If you’re planning on a super-long motorcycle trip in the coming future, take it from riders who’ve been there and done that–make a plan, but be willing to adjust it, bring the right gear, avoid irritants and make sure your bike is up to the task. If you’ve got all these bases covered, it should be smooth riding.
A long bike trip takes a lot of preparation. You have to map out where you’re going and make travel plans that account for every day and most of your stops.
An essential bit of advice is to make a plan but remain flexible. Weather, traffic snarls or unexpected stops can derail the most highly tuned plan. If you’re headed out on the road for an adventure, it’s wise to have a detailed travel plan, and it’s even more sensible to know when and how to change up your plans.
Your travel plan should include each day’s mileage, where you can plausibly stay for the night and where you might eat and gas up along the way. Think of these plans as a foundation or structure. If you pull up to your lunch spot and it’s too crowded or closed, be spontaneous and head to an unknown restaurant.
Maintain constant communication with your fellow riders with Bluetooth helmet speakers in case you have to make a pitstop or veer off the main freeway due to construction or traffic.
Nevertheless, being flexible doesn’t mean being careless. At the end of each day, map out the next day’s mileage and gas stops, even if you don’t intend to follow this plan down to every last detail.
Build Up Your Riding Tolerance
A long-haul trip on a bike is a very exciting undertaking, but before you set off, you have to be realistic about yourself and your bike. If you’ve never ridden for more than 200 miles a day, don’t expect to feel awesome after a couple of 500-mile days. If you have to ride for long periods, acclimate yourself before your trip with some day trips to make sure your body is up to the task.
Eliminate any minor annoyance early on so that it doesn’t become the thing that unhinges you by day’s end. An uncomfortable seat, sticky peg or baggy clothing may be only mildly irritating when you start off in the morning, but by sunset, it could be unbearable.
Similarly, be realistic about your bike’s abilities before you set out. Specific bikes are better than others when you’re riding long distances, so make sure yours is ready for the open road and won’t shake apart by the third day.
Map Out Gas Stops
Even if you’re set on going where the wind takes you, you never want to be stuck out in the middle of nowhere with nothing in your tank. As you map out your trip, choose gas stations that might prove useful when your tank is low. The same goes for meals and other amenities.
Consider the format of the map you plan to use primarily and bring a second option. Even if you have the newest cell phone with all the bells and whistles, you may be seriously out-of-range when you need to find a pitstop.
Download whatever maps you need, take a screenshot of your daily route and put a physical map in your gear bag, just in case. Always maintain clear communication with your crew so that everyone knows exactly where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.
You may also want to invest in a GPS tracking device to ensure that other riders and loved ones know where you are at all times. If you are broken down in a remote area, the GPS tracker can still ping your location, even if you don’t have cellular service.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, avoid any repairs or significant mechanical changes to your bike just before you leave for a multi-day trip. One thousand miles away from the garage is not the ideal place to learn that your latest repair didn’t take.
One expert trick is to schedule a maintenance appointment at one of your stops midway through your trip. Even if your bike isn’t acting up, you can get it looked over to make sure there aren’t any problems waiting to happen. If your trip is a very long one, a scheduled maintenance stop lets you swap out your tires. Schedule it as your midway stopping point.
Tires are a significant concern on an expedition like a long-distance bike ride. Make sure your toolkit and repair kit are up-to-date and loaded and bring along an inflation device like CO2 cartridges and a pump. If you have tubed tires, you’ll need a tire spoon to swap one out and some way to raise your bike.
There are certain things that you shouldn’t be traveling without–helmet, Bluetooth communication system, water and more. Nothing can spoil a long-distance ride quicker than an emergency stop that then turns into a multi-hour ordeal. Spare yourself the headache and pack for disaster around every corner.
Even if you don’t usually wear a full-face helmet, bring one with you. Many states have different laws about what kinds of lids riders have to wear on the road. Other than helping you abide by the local laws, helmets also keep you warm and dry on long-distance tours, keep the bugs at bay and reduce the level of constant noise, which can hugely sap your energy.
No long-distance rider’s checklist is complete without an excellent communication system. Cardo Systems makes systems for riders that can’t be beaten, and we know since our employees are riders. Mesh technology has made these communication systems better than ever before, so you’ll never be left in a lurch out on the open road.
Bring clothes and protective gear that help you adapt to changing weather and different climates. Most riders wear tight-fitting clothing as baggy clothing, constantly wapping against your body, is a nuisance. Choose comfortable yet protective boots and gloves. Invest in a pair of sunglasses that you can wear all day.
What you bring with you will depend on the length of your trip, where you’re going and what you’ll do when you’re not riding. Make sure your panniers and other on-bike storage can fit everything you plan on taking with you by pre-packing your bike days before your departure. All your gear should fit securely inside your panniers. Line your storage areas with garbage bags to avoid wet gear after a storm.
There are many moving parts when you plan a long-distance ride–some in your control and some that are not. In many instances, the right gear can hold a mid-trip disaster at bay.
Slow and Steady
Unless you’re racing in a cross-continental long-distance motorcycle race like the Iron Butt Rally, you don’t have to break any records. Riding long distances isn’t about the speed with which you get it done–it’s about the journey. Take your time and check up on your bike often.
You should show the same care to yourself as you show your bike. Listen to your body, as riding for long periods is hard work. Take breaks when you need them, even power napping in the middle of the day under the shade of a tree if you have to. Tired riding is unsafe.
Always have water with you no matter what. Staying hydrated, even when you are broken down on the side of the road, is as essential as maintaining connection with other riders using your Bluetooth helmet communication. A lot of the time, you feel tired when you’re dehydrated. Keep your water levels up even in cooler climates and stay safe.
One of the aspects of long-distance motorcycle riding that may slip your attention is the pressure and sound of the wind blowing by you when you’re riding. Consistent noise can make you tired and irritable. Bring some earplugs for those moments when you don’t want to wear your full helmet, but still want to filter out some of the noise.
Gear for Long Distances
Along with compactor bags to line your panniers, a tire repair kit and lots of water, there are some other items to pick up to make your trip more comfortable.
Riding all day makes your body sore. Constant noise from wind and fast speeds wear you down. The more worn down you are, the less safe your riding is. To offset some of the inevitable aches and pains, look at your seat, your pegs and your windscreen to make sure they’re up to snuff.
Your seat should be firm enough that you won’t sink into it as soon as you straddle your bike, and wide enough that when, at the end of a long day of riding, you can wiggle back and forth a bit to invigorate your circulation. An aftermarket seat with a backrest can make your trip way more comfortable than a stock seat.
Highway-ready pegs help your legs feel more comfortable when you’re riding long distances, especially if you’re tall. Pegs help you change your stance to get the blood flowing through your legs when they’ve been in the same position for hours. Ensure they are secure and in the right place by taking them for a spin around town, even though they’re made for long-distance comfort.
Adjustable windscreens keep the bugs, rocks and debris off your face and chest when you’re riding at high speeds. Not only that, but it also keeps the wind off your body as you’re whipping down the highway.
Heading directly into strong winds for hours at a time is taxing. Without a windscreen, the wind is always pushing your chest. To counteract that, you have to keep your back stiff for hours at a time, tiring your back and neck. It’s called wind fatigue, and the right windscreen can help you avoid it.
If you’re riding in colder weather, take the wind chill into account. There are even some websites that can help you calculate how much colder it feels when you’re riding at top speed for a long time.
There are other steps you can take to ensure a safe and enjoyable long-distance motorcycle ride. These include:
-Sign up for a roadside assistance service if you don’t plan on taking a tire repair kit or swapping out tires mid-trip.
-A packable motorcycle cover keeps your ride dry and clean overnight, and it helps discourage thieves.
-If possible, plan your routes so you’re not riding directly into the setting sun, which can give you a headache and eye strain.
-Bring a spare key, and keep it in a safe spot in your pannier or on your bike.
A long-distance ride is the journey of a lifetime. There’s nothing quite like being on the road for days at a time. You lose track of what day it is and, to a degree, where you are. It’s just you, your ride, the open road and other riders.
An excellent motorcycle communication system is a must-have for long-distance riding to augment safety, maintain directions and to keep you all connected, even when you’re riding miles apart. Cardo Systems makes gear for riders that will last longer than your longest ride.
Gear up, stow your copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and hit the road. Cardo Systems makes sure you stay connected–no matter how far away you go.