Plan your route (but leave room for spontaneity), prep your bike, wear the right gear and have fun.
The cross-country motorcycle road trip is the stuff of American mythology. It has everything: The freedom of the open road. The beauty of the American landscape. Good times with friends. And just enough rebellion to spice things up. Whatever your motivation, few things ruin a trip faster than poor planning or a mechanical failure. Here are a few tips for planning a motorcycle trip.
Tips for Planning a Motorcycle Trip
Formulate a Plan
If you’re planning a trip to Sturgis, for example, keep a loose itinerary that both plans for gas/food/rest stops and leaves room for spontaneity along the way. You’ll want a general outline of your travel route and ETA, but you never know what might catch your eye along the way that’s worthy of a stop. Be ready for adventure on your two-wheel journey, no matter where it leads.
Give Your Bike a Once-Over
Many riders are meticulous about maintenance and know their bike inside and out. Even so, it’s a great idea to give your bike a mechanical once-over before departing to ensure it’s roadworthy for the miles ahead.
- Check your tires for proper inflation and tread. Checking or cracking along the sidewalls is a precursor to a problem. Fix it now so you don’t waste valuable time on repairs during the trip.
- Check the condition of the chain/belt. AMSOIL Chain Lube is a great product for protecting chains from wear.
- Examine the brake pads. If the pads are down and dangerously close to worn, replace them before they start squealing at you hundreds of miles from home.
- Check all the fluids. If you plan on putting a few thousand miles behind you, now’s the time to change engine oil, transmission fluid and primary fluid. It always feels good to start a trip with new oil in the reservoirs.
- Get in the habit of routine checks during your trip to ensure early notice of any leaks or fluids in need of top-off.
Dress for Success
Protect your head; helmets save lives every day. Be sure you and any passengers have appropriate protection that can prevent serious injury or death.
Wear protective eyewear. When you’re in motion on the open road, the last thing you need is something flying into your eye(s) and obstructing your view.
Where it’s hot, light-colored clothing breathes and reflects the sunlight. Long sleeves are a must to prevent windburn, so bring something easy to take on and off. Don’t forget sunscreen to keep you protected during the long trips. Keep rain gear packed for when the clouds cover the sun and the skies open up.
Leather gear is a must for many riders. It also helps protect against road rash should the unthinkable happen.
While not ideal for trips through the desert, those in warmer areas can also benefit from this added layer of protection. There are varying options available for leather gear, from perforated versions that breathe to full-on jackets and chaps. Do your research as to the best options that fit your climate and needs so you’re comfortable while clocking the miles.
Be Prepared for Anything
We all know that storage space on bikes is limited to the essentials. Most modern bikes come with a small tool kit under the seat, but it’s not comprehensive enough to save you from a roadside delay for what could’ve been an easy fix for those better prepared.
Search online for an aftermarket tool kit that can be bolted or strapped to your bike. Vise grips, an adjustable wrench, pliers, Allen wrenches, a pocket knife, zip ties, a tire repair kit and a flashlight are a few ideas that could save the day in your time of need.
Know Your Terrain
If you’re heading to a rally or another venue that draws large packs of bikes or traffic, know your surroundings and practice safe driving habits. See and be seen; be sure to keep space between your bike and surrounding traffic. Motorcyclists are not always visible to other drivers, so practice defensive riding and position yourself in lanes that ensure your presence is known.
If you’re going to be traveling through the wide-open yonder, be aware of the wildlife that call it home. Avoid riding at night if possible, and always be on alert for animals wandering into the roadway.
Enjoy the Open Road
Lastly, and most importantly, be free and have fun. There’s a reason motorcycling has become a lifestyle for so many enthusiasts. There’s nothing quite like the freedom of hitting the open road and surging along to paths known and unknown.
Follow these tips when planning a motorcycle trip to ensure you’ll remember your next ride for the right reasons.