The joys, challenges of traveling by motorcycle

Motorcycle travel in Dubbo, Australia
In this May 29, 2013 photo, sheep leaped out onto the road as a motorcycle passes while on the road to Dubbo, 250 miles from Sydney, Australia.
Rob Griffith | ASSOCIATED PRESS file

This is the first in our "Bikes, Hikes, Boats and Trains" travel series on MPR News with Kerri Miller.

Two riders joined us today to share stories, reasons, and tips for traveling by motorcycle.

Interview highlights

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The heightened senses on a motorcycle

"You have no walls around you, so all of your senses are just on super alert, heightened awareness," Genevieve Schmitt said. "You smell things, you see things you otherwise wouldn't, you can feel things on your skin—everything from rain on a rainy day or the dirt and the bugs that come up from the cars—and the air in front of you. So it's really—for many of us—it's a real spiritual experience being on a motorcycle."

On the not-so-glamorous parts of the ride

Riders have to be more aware of road hazards, particularly in countries without good signage, Allan Karl said. Riders also have to deal with visibility issues in rain and keeping a comfortable body temperature through changing weather conditions.

"I think sometimes weather is a sign to you or a message saying... 'Get off the motorcycle now.'" he said. "Take a moment. Connect with people. Look at what's around you."

On slow riding

Karl said people often ask him about speed when they see his motorcycle, but he said he's more concerned about how slow he can go without falling.

"For me, to go and travel around the world by a slower pace is really what you want to do to have that sightseeing experience we're talking about," he said.

On the simplicity and purity of a ride

"I love the feeling of being able to just pack everything I need for a week on my motorcycle," Schmitt said. "It forces women like me—who enjoy makeup and need a hairdryer—to sort of scale down."

On the meditative qualities of motorcycle travel

"You're in that moment," Karl said. "When you're on a motorcycle your senses are just ignited, your spirit is soaring because there's a rhythm. Your whole body is moving with the motorcycle... It's very meditative because your mind isn't going anywhere else... When we meditate, we're trying to push out those distractions, those issues that maybe we're dealing with and to kind of have that pure moment of thought."