My First 100-Mile Motorcycle Ride

Last October when the air was crisp and the leaves had changed from summer greens to  the beauty of reds and oranges, I rode my bicycle 100 miles from Madison to where my parents live in central Wisconsin.  It’s not the first time I made this journey by bicycle and one a route I really enjoy.

With the exception of one intersection, the first 10 miles are through some of Madison’s

Near the Wisconsin State Capitol Building on my Harley Iron 883
Near the Wisconsin State Capitol Building on my Harley Iron 883

best neighborhoods for cycling.  The next 40 are along some great backroads in Dane and Dodge Counties passing through a few small towns with just enough character to appreciate, but none that would attract tourists that make riding through a bit of a challenge.  The next 30 miles is along, what I believe , is the the most unheralded multi-use trails in the state of Wisconsin: The Wild Goose trail.  You’ll see an occasional dog walker, a couple enjoying a stroll in nature, or another cyclist, but there are very few users of this trail.  It’s a true hidden gem. For 34-miles, the trail runs along the Horicon March State and National Wildlife Areas.  Add the beauty of the leaves changing during autumn, the birds and other wildlife withing the natural area, and the low use of the trail by other people, it makes for a peaceful ride.

I’ve enjoyed this route on my bicycle so much that I decided to ride it on my motorcycle. Mind you, I have only been riding a motorcycle for 10 days, so I figured it would be an adventure.

While I wouldn’t be able to take my Harley on the Wild Goose State Trail, there are enough roads along this route to satisfy my need for both beauty and challenging motorcycle riding.  Seasoned motorcycle riders may find some roads less of a challenge, but 10-day into my motorcycling adventures these roads are appropriate.  One section of the route in southwest Dodge County takes me along a short section of the Crawfish River. It’s not well known, which makes this river more appealing.  As I approached a turn leading up to the river, I saw a small muskrat sniffing on the left side of the road.  I heard the roar of my bike well enough  in advance to scurry to the river side of the road, where, presumably, it ran to its river burrow.

In northeast Dane County along one of the many backroads on my 100-mile ride.
In northeast Dane County along one of the many backroads on my 100-mile ride.

From there my route took me just north of Reeseville down Seven Hill Road. Some wayward construction project must have removed a few hills because by my count Seven Hill Road only has five. I’ve been down this road quite a few time on my bicycle.  It’s fun to ride and it didn’t disappoint on my Harley.

Rolling into Reeseville is not a bad experience, but other than a place to get fuel and a bar called “Rehab,” there is not much to do other than to roll though with the Amy Winehouse song in your head.

The rest of the route take me near the Horicon Marsh.  I’s good riding.  This ride was during early spring, so I’d imagine that summer and autumn will be prettier rides with more tree colors and places to stop for ice cream.

It was windy during this ride.  15-18 mph headwinds most of the way.  I don’t have a windshield so it made it more of a challenge.  I don’t anticipate riding at interstate speeds very often and I use a full faced helmet, so I likely won’t get a windshield.  I’ll never say never though on that. With that said, I need to train myself to lighten my deathgrip on the bars.  My left hand was a bit numb during the last 20 miles.  This is an issue that I have on longer rides on my bicycle, so it’s nothing new.  I;ve corrected it on the bicycle by adjusting the levers off my ulnar nerve (the one that runs through the middle of your lower palm to to your wrist), but that’s not an option on the Harley.  Lightening up on my grip is the best option.

I purchased a set of Viking saddlebags and I don’t have them installed yet.  So I stuffed a backpack full of everything I needed for this journey.  My shoulders hurt by the end of the ride.  For the next long trip, I’ll need to have those saddlebags installed.  The stock seat is great for short trips around Madison, but man, my ass was lumpy hard by mile 80. I purchased a Mustang touring saddle for the Iron 883 with a back rest.  The seat should make long distances easier on my ass and the backrest will likely help with riding at faster speeds more comfortably.

The ride back was equally as fun, but not nearly as challenging.  I lightened my load by leaving the backpack behind.  It’s so much more comfortable riding without it.  I also had the wind at my back most of the way.  So I sat more upright at faster speeds.  When I road by Crawfish River again, I saw my old friend the Muskrat dart across the road.  I’ll expect to see him every time I ride through.

I’ve gained enough confidence on the motorcycle early on.  Enough to feel comfortable in all types of traffic.  Comfort is different than lax.  I’ve ridden my bicycle in enough hairy situations to remain vigilant.  This is no different on the motorcycle–at a faster pace. Knowing this, I went through the isthmus when I returned to Madison.  Traffic was heavy along Willy St.  An SUV behind me had his driver-side turn signal on for about four blocks. So during stop-and-start traffic, I aggressively pointed to my left rear tail light.  Another block later his signal was still on.  I pointed again, but this time I opened and closed my fist to mimic a blinking light.  Fist to fingers fist to fingers.  seconds later the SUV driver turned his signal off.

It’s a nice perk being able to non-verbally communicate more effectively than if I were caged in a car or moving too slowly on bicycle.

Blue Skies and fair winds help me keep the rubber side down on my Harley Iron 883.  Near Henry Vilas Zoo, Madison, WI

Like the summer changing to crisp autumn air and green foliage changing to fall colors, my transition from cyclist to motorcyclist is going just as beautifully.  I’m looking forward to may more long ride on my Harley.