Pick a spot on a map. Any spot. Hundreds or even thousands of miles away, it doesn’t matter.
Choose a route to get there with long highway stints, backcountry gravel roads, bustling city streets, miles of canyon twisties, and everything in between. Now, imagine packing your things onto your ADV bike and leaving first thing in the morning.
Would you be prepared?
Whether you’re fresh to motorcycle touring or a seasoned veteran, it’s impossible to be too ready. No matter how picturesque the open road in front appears, problems can and will occur. Knowing how to limit these issues and handle them as they come can mean the difference between a miserable experience and trip of a lifetime.
We’re here to help. Below are 10 tips to get you through your next motorcycle road trip.
1.) Know Your Route
Plan your ride ahead of time, period. It’s one thing to pick your destination and a route to get there, but it’s equally important to know what you will face along the way. Long stints in remote areas? Knowing where to stop for fuel and food is going to be extra important. There’s nothing worse than running on an empty tank without a station in sight. Take into consideration the limitations of you and your bike before embarking on your trek.
Don’t be afraid to have back-up routes as well. You might run into a trail too difficult, road construction, or some sort of weather, and having an alternate path could help you escape trouble.
Bring a paper map! Yes, we live in the 21st century where GPS is a thing, but technology is subject to failure. Pack an old-fashioned map away in a dry area, just in case.
2.) Have Your Motorcycle Serviced Before Your Trip
Does your route consist of logging serious miles? Inspect your motorcycle from top to bottom, servicing anything that has a hint of wear. Taking the time to get your bike in tip-top condition before you leave can save you from headaches and unnecessary bills on your adventure.
It might cost a buck, but you shouldn’t have hesitation fitting your bike with high-quality tires, brake pads, sprockets and other consumables. Starting a long-distance trip with already-worn out parts could spell disaster mid-ride, if they reach the end of their lifespans.
Check the owner’s manual for your bike’s other routine service intervals, and take care of them as needed. Valve job? Yeah, get that done. Time for a fresh clutch? Don’t wait, it’ll come in handy down the road.
3.) Bring the Right Gear
Do your research on this one. Spend time watching the current weather along your route as well as looking at the common conditions of the season from years past. A trip across a hot desert will likely only require vented riding, but some trips will see the need for more complicated packing. A route with large elevation differences, for example, will present temperature changes that might require unique layering of your gear. Be prepared by bringing the proper gear to handle every condition you may face.
Always, always, always bring wet-weather riding gear. Mother Nature has a way of presenting unexpected conditions, and there’s nothing worse than rain you didn’t plan for. Riding in wet gear can be miserable, especially in cold weather. Besides just a shiver, sticking out your ride in soaked gear can lead to hypothermia, which can be very dangerous.
4.) Pack Lightly
Most riders have the habit of over packing for long trips, but it only causes more trouble than it’s worth. First off, over packing adds unnecessary weight to the motorcycle, which can affect it’s handling and performance. Enough extra weight—or weight added unevenly to the bike—will change the bike’s center of gravity, making it feel unbalanced through curves and trail excursions.
It doesn’t take much to make an ADV tour epic. Limit what you bring to only what’s needed for a comfortable and safe trip. Skip on all the gizmos and gadgets—trust us, an iPhone will take some awesome photos.
- First aid kit
- Cell phone
- Cell phone charger
- Tool kit – duct tape, tire gauge, zip ties, allen wrenches
- Flat repair kit
- A few changes of clothes – extra pairs underwear, socks, and a few T-shirts
5.) Fuel Your Body Properly
Your body is a machine, just like your motorcycle. Slack on maintaining your body’s fuel levels and you’ll be plagued with symptoms like fatigue, muscle soreness, headaches, nausea, or maybe even a hangover. Learn from our mistakes and treat your body with care.
Fueling your body correctly means eating nutritious food often. Grabbing lunch? It’s probably better to skip the greasy hamburger and French fries, instead picking something lighter and full of more usable energy—like a piece of grilled chicken and side of fresh fruit.
Throughout the day, keep healthy food coming in, even before your stomach is growling. Pack your bags with things like granola, bananas, and nuts. Don’t even bother packing candy bars or processed potato chips; those won’t feel so good a couple hours down the line.
Stay hydrated! On a hot day especially, you need to be sipping water almost constantly. Thirsty? It’s too late, you’re already in the early stages of dehydration. Keeping fluids coming in is just important on cooler days too, mostly because conditions tend to be very dry. Also, do your body a favor and skip on sodas, energy drinks, and obviously alcohol.
6.) Wear Ear Plugs
Covering a long-distance adventure on your motorcycle can be noisy—okay, deafening—without proper ear protection. Spending hours tolerating harsh wind noise often leaves you with in-ear ringing by days end can put a harsh mental strain on you. Ear plugs cut out the majority of that noise, and in turn increase the ability to hear the engine and mechanical noise of your bike.
Skip on headphones or custom ear plugs that can play music off your phone. As enjoyable as listening to Beethoven for hours on end sounds, it can be distracting as a rider. The issue is that you’ll find yourself wanting to crank up the volume in order to block out wind noise, causing ear damage by the end of the trip.
7.) Pack Ahead of Time
The saying, “If you wait until the last minute, it only takes one minute” isn’t meant for ADV riders. Give yourself plenty of time to create a check list of things you need, prepare your bike, and practice packing your things with a dry run.
Why should you do this? Properly packing your bags or panniers is an art. Take your time evenly distributing the weight between each bag you may have. This can save you from an awkward center of gravity that can make simple riding maneuvers difficult. Spending time packing will also give you the ability to strategically place certain items within your bags, providing easily accessibility to the ones you need the most.
When packing is all said and done, take your bike for a test ride fully loaded. Get the feel of how your bike handles with the extra weight. Handling strange? Play with the weight distribution between each side and take note of how it changes the bike’s performance. It pays to plan ahead.
8.) Inspect Your Bike Regularly
You’ve gotten your bike serviced before you hit the road, but that’s no reason to not keep an eye on it during your trip. Visually inspect your ride each morning, every time you make a food stop, at fuel stations, photo stops—really, any chance you can!
Main things to keep an eye on:
- Tires – Pressure? Cords showing or heavy wear? Nails or punctures?
- Chain and sprocket – How’s the chain tension? Any missing sprocket teeth?
- Leaks – Any oil leaks?
- Temperatures – Is your engine running hotter than usual?
9.) Make Sure Friends and Family Know Your Itinerary
Okay, you might be using your motorcycle trips as a way to escape your friends and family, but it’s important for them to know where you’re headed each day. We don’t ever plan for emergencies to happen, but in case they do, someone needs to know where your location or at least where they might find you.
Before you leave, give a detailed itinerary to at least one friend or family member—the more the better. Be sure to provide the route you’ll be covering each day along with your stopping point. Now, do them a favor and let them know you’ve made it to each day’s destination with a simple phone call or text, it’ll save them the worry.
10.) Bring a Riding Buddy!
Don’t be selfish—share the experience with someone else! Riding motorcycles is all about the camaraderie between friends, and experiencing an epic ADV trip with some of them is an unforgettable experience.
Besides having someone to share the trip with, having a friend means extra help in case of technical problems and added hands on deck in an emergency. Think; wouldn’t it be easier to pick up a heavy motorcycle with the help of an added person? Riding buddies are great, even if they might try to steal your food.