about $800 to $1,000 - a cold weather set, medium weather set, and hot weather set. Even with a bike that I know very well - and is customized to my taste, with clothing that I know well, I would not consider 1,200 miles in 4 days to be a 'relaxing ride'. Heck, that's transiting, hauling ass, not touring. You were honest enough to write "I haven't really been out on the freeways yet", and let's be realistic, if you want to cover 1,200 miles in 4 days, you will HAVE to do it on the interstates... not the secondary or coastal roads. Long way from home, unfamiliar bike, etc. - not the greatest place to learn how a motorcycle handles when a semi passes you with a crosswind blowing on a wet road.

I am going to assume you bought the bike used. Unless it is a showroom demo with only 1,000 miles on it, you have no idea what is in store for you... what the tires are like, what it rides like, if it has any hidden problems. This is the kind of stuff you want to discover as you ride the bike around your own neighborhood, not after you set out for a destination 1,200 miles away... probably up against a deadline to get home by a certain day due to work or school commitments.

The weather is in transition now (late spring, virtually summer down in LA, still winter up in Seattle), and you would have to carry quite a bit of clothing - at least two sets, one for LA weather and one for the cool end of what could reasonably be expected in OR and WA states - not to mention a good set of raingear. I am going to guess that as a new rider, you probably have a helmet, a single jacket, and a pair of gloves. Period.

If I were you, I would have the thing shipped to you. Call a moving van company, that's probably the easiest way. There may also be companies that specialize in shipping motorcycles. If all else fails, just get the vendor to strap it to a pallet and send it to you by common carrier.

Once the bike arrives at your home in Seattle, you will be able to very carefully inspect it, clean it up, perhaps take it to a local Honda shop and have them give it a mechanical and safety look-over, and then get used to riding it in your own town. Later on, once you have bought a full set of protective clothing, you can set out on smaller tours of your own state, prior to doing a big run up or down the coast.


PS: By the time you factor in fuel costs, food costs, hotel costs, possible tolls, and wear and tear on the tires (are they even designed for highway use - or are they knobbies?) etc., shipping the bike is probably no more expensive than riding it home. Plus, it sounds like you have a nice set of parents who are willing to pick up the shipping costs - so, save your touring money to spend on touring WA state later this summer, don't blow it all on a single IronButt ride up the coast.
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