How To Handle Motorcycle Problems On The Road

Jake Robison - August 17, 2021

It’s never fun to have a ride interrupted by problems with your bike, and that’s especially true during long road trips. If you’re far from home (and familiar shops), bike problems are inconvenient and, at times, expensive. However, there are steps riders can take to avoid many problems and deal with unavoidable ones.


Prepare for the Ride


It’s all too easy to assume everything is okay with your bike and just get on and go. That’s never a good idea, especially if you’re planning on covering a lot of miles. Before any ride, take the time to inspect your bike carefully. Never assume that frayed clutch cable won’t break. Look at tires to spot developing problems, and make sure the air pressure is where it’s supposed to be.


Take care of all recommended services before riding. If the oil needs to be changed, do it. Don’t take off on a ride without inspecting the air filter. If the battery is questionable, replace it before leaving. It’s easier to deal with minor mechanical problems before a trip than having to find a shop to make emergency repairs out on the road.


While the bike is in the shop, have the tech look it over to make sure everything is operating correctly. If it’s time for maintenance, take care of it before leaving. The tech can take care of inspecting and repairing leaking oil lines, spoke issues, clutch adjustments, and look for brake issues as well as needed model-specific maintenance.


Be Ready for the Weather


Riding conditions change quickly. Even if the weather is sunny and warm in the morning, the afternoon can bring rain, wind, and cold weather. Rather than being miserable, make sure you’ve got a rain suit and other gear to deal with evolving weather conditions.


Dehydration is also a problem, especially during hot, dry weather. Heatstroke is common, so carrying a water supply and drinking fluids often is a must to avoid problems. If you’re traveling through arid areas, consider using a hydration pack if you don’t want to be stopping frequently.


Don’t Leave Home Without a Plan


While it’s fun to think about hopping on the bike and just riding until you’re tired, that’s not a good idea. Plan your trip carefully before leaving. If you’re camping, identify available camping options well in advance. Even when campgrounds are there, some will require reservations, especially during busy seasons.


If you’re planning on staying in motels, it’s always a good idea to make reservations. While that takes some of the spontaneity of the trip away, it’s not fun to have the only motel for 50 miles full when you’re tired at the end of the day.


It’s also a good idea to carry snacks when riding. If accidents or roadwork slow your progress, having a quick snack available will make the delay easier to handle. Again, have enough water to make sure you’re not stuck somewhere with nothing to drink.


Carry Basic Tools and Parts


Riders can often make minor repairs on the road if they have the right tools. Even if the repair is temporary, it may make it possible to ride the bike to a repair shop for a proper repair. If your bike didn’t include a tool kit when it was purchased, find out which tools are considered “must-haves” for your bike.


Carrying a tire patch kit, basic light bulbs, and a few fuses may make all the difference. Rather than being stranded on the side of the road, having a few basic items will make it easier to get to the next town or repair shop.


Have Proper Insurance


Never ride without having appropriate insurance. Accidents happen quickly, and riders must have insurance to protect themselves, any passengers, and the bike itself. With the price of quality bikes going up all the time, riding without insurance puts your motorcycle investment at risk. If you’re involved in an accident that’s your fault, and you don’t have coverage, you will be held responsible for any repairs to another vehicle or injuries to others.


Remember that your bike can be damaged by the weather, stolen, or vandalized. That means it’s important to add sufficient insurance coverage to pay for repairing or replacing your bike after a covered event.


Know Your Warranty Coverage


At the same time, consider how much it costs to make a major repair to your bike. For example, a significant engine repair can cost several thousand dollars. The manufacturer’s warranty will take care of many problems, but it’s also a good idea to purchase an additional motorcycle warranty to protect your bike investment and minimize your costs once the manufacturer’s warranty expires.


Having a warranty makes it easy to avoid unplanned expenses while on the road. Since there are different coverage packages are available, bike owners can choose an option that fits their needs and budget. While some owners are comfortable handling their own repairs, others prefer to have an expert make those repairs.


Know Your Limitations


Bike owners are not all the same. Some have years of riding experience while others are new to the sport. Regardless of your experience, it’s always a good idea to know your limitations as a rider and your bike’s limits.


If your bike is new, or new to you, it’s always a good idea to become familiar with it prior to taking a road trip. Even experienced riders are encouraged to ride a new bike with caution, as it takes time to get used to the bike’s controls and handling characteristics.


Take the bike to a large parking lot to become familiar with the bike in a safe area that’s free of traffic. Get used to the way the clutch responds, the throttle works, and the brakes function. Try a few panic stops to see how the bike responds. Make a few sharp turns to see how the bike will corner in tight spots.


Each model of bike will respond differently. If you’re used to riding a Sportster, transitioning to a Street Glide will require a little time. The power curve, handling, and stopping characteristics will all be different and require some adjustments.


If you’re new to riding a bike, consider taking one of the available safety courses before heading out into traffic or taking a road trip. Even veteran riders can learn new tricks from the pros giving the classes. Enhancing your riding skills makes it far easier to avoid potential problems during a trip.


Riding Requires Concentration


Riding around town requires bikers to focus on everything happening around them. Heavy traffic always presents a number of threats, so avoid anything that takes your attention off the road. If you need to adjust your clothing or change GPS and radio settings, find a safe spot to stop. Don’t try to make changes while you’re in traffic.


Cruising on the highway also has a set of threats to be aware of. When riding long distances, the road becomes mesmerizing, and it’s easy to become complacent. It’s a good idea to stop frequently, get off the bike, and walk around. Have a drink of water, and maybe a quick snack, before getting back on the road. Do whatever it takes to maintain your concentration while riding. Once you lose focus, it’s easier to make a careless move or fail to notice another vehicle.


Check Your Bike Often When on the Road


Even when you check a bike carefully prior to leaving on a ride, scanning the tires, cables, and other components when stopped is always recommended. If a tire looks low, find out why. A slight leak can cause major problems with the tire. Don’t risk having a tire fail far from help. Check the lights frequently to make sure they still work properly. Other people on the road need to see you, and a burned-out headlight won’t be helpful.


If You’re Tired, Stop


Most riders try to ride a minimum number of miles during each leg of a trip. However, if you feel too tired, stop rather than trying to get in those last few miles. Stopping sooner than planned may require changing some plans, but that’s far simpler than recovering from an accident. If it’s dark or the weather is deteriorating, stop sooner rather than later to stay safe. You can make up the miles when the conditions improve.


Don’t Leave Home with a Bike That’s in Poor Condition


If a technician tells you it’s time for major repairs or a new bike, it’s probably a good idea to stay home until you have a reliable, safe bike to ride. There are many older bikes on the road that are in amazing condition, but bikes that need overhauls or major upgrades should not be out there.


Repairs, Maintenance, and Your Safety


To stay safe, avoid major problems on the road, and understand how to deal with those issues that still pop up, learn all you can about your bike. Every bike has a certain sound and feel, and riders generally learn to spot any anomalies during a ride. If the sound your bike’s engine makes changes during a ride, stop and evaluate the cause. Don’t keep riding if problems develop. For your safety, contact a shop and ask for advice from tech. Doing so can remove many threats and help to prevent major problems on the road.

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