As the baby boomers, who lived through the “golden age” of motorcycling, begin graying out, the motorcycling community needs more riders like Josh Giannini.
A young man, and relatively new motorcyclist from King of Prussia, Pa., Giannini recently completed his first long-distance motorcycle trip.
Riding a small-displacement machine about 3,000 miles through sun, wind, rain and snow, Giannini never wavered in his determination to complete his journey, and in doing so found a life-long passion for two-wheeled exploration.
It is a passion that only those of us who ride to explore can understand, and it is something our entire community needs to do a better job growing if our lifestyle is to be carried on by future generations.
An interview over burritos
I met Josh while I was having lunch on the patio at the Chipotle restaurant across International Speedway Blvd. from Daytona International Speedway during 2019 Daytona Bike Week. I was pounding out a story for work when I noticed Josh parking his Honda CBR300R. There are lots of small-displacement motorcycles running around Daytona Beach during Bike Week, but not many have soft saddlebags attached to them.
I was intrigued by the prospect that someone had toured their way to Daytona Beach on a single-cylinder, 300cc sport bike, but figured he wouldn’t have ridden in from too far away. I asked him about where he’d started riding from, and when he said, “Philadelphia,” my interest was piqued.
After allowing him to eat his lunch in peace while I finished what I was working on, I asked Josh if he could talk more about his trip on the record. Obviously, he obliged.
Love at first ride
Giannini said he began riding motorcycles in August 2018 and credits a close friend of his for getting him into riding.
“I knew I was searching for something in my life,” he said. “One of my friends learned to ride from his uncle and got a 2017 Yamaha R3. He got super passionate about it and taught me how to ride.”
Giannini said from the first time he swung a leg over his friend’s machine he knew motorcycling was what he had been looking for. He described the experience as, “love at first ride.”
Unlike most riders who gradually build up the tolerance for long distance riding, Giannini said he had about 1,500 miles of riding experience before embarking on his first-ever long-distance motorcycle ride.
“I think the longest ride I had done before this was from King of Prussia to Philadelphia,” Giannini said. “That’s only about 30 minutes.”
The trip was not supposed to be a solo effort. Giannini said he had planned the trip with a friend who was an experienced rider and had remained committed to the trip even after his friend backed out.
His said his parents were not exactly in favor of him taking the trip.
“My family is very against motorcycles, as a lot of parents are,” he said.
He didn’t tell them he was planning the trip until he was about to head out the door.
“They were very upset as first, but I think they realized how important this is to me,” he said. “They warmed up to it and are now super excited that I made it.”
Gettin’ ready for the open (and cold) road
To his credit, Giannini added some farkles to his little Honda that made his first touring experience a success. Realizing he wasn’t going to be able to fit everything he needed for the trip in a backpack, Giannini purchased a set of SW-Motech soft saddlebags.
He realized early in his trip planning that he would need something to combat the cold temperatures and a better seat, so he installed a set of heated grips and an Air Hawk seat cushion.
Giannini picked up his last farkle on his way out of town, riding to Cycle Gear in Allentown, Pa., to purchase a Sedici tank bag.
The long and snowy interstate
Giannini’s journey to warm, sunny Daytona Beach, Fla., began under adverse conditions.
He said it was about 18 degrees, snow on the ground and light flurries when he left the Allentown Cycle Gear parking lot and began heading south toward Daytona Beach.
He said the ride to Daytona didn’t end up being exactly the way he had envisioned it. He had hoped to take his time and ride as many scenic routes as possible in warmer conditions.
“When I was planning this December, I figured it would be a lot warmer this time of year, and it’s not,” he said. “I ended up trying to get here as quickly as possible and stayed on I-95. It was a lot more difficult than I was anticipating.”
He said the low point of his trip was the previous night. He was staying in a hotel in Jacksonville and was physically and mentally exhausted from putting in 600 interstate miles that day. Though his outlook on his endeavor had darkened, it became as bright as the sun when he arrived in Daytona Beach.
“I was really contemplating why I did this and was thinking it wasn’t worth it,” he said. “But when I saw that Daytona Beach sign, got off the highway, and saw all of these motorcycles everywhere, I realized this trip was worth every second of hardship.”
Giannini said he spent most of his first day at Daytona Bike Week in the vendor area at Daytona International Speedway and was planning to head over to Rossmeyer Harley-Davidson that evening. His plan was to stay in Daytona Beach for the weekend, but he was considering staying longer.
He said he was planning on taking three days to ride back to Philadelphia and was expecting the return trip to be easier than the ride down.
“I was worried about missing things going on down here and wanted to make sure I got to Daytona Beach in time,” he said. “I feel like I can take my time more on the ride home now.”
Advice and the future
For others who are planning their first long-distance motorcycle trip, Giannini’s advice is not to worry too much and just do it.
“I think I’ve proven a point here that you can do this on a bike that’s really designed for beginners,” he said.
The trip has also changed what Giannini is looking for in his next motorcycle. He said he was previously thinking of getting a bigger sport bike. With the desire to explore now firmly a part of his psyche, he’s now considering naked bikes that are better suited for long distance riding.
As for his next touring destination, Giannini said he’s interested in riding to Sturgis or exploring the old Route 66.
I saw Giannini again in Daytona Beach when I was covering the sights and sounds of Main Street the night of Monday, March 11. He said he had been having a great time at Daytona Bike Week since we met.
He said he took my advice and went to the Monster Energy AMA Supercross event at Daytona International Speedway on March 9 and had a great time at the event. He also said he was following through on his plan to leave the next day, but would definitely be back next year.
After I got home from Daytona Beach, Giannini sent me an email that said he made it home safely from Daytona. He said the trip ended up being about 3,000 miles.
“The experience was incredible and without a doubt one of the greatest things I have ever done in my life,” he wrote.
Giannini’s story is a happy one, in that it ends with him discovering the passion to explore on two wheels, as well as an infusion of youth into the motorcycle sport touring community. While the challenges he persevered through on his first long distance journey are remarkable, his perseverance is the heart of this story.
Giannini showed great poise in his preparations for the trip (adding the heated grips and seat cushion) and remained committed to the journey despite all of the unknowns he faced. He had very little riding experience and rode his undersized machine on roads he may have never seen before.
He was willing to do all of that. Not many other riders may have been willing to take that leap. While I am happy to welcome Giannini to our community, it is imperative we realize that we cannot depend on having people like him come along and replace those who are graying out.
Each of us needs to take a more proactive role in helping new riders have positive experiences like Giannini did in Daytona Beach. We need to make them feel welcome, teach them what we have learned through trial and error and show them that there’s so much to learn and explore and experience as a sport touring rider.
For us, the journey is never over. There’s always something more to see, to learn, to do. Giannini now knows what we knows and his life will be ever better for it. It’s time that each of us did more, even just a little more, so that the passion and the happiness only we know reaches as many people as it can.