Planning and Leading A Tour


We consider PARR to be the premier motorcycle touring organization in the greater Washington, D.C. area. There are no other motorcycle riding groups that we know of that provide members with the amount and types of touring that PARR offers. Our tours can be as short as two days or as long as a week. Most of our tours, however, are in the three to four day category. They will always include Saturday and Sunday as part of the tour days since most PARR members have weekends off from work.

PARR tours should be planned and conducted for maximum safety and enjoyment. The PARR Board will approve all PARR tours in advance and will authorize ride leaders for these tours.

The ride leader's duties and responsibilities are numerous. They include but are not limited to planning the route for each day, advertising the tour to PARR members, planning the itinerary for each tour day, securing lodging, obtaining advance payment from members when necessary, making route sheets available to all riders, planning for rest stops and meals, selecting additional leaders and tail gunners for the group, holding pre-ride briefings each day, dealing with any problems that may come up, and most importantly, ensuring the safety of all participants.

Below is a detailed description of the ride leader's duties.

Decide Upon Destination and Length Of Tour

Each PARR tour should have a theme such as The Laurel Highlands of PA, Covered Bridges of Lancaster County, or The Catskill Mountains of NY (to name a few). Within the theme, there should be attractions where the group can stop to enjoy the area. Once these things have been established, the leader should advertise the tour to all PARR members. This can be accomplished via email, the PARR website, a flyer, and at the monthly business meeting. Members will sign up for the tour sooner if they are aware of the details of the ride. Dates for tours are usually decided early in the year at a special meeting held in January or February.

Secure Overnight Accommodations

Depending upon the size of the group and the destination, this may be one of the toughest tasks. Securing enough rooms for a large group at a popular summer destination must be done very early in the year. It's usually wise to secure rooms that are non-smoking and contain two beds in each room. The hotel should be in an area where the club can feel secure. The hotel should also have a good reputation with clean rooms at a reasonable price. Look for discounts that may be available. Select hotels that may have amenities such as a free breakfast, an interesting location, a scenic view, or good parking for motorcycles. This information can be easily obtained through the Internet with enough research. The hotel facilities should contain a place where ride members can gather together for socialization. Group socialization after each day's ride is as important as the ride itself. If members enjoy the hotel, they'll be in a good mood at the beginning of each day's ride.

Reserve a block of rooms in the PARR name. Determine the cancelation policy and ensure any rooms can be canceled without incurring a penalty. Notify members of name, location, cost, and telephone number of the hotel. They can then call and book one of the rooms you have reserved. If you are sending out an email, include an Internet link to the hotel website. You should also set a deadline for members to commit themselves to the tour. You'll get quicker results if you set a deadline.

Lay Out A Route

There are many resources you can use in laying out your route. Detailed maps in hard copy can be purchased at book stores or off the Internet. Computer software such as Microsoft Streets and Trips or Honda Trip Planner are exceptional. Using computer software, you can readily know the exact distances between points. These are highly recommended. Using Google Earth allows one to determine what the road and the areas surrounding it are like. It is also good for seeing how large a gas station is or what the parking lot is like at a restaurant.

Using the resources mentioned above, you could actually plan a good ride without ever having been on the roads. However, it's always best to pre-ride at least part of the route.

Plan the Route and Activities For Each Day

You should decide the first day meeting location for the group. It should be a place that is easy to find, away from city traffic, and at a location where breakfast is available (assuming you are starting the tour in the morning) - as well as access to a gasoline station.

The first day of the tour is the most important as it sets the tone for the ride. A lot of low-traffic, scenic back roads are ideal. It is highly suggested that you ride the first day's route well before the tour takes place. It will give you confidence and will help you avoid problems such as making a wrong turn or running into major road construction that could cause delays or detours. Pre-riding the route also will give you a chance to check out the rest stops and ensure that the lunch stop will meet the needs of your riders. Stopping at attractions is a great way to enhance any tour. PARR riders have come to expect these. No tour should be just about riding. We all love to ride but breaks from riding on a multi-day tour are a must. If there are any costs involved with the attractions, it should be known up front and possibly collected by the Ride Leader. A good way to find what attractions are available in the ride area is, again, the Internet. Roadside America is a good resource. You can also ask the hotels in the area for advice.

Dinner at the end of each day is a very important part of the tour. Arrangements should be made well ahead of time and you should keep cell phone numbers of all the restaurants you have contacted in case there are delays or change of plans. This is the social part of the tour that PARR members look forward to. The hotel you are using should either have a restaurant attached to the hotel or a restaurant that is reasonably close to the hotel - preferably in walking distance. If it does not, you may have picked the wrong hotel. Remember that if you have to ride to dinner and back, riders cannot drink alcoholic beverages at the restaurant. Riding to dinner usually means you'll be riding back to your hotel in the dark. This should be avoided.

Distance Between Rest Breaks

A good breaking point is usually around every 50 miles or about an hour of riding. Not every motorcycle has comfortable seating for longer periods of time. Keep this in mind - especially for those riding two-up. Your break points (not including the lunch) should be at large gasoline stations where restrooms and snacks are plentiful. Using the Internet, it is easy to find what gas stations are available in the area where you are riding. Large brand name gasoline stations such as Sheetz are highly recommended since they have large parking areas, lots of pumps, good restrooms and all sorts of snacks.

Lunch locations are critical to the tour. Select a place that can accommodate the size of the group without consuming inordinate amounts of time. Calling ahead to the restaurant and letting them know the size of the group will accelerate the process. Encourage riders to keep lunch orders to minimize the time spent waiting for food to be prepared.

Prepare To Lead The Tour

Well before the tour day arrives, the ride leader should send out an email to all participants in the tour. The email should contain an outline of the tour, the names and cell phone numbers of those who will be on the tour, the riding order, and route sheets for each day's ride. Starting time and location also should be clearly spelled out.

You should know your riders and have their cell phone numbers with you. It's a good idea to decide the riding order no matter how small or large the group is. When each rider knows who they are following and who is behind them, less confusion will occur when pulling out onto the highway after each stop.

Those with CB radios should be spaced apart in the group. They will play an important role in providing the group leader with information - even if the group leader does not have a CB radio. If the ride leader does not have a CB, establish a method of getting everyone's attention while on the road should an emergency take place.

Lead The Tour

Start each day with a pre-ride briefing according to PARR procedures. Include information on where the first stop will be and when, the approximate time for lunch, and the arrival time at overnight accommodations. Discuss the schedule, the route and the day's points of interest. Answer questions and discuss any problems experienced on the previous day. After the day's ride, announce the plan for the next morning, i.e., what time and where to meet for the ride. Remind all riders to have a full tank of fuel before the day's ride begins. Fuel should be purchased before breakfast.

While on the road, obey all traffic laws and speed limits. Don't make unsafe moves such as stopping quickly without warning or darting across several lanes of traffic on a busy road. All your moves should be safe and easy for others to follow. If you see or hear of anyone in the group making unsafe maneuvers, you should have a friendly conversation with them and caution them about proper riding procedures. Remember - you are the leader and everyone is counting on you to keep them safe.

Mechanical Problems On The Road

PARR does not abandon riders. If a rider has a mechanical or personal problem, try to assist or arrange to resolve the issue. If the time required to resolve the problem is short, wait for the rider. Otherwise, arrange for another tour member to stay with the rider and the disabled vehicle until repairs are made. Establish arrangements for those separated from the group to rejoin everyone later. If a tour member wants to leave the tour, either temporarily or permanently, determine the cause, address any problems, and attempt to provide an escort if appropriate.

Personal Riding and Organizational Skills

The ride and group leaders must handle problems and know how the group is doing. If a tour member is experiencing any sort of difficulty, attempt to resolve it. Safety is paramount. The ride leader has a duty to mentor any rider who needs help with riding skills in order to ensure the safety of the group. If someone is running late or having difficulty getting gear together, ask another rider to help out.