Don't Leave Home Without 'Em
You've been planning this motorcycle trip for over a year. The route's
all settled, the bike's been serviced, and you think you're ready to go.
Are you sure you have everything you need? Are you and your bike prepared?
To make sure, break it down into three areas: Your bike, your gear, your
Motorcycles are more reliable than ever, and a cell phone and
AMA Roadside Assistance
can get you out of a lot of trouble without getting your hands dirty.
But it still makes sense to carry some basic tools and repair items with
Probably the thing most likely to immobilize your bike is a flat tire.
You can usually get to someplace that can do a permanent repair or replace
the tire just by carrying and using a simple plug kit and a means for inflating
your tire, such CO2 cartridges or a small pump, either powered by your bike
or by hand.
No tools are useful if you don't know how to use them. Practice your
repair techniques on an old tire at home - before you have to learn the hard
way by botching your last plug alongside the road.
To help avoid tire problems in the first place, an air pressure gauge
should be an ever-present part of your travel gear, and should be used frequently.
Like a tire repair kit, a flashlight and a spare fuse at night could
mean the difference between being blind and stranded on a dark road (and
maybe in danger of being hit by other traffic) or being back on your way
Know your bike and know what special tools it requires. Within reason,
carry along anything that a repair shop might not have.
Is there a weak spot on your machine? Carrying a spare electrical relay,
headlight bulb, fuel filter or whatever else is known to fail, due to vibration,
wear, or quirks of your particular machine, can save you a lot of wasted
time seeking spare parts on tour.
It really all comes down to knowing your machine and intelligently assessing
what you're most likely to need on tour to keep it happy, healthy, and humming
down the highway.
The first goal of your gear is to keep you safe. But you'll also be safer
if you're dry and warm and focused on your riding, instead of wet and shivering
and searching for a rest area with a hot-air hand dryer to thaw your frozen
The farther you travel, the wider the range of weather conditions you
may encounter. But even a short ride can put you through a 40-degree temperature swing.
Just ask anyone who's ridden to the peak of Mount Evans in Colorado or Mount
Washington in New Hampshire.
You need to be prepared for 45 degrees in the morning, 85 degrees in
the late afternoon, and the rain that will hit somewhere along the tour—all
without having a chase truck along to carry extra gear.
Instead of carrying different gear for every situation, consider versatile
pieces that work together. A jacket with adjustable vents and a removable
lining can cover a wide range of temperatures. In warm seasons, a mesh jacket
and a rain suit to wear over it (and shut off the ventilation) covers a
wide range with little bulk.
An extra pair or two of gloves takes up little space. But having dry
gloves to put on if the weather turns cold and wet is worth a lot.
Adding electrically heated gear greatly extends the riding temperatures
in cold weather, while taking up little packing space.
Anything that's even the most minor annoyance on a short ride will
really, really get on your nerves on a long tour.
Are your levers adjusted properly? When you rest your fingers on the
levers, the back of your hand should be in a straight line with your arm,
so your wrists aren't bent and putting pressure on your nerves.
If you're traveling a lot, is it time to spring for an aftermarket seat?
Several manufacturers will make one suited to your kind of riding. For other
riders, greater comfort is as simple as adding a sheepskin cover or a pad
to the existing seat.
If wind buffeting is bothering you, consider a different-size windshield.
There are also add-on lips you can get to extend your existing shield. Remember
that a little buffeting that is barely annoying on your 20-mile commute
will have you ready to rip off your windshield and chew it up in anger after
four 500-mile days on the road.
Don't forget things like a tinted faceshield for your helmet or sunglasses,
earplugs, a bottle of water, aspirin, sunblock, etc. These things can greatly
improve your comfort when you need them.
Make your own list
Armed with these guidelines, make a list of the things you think you'll
need on your tour. Then, revise it after each trip. Cross off things you
didn't need and add things you needed but didn't have with you.
To get started,
use our list, which is based on input from some experienced road riders.
Then get out there and enjoy the ride.