What you need to do before hitting the road on two wheels.
Long distance motorcycle touring is the dream of many people drawn to traveling on two wheels. You get to see new places, experience new cultures and food, all while riding your bike in (ideally) beautiful landscapes for hours every day. Who could ask for anything more?
But before you set off there’s a few things that you need to do to prepare:
Have the right bike
Having the right motorcycle can make or break a long distance trip. To put it simply, while the range of bikes that you can use is vast, you don’t want to be going out there on a motorcycle better suited for off-roading or puttering into town to get groceries.
Ideally, you will get yourself a nice touring bike. The reason for this is simple: they are made for long-distance travel. They are built to allow you to ride them in an upright position (often having a built-in back rest), tend to have windscreens, and maximum space for cargo, including trunk storage.
But if you can’t afford a legit touring motorcycle or already have one of a different type, don’t worry, as other bikes can do the job as well. A cruiser or even a “standard motorcycle” can also be used for extended journeys where you will spend multitudes of hours in the saddle. Both of these options, like touring bikes, have lower seating positions and can be comfortable for all day hauls.
While you technically can go on long trips with adventure or sports motorcycles, we don’t really recommend it.
As far as engine size goes, we feel as if it doesn’t really matter too much. 750cc is perfect. While bigger is better, smaller can also do the job. Just be sure it can propel you to highway speeds.
Outfit your bike properly
Before setting off on a motorcycle journey be sure to have your bike tuned up and outfitted for long distance travel. Look through shops like Stage 6 for replacement parts and everything else you need.
Before anything else, get your bike professionally serviced before taking off. Get a safety inspection and check your fluids:
- Oil- The rule of thumb is to get your oil changed every 3,700 miles.
- Coolant- Change your coolant at least once per year.
- Brake fluid- Make sure your brake fluid is full and change it every year or two.
- Fork Oil- Change your fork oil every year or two.
- Transmission Oil- If your bike has a wet clutch gearbox you don’t need to worry about this. But if you don’t be sure to check your transmission oil yearly.
- Hydraulic Clutch Fluid- Change your clutch fluid every year or two.
Be sure to check your tires. Make sure they are properly inflated and have enough tread on them. Or, better yet, just buy new ones for your trip.
Get specialized grips
You’re going to have your hands on the grips of your bike an awful lot during your trip, so you may as well go for luxury with them. Consider getting heated grips if you’re going to be traveling in cold climates and padded grips will be worth their weight in gold by day three of your journey. Also, some grips have a lock for the throttle, which will allow you to cruise, saving your wrists and avoiding one of the main pitfalls of traveling long distance on a motorcycle.
Get a good seat
While you can ride in any old seating, having a seat that’s specially made for long-distance travel will make your ride vastly more comfortable and enjoyable Considering getting a good gel seat and a backrest, if your bike doesn’t already have one.
While you usually think of your motorcycle first when you think of the gear that you will need for a long-distance trip, you’re not going to be faring too well if you don’t have adequate storage for everything else you’re going to need. So get some saddlebags which go on both sides of the rear wheel, get a trunk bag if you’re bike can accommodate one, and definitely get a tank bag, where you can put the little things that you’re going to want to quickly access on your trip.
Preparing your bike is only one half of getting ready for a long-distance motorcycle adventure. The other half is preparing yourself. If you’re not mentally and physically prepared, you’re probably not going to get very far. Here’s some tips to get yourself ready:
Learn how to do roadside repairs
One of the most important things learn how to do prior to your trip are simple roadside repairs. It is almost inevitable that at some point in your travels you’re going to find yourself broken down on the side of the road or having to make adjustments after small collisions. In some parts of the world this can be a really big problem if you can’t rig your bike up enough to get to the nearest repair shop. So read some manuals and watch some youtube videos on roadside motorcycle repair and be ready for anything.
You may think that long-distance motorcycle travel merely consists of sitting on your butt all day, but it is actually incredibly taxing on the body, and, in point, is something that you should train for even if you’re already physically fit. For at least six weeks prior to your trip start upping the strength and endurance exercises to build your stamina. Go running, do squats, do uphill sprints, go for long walks, and lift some weights. Just move your body and push your limits. When you’re out there on mile 500 for the day you will thank me.
Build your motorcycle riding endurance
It’s not a good idea to go right from only doing short joy rides to trying to ride across a continent. Build up to motorcycle touring gradually. Start out by going for a 50 mile jaunt and build up by adding 50 more miles each time over a period of weeks. Try to get so you can go for at least 250 miles without feeling much mental and physical fatigue.
Also, when out training your motorcycle endurance be sure to do so with your bike fully loaded. This may seem odd as you’re probably just going to eventually turn around and go right back home, but this will get you used to reacting to all of the extra weight on your bike.
Wear good gear / clothes
Don’t forget yourself when outfitting for a motorcycle journey. One of the quickest ways to make a trip horrible is to not be properly attired for the weather. So figure out where you’re going, what the weather is like, and get the gear to match it. Also, you’re going to probably be sweating and losing a lot of liquids on your ride so have a plan for rehydration. A hydration pack with a tube that you can easily sip from when riding would be a good idea. Also be sure to enrich your water with electrolytes. You’re going to need them.
In all, how successful your motorcycle journey is depends on how well you prepare. So go through this checklist, equip your bike and yourself, and get out there on the open road.