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Touring Essentials:
Don't Leave Home Without 'Em


TouringYou'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 comfort.

Your bike

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 you.

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 quickly.

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.

Your gear

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 digits.

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.

Your comfort

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.