Riding Through the Drive Thru on a Motorcycle: 9 Tips


Have you ever left work just craving for takeaways, but you commute on a motorcycle and are unsure whether bikes are allow in the drive-thru? Or you are on an adventure bike trip and it is getting dark, so you want to grab a quick dinner to enjoy at the campsite?

Will they serve you at the drive-thru if you rock up on your motorcycle?

You can ride your motorcycle through the drive-thru. Some motorcycles, however, will not trigger the sensor embedded in the road. Make sure you have your cash or card ready so that you do not hold up the traffic in the drive-thru. You will also need to plan where you will stow your order before you ride off.

If you’ve got the munchies and are too lazy to cook, takeaways are a quick (and dirty) alternative to get your belly full. It can be very convenient if you are running late on a motorcycle trip and are afraid you won’t reach your campsite before dark.

This happened to us on our first day of our Cape to Cairo adventure bike trip through Africa. It was getting dark and we had to reach the local race track where we camped for the night. On our way, we got McDonald’s at the drive-thru, before dining out on the home straight that night.

Eating McDonald's on the race track
Eating McDonald’s on the race track

Now that you know it is possible, read on for 10 things tips that will make riding your motorcycle through the drive-thru seamless.

#1: Don’t Order Meals

Depending on where you go for your junk food fix, they may have combo meals that include sodas. If you often get the meal while driving in a car, it is easy to forget that they include sodas. If you did make this mistake, you will quickly have to make a plan what to do with the sodas when they hand them to you.

Sodas can’t be stuffed into a backpack or held in a bag hung from the handlebar. Squeezing it may pop the lid and result in some sticky laundry and a bike wash. If you are really thirsty, just ask for a can or a bottle.

#2: Have Your Money Ready

Going through a drive-thru, you will know there is nothing more annoying than someone holding up the line while they are fiddling to find the correct amount of cash or if they cannot make up their mind what to order. Since you are going to stand out and be judged when you ride your motorcycle through the drive-thru, make sure you carefully rehearse your order and that you have your cash or card ready to pay.

If you know what it will cost, it is a great idea to get the correct amount of cash ready beforehand. If you are not sure, have a little more than you think you need so you can simply stuff the change in your jacket pocket.

#3: Trip the Sensor

Most drive-thru ramps have a sensor embedded in the tarmac that triggers the friendly service person to ask “Can I take your order?”. Most motorcycles will trip most of these sensors most of the time. I’ve heard of riders who have ridden their bikes over a sensor in the road without it picking up the the bike.

To improve your chances of being noticed by the sensor, ride slowly and make sure you cross the in the middle. If you don’t know what I am talking about, you will usually see a dark line (or lines) across the road surface. These are looped wires embedded in saw-cuts in the tarmac that sense large metal objects that disturb the magnetic field. If you ride on the very edge of the road, you may miss the sensor and not get picked up.

If nothing happens when you reach the intercom and there is no button to press, just ride on and try again if there is no line. Or be brave and just go into the store.

#4: Get a Tank Bag

Probably the most important thing to consider is where you will store your food once you’ve received it. Not planning ahead could mean you have to get off your bike and unlock the top-box right in front of the biker-hating motorist tapping on his steering wheel behind you.

Because it is right in front of you on the motorcycle, a tank bag strapped on top of your fuel tank is the most convenient place to quickly stuff your order and change into before you ride off. You can unzip the tank bag halfway before you enter the drive-thru so that you can easily slip your burger in and ride off.

If you don’t have a tank bag already, this Nelson-Rigg bag (available on Amazon) can hold more than 13 liters and easily attaches to your bike’s gas tank with a built-in magnet and straps.

#5: Balance on the Tank

If you don’t have a tank bag, get one. But let’s say you get hungry before it arrives, what then? I used to just balance the paper bag full of burgers on my motorcycle gas tank between my legs and immediately ride to an open parking bay in the parking lot once I’ve paid.

There I can get off and stow the takeaways in my topbox where I don’t get stared or honked at. Just be careful that you don’t drop your dinner when you put your leg down to balance the bike when you come to a standstill. You will be especially grateful that you didn’t order a soda if you rely on this method.

#6: Wear Your Back Pack on the Front

No tank bag and no balance? No problem! If you have a backpack, simply wear it on the front and unzip the top when you stop. You can quickly stash your cash and your supper in the upper part of the bag, and be off.

If it is not comfortable riding like this, don’t risk it on the road. Rather stop in the parking lot and swing the bag onto your back.

#7: Speak Up Loud and Clear

Muffled by your helmet and drained out by the sound of your idling motorcycle engine and loud exhaust pipe, you might have to shout out your order to be heard. Even under normal circumstances in a passenger car, it is sometimes not easy to hear or be heard over drive-thru intercoms.

#8: Fiddly Fingers

If you wear riding gloves, you’ll know that it can be fiddly at times, especially handling small things like change. Be careful not to drop your change or your card as you lean over to the pay booth window. An accident here could mean switching off your bike, doing the walk of shame around your motorcycle, in front of the same biker-hating motorist that is not impressed at all by now.

You can remove your gloves for increased dexterity, but this creates the new potential risk of dropping a glove by accident. Such is the constant decision-making that takes place in the mind of the biker determined to cook dinner without getting off his or her motorcycle.

If you don’t like to ride with gloves and you value your hands, order a pair or these INBIKE riding gloves. You dress for the fall, not for the ride! What I like about these gloves are that they are breathable and light, and you can use them on a touch screen.

#9: Take a Passenger

While this will either be an option or it won’t, riding with a pillion eliminates many of the potential problems you face when riding your motorcycle through a drive-thru.

Your passenger has free hands to pay, take the order and hold it while you ride off. The only risk it adds is getting home and finding that there is nothing left for you to eat.

Conclusion

You can absolutely ride your motorcycle through the drive-thru. The bigger question is, should you be eating junk food? It may be more dangerous to your health than riding your motorcycle. Happy riding!

Francois Steyn

I've been riding motorcycles since I was in school and have traveled thousands of miles on various bikes through more than 10 countries. For more info, check out my about page: https://adventurebiketroop.com/about-us/

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