American Motorcyclist April 2018

Go Ride! Have Fun!

Heart Of U.S. Riding Season Approaches

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Three Flags Classic Motorcycle Tour takes as many as 300 riders to three countries.

By Jim Witters

As temperatures rise throughout most of the nation, hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists are pulling their bikes out of winter storage and prepping them for the heart of the U.S. riding season.

While many riders in warmer climes haven’t missed a motorcycling beat during the past few months, their compatriots to the north are airing up tires, changing various oils, fluids and filters and disconnecting battery chargers.


Because no matter what type of riding you choose, the fun quotient is one of the highest of any activity on the planet.

Whether you are hitting the local trails over the weekend with a group of friends or setting off on a week-long road ride all by yourself, there will be a smile on your face as you twist that throttle and ease out the clutch.

The AMA and AMA-chartered organizers offer a full slate of sanctioned rides at the local, state, regional and national levels.

Many are group activities, organized by clubs or promoters, that bring together friends and friends-to-be for a shared adventure, whether your preference is pavement, dirt or a little of each.

Recreational riding organizers offer AMA Gypsy Tours, the KTM AMA National Adventure Riding Series, the Beta AMA National Dual Sport Series, as well as local rides, rallies, swap meets and other gatherings.

Ride Solo Or With A Buddy Or Two

Pine Nut Mountain Trails Association. Photo by Rachel Lomeli

One group that offers several opportunities to ride in a group or solo is the Southern California Motorcycling Association, which establishes rules and routes for some of the AMA Grand Tour rides each year.

Grand Tours allow participants the freedom to ride to checkpoints at their own pace. Most Grand Tours take place over several months or an entire year. Some are contained within a single state, while others take participants across the nation.

“The key objective for SCMA rides is to ‘Ride For The Fun Of It,’” said Barbara Fox, SCMA vice chair. “SCMA rides are healthy recreational rides. The rides are not races, nor are they competitions. We just enjoy motorcycling and the people who ride.

“We are neither people- nor brand-specific,” she said. “We welcome all motorcycles, sidecars or trikes. And we welcome all people of diverse backgrounds and various skill levels of riding.”

The SCMA has more than 700 members and requires membership for ride participation.

The longest-running and most popular SCMA tour is The Three Flags Classic.

“This is also the most organized of the SCMA Grand Tours,” Fox said. “It has an official starting point, an official finish point, and it happens over Labor Day weekend every year.”

The event began in 1976 after the organizer, Joe Usatin, read an article about AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer E.G. “Cannonball” Baker doing a border-to-border ride in three days in 1915 on an Indian motorcycle.

“Our ride goes south to north, from Mexico, through the western United States and into Canada,” Fox said. “It can be reversed, going north to south. But this event is not a race or a rally. It is a tour of 300-plus riders who ride singly or with a friend or two.”

Forty-two years later, the event continues its original purpose.

“One of Joe’s wishes from the beginning was that riders promote good will between the three countries,” Fox said.

A “History of the Three Flags Classic Motorcycle Tour” that was in the starter packets circa 1978-79 outlines the intent: “…to promote general public awareness and acceptance of motorcyclists. Every person involved becomes a goodwill ambassador to the public by telling stories on a friendly one to one basis, of their ride on the classic or other biking experiences.”

Fox said that, through the decades, “it has become like a reunion for veteran riders, and new riders are treated with utmost respect.”

Ride As Part Of A Club

AMA Life Member Doug Holcomb gets his riding fix along the beautiful trails of Nevada’s Pine Nut Mountains.

“If you have to ask why I ride trails, you need to ride more trails,” Holcomb said. “I ride trails for mental relaxation and focus. For physical exercise. And for the comradeship that is always present in group rides.”

Holcomb connected with the Pine Nut Mountain Trails Association, a group of about 50 off-highway vehicle enthusiasts that uses “any excuse to enjoy and take care of our backcountry.”

The nonprofit club is 24 years old and includes dirt bike riders, ATV riders, side-by-side drivers, mountain bike riders, equestrians, shooters and hikers.

“The club’s primary purpose is to preserve and promote responsible motorized vehicle access, which correlates to all access, in the Pine Nut Mountains of Carson City and Lyon and Douglas counties,” Holcomb said.

“Club members ride more often than not in the Pine Nut Mountains,” he said. “The majority of members live in the Carson Valley area, and many, including myself, can ride from our homes into the mountains. We also ride throughout northern Nevada. In the summer, many of us ride the high country of the Sierra Nevada mountains and other higher Nevada mountain areas.”

For Holcomb, being a part of a club has some advantages over riding solo.

“Being part of a riding club is about having many different people to ride with and the camaraderie developed,” he said. “Different people with different experience and skill levels like to ride different types of trails. I really enjoy showing less experienced riders trails new to them. I love being shown areas that are new to me. I also like being pushed by riders that are better than I [am].”

For those considering trail riding, Holcomb has these words:

“Check out local clubs. Also, don’t be afraid to talk with other riders at local staging areas.

“While learning to ride, push your comfort zone a little at a time. Don’t worry about making mistakes and crashing.

“Most of all keep having fun. Try to always finish a ride with a big smile on your face and a good story to tell.”

Pine Nut Mountain Trails Association members enjoy group rides along Nevada’s Pine Nut Mountains. Photo by Rachel Lomeli

Finding A Club, Event Or Route

AMA-chartered clubs and AMA-sanctioned events cover the country. So there should be a group of riders or a cool ride nearby.

To search for AMA-chartered clubs, visit

To locate an event you might like, check

The AMA also offers a Great Roads Database that can steer you toward some fantastic routes wherever you may be. Go to to find your next adventure.

For that longer trip, you should take a look at some of the AMA tips for smart touring:

If off-highway riding is your preference, the AMA Trails Atlas is available at

American Motorcyclist April 2018