My 17-year old son wants to take his 20 year old 550cc Kawasaki from Chicago to San Francisco in February. Is this something that can be done? Should I panic now? Any help you can give me would be very much appreciated.
- Kit S.
There are a lot of situations that could determine whether you should panic now. Rapture, being chased by lions, a comet on a collision course with Earth; but your son riding across America on a motorcycle is probably not one of them. Your description of his trip causes me some concern especially with someone so young, but is definitely not panic worthy. Instead help him have as safe of a trip as he can. Here are some tips to get him and his motorcycle to the Golden State.
I have never been to Chicago in February and I think I know the reason, it is really cold! Ice is really dangerous for motorcycles and it is one of the reasons people don’t ride during the winter in the Mid-West. As bad as that can be eventually he will have to go over the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges where it will be even colder and icy-er. The Donner party tried to cross the Sierras in open vehicles in the winter and we know how that turned out! I have ridden around Lake Tahoe in March and started shivering and I didn’t have that far to go. He will need really warm motorcycling gear. He will probably need an electric vest and maybe some electric gloves. Forget about it if he doesn’t have a full face helmet with a balaclava to go under it.
He might be able to avoid most of the really cold weather and mountains by heading south but it will add significant mileage to the trip.
A 20 year old motorcycle may or may not be a concern depending on the condition of the motorcycle. Make sure the tires have plenty of tread, the battery is strong and the oil is clean. I have heard of chains freezing so make sure it is properly adjusted and lubed. 550ccs is also not much of a concern. I rode to Cabo San Lucas and back to San Francisco on a Vulcan 500 motorcycle with no problems even though bigger bikes are the rage these days.
There is plenty of time to take the Advanced Motorcycle Safety Course so sign him up.
Is this something that can be done? Yes. Will it be an uncomfortable trip? Yes. Make sure he is prepared.
Here are a couple articles he might find helpful:
How to Stay Warm in the Cold
Cross Country Motorcycle Riding