“Motorcycle touring style?” I hear you say.
Yep! Whether we know it or not, we all have a touring style.
Sometimes it’s born out of preference, and sometimes it’s born out of necessity.
But it’s one of those things that many people fail to consider. And invariably, they get back from their tour feeling like they haven’t seen or done even half of the things they wanted to.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone!
So how do we plan a tour that suits our riding preferences, then?
Well, that’s what we’re going to discuss today. And by the end of this post, you’ll know how to:
- Get more from your touring experience,
- Do more of the riding you enjoy, and,
- Come home happy!
Two Motorcycle Touring Styles
I’ll go through both styles in more detail in a minute. But as you’ll see from the outset, these two styles are completely different.
The overall distance and duration of your tour will be pretty much the same.
But whilst they share those two attributes (distance and duration), that really is where the similarities end.
The A-B Motorcycle Touring Style: In A Nutshell
The A-B approach covers a lot of ground. And whilst there are many benefits to this, it can really limit your options. It provides excitement in abundance. But you have to put the work in and spend a lot of time in the saddle.
The ‘Flower Petal’ Approach: In A Nutshell
The Flower Petal approach gives you way more options and can make for an all-around more enjoyable experience. The downfall is that you probably won’t see as many places as you were hoping for. It’s about quality over quantity.
Still not too sure which style is for you? That’s okay, let’s have a look at these two styles a little more.
The A-B Motorcycle Touring Style: In Detail
The A-B motorcycle touring style is great because it’s exciting! You get to cover a lot of ground, you do a lot of riding, and you see a lot of places.
You’re riding from one hotel to the next whilst incorporating points of interest along the way.
With this style of touring, you never settle in one place. You’re riding from point A to point B. And then from point B to point C, and so on until you arrive back home.
Below is a visual example of our A-B tour of the Alps from a few years ago:
A-B’s Make For An Exciting Motorcycle Touring Style!
Now, this can be a really exhilarating motorcycle touring style. You’re constantly on the go and you’re continually packing and unpacking.
You might wake up in France, have lunch in Belgium, and then go to sleep in Luxembourg.
But the problem is it can really limit your options because there are always calculations to make.
There are relentless trade off’s. And there is no room for error or spur-of-the-moment decisions.
Motorcycle Touring Style & Time Constraints
When riding an A-B tour, you need to get to your next hotel. Because if you don’t, you’ll be sleeping at the roadside.
And whilst this is fine on shorter days, it can start to create time constraints on those long days in the saddle.
But ultimately, too many of those long days can really hinder your experience.
And this amounts to one thing…
Pack. Unpack. Repeat.
The other thing to mention here is the packing and unpacking aspect.
Packing can be a good thing because it reminds you that you need to keep moving. And that’s exciting. But when you have to do it twice a day, every day, it can become more than a little tedious.
It’s difficult to feel settled when all your stuff is in a bag somewhere. You never really unpack.
And that’s not to mention the fact that you’re carrying all of your kit on your bike, all of the time.
Prepare To Make Sacrifices
Let’s say that as you make your way from point A to point B, you come across some exhilarating mountain passes.
Sheer riding Nirvana.
You’d love to spend all day just riding and enjoying those roads.
Except you can’t.
Because if you do, it’ll mean riding out of the mountain range in the dark. At the very least, it will mean pitching your tent in the dark or getting to your hotel so late that there’s nowhere open to eat.
So now you have two choices.
Do you continue to explore this riding heaven and then deal with the consequences? Or do you sacrifice the riding in order to get to your next hotel safely and on time?
Your heart will tell you to choose option number one. But your head will tell you to choose option number two.
So you’ll end up foregoing the riding experience in order to reach your destination.
The ‘Flower Petal’ Motorcycle Touring Style: In Detail
In contrast to the A-B motorcycle touring style above, we have the Flower Petal approach.
Imagine a buttercup (just roll with me here!)
The centre of the buttercup is your base – or in this case, your hotel for six nights. The pretty little petals that loop out from (and back to) the centre of the buttercup are your daily rides.
Below is a Flower Petal tour we did of the Dolomites:
Now don’t get me wrong, there are still compromises to be made with this motorcycle touring style. So let me go through some of the pros and cons.
The Relief Of Unpacking!
The first advantage is that you no longer have to pack and unpack every single day. Once you arrive and unpack, all your stuff is exactly where you want it for the rest of the week.
Moreover, you also don’t have to carry it all with you on your ride-outs. You can jump on your bike and enjoy your day – just like you would do at home.
Motorcycle Touring Style & The Social Aspect
Next is the social element. Stopping in the same hotel for multiple days/nights usually means you’ll get to know the hotel owners and fellow residents.
And this means meals will be shared among friends and familiar faces – which is always nice.
Staff at local bars, cafes and restaurants, etc. are usually glad to offer advice on where to visit and where to avoid.
And this often results in a richer experience.
This rarely happens on A-B style tours where you see people once before disappearing, never to be seen again.
Let Me Give You An Example
I was once stopping at a hotel in the Alps. I became friendly with the owner who got up earlier than breakfast time just to make sure he had a coffee ready for me before my ride.
And when he heard the grumbling of my V-Twin returning from a fabulous day out on the passes, he cracked open a nice cold beer and had it waiting for me as soon as I walked through the door.
Not only this, but he let me park my bike in his personal garage so I didn’t have to risk leaving it in the street.
With the Flower Petal approach, you become a regular. You become a friend. You become a part of the community.
And that’s actually pretty lovely.
Motorcycle Touring Style: The Option To Rest
The final positive with the Flower Petal approach is the option to rest, and/or the freedom to change your plans.
The longer you stay in a hotel, the more it begins to feel like home. The more it feels like home, the better you sleep.
And I can tell you from experience that waking up feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and excited to ride is far more preferable to waking up and riding because you have to.
Because when riding becomes a chore, it’s no longer enjoyable. And if you’re not having fun, you may as well not be touring.
The Freedom To Have A Day Off
With the Flower Petal motorcycle touring style, it doesn’t just stop at days off.
Because you might wake up one morning and simply not feel great. You might feel tired or under the weather.
Or, you might just feel like a day off the bike. And with this type of tour, you can simply choose to NOT go riding that day.
Leave the bike in the garage and put on some shorts instead. Catch up on sleep, or read a book in the hotel gardens.
Go and sample the local culture. Have a coffee or a beer. See the sights. You don’t even have to leave the hotel if you don’t want to.
The point is, you have the option with the Flower Petal approach.
Motorcycle Touring Style: Conclusion
As mentioned, there are always compromises to be made.
You can’t do everything, see everything or ride every magnificent road in the few days you have. So you need to decide early on what’s important to you.
And you might find that your priorities change from tour to tour – and that’s fine! You’re not obliged to stick with a certain motorcycle touring style forever.
But take a minute to consider your priorities before each trip.
For me, the Flower Petal motorcycle touring style is always my preference. But I’m happy to change it depending on the tour.
What I’m saying is, you need to consider what it’s important to you before you start route planning.
Because if you don’t, you’ll return home with nothing but regrets.
Top image: Zakaria Zayane