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International USA Ride Experiences

Discussion in 'Roads, Touring, Journeys, and Travel' started by Disco_Dave, Mar 5, 2016.

  1. Hi All,

    GIven then dirt cheap tickets available to the USA at the moment and the fact I keep telling myself I am actually going to take a brief break from the rat race, I have just purchased return tickets to LA.

    I am looking for anyone's advice and experiences if you have either:
    - Gone on a guided or self guided tour in the USA -> If so, what company, what were your thoughts? would you use them again?
    - Rented a bike and completed your own touring -> if so what did you do? where did you rent from? any advice?

    Currently I have enough time for about 2 weeks of touring, but only intend to stay in the states/areas surrounding LA.

    I was thinking of doing something like this:

    Southwest II Motorcycle Tour | Self-Drive Motorcycle Tour
    Coast to Desert Adventure Motorcycle Tour | Self-Drive Motorcycle Tour

    or perhaps this
    Western Highlights I Motorcycle Tour | Self-Drive Motorcycle Tour

    One thing I have noticed is the heavy premium for solo riders which appears to be with most of the tour company's I have found. Is this standard? the price essentially doubles!

    I am pretty easy on accomodation and am considering doing something a little less structured. My preference would be to stay at backpackers as I actually prefer the vibe and social side and as a bonus its easier on the hip pocket.

    Any advice on insurance would also be great (most plans i have seen do not cover riding bikes above 125 or 250cc).

    I will be there in summer (July / August).

  2. Have a look at Youtube triumph rides America. I won the trip so didn't pay but shows some of the great rides out of LA. If you had more time I would suggest buy second hand then resell. Cheers
  3. Check out Big Sur, its a section of road heading north to San Fran that hugs the coast. Think GOR but longer and more awesome.
    Drove from San Fran to LA a while back and I wished I had a bike.
    Also dont stay in LA, its a shithole.
  4. Mostly concur. The Pacific coast (Highway 1) is a good ride, but be aware that most of it not curvy until you get north of San Simeon (still lovely though). Big Sur is riding paradise if the weather is with you.
    There are great rides north of SF too.

    I recently did self-guided in Nevada and Utah. I researched very thoroughly and the best I could do for rental was a bit over U$550 for three days rental stretched over 4 days (vegasmotorcyclerental.com). All up cost including food, accommodation and fuel was around U$1100. Rentals get a bit cheaper the longer the rental period.
    Time of year has a big impact on cost, but also drastically reduces the options for where you can go. Pure insanity to go through Death Valley in July/August (June and Sept are iffy). Almost impossible to cross Tioga Pass (Yosemite) after late October and before early May (there are alternatives). Research the climate for each region at your time of year (which is?)

    If you go self-guided, accommodation is way cheaper away from the big cities and tourist hotspots. Small town America is very friendly, if conservative.

    Travel Insurance is available for fully licensed riders from a few providers (I used TID - Travel Insurance Direct) but NONE of them will cover the excess on motorcycle hire AFAIK. The vehicle will be covered by law. All US rental vehicles are covered by statutory vehicle cover, the cost of which will be outlined in the rental agreement. Choose the maximum option wherever possible. Choosing the max cover will also usually reduce your credit card deposit. Do not leave home without travel insurance.

    Two weeks solid touring could be pretty tiring. You might consider breaking it into two sections with a short break in between for sightseeing, and save a bit on rental.
    I did pretty much all of that Western Highlights itinerary as a self-guided, but only the eastern part of it on a bike. If you choose something like that I can probably add a few more bits of info.
    • Informative Informative x 1
  5. I have driven in the US but not ridden. Mainly on opposite sides of the country, Pennsylvania and Arizona. That whole western part of the country has some spectacular scenery, the Coast highway mentioned above is amazing and there are some pretty impressive canyon runs too. I spent some time in Arizona and if you're in the Tucson area, a ride up Mt Lemmon is well worth the trip. Then there's the grand canyon, and monument valley that are not really that far away. Just be aware that while we all think of this as desert, and cacti and blazing hot, Mt Lemmon is the most southerly ski resort in the US, in a thirty mile drive you go from Saguaro Cactus desert, through grassland, low scrub and end up in pine and oak woodland with lynx, deer etc. It's like driving from Mexico to Canada in under an hour. Spectacular views and a nice windy road, very popular with local riders and the local cops. Tucson is couple of thousand feet up and surrounded by 9,000 foot mountains and up around the grand canyon you are at fairly high elevations too, so depending on the time of year, you may want to be prepared for it to be cool, particularly at night. If you're heading up the coast further there is some beautiful country and interesting roads all the way to the Canadian border. Coastlines and mountains always seem to make for interesting roads :). Given you're going in summer, choosing something up in the mountains is likely to be a bit more pleasant. Death Valley, is likely to be pretty hot, but hey, we aren't that unused to hot in this country either. Depending on how you personally cope with heat, I wouldn't rule it out completely with the right preparations.

    The next few suggestions are actually pretty common sense, so please feel free to ignore it if you have already thought about this.

    I would suggest taking a day or so to rest up after you arrive and before you try driving anywhere. Make sure that you are topped up on sleep. Having done the whole fly in, rent a car, get in and drive thing a couple of times, I wouldn't recommend it and I was flying business class and had a decent opportunity to rest if not actually sleep.

    If you have not driven on the right before, perhaps consider renting a car for a couple of days while you make that adjustment, as it can seem really weird and quite disorientating at first, especially if you are jet lagged. The only way to get used to it is to do it, but the consequences of getting it wrong are severe, so some metal and airbags are not a bad thing to have between you and the consequences while you get used to it. Be particularly careful when you get out of town on quiet roads and at night (when you are less alert and habits tend to reassert themselves) as it's easy to turn onto the wrong carriageway when there are no cars there to remind you of where you ought to be.

    Accommodation and food are very reasonable in the US as is fuel. One of the reasons things are cheap is that unlike here, the waiters and bar staff don't get paid enough to live on, they really rely on tips to survive. Here we tend only to tip if the service has been exceptional. There it's expected. Just watch out for places that have already added a service charge to the bill, you don't need to tip twice although the staff may appreciate it. Allow for a 10% tip, more if you're feeling generous, generally speaking you will get very good, attentive and friendly service. When I was last there the aussie dollar was approaching parity with the greenback so it was amazingly good value even after tipping.

    Be prepared to be surprised. America is very different to what we see on TV. If you like a beer, make sure you get a chance to sample some of the local craft beers. Brewing went through a horrible bland patch for a while in the US, but they are doing some seriously good things now.

    I'm involved in a VFR forum with a lot of members based in the US, might be worth looking at or joining some of these types of groups as they are a great place to pick up local knowledge and once you get to know people a bit you may find some people who offer to show you around their area.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  6. Lived on the east coast (Baltimore) of the States for 3 years from 2003, got myself a bike whilst there. Some good rides through the Appalachian mountains and a load of civil war history (if you are in to that thing). The Skydrive Virgina is a must if in that area.
    When a mated visited from Melbourne , I met him in San Fran and hired two GS 850 and rode north for 3 days on Hwy 1 (Pacific Coast road) it's the GOR without the cages and a lot more of it, quaint fishing towns and friendly people. We had a blast. We asked owner what the road was like north, the reply created the biggest smile, "you don't want to go that way it has lots of tight bends, suggest you head inland to Hwy 101" she was right on one account, it was the best road.
    Hiring both bikes in my name in San Fran was easy but I had a US driving licence, address and bank account, not sure how you would go as an international visitor, the Americans class you as an alien and have some really funny policies relating to ALIENS.
    You should do it
    Also Yosemite is an easy days ride from San Fran, another must see.