A veteran’s guide to motorcycle touring

Dan Hutchinson has taken countless roads and learned a lot in the many years that he’s been journeying on motorcycles

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Dan Hutchinson enjoys the varied terrain of touring in the United States. — Photo courtesy Dan Hutchinson

Dan Hutchinson puts about 15,000 kilometres on his motorcycle every year. For scale, that’s enough distance for three trips from Vancouver to Mexico and back. He’s toured everywhere from Yukon down to New Mexico and said he loves the variation of country that his Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic has taken him through.

“It is very much a freedom thing,” said Hutchinson. “For most of the best trips  . . . we just ride and see where it takes us. I love that kind of freedom. We’re so constricted in our daily lives with time schedules and we have to meet time demands. When we’re on a road trip like that there are no time schedules. You start when you start, you stop when you stop, and you go where you go. It’s such a refreshing change from normal life.”

Hutchinson owned his first Honda bike when he was 15 years old and took to the road on two wheels before he ever bothered with four. His early riding saw him through the teenage years. The call of the road was always strong and Hutchinson has been back riding for the last 28 years. He more recently traded his career in the car sales industry for a position at a Harley-Davidson dealership in Langley, B.C, combining his work with his passion.

Successful touring

Hutchinson generally camps while he’s touring, enjoying the connection to the outdoors. He’s found that asking locals for suggestions on places to stay or eat rarely leads to bad advice and often concludes in a pleasant and unexpected find. The most important advice he has to offer for touring, however, takes place before a rider even leaves his or her driveway.

“Make sure your bike is properly prepared and that it’s safe and it’s ready to make the journey,” said Hutchinson. “I had a guy in (our shop) last year that had ridden in from Calgary. It was pouring rain that particular day and he says, ‘Can you check my bike? I’m losing traction.’ It was fully loaded, he had all his gear on it and he was by himself. We pulled the bike in and that tire was so worn out—he’d left Alberta with a worn-out tire. I’ve never in my life seen a tire that was as worn out as that. And he came through the mountains that way. He didn’t think it through; he didn’t check his motorcycle over. So that’s probably the most important thing; make sure that you check over the motorcycle.”

Also important is that the rider be prepared for all conditions. Anyone on a bike is much more connected to the elements and weather can potentially make the journey miserable for those who aren’t ready for it. Riders also need to pull over once they get too tired, a lesson Hutchinson has learned after many hard miles. Riding a motorcycle requires constant alertness and attention.

Enjoying the ride

With a few considerations in mind, however, motorcycle touring is a passion that Hutchinson would like to see more riders discover.

“I encourage the younger generation to get into motorcycling, to get into touring,” he said. “It does seem to be an old fellows’ sport. The young men and women seem to want a go-fast motorcycle and fast riding through mountainous areas. I guess there’s fun to that too, but I would encourage the younger generation to learn how to explore and see the country via motorcycle. It’s not all about speed and racing. It’s about enjoying the ride and getting there in the end.”

Hutchinson’s motorcycles have taken him a lot of places. He loves the red rock country around Moab, Utah, and he’s planning another trip to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota this year. Although he’s ridden countless kilometres, there are still a few things left on his riding bucket list.

“I would like to take a trip up to Alaska,” he said. “I’ve gone up to Whitehorse (Yukon) before, but I’d like to carry on and do Alaska. And I wouldn’t mind one day making a trip to the East Coast. I’ve done everything on the West Coast up and down, but there’s a lot of roads out there that I still need to ride on. I’ve ridden on a lot of good ones, but there are a few more I need to explore.”

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