I don’t know what it is, but there’s something special about a long distance motorcycle trip. Maybe it’s the excitement of getting to spend a good chunk of time exploring somewhere new. Or, maybe it’s the prospect of getting to spend a lot of time on a motorcycle. Whatever it is, I’ve taken many long distance motorcycle trips now, and one thing I definitely know is that I get just as excited now, as I did the first time.
Of course, planning for a long motorcycle trip takes a little more thinking ahead than a simple road trip or vacation by car might take. Why? It boils down to one simple reason: motorcycles have far less storage options.
Yes, if you have the latest Honda GoldWing Touring motorcycle with a trailer, you’re going to have to cut back a little less than the guy touring the country on a 250cc dirt bike. But, the planning tips below still work no matter what your ride.
And, if you’re anything like me, at the end of the trip you’ll walk away thinking about how much “stuff” you really don’t need to have a good time. The amount will probably surprise you. Hint: It’s far, far less than you expect. The Basics Needed for Long Trips
Let’s talk about the basics, first. The things that you need to do before you even start thinking about a long trip on your bike. Don’t worry – there are only three things, and they’re pretty easy.
Getting wet sucks. Being cold sucks. And if you take a long enough trip, you’ll most likely encounter situations where you’ll be both wet and cold. Not only does being wet and cold really suck, it’s also unsafe. It’s hard to concentrate on the road when you’re soaked through to your undies. A riding suit helps with this. Get it now. Don’t think about it, go down to your local dealer and pick one up today.
If I only had the choice to bring one thing other than my wallet, a good quality motorcycle riding suit is what I would bring.
I’m not talking about those full leather suits. I’m just talking about a good full suit that you can slip over your clothes when the weather starts getting less than ideal.
Backpacks won’t cut it. They’re great for students going to class, or maybe taking a ride down to the park for a picnic, but they make really bad long distance travel partners.
You know that attractive person you dated in high school? The one that was really great to look at, but after you spent some time with them you found out that they were dumber than dirt, their voice annoyed the snot out of you, and frankly they weren’t that attractive in the first place?
That’s what a backpack is to a motorcyclist. They look great at first (hey! I can carry all of my stuff on my back!), but turns into a shoulder pinching, posture ruining, loud wind-flapping-ear-drum-popper at speed back attachment you wish you’d never brought.
When I first started touring, the first thing I bought was a $50 luggage rack for my motorcycle. I still own it and consider it one of the single best accessories I purchased for my bike.
Use your best judgment here, but in general if anything mechanically is “bugging” me about my bike – I’ll take it into the shop for a quick tune-up before a long trip. If I don’t have any worries, than I just do a general checkup (Tires, Oil, Lights, Brake Fluids, etc.).
I’d rather waste a couple of hours taking it to a shop beforehand, versus wasting the 2-3 days when I’m out touring and having a break down.
Long motorcycle trips are an exercise in doing without. After you do a couple of trips, you’ll begin to find that “less is more” is actually true – and quite empowering.
This leads to some long motorcycle trip packing tips:
For every item on that list, ask yourself if you didn’t take it, and found that you did need it, could you easily buy a replacement on the road without breaking the bank. If yes, remove it from the list.
Every trip you take, mark off the things you don’t use and don’t bring it on your next one trip.
If you keep doing these two things, pretty soon you’ll have a lean, mean list.Bring paracord (or if you don’t have any, some bungee cords)
Bring paracord and learn to tie the single knot every motorcyclist should learn: the truckers hitch knot. Why paracord versus bungee cords? It’s more versatile and takes up less space.
Why bungee cords or paracord in the first place? On long trips one of two things always seems to happen to me:
You’re a motorcyclist. You’re taking a long trip exposed to the elements, with a much higher level of risk than the average driver. Don’t worry about looking good and having a perfect outfit for every possible scenario. Do worry about bringing things that you can layer, especially for those longer trips.
Our early fall Colorado Motorcycle Tours are a perfect example of why layering is critical – in a single day you can go from 80 degree, sunny weather, to 30 degree and snowing weather.
Really, don’t. I have to get on my soap box a bit here, we live in a very consumer oriented world – we can’t live without our gadgets, and that is sad.
Get out there, explore, and don’t worry about taking a crap load of stuff with you. You may have more fun than you’ve ever had – or at the very least create some really great memories. Aren’t creating memories really the reason we travel in the first place?
Yes, that means stop reading this article as well. Look there is a ton of information out there, and it all sucks, or it’s all good depending on your experience. See that last word there? “Experience.”
You can read, plan, and debate the merits of this packing method versus that but it’ll never be better than building up good old fashioned experience by doing.
Have fun, ride smart, and most of all ride safe.