Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: Issues to Consider When Preparing for Your Long Distance Motorcycle Road Trip

12.14.2009

Issues to Consider When Preparing for Your Long Distance Motorcycle Road Trip

Here's a small informational article I wrote a little ways back in regards to long distance motorcycle rides. For most people in the Midwest and East Coast, these guidelines may have to wait until the spring. Regardless, I still know no seasons when it comes to preparedness for a trip. Enjoy!


Tires
Check your tires for adequate tread and for any visible signs of damage. If tread is low or the tire is damaged, replace tires before departure. With normal use, a standard rear motorcycle can last between 8-10,000 miles and a front tire approximately 10-15,000.


Maintain good tire pressure. Check your tire specs for standard inflation levels. It is okay to add a few extra pounds of air; that helps with ride comfort, extends tire life, and increases fuel economy.


Flats can happen on the road. Be prepared and bring emergency supplies such as tire plugs and motorcycle-specific tire inflation foam. Better yet, prevention starts at home. Apply a tire sealant/protectant such as Ride-On® when the tires are new to instantly seal punctures in the center of the tire tread where they’re most likely to happen. Visit http://www.ride-on.com for more info on this product.


Service
If you haven’t gotten that oil change or that major service, do it before your trip. A properly maintained bike is a more reliable bike. If your trip is more than 4000 miles (one-way), consider arranging for an oil change at a stop or switching to longer lasting synthetic oil.


If your motorcycle is chain-driven, bring a small can of chain lube. Ideally, a chain should be lubed every 600-800 miles. A little squirt every now and then will help the chain last longer and keep you on the road.


Luggage
Ideally, luggage on a motorcycle should be mounted as low as possible and as balanced as possible. This will ensure that the motorcycle’s center of gravity stays low and that control of the bike is not compromised.


Straps and bungees are essential to keeping cargo attached to the bike when saddlebags/sidecases, sissy bar bags, tank bags/panniers, and tail bags aren’t enough. Make sure that all strapped cargo is attached firmly to the bike. Attaching points vary from bike to bike but make sure that where you attach doesn’t interfere with the bike’s normal operation. Consider load limits on your motorcycle’s mounting areas. Exceeding them may compromise your safety of cause racks and/or plastics to break.


Pack lightly. Limit the amount of luggage you are carrying. If you’re making frequent stops, consider using local amenities such as Laundromats and hotel sinks to wash clothes. Take what you need and select multi-functional gear to bring. Multiple uses for a single product makes the load a lot more compact.


Attire
Motorcycle gear, like weather, changes with the conditions. Do a little research and get the weather forecasts of your proposed destinations. Weather is also quite random. Prepare for weird instances of rain, hail, or snow. Bring the layers even if you think you don’t need them.


A couple things to remember: 1. Layers = flexibility and 2. Adjust accordingly.


The “perfect” outfit setup for you may change with time. Ride through various weather conditions to experiment with and adjust your equipment. Try different gloves, jackets, and combinations of clothing. See what fits and see what doesn’t.


Hydration: Get that H20 in you!
With the exception of a flat tire or mechanical failure, nothing will take you off the road faster than dehydration. Weather and distance will take a toll on you. Sharpness and awareness of surroundings begin to fade. The ride becomes arduous and taxing. Don’t let this happen to you.


Ideally, one should drink ½-1 liters of water every 125-150 miles, especially in hot weather. Frequent sipping from an ice-filled water backpack reservoir (Camelbak™) will keep your inner core cool. As an Iron Butt rider put it, “Drink so much water to the point that you have to pee at every gas stop.” Also, drink lots of water 24 hours before the start of your journey. This will get you used to this higher level of liquid intake.


Resting the Wrist
Does your right hand get tired after all those hours on the throttle? Help it out! There are several types of cruise assists ranging from the simple, yet effective CrampBuster (http://www.crampbuster.com/) to the mechanical Throttlemeister (http://www.throttlemeister.com/). Find the one that works with you and install it on your bike. Your hands will thank you later.


Also, giving your driving wrist a stretch before you start riding will relieve a lot of the strain. A simple exercise is as follows: With your arm out in front you, place your right palm up, take your left hand and push the fingers of your right hand toward your body. Hold for 20 seconds, rest, and repeat. You should feel an easy stretch on the bottom parts of your wrist.
Souvenirs
You went shopping on the road…now what? Have you run out of space on your bike for all those goodies? Ship them back home!


Many tourist stops provide means of shipping goods home. Often times you can use those services to ship unnecessary supplies or cargo ahead of you. If timed well, your shipped goods will meet you right when you arrive home!


The Road Isn’t that Lonely…
If you’re travelling by yourself and happen to be part of a national motorcycle organization (i.e. Women on Wheels®, BMW Motorcycle Owner’s Association, etc.), utilize your club’s nationwide member directory as a resource. Thousands of riders have voluntarily given their contact information for networking and also to provide services for travelers in need (i.e. tools, phone access, lodging, and in some cases, even towing). If you’re not part of a motorcycle club, join one! You’ll never know who you’ll meet.