Preparing For A Motorcycle Tour

This article discusses hints for a successful motorcycle tour.

There's nothing like traveling by motorcycle. Scenery isn't merely a pretty picture when you're on your motorcycle - it's something that moves through you, playing against all your senses. Self-contained and economical, a bike set up for a long haul is a work of art with every inch utilized to its fullest potential. At no time in history could man travel so far and so well apart from the pack.

This article will discuss hints for a successful motorcycle tour. Whether you decide to tour alone or with others, through the heat of the desert or winding through lush mountains, the most important element to any good motorcycle tour is yourself. Be prepared for the unexpected and willing to adapt to circumstances; get to know the land and its people; and above all, be smart, take the right precautions and know your limits and the limits of your machine.

Before you even consider a tour, take a long look at your motorcycle. Inspect its tires, hoses and fluids and change anything that doesn't look right. Replace any bulbs that look bad and make sure all your electrical connections are tight and guarded against moisture. If your machine is decked out in trick accessories that don't quite work right - a tiny bar-end mirror, for example - now would be a good time to swap back to original equipment or upgrade to touring units.

You can tour on any motorcycle, but amenities like saddlebags and a windshield will be appreciated as the miles and hours roll on, and revvy or high-strung bikes make poor touring choices. In the end evaluate your machine against the kind of tour you're planning and be realistic: Two hours on your Yamaha R1 may not kill you, but can you honestly see yourself spending 10 hours in the bike's saddle in the middle of a rain shower?

Take a medium-length ride on your machine and make a truthful appraisal of its strengths and weaknesses. If you schedule your tour far enough in advance you can outfit your bike so kit will be more comfortable on a tour. Aftermarket shields, soft saddlebags and even touring seats are available for most bikes, and you will be thankful for a little extra cushioning after a day or two on your stock seat.

Deciding what to bring with you will largely depend on what sort of bike you own and how much carrying capacity you have. Be sure to wear the proper gear - including a good helmet with a clear visor, one or two pairs of gloves depending on the season, a riding jacket and pants, rain gear, water-proofed boots and ear plugs - and have all the maps you will need for the trip. You don't need to have every inch of your trip mapped out, but it's a good idea to have labeled areas where you can get your bike serviced, if it becomes necessary.

Cell phones are also a very good idea and if you own one, bring it with you. If you don't, consider buying one. It's better to have a cell phone and not need it than to need one and not have it.

Get a complete first aid kit, tire repair kit and tool kit. Make sure you have every tool you would need to fix a broken chain, punctured tire, or to tighten loose bolts. Pack an extra length of fuel line, an extra spark plug, some rags, zip ties or bailing wire, a flashlight, and a roll of electrical tape. These are priority items, and you really shouldn't tour without good riding gear and emergency kit.

The amount of clothes you decide to bring will depend on the length of your tour and your available room. Your main concern should be safety and comfort, not appearance. Clothes should be packed in oversized zip-lock bags to ensure they don't get wet, but it's also a good idea to waterproof your soft saddlebags if they're not already prepared.

Bike shorts provide padding and should be worn in place of underwear. As with winter sports, it's better to layer your clothes and important to provide material that wick away the moisture as your base layer. The best base-layer clothing will be breathable material that wicks away moisture to help you avoid both hypothermia and dehydration.

Wear rugged jeans, especially if you don't have riding pants, and make sure to bring long-sleeved sweatshirts in addition to T-shirts. Wool socks are a good choice, but be sure that you're comfortable in whatever you decide to wear on your feet and always pack more socks than you think you will need.

Always carry water on a motorcycle tour. Deciding whether to pack food largely depends on your riding style and preference - would you rather eat many snacks on the side of the road or while refueling or eat meals at local restaurants? - but stay away from heavy foods that may make you groggy or caffeinated beverages that may make you jittery.

Never overload your bike. Every motorcycle has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating proved by the manufacturer. This weight does not include the weight of your machine, your riding load, or your body weight. It is normally not necessary to weigh your load before getting ready for a bike tour - most motorcyclists run out of room long before they meet their bike's Gross Vehicle Weight Rating - but if you're carrying heavy, dense objects it may be a good idea to make sure you're not exceeding your machine's capabilities.

Pack your load as near to the center of your bike as possible. Keep weight low and level and distribute it evenly on both sides of the bike. When packing your bike keep in mind which items you will need to get to on a regular basis, and which can be stowed away. Heavier items should, in theory, be positioned near the bottom of your pack.

Use a cargo net and / or bungee even on soft luggage and always have a backup strap or cord in case the first fails. Avoid putting sleeping bags over soft luggage, as they will be the first piece of kit to get wet, and be careful that nothing hangs down into the wheels or exhaust. Sit down on the bike after it's under load to be sure that nothing becomes slack and your gear is secure.

Be sure to take your loaded bike out before the day of your tour. Get used to how it handles with the additional weight. Stop to check that your straps haven't gone slack and make sure you're comfortable with your machine. It is easier to remove something from your pack now than it will be when you're on day three of your tour and 1,800 miles from home.

Here are some hints on touring, when you're finally on the road:

1) Stay hydrated

2) Don't try to substitute stimulants for sleep

3) Know your limits and the limits of your machine

4) Eat smaller meals that won't slow you down

5) Be willing to change your plans in the event of bad weather

6) Take your time to get to know the land you're traveling in, but go fast enough to see as much as you can.

Motorcycle touring will bring you closer to the world and illustrate your self-sufientcy, but be cautious and use common sense.

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