Taking your motorcycle out on a nice, long road trip is something that many riders look forward to. Cruising down open roads and through scenic areas. Experiencing new places on two wheels. The freedom of a road trip can be exhilarating.
But if you’re not properly prepared, that enjoyment can be greatly limited. Motorcycle enthusiast Bryan Glynn shares his tips on basic safety inspections, packing the right gear and safe riding practices to help make the most out of your next road trip.
Hey guys, Bryan Glynn here with TwoWheelObsession.
Today I’m going to go over my top tips and tricks for taking a motorcycle trip.
First and foremost we need to think about safety. To me, that starts with tires. Now this one here, this might be good enough for riding around town for a few hundred more miles, but check out your wear bars. I’ve got about a sixteenth of an inch left on this one here. I live in Florida, so very flat roads that’s why this center always flattens out and wears way before the edges which look practically brand new.
This tire has plenty of meat down the center and sides and is ready to go absolutely anywhere I want to. If your tire is nearing the end of its life anywhere along its tread, replace it before going on a trip.
Check out your brakes. If you haven’t done a brake job in a while, look at the depth of your pads — make sure they’re in spec. How up-to-date are you on your oil changes?
There are a ton of cool apps out there to really help you keep track of all the maintenance on your bike. If it’s been a while since you’ve done an oil change, you want to make sure that you’ve got enough life in it to last your trip. If you need to do an oil change, do it about a week before you leave.
Likewise, make sure your drive is all set. If you’ve got a chain, make sure it’s got enough life in it and is in good, lubed condition. If you have a final drive system, make sure that you’ve got enough life left in its oil just like your engine oil.
If your battery is more than five years old, consider replacing it. If you keep yours in storage maybe part of the year, make sure you use a good maintenance device so you’re sure your battery is not going to quit on you while you’re on the trip.
Go over all your lights — your signals and your headlights, front and rear — to make sure everything’s working.
My number one rule of packing is don’t take too much. Now, you’re probably going to make mistakes your first trip — don’t worry about it — but don’t overthink things. A lot of times you think you’re going to use things that you actually won’t. Go for convenience, lightweight and small space.
Obviously, the type of bike you take on a trip is going to have a great impact on your enjoyability of it. Is a “bobber” the best choice for a long distance trip? Probably not. For the success of a long trip, comfort is key. I love sport touring bikes but large cruisers, even trikes, Spiders…anything that’s going to make you really comfortable for hours at a time is a better choice for a long trip.
The next thing you have to consider is storage space on the bike of your choice. Now, you might have saddlebags. Another popular option is a tank bag or a bag that goes and straps on top of your rear seat. I happen to prefer a hard case trunk. The main reason for this, to me, is security.
Frankly, two seconds with a knife and anything in your tank bag or a bag strapped to the back is gone. That’s just the way it is. With a locking, hardtop case, I don’t have to worry about that. I can put a lot of stuff in it. True, anybody can pop it open with a crowbar, but the chances of that are a lot less likely than somebody just going through a parking lot.
I’ve got a nice light installed. It works beautifully at night. It’s convenient and anytime I do want to take it with me — say into the hotel room — it just pops off and walks with me.
Here’s a good money saving tip: You might have some gear that you use that’s rather expensive, like specific long-distance underwear. Instead of buying multiple copies because they can pay 60, 80, 100 bucks a piece, get yourself a little Ziploc bag or even double bag it and put some detergent in it. Wash it in the sink every night as you stop at your motel.
You always want to have some basic emergency supplies with you. It doesn’t matter if you carry this stuff on your bike itself, in your side cases, in your trunk…just as long as you have it.
A basic first aid kit. You can make them up yourself like I did here for easier storage, or get one pre-made in the automotive or camping sections of your favorite superstore. A bungee cord or two comes in real handy. A tire plug kit — absolutely essential.
And along with that, of course, a tire inflator. You want to make sure that this is going to be able to be powered on the bike of your choice. I have a separate 12-volt charger here that plugs into the little tender receptacle, so I don’t pop any fuses on the bike.
A multi-tool brand of your choice. And either your OEM stock toolkit or make one up yourself — enough to do basic repairs, get fairings off, adjust controls, tighten up external bolts…all the normal stuff.
And insurance cards. Mine is covered up for obvious reasons, but make sure you have your current, valid insurance cards and all the information you need in case anything happens — to call roadside or make a claim on the road.
Something that’s of course optional but very handy is a GPS app or dedicated device. The important thing is to get one that’s offline. You don’t want to have to depend on cell coverage to get your maps because, frankly, there are a lot of areas with really good motorcycle roads with really poor cell reception. You want to bank on the fact that you’re not going to have cell phone coverage And you want to make sure you can get to where you’re going. Either carry paper maps or an offline GPS app. Most of them are online only so make sure that you’re getting the right one/ If it’s a huge install, it’s usually an offline.
And if you’re ever unsure about the condition or doing any of the work yourself on your bikes, definitely take it into a qualified mechanic to do it for you.
Now, let’s talk gear. I’m not going to preach at anybody about what you should or shouldn’t be wearing in a lot of states it’s simply up to personal preference. I choose to wear head-to-toe gear even here in Florida where it’s as hot as it gets, but I wear the right stuff so that I’m still comfortable — I don’t sweat in summer.
But there are two pieces of gear that are simply not optional, in my opinion, to bring on a long trip. First and foremost: earplugs. Long trips usually mean some long stretches of freeway riding and the wind noise alone is more than enough to not only be very uncomfortable after amount of time, but damage your hearing. Protect your hearing people — it’s no joke.
The second thing is rain gear. You don’t have to go crazy. I choose to use basically a disposable set that cost me less than 45 bucks from an online retailer. It’s not going to last forever but it is one-tenth the cost of a good ring gear set.
You never know what kind of whether you’re going to run into and being wet and cold immediately takes a toll on your body while you’re out riding and that is not something you want to happen.
When you’re out on the road, check some things out as far as the handling of your bike. If you notice you’re sluggishly turning; if you’re noticing the rear end feels a little weird; make sure your tire pressure is good. There are gas stations virtually everywhere.
If you’ve got your little self-contained compressor, kick that out. Whatever you have to do to make sure your tires are where they need to be. Either go by the book spec or if you’ve got tires that didn’t come with the bike, whatever is appropriate for them.
Now, the one thing you can be sure of is whenever something goes wrong, it’s going to be a time when you didn’t expect it. Here’s what I suggest you do: do a dry run for problems. Find someplace secluded where nobody’s going to bother you. And, oh man, my tire just went flat. What the heck? What do I do now?
Well, figure it out. Get off your bike. Get out your patch kit. Get out your compressor. Figure out how would you fix this in the middle of nowhere, where you don’t even have cell coverage. You have to do this yourself or start hiking. Go through different scenarios and fix them now before you leave.
So there you go. Those are some of my top tips and tricks that I’ve learned through experience taking my rides on long trips. Hope this helps somebody. If you’d like to see more of my videos, definitely subscribe to TwoWheelObsession and we’ll see you next time.