33 Secrets For Smart Touring
There’s nothing like the feeling of loading up and heading out on a big
And there’s nothing like the security of knowing you’re prepared for
life on the road.
It can take years to develop that knowledge through trial and error. So we’ve devised a shortcut. We’ve asked AMA staff members to share with you
the experience they’ve accumulated over decades on the road.
What you’ll find here isn’t a comprehensive collection of touring knowledge.
Instead, here are 33 insider tips—useful suggestions that have made our
tours more organized and more fun. We guarantee you’ll learn something.
- Eat at weird times. Everyone and their dog eats around 8 a.m.,
noon and 6 p.m. To get in and out of restaurants in a hurry, don’t be hungry
- A short metal cable with loops on both ends (like those made
to keep people from stealing bicycle seats) is perfect for securing a jacket
and helmet to your bike’s helmet lock.
- Carry a spare key. Hide it somewhere on your bike with a zip-tie or duct tape, or better yet, trade spare keys with a traveling companion.
- Portable weather radios are now in the $20 range, and the first
time one saves you from running right into a massive storm, you’ll wonder
why you ever traveled without one. Find one at accessory companies like Aerostich
or Radio Shack.
- On high-mileage days, you’ll feel a lot better if you carry
eyedrops and use them every time you stop for gas.
- If you’re nearing the end of your riding day and want to set
yourself up for a quick getaway in the morning, consider riding to the far
side of the next city you reach before you stop for the night, eliminating
urban traffic the next morning.
- Take a tip from off-road riders: carry a backpack hydration
system so you can drink while you ride. A must for arid weather.
- Going on a long, complex trip? Keep yourself organized with
the envelope system. Before you leave, prepare one envelope for each day
on the road. Mark the dates and locations on the outside, then stuff things
like hotel reservation info and lists of things to see inside. Instead of
juggling your entire stack of literature to find the information you need, you
can just open up that day’s envelope.
- A simple map case attached to your bike’s tank (we’ve used
a Rev-Pak version that has been available through
for years) can keep you on course without the bulk of a tankbag.
- Keep your stuff dry in saddlebags by using trash compactor
bags as waterproof barriers. They’re thicker and more durable than standard
- Use earplugs to help reduce wind noise. You can get them from
most mail-order shops or dealers, or in bulk from safety-equipment supply
- Don’t forget that pack-and-ship places are just about everywhere
these days. They’re perfect when you spot that antique umbrella stand you’re
dying to buy hundreds of miles from home.
- Don’t forget a small towel or rag for wiping dew off seats,
windshields and mirrors, and even for doing a quick whole-bike cleanup. Synthetic chamois cloths work particularly well.
- Pack extra bungees and zip-ties. ’Nuff said.
- Go ahead, buy that GPS you’ve always wanted. They’re perfect
not only for finding yourself, but also for allowing you the freedom to
get lost in the first place.
- You’ve heard it a million times, but we’ll say it again: look
over your bike carefully every morning on the road. Checking the simple
stuff—air pressure, oil level, loose or missing fasteners—can save you from
- Sign up for AMA Roadside Assistance.
To sign up, call the AMA at: (614) 856-1900.
- Stash a little hidden cash somewhere on the bike or on you,
so you can make something happen when all else fails.
- Before you take off from the hotel or campground in the morning,
double check every strap on tankbags or soft saddlebags, and every latch
on hard luggage.
- Wear a dog-tag with your
name and contact info, especially if you’re riding alone. You can get them lots of places, including your local
army surplus store.
- Take a look back at where you were parked every time you leave
someplace. You’d be amazed at what you find.
- A cellphone can be a lifesaver in an emergency. You can dial
911 for help anywhere you find cell service, but you’ll need to tell a dispatcher
where you are. Keep track of route numbers, interstate exits, towns you’ve
passed, mileposts—anything that can save emergency officials time in getting
- Good motorcycle gear really is worth it. Waterproof, breathable
linings in boots and jackets will transform the way you think about bad
weather. A number of companies offer materials that work well, but always
test your gear on a rainy day at home before facing a storm on the road.
- Do routine maintenance at home with your bike’s toolkit, so
you’re sure you have what you need along the side of the road.
- On a long tour, plan for at least one day every week of doing
nothing. Time is the ultimate luxury, and can mean the difference between
a vacation and an endurance run.
- Be realistic with your daily mileage. In really scenic areas,
150 miles may make a very full day. Don’t assume you can achieve freeway
mileage on good back roads.
- Guidebooks can be invaluable, but these days, an internet search can add spice to your trip by revealing special-interest locations
most books fail to include. One of the sites we’ve used is
World’s largest concrete bison, anyone?
- It is possible to use a kit to make emergency repairs on tubeless
or tube-type tires alongside the road. But before you count on this as your
safety net, practice using the kit on an old tire in your garage.
- A packable motorcycle cover not only keeps your bike clean
and dry overnight, it also discourages thieves. And don’t forget a stout
lock of some kind for the bike itself.
- If you can afford it and are short of time, you could always ship your
bike somewhere cool and ride it back. Call the Federal Companies at
(800) 747-4100, ext. 217 or 218, for details.
- If you
call a hotel--even if you're two blocks away--you can often get a
better rate than if you just walk in. And if you have access to a
computer, there are some spectacular Internet-only deals available
these days. Either way, do yourself a favor and have a reservation by 4
p.m. You never know when a convention will take over your destination
city. Remember that AMA members get a discount at several hotel chains
including Choice Hotels (call 800-258-2847 or go to www.choicehotels.com, click on “Enter Special Rate ID” and use discount code 00947556) and Motel 6
(call 800-4-MOTEL6 or go to www.motel6.com and use discount code CP540176).
- A nap can do wonders on a long day.
- If you’re traveling east or west, schedule your breakfast
or dinner times near sunrise or sunset so you don’t have to stare into the
sun when it’s low on the horizon.