Long Distance Motorcycle Touring Tips

Just sharing some of the long distance motorcycle touring tips we have learned over the years. In 2002 we rode to Big Bend National Park. This was the first long ride for Janet and only my third. On my first two trips I was much younger and the only thing I planed was the date of the ride. This ride was much different because…

  1. We had to pack for two people.
  2. I didn’t want any surprises since this was Janet first and hopefully not last long ride.
  3. Last but not least, there are limited gas stations and they are few and far between in West Texas.
  4. The accommodations are also few and far between. During the busier times reservation should be made a year in advance. It is always a good idea reservations when traveling in remote areas.

We learned a lot on that ride and because planning made the ride go fairly smoothly I have been planning every ride down to the last detail. I always want to know where we will be and the distances in between. We are still learning better ways and methods and reading everything we can find about touring. Below are some of the things we have learned and hopefully they will be of good use to you and yours.

Planning

As we have gotten older we are learning we have limits and you should know yours as well. Don’t make your first long ride a week. Start out doing on weekend or long weekend trips. You will learn a lot from those trips and you can extend those beyond your comfort zone. Unfortunately we have made a few rides with too many miles and not enough days. Learn your limits. When riding with others don’t let a marathon rider push you beyond you comfort zone.

Long day rides will help you learn what mileage you can handle before fatigue sets in. Fatigue and concern about getting there before ____ (you fill in the blank) causes you to make bad decisions or react inappropriately to your riding situation. Ride as much as possible before a long trip to get you prepared physically and mentally for what is in store.

I’ve found you can never do too much research. I use various online route planners to come up with approximate mileages between via points. These planners can also show you where restaurants, motels and gas station are located. In places like West Texas it is a good idea to call ahead to verify they are still there and find out their hours of operation. You don’t want to get to Marathon, Texas after everything has closed!

Weather is another very important part of your trip. You can’t control it but you need to be prepared for it. When traveling long distances the weather at home can be completely different from where you are going. In Colorado for example the mountains can be really cold even in the summer and they can even get snow! I always check the weather averages and records for the dates of our trip at http://www.weather.com/ for several points along the way.

Always consider when to take the trip. Seasonal weather and tourism can make a trip a trip from hell. Traffic in some places can be a nightmare during some of these times. We try to avoid these times if at all possible.

Lodging can be a problem at times if your destination is small or remote. We always make reservations for these places. When we do, we call ahead to confirm reservations before leaving. Sleeping at a picnic area with your wife won’t be fun. It hasn’t happened to us but I have heard some horror stories.

If possible always ride with another rider. It’s always good to have someone with you just in case…

I always carry a map even though I use a GPS. Maps are handy when you need to make route changes. Maps are good to get the big picture. Sometimes GPS’ need a bit of guidance by specifying via points otherwise the GPS will take you the most direct route and that is not always the best or scenic. A GPS has become invaluable in the car and on my bike. Besides routing you to your destination they also provide other useful information like…

  1. What’s ahead? Glancing down at the GPS can show you there is a tight hairpin curve ahead or that a hard curve is ahead.
  2. The GPS can give you a good guestimate when you will arrive at your destination.
  3. The GPS informs you to the distance to your next turn and future turns.
  4. The GPS keeps track of how far you are way from your final destination.
  5. If you need gas, food or lodging it can show what is available and the distances to them.
  6. It can locate many other points of interest… Police, Hospitals etc…

I hope I have convinced you how useful they are. If you haven’t got a GPS you need to get one and learn everything you can about how to use it. One word of caution about using a GPS, keep the GPS maps up to date. Even with an up to date map they can lead you astray. Sometime the maps have errors. When riding in a city on freeways with multiple lanes with access roads they sometimes get confused because of their accuracy and think you are some place you are not. This can be distracting and confusing to you also… be careful… It’s a good idea to get familiar with your route ahead of time so if the GPS starts confusing you, you can read the signs (old school). Again take the time to learn how to use it. Not the day before you leave on your trip. If you don’t do this you will hate the GPS

and it will become a problem instead of a help.

The most important thing of all is, make a checklist of everything and check things off as they are done. You won’t regret making one but you will regret not making one… Trust me, been there done that.

Getting the Bike ready

Make sure your bike is ready for the trip. Do it yourself or have your dealer do it but do it. Make sure the tires, brakes, lights are in good condition and change the oil. Unexpected things are inevitable but you can be ahead of the curve if you do this.

If you are adding extras to your bike for the trip do so well in advance so you can take them on a shakedown run. Do this at least a week ahead. Surprises aren’t fun in some place like West Texas.

Bikes don’t have a spare tire so get a good plug kit, a can of Slime or Fix-A-Flat. There are also small air compressors that are made to carry on bikes. You won’t regret this… I know, been there done that…

If you pull a trailer all of the above applies to the trailer.

Packing Bike

We started out with the bare necessities when we started touring. We didn’t think we needed a lot but over time we have realized that good gear makes for good rides. Comfort, durability and functionality cannot be over looked.

You can make space by putting soft items in ziplock bags and compress them by sitting on the before closing the bag. Don’t laugh it works. Carry extra ziplock bags to keep things dry or keep something wet from getting everything else wet.

Don’t forget the camera and charger.

Your Maintenance

As I have gotten older I have found fatigue is my worst enemy. Plan you trip so you can eat and drink regularly. Carry water, fruit power bar, nuts, and dried fruit or granola bar. Beware of things that melt, they are messy. When you stop for gas replenish your supply.

Wind and heat are quick to take their toll on you. Fatigue will sneak up on you. Recently I purchased a cooling vest for those hot days. It worked amazingly well and I highly recommend using them. Stop often and hydrate. Mental and physical fatigue can affect you judgment. Last but not least don’t forget the sun block and use it often.

Don’t ride past your limits; know your limits they will keep you safe. Be aware of other people’s limits that are riding with you and respect them. Plan your trips with everyones limits in mind.

What If… Plan

Always plan for the unexpected. Carry a flashlight, first aid kit, tools and tire plug kit. You can never over plan a trip but you can certainly under plan it. Know the limits and range of your bike and don’t put yourself and others beyond their limits. Your precautions should increase with the remoteness of your route.

Don’t forget your cell phone and charger, license and insurance.

Some one back home should know of your plans and you should check in regularly.

I will update this post when I can so keep checking back.

Ride safe and have fun…

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16 responses to “Long Distance Motorcycle Touring Tips

  1. Rambler,
    Keep this up. I like to read other motorcyclist’s stories…

  2. Good piece. I’ve done a fair amount of this kind of riding. Two summers ago, with a riding companion, we traveled from Idaho down through S. Utah (Zion Park), on to Vegas, then down to San Diego. After taking care of some business in SD we headed North and spent the next two weeks on Highways 1 and 101, traveling as far north as Astoria, OR where we crossed the Columbia and headed back to Idaho. We mostly camped and we had an absolute blast. What a great ride.

    • Glad you like it. Riding is my passion and I learned a lot but I know there is much more to be learned. That sounded like a great ride. I love riding out west the best… It’s more panoramic verses the east where you seem to be riding in a canyon of trees most of the time. Views are few and far between. The east is beautiful in its own right but I just like the west the best.

      I’ve only been camping once on my bike and loved it and hope to do more once I get a trailer… It’s a wife thing… and since I like having the wife along… you get the picture.

      Have you posted anything about the ride you described? You have been to many places I want to go but haven’t yet.

      Thanks again…

  3. Nice! I also got a cooling vest – and I wear heat relief underwear to pull the heat off. Hope
    to ride Route 66 in a year or so!
    Kent

  4. We (wife and I) have ridden only the Illinois part of Rte 66, but had a great time. Preplan with the available maps since the original 66 appears and disapepars even in Illiois. Be sure to stop in the towns and check out the local Rte 66 museums etc..and especially the diners. We met several Brits, a German couple and just missed a group of riders from Scandanavia. In Illinois an interstate has replaced bits and pieces of Rte 66, but you can still see orignal bits running next to the frontage road.

    • Thanks Theron, Janet and I are hoping to do part or may be all of Route 66 soon. We have driven Route 66 from Oklahoma to California. When we do ride it we will plan it out and we want to stay in some of the old motels… namely the Tee-pee motel. Thanks again, Ivan

  5. Brian Norwood

    Thanks for this site Texas Rambler. I’m in Houston and hope to see you on the road sometime in the near future!

    • Texas Rambler

      Thanks Brian, it’s always nice to be appreciated. Texas is a big place and there are a lot of really great place to ride here. Let us know where your favorite place is to ride. Ride safe and we’ll see you down the road.

  6. Good read. thanks for pointing me here. I have most always ridden long distances. For about the last 4 years I have spent almost as much time planning the ride as actually completing it. Saves sitting on the side of the road looking at maps or making phone calls. (Yep been there and done that).
    I have learned the value of good planning and am always on the look out for tips.
    Doubt I will ever get to the U.S. to ride but a few of my mates have. They have said nothing but good things.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Good planning makes for good rides as you well know… We learn from our mistakes… Planning is almost as much fun as the ride because it builds anticipation and when the plan comes together everyone is happy and good memories are made.

      Ride safe…

  7. Thanks for pointing me towards this post. Ultimately my goal is to do a long distance trip. With the Holidays coming up and some time off I am planning a couple of day trips to start out with.

  8. I just wanted to thank you for your great tips and planning ideas. Im preparing to ride from dallas to Canada, via michigan. I would then come down twords the east coast back to texas. Your comments have given me a lot ideas and excited about the prospect. Be well, Gus from Texas

    • Thanks Gus, I’m glad you can use the info. I’m still learning new things.

      That ride sounds like a really good one. Traveling by motorcycle is the only way to travel as you already know. Ride safe and drop me a note when you get back and let us know how it went.

      Thanks again for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment…

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