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Old 16 Aug 2005
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First trip! lap of the US


My girlfriend and I are planning our first big bike trip. So far our biggest excursion was 5 days riding and camping around Corsica on a GS500 earlier in the year... but we want to do something big. I finish uni next summer and this will be to celebrate. We thought the US would be perfect as a first big trip. Safer than most places and easy-ish riding. I was wondering if anyone could help with some questions we have...

Luggage is concerning me. We want to travel reasonably light and take a light bike, we also want to keep costs down so I figured soft panniers would do and maybe a tank bag.... but what do you do with the stuff off the bike? do you just leave the panniers there and hope they're there when you're back? has anybody got any good solutions to this problem?

Also we're debating whether to ship the bike from home in the UK or buy one once there... what do you recommend?

Sleeping- the US has lots of cheap motels but we want to carry camping stuff as well.... is it safe to free camp there? if not are there many camp sites and if so whats the usual price?

Any info or tips would be greatly appreciated!


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Old 17 Aug 2005
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I'm afraid I don't have many answers to your questions, but I do have a few! "Free" camping is available in some parks, but with restrictions (usually you must camp a specified distance away from the road.)

If you can afford it, I recommend campsites. We have many all throughout the country. Most will cost between $8 & $20 a night, depending on their amenities (flush toilets, hot showers, etc.) Many of the nicest people I've met on the road were met at campsites.

There are many books and maps available that list campsites. The downside to campsites is that it can be hard to get a site if you're traveling during the peak season. Whatever you decide, have fun!
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Old 17 Aug 2005
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Soft luggage - the trade off is less security when you hop off the bike during the day. You could try looking around for someone you trust to watch them while you wander; other than that, just be accepting that theft happens. Some tank bags convert into backpacks.

Buy or ship - bikes are cheap in the US and shipping is another payment & hassle. Unless you can't find the bike you must have, buying stateside is wise.

Camping - at state-run campsites this can be surprisingly expensive (~$16/night). The Bureau of Land Management is a federal agency managing a lot of land, mostly in the west. You can camp on this land for free; find the land by using maps; highly recommended. Free camping is chancier (how do you feel about an angry farmers pointing a gun at you!) but if there is no owner around to ask for permission you'll probably be fine.

To help with getting a route together think about reading the excellent & quirky book titled 'Road Trip USA'

The US is perfect for a roadtrip - you'll love it - but consider including Canada, too.

Good luck!
James Courtier
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Old 17 Aug 2005
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Hi, thanks for the advise!

we're still planning, so alot can change between now and next year, but we thought we should start thinking about it now. I'm leaning more towards plastic lockable luggage now... its more money but the peace of mind and benefit of leaving stuff safe on the bike will probably be worth it.

We'd also like to do canada as well, and even south america (at least mexico, especially since my girlfriends spanish) but we can't go everywhere! we really want to get up to alaska as well. We heard theres a ferry from near seattle that takes you up through the glaciers, that would be perfect.

The route changes everytime we look at the map, but basically we hope to start in new york, go up to boston and across to niagara falls, along the lakes then down towards mt rushmore and on to yellowstone, then back up to seattle, see alaska, come down the coast through california, up through las vegas and the grand canyon then to salt lake city and down again through new mexico (I want to see roswell) then across texas, new orleans, finishing in Florida where would stay for a while and ride down to the keys. We both studied in gainesville FL last year so we have friends to stay with in ft lauderdale/ miami. Then back up to new york and home! we thought 3/4 months would be a good amount of time? to be honest I have no idea how long it will take yet but we don't want to rush, we'd like to stop and take time to enjoy the places, not just burn through.

anywhere else we should see?

I'm not sure about what bike yet, we wont be goign off road so I'm thinking any sensible 600, possible a fazer or an sv650? i don't want a trials style bike because it would be nice to have a comfy low seat, but I also considered a yamaha szr660, because it has the reliable yamaha big single engine... any suggestiosn for a good bike? i can't help thinking it should be done on a harley, even just an 883 sportster but they aren't cheap!
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Old 17 Aug 2005
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I have used hard and soft luggage on many tours around Europe and into Morocco, on various bikes.

Benefits of hard Luggage:
Lockable, good waterproofing, lots of room, very useful if you drop the bike (protect panels etc), stay on when travelling at 100mph on Autobahns.
Not so good points of hard Luggage:
Expensive, may only work for a specific bike or the mountings may only support one bike, may restrict your filtering abilities.

Benefits of soft luggage:
Lightweight and many can be converted into rucksacks, cheap, can be fitted onto any bike, can be stretched (ideal for a those extra purchases on your trip).
Downside of soft luggage:
Not particularly strong, if you crash they tend to tear easily (in my experience), I have yet to find any soft luggage that is fully waterproof, can simply be cut off the bike and stolen, need bungees etc all over to hold them on properly at high speeds.

I think for a long trip like yours, I would tend to go towards the hard luggage with maybe a soft rear pack and tank bag to allow for day trips etc.
You can also sell your hard luggage on eBay at the end of your trip which will help you claim back some of the expense.

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Old 28 Sep 2005
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You should be able to pick up a used DL650 VStrom with Givi bags on it for cheap, I think it would be perfect for the trip your doing or if you can handle the mass a Kawi Concours are cheap and good for taking on the many miles of America and all the interstates we have.
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Old 29 Sep 2005
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there are lots of ferries up there. see www.ferryalaska.com
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Old 13 Dec 2005
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In 2002 I flew from the UK to Vancouver and rode my Pan across the US via the Mexican border to Toronto. Have a look at http://uk.msnusers.com/USCoasttoCoastMotorcycleTrip2002 where many of your questions may be answered.

I May 2006 I'm returning but this time to ride from New York to California and back in three months. So far I have pencilled in Washington DC, an ST rally in Virginia, Nashville, Mount Rushmore, Little Big Horn, Yellowstone Park, Mount Evans, the Rockies, Las Vegas, Death Valley, San Francisco, Tucson, San Antonio and Houston.

If you want any more advise, please email me.
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