MotoCycnic’s Amatuer Guide To Motorcycle Touring
Touring on a motorcycle is amazing, it is my favorite thing to do on one. I won’t claim to be an expert on motorcycle touring, I would say talented amateur at best. However, since I have gone on several trips over the years , I have some experience and have learned enough to think that writing a guide for my friends and readers isn’t too crazy of an idea.
My primary reason for writing this is to have something for my brother and friend to read since I’m hoping they are joining me for my spring trip this year. They both are new to motorcycle touring and I figured I’d save myself some back and forth emails with them if I just tried to get it all down in one post that they can refer to.
Once I started this I realized that there are reasons there are books about the topic and one post wasn’t going to be even close to covering everything. I decided that I’m doing it in three. The first is Planning, the second is Preparing and the third is Execution.
I posted the Planning a week or so ago and I’ll get to the post on Execution in another week. This one is about preparing. What you need to do to get ready for the trip.
There are three things that you need to make sure are ready before going on your trip: your motorcycle, your gear and yourself.
Start with doing a thorough TCLOCKS, a detailed look at your bike. Making sure everything is in working order. I would pay special attention to the tires, do they have enough life left in them to do the distance you are planning to ride? If it’s close at all either replace them before the trip or plan a place to have them replaces along the way. Also make sure it’s been serviced recently, and isn’t due for a major service during the trip. You could also try and do this during the trip, but unlike a set of tires most services take more than an hour.
Besides making sure the motorcycle will cover the distance you’re planning on riding you should make sure it’s going to be comfortable for all those miles. Typically I do 300-400 mile days. That can be a long time in the saddle. If you haven’t done so make sure you can sit on your bike for that long with out your ass aching for days. Riding position and perhaps a cramp buster for your throttle are other things to think about. Some things you can just deal with. I ride a naked Ducati Monster with no wind protection and just deal with it. Of course I also got an after market seat after my first ~300 mile day and I was dying for the last 100 miles or so.
You need a lot of gear to ride a motorcycle, even more if you commute and even more if you tour. At least you do if your me. You’ll need layers, lots of good layers. Typically you’ll ride through some different areas through out the day with different weather some of which if touring near the summer can get pretty warm. In addition since you started early you’ll need to keep yourself warm in the cold. Elevation can also make it colder. Which means I basically have to bring everything. My packing list is here and you can check that out.
You have all this stuff, and now you also need to carry it all on your bike. Luggage is important, you can’t carry it all in a backpack. You’ll need at least one piece of luggage. Either a tail pack or a tankbag is a great addition. I have tried several over the years and have come to appreciate ones that aren’t magnetic or attached with bungee cords. They move around too much if you put something heavy in them. Which isn’t good since they are the best place for heavy things. You don’t want them on your back all day long that’s for sure.
Your Body and Mind
No one has enough time to get themselves in perfect motorcycle riding shape, well no one I know. We all have jobs and other things we need to do sadly.
However, there are somethings you can do to make sure you’re ready an you can handle the trip. Do some long days to test yourself. How do you feel after 200 or 300 miles. What hurts, or aches? Do you get tired or distracted by things.
I noticed that on long freeway stretches that I would often get detached and spacey with boredom. I ended up getting headphones so I could listen to music. Helps to be able to sing along to songs and have something fun to listen to as you ride those boring highway miles in what might seem endless straight lines.
Knowing your limits is important, the only way to figure this out is to push a little. I’ll talk more about this in the post about execution but it’s important to know when to take a mental break and have a snack by the side of the road or drink some water, or just take some pictures.