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  1. #1

    Default Riding a Triumph Bonneville from New York to San Francisco

    It's looking really likely that I will be moving from New York to San Francisco in January, and as I consider this move and how to get my things (including my motorcycle) cross country, it seems like the opportunity is incredibly ripe for a ride from NY to SF.

    A few items, some questions:
    I have a 2014 Triumph Bonneville. I've had her for a year. I'm a pretty decent rider, but still very new by almost every standard. I have two years of riding experience on a scooter, and bike riding in New York City.

    I've spent 8 hours in a day on my bike on a practice trip to Rhode Island. I can do about 2 hours at a time without stopping. It wasn't too bad. About how much riding should I prepare for in a day?

    I broke my knee on the scooter ten years ago, so I am pretty effing careful riding on this Triumph. That said, anything can happen, and a week plus on the road feels like asking for it. Am I?

    I have barely a week and a half in October to make this happen, and I feel like November will be too cold. Will it? Because I think I'd rather go in November...

    Someone posted that they were going to do this trip in 5 days. That sounds insane to me. Is it?
    What route can I take that isn't going to take forever and also won't be all highway vibration?

    I was told to get a windshield. I have saddle bags but they suck. I need great saddle bags that hold more. I keep hearing about heated gear and rain gear. Riding in the rain? Isn't this insane? I've heard of motorcycle rolls but I have no idea what that is. What gear is vital?

    I have a tent and am not afraid to camp. But I am a girl, and even though I wear ass kicking boots, I've never tried this before, just on the trail in designated campgrounds. Is motorcycle camping safe? For some reason seedy motels freak me out a bit more than the idea of camping.

    I don't think that my bike is old enough for bad trouble, but I want to make sure I have a good toolkit and the resources to handle a problem if it comes up. I'm assuming I need the manual and a toolkit, anything else?

    Help me figure all of this out? Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    5 days to make the trip from NYC to SF would be about the minimum, if you were traveling by car. Trying to cover that distance in that timeframe on a motorcycle, especially when you have very little long-haul experience, would not be a wise idea.

    If you have a week and a half, I'd really plan to take all of it. Maybe you could get there a bit faster, but so much of this will depend upon you and your comfort level.

    Driving multiple days isn't by itself any more risky than say your drive to Rhode Island, although fatigue and the wear on your body from being on the bike day after day will likely be a bit of a concern, and an added reason to try and keep your daily distances down. I suspect you'll also find the trip more enjoyable if you spend the bulk of your time on 2-lane, US and state highways, rather than pounding down high speed interstates. There is no one specific answer in regards to your route - this is where you should spend some time looking at maps yourself, and make decisions based upon where you want to go along the way, and how you want to approach this trip.

    Again, especially noting your experience level, and add in your desire to camp, I would try to make this trip as early as you can - certainly favoring October over November. Keep in mind, by November, winter is fast approaching, especially in the higher elevation areas of the west. Even in October, it would be possible to see some snow, especially over mountain passes, and that potential concern will only grow as you get into November. If you are going to camp, you're going to want to invest in cold weather camping gear, particularly with a sleeping bag and mat, as trying to sleep in a lightweight sleeping bag with temperatures dipping down even into the 40s overnight won't allow you to get much rest.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default There's better protection

    Quote Originally Posted by scavenger View Post
    I was told to get a windshield.
    It sure helps keep the wind off you, and keep you more comfortable.. But it will increase your fuel consumption considerably. A far better way to go is to have good quality leathers - jacket, pants, gloves and shoes, as well as a good helmet. Those keep you comfortable no matter what the weather, but are not likely to have the same effect on fuel consumption.

    Besides, they will protect you from injuury, especially gravel damage from hitting and sliding over the road. My son came off his bike once and was only slightly injured, but those grazes on his leg took months to heal after the doctors spent days pickuing out all the gravel from the road; and his brand new jeans were ruined. It was the last time he rode his bike without leathers - summer and winter.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Motels are worth considering.

    I agree with Michael that you need to create a steady pace to avoid fatigue as riding for 8 hours in one day is fine, maybe 2, but then it will start to get tiresome. It depends on what will work for you but you have options of making your days equal in length with lots of breaks along the way, or get 2 or 3 reasonable days under your belt (again with lots of breaks) and then have a short day riding, or a day off altogether in a place you would like to see. Camping is fun, (or can be) but given the time of year, the fact you are carrying your gear on a bike and that you sometimes have to travel a fair way to find a suitable campground, add time and energy to set up and break camp everyday and I wonder if it might be better to find a reasonably priced Motel each night. If you do a little research into lodgings and areas you might want to stay over I am quite certain that you won't end up in a seedy pit or 'Bates' Motel. Eight to ten days is a pretty safe bet to ride across country at a reasonable pace and if you do ride into poor weather will give you some 'wiggle' room where you can get off the road early and find shelter.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Ft. Collins, CO.


    I've done long motorcycle trips including a recent one here:

    Wear earplugs. Noise is fatiguing. Less noise = less fatigue.

    November is getting late. National Forest Service campgrounds are mostly closed down by then as tourist season is long over. KOA or RV campgrounds probably are still open but they may be the same price as a cheap hotel.

    I find camping isn't as refreshing as a cheap hotel. You may need the hotel anyway to dry out after an all-day ride in the rain or to take a shower after 3 days on the road.

    Some kind of wind deflection is helpful. Especially if you are riding into a headwind. West bound means you likely will be. And your fuel mileage will suffer. Don't pass by gas stations without being sure of the distance and fuel needed to reach the next. (My old Honda could get 45 mpg but would drop to 30 mpg in headwinds. Don't run out of gas.)

    Having a very short time during a changeable season of the year might lead you to take excessive risks - as in riding when you've gotten so cold you can't respond correctly, or getting caught out on the road as the snow begins to start sticking to the road.....

    Raingear - including insulated waterproof gloves, and overboots is mandatory safety gear.

    I'm all for motorcycle travelling but this has some risks that bother me. Low experience, changeable weather, fixed and short timeframe to name the biggies.

  6. #6


    Everyone, I'm so happy for your replies. It's looking like camping isn't necessary or advisable, I am fine to let that go. Also, don't need to travel 8 hrs a day, it was tiring. Just nice to know that I could? Thanks, y'all.. Keep them coming.

    There's a debate in my mind about how best to move west, at large. I've thought about just loading up my stuff into a moving van, including my bike, and driving it over, in Jan. It doesn't sound or feel as romantic as the bike ride, but I don't want to be dumb about this. On the other hand, I can probably create a solid week in October for it, about Oct 6-18. If it's too cold, could take the south route, and leave it in LA. I've considered driving half the way and shipping the rest. I'm open to different possibilities.

    I just don't want to have my bike stuck in NYC in Jan with most of me in or heading to SF. The weather in California is so motorcycle friendly that I feel its good timing to bring it over before the winter hits on the East coast. I'll be living generally bicoastal through Jan.. but based in NY. Could make sense to bring the bike over first, no?

    I'm going to have to replace my wheel too, before I go anywhere that far, my front tire keeps losing air, and I am not sure why. I'd want to get a full checkup/oil change/etc. The gear that Life magician suggests, felt I should get a full leather suit for this journey.. I know there's just a fair bit of prep and I want to stay factual about what needs to be done, to purchase, to prepare, and to stay careful about some kind of headlight overwhelm freeze up, of which I'm finding myself in at times. The experience of terror is a lot like excitement... and I think I'd really like to do this but fear kicks in heavy and hard at the idea sometimes. Your replies are super helpful in keeping me grounded on how to do it, the best way possible.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Head v heart.

    Taking a Southern route does not guarantee the weather will be warmer or better, only the weather forecast near to the time can give you that info. Nowhere in the country is immune from cold wintry conditions. At the end of the day you have to make the final decision as to what works for you, but as you are moving west and have to ship your gear anyway, I think hiring a van and driving it all across country might be the sensible option. After all, you won't be short of great rides to enjoy when you have settled into your new life and then you can gain more experience. There will be other opportunities. Maybe that's what your head is telling you to do, but the heart wants to ride.

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