If you are going to tour in New England you have numerous options from going on your own to several tour companies big and small. This question deals with “why?” you would want to go with Moto-Charlie vs. the other tour operators.
The answer below is a combination of what I have learned over the years from my tour guests, and my personal tour philosophy.
I work hard to address any pre-tour questions or issues in two ways:
- All the information that I can think of that pertains to my tours is presented on my website. I try to lay the whole program right out in the open – “what you see is what you get.”
- I will spend all the time it takes before, during and after the tour to personally answer any questions or deal with any issues to make sure that the tour will meet or exceed your expectations.
By the time the tour starts you will know everything you need for the tour including:
- What you need for documents, money, electronics, etc.
- What you need to bring for clothing, gear and what to expect weatherwise
- Exactly how to get to the meeting point and the related transfer arrangements
- The detailed list of the hotel addresses and phone numbers for your use and so family/friends back home will know where you are
- The hotel websites so that you can visit our hotels on-line
I limit my tours to 7 bikes and we frequently have less. This means that I am readily available at your disposal during the entire trip to help with everything from marking up your map for today’s ride to the changing the bike set-up to your liking? Glad to help. Let’s grab a beverage and do it.
Most of the people who come on my tours feel personally looked after, which is how I feel it should be.
I actively encourage you to “do your own thing” during the tour. At the end of the day, it’s your vacation and you should feel free to do whatever it is that YOU want to do.
THE “WOW” FACTOR
I still remember my first ride on these roads and seeing a view or overlook that would cause me to stop and whip out the camera and go “WOW”, this is something great. Although I have now ridden these roads many times, I always strive to plan my routes so that my tour guests will get that same feeling of being, and doing something special that they will remember for a long, long time. I still experience the “WOW” factor.
NIGHTLY HOTEL STAYS
I make it a point to balance a lot of riding with the convenience of staying put for a day or two at each hotel. Some tour companies move every night, which creates the associated stress of moving each day. I pick hotel locations that are in the middle of lots of good riding and things to do so that we can stay for 2 -3 nights per stop and still have a variety of motorcycle and non-motorcycle activities to choose from. All the hotels we stay at will be from mid to upscale accommodations with classic New England style ambiance.
THE ACTUAL RIDING
Discussed below are some of the key elements of riding with me.
- The number one thing that people say after riding with me is that they enjoyed NOT having to look at the map. Despite my comments about personal freedom, most people choose to ride with and follow me because it is easier and more accommodating to just follow the tour guide. Because I’ve been touring New England for many years I can pretty much clip along at a fun pace that will keep everyone entertained without stopping to look at the map or GPS, all day long.
- As mentioned elsewhere on this site I love to ride. That is why I started providing tours. What that means for my tour guests is that I’m out there on the road every day, all day sun, rain or snow. If you want to go for a ride I’ll go with you. I characterize my tours as a rider’s ride and I believe that should start with me.
- One advantage of the small group concept is that even if we all ride together we don’t get strung out for miles. I ride at a pace that will keep the speedsters happy and not lose those folks who prefer to take it slower and enjoy the scenery. It’s common for the faster riders to frequently charge ahead. However, we always stop and wait at any turn-off so as not to leave people behind. Everyone will have my cell phone number in case we do get separated, as well as the route and the phone number for the next hotel.
- As discussed above, there is usually a lot of pre-tour communication. This helps me to get to know you, and you in turn me, beforehand. A benefit of this interaction is that I can encourage, or sometimes discourage, people about coming on the tour that I don’t feel will get along well together and that don’t have similar riding experience.
Hopefully the information in this section will give you an idea of how I conduct my tours. If you think a Moto-Charlie tour might be for you, please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments you might have.
Should you go with a tour company or ride on your own? Good question.
When I was younger I went everywhere on my own, across America, Europe, Canada, Mexico and more – so I can appreciate the merits of that approach.
There are many online advocates for doing it on your own, thereby saving you money and allowing you freedom from the group mindset and travel issues. However, it’s easy to be a travel-on-your-own advocate when you have been going there for multiple years, have lots of time and know your way around, but I know that is not always the case for first time travelers. There are logistics to be worked out, routes to be chosen, local customs, rules of the road etc. and sometimes a little help from an experienced tour guide can help ease your journey.
My tours have always been intended to split the difference between tour-on-your-own cost and freedom and some big picture structure to help deal with bike hire, hotel location, route selection and local culture befuddlement. Here are a few reasons why I think an organized tour makes sense, especially a small group, experienced rider only, low cost one like mine:
Logistics support – As mentioned above finding a bike, booking hotels, selecting a route, etc. all takes time. You want to make sure you pick a rental source that has a variety of bikes to rent in good condition, at reasonable prices. The same is true for hotels. You want a hotel that reflects the local region. But it makes life a lot easier for you if they are in a great location. I have stayed at more than 100 hotels in New engalnd over the years and am constantly reviewing my choices and reservations. Here again, while they are all good, some are better than others.
Navigation – While all the reasons in this FAQ have merit (notice the unintended sense of self importance) this is the NUMBER ONE reason people say they enjoy my tours. You can figure it all out as I did over the years (and still do) but most people with a limited amount of time and an unlimited appetite for riding don’t want to spend an hour or two each day by the side of the road trying to sort out where they want to go. With an experienced guide you can stow the map or GPS and simply enjoy the riding.
Routing – Hand in hand with navigation is the importance of routing. I mention several time in this website that there are no bad roads but some are definitely way better than others. An experienced guide can help you pick the best of the best or you can go on your own and take your chances that some roads will be good and some not so good. I’ve been riding here my whole life and still have not found all the really good roads.
Picking the best route also goes for choosing a direction too. While you may ride some roads and byways in both directions you will most likely ride most of the roads in one direction only – on your way from one place to another. Every experienced rider will tell you that some routes are much more fun to ride and/or have better views going in a specific direction. An experienced guide makes sure that you see it from the best direction.
Camaraderie – My continued efforts to attract truly experienced riders with similar skill and focus have resulted in a number of really great groups meeting up and riding together and sharing a unique experience that they remember for years. I am always very pleased to hear three or four years after a tour that somebody hooked up with two or three friends from the Moto-Charlie tour four years ago and they did a ride of the Rockies, or Deals Gap or wherever. Good riders who share a passion for riding tend to bond on tour and ride together thereafter, sometimes on another Moto-Charlie tour.
Safety – If more than 45 years of riding has taught me one thing it is that “Sh*t Happens”. Usually, when you least expect it; everything from running out of gas, to a flat tire with multiple punctures, to animal collisions to serious medivac helicopter accidents. It is not a matter of if it will happen it is a matter of when. I rode for many years by myself, sometimes on very isolated roads and realize looking back how lucky I was not to have had any serious incidents while riding solo.
When stuff does happen it is good to be riding with someone else so that someone else can go fetch a can of gas, or take you to the nearest cycle shop to get the needed repair part or, in a worse case scenario, stay behind to look after your bike and gear and police report while you get tended to at the nearest medical facility. Lots of people travel solo all the time and nothing bad ever happens. On the other hand it’s nice to know that someone has your back when you are traveling away from home. A trusted riding buddy is good, an experienced tour guide even better.
First let me say that I have never missed having a luggage van. If you are going to be riding a motorcycle all day, then you are going to be in your riding gear all day. For me this includes an all-weather textile suit with body armor and a pair of comfortable motorcycle boots.
In the evening, I wear a decent pair of jeans or cargo pants and I alternate between two different shirts. Add to that a sweater or puff jacket, long sleeve shirt, and light-weight long underwear, and my cold weather gear is covered. A spare pair of shoes, several sets of daily underwear, a couple of reading books, and a toilet kit round out what you need. All of those things fit in the BMW hard luggage with room to spare.
I use luggage liner bags (the same ones for 30 years in all different side cases). The hard bags stay on the bike and the liners are light, clean, and easy to carry into the hotel. When I’m solo I use a waterproof duffel that I strap onto the the rear seat to carry extra clothes, rain suit, maps, camera, etc.
If you are traveling two up on the bike, the extra gear can be carried comfortably in a waterproof duffel bag attached to the luggage rack or in a top case behind the seat of the motorcycle.
If you are traveling by car, or have a companion traveling with you by car, then you basically have no luggage constraints other than common sense.
We ride rain or shine. You need to bring a good rainsuit with you if you are going by motorcycle. In addition to warding off the rain, rainsuits can be quite effective as a wind breaker in cold weather. Believe it or not, you can still have a good time riding in the rain. You just need to be more careful and tone down the speed a bit.
Rain is one of the reasons we try to keep the hotels approx. 4 hours apart. On a sunny day you might get there a little quicker. On a rainy day you can take your time. It makes a great excuse to increase the frequency of stopping to sample the local coffee shops and bakeries.
Some practical things to consider before discussing the June and September below:
- I suggest Tour Members bring a range of clothing that you can layer if the weather turns cold. The weather in New England can be unpredictable.
- Morning temperatures are generally 20F – 25F cooler in the morning when we head out than they are by mid day.
- The temperature tends to be cooler on the high roads and mountain areas. The tall mountains like Mt Washington in NH can be 30F degrees colder at the top and windy.
- Areas along the ocean coast can be 5F – 15F cooler than just a few miles inland.
- SO – Bring a range of clothing suitable for varied temperatures
July and August temperatures are often into the low 80’s(F) or higher inland – cooler near the ocean. Morning temps are usually in the low 50’s. Temperatures warm up quickly and we are usually shedding layers by 10:30AM – 11:00AM. Humidity can be hit or miss. Reading daylight lasts until 8:30-9:00PM, perhaps one to two days of rain out of 10.
It’s great weather for kicking back in a small New England village or by a lake outside sans motorcycle jacket, soaking up the rays, and enjoying a cool beverage and a piece of apple pie (one of my favorite snacks). You can frequently go outside after dinner and sit in your shirtsleeve while people watching and having an after dinner drink.
September sees shorter days. Reading daylight ends between 6:00-7:00PM. The temperatures at 8:00AM will be mid 40’s, low 50’s getting up to the mid 70’s low 80’s during the day. It might rain two or three days out of ten.
The trade-off for going in September (shorter days and cooler temperatures compared to July/August) is that the tourists and vacationers are all gone. The foliage is changing, the shops and restaurants are open and you’ve got it all pretty much to yourself and the local bikers who are still out in force on the week ends.
Our small group size allows us to adapt easily to changing weather conditions.
I’ve never had make any major changes to my itinerary due to weather in all the time I’ve lived here.
That’s up to you. Most of our riding is done on two lane back roads and mountain roads. I personally ride 200 miles to 290 mikes per day. We occasionally use the highway for short bursts (10 – 20 minutes) to avoid a congested area or to make up time. If we use the highway 3 times a tour for more than a couple of hours total that would be unusual. So, whenever I have a choice I use back roads.
My tours are for people who like to ride, so we spend the same amount of time in the saddle every day. The riding usually starts at 9AM and goes until 5 – 6 PM. The two main things that will will effect the number of miles per day are:
- The nature of the roads, i.e. a higher mix of high speed sweepers means more miles
- The weather – Obviously you can get more miles in (if you want) on clear dry roads than you can on cold wet roads.
We stop for lunch, the occasional photo op, a unique sight seeing stop and sometimes just to take a break – so there is plenty of off-bike time during a riding day, but when we ride we ride.
Most of the hotels can be reached directly in approx. 4 – 6 hours. That includes pit stops, coffe breaks, and the like. Four hours equates to roughly 160 miles. That way if someone wants to get to the next town, do a little sightseeing, or just relax they’ll have time to do that. A few days have longer hotel to hotel rides but not many.
The routes are designed so that there are always several multiple day stays in the same location so that people can either relax and enjoy the area amenities or go out and do some all day, in-depth exploration of the local roads.
I personally tend to take the in-direct way so as to stay out all day. Whatever your preference I’ll make sure that you have a route and distance that suits your pleasure.
I mention several different times on this website that my tours are for “experienced riders”. What do I mean by that?
It means that you have enough riding/touring experience to feel comfortable with anything that New England can throw at you short of a blizzard, ice storm or landslide and that you have that comfort level from day 1. My tours are designed to ride together as a group. That works better with experienced riders. You are more than welcome to go off on your own and I will be glad to help you sort out routes that give you what you want. However, if we ride together we ride together.
The back roads and mountian roads of New England require a certain amount of skill. You will be turning, and braking, and shifting more than you do riding highways. Many of the high roads have no guardrails to speak of, so you need to be careful. We ride rain or shine, especially on hotel-to-hotel days (where we have fixed reservations) and we can sometimes end up riding in and out of the rain all day on cloudy days – so you need to know your gear and be prepared.
Riding a motorcycle properly requires skill no matter where you ride but more so in New England.
If you have any questions or concerns about the skill required, please feel free to contact me and I will be glad to share my experience with you.
This question deals with two types of insurance; personal and motorcycle.
Most major tour companies leave the issue of personal travel and medical insurance up to the tour participant. The same is true for my tours. Check with your personal health insurance provider to see what coverage they offer for your travel. Make sure you have health insurance that will cover you in New England – just in case.
Additional medical insurance, as well as travel insurance, can be found though your travel agent, credit card companies, various on-line sources, etc.
The same goes for your bike. Make sure you are covered no matter where you go.
Motorcycle rental shops provide insurance to cover the bike. Make sure you review the terms with the rental provider so you know what you are gettting into. A damage deposit will likely be required to cover any deductible in the event you damage the rental motorcylce. If you return the bike without any damage the entire deposit will be returned to you.
It is a good idea to go over the bike with the rental agent at the time you pick it up and record any pre-existing damage to ensure that you are not held liable for it upon return of the motorcycle. Most rental sources do this walk-around as a standard part of the rental procedure.
Roadside assistance via car clubs such as AAA (American Automobile Association) is another option for extra roadside protection. If you a member of AAA or similar organization they may be able to cover you for basic assistance.
I consider each trip to be my vacation too. I try and stay at hotels that offer the sort of classic historic ambiance unique to New England. I prefer inns or hotels with a great location, a wonderful family host, and a good restaurant.
Most are mid to luxury type establishments, in a casual understated way.
The price range varies from $125 – $250 per night per person (including meals). Most include breakfast. Many are wonderfully located in a picturesque village, by the lake or on the ocean.
I am always trying new places. On every tour I usually try and stay at least one night at a new hotel. These are usually hotels that I have lunched at before or that someone I know and trust has recommended. The majority of hotels we use are ones that I have stayed at before. If I don’t like them I don’t go back.
A list of hotel names, addresses, and telephone numbers is provided to each tour member prior to the start of the tour. In addition, most of the hotels have their own website and these addresses are also provided along with the regular contact info. That way you are welcome to check out the hotels ahead of time.
Cars are welcome to come along on the tours. This usually happens if people are traveling together and some want to spend more time sightseeing while the other people want to motorcycle. Most of the roads on my tours can be safely ridden in a car, although motorcycles are likely to make better time (except for rainy days).
It doesn’t matter how you see New England; it’s the seeing that counts.
This question deals with two issues. The first deals with the general nature of my fee and the second deals with why I charge for the passenger (an often asked question).
SOME GENERAL COMMENTS ABOUT MY FEE
On my tours you pay your own expenses in order to save you money. This also lets you know exactly what the trip costs. The same goes for my fee. I want you to know what I’m making. There are no side deals with the hotels or motorcycle rental shops to give me a commission, no volume discounts for me to pocket or anything like that. If I do get a price break I pass that along to the tour participants.
As I’ve said elsewhere in this website the main purpose of my fee is to cover my expenses. It cost me the same for my motorcycle, hotels and food as it does you. Add logistics costs, a little advertising and the website hosting and my break even is not far below the 7 member limit per tour at the current MC fee rates.
I would like to say that there was a scientific method to how I calculated the actual fee amounts. It’s definitely not based on an hourly rate. While I am at your service 24 hrs a day during the tour we really spend about 10 hours a day together related to touring (not counting breakfast and dinner times), during which I actively share my knowledge and experience. Add an average of 4 – 6 hours per Tour Member for pre-tour planning, emails, telephone discussions and special requests and it all boils down to about $7.25 per hour. That equates to the US federal minimum wage and about half of what my neighbor made per hour working part-time for Wal-Mart during XMAS season. For a passenger the same rational yields $5.45 per hour. Hmmm – Walmart or ride the throughout New England – see you in Stowe.
It would be more profitable for me to charge an all-inclusive price. If I did that and brought 20-40 people to the same hotel every trip or the same motorcycle shop, or ran all my trips for 5 or 7 days out of the same touring center hotel I could get substantial price concessions from the hotels and motorcycle shops which would accrue to me in the all-inclusive price. At that rate it would be a lucrative business instead of a passionate business.
However, I like variety and I like small personable groups. So do my tour guests. With some of my tour member coming back for their second and third tour I want to make sure they have a unique experience each time.
WHY I CHARGE FOR THE PASSENGER
I get asked this question frequently. Everyone understands why the rider pays but not always the passenger fee. There are two reasons for the passenger fee:
The first is that my knowledge is my service. Showing you the roads, the sites, the hotels and providing relevant information about all those things is the main reason you chose to go with me on a “guided” tour. The passenger benefits from all my experience in the same way the pilot does. Booking the bike is no big deal in terms of time. Making the hotel reservation for two, rather than one, is no big deal. The bulk of my time and effort is spent on showing you the beauty and splendor of New England.
The second reason, which is much less a factor, is that I limit my tours to 7 motorcycles or 14 people. If those 14 were made up of 7 couples and I only charged for the pilot I’d lose money on every tour. I don’t want a big group so the 5 – 14 people who come on every tour, and who partake in my knowledge of the local area, pay some fee amount in order for the business side of Moto-Charlie to work.
By “do-it-yourself” I mean that you pay for everything yourself. People ask me if it’s more inconvenient to have to pay on your own compared to the all-inclusive price charged by most major tour groups. THE ANSWER IS NO.
The only thing that you might have to do on my tour that would be covered in an all-inclusive package is to visit the rental bike shop (if you need a rental motorcycle) to pick up the rental bike at the start of the tour, drop it off at the end of the tour and pay for it.
In exchange for that extra effort you can save $400 – $850 or more per person.
The daily exercise of paying your bills is the same with Moto-Charlie as it is for the big tour companies.
You have to pay for your daily incidentals (gas, lunch, snacks, etc.) whether you go with the big guys or me.
Most all-inclusive tours include most of your meals (but sometimes not). However, beverages, be it bottled water, beer, wine, coffee, etc. are not part of the all-inclusive price. These bills are paid separately by you and are added to your tab during your stay. SO, when you check out of a hotel on an all-inclusive tour you have to settle your beverage bill at the front desk. While you’re there why not pay your hotel bill at the same time. That way you get to see what it really cost to stay there. On my tour that saves you money with no extra hassle.
I find that many Tour Members like to get acquainted prior to the tour and maybe do a little riding in the local area where we start our tours. It can also be helpful to have a short group ride together so that we get used to each other’s riding style. Some Tour Members who have ridden longer distances to reach our starting point also prefer to have some amount of rest/down time before hitting the road.
Basically the Orientation Day covers the following:
- A get together breakfast to introduce ourselves
- A post-breakfast meeting to go over any last minute questions about anything, big or small, having to do with the upcoming tour. We also address any issues Tour Members may be having with their motorcycles
- I offer to guide a local ride lasting 3 – 4 hours total. Tour Members are welcome to come with me, ride off on their own, or stay off-bike and enjoy the local attractions.
Please note that I offer my time for this service at a reduced rate of 1/2 my daily rate (i.e. $40) for the rider only – mainly to cover the cost of my hotel for the extra Orientation day. Your pillion is welcome to ride along too – no extra fee.
In addition to my reduced 1/2 day fee you will need to budget for the cost of an extra night’s hotel and incidentals. Approximately 80% – 90% of my Tour Members take advantage of the Orientation Day.
I will be glad to ride with 1 Tour Member or 7 Tour Members. I will provide the Orientation Day service to any Tour Member who would like to take advantage of it. I always encourage Tour Members to arrive at least one day ahead to help with travel lag and to enjoy the local area.