Motorcycle Touring Miles Per Day (And Why TIME Is More Important!)

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Quite how many motorcycle touring miles per day you should ride is one of those quandaries that everybody finds themselves in at some point in their touring career.

Someone who is riding a coast-to-coast tour of America on tarmacked roads might cover 350 motorcycle touring miles per day.

But that doesn’t mean that you should cover 350 miles a day if you’re off-roading across Mongolia and have mud up to your armpits.

The two scenarios are very different.

It would be easy to attach an arbitrary number to the amount of motorcycle touring miles per day you should be riding. But far more important is the amount of time you give yourself to cover them, and the quality of those riding miles.

You’d struggle to cover 350 motorcycle touring miles per day in these conditions!

The Secret Is More Time And FEWER Miles

The temptation is to forge ahead regardless and add more and more miles to your trip in an effort to see more places, do more things, and experience more adventures.

And that’s fine. We all do it and it’s one of those things we have to experience for ourselves before we find what works for us.

But the best advice I can give you is this.

Don’t increase the number of motorcycle touring miles per day you ride. Increase the amount of time you have instead.

And if you can’t increase the amount of time you have, then reduce the overall miles.

The reason I say this is because in my experience, the more you increase the mileage of a trip, the less enjoyment you get from it.

motorbike mountain roads
The more you increase the mileage of a trip, the less enjoyment you get from it

Too Many Miles Leads To Motorway Miles!

First off, I’m not saying that you should never go on the motorway (or freeway, autobahn, interstate – depending on where you’re from.)

There is a time and place for the motorway.

But if you’ve ever spent a full day on one, you’ll know that you see nothing and experience very little. Generally, motorway miles don’t enhance the experience of your travels.

But adding more miles to your routes inevitably leads to motorway miles. And that means you’re increasing your daily miles whilst trying to decrease the amount of time in which you cover them.

Don’t fall into the trap of adding miles to days in order to claw back time. Because you’ll end up coming home having seen and experienced nothing but motorways.

motorway riding - motorcycle touring miles per day
Too many motorcycle touring miles per day can mean too many motorways

Motorcycle Touring Miles Per Day: External Factors

Unless you’re doing the Iron Butt challenge, two-wheeled travel isn’t about the amount of motorcycle touring miles per day you cover.

It’s more about the time you have to cover them.

So with that in mind, here are 10 things that add time to your day. Allowing for them will make your experience much more enjoyable!

1. Breaks

Covering 500 miles in a car is not impossible.

But on a bike? It’s not going to happen. You’d need to have a fuel tank the size of a truck and an arse as hard as nails.

Every biker needs to stop to refuel themselves and their bike. And breaks take time. So plan for them, and make them enjoyable rather than rushed.

Grab some food, some water, and a nice cup of coffee. Have a cake, admire the scenery and enoy where you are.

It’s all part of the fun and is an instrumental part of your experience.

town riding
Make time for breaks and enjoy them

2. Motorcycle Touring Miles Per Day: Road Conditions

Unexpected road works, gravel, and poorly maintained road surfaces can all slow you down.

I remember once riding through Luxembourg on my way to the Alps. I couldn’t wait to reach the sweeping bends of the Luxembourg countryside – so much so that it was to be a highlight of my trip.

What happened?

I got there to find the local council had graveled the entire road. For miles and miles, I was stuck on a gravel-ladened road that I couldn’t get off.

All-in-all, the road conditions added hours onto my day and ruined the experience entirely.

If you head to the higher roads that are off the beaten path in the Alps or the Pyrenees, expect much of the same.

honda transalp gravel - motorcycle touring miles per day
Road works, traffic, and road conditions can add time onto your day

3. Motorcycle Touring Miles Per Day: Weather Conditions

Your planned route could appear to be a perfectly simple one with very few things that could go wrong.

But if you ride into a thunder storm in the mountains, things will slow down very quickly!

At best, you’ll be riding through a storm at minimal pace just to keep going.

At worst, you might need to stop somewhere and wait for the storm to subside before continuing on your journey.

Either way, you’ll be adding valuable time on to your day. And covering long distances will be incredibly hard work.

riding in the rain
Never underestimate the power of the weather in the mountains!

4. What About Your Bike?

The type of bike you ride can also have a huge effect on how many motorcycle touring miles per day you can realistically cover.

It’s all well and good riding 400 miles on a Honda Goldwing because that is its sole job in life – to eat miles.

That’s why it has a massive 1800cc, 6-cylinder engine, as well as two comfortable seats and a huge tank range.

But what if you’re on a sports bike?

There’s nothing to say you can’t do 400 miles in a day on a sports bike. You absolutely can.

But would you want to? Every day? For 2 weeks?

Probably not.

honda goldwing
It’s easy covering 400 miles on a bike like this! (Image: Honda)

5. Soreness

You could buy the most comfortable bike in the world. Then you could go and buy a custom-made seat. And then you could sort out the suspension so it was perfect. You could do everything else possible to make the bike comfortable and yet you will still get arse ache!

It’s just the nature of the beast.

And to make it worse, this arse ache never really goes away. In fact, it tends to get worse the longer your trip goes on.

At the start, you might comfortably ride 250 miles before your backside starts to ache.

But by the time you’re coming home, you might only make it to 50 miles before you have to stop and give your behind a break.

All of this stopping and starting adds time on to your day.

standing on pegs harley-davidson
Because they’re comes a time when you can’t sit down any more!

6. Motorcycle Touring Miles Per Day: The Tolorences Of Others

If you’re riding in a group (or with a pillion) you might find that someone in your group (or your pillion) wants to stop more frequently than planned.

It might be that their backside hurts. It could be that they need to pee. Perhaps they’re riding a sports bike and their back or wrists hurt.

Either way, you could find yourself adding time on to your day because other people want to take unplanned stops for reasons you hadn’t anticipated.

yamah fjr 1300
It could be other people who want to stop and have breaks. (Image: Yamaha)

7. Planned Stops

It’s easy to get so drawn into how many motorcycle touring miles per day you need to cover that you forget you’re supposed to be having a good time.

The problem with planning for miles is that if you don’t manage to cover them in the time you expected to cover them, then you have to sacrifice other things in order to catch up.

And those other things are usually nice things like viewing points, museums, historic churches, or even days off.

It’s always a real shame when you have to forego the nice bits of touring (whether planned or unplanned) simply because you have so many miles to cover before it gets dark.

bmw r 1250 rt - motorcycle touring miles per day
Schedule time to enjoy planned (or even unplanned) stops. (Image: BMW)

8. Distance vs Enjoyment

When you find yourself in this quandary of thinking about how many motorcycle touring miles per day you want to cover, think of the time it will take you instead.

Is it a day dedicated to making distance or is it a day dedicated to enjoyment?

If it’s a day dedicated to covering miles and you fully accept it’s going to be a boring day on the motorways, then fine. Use that day to cover miles.

But if it’s a time for enjoyment and exploring, plan for time rather than giving yourself a goal of riding X-amount of motorcycle touring miles per day.

bmw motorbike next to lake
Give yourself time to enjoy your surroundings rather than powering around them on the motorway

9. The 50% Rule To Determine Motorcycle Touring Miles Per Day

When you enter your route into a route planner and it comes up with an estimated duration of 6 hours, add 50% on and plan your day from there.

So in this case, the mapping software says you will need 6 hours. But you’ve allowed yourself 9 hours instead.

This way, it doesn’t really matter if you stumble across any of the pitfalls mentioned above because you’ve allowed yourself an abundance of time to account for them.

If Google Maps says it should take you 6 hours and you set off at 9am, you know you’ve got probably 12 hours of daylight to cover what should be a 6 hour trip.

The time you have available has instantly doubled. And this means your day becomes less of a chore and more of a pleasure.

google maps screenshots
The 50% rule gets you the most from your day

10. Countries Don’t Move!

It’s important to remember that countries aren’t going anywhere.

Just because you can’t make it to Italy this year on your tour of the Alps, that doesn’t mean that you can never make it there.

Italy will still be there next year.

Rather than adding miles on to your trip just so you can cross the border into Italy, resort to visiting it another time and simply enjoy more time in the Alps instead.

dolomites - motorcycle touring miles per day
Don’t worry – Italy will still be there next time!

Motorcycle Touring Miles Per Day: Conclusion

Planning by time rather than motorcycle touring miles per day gives you options. It allows you a richer experience. And time affords you the luxury of creating and harnessing memories. It lets you see and achieve.

When you spend your time chasing miles, you become a slave to the tour. And that isn’t what touring is about.

Remember, the tour isn’t there to make your life a misery!

Touring is about you. It isn’t about anybody else nor is it about the bike. It isn’t about motorcycle touring miles per day and it isn’t even about the tour itself.

It’s about you. And it’s about you returning as a richer person than the one that left.

Giving yourself fewer miles per day (and more time to enjoy them) allows you to stumble across ‘happy finds’ and unplanned stops because you have the time to explore them.

Ultimately, you’ll have a way better time!


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