View Full Version : Questions about Motorcycles

Sunlight Shadows
03-06-2011, 12:20 AM
My character needs to get from Tulsa to California (around LA, probably) on a motorcycle. Any ideas on approximately how long this would take, how many times he'd have to stop for gas, etc.? I'm having trouble finding the model I want to use (it'd have to have been around in the early '70s), so I'm unsure of the mpg. I've never been on a road trip, much less a motorcycle road trip. Any help is appreciated.

03-06-2011, 12:28 AM
Honda came out with a four cylinder about that time and it was popular. That would be a good choice for a long trip (assuming you don't want to use one of the traditional touring bikes like a BMW or Harley).

It held about five gallon, and would probably get 50 mpg on a long trip over an open road. You could estimate the travel time, allowing for a rest stop every so often. In a car I find it's hard to average too much over 60 mph because of stops, even though someone might be going 75 most of the time.

03-06-2011, 12:32 AM
As for type of bike, how cool a person is this? And how big?
Mid 70's Norton Commando would be cool, as would a Harley.
mid 70's Kawasaki or Honda would be a lesser dollar, less personal maintenance answer.

Personally? I'd do a Google Maps search for directions and look for places about every 200 - 250 miles (80mph for 3 hours puts you at 240 miles.)

In '79 I did most of that run by Greyhound. There was a whole lot of nothing. But, in some places, there still is.


Google image search for specific year and brand will show you some options.

Good Luck

03-06-2011, 12:35 AM
I rode a Norton Commando one time (back in the 70s). Scared the hell out of me. You better be ready if you take off fast. I think that thing would do a quarter-mile in something like 10 seconds.

03-06-2011, 12:43 AM
Not sure when they came out, but my husband absolutely loved his Honda Silverwing (smaller than a Goldwing, but still a lot of bike and good for long trips). As I remember we had to stop for gas about every 200 miles for him (we did tandem trips - he rode and I drove the car with our daughter riding with me.) Puma

Sunlight Shadows
03-06-2011, 12:43 AM
Thanks, guys. Very helpful. I'll pick a bike (the Honda four cylinder sounds likely for the situation) and try to map out a basic route. I don't need to know every stop, but you never know what might turn into a part of the story.

I've never ridden a real motorcycle - no license, not old enough. It's on my bucket list.

03-06-2011, 12:44 AM
I looked it up. The Honda I was referring to was the CB750.

Sunlight Shadows
03-06-2011, 12:45 AM
Perfect, thanks alleycat!

03-06-2011, 12:47 AM
Wiki and other websites will have the specs and photos of most major bikes.

03-06-2011, 12:48 AM
Regardless of mpg - your character might want to pull over every 200-300 miles just to stretch his legs.

This one does about 450-500 kilometers on a full tank, but it's a 30 liter tank, so...


03-06-2011, 12:58 AM
You'd be traveling I-40 most of the way, and the distance is about 1400 - 1500 miles. Back in 1970, I-40 hadn't been completed throughout this area and in places you'd be traveling Route 66. You'd be going through Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. A big lot of empty. You're probably going to want to fill up every 200 miles, as you don't want to get too far down in your tank. I fill up whenever I stop if it's below a half tank in that part of the country.

And in summer (some people consider that to be most of the year in that area) it's hot. You need to watch your temperature gauge carefully. Between noon and four is the worst. Although rather flat compared to the more northern crossings of the Rockies, there's still some good grades. And a lot of time it's windy.

My guess is that there are some rough sections on it for bikers, but I don't know. But a lot of interstates out there have grooving on them, which is not pleasant for a bike but aren't a problem for cars and trucks.

Wikipedia has some good articles on I-40 and Route 66 for a starting point.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

03-22-2011, 02:34 AM
I've been riding since the 60's and back during the time you are working in just about anything would have been used for a trip such as you describe.

Several people mentioned Norton's and Honda's. The Norton's were good machines and if you choose one for your story, they vibrated like a paint shaker. I had a Norton Atlas as a 2nd bike in the early 70's and my butt and hands would go numb after just a few dozen miles at highway speeds.

Honda's were pretty popular and the aforementioned CB 750 was their Flagship in the early 70's. Powerful, smooth and dependable. Many people would travel great distances on Honda 350's as well.

Moto Guzzi's were excellent platforms for long distance travel and were bullet proof, About as ugly as you could find and not very many on the road but they would go forever.

I rode a Harley-Davidson myself and a trip of that length would have required extra time for maintenance along the way. Mine was a Panhead (produced from 1948-1965) and shook, rattled, and leaked oil like crazy. Any trip of more than 100 miles or so required a few quarts of extra oil along with a good tool kit, a chain breaker, and spare chain links.

Motorcycles were not very popular with the general public (especially Harley-Davidson's) and a person would need to be ready for possible trouble if traveling on one, especially outside of large urban areas.

Hope this helped a little but even if it didn't, I love talking bikes so I enjoyed it anyway.

03-22-2011, 03:16 AM
Unless you know a lot about bike's and maintenance, I would stick with the Honda as the rides were smooth and the breakdown ratio very small. You could also find Honda dealers just about everywhere in small towns compared to Harley or other makes of bikes. In other words, keep it simple and most readers will accept...

In 76, I had a 1200 HD Super-Glide and road it from DC to Daytona for bike week in a pack of about 30 other Harley Riders and a dozen vans. The breakdown ratio added a full day to our journey. We were constantly picking up other bikers along the way. Riding through some small towns in South Carolina and Georgia, the cops would escort us through town. At some gas stations, the owners would lock themselves in the office and would not wait on us. They also hated hippies in the south back then too, and we were sort of both. My time we reached Daytona, there was almost a thousand bikers in our pack...

In the late 70's I moved to Phoenix Az. We did the 1-40 route back then and it was no where near finished. I swore I would always wear a helmet. I lost too many friends doing stupid things on bikes without helmets. But once I got to Phoenix, the helmet lasted about a dozen stop lights. Your sitting on a bike that is putting out a lot of heat, on pavement that is reflecting heat and the air temperature is over 100 in the summer on a daily basis. The helmet just trapped all that heat, so off it came...

The wife and I though had a few incidents on that journey with locals, but the trip was amazing. We still have the pictures of wide open country to the horizon, our first Saguaro Cactus, Indian Ruins, Armadillos and all sorts of things. It's a far different environment than what I was use to in Virginia and after two years out there, I missed the color of green. When we returned home, crossing over the Mississippi into Tennessee, my eyes just sort of relaxed because everything was a vibrant green instead of the dull browns and dull greens I had grown used to out west.

Good luck on the journey in your story, and with your writing...