A Beginner’s Guide to a Motorcycle Road Trip

Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD

Even if you’ve been on a hundred car road trips in your life you should realize that a long road trip on a motorcycle is much more demanding. You’ll get a lot more out of it and a motorcycle road trip gives you a much better sense of freedom than any car road trip could offer you, but there are a number of planning considerations you must take into account before heading out onto the open road for the long haul.

First Steps

How long will you be going for? Where are you heading to? Where will you sleep? These are the main questions that shape your experience.

Of course, you’ll want to pack a complete safety and repair kit. Unless you’re riding a fully-fledged tourer, you’re quickly going to find yourself running out of storage space. Extra storage items are not optional, even if you plan to be checking into five star hotels every night. You’ll need saddlebags or panniers, and optionally tank bags that sit on the fuel tank. You’ve got options between hard bags which are sturdier and protect items inside from the elements, and soft bags that are lighter, cheaper, and easier to fix to your bike.

Perform Full Maintenance on Your Bike

You know your bike better than anyone, but if you’re heading out for a long trip it’s best to ensure your ride is in 100% top condition. Things to check over are the tires, controls, lights, oils and fluids, chassis, and stands. Consider putting your bike into a motorcycle repair specialist for a full service in the week before setting off.

Perfect Packing

Long distance motorcycle trips require you to set the perfect balance between bringing all items that will ensure your safety and comfort and bogging down your ride with useless items that will increase the weight of the bike, causing you increased fatigue. Once you’ve planned where you’re going, consider the type of weather you’re going to face and pack accordingly. Leave out anything you’ll rarely or never use.

Your first long distance trip might cost you more in gear than you’d expect, but it’s well worth throwing down money for a good full touring suit. Consider it an investment, as you’ll be using it time and again. Pack multiple layers of clothes – flexibility is the name of the game and it’s easy to add or shed a layer when the weather changes when you’ve chosen a number of layers. You’ll need waterproof boots, too, there’s nothing worse than having to ride all day with soggy socks.

Take some energy bars with you just in case you’re out on the road for longer than you expected.

When you’re packing everything on your bike, start with the heaviest items at the bottom. This will help keep you stable. Use bungee nets to secure any loose items, though with good tank bags and saddlebags you shouldn’t even need these. Take a few extra just in case.

Most importantly, you need good safety gear. A full-face helmet is almost a must for safety and comfort. Choose one with ventilation for when the sun comes out.

Plan Your Trip

It’s tempting to just jump on your bike and see where the fancy takes you, but remember that you’re quite vulnerable on a motorcycle and need to be sensible. Some bikes will struggle to make it across some of America’s less densely populated highways due to reduced cruising range, so you need to be mindful of what you are doing and where you are going or risk getting stranded.

Pace your travels, too. The journey is what you’re there for, not the destination. Travelling too many hours in a day can result in injury or sloppiness, so take it relatively easy, especially on your first trip out. Stop whenever you feel the urge to – for a nap, for a meal, or just for a stretch. You’ll find that taking a break every once in while will keep you sharp and you’ll enjoy the ride even more.

Enjoy It

After all of this talk of safety and planning, we’d like to also say it’s your trip and yours alone. As long as you keep a certain amount of discipline you have the freedom to make changes to your plans as you go along. Being open to changes can lead to adventures you never dreamed of, and will result in a life-long love of long distance motorcycle riding.