As an experienced international adventurer and travel photographer preferring the two-wheeled mode of transportation, an airline ticket is also a ticket for dreaming about the chance to ride new roads on a "Fly & Ride" motorcycle vacation.
What is a "Fly & Ride" motorcycle vacation? Simply put, you fly to a location and then rent a motorcycle at that location. Since we live in Florida, it takes half our vacation days just to ride out of the state. But, flying to a location and renting a motorcycle means that in a one week span of time it is possible to explore areas of the country that we might not have otherwise gotten the chance to. It also means we get to maximize riding the area we want to, rather than spending most of the time getting there.
As much as I love a good cross country road trip, we simply don't always have the time to take one.
On a Fly and Ride you can save time, and the hotel or gas expenses you'd have shelled out along the way while getting to exciting new areas faster. But, to have a successful "Fly and Ride" motorcycle vacation there are a few basic things to you'll need to know to make the process go a little smoother.
Renting a motorcycle, you can expect to pay about $80 per day and up, with discounts for extended time periods. But don't let rates be your only consideration when choosing your rental agency. You will want to examine other factors, such as insurance coverage, supplementary fees, and incentive perks, before you make your final decision.
As soon as you have your airline reservation, begin checking with the motorcycle rental agencies in your destination city about reserving your motorcycle. The sooner you book the reservation, the better chance you have of getting the style bike you prefer. Ask if they have airport pick-up and luggage storage. Some agencies even rent helmets and riding gear, if you want to avoid packing yours. The reservation staff can also advise you on helmet laws in the states you will be riding in and their company policies on wearing helmets. Often you can fill out the rental paperwork in advance, to save time the day you pick the motorcycle up. Each agency will have its own benefits to match your needs.
Different motorcycle rental agencies offer different makes and models of motorcycles. If you intend to ride more than 100 miles (here is where you should inquire about mileage caps and extra charges), you should pay attention to the comfort some motorcycles over others. If a long, two-up ride with infrequent pit stops is the plan, the luxury cruisers choice is a Harley Electra Glide Ultra Classic or Road Glide with cushioned seats and back rests, stereo CD player, intercom, floorboards, lower fairings, and a host of other amenities.
Motorcycle rental agents report that Harley Davidson Road Kings are the top choice for consumers, probably because they combine the best qualities of a touring bike with the appearance of a cruiser. The next most requested cycles are the Harley Davidson Fat Boy and the Heritage Classic. The latter comes with windshield, large leather saddlebags and passenger back rest standard from the factory. The same equipment can normally be added to the Fat Boy-- all of which are detachable for that cool, solo rider who likes to travel light. Of course, if you always wanted to try out the V-rod, but didn't think it would work as your full-time ride- this is your chance.
If Harleys are not your motorcycle of choice, BMWs, Triumph, Hondas, even off-road bikes are available in different areas if you find the right agency. Make sure to choose a model that fits both your physical and riding abilities and has the options that you'll need for your vacation. Don't pick a dirt bike if you're going to be touring on paved roads for the next week - you'll be short on packing space and comfort!
When making your reservation, inquire about their insurance policies and surcharges. Does the agent carry liability insurance, with whom and for how much? Does it cost extra above the price they quoted you? They should furnish you a card or certificate to carry on the motorcycle in case of an accident or traffic stop. Most states have laws mandating liability coverage. It's worth a phone call to your own insurance agent to determine what coverage you may or may not have with your current policy.
This is also the time to ask about pick-up and drop-off times, fuel costs, maintenance responsibility, motorcycle substitution, theft or damage waivers and cancellation policies.
When you make that final decision, and book your reservation, be sure to ask the agent what documents you need to bring with you when you pick up the motorcycle. While some European dealers may only require a valid driver's license, U.S. companies will also want motorcycle class notation on that valid license.
If you plan to be on the road for a week or more, or expect to be passing through cool climates, you could be packing quite a lot of gear. It only took one trip with lost luggage for alternate plans to formulate on how ensure my preferred riding gear was at my destination when I arrived.
For years now, I have shipped myself a big box of clean clothing to a hotel about halfway through any cross country or extended road trip. I enclose a roll of packing tape and address labels to mail the box back to myself from the hotel. It is free to sign up online for an account with UPS, which gives you a discounted rate for each shipment and you can call to arrange for pickups. UPS also includes a minimal amount of free insurance, or you can purchase additional insurance. You could use any package delivery service. UPS has just worked well for me over the years, and will now be my new Fly & Ride luggage plan after our lost baggage experience. I do suggest sending the package so it is delivered at least 2 or 3 days before you expect to fly out, so you can confidently confirm its arrival before you leave home.
While this may cost you an extra $50 in shipping fees, it will save you time and hassle at the airport. When our luggage was lost on a recent trip, we had to replace everything from leather riding gear to toothpaste on a moment's notice. We would have gladly paid the $50, because the airline had already charged us an extra $20 for the "extra weight" of the bag! I guess it was SO heavy with all our riding gear that they could not even lift it into the airplane that day! The airline only offered to reimburse $25 per day for the inconvenience of our bag not showing up when we did. We were lucky that trip that Eagle Rider of Salt Lake City took pity on us and cut tags off of brand new leather riding gear to loan to us, in addition to filling our saddlebags with t-shirts, hats, gloves and other necessities.
Ziplocs are also great for toiletries, documents that need to stay dry or organizing tech toys, like cameras and iPods.. Next, check the weather outlook for the area you will be riding in, summer lows can mean winter clothing in some parts of the country. You may want to pack rain gear or leather even if you are flying out of Florida in shorts and sandals.
I like to throw a couple extra bungee cords and a cargo net in when I am riding a rental motorcycle because I never know exactly how my tour pack will work out for attachment on the set up of a different bike. The cargo net also comes in handy when I begin to acquire things that no longer fit in the saddlebags, and items begin getting loaded onto the outside of my tour pack. I usually have an extra drawstring bag or two for this very reason.
Another item that makes every trip check list for me is a china marker. Some call it a grease pencil. We use it to jot directions on the corner of the windshield. It wipes off with the swipe of a thumb and doesn't wash away in rain. No pulling out papers to look for directions while rolling down a strange road.
When you arrive at the motorcycle rental agency, check the bike over before leaving for any dents, scratches or problems that you don't want to be responsible for. Get a copy of rental agreement with agent's emergency phone numbers, mileage caps, time of return and any late return charges, gas charges, and make sure you get the agent's signature on the agreement.
We know you already got the best routes for the area off of OpenRoadJourney, but don't forget to bring along a map of the area anyway, just in case. You never know when you might hear of a local festival nearby that you want to check out, or unexpected road closures may have you discovering new routes and experiences.
No matter which motorcycle rental company you choose, which model motorcycle you ride, or what you throw in your saddlebag, it all comes down to the ride! Here's wishing you a safe "Fly & Ride" adventure that has you heading home with lasting memories and an exciting tale to share here online at OpenRoadJourney.