I know, you thought you’d finally seen the last of my Deliverance Ride blogs, but I thought there was room for just one more.
I’ve now been back from our great Deliverance Ride adventure for a few weeks. I’ve had the chance to re-live it through the medium of blog, and to reflect upon the experience.
The obvious question to ask at this juncture, then, is ‘would I do it again?’
And the answer is ‘hell yes!’
Or rather, I would do something like it again: life is too short and there are too many roads to travel to do the same journey twice, but I definitely aim to do more bike-based adventures. Andy and Jane warned that road trips were addictive.
However, I learned a few lessons from this inaugural adventure, which I thought I’d share with you in case you are thinking of doing something similar.
- Make sure that you are confident in riding a motorbike.
This sounds like an obvious no-brainer, but it’s surprising that some people think that they can just get on a bike after not riding for many years and they are good to go. They are not.
To set out on a ride like this you have to know that you can not only ride for seven hours a day, but that you can get up and do it again tomorrow. And the next day.
If you aren’t confident in riding a bike you will hold up the whole group that you are riding with and can be a danger to yourself and others. If you decide part way in that you have to give it up, not only do you lose out on your holiday of a life-time and feel a bit of a fool, it can also be very expensive to make arrangements to get the bike collected and get yourself home.
- Know the rules of the road for the country that you are riding with, or go with people who do.
I didn’t know the rules of the road. It is surprising how many differences there are riding in America: being on the wrong side of the road is just the start of it. Luckily both Paul and Andy who I was riding with were familiar with riding in the US so I could just follow them. This is also the beauty of going with a group such as Hadrian V-Twin, who will always have a leader and a back-marker to keep an eye on you.
This also re-enforces my rule 1, above: if you aren’t confident riding a bike, you don’t have enough brain power to concentrate on that and worry about the rules of the road at the same time, one is going to give. If riding comes second nature you may get away with it.
- Accept that you are on a road trip – it is all about the journey.
There were several times along the journey where I could have wept as we sailed past glorious beaches and wonderful scenery where, normally, I could have spent hours or days. Depending on your itinerary you just have to accept this: the adventure is about the riding, not doing stuff whilst you are there.
If you have the time and money, take longer and see the sights as you go – if we had another week we could have seen quite a lot. That would change the nature of the trip though, watering down some of the feel of a road trip and making it more of a sightseeing holiday.
Having said that, we did plan in some slack, allowing us to spend time in Joshua Tree, a half day in Tombstone and San Antonio and a day off in New Orleans, all of which was well worth it.
- Stay Flexible
I don’t mean do your stretches (although that helps too!), but keep your itinerary flexible. We had to book a few key hotels where we thought we may not otherwise get somewhere, but mostly we either just turned up on spec or booked them a day or two before using the free wi-fi you get in most hotels.
This proved well worthwhile on a couple of occasions: when we decided to change plans due to the weather and miss out Big Bend on day 5, it allowed us to re-plan the following few days into San Antonio. It also allowed us to change plans to get into Galveston for the Lone Star Rally, although we were incredibly lucky to get a room!
- Travel with like-minded people
Okay, I didn’t always see eye-to-eye with my friends and travel companions on topics such as time for kickstands up, when it was time for bed, and how often we should stop for photo opportunities, but by and large we get on very well. If you don’t get on with the people you are travelling with then it can certainly test friendships and ruin the adventure.
If you are travelling in a group, this is harder to manage, but at least get some idea of what their approach is to, e.g. the number of miles travelled in a day, start times, rest days, sightseeing opportunities, etc – and manage your own expectations accordingly.
- When in Rome…
Everyone we met on our travels were very friendly. This really helped to make the trip what it was, and I believe that at least in part this was because we were travelling on Harley Davidsons. I suspect that, in the US, if you are on sport or adventure bikes you wouldn’t get the same vibe. Likewise, if in Rome, you may want to consider a Ducati.
- Do you want to be a pillion?
My wife, Sharon, and our friend Kate both rode pillion. Kate enjoyed it more than Sharon did. In part, this is probably because she has more long experience of riding pillion with Paul, and also probably partly because the Electra Glide was so comfortable.
However, it seems to me that being a passenger is inherently boring and I would imagine the view of the back of the rider’s head would get monotonous. Think about these things before deciding to go as pillion.
- It is possible to travel light
Carrying capacity on a motorcycle is not enormous – well, the Electra Glide was pretty generous, the Fat Boy not so much! It is possible to travel very light however – remember that most of the time you will be on the bike, so you don’t need much: your bike jeans, three or four t-shirts and the same number of base layers and underwear. Most of the big chain hotels have laundry facilities – it just means you have to spend an hour or so every few days doing boring laundry. If there is a group of you, you can share the chore.
Some people take the ‘suicide clothing’ route: take away old clothes and bin it when it is dirty, replacing it from WalMart as you go along. I am too tight for that and didn’t want to spend any more time than necessary in WalMart! We did buy some things as we went along though – mostly T-shirts – so make sure you have some spare carrying capacity.
- Be prepared for all weather eventualities
Having said that about travelling light, it doesn’t matter what you think the weather will be like on your trip, prepare for all eventualities. We didn’t expect rain, wind and cold in California and Texas and frost on the saddles in Tombstone, but it was a good job we had waterproofs and warm layers with us. The trick is working out how to provide that level of protection without causing too much luggage problems. Plenty of waterproof bags and bungies was the answer for us.
And on the subject of protection, I would advise that you don’t stint on the protective clothing. Of course you hope not to have an accident, but travelling many more miles than usual in a country with different road rules makes it a worrying possibility, so I think it is foolish to suddenly decide to abandon armour and robust clothing just because you are on holiday.
- Know your weaknesses
I discovered along the way that I have a real problem riding in bright conditions: it makes me drowsy. Riding like this is stupid, scary and dangerous and, above all, not much fun. In hind-sight I kind of knew that, and if I had thought about it properly beforehand I could have solved the problem with a better pair of shades or tinted goggles. Think about what your problem might be and mitigate it before you go.
So that’s it for my top 10 tips – I’m sure others would come up with an entirely different list – feel free to share them here!
So, what are you waiting for? Get planning that trip!