Monday, January 08, 2007

Midwest Scooter Enthusiast

Setting the Pace

A Minimalist's Guide to Short and Moderate distance Touring

So you've got yourself a decent scooter. Its been a reliable and fun way to get around. You've always wondered what it would be like to ride somewhere a little further away from home. Somewhere which would take a little planning in order to get there. You've got the touring bug.

No matter what cubic displacement your machine is, it can be done. You can have all the fun you're looking for with the machine you've already got. Its a matter of accepting the conditions of the situation. You have to begin somewhere and there's no better way than to just get out there and ride what you already have.

The beauty of touring of any distance is the rider learns to adapt to unexpected situations. Its a learning experience. No matter how often I take the time to ride outside the usual home range I'm reminded of old lessons. Dormant bits of knowledge resurface which remind me what worked the last time I rode this far. Its fun to think about the last touring experience while you're on your new adventure.

Its time to prepare.

Think about the longest ride you've taken so far. No matter what distance or how long it took, try to recall some of the things you felt you could improve about that ride without investing in a totally different machine. For many riders that first longer distance ride wasn't so much planned as it just sort of happened. Before you knew it you were further away from home than you realized and you found yourself in a race to get back. That's when the riding got difficult, wasn't it.

The typical ride can be broken into three distinct phases. The first is spent getting to an area where you as a rider can really begin to enjoy the ride. The second phase is almost a state of bliss for a lot of us. There's nothing to worry about other than the immediate road ahead. You're where you crave to be. The third begins once you start thinking about heading back to park the bike. The ride is coming to a close. For some people the fun ends right there and while they could still be enjoying themselves, its then that their minds start to wander. I believe many of the accidents we hear or read about, happen during this phase of the ride. People are thinking about other things. Their thoughts have moved on ahead of them. I know that on occasion I've subconsciously tensed up on the way home during the third phase. I felt every seam in the road, every cross gust of wind. The longer the third phase when I felt hurried to get back home, the more dangerous I became. So I learned to think about touring from a standpoint of safety. I could relax and enjoy the third stage if I mentally prepared by maintaining a goal of leaving around a certain time, arriving around a certain time and coming home at a certain time. Its better to finish sightseeing earlier (and miss a few things) than trying to cram it all in today and then ride like sin to get home at a reasonable time. Adhere to a loose schedule. Don't burn yourself out on the third phase.

Take breaks when you need them.

There are no quick and dirty rules about how often to get off the bike. Thank goodness. We're all different and so are our needs. It doesn't matter how many miles you put on between stops. As long as you get off and stretch when you start to feel you need to. Bathroom break, something to drink. Maybe a smoke. Whatever reason you have, its perfectly alright to stop when you need to. When discomfort leads to aches and pain your body is trying to tell you something. Please listen. In the long run you'll become accustomed to longer rides and you'll learn ways that work for you to accomodate your own personal needs.

What to bring?

If its a ride that takes the greater part of a day clothing should consist of a warmer (or cooler) shirt and possibly another jacket. Wrapping bottled water in the bundle is never a bad idea. Stick a toothbrush and some deoderant along with a comb in a jacket pocket. I would also recommend putting your identification somewhere obove your waiste as a thick leather wallet can get irritating after several miles. Check the weather and see if you think you'll need any type of rain gear and wrap that into your bundle if you need to. How much protective gear is up to you. Consider looking at the Scooter in the Sticks blog by Steve Williams and Modern Vespa for a realistic idea of what works best. I always bring ten or twenty dollars cash on every ride. Gas, a snack at a Mom&Pop's along the way... nothing smells or tastes better than than the food at those little restaurants you never see in the city.

Where to go?

That's entirely up to you. I've found a remarkable treasure trove of sights within a day's ride of my home. Just a little online footwork to discover all the places I could visit on an overnight stay somewhere inexpensive. A weekend's ride can feel like a week's vacation when done on a scooter. How can you beat that? I don't think you can.

The Roadbum


Bryce said...

The only thing that beats getting out and gobbling up some road is bringing friends alone.

American Scooterist Blog said...

Yes it is. Which also happens to be what my next blog will be about. Thanks for posting this. It shows me I'm developing a little flow when I'm trying to.


Bryce said...

Just clicked on the profile link you have and it turns out we were both born on Monkey years.

Combatscoot said...

Great primer for more travel articles.

CodyandMichelle said...

Totally agree with Bryce, in fact Harv, look at my latest blog.
As usual your writing is always inspiring and informative.
Speaking of trips, can we count on you for The Dragons Tail this summer?

American Scooterist Blog said...

You guys are great, you know that? I only wish I could get to The Dragon's Tail. I checked out your site on the road and it is simply amazing.
I just came back from a meeting of our local club the St. Cloud Scoots about what we want to do this summer and which directions we should be taking. We solidified some goals and are planning on streamlining to stay focused. I'm going to be taking a more involved approach to the group rides etc.

The Roadbum