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Follow these tips and tricks for long-distance motorcycle trips

Added June 27, 2017
Man on motorcycle outside city

Touring season is here! Whether you’re going coast-to-coast or heading to a far-away rally, a long-distance tour is an exciting adventure. Since the earliest days, even before the modern road system existed, motorcycle riders have tested themselves and their machines on long journeys. More than 100 years later, modern motorcycles and roads have made such travel much more accommodating. Yet our motorcycles still need proper maintenance to safely go the distance.

Get off to a good start

Long motorcycle trips are usually preceded by a lot of planning. In preparation, you’ll probably be poring over maps and guidebooks, making reservations, and crafting a list of places to visit and sights to see.

But don’t forget, your motorcycle needs some pre-trip planning, too. Consider this list as a starting point:

  • Think ahead: If a scheduled mileage-interval service will be due during your trip, have it done before leaving.
  • Change it up: Change your oil, oil filter, and even the fuel filter.
  • Go the extra mile: Get a professionally performed motor tune-up and chassis inspection.
  • Tread lightly: Inspect and replace tires before the trip if they will be near their service limit during the trip.
  • Look everything over: Inspect any installed aftermarket accessories, including luggage systems.
  • Be prepared: Include motorcycle care items on your packing list, such as:
    • Tire pressure gauge
    • Tire tread wear gauge
    • Tool kit
    • Oil and small funnel
    • Travel-sized cleaning supplies

On the road

Developing a daily routine of motorcycle maintenance while traveling goes a long way toward avoiding unexpected breakdowns. Checking over your bike builds a bond with your motorcycle and also imparts a sense of confidence before hitting the road. The following are some suggestions:

  • Perform a thorough T-CLOCS inspection each morning:
    • Tires and wheels
    • Controls
    • Lights and electrics
    • Oil and other fluids
    • Chassis
    • Stands
  • Refuel after the first few miles in the morning (instead of at the end of the day) and perform the following:
    • Check motor oil at full operating temperature
    • Recheck luggage packing and load balance
  • Do the following at every gas stop:
    • Check the motor oil
    • Check to make sure gear is properly secured
    • Walk around your motorcycle and perform a brief visual inspection
  • Check off the list at the end of the day:
    • Clean off any bugs and debris from the lights and windshield
    • Pick a secure parking place
    • Lock and cover your motorcycle
    • Check the ground under your motorcycle so you’ll know if something is leaking when you check back in the morning

Just you and your motorcycle

Whether traveling solo or in a group for a long distance, motorcycle journeys are really about you and your motorcycle. Spending days in the saddle covering thousands of miles and having countless experiences builds that relationship. The effort invested in caring for your motorcycle returns great dividends through safe travels.

Take care of yourself, too

You’re planning a big summer motorcycle tour, and your bike is in top running order. But have you considered how ready you are for the big ride? Let’s look at caring for you—the rider—on a long-distance trip.

Starting off points

It has been said every journey begins with a first step. In our case, it would be the first mile. However, the journey should begin well before you roll out on the road. Starting your motorcycle tour well rested and organized is the best way to go. The following are some things to consider leading up to the big event.

Planning ahead for a trip should take place days in advance, not hours. Here are things to do two weeks before riding:

  • Refill your prescription medications
  • Fill out a medical and prescription information card
  • Check your travel-sized personal hygiene items
  • Get motorcycle inspection documents in order
  • Finalize arrangements for caring for your home, pets, and plants

Now that medications, forms, and homecare arrangements have been made, here are some things to tackle one week out from your trip:

Make a list of everything you want to take:

  • Pack everything except your first day of riding gear
  • Make sure the gear fits on the motorcycle
  • Leave room to spare
  • Review the final list for anything missed

The ride is getting close. With just two days out, you should do the following:

  • Inspect your motorcycle
  • Pack the motorcycle
  • Prep your riding gear

With everything ready, you can sleep peacefully before your journey begins.

On the road

Now that you’ve started your trip well rested, it’s time to think about maintaining yourself while on the road:

  • Keep first-day mileage within reason: This allows your body to ease into the journey.
  • Know it’s a tour, not a marathon: Get to know yourself and the daily mileage that works best for you.
  • Take rest stops: Stop and walk around. This can reduce cramps and stiffness. Plus, exploring places is fun.
  • Eat a good breakfast every day: Include protein and fiber in your meal, avoiding empty carbs like donuts.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking water throughout the day is best.
  • Avoid heavy foods: Eat a light lunch or several small snacks during the day, as heavy foods make you sleepy.
  • Take a sunset break: Your circadian rhythms may make you feel sleepy as the light fades at sunset. This is a good time to get off the bike and move, walk, stretch, and get reinvigorated.
  • Know when to say when: Dinner can be your largest meal of the day. Enjoy but don’t overindulge, especially with alcohol.
  • Take a stroll: A good stroll after dinner helps ease any stiffness from the day in the saddle.
  • Review and look ahead: At the end of each day, review the day’s ride and adventures. Think about your plans and route for the next day—and don’t forget to check the forecast.
  • Schedule some sleep: The value of a good night’s sleep is often overlooked, so balance your schedule accordingly.

Sleep, eat, and ride—repeat as needed on the journey. Enjoy the adventure with great energy and good health.

Till next time, ride safe!

Related links

If you enjoyed this piece on long-distance riding tips, you might also enjoy other motorcycle safety tips we have featured in our Safety section.

And if you’re planning any long-distance trips, we have plenty of top motorcycle rides you might want to consider.

At Dairyland, we feel strongly about your safety and promote it through our Rider Training Course discount. Check it out.