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Wheelie 23 Sep 2012 13:36

Best tips: Fast travel, many km, little time...
I see the questions popping up over and over again - "how many kms/day?", "can I get to such and such place in this ammount of time?". Usually these questions are related to extremely ambitious itineraries, even for the most experienced, and usually by people who only have a few weeks or months to travel - and who wants to cram in as much as possible (I am often one of those :mchappy:). So, I thought it would be a good idea to start collecting all your opinions and point people with these types of questions to this thread.

So, here is my few cents:

A dayly riding average of 300 to 350 kms/day, including resting days, border crossings, etc is not a problem for prolonged travel... if you stick to a very rigid but efficient routine - even 600/kms can be done in the extreme, but probably not for prolonged travel over more than a few weeks. I have personally done 1.000 km/day on shorter trips on my Dakar, but they only lasted a few days. The ironbutt people ride more than 1.600 kms/day for a day or two (but not on overlanding type bikes). However, when we are talking overlanding, with prolonged travel, border crossings, brake downs, camping, etc - 600 kms/day just isn't the way to go for anyone! I see that many people do not reccomend more than 200 kms or 250 kms/day at max - which I will clearly abide myself once I have the luxury of time. This much said, doing anything more than 300 kms/day is a lot and should not be taken lightly!

To be efficient it is important to understand a few things: - it is the stops and not the riding speed that kills your daily average - in fact, riding at high speed is very tiering and will eventually lead you to taking longer and longer brakes and ind the end make you slower. On the other hand, without sufficient ammount of rest, fatigue sets in and spirits are killed - both which require a great disproportionate ammount of rest and recreation to bring back into line.

Fatigue accumulates not only throughout the day, but also over the days. It creeps up on you, and once you notice it, it is too late... its like rot. It is therefore of great importance that you find an optimal balance of rest and riding, which will work for the whole group... not only through individual days, but across days. This means that there are two types of rests, one is riding brakes, and the other is resting days - and both are equally important... think about the turtle and the rabbit, the turtle allways wins.

My experiments have lead me to the following general rules of thumb (for groups of 1-3 people):

10-20% of a single riding day should be brakes, and 10-20% of the total trip should be resting days. The longer the days, or the longer the trip, the higher end of the percantage scale for riding brakes and resting days.

Example of daily routine, applying the 10-20% brake rule:

-Wheels are to be rolling no later than 08:00 in the morning if breakfast is available early, if not, then 08:30. This means that the bike must be tanked up and serviced before having gone to bed. Late arrivals means less recreation and rest - leading to rot in the end

-A qucik 5 min brake at the top of every hour - to be used efficiently: Have a drink of water, a cigarette, a snack, a piss... To most newbs, it sounds like a lot to have a brake every hour, and few initially feel the need to stop the first hour - but after a long day in the saddle, with fatigue accumulating, at least half the group needed it badly. Frequent stops is necessary to hold fatigue at bay, especially on long days.

-A 5 to 15 minute stop every other hour at a gas station to refuel, restock on water and food, snack, drink, etc.

-A 15-30 minute lunch brake.

-Dinner after having arrived at the final destination for the day

-With this routine I can easily do 10 hour days, day after day. If I press myself, I can do fifteen hour days for a few days in a row.

NB, with short stops like this, you will not have time to wait for service - you will need to bring your own food and drink, and consume it by the side of the road (i.e. just some bread, jams and water), and then get going quickly. If enjoing a coffee at a café, eating lunch in a restaurant, or anything else that require service from others, is an integral part of your daily routine, then you should reduce your daily average by 50-100 kms/day.

With 300 kms/day average, you should still be able to enjoy a coffee every now and then, shoot some photos, and maybe even have a warm lunch on occasion - but maybe not every day. Border crossings, banking, shopping, flat tires, nightfall, may all get in your way.

Example of resting day routines, applying the 10-20% resting rule:

Set the pace immediately by trying to spread the resting days evenly from the very beginning. For example: Ride four days and take the fifth day off, or ride five days and take the weekend off, etc. After a while you can adjust and balance resting days with the length of riding days... maybe you find that you want to push it on a stretch to save up some free time down the line?

For a week long trip, there may not be need for more than a half day for rest and/or recreation (10%), while for a three month trip might want to spend a few days at a beach resort, accept invitations to late night parties, etc (20%)...

Walkabout 24 Sep 2012 12:48

I can't disagree with that summary Wheelie but I would add that it gets much more clunky, time intensive and generally a PITA as the riding group increases in size.

Also, somewhere in another thread you mention riding for 15 hours per day - I have worked a 15/7/2 regime for months at a time and I can't recommend it at all!
15 hours = the working day.
2 hours = personal administration, of all natures (in this case, maintaining the bike would be included).
7 hours = sleep.
Sure, it can be done, but everyone burns out sooner or later (as you mention, the Iron Butters do their thing for just a day or two).

Oo-SEB-oO 24 Sep 2012 14:01

I can't be in the saddle everyday at 8 honestly.... My starting point is 10 in the morning (or earlier if I'm awake). It will also depend on "the plan" of the day and if you are alone or not. The more you are, the slower it goes, my idea.

Surfy 24 Sep 2012 14:25

On a 4x4 I calculate aktually 350km / day - should be possible. So we plan to move each day - but not too far.

If the weather is bad, we plan to drive the full day - when we find a beautiful beach or camp - we will rest for a longer period.

I can tell you more in some months ;-)

oldbmw 25 Sep 2012 01:31

I usually am alone and therefore take a very relaxed approach.

I get up when I wake up, have a lazy breakfast then break camp and load up. Usually I am on the road by 9 am. Sometime between 12-1pm I stop for fuel, lunch and a comfort break. takes a generous hour. I then ride until about 4.30 when I start looking for a stopping place. Usually a campsite, or wild. If it has been bad weather and I am feeling a little dispirited i will also look for hotels and Bed n breakfast place to save putting up the tent and cooking. also look out top refuel as I like to park up with a full tank. One of the advantages of an Enfield is I can run at 50mph for five hours on a tankful. This not having to stop for fuel is significant as I have found on average I now do more miles per day on the Enfield than I did on the BMW. Average around 250 miles per day which is a tankful.

I usually have an ultimate destination with some odd places I would like to see on the way. Nothing is written in stone so I don't really care much where I am or where I am going so long as I am enjoying the ride. I also don't really have a timetable :) only a general idea.

JetJackson 29 Sep 2012 05:04

Really good post.

Over a 12 month trip in Europe I have found that an average of about 170km per day suits us (this is averaged out over a month so it includes rest days), given that we are also trying to see the sights. I think once you go over 250km per day it becomes a trip where you are seeing things from the motorbike, rather than stopping the motorbike in places to see things.

You really start to burn out over many months. I think if you are planning a year long trip you need to plan in to stop places every couple of months or so, and stay there for around a fortnight. We have used helpx.com to find volunteering opportunities to do these longer breaks at no cost.

Also, once you get to countries with really poor roads and lots of local traffic, you cannot expect to make the same time across km, so you have to adapt. 150 km could take you 4 hours or more, not including breaks.

brclarke 29 Sep 2012 18:49

I find that I average about 500 km per day... but then I only ride two out of three days, and play tourist on every third day, with little or no riding that day.

JetJackson 30 Sep 2012 14:43


Originally Posted by brclarke (Post 394387)
I find that I average about 500 km per day... but then I only ride two out of three days, and play tourist on every third day, with little or no riding that day.

Over how long a trip though and through what countries?

It's very much a 'how long is a piece of string?' question I think.

danward79 30 Sep 2012 17:58

Great thread.

We tend to do three week to one month trips. Due to work. I tend to work out our trip routes based on about 1600 km a week. We are three in a 4x4. This works out at approx 230 km a day.

In main Europe this is easy, we can up the average to 400 easily if we need to. On occasion we have done 800 + km just to get somewhere. I feel bad after it. Not for me or the wife but the nipper. So prefer to avoid doing this. However as we travel further afield we sometimes need to cover ground to get to an area to explore.

Once we leave Europe and big smooth roads we tend to average between 100 and 300 a day, sometimes these are long days with lots of slow unpaved roads and photo breaks. They are normally fantastic thou.

I think it can be hard to work out trip lengths, especially of you are newer to the game but as long as you are flexible and don't expect to do motorway speeds on minor roads outside Europe a rough guide of 1600 km a week works.


OOgie 21 Oct 2012 11:43

Here in the States, I would say that it 'all depends.' If I want to get to my destination quickly, such as getting to New England or the Badlands, putting 1,000 + km is easily done. Tiring and not very satisfying, but doable, especially on a cruiser/tourer mc. The interstate road system is fast and efficient to get you there and probably safer in bad weather with frequent accessible exits and overpasses.
If the riding experience is your cup of tea, such as the Badlands of S.D. or Tail of the Dragon, T.N. then cut that daily estimate in half.
If the tourist experience is what you desire, such as the Grand Canyon, A.Z. or the Devil's Tower, W.Y. how you plan to soak in the moment can further divide that estimate in half. Be honest with yourself. Do I want to 'check off' having been to a place or do I want to soak up the experience?
The only reason for a time table is because you have got to get back to or out of somewhere. Figure extra time for the limiting factor of the slowest member of your group, break- downs, health, etc. I usually give myself an extra day per week for such circumstances.

Bertrand 21 Oct 2012 12:22

IMHO the key to happy and healthy travelling is to understand and know your own rhythm and needs.

Arkean 22 Oct 2012 13:21


Originally Posted by Bertrand (Post 397364)
IMHO the key to happy and healthy travelling is to understand and know your own rhythm and needs.

I'll second that!

Personally, I would not underestimate the importance to first sort out what one do expect from such a travel and what are the key elements he knows which will offer the satisfaction he needs. I usually tend to think that past experiences taught me what I definitely don't like, but future and especially unexpected ones will make me discover new key elements of satisfaction.

I strongly believe that time factor in a trip planning is overly underestimated. Trying to max out distances and checkpoints in a fixed timeframe highers the risk of spending too many moments under stress, and stress can be a trip killer.

pecha72 22 Oct 2012 19:51

Feasible distance per day depends first and foremost on yourself, but also very much on where exactly you are travelling.

In India I remember thinking, that in some areas just 200 kms was a long and exhausting day of riding, even using main roads. That's nothing in Europe, US, or Oz for example.

The number of border crossings on your plan will also have an effect, because they'll easily bring delays, and you might have to apply for visas for upcoming crossings somewhere, and wait to get them. And if you need to freight the bike across the sea, for example, that'll take at least a few days on both ends, even when everything goes according to the plan.

twenty4seven 22 Oct 2012 20:06


Originally Posted by Bertrand (Post 397364)
IMHO the key to happy and healthy travelling is to understand and know your own rhythm and needs.

Spot on Bertrand, I'm happiest keeping on move for example and only really like the odd early finish to catch up washing clothes etc. :thumbup1:

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