I love motorcycles, camping, road trips, and solo travel. It’s especially great when you get to do all of them together. I almost always ride my motorcycle when I am solo traveling because: motorcycles!!!

I fell in love with motorcycles in 2010. When you are on a motorcycle, you see so much more of the world then you do from inside a car. You are part of the world instead of watching it pass by. When I ride my motorcycle, the journey is as much of the fun as arriving at my destination. 

If you can ride a bicycle, you can ride a motorcycle. It is just a little scarier starting out. When I bought my first bike, I had it delivered because it was too scary to ride it home. So, technically, my first road trip on my bike was around the block! Then I went a little further until I was riding it all the time all over town.  

My first bike was a little 250 cc Yamaha Star. I picked this bike because it is lighter and smaller and I wanted something I felt comfortable on while I was learning to ride. It was the perfect first bike and I definitely recommend it for beginners. 

It wasn’t long before I was planning my first solo road trip on my motorcycle. Starting out, I did an overnight trip and stayed in a hotel. But I love camping, so eventually I had to go motorcycle camping. 

My very first solo camping road trip was planned to be a waterfall tour in Missouri. I loaded up my little Yamaha Star and away I went on my adventure. 

Wanderful members only: Catch the recording of Teresa’s webinar on planning the perfect road trip!

Feature image of a recording from a Wanderful event with Teresa Willis of Sparkle Adventures titled "How to Plan the Perfect Road Trip"

Lessons Learned on My First Solo Motorcycle Camping Road Trip

First Lesson Learned: A little bike is great for around town, but for a road trip, it was time for a bigger bike

My Yamaha Star was great for around town and for an overnight trip in a hotel. But with all my camping gear, even though it fit, my little bike was too heavy for the kickstand to hold it upright. When I stopped for gas, I had to stay on it while I fueled, or it would tip over. I had to lean it against something when I stopped anywhere. No worries — that wasn’t going to stop me!

But it definitely had me dreaming about a bigger bike. 

Yamaha Star motorcycle all packed up for a camping road trip

I continued to do road trips on my little bike, but I was planning for my next bigger bike!  I upgraded to a bigger motorcycle for 3 reasons: 

  1. More power, which makes highway driving more comfortable and you can carry more. 
  2. More comfortable for passengers (I love taking friends along). 
  3. So I can take a road trip and not tip over with my gear. 

I bought my new bigger bike, a Suzuki Boulevard, in 2018. 

Second Important Lesson: Know how to pop start a motorcycle

I had the bad habit of leaving the key on my Yamaha. Luckily, you can pop start most motorcycles, which means putting it in gear, rolling down a hill with the clutch engaged until you pick up enough momentum to pop the clutch and start it.

If you are going to ride a motorcycle I recommend you learn that trip-saving technique!  Especially, if you have that same bad habit I had. I hope you don’t. But, you never know when that can come in handy. 

I stopped at Walmart on this first solo road trip (bike leaned against a parking sign) and left the key on. Thankfully, I found someone to push me and get it started! I always manage to find a way out of those little crises.

But I definitely learned a hard lesson when I tried to pop start my bike by running alongside it. Don’t do it! 

My Most Important Lesson: Stop and assess

When I made it to my first campground during that first solo road trip, Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, there was a treacherous gravel road going uphill to enter the park.

Ok Teresa, I thought, breathe, you can do this.

I stopped and looked over the road first, so I knew where I was going to avoid the potholes. And then I went for it. And I made it!

Taum Sauk Mountain State Park - Mina Sauk Falls Trail

One of the things I have learned in my travels is, when I am unsure of something, to STOP. Stop and take a minute to assess the situation and you will make better decisions than if you keep going.

Like, if I had thought about my decision to run alongside my motorcycle to pop start it for even 30 seconds longer, I would have saved myself from the very large bruise on my hip and the skinned up elbow. 

Back when I was trucking, the number one rule they drilled into your head was Get, Out, And, Look (GOAL). You will always be glad you did. 

Tips for Planning a Motorcycle Road Trip

1. Backpacking gear works great for motorcycle and bicycle camping

Motorcycle road trips with Teresa Willis of Sparkle Adventures
I use a combination of ratchet straps and bungee cords to tie down my gear on my motorcycle. It’s important to make sure your gear is secure on a motorcycle. You will find out quickly if it is not. My advice if it isn’t: start over. I have never been able to get it right unless I just start the process again. 

The biggest challenge of a motorcycle road trip is packing. Whether you are planning to stay in hotels or camping like I love to do, you have very limited space. Thinking like a backpacker will help you pack for motorcycle travel.

If you are considering a road trip on a motorcycle or a bicycle – look at backpacking gear.

On a motorcycle, you don’t have to worry about weight as much as size, but backpacking gear is great for both. Usually, the lighter the gear, the more expensive it is and I have recently learned that also can mean it’s less durable.

Since I am not backpacking on a 5-month section hike where every single ounce matters, I look for a smaller size, a little heavier and more durable, and usually more budget-friendly when I am picking my gear for my motorcycle camping adventures.

For a bicycle, you may want to consider weight as well. 

2. Test your gear before you go (AKA: What they really mean by “1-person tent”)

Small tent at Taum Sauk Mountain State Park

I get to my campsite and start setting up my new little one-person tent that I bought to fit on my motorcycle.

OMG it was the hardest tent I have ever set up in my 25 years of camping. Y’all this tent was the stupidest thing ever.

When I finally got it set up, I am looking at this thing and trying to figure out how I am going to get my fat self inside it. I did manage it but not gracefully.

I have since bought a new 2-person backpacking tent. It takes up a little more space, but it is worth it. 

Large 2-person tent

A 2-person tent is the perfect size for 1 person. When they say 2-person tent, they mean on the ground cuddled close together or head to foot. When they say 1 person, they really mean half of a person or a skinny person. I am not skinny; well, I do have skin all over my body so I am kind of skinny but, not the kind of skinny that fits into a one-person tent. 

The new 2 person tent was super easy to put up and had room for a single air mattress. 

Small 1-person tent being used for Halloween decorations
I never used that tent again! My mom has since found a use for it as a prop in her Halloween decorations.

3. Packing like a backpacker while still being comfortable

Backpacking, as well as motorcycle and bicycle camping, requires you to be a minimalist. There are lots of ways to save on space. Once again, think like a backpacker. 

  • Put clothes and towels into a pillowcase to make an extra pillow and plan on wearing clothes multiple times. It’s ok, you are solo, no one will know. 
  • Backpacking stoves are so tiny and cute and you can cook an entire meal in one pot. Or plan on eating out. 
  • I love my red bud suds 4 in 1 shower bar.  
  • Compression sacks are the best invention ever. Reduce the size of your stuff with these handy backpacking-inspired sacks. 

But don’t skimp on comfort. Figure out what you can live without and what you can’t. Save space where you can so you have room for the things you can’t live without. 

I can wear the same thing everyday and my little shower bar and toothbrush is all I need but I am not sleeping on the ground!  

I bring an air mattress and lots of pillows. My air mattress sprung a leak on my most recent camping adventure so now I am looking at backpacking cots and sleeping pads. 

Teresa Willis of Sparkle Adventures on her motorcycle ready for the perfect road trip

4. Be flexible in your plans, it’s your trip

After all the challenges of my first solo motorcycle camping trip, I decided that this trip was going to be a one-destination adventure!  Instead of packing up and riding to a new destination, I stayed at Taum Sauk Mountain State Park. I spent a few days hiking and exploring the area on my motorcycle and enjoyed lots of meditation and daydreaming.

Don’t be afraid to make changes as you go! I love going on trips and I love trying new things and finding new places. But that also means sometimes, as much as I prepare, things may not go the way I imagined.  It is your trip, and — especially when you are traveling solo — you can change direction anytime you want. 

You can’t plan for all the mishaps that can happen on a road trip, but you can plan to be flexible and allow yourself to do whatever makes you happy. It is your trip after all. 

My most recent solo motorcycle camping road trip was to Eminence, Missouri, which is a popular town in Missouri, known for natural springs, the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, and wild horses.

This time, I was ready for a multi-stop camping trip on my motorcycle with a new tent and my new bigger bike holds more gear and a cooler!  And this time, I made it to all my planned destinations. I’m sure you will, too. 


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