Planning a Long Distance Motorcycle Trip

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Planning a Lost Distance Motorcycle Trip

A few years ago, a good friend of mine got it into his head that we’d use our upcoming Chinese New Year vacation to rent motorbikes and travel the length of Vietnam. I think he got the idea from watching Top Gear.

At the time, I was put in a position of very mixed feelings. On the one hand, taking a motorcycle trip across a country is an item on my bucket list that I’d sorely like to check off. On the other hand, my experience on the back of bikes includes three things:

  1. Riding bitch behind said friend around the streets of Nanjing on our way to totally heterosexual man-dates;
  2. Doubling with Nomadic American on the back of a local guy’s bike at 5am in Shanghai after four hours of trying to find a taxi;
  3. One uneventful but slightly wobbly day spent riding around El Nido in the Philippines.

So, while I was excited by the idea, I hadn’t the faintest idea of how to prepare for such a monumental undertaking. Had I had this helpful article from my from Jane at the time, I might have been less daunted.

Planning your own motorcycle trip? Here are a few handy things to consider before hitting the road.

What You Should Know About Planning a Long Distance Motorcycle Trip

Who says that a road trip has to be done on four wheels? If you’re planning to get away on your own or with a group of friends and you know how to ride a bike, why not take the trip on a motorcycle? Weather permitting, this can be a great way to experience the country.

Editor’s Note: My ex-girlfriend’s father and his best friend used to take regular long distance motorcycle trips, and I was always envious of the freedom this allowed them. With only their own whims to answer to, they’d stop wherever and whenever they liked. My own father has recently fallen back in love with the open road, and I’m itching to get my own motorcycle license so we can do a long overdue father-son trip together.

If you’ve never traveled long distance before however, there are some things you’re going to want to keep in mind to make sure that your trip is all it’s meant to be.

Here are a few basic tips on what you’ll need for the ride:

Choose the Right Set of Wheels

When traveling long distance over various types of roads and terrains you want to make sure that you have the right type of bike to get you where you’re going. At the top of the list I’d simply suggested you consider which bike is best suited for you. You’re going to be traveling for long periods of time and comfort along with reliability are essential.

If your bike is in pretty good shape then there’s no issue with taking your own. However, if your bike is a bit worn down, you may want to either invest in a new one or consider renting one for the trip. If you’re investing in a new one, be sure to review the terms of your motorcycle loan. Most motorcycle loan providers also offer extended warranties that provide additional coverage while you’re traveling.

One of my Dad's two bikes. Someday he might even let me ride one of them.
One of my Dad’s two bikes. Someday he might even let me ride one of them.

Get the Bike Serviced

Whether you’ve just recently purchased the bike or you’ve had it for a while you want to make sure that it is reliable for a long distance trip. Have your motorcycle mechanic check out everything. Getting a quick tune-up is a small investment – and beneficial. It ensures that you don’t end up on the side of the highway waiting for a tow truck to haul you in.

Know What to Wear

One of the “downsides” of taking a road trip on a bike is that your body is completely exposed to the elements. This means you’ll want to dress the part as you travel. There is nothing worse than being wet or cold while trying to get to your next destination. There are plenty of options you could consider including dressing in layers, or investing in a waterproof riding suit which will keep you warm and dry.

Also consider local laws in this regard. Some countries (such as Australia) have much stricter laws when it comes to appropriate motorcycle attire.

 

What not to wear when on the road. Photo by James Hogg.
What not to wear when on the road. Photo by James Hogg.

Pack Light

Once you’ve done all of the above, all that’s really left to do is pack. You’re going to want to make sure that you have road trip essentials like a great soundtrack to listen to and some snacks for your pit stops. However, as you’re packing remember the lighter the better. Having too many things on your bike will simply weigh you down. Try packing only what is necessary and dressing in layers. You can always find a local laundromat and wash out clothing or underwear if necessary.

Invest in Luggage Racks

You’re going to need somewhere to keep all of your personal belongings. If they’re not going to all fit into a backpack, then you’ll need to consider investing in attachments for your bike. You can typically find a luggage rack that will allow you to store your things. Make sure that you properly review instructions so that you don’t install it improperly. You don’t want to be picking up your personal belongings on the side of the highway.

Map it Out

Last but certainly not least, you want to map out your road trip as accurately as possible. Mapping everything out ahead of time allows you to determine how many stops you’ll make along the way, what the weather will be like where you’re going, and if you’re taking friends along for the ride, it will ensure that everyone ends up the same place.

Editor’s Note: This is always a tough one for me. On the one hand, I like to be prepared and have an idea of where I’m going. On the other, I do love the idea of being free to just go wherever my whims and the road take me. I guess it depends on how much time you’ve got and what you’re looking for in your trip.

My ridiculously good looking brother managing to make a pink scooter look acceptable.
My ridiculously good looking brother managing to make a pink scooter look acceptable.

Well, that’s all there is to it. Once you’ve completed all of the above, you’re ready to hit the road and experience the great outdoors in a way you never have before. Remember to always wear your helmet and safety gear, stop frequently, and of course have fun. Check out this guide on the best motorcycle gear to ensure you’re safe and comfortable while riding.

Your Say

Have you ever taken a long distance motorcycle trip? What tips would you give a first timer such as myself?

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