How To Make The Most Of Limited Riding Time

Maximize riding fun in a fleeting season.

Harley riders
Make the most of the season’s riding time.Courtesy of Harley-Davidson

The other day was one of maybe five perfect sunny days we’ve had so far this summer in Upstate New York. If an Indian summer is an unseasonably warm fall, does that make this an Eskimo summer?

Anyway, I was sitting in the backyard with my 11-month-old while he was inserting blades of grass into his nostrils, and I couldn’t help but reflect on how much things have changed in the last year. A year ago, I’d have been riding my bike on a day like this; now, without my constant vigilance we could lose a good man to the scourge of monocotyledonous choking.

I suspect I’m not alone in balancing the desire to ride with caring for family and tending to other adult-like responsibilities. But just because most of us can’t drop everything at a moment’s notice and swing a leg over a bike (here’s hoping that’s what retirement’s for), it doesn’t mean we can’t make this the best riding season ever. All it takes is a little planning and careful allocation of resources.

Here’s what’s on my radar to make the most of fewer rides. Got any other thoughts? Feel free to share in the comments section below.

Take A Riding Course

Ducati riding experience
Ducati Riding Experience.Courtesy of Ducati

There comes a point when it seems like our skills on the bike stop progressing. And frankly, other than the initial period of learning to ride, how many of us have ever received real instruction on how to ride a motorcycle? Fortunately, there are innumerable training courses designed to up the riding game.

This summer, I’ve enrolled in two riding schools. In July, I’m headed to BMW’s Performance Center in South Carolina to take part in the two-day Enduro Skills class. If, like me, you see CW staffers Dawes and Oldar getting it sideways in the loose stuff and say to yourself, “I want to do that…but have no idea where to begin,” some professional guidance is in order. The BMW school teaches foundational skills for big bike off-roading—including how to pick up one of these beasts should you get ahead of yourself and drop the thing on the side of a hill.

In September, I'm headed to New Jersey Motorsports Park for the Yamaha Champions Riding School. The curriculum is designed by our own Nick Ientasch. I've been a diehard sportbiker since I was a kid, so I'm looking forward to getting some supervised track time. Trackdays are great, but the setting isn't always conducive to improving my skills. My mentality has always been "have fun; go as fast as possible." While I have a blast, I know I'm going slower than a MotoAmerica rider on a cooldown lap, and I'm not getting any better. Stay tuned for stories.

Ride A Different Kind Of Bike

Swap your dirt bike for a supermoto.Taras Chernus

Riding a motorcycle that's very different from the one(s) you own can be eye-opening. Machines from different brands, or that have different engine configurations, or are a completely different form-factor than what you're used to, can open you up to an entirely new aspect of motorcycling. So many bikes, so little time. To sample the smorgasboard of motorcycling, check out demo rides at your local dealer and OEM demo tours. Or consider renting a bike from Riders Share, EagleRider, or a local touring company such as MotoVermont.

Ride Off-Road

dirt jump
If you’re a street rider, getting in the dirt is a great way to have fun in a new way on a motorcycle.Andraz Lazic

Motorcyclists frequently fall into the either/or category—you’re either a dirt bike person, or you’re a streetbike person. If you’re a street rider, it’s worth finding the time to get off road. It’s almost like riding in the dirt activates the other side of your brain. And it definitely uses different muscles. Even if you have decades of riding experience on the street, you’ll likely feel like complete garbage off road. It’ll build character. And even after you humiliate yourself, you’ll realize it was the most fun you’ve had on two wheels for years. If you’re a novice, there’s just something lighthearted about the whole thing—until you have your first real crash.

Plus, when the kids get a bit older, dirt biking can become a great way to get the whole family together. If you haven't seen the Hoyer clan's motocamping adventures, check it out here and try not to be envious.

Discover New Places To Go

Motorcycle helmet
Some roads are worth riding a thousand times. But there’s a whole world worth discovering. Go find it.Rick Barrett

Bring out the map (like moto-specific Butler maps). Get inspired. Revist long-lost roads or try Rever, designed to help you find the best riding roads in your area. Or forget the map and just get lost.

Make A Ritual Of Riding

The sensation of riding a motorcycling already feels out of the ordinary, so to set it apart seems natural. Whether we realize it or not, ritual is part of our normative experience; what we spend our time doing is an (often unintentional) assignment of value. So turn off the TV and go for a ride. Scheduled repetition can help establish a new norm within the bounds of what’s socially (or familiarly) acceptable. Saturday at 6 a.m. is ride time. Rain or shine.

Meet A New Group Of Riders

Sticking to that early morning ride is a lot easier if you’re meeting your riding buddies. Meeting new riders—say, at that trackday or at your local dealer’s demo day—is a fun way to expand the cult of riding. Maybe you can bum a ride on your new friend’s bike too. Two birds, one stone.

Go To A Race, A Swap Meet, Or A Festival

Deus bike
Suit jacket on a motorcycle? Must be The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, an international event that raises awareness for mental health issues and prostate cancer.Baptiste C. David

Motorcyclists are fond of saying, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.” Be that as it may, a motorcycle-related destination goes a long way toward redeeming the destination. In addition to AMA-sanctioned races of various disciplines in an area near you, swap meets and festivals are worth getting off the bike for. And it seems like there’s always something new happening in the custom world (young people and their boundless energy). Don’t choose between a cool event and a bike ride. Do both. Ride to where the action is.