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  #1  
Old 20 Jul 2011
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Planning an america trip: total beginner

I've traveled extensively on the west coast, through alaska, done some backpacking, etc. But after reading here, I've decided that I am absolutely going to plan out a trip on my own (potentially with girlfriend in tow, potentially not)

Premise:

But since I don't have a lot of money, and don't have ANY experience cross country riding (longest drives I've done have been about 2200 miles in my old Bmw M coupe, staying in hotels...) I'll start small. I'd like to do a coast to coast and back ride. Staying in the country leaves me with a bailout plan (save enough on my debit card for a flight or bus ride home) and considerably simplifies the international concept (I've been in and out of mexico pretty much my entire life, but always with parents, so experience is limited) as well as makes the overall risks much lower.

The bike: which one?

I currently have 3 bikes.

2000 Aprilia RSV1000 Mille. All it has is a rock hard corbin seat and the race clip ons moved to the top of the triple tree for a TAD more upright riding. This thing is bone-shatteringly uncomfortable on rough roads and in traffic, but once the roads open up, it's surprisingly comfortable, and it is bound to be my most reliable bike (I get it serviced like a hawk and the rotax 990 is astoundingly reliable) but it's also the most complicated and should it break, parts would be hard to come by and expensive as all hell, and it has the off-road capabilities of a trout. It does get 60-65mpg on the freeway.

Next is a 75 Honda CB125 single. Right now it's a cafe racer, but I could easily throw the original bars back on to make it a standard. It's the second most simple bike, with the most available parts (honda still makes EVERYTHING.) and the best fuel economy (if I keep it under 50 it'll return 115mpg) but it's also weak off road (it does have new michelin gazelles, which WILL work on old dirt roads, but nothing else, with shite clearance) it'll also be the second most reliable, as it's in just fabulous condition with a fresh carb build, practically no miles, and perfect compression. My caveat is that I could only do 60mph freeways for VERY short stretches, as it's redline in fifth.

The final bike is an '81 suzuki TS185. two stroke, easiest to fix (the previous owners did some pretty incredible things with baling wire, haha) but parts are VERY hard to come by, though it's astounding what this bike can live without, and there's lots of cross-referencing. It's also got so-so performance (top speed is supposedly 82ish with 15hp) but it's probably the most comfortable bike, I don't have to worry about a battery, and I could comfortably do 60-65. It's also balls-out good on trails. My concerns with this (ideas as it seems ) is that I got the thing for $50. And it had a seized piston. Freed it up, honed it myself with one of those autozone tools (it took the rust off perfectly) and put it back together, as the rings looked good. I'll do fresh head and jug gaskets, make sure the oil pump is working well (and have a syringe/premix cup for if it fails, as the TS uses the oil pump to lube the main bearing) and I'll also carry a tire, put new ones on it, and overall have it running as well as I can get it for cheap.

So the Ts really seems like the bike for the job, but it's a monkey-metal farm bike that I'm putting right myself (I am a pretty fair mechanic, however) for as cheap as possible.

The honda will be the best mix of reliability and comfort, but it's got the top speed of a labrador, making route planning pivotal.

The Aprilia will probably make the trip easily, but it's the least comfortable, parts are the most expensive by far, and should it go completely wrong, I would HAVE to ship it home, whereas the other two I could just throw on craigslist for $50 and be done with them. also, despite being a big bike, I can only get about 210 miles from a tank if I ride like an old woman. more common is 150.

equipment wise, I have good riding gear (ultracompact rainsuit, a corbin all season jacket, shark modular helmet, icon field armor that I can easily remove/apply, would need two pair of gloves, however) and a decently big tank bag, and quite large expandable ogio soft bags. I could also weld together a rear rack for the TS185. aside from the obvious tent, sleeping bag, essential toiletries and medications, first aid (I'm a lifeguard and soon to be EMT, so I'm good there!) and associated camping gear, what other essentials are needed? I can bring a ratchet with essential sized sockets, a small set of essential wrenches, a crescent wrench, extra water and a few small snacks, but being in america, I could also just buy tinned food whenever i need it to save weight. Also, with the TS, two stroke oil, and gear oil for the chains.

What else would be needed, for a trip in america? I'd be starting in Seattle and working my way across towards the east coast.

Again, sorry if all these questions have been asked before. I've only recently decided that I wanted to do this. Goal for leaving would probably be next year come may or june. Budget would be as low as humanly possible. If this winds up being a GREAT plan that I start really looking forward to, I may also sell the ape and buy something like a vstrom 650 or transalp.
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  #2  
Old 21 Jul 2011
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Which bike ? You seem to have answered that already. But I don't think you will want to be 2 up on the TS :-)

Its not clear from your post what your location is, but I assume US based ?

In the US Oil (even 2 stroke) is widely available and strap a chain lube spray to your frame somewhere, or fit a Scotoiler and use chainsaw oil (also widely available).

Tools, just take the basics to save space and get breakdown/recovery cover.

MPG, plenty of gas stations, the tank range on my Aprila Pegaso was 120-140 before reserve and that was no issue in the US (actually not an issue until Chile).

Pack what you think you need, after a week dump what you don't and buy what you forgot :-)
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  #3  
Old 17 Aug 2011
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A couple of thoughts. I'd go with the Aprilia as we have lots of wide-open spaces here that you will want to cross at 75 mph and above for hours at a time. Myself, I would prefer to have something very common and easy to find shops and parts for, like the SV650. The most common bikes and shops here, by far, are Harley-Davidsons, though they may not be to your taste. They can be reliable, easy to fix, and get good gas mileage. No good off road obviously. Out west you may want to carry a spare gas bottle, or be very careful about fill ups. There are places where gas is 50 miles or more apart. Bring some warm gear to wear too, as crossing mountains it gets cold, and here in the Northeast we have already seen temps. in the 40s and 50s F in August. If you plan on doing this in July and August skip the southern stuff and stay well to the north, unless you like extreme heat and humidity. One obvious problem heading east all the time is you will always have the sun right in your eyes in the morning, every day, so have good sun glasses! Enjoy...
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  #4  
Old 17 Aug 2011
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To be honest, I don't think any of these bikes is ideal. I've run up the Alaska Hwy as far as Watson Lake, and back south on the Cassiar. You need to worry about two factors: reliability and range. There are a couple of stretches where there is no fuel or service for a long ways.

IMHO, I would sell the two smaller bikes and put the money towards something like a used KLR 650.
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  #5  
Old 17 Aug 2011
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He's not planning a trip to Alaska--he said he wants to go coast to coast, which will involve mostly road travel unless he is very creative. The KLR isn't the best bike for that, IMHO.
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  #6  
Old 17 Aug 2011
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Ah, sorry. I misread the original note.
Yes, I would agree that for a c2c road trip, the Mille is definitely the way to go. Fit it with some saddlebags and it should be fine.
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  #7  
Old 18 Aug 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bclarke View Post
To be honest, I don't think any of these bikes is ideal. I've run up the Alaska Hwy as far as Watson Lake, and back south on the Cassiar. You need to worry about two factors: reliability and range. There are a couple of stretches where there is no fuel or service for a long ways.

IMHO, I would sell the two smaller bikes and put the money towards something like a used KLR 650.
Hey, don't diss the Aprilia for reliability ! :-). Sometimes bikes surprise you.

Are there any KLR 650s left ? All the Canadians seem to buy them in September and head south :-)
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  #8  
Old 21 Aug 2011
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Road Trip USA

If you're looking for some ideas on routes West to East coast check out this book: Road Trip USA: Cross-Country Adventures on America's Two-Lane Highways by Jamie Jensen. There's also a website companion to the book: ROAD TRIP USA.

There are some great roads in this book that will get you through a lot of nice country in the US. I've been using it to plan trips for a few years now. Great information, and there's a 2011 update so you wont show up in a town and find the restaurant or hotel you're looking for closed.

I'm in the middle of planning my own x-country trip, from east to west though for 2014. I'm looking at taking either Rt 50 or Rt 40 or a little of both.
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  #9  
Old 22 Aug 2011
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Take the big bike

I've done it every way across USA and you need speed to get outa everyone's way, and there's some LONG stretches on a little bike will kill you.

Fernet Insurance in Orlando Florida for insurance if you are from somewhere else

Zig
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  #10  
Old 27 Sep 2011
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All good advice here. Air temperature and distance between fillups is important to keep in mind, as is: on or off paved roads, speed, riding style, lifestyle (camper or moteler) and overall goal. Any bike can cross the USA if it is not pushed over its limits for an extended period of time.

My advice: wear good eye protection both clear and tinted.

- Fabini
Moto Fabini
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  #11  
Old 27 Sep 2011
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eye protection is required

in almost all states ! Helmet in some.

I think the big bike.

Zig
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  #12  
Old 27 Sep 2011
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Honeybadgers:

I've done a lot of cross-continent riding - first trip was on a Honda CB360 in the early 1970s when I was a teenager, more recently I have put 130,000 km on my ST1100 going cross country in both North America and Europe.

The biggest issue I think you need to consider is reliability of the machine. You don't want the moto to break down halfway through the trip. A tire puncture, although a complete PITA, can be dealt with - you just buy a new tire. Some kind of weird mechanical breakdown on an uncommon moto that it is hard to find parts for will probably bring your trip to a premature end.

So - that totally rules out the '81 Suzuki TS185.

I honestly think that the '75 Honda CB125 is way too small a bike to use for a cross-continent trip. Consider that in addition to yourself, you will need to bring a small amount of stuff (clothes, etc.). The bike won't be able to get out of it's own way, let alone climb hills or maintain a safe speed in the face of a strong headwind. Plus, the darn thing is 36 years old!

You have kind of shot down the 2000 Aprilia RSV1000 Mille with your comment "...should it break, parts would be hard to come by and expensive as all hell..." I wouldn't rule that bike out entirely - my ST1100 is a 2001, and I don't have any concerns about heading off on 5,000 km trips with it - but, I get it fully serviced - practically overhauled - annually by a Swiss dealer (at a cost of about $2K per year), and I tell the dealer that reliability means everything, and the price of the service doesn't matter.

If you maintain the Aprilia as well as you say you do, it could be a good choice. But, towards the end of your note, you wrote "...I may also sell the ape and buy something like a vstrom 650 or Transalp." I think you would be better off with a new (or at least, newer) bike in the 650 cc and up range. Again - reliability is everything when making long cross-continent trips, and so far as the cost of obtaining that reliability is concerned, you can either pay it out in service and preparation costs for an older bike, or capital cost (purchase cost) for a new or 'newer' bike.

I don't think that the Transalp is sold in North America, which leads me to believe that you might not be resident in North America. If you do purchase a new bike, give some thought to purchasing something that is also sold in North America - that will make it a heck of a lot easier to get it serviced, buy tires, stuff like that.

You asked 'what to bring'. I travel with a small toolkit, a tire patching kit, and a hand-operated air pump. I stay in hotels or hostels, which means I don't have to carry a tent and all the crap that goes with camping. After 10 years of riding about 10 to 15,000 km a year cross-continent, I have managed to trim down everything I need to that which will fit into the two saddlebags of my ST1100. The less that you carry, the easier your life is. Take a toiletry kit, couple of pairs of socks, couple of pairs of underwear, two pairs of jeans, 2 polo shirts, a jumper (sweater), a small laptop computer, and that's it.

You didn't talk about budgeting. I suggest you allow about $80 to $100 a day for food, attractions, and lodging. Fuel is extra, but it doesn't cost much on a motorcycle. I don't budget anything for toll roads because I never ride on them - they are boring as stink, the secondary roads are better.

It's not that expensive to ship the motorcycle back to the other side of the country. Contact a moving company ('removal company' in UK-speak) and ask them what it would cost to have them haul the thing coast to coast for you when you are done with the ride. I'm going to guess not much, maybe only $300 to $500.

Michael
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  #13  
Old 28 Sep 2011
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Transalp's are available here

sold in 89 and 90 only

run from 2500-4000 depending on mileage - great bikes too.

If you camp most of the time, you can probably get by on 35 a day, I've done it recently on less...didn't drive a lot tho', mostly sight-seeing and stayed 3-5 days in one place.

I wouldn't even recommend riding anything smaller than a 650 on US interstates....just not safe...monster trucks run you down...and I'm an ex truckie !

Zig
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  #14  
Old 28 Oct 2012
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In 2002 I rode from Vancouver to Toronto via the Mexican border in six weeks, then in 2006 rode from New Jersey to California and back again in three months, both times on an ST1100 Pan European. It's a wonderful tourer and I'm not sure I'd want to try the same trip with a much smaller bike let alone a sports bike or a small two stroke.

I stayed with internet friends and/or motels such as Motel 6, the best of the budget motels.

I got a big maps of the country and dotted every plave I really wanted to see and missed in 2002 - Yosemite, Crazy Horse, Mount Rushmore, San Antonio, Little Big Horn, and so on, then just joined up the dots.

Riding in mid-Summer, the weather was hot, really hot. Death Valley was 117f and 100f at midnight. I wore a white open face helmet, light coloured mesh jacket and lightweight well vented trousers and carried ultra lightweight Frogg Toggs waterproof suit.

That's about it. A reliable camera (mine broke down so I had to buy another), a credit card, a National Parks season ticket, a plan and a smile
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  #15  
Old 5 Nov 2012
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Sounds like a GREAT trip!

I've taken a 2005 V strom 650 across country a few times since 2010...

Great comfortable, reliable, etc... the only thing that's slowed me down was getting a tire and chain in Prescott, Az.

My two bits of advice
1. dress for everything... on one trip I rode through 116 degress in death valley and snow in the CO mtns, and EVERYTHING in between
2. try to rough out a plan, and send wear items ahead (tires, chains, etc...). Not trying to scrounge up an odd sized tire saves ALL KINDS of time and frustration.

If you need to stash parts in St. Paul, shoot me a note!

Safe travels
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