Here’s the thing about traveling by motorcycle: You can’t really stretch out or shift positions. You’re body is locked into a certain posture for as long as the gas holds out. Which in my case is every 110-120 miles. My bike has a 3.3 gallon tank. The fuel valve is setup so that I have 2.8 gallons on “main” with a half-gallon “reserve. I get about 50 mpg. So I could stretch the range out to 150 miles, but it goes on “reserve” before that, and when it does I only have about 25 miles to find a gas station. That’s not a whole lot, really. And then sometimes with a headwind and high temperature I was getting less than 50 mpg. Which means, like, 20 miles on “reserve.”
Oh, you get stiff riding a motorcycle. Fortunately, I have three sets of footpegs I can use. The standard pegs are pretty much right under my butt. But they are mounted too high (or the seat is mounted too low) and it forces my thighs up at an uncomfortable angle. To remedy this I have installed “highway pegs” which allow me to assume that classic Harley “leaned-back/feet-forward” stance. Other riders make fun of us, but it is comfortable.
I also use the passenger pegs, which are behind me. When I do, I lean forward a bit toward the handlebar. This is actually quite comfortable too. It gets the weight off my coccyx and lets me lean into the wind, which take some of the weight of my torso from my arms. Old, high-speed touring bikes like BMW’s were deliberately set up this way before the invention of these huge, wind-blocking fairings. My problem is that I have a small, clear windshield installed on the bars which blocks much of that wind from hitting my torso. So I have to be going quite fast for this riding position to be effective. I can do that.
Whichever position I use (and I alternate among them frequently), I’m usually more than ready to stop by the time 110 miles has rolled under the wheels. Gas stops end up taking a bit longer than if I was in a car because I really need to walk around and uncramp the leg muscles. I cruise along at 70-75 mph (and sometimes higher) but you cannot maintain that for the entire time. There are always things that slow you down (construction zones, clumps of slow-moving traffic, etc.)
Thus 110 miles will usually take me an hour-and-forty-five. Throw in a 15 minute gas stop and we’re talking two hours to go 110 miles. My “block speed” as we pilots call it has just diminished to 55 mph. That’s the best-case scenario. Some gas stops are longer because of meals and restroom breaks.
Sitting in basically one position all day long forces you to do certain things. For one, you get to think a lot. Mostly you get to think about how damn uncomfortable you are! But seriously, there’s a lot of time for introspection and self-evaluation and world problem-solving. Sometimes I listen to music. If I’m wearing my full-face helmet I can sing along with the songs without anyone else knowing. Or hearing.
Riding for long distances is fatiguing because the mere act of conducting the motorcycle down the road takes so much concentration – tons more than is required of a car driver. You can’t stop riding for even a second. You can’t let go of the bars; do so and the bike would quickly head for the ditch or the median. You must always guide it down the road on exactly the path you choose. You have to be constantly vigilant for “stuff” in your lane. Even a piece of truck tire carcass can cause a motorcyclist to crash. Every on-ramp and off-ramp…every corner…must be negotiated with care. The level of concentration rivals that of flying a helicopter. Which is probably why I like riding so much.
There are motorcycles like the Harley Electra Glide and the Honda Goldwing that take the pain out of long-distance trips. But they get mighty close to the line between motorcycles and cars. Too close for me. Both bikes have cruise-control and kick-ass stereos. The Honda even has a reverse gear!
Me, I prefer my “little” Sportster, even if it is not the best bike for covering lots of miles in a short time. Because when I get to where I’m going, there is no better bike for just riding around.