Top 10 Tips for Long Distance Motorcycle Rides
Millions of people around the world share a passion for motorcycling, and all do it for varied reasons. Whether they’re riding solo or with a group, getting out in the wind is an individual experience. Many bikers have traveled the country’s roads for years, and they’ll continue to do so for years into the future. These experienced riders have seen and dealt with it all—wet clothes, lost keys, and broken chains—and this list of tricks may help minimize some of these pitfalls.
If you’re considering a long-distance motorcycling trip, take a few tips from those who have gone before. By making a flexible plan, having the right fear, and doing some basic bike maintenance, you’ll be more likely to have a long, yet enjoyable ride.
Start Slow and Build Endurance
Planning a road trip isn’t just a matter of choosing the right motorcycle, climbing on, and heading out. Pushing it too far is an effortless way to burn out—and it can ruin an otherwise perfect journey. Begin with shorter rides, gradually building stamina over a few months. For those considering a trail ride, it’s best to practice in more rugged conditions. If you’re really out of shape, a regular gym routine will help build the muscular strength and endurance needed to make the longest ride more comfortable.
Pick the Right Ride for the Road
While most people opt for touring bikes, they’re far from the only option. Adventure, dual-sport, and full sport bikes are also popular among road-trippers. Touring bikes are ideal for cross-country endurance riding, while smaller and more nimble bikes are great for those who like to set a leisurely, flexible schedule. For instance:
- A 750cc bike may not have much horsepower, but it makes up for it in terms of fuel efficiency. 750cc bikes are great starter vehicles, and they’re perfect for shorter rides.
- An 1100cc engine is a fixture on today’s cruisers, and these bikes are known for their power and reliability. Higher-displacement bikes can hold cruising speeds for an extended period, making them ideal for long trips.
Whether you’re looking for a cruiser or an around-town bike, the team at the American Motorcycle Trading Co. is here to help. Click to see our current selection of used Harleys or call today for additional details.
Grab the Right Gear
After deciding where you’re going and how long it will take to get there, the next step is to load up on riding gear. Every destination is unique, which means a rider’s list of essentials will be different. Regardless of the weather at the starting point or destination, wearing the proper gear is crucial. While gloves, a leather jacket, riding pants, and a helmet may make for a sweaty day, they’ll keep you safer on the road.
Most riders have the requisite protective gear, but many forget about ear protection. While Harleys are known for their roaring engines, constant exposure to that level of noise may lead to permanent hearing damage. Along with engine noise, high-speed winds can also be a problem.
Though many assume that ear protection isn’t necessary while wearing a motorcycle helmet, wind and road vibrations can make hearing loss worse. If you’re on a budget but don’t want to skimp on protection, foam earplugs offer a viable, cost-effective option.
Take Only the Essentials
One of the hardest parts of preparing for a long ride is packing everything up. Unlike trips taken by car, there’s no trunk or back seat in which to put luggage, and an overloaded motorcycle is slower and more difficult to control. On a bike, even one with saddlebags, riders have limited space to work with—so it’s important to pack carefully.
When prepping for a road trip, pack the essentials: a couple of changes of clothes, a few non-perishable snacks, a basic first aid kit, a tool kit, and enough water to stay hydrated. If there’s still room after assembling the basics, it’s safe to add things that aren’t necessary, but nice to have.
Ensuring good physical health is just as, if not more, important than maintaining the motorcycle. Stay hydrated by taking frequent water breaks and eat a nutritious meal before hitting the road. Delay the ride if you’re feeling ill or are sleep deprived. A rider’s wellness will affect their experience, and riding while sick is a dangerous mistake.
Sit Up Straight
Think of the last chair you sat on, whether it was an office chair, a stool, or an easy chair. Which one was the most comfortable over time? Which was the easiest to get out of? While sitting on a stool is simple, it’s not very cozy. A recliner is relaxing, but it tends to make sudden reactions challenging. The right motorcycle seat (and posture) is supportive and allows a rider to react quickly.
On long trips, maintaining a neutral seating position keeps the muscles relaxed, yet ready for action. The bike’s handlebars should leave the hands midway between the shoulders and stomach, and the arms should be bent slightly. A too-high or too-low seating position puts undue stress on joints and muscles, which leads to pain and fatigue.
Prepare for Poor Weather
Another major step in getting ready for a long trip is to prepare for severe weather. For summer riders, the biggest threats are hailstorms and rain. Before hitting the road, check the local forecast, as well as that for the destination, and consider postponing the ride if the weather is poor.
While it’s crucial to get an updated forecast before leaving, it’s equally vital to be ready for sudden weather events while on the road. Packing a rain suit, even if it’s supposed to be hot and sunny, is a great idea. Additionally, it’s wise to map out a few potential rest areas along the route in case it’s necessary to pull over. Sheltering under a sturdy structure, even if it’s a highway overpass, is safer than pulling off the road and huddling under a poncho.
Expect the Unexpected
Most riders will, after a few longer rides, discover their limits. However, the road can be unpredictable, and it’s important to know what to do when situations arise. For instance, what would happen if you ran out of fuel or had a flat tire in the middle of nowhere? Unfortunately, bikers see—and are involved in—more than their share of accidents. Whether you’re the one in need, or you’ve stopped to render aid, it serves as a reminder to ride safe and obey the rules.
Keep Others in the Loop
Though Harley riders are in a unique position to enjoy the freedom of the open road, they still have some responsibilities. When planning a long ride, be sure to let someone know where you’re going and which route you’re taking. Instead of putting pins on a paper map, use one of several GPS tracking apps that allow loved ones to determine a device’s location. These applications are also great for group rides, so those who fall behind can easily catch up.
Get the Bike Road-Ready
Before starting out, have the bike inspected by a professional technician. A pre-trip checkup will reduce the risk of roadside breakdowns, whether it’s done in a shop or in the garage. Start by:
- Checking the oil and coolant level (for water-cooled engines)
- Filling up with fresh fuel
- Inspecting the fuel and air filters
- Ensuring proper tire pressure and tread depth
- Lubricating and adjusting the chain if necessary
- Calibrating the engine’s valves
- Replacing broken parts
- Checking the brakes
- Determining if the turn signals, lights, gauges, and horn work properly
When getting ready for a ride, pre-trip Harley maintenance is essential. It reduces roadway dangers, prevents expensive damage, and helps riders avoid the loss of travel time. If you need a skilled technician to examine a bike, a local Harley-Davidson service department will ensure that it runs smoothly and safely.
Enjoy the Road Ahead
After taking all the steps above, it’s finally time to hit the road and enjoy everything it has to offer. Although pre-trip planning, travel time, and rest stops are crucial considerations for bikers to make, it’s just as important to enjoy the ride. If the route includes sightseeing stops or tourist attractions, be sure to check them out, post lots of pictures and videos, and come home with a few souvenirs. Remember, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the memories made along the way.
Here at the American Motorcycle Trading Co., we’re here to support Harley riders and ensure that they have a safe, enjoyable purchase experience. Whether you’re planning a long trip for the first time or you’re an experienced long-distance rider, we have the inventory and advice needed for any buyer to make an informed decision.
Harley-Davidson is a name with a strong American heritage, and our used bikes keep that proud tradition. View our selection online or call today to learn more about the best touring and performance bikes on the market.