Hooniverse Asks- Would You Ride a Motorcycle Across the Country?

Cross Country

There’s something about a road trip that makes it one of the quintessential passions of just about every automotive enthusiast. Whether it’s to see the sights or just to reach a far off destination, setting tire to tarmac with a sense of purpose is something that almost all of us love to do. And the Big Kahuna of road trips is the cross country jaunt. The continental U.S. is about three thousand miles wide, and crossing such a vast expanse is, even for the fastest of drivers, a multi-day  endeavor. Do you think you might want to do that kind of trip. . . . on a bike?

Motorcycles come in all shapes and sizes, and some of those are less capable of such open road activities- Honda even named an entire class CB for City Bike. But others, like that same brand’s Goldwing, or the venerated Harley Electra Glide, are designed to eat open roads like they were ribbons of black licorice. Eww, black licorice, that stuff’s nasty.

You see, I’ve made eight or more trips across this great nation of ours, and I’m pretty much up for another one should the opportunity arise. Not only that but I have special vehicles and related paths that I would like to take, just to shake things up. For instance, I’d like to do a back-roads trip in a Citroen Deux Chevaux. I’d also like to make the trip on either one of my favorite bikes – BMW’s classic R100, or an original Triumph Bonneville. Like DoubleMint, I must have a thing for twins. What about you, does the prospect of crossing an entire nation on just two wheels hold appeal? If it does, what would be your weapon of choice, and which route would you take?

Image: Motorcycle Classics


  1. Call me crazy but I have thought about crossing Canada (essentially the same distance) on a scooter or very small displacement bike. Something that limits me to back roads and makes sure I'm going slow enough to see the scenery. Ii figure it would take a couple weeks, but I could think of worse ways to spend a month.

    1. Somewhere on advrider.com (can't find it right now) I read this great ride report by a kid from Los Angeles who rebuilt a Honda CT-90 himself, then took off east with $600. Told his parents he'd turn around when he got down to $300. I think he made it to Ely, Nevada. That was pretty awesome.

      1. I spent an afternoon last week doing points, valves, oil and air filter change on my family owned 74 ct90. It's a very fun machine.
        I was vaguely aware of the scooter cannonball as well, but there are some things it's best I forget for the time being because it's just not the right time in my life to be doing them.

        1. When my dad died, my sister and brother-in-law took the 1967 CT90 that was in the barn. He'd gotten it when his brother died ten years before, and it had 52 miles on it. I lived in an apartment at the time. Dang.
          When I finally got to a place where I could do something with it, I called my sister to ask about it. They'd sold it to their neighbor. Double dang.
          She told me the story. The neighbor had had one in his family that his own father had purchased before he was born, a bike that was in a whole lot of his early memories. It'd burned up when his childhood house burned down a couple of years before. He saw this one sitting in my sister's garage (where it'd sat since my dad died) and offered her a cool $1000 after seeing it only from a distance. He's a good guy and a good neighbor, so she said no, you can have it for $500. He just about choked. Then he saw the mileage and sat down and cried.
          The next day the engine was running and two weeks later it looked brand new. By the time I called and asked, he'd put a thousand miles on it, most with one of his three kids sitting on a pillow on the rack, all of those miles on dusty Nevada back roads.
          It's better that way. His kids are going to remember that bike until they die. Much as I'd like to've gotten it, I'm glad it's with someone who loves it.
          Now I need to find something similar for my kids. . . .

          1. How's the progress on your project? I'm looking forward to the next installment.

          2. Currently waiting for my steering stem to come back from the machine shop.
            [Drums fingers on table impatiently…]

          3. Dude…
            And here I thought I was a little bonkers when it came to two wheels.

    1. It doesn't have to be with that guy in the red t-shirt, what if Patrick Dempsey went along for the ride instead?

      1. From personal experience, I can recommend doing it on a Kawasaki ZRX1100, Guzzi Breva 1200 Sport, or a '78 Suzuki GS550 (that one when you're young & really broke).
        But I'd say if you've got a rig that you love, give it a shot – as long as you've got the wallet & patience to back it up.

  2. I don't ride so no. I'm not even sure I would want to ride across the country in a convertible. Back in my younger days I drove from Georgia to Michigan in a 1977 Corvette with the t-tops off most of the way, out of necessity due to poor A/C performance. It wasn't a pleasant experience. There are many parts of the country you really don't want to smell if you don't have to. Give me fast, smooth, and climate controlled cruising for the long haul.

    1. Maybe she isn't happy with you sticking her with the luggage while you get the dog. I think your plan would go over much better if you leave luggage duty to the dog.

    2. (Almost) An excellent idea. I'm with Lotte though, don't stick your wife with pack mule duty. Get a third seat for her and a trailer for luggage.
      My dream ride going on four years has been a Ural T. Personally, I'm not sure I'd attempt a cross country trip on one though. I know there are people who've done it, but those bikes aren't exactly meant for 70+ MPH highway cruising. I'd do Route 66 on one, but not, say, L.A. to N.Y.C. I'd used a Goldwing or a BMW tourer for that.

      1. Haha…that's exactly what she said. "Why do I get the luggage?" I told her I would get a trailer and get her a dog for her sidecar.

  3. I did back in the late 70's. I went from Santa Barbara CA area to Daytona Speed Week. I rode a Honda CB350Four. Took me about a week as I made a lot of stops. Very cold in places and rain gear was not so good back then. Rode there and back.

  4. I'll answer this question with a most emphatic "Hell, Yes!". If somebody were to offer to provide the bike and everything else needed to complete the trip (something I doubt is going to happen any time soon), I'd be tempted to quit my job and do it right now.
    On a slightly more realistic level, a cross-country motorcycle trip in Australia is very high on my bucket list. Doing the same thing in the USA is only slightly further down. Somewhere in between is a big trip around western and central Europe.

  5. where do i sign up.. gonna need to borrow one of your bikes tho, and maybe a side car for my kids to ride along.. still to small to ride on the back of my sportbike..

  6. I think about this almost all the time. Of course, I live next to Rocky Mountain NP, so my POV is skewed. The flat parts of the country would be tougher. Still, with sufficient time, you could make a pretty interesting route.
    I think I'd like to do this with either an unlimited amount of time (so as to not need to ride on bad weather days) or with a support vehicle (an RV with a trailer for the bikes) following, both for lodging and for transport on bad weather days.

  7. Not only would I, but I plan to.
    I'm supposed to be leaving on a 4000 mile trip on mine in a little over a week. If the Bambi related repairs aren't completed by Friday, I'm going to postpone my vacation a bit and take another long ride this fall. I've been planning on doing an IBA 50CC (50 hours coast to coast) at some point in the next couple years, so that may be my substitute trip.

  8. I have yet to make a cross country haul of any kind, but here is something incredibly appealing about doing on a motorcycle. Ever since I watched Cycles South (awesome old school motorcycle documentary) I have wanted to ride a dual sport across the country. I would love to ride to CA (from NC) and then work my way up or down the west coast hitting all points between Baja and Canada.

  9. I seem to be one of the few car guys I know who doesn't have much interest in bikes or a desire to ride one. I've ridden a handful of them, but I'll still stick to cars.
    Having said that, I would certainly drive cross country, but haven't made it all the way across yet. Closest would be San Diego to Chicago and back, going through National Parks on the way there and Route 66 on the way back.

  10. Well, I don't have a bike yet, so not yet…
    But coming from someone who has never rode a bike for more than 5 minutes and having no clue how a long trip feels, it is appealing. I'd want to take a long time, never get on the interstate, and have no set schedule. It'll never happen unless I win the lottery that I don't play, though, so it isn't a dream I've nurtured or thought about much.

  11. I'm up for a cross country trip. I don't feel like suffering so at a minimum I would choose a BMW R100RT and probably travel via the upper Midwest to avoid nasty climate conditions and see the roads Peter Egan writes about.

  12. Nope. I love riding bikes for short hops. For trips upto about an hour in duration, bikes are awesome. But I only really enjoy riding superbikes/sportbikes, and after an hour of riding my back starts screaming at me. I took a 4 hour trip on a 2001 R1 once, and I could barely walk for 2 days afterwards. Cruiser bikes are a lot better, but I'd rather drive a car, where I can stretch out, carry all my gear easily, and not have to worry about rain. It seems like a great idea, until you get out there and start experiencing the harsh realities.

  13. My neighbor did it last summer on his 30 year old V-65 Magna. Although that wouldn't be my first choice for riding locally, it wouldn't be bad for a cross country tour.

    1. At the risk of hoon-heresy, that's the kind of two-wheeled steed I dream of crossing the continent on. I've actually got the rig to do it, but there's that pesky need for many weeks required to go. For now, I settle for smaller scale pedaling jaunts.
      Sticking more to topic, a BMW would fit the bill nicely for such a trip, say an R80 or a K75. Nothing too big or hairy, no massive fairing. It'd be all about the experience and not speed or distance. Gold Wings and heavy cruisers are cool, but much too isolating for my taste. To each his own.
      That all said, I've done many cross-country jaunts on four wheels. My favorite so far was in a cherry 1968 Barracuda back in the early 90's, three weeks of driving the northern route east to west and cruising down the coast on Highway 101 from Portland through to SF, 5,000 miles total. Second favorite was west to east on US 12, blue highway all the way, a trip that forever sold me on staying off of the Interstate whenever possible. Back roads are slower going but hold endless treasures for the alert. While expedient, real life does not happen on the Interstate.
      Next time, I'd like to consider US 50, mostly because I've never been on it.
      And now, you've all got me really thinking about a massive road trip again. My daydream engine will be running all day.

        1. One of the things that surprised me about Denmark, instead of chips or nuts on the bar, they offered salted licorice. It's not bad with beer, but otherwise I prefer unsalted. Another lesson I learned early on … one cannot find Copenhagen (a fine product of the U.S. Tobacco Company) in Copenhagen. Fortunately, I brought a sleeve with me which lasted until I located an accommodating tobacconist in Amsterdam, where all of the tobacconists are accommodating.

  14. Every day I ride my motorcycle 24 miles to work.
    And every day it takes an enormous amount of mental effort to make that turn into the parking lot, and not just keep on going forever, looking for the emptiest road I can find with nothing but what I'm wearing, until I hit an ocean that starts with the letter A.
    So, uh, yes. Yes, I would.

    1. THIS is why I haven't bought a bike 20 years after I sold my last one. I have enough trouble convincing myself to make the last turn into the office on a sunny day when I'm driving my decrepit convertible after my 26 mile commute.

      1. Of course it helps that an Alfa will rarely make it more than 26 miles before breaking down in a graceful but heartbreaking manner…

        1. She treats me much better than that now. The first 12 years were the hardest. I've driven her 400 miles in the last year, 320 of them this week. Please don't jinx me.

  15. Since my last motorized 2-wheeled experience was a moped 40 years ago, I'm thinking "no". However, cross country in a 40 foot diesel pusher motorhome with a Jeep Wrangler in tow for side trips does sound appealing.

  16. This thread has me thinking (always a hazard) that the long road trip is the essence of my inner hoon. While I love the hardware and can geek out over a fine ride, it's the feeling you get when you're -out there- with it that gives me the biggest buzz.
    In a nutshell, it's the trail more than the horse.

  17. Would I?!
    Not now, due to extensive bodily injuries sustained on #twowheelssometimesbad, however, my wife and I used to be die-hard members…see what I did, there…of the Iron Butt Association.
    Entry 'fee' is 1K miles in 24 hours.
    Our two-up record, all within the state of Colorado, and those twisties make it a helluva lot of fun, but way more difficult, is 1,628 miles in 26 hours.
    As it is, I rode a sight-unseen 1989 Honda XL600V I purchased from a guy in LA, me living in Dallas, and rode it back in about 28 hours.
    The GL1800ABS my wife and I had the misfortune of testing flying/swimming/crashing ability on was to be the machine we were going to do a coast-to-coast-to-coast.
    Pacific to Atlantic, and back, in under 100 hours.
    I welcomed the challenge!
    A guy has done the true Iron Butt ride, which is 10 days, 10K miles…and that's just to finish…back in 1995 on a Honda Helix scooter.
    250cc of OPEN ROAD TERROR!!!!
    Our dedicated LD machine. Frankencycle, as a good friend of mine called it:
    <img src="http://i394.photobucket.com/albums/pp29/mckellyb/STrightfront.jpg&quot; width="400">
    <img src="http://i394.photobucket.com/albums/pp29/mckellyb/thebridge.jpg&quot; width="400">
    My steed of choice is the pictured ST1100, though I have no idea who owns it, now.
    I was really upset when we sold it. That machine was part of me.

      I'm not going to go there again. I won't torment myself with dreams of a life on the road, nothing tying me down. It's not going to happen, and it's just torture to think about it too much.

  18. You mean, would I again? Yes, Yes I would.
    Back in '95 me and my obscure Italian motorcycle (Laverda RGA 1000) left Portland, Maine for San Francisco. First day out I caught up with what was the only other Laverda I had ever seen on the road, a 1200 model with California plates; guy said he'd been across the continent many times on the old beast. 21 days later I arrived in SF and the very first person I met, literally just after I shut the bike off, was a Laverda mechanic that owned a shop. Sweet!
    No face shield, no windscreen, no camera. Next time around I'm thinking Honda GL1000 with minimal luggage, and at least a face shield.

  19. I won't do it again but I wish you well on the adventure. I once rode straight through from Hollywood to Pocatello on a Suzuki 850, but the 850 later died at the hands of an Electra 225 making an illegal left turn and I haven't been on a bike since. Every time I get the urge to buy a bike I force myself to look at convertibles instead.

  20. I own an original Triumph Bonneville, and you sir, are a glutton for punishment.
    I did an iron butt years ago on a Kawasaki 900, but even my younger self knew using the Triumph would have been utterly miserable. It's not the tool for the job. Country twisties yes, highway droning no.

    1. Entertaining two-wheeled roadtrip = minimal highway droning
      I'd love to ride a vintage Triumph on a long-ass roadtrip, keeping to state/county roads as much as possible. I've got a '76 Yamaha XS500 (think scaled down version of the venerable XS650, Yamaha's bulletproof Triumph clone), and it's absolutely lovely to spend a weekend on hammering the backroads of western Washington. It would be a joy to noodle around the country on, if time & interstates weren't a factor.
      Right after I win the lottery, obviously.

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