Want to squeeze in one more long distance ride before the weather gets less than desirable?
Check out our helpful how-to for a satisfactory adventure.
1. Know Your Bike
You spend money and time on your motorcycle. You are perhaps a new rider or after years on a Softail or Dyna, you made the jump to a Streetglide. Either way, a good rider knows his or her bike and is constantly learning. Not just how it works but what it’s limitations and strengths are. You decided to embark on a touring vacation to put it and yourself to the test. If you have been touring for years then it is second nature to anticipate what your bike will need, just as you anticipate what you will need in a multi-day touring adventure. By knowing your bike, you learn how to be somewhat self-sufficient in the event of an emergency no matter what you ride. Needless to say, that this adds to your touring enjoyment and builds your confidence to seek more technically challenging rides.
2. The Right Equipment (For your Motorcycle)
You’ve done your due diligence and have your motorcycle in tip-top shape. Services are up-to-date and you might have even scheduled a service in the middle of your touring vacation in a far-away Harley Davidson dealership. You have plenty of thread on the rubber, the chrome is shining, the tank is full, and the load strapped on tight. What else could your motorcycle possible need? Well, that depends on how proficient you are at basic repairs and emergency maintenance. In an ideal scenario, you will only need to stop for fuel, food, rest, and a few pictures. Unfortunately, busted clutch cables (even in newer bikes), flat tires, blown lights, and sometimes even running out of fuel can seriously strum a sour note on your vacation. However, if you are prepared for these emergencies with a clutch cable repair kit, a flat tire kit, a few extra light bulbs, some fuses, spare gas can, and, and even a hose to siphon gas from another bike can (and will) make a world of difference should the need arise. Of course, you cant forget a small toolkit which you would have revised to make sure it fits most, if not all, of the nuts and bolts that hold together your ride. The best motorcycle toolkits are put together by each rider in order to ensure that it has what your bike needs. In average, while on the road and far from a major city it is not unheard of for a motorcyclist to wait up to 8 hours or more for roadside assistance. Just think, if you had that $20 set of motorcycle jumping cables you would be up and running in no time!
3. Right Equipment (For the Rider)
You have the half-helmet (or no helmet), you have the cut-off shirt or vest and the look is complete, but are you ready for touring across states? It is no secret that motorcycle riders battle the elements in ways drivers could not imagine, from that pebble hitting your face at 60 miles per hour or that bug that you just swallowed. Both the sun and the wind will dehydrate you much faster than you can feel it. Sunburn will absolutely reduce your ability to ride or at least ruin your mood and suck the joy right out of your ride. Fatigue is a fact of life for a rider after 8-12 hours on the road but there are degrees of fatigue and this is what makes the biggest difference the next riding day. If you must wear a half helmet or no helmet (depending on where you are riding) cover your head, neck, and face throughout the day. Although you might be hot while stopped or while getting ready to get going, you will appreciate, at the end of the day, that sweat is the only concern you have. No cracked lips, no sunburn on the head, neck, and face, and no pain while you are trying to rest that night. Wear long sleeves and forget the cotton. There is a wide variety of synthetic materials that are far superior that will not stick to with sweat you and won’t retain heat as much. Instead of jeans, consider a pair of synthetic mesh pants. Airflow is excellent and will keep you much cooler than a pair of jeans. Best of all, wash them in the tub when you check in at the hotel and they will be dry by the next morning.
4. Know Yourself
Let’s face it, while on the road we are all invincible. Touring on a motorcycle is something that the vast majority of people will never do and that fact alone sets you apart. Riders are also competitive beasts, especially when riding in groups. No one wants to be the one to request a stop, no one is ever tired, and few, if anyone will admit that they have reached their limit for the day or the day’s ride is outside of their comfort zone. This is when accidents happen or entire days are ruined for some. Touring is about personal achievement and sometimes the best rider is the one who knows when to say enough. Each rider must be painfully aware of his or her limitations and ride within those constraints. Age, health, experience, confidence, and personal preferences are just some of the variables to consider when riding long distances. Whether it takes you 2 or 4 days to get to your destination, remember that what really matters is the experiences gained in the trip what counts and no one wants to be the one to have to take that ambulance ride.
5. Ride Further, Faster
If you are really out there to enjoy the open road and what the road looks like from a motorcyclist perspective then you are not likely to be riding 100 mph, blasting through towns, and racing to your destination. Besides, heavy on the throttle inevitably leads to shorter riding distances while touring due to higher fuel consumption, exhaustion, and that is assuming no run-ins with the law are in the mix. For most touring bikes, there is a comfort zone that your bike likes to ride at, usually between 75-85 mph. Although 85 mph might be “fast” for some, there are plenty of roads connecting many states that now have this speed limit. Even at a constant speed of 75 mph and stopping every 150-miles yields a very reasonable 600-mile day before sunset if you keep your fuel stops under 30 minutes. Of course, there are some that will ride 1000-miles per day but unless you are pushing yourself to complete a saddle sore challenge (1000-miles in 24 hours) this is hardly sustainable nor enjoyable. Don’t over eat, keep your sugar intake down, drink a lot of water, keep your heavy meals (and drinking) for the evening and you’ll ride further and faster in a single day consistently while feeling good about it.
6. Ride To Do It Again
Chances are that if you have never ridden long distances before and you take into consideration some of these suggestions, you will not only have a more enjoyable ride but you will likely want to do it again. After you take that vacation you’ve always wanted to take on your motorcycle you will find what works for you and what does not. You will develop skills that you didn’t have before and you will likely coach and mentor someone else to do the same. You will be “that guy” who has been there and done, and the one who always has just the right tool in the saddle bag. It is all about experience and using that experience to encourage someone else to do the same.