I just finished my first solo motorcycle road trip. I rode across the United States from Connecticut to California in a month. It’s time to reflect on the experience.
Use a commitment device
Commitment device: a way to lock yourself into following a plan of action that you might not want to do but you know is good for you. In other words, a commitment device is a way to give yourself a reward or punishment to make an empty promise stronger and believable.
This road trip would not have been possible were it not for a little commitment device called the Suzuki V-Strom. I bought the bike in Connecticut in September. I had this big, bold idea that I would take a road trip by myself, across the country. I bought the bike before I had the intention to take the road trip. When it was time to actually follow through and take the road trip, it’s only because I already had the bike that I followed through. I did a lot of hand wringing before leaving for the trip. I was worried something might happen to me and I wouldn’t have anyone to help. I was worried that I’d get lonely out there on the road, day after day, mile after mile, just alone with my thoughts inside a motorcycle helmet. I was worried the weather might suck. If I had any backup plan for what to do with the motorcycle I would have easily backed out on the road trip, but I didn’t want to sell it, ship it, or leave it rusting in Connecticut, so away I went.
I definitely want to employ this technique again in the future. It’s really powerful. I think the key is that it has to be big enough of a loss to change your behavior. If the bike had cost only a couple of hundred bucks I would have just taken the loss, but buying Ruby Tuesday put such a big dent in my wallet that I had to follow through.
Speeding isn’t dangerous
I’d never been in a situation to ride 100 miles per hour before this road trip. The idea kind of scared me. A mistake at that speed could easily be fatal. After this road trip, I’ve learned that speed is not what makes riding a motorcycle dangerous, it’s not riding to match the conditions. Riding the Tail of the Dragon I went through hairpin turns covered with rain and dead leaves. In these conditions even going the posted speed limit would’ve been way too fast. Meanwhile, on a straight, dry, flat, empty road where I could see for miles, I cruised along at 95 miles an hour without hesitation. If you want to be safe, just drive to conditions and your skill level.
Break down big goals into small tasks
For the first two weeks of my road trip it made me sick to my stomach to think about how far I had to go. Thousands of miles, days of riding, endless hours on the motorcycle. It was very daunting. However, each day when it was actually time to ride, I thought about how far I had to travel in a day and it never freaked me out. This is a valuable experience. I’d like to start my own business and sometimes when I think about all the things I need to do, want to do, could do, it makes me sick to my stomach. How am I ever going to do all these things? I need to keep myself grounded by thinking about what the day’s task is.
It’s better to be too dry than too wet
The day I rode from Galveston to Austin is a day I won’t soon forget. I made a silly, lazy mistake, allowing myself to get soaking wet because I thought the rain would stop at any minute. All the while, I had perfectly good rain gear in my bag unused. I think for now on, if there’s more than a 25% chance of rain, it’d be better for me to ride in a raincoat and never get rained on than go through what happened in Texas again.
We’re not all as rational as we think we are
Irrationality is cognition, thinking, talking, or acting without inclusion of rationality. It is more specifically described as an action or opinion given through inadequate use of reason, or through emotional distress or cognitive deficiency. The term is used, usually pejoratively, to describe thinking and actions that are, or appear to be, less useful, or more illogical than other more rational alternatives
-Wikipedia article on Irrationality
None of us act rationally all the time and it’s important to recognize that fact when judging our own actions and those of other people. I put myself in mortal danger every time I got on the motorcycle and there are plenty of situations I put myself into where I deliberately did something that reduced my margin for error. I’m not in emotional distress and I’m pretty sure I’m not cognitively deficient so why do I keep doing this? Well, riding the motorcycle simply makes me feel good. It’s an adrenaline rush, it makes me feel like a cool person, and it’s fun. It would be more logical, more rational, for me to pursue safer adrenaline rushes (statistically I’d probably be much better off taking up sky diving), to buy some more fashionable clothes if I want to feel cool, and play video games when I want to have fun. But I’m not going to do that. I’m going to keep being irrational and riding my motorcycle. Thus, if I’m going to keep behaving irrationally I have to be more understanding when other people do the same.
Motorcycles are more reliable than I thought
I expected I’d have mechanical issues at some point along the way. This is probably because my first motorcycle was a beat-up, old, Chinese counterfeit of a Honda. On this road trip I pushed my motorcycle hard, and it performed dutifully day after day. I guess I should have more faith in motorcycles, or at least more faith in Ruby Tuesday 🙂
- Apple Hostels, Philadelphia, PA
- City Hostels Group (5 hostels in operation)
- HighRoad Hostel, Washington DC (2 hostels in operation)
- HIUSA Richmond, VA
- Bon Paul and Sharky’s Hostel, Ashville, NC (3 hostels in operation)
- Sweet Peas Hostel, Asheville, NC
- The Crash Pad, Chattanooga, TN
- Music City Hostel, Nashville (TN) (2 hostels in operation)
- Auberge NOLA, New Orleans, LA
- Madame Isabelle’s, New Orleans, LA
- The Quisby, New Orleans, LA
- Site 61, New Orleans, LA
- Wanderstay, Houston, TX
- Drifter Jacks, Austin, TX (2 hostels in operation)
- Firehouse Hostel, Austin, TX (2 hostels in operation)
- Native, Austin, TX
- HK Hostel, Austin, TX
- Gardner Hotel, El Paso, TX
Total reach: 28 hostels
Departure: Monday, October 29, 2018
Arrival: Friday, November 23, 2018
26 days total
Approximately 3,900 miles
Read more about my road trip: