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Motorcycle Trips - How Do You Prepare?

By Walter Kern

Before you go on a motorcycle trip, you need to determine if you have the right motorcycle, the right apparel, and the right physical conditioning to have a successful motorcycle trip. In addition, the bike must be in good mechanical condition. Further, you must determine what needs to be packed on the bike to make an enjoyable adventure. The kitchen sink is not required but often it seems to be the only thing left off. We discuss all aspects of getting ready to have a great motorcycle trip.

What's Your Motivation for Going?

A motorcycle trip is more than just a ride to the store for milk. A motorcycle trip is much longer. It might be 50 miles or 3000 miles or longer. It's a chance to go touring and see what's over the next hill.

You might be motivated by a chance remark by a friend to join them on a trip out West. You might read about a rally 300 miles away and want to go do some test rides.

You could be motivated to ride somewhere beyond your limits. Your experience may be lacking or your bike's too small. You shouldn't go. Only the strong survive.

You might be wanting to test yourself. That's not all bad, if you're prepared.

Prepare the Motorcycle

Touring can be done on any motorcycle but these days, most touring riders want a big bike. When I thought about riding out West with friends, I was riding a Nighthawk 750 and my wife was on a Shadow 600. We quickly decided we needed new bikes to tour on. We bought twin Honda PC-800s. You have to decide what bike is best for your trip.

Once you know what bike, you need to make it mechanically perfect. Either do-it-yourself or let your local mechanic go over it. Change the fluids, buy new tires and battery, and get a good set of tools.

Of course, some riders are adventurers. They just ride and pray a lot.

Prepare Yourself

To take a long trip you should wear good quality protective apparel and a helmet. A trip can be dangerous. You don't know what will happen. Be prepared.

Riding 500 mile days takes a toll on the body. Join a health club and work out. I worked out for six months before I went on my 6000 mile trip.

Plan your route. Get a GPS if possible. Pick a few places to stay and make reservations. That will give you a goal to get there and keep you on schedule.

If you're going with friends, agree that you may disagree on the trip. Also, expect that your plans will change en route.

Plan to stay in touch with home. People worry.

Packing for the Trip

Some people are minimalists. They take a credit card, a change of clothing, and a bedroll. Others need to pull a trailer to haul their stuff. Most of us fall somewhere in between.

No matter what your requirements are, you need a packing list to keep track of what you need to bring and where it will be stored on the bike. Not to fear, I've devised a motorcycle packing list. I've used it on every trip I've ever gone. See the link below.

You must also learn how to efficiently roll apparel into small shapes. Put items in sealed plastic bags if you expect rain. It always rains. Believe me, take a rain suit.

Consider Safety

We read about motorcycle accidents every day, some fatal. I spend a lot of time trying to tell riders to be safe while they ride. The fact is that most don't listen and think they are invincible, especially young riders. Do me a favor. Read my "10 Ways to Be Safe on a Motorcycle" just before your trip. Some of my readers hang them up in their garages right over their bikes.

Remember that you are invisible out there and ride accordingly. Wear a helmet and protective gear. Slow down at intersections and watch out for oncoming drivers trying to turn left in front of you.

Be Safe, please.

Consider What You Will Encounter on the Road

If you're used to riding to work over a well-known route, don't think that taking a long ride to a strange place over strange roads is going to be the same.

Our road system is a mine field of obstacles for motorcycles. You may encounter gravel in a blind turn, a hay wagon just as you crest a hill at 70 mph, or find yourself dodging mattresses that have just flown off a pickup truck ahead of you. Be alert and maintain space all around you to give you time to react.

Are you riding into the Plains states? Ever encountered a crosswind that leaned your bike over for 100 miles? You will.

Be prepared for anything.

Expect an Adventure

Taking a long trip on a motorcycle can be exhilarating. It will always be an adventure. It'll have its ups and downs but the worst day on a bike is better than the best day in a car, always.

When I toured 3000 miles in 2006, I wrote three blogs of my experiences. Some were embarrassing. Some involved injuries. I rode through lots of rain and got lost even with a GPS. I suffered from arthritis but made it through. My wife was in pain with a badly damaged knee (just successfully replaced). We rode with three separate groups of friends to three rallies. We had a blast.

Expect an adventure on your trip. You'll get it!

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