One of the fastest growing demographics in the motorcycle industry is the over-40 set. With the kids now more or less on their own, and a little more disposable income available, older riders are taking to the roadways in greater numbers. In many cases, former motorcyclists are returning to the sport after a long absence to concentrate on family and career obligations, while for others it's the fulfillment of a life-long dream.
The machines of today are quite different from the loud, oil-stained rides so common several decades ago. No longer is it necessary to arrive at your destination in a dishevelled heap. In fact, with the latest machines on offer, riding can be quite refined. And for those getting back into motorcycling, one of the prime attractions is the extended road trip.
As a way to experience the ultimate road trip, it’s hard to beat a motorcycle. Not only are bikes more fuel efficient than most cars, riding in the open air allows you to fully experience your surroundings, rather than just merely observing the scenery through a windscreen. On a motorcycle you become part of your surroundings, and at the risk of sounding trite, the destination truly does become secondary to the journey.
Gearing up on a budget
Like most things, you can spend a small fortune to outfit yourself, but it's also very easy to stay within budget by exercising a little discipline. Naturally, acquiring your new two-wheeler is the largest single expense, and a new top-of-the-line adventure touring bike by leading marques such as BMW or KTM could easily reach $20,000. Similar bikes from Japanese manufacturers can be purchased new for $4,000-$5,000 less, but the real bargain hunters should be looking at the used market.
For instance, the Kawasaki KLR - a lightweight “dual sport” machine, with a 650 cc single-cylinder power plant - is a tried and true platform that's been in production for nearly 30 years. Another favourite of the budget-minded is the venerable Suzuki Strom. A little more modern in appearance and engineering than the KLR, the Strom has a wide following and a well-earned reputation for reliability and longevity. Both can be picked up on the used market for $3,000-$5,000, and with proper maintenance can be counted on to deliver years of trouble-free service.
Of course, riding gear will be an added cost. And if like many riders you're doing longer excursions, then camping rather than motels is a sure way to keep your travelling costs down. Here again, rather than going to high-end sports stores, you can save money by being a little creative.
Military surplus stores are a favourite haunt for the frugal camper. Everything from small cooking stoves to tents and inclement weather gear can be found at these outlets, and generally represent a substantial saving over comparable gear from sports stores.
For the more adventurous, “stealth camping” or “boon-docking” further helps to keep travelling costs in check. In rural areas, you can often find public land where you can set up a tent for the night for free, thus avoiding campground fees. Large tracts of Crown land can be found within a few hour’s ride of many urban centres, and all citizens are permitted to camp on these lands at no charge. The only restriction is that you cannot remain in one spot for more than 21 straight days.
Of course, you won’t find electrical outlets or running water. But for a weekend away, or as a stopping point along the way to your destination, the solitude can be a welcome reprieve. What more could you ask for free?
If you’re not up for this level of roughing it, campgrounds with fully-serviced lots are still a bargain compared to motel rooms. In fact, campgrounds are increasingly pandering to the motorcycle community with some enterprises offering “motorcycle only” areas of the park.
Whether you’re longing to get back in the saddle or finally ready to take the plunge, there are many community clubs that promote safe and responsible motorcycling. Visit the links below for more information on motorcycle training and other helpful advice:
Canadian Motorcycle Association