Fall is creeping in and the cooler but-not-yet-freezing temperatures make this time of year perfect for weekend road trips on your bike. Whether you’re hitting the road for a few days or a few weeks, it’s important to be prepared and organized. Just as with road trips in a car, the goal for every rider to is to be safe, comfortable, and to spend minimal time in traffic. Here are our best tips for making the most out of your next tour:
Top 8 Motorcycle Touring Tips for Newbs
1. Pack Light
Pack your belongings in organized 1-gallon storage bags. This allows you to see everything clearly so you don’t have dig for any particular item. Put a change of clothes in each bag so when you overnight you don’t have unpack and repack everything. Don’t fold clothes — roll them so they take up less space. If you’re traveling with a group, compare items to see if there are duplicates you don’t need to bring, such as tools in the event of an emergency. Every ounce counts.
2. Safety First
You should be doing this regardless, but look over your bike before every ride. Here is our handy bike maintenance checklist for reference. It wouldn’t hurt to sign up for AMA roadside assistance as well. When packing your bike, keep as much of the weight as possible close to the bike’s center of gravity. That means low and toward the tank, distributed evenly. Take your bike for a test run with your load to see if you need to adjust before the long haul.
3. Pack a Spare
A spare key that is. It’s good to get into the habit of hiding a spare somewhere on your bike. Use a zip-tie or duct tape to hide the key or trade keys with one of your traveling buddies. You never expect to lose your keys, but with this simple practice you can ensure that you never do.
4. The Road Is Long
The road is long… longer than you think. If you’re new to touring, don’t bite off more than you can chew. We highly recommend starting with 2-3 hour day trips before committing to a weekend or a weeks-long road trip. Three hours of riding is a longer than you think it is and might require a stop and an overnight. Six or seven hours on a bike may not sound terrible because you might be thinking in terms of a road trip in a car. You need to build up that kind of stamina on a bike. You’re working harder than you think you are, balancing, your arms, your control, the wind. Start small and work your way up.
5. Prepare for the Wind
Windshields may not be the “look” you’re going for if you’re a rider in an urban environment, but let us tell you: on the open highway a windshield is worth every penny. After three hours of navigating 80 miles per hour winds, you’ll be exhausted. After five hours, we guarantee you’ll be slowing down to give your arms a break. Spare yourself the pain and spring for a good windshield.
6. Cover It Up
If you are planning on overnighting at a hotel, motel, or campsite, it’s smart to bring a motorcycle cover. It will help to keep your bike a bit cleaner, but more importantly it’s a deterrent for thieves who don’t want to go through the extra step of removing the cover.
7. Eat at Odd Times
One of the best tips for getting on and off the road faster is to eat at odd times, especially if the route you’re taking is heavily trafficked by motorcycle riders or tourists in cars. The peak times for restaurants and pit stops are 8 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. Planning your stops in between those busy hours will get you seated more quickly with faster service.
8. Stay on the Outskirts
Another pro tip for getting in and out of dense urban areas after an overnight is to stay on the outskirts. If you come into town at night, stay across town on the side of the city that you’ll be exiting from. This way you can enjoy the city that night, but get on the road without fighting commuter traffic the next morning.