Going on a motorcycle tour with overnight stays, long, high-mileage days, and the possibility of rain or bad weather conditions along the way will require a lot more forethought and planning than your average ride. Maintaining your motorcycle in top condition is of paramount importance. Consider the need for tire changes and maintenance before you go on your trip.
Additionally, deciding what items to pack, how you’ll carry them, and even where you will carry them will require careful planning. If you were taking a trip in the family car or van, you might make a list, but usually you can pack a bag and throw things in the trunk or back seat, without much thought to space. However, on a motorcycle, you’ll have limitations related to the size of the bike and the storage capabilities. Most touring bikes have saddlebags and tour packs with plenty of room for necessities and even some extras, but many motorcycles don’t have those options. Additional luggage can be carried by adding a luggage rack, touring pack or sissy bar to the bike, which will account for more storage possibilities. Small tank bags can be added to carry important papers and other small items. Handlebar mounts are available for electronics such as GPS, Cell Phones and iPods.
When planning your trip, the first thing you should do is to make a list that consists of all items you need to bring with you; then determine how it will all fit in the area available. Determine if you need to purchase additional luggage or accessories.
After you make your packing list, it’s a good idea to gather everything up and practice packing the bike. Once you do that you’ll know if everything will fit safely and securely in the available space. Always place the heavier items on the bottom and sides close to the bike. If you have saddle bags try to distribute the weight evenly on both sides. If everything doesn’t pack well on your dry run, it might be time to eliminate unnecessary items from your list. There are a few mandatory items that must be taken such as medicines, first aid supplies, clothing, credit cards, money, insurance papers, identification, tools, rain gear, cold weather gear, and a cell phone. The unnecessary items might include your laptop, flip flops, hats, etc. Using ziploc baggies a great way to carry small items and sundries. You can put all of your toiletries in one or two and all my chargers for electronic devices in another, making them easy to locate. Keep items that you will use frequently near the top of the bags.
- Roll your clothing; they will take less room in your luggage. Consider if laundry services may be available at hotels and campsites along the way. If so, you may be able to take less clothing, opting to do laundry in the evening.
- Minimize makeup and other sundry items, and take stuff you don’t mind getting messed up on the road.
- Take rain gear if there’s even any chance of rain; I can’t tell you how many sets of cheap rain gear I purchased on trips before I learned this important rule. The same goes for cold weather gear if you expect the temperatures to dip. Even 60 degree weather while traveling at high speeds can feel cold to someone not accustomed to it.
- Don’t forget clear goggles or visors, free of scratches. A windshield is also a good idea for long trips, even if you normally ride without one. It can cut down on fatigue and provide a barrier from bugs and other flying debris.
- Consider detachable accessories like windshields, tour packs and bags that can be removed and secured in the hotel at night.
- Consider saddlebag inserts. These are nice since they can easily be removed and carried into the hotel.
- Call your bank and let them know you will be traveling and using your credit card, so they won’t think it is suspicious activity and cut off your access to use.
- Make sure your insurance cards are up to date. Print new ones if necessary.
- Leave a day or two empty in the itinerary to compensate for unexpected delays like severe weather or break downs.
- If you plan to buy souvenirs and t-shirts along the way, you can save space by having the merchant ship them home.
- Prepare your route in advance, and take a map or GPS, or both. The map will come in handy if you can’t get a signal on your GPS or lose the charge.
- Research places and things y want to see, but also leave flexibility in your schedule to visit roadside attractions like the world’s largest ball of yarn or a motorcycle event that you might happen upon. Talk to te locals and discover the local cuisine by getting dining suggestions from them.
- Fill your gas tank every chance you get. There are some areas that may not have fuel available, and you’ll be glad you topped off the tank on your last stop.
- Take a bungee net and/or bungee cords, as well as a roll of duct tape. They can come in handy for securing items.
- Research the motorcycle helmet laws for each state or country you will be traveling through.
- Take two sets of keys, and give one to your riding partner if you have one, and if you don’t, pack a set in a secure place on the bike.
- Distribute cash/credit cards on your person and in lockable places on the bike, so it’s not all in one place if you lose your wallet.
- Let someone know your itinerary and check-in with them periodically.
- If you under pack, you can always buy it on the road. If you over pack, you can always dispose of it, or mail it home.
The journey should be as much fun as the destination, and touring provides an opportunity to travel long distances, see a lot of different things, and enjoy the freedom of riding. Once you’ve completed your planning process, and considered all the variables, you can relax and prepare for a safe, enjoyable trip.