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Long-distance motorcycle trips are one of the best ways to explore the countryside, and with proper training and planning the experience is far from dangerous, but more adrenaline-filled and exciting.
Read on as we discuss some of the essential things when prepping for a motorcycle ride and how to mitigate some potential dangers.
How to Prepare For a Long Distance Motorcycle Ride
Here are some tips:
Long Distance Motorcycle Tips
Be Sure To:
Prepare Your Motorcycle For The Long Ride
Service and check tires
Choose the Right Bike and Engine
Fit your trip to the bike
Wear The Appropriate Safety and Protective Gear
ATTGATT - All The Gear, All The Time
Stay Hydrated/Hydration Packs
Carry water and isotonic drinks and stop frequently to refill
Prepare For Changing Weather
Carry rain suits and cold weather gear, just in case
Don’t overload your bike - take what you need, not what you want
Plan Your Route And Stops (But at Odd Times)
Vary the length of time you ride and take in all the sights
Stop And Take A Break
Breaks to view the scenery, visit attractions or simply have a drink or refuel are important
Have a Roadside Assistance Plan
Being protected is a safety net you cannot ignore
Maintain the Bike Along the Way
Carry out routine check-ups and maintenance on your bike each morning and make sure all is well before setting off
Share and Update Someone About Your Itinerary
This is important if you ride alone, just in case you are in need of help or in an emergency
Long Distance Motorcycle Riding Tips
Any road trip is an exciting prospect, but before slinging a leg over your bike, you do need to think a little about the trip. A little planning can make a whole lot of difference to your trip and holiday.
Choose the Right Bike and Engine
This is not rocket science. Superbikes are exciting and exhilarating to ride, but try that crouched position for several hundred miles, and you will be lucky ever to walk again!
If you intend to undertake road trips on a bike, select a touring machine designed for this particular purpose. The bike should have a comfortable seating position, luggage space, and protection from harsh weather conditions.
Many of these bikes come with entertainment equipment, communications, navigation systems, cruise controls, and heated seats and grips. They also have sophisticated suspension that soaks up the bumps and loads of torque that reduce the rider's fatigue. These additional features aren’t luxuries.
They make the road trip safer and more enjoyable for the rider and pillion. If you don't want a full-dress tourer, there are many sport-touring bikes for you to consider.
Those who intend to take trips into the backcountry should look at the range of competent adventure bikes designed for this type of trip. These bikes have good ground clearance, long suspension travel, ample luggage space, and many road bikes' attributes.
A significant benefit is the bars that protect the major components, so dropping the motorcycle does not result in a spoiled trip.
Still, you can enjoy a fantastic trip while on a small bike. No matter what you choose, you can ride cross country on anything but plan it right and keep within your and your bike's abilities.
Prepare Your Motorcycle for the Long Ride
As with any vehicle that you intend to take on a road trip, you need to ensure that your bike is in tip-top mechanical condition for the journey. You don't want to roll the dice and hope for a double six, so the place to start is with a full service.
If you are competent, handle this yourself, but be honest. The last thing you need to do is delay everyone's trip because you tackled a job you aren't qualified to do and hence suffered a break-down in the middle of nowhere.
Make sure all the lubricants and other fluids are changed and all the components are checked over. Take the time to check all your hoses and brake lines. Anything that shows wear and tear should be changed.
If your bike has a chain drive, a part of the service should check the chain, but double-check yourself. If you are the slightest bit unhappy, insist on replacing the chain and sprocket. All belts should also be checked for tension and wear.
Next, look at the tires. Are you sure the tires are in top-notch condition for a long trip? Don't only check the tread. Also, look at the age of the tire. If you do not ride often, you may find your tires are old and worn out; and should be replaced irrespective of the tread.
Wear the Appropriate Safety Gear
This is a significant point. To protect yourself from losing chunks of skin, breaking bones, or brain damage you need to wear the protective gears at all times.
Start at the top and wear a helmet. If you want the wind in your face at times, then buy a helmet that opens so you can enjoy the breeze but still have the protection you need for your head. Being hit in the face by raindrops or bugs will feel like you are being shot at with paintballs, so make sure your helmet and visor can close.
Along with the helmet, invest in some good quality earplugs. The constant drone of wind rushing past your head is tiring, so block out the noise or use earbuds with music to deaden the sound.
Wear a riding suit of some kind. There are excellent fabric suits available that will provide a comfortable ride while ensuring you are protected. It is okay to use a leather suit, but make sure it is hung up and aired each evening; to prevent the stench of body odor from sticking to the leather.
If you must wear jeans, try to get a pair that are reinforced with kevlar at strategic places to provide some form of protection.
Do not forget gloves and sturdy boots; both can be lifesavers.
Stay Hydrated/Hydration Packs
Riding long distances and being exposed to the wind rushing past can be very dehydrating, so plan to either wear a Camelbak or carry water or any isotonic drink. Dehydration can lead to many problems, all of which will spoil your trip, that’s why it's important to remain hydrated throughout the trip.
At your fuel stops or comfort breaks, try to drink around six to eight ounces of fluid. Fuel stops also provide a great chance to refill your water bottles.
Water is not the end of the story, as you should also watch your electrolytes. Many sports powders are available to mix with water that will replace lost electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals. You may not recognize it, but you are working hard on that bike.
Prepare for Changing Weather
One of the biggest mistakes that you can make is not preparing for inclement weather. Bad weather can make riding a bike very dangerous, pay attention to the weather and take along the kit for it. Make sure you are up to date with the weather updates of the region you will be taking your trip.
Rain suits are a must as getting wet can result in the loss of body heat at an alarming rate. Make sure that you test the rain suit before you set off on your trip. The rain-suit over your riding suit can have some unintended consequences, so test it out before you leave.
Also, try to find a suit that you can wear without removing your boots. Nothing is more frustrating than hopping around getting wet trying to get into a rain suit.
Most fabric riding suits have a warm padded liner. Pack this as well and make sure it is easily accessible. Also, consider investing in a heated waistcoat. These plug into a 12V jack and will keep your torso very warm.
Don't forget your gloves. A change in weather can result in a cold wind which equals freezing hands. This turns into a dangerous situation if you cannot pull your clutch or brakes.
If you do not have hard luggage or waterproof saddlebags, take the time to make sure your luggage is adequately waterproofed and protected from harsh weather conditions.
Finding all your clothes wet or trying to sleep in a damp sleeping bag are sure-fire ways to ruin your trip.
Most touring and adventure bikes weigh a fair bit, and adding a ton of luggage will do you no favors at all. If you intend to camp, you will have a fair amount of weight before starting with a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, mug, a pot, and some basic groceries. Too much weight also affects your stability when riding your motorcycle.
Before you put anything into a bag, lay out all that you intend to take. On one side, place the things that are necessities and then look hard at the rest. A good tip is to take a scale and weigh things. In this way, you can compare one item against another and decide which is worth its weight in your luggage.
A good tip is to try and pack things in smaller bags that fit into your luggage bag. Pulling an item from the bottom of a large bag will cause a huge mess, and soon that bag is a tangled disaster area.
Pack clothes in layers that are easy to put on and take off. These are usually lightweight and take up little room. Save space by taking a small bottle of laundry liquid and washing undies and socks regularly, so you only need to pack a few pairs.
If you are riding in a group, share common items. Not everyone needs to carry tools, or a kettle, or the same groceries. Share the load amongst the group.
Plan Your Route and Stops (But at Odd Times)
Be realistic on the number of miles that you can ride in a day. This is supposed to be a fun trip, not an Iron-Butt Rally. Look at the holiday as starting the minute your feet hit the pegs, and not only at the destination.
Choose a route that takes in fun riding roads (rather than just sticking to the highways) and has places to visit and beautiful scenery. Tools such as Google maps make this a relatively simple task.
Please read up on trip reports on the routes that you want to follow, as they have some great recommendations and warnings. Consult with other more experienced riders on the best routes and stops.
Plan the route that will match the ability of the weakest rider in the group. The last thing you need is to spend time with broken bikes or injured riders because the route demanded more than they could handle.
Plan in stops, not only for fuel but also to have coffee, or breakfast, or simply time to get off the bike and stretch or take a walk around and enjoy a beautiful view. Keep your trip interesting by not scheduling stops at set times, instead plan to take in the sights even if two stops are only a short distance apart. It doesn't matter, enjoying your trip and taking time to see your country is.
Stop and Take a Break
Breaks are essential. Riding a motorcycle takes considerable concentration, and the longest time you should consider riding without a break is two hours. This time should be shortened in poor weather or after riding through traffic in a city with which you are unfamiliar.
These conditions demand higher concentration when riding, and exhaustion is a shortcut to an accident. Also, take more breaks if you have spent the night before out on the town; again, tiredness will catch up quickly.
If you have novice riders in your group, plan more frequent breaks.
Beware the painful butt. This will happen if you do not plan sufficient breaks to relieve the pressure on your butt. You can move around on the bike or stand on the pegs, but nothing relieves this condition better than walking around and stretching your legs, so save your butt and take a break.
Have a Roadside Assistance Plan
Roadside Assistance is an insurance policy that every long-distance rider should consider. Almost every insurance company offers this type of addition to your motorcycle policy.
If you have recently purchased a new bike, a plan may well have been included by your dealer. Still, it's good to inquire with your dealer just to be certain.
These plans cover flat batteries, running out of fuel, punctures, minor repairs, or the recovery of a damaged or broken down bike. For the rider that is not mechanically minded, these policies are a boon and make your trip much safer.
Recovery of bikes from wilderness areas can be difficult, so make sure your assistance policy covers recovery from remote locations. Remember to pack a satellite phone so that you can call for assistance.
Maintain the Bike Along the Way
Give your bike a daily check-up and inspection every morning. Learn how to do this at home before setting out, so you know what to look for.
Some of the items to check include:
- Fluids - check the fluid level in both brake fluid reservoirs and top it up if need be.
- Oil - check the engine oil level.
- Tires - Check the tires and look for any cuts, bubbles, or uneven wear.
- Luggage brackets - check the frames for any cracks or damage.
- Chain - if you have one, check the tension and lubricate if necessary.
- New marks - do you see any new marks anywhere. They could indicate something rubbing, so try to find out what caused the new spot.
- Secure loose items - Make sure accessories such as your GPS are firmly secured and won't come loose.
Share and Update Someone About Your Itinerary
It is a good idea to leave your itinerary with a responsible person and check in every couple of days to let them know all is going well. This is especially important if you are traveling solo. If anything happens, you know someone will come looking for you.
Traveling in the wilderness makes this somewhat more complex, but again taking a satellite phone with you will facilitate this. Many sat phones allow a simple text message to be sent, so you will not need to buy lots of costly air time.
Factors to Consider When Riding a Motorcycle in Long Distance
Traveling with your motorcycle can be a hugely rewarding way to see the country. You get to live in all the sights, experience the wilds and smells of the countryside, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
Riding a motorcycle requires a great deal of concentration. Even if you have been riding for many years, you will still find it tiring. Not only will the physical act of riding be tiring but you can experience exhaustion from things like dehydration, wind noise, wind buffeting, and weather conditions.
No one wants to spend an uncomfortable time when on a trip.
- Make sure that the bike you ride is suitable for long-distance travel. The size engine is not important, but the seating position, wind and weather protection, and miles you travel each day are vital. On a GoldWing, a few hundred miles will be a breeze; on a small 200cc, a few hundred miles will be criminal.
- Consider your seat and how to avoid suffering from a dreaded sore butt. Move around on the bike while riding, stand up on the pegs (if safe to do so), or push your butt back onto the pillion seat. You can also put your legs onto road pegs if your bike is fitted with them, or push down on one peg lifting the other side butt cheek off the seat. Another thing to consider is making sure there is good airflow under your butt. Sheepskin seat covers are good, as are the aftermarket gel seat cushions.
- Dress comfortably and never set out on a trip with a new kit that is not broken in. Blisters and chafing will make your trip uncomfortable.
This sounds like something automatic, but still, many riders overlook it.
Tips on What Gear to Wear for Long Distance Motorcycle Rides
The gear that you wear on your trip can make or break your trip.
Many states may not legislate wearing a helmet, but it is in your best interests to do so. Wear a full-face helmet.
- Raindrops and bugs can feel like being hit with paintballs at 50 mph.
- Also, wind protection is essential to prevent you from getting chapped lips and cheeks.
- Lastly, even a very low-speed accident can have a bad result for your head when it hits the asphalt, so protect it!
With the vast range of fabric riding suits on the market today, there is no excuse for not wearing proper protective clothing on your trip. Again, a fall at even low speed can result in lots of missing skin and painful gravel rash.
Hands and Feet
- Gloves are important. Riding behind a car or truck can be a harrowing experience if they throw up stones. Getting hit on bare fingers by rocks is enough to make you let go of the grips. Wear gloves to prevent this.
- Motorcycle boots or good quality hiking boots are essential. Ensure you can safely change gears with the shoes on, and never set off on a long trip with a new pair of boots. Break them in well before setting off.
- Wear a good set of sunglasses that you can comfortably wear all day. Glare can add to exhaustion, so protect your eyes.
- Many helmets have visors that are darkened, and these can be an excellent alternative to sunglasses. Make sure you have a spare clear visor, should you need to ride after dark.
Tips on How to Prepare Physically for Long Distance Motorcycle Riding
Riding a motorcycle is not like doing anything else, so how can you physically prepare for a long-distance ride?
Will running every day, cycling for miles, or spending hours in the gym make a difference when embarking on a long-distance ride? Indeed, all of these activities will be excellent for your health and build a healthy body but will they help your riding?
The short answer is no. Having a healthy body is desirable for any activity, but the only way to prepare for a long-distance ride is to ride your bike as much as you possibly can. Take some day trips or a weekend away to get used to riding the distances that you intend to travel in one day on your long journey. This will get you ready for a long ride.
Long-distance riding is a fantastic way to explore the country, and with a bit of planning, it should go smoothly. Prepare yourself and your bike, plan your route, make frequent and necessary stops, rehydrate yourself and remember to enjoy the trip as well as the destination.
Long-distance motorcycling can be safe, exciting, and very rewarding.
People Also Ask
Below we have compiled some of the most frequently asked questions.
How Far Can You Ride a Motorcycle In One Day?
Everyone has different abilities, and you should ride the distance that you are comfortable with. In a group, ride the distance that suits the weakest rider. This distance should be agreed to while planning the route.
What is a Good Motorcycle For Long Distance Riding?
If you intend to undertake a trip of a few thousand miles, we suggest a purpose-built long-distance tourer. There are many models available on the market. Whether you choose German, Japanese, or American brands, all are extremely good and will effortlessly do hundreds of miles a day.
For shorter trips, sport-tourers will also be very comfortable. Adventure bikes will complete a long-distance asphalt trip as comfortably as a trip through the wilderness.
How Do You Stay Comfortable on a Long Motorcycle Ride?
The comfort you experience will depend on the bike, your riding gear, and the proper execution of necessary breaks. An aching butt and back can spoil a trip, but frequent stops will go a long way to alleviating this.
What Are The Traffic Laws When Taking Long Distance Motorcycle Rides?
The traffic laws for long-distance motorcycle riding are the same as for any trip in any vehicle. Look out for other road users as steel walls protect them, but you have no protection, so be vigilant. Watch out for potholes, slippery surfaces, or gravel on the road and avoid these patches but try not to swerve suddenly.
California is the only state that permits motorcycles to split lanes.