Embarking on a long-distance motorcycle trip and escaping onto the open road us is one of the most exhilarating experiences one can do. However, such adventures require careful planning to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. Whether you’re a seasoned rider or a novice adventurer going on your first trip, this article will walk you through the essential steps to plan an unforgettable journey.
Choose the Perfect Route
Selecting the right route is the foundation of a successful trip and more often than not you will have several different routes you can take from major freeways to lesser-travelled alternative routes winding through the countryside.
Researching online forums or getting advice from other riders is often the best first step as you will get real-world information and insight into any issues they experienced such as poor road surfaces, roadworks, limited fuel availability, speed cameras, things to see or suggestions on a longer but more enjoyable route that Google Maps will never recommend.
In some parts of the world not all routes can be travelled all year round on a motorcycle due to flooding or extremely high temperatures. Travelling around Australia is a perfect example of this where roads in the far north flood seasonally and roads out West can have a surface temperature over 50c baking you alive.
Establish a Realistic Timeline
One of the biggest trips of long motorcycle adventures is they often take longer than you estimate and well longer than Google Maps will calculate.
Once you’ve chosen your route, determine how many km needs to be travelled in total.
Next calculate how many km you will cover each day. This can be done by first determining how many riding hours you will be doing each day and convert it to KM travelled. Many riders and especially if carrying a pillion will be unable to sit on the back of a motorbike for any more than 6 hours. Factor in fuel stops and breaks every 150-250km which will add easily 30 minutes each day making it an 8+ hour day in total.
This should give you a rough indication of how many days the trip will take. If you have multiple long days, consider adding an extra day to the trip to allow for reduced stress on the body, more time to see attractions and account for any unforeseen circumstances such as weather, roadworks or mechanical hiccups.
Rushing a road trip can ruin an otherwise enjoyable trip by being forced to skip things you want to see and creating dangerous situations such as riding through the night or while heavily fatigued to get to a particular destination. From one rider to another, trust me you will be wishing you were in a warm hotel room and bed instead of pushing on into the night to avoid arriving the next day.
Accommodation and Reservations
Research accommodation options along your route before you leave and book ahead whenever possible for at-least the next 2 nights. This is important during peak times as entire towns can book out if there is something going on that week such as a festival.
Be sure to check if they have suitable secure parking for a motorbike and if planning to arrive late have an after-hours check-in available.
Prepare Your Motorcycle
Your motorcycle is your faithful companion on the road, ensuring it’s in optimal condition is critical before setting off.
Scheduling a comprehensive maintenance check-up and service before your trip is a very good idea. Breaking down or needing to replace a tyre in the middle of nowhere is never fun.
A good checklist I work off is:
- Inspecting tires for sufficient tread, any damage, wheel bearings and correct pressure for long-distance travel
- Check brake pads for wear, brake lines for any damage and the condition of brake fluid (front & rear)
- Verify coolant levels are full and confirm the thermofan turns on and off correctly
- Change the oil and oil filter, its cheap insurance!
- Inspect sparkplugs for correct burn and correct gap
- Clean and adjust chain, check chain and sprockets for damage
- Check operation of all lights
- Check correct routing and that there is no chaffing or wear on electrical harnesses
- Battery Condition (if its slow starting on a good day consider replacing), terminals are tight and clean
- Check clutch system (fluid level, adjustment, frayed cable)
Where possible try to carry basic tools to solve common issues, my toolset includes: required spanners, screwdrivers, allen keys, electrical tape, multi-tool pliers, zip-ties, hoseclamp, tyre repair kit. On more than one occasion this has saved the day for both myself and other riders which otherwise would have required the bike to be towed hundreds of km.
Consider installing additional accessories like a QuadLock Phone Mount, luggage racks, heated handlebars, additional lighting and crash protection gear to enhance comfort and safety.
Get Your Gear Ready
Equally as important as ensuring your bike is maintained and often overlooked is ensuring your gear is in tip-top condition. Good quality gear matched to the climate will transform your riding experience.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- When was the last time your riding jacket and helmet liner was washed?
- Does your jacket and riding shoes require a waterproofing product to be applied on a regular basis?
- Is your gear in good condition? Any tears, broken zippers or stitching coming apart will let in weather and can pose a safety issue in the event of a tumble. Scratches in helmet visors can obstruct visibility and cause optical effects causing eye strain over long distances
- If your gear showings its age? Consider investing in more modern gear. Helmets should be replaced due to the internal foam structures breaking down and keep up with technology improvements.
- Will Additional PPE be worthwhile? On long trips and reduce fatigue, in particular Kidney belts, custom moulded hearing protection and a windbreaker over your primary riding jacket
- If travelling with a group or using Bluetooth communicators, ensure everyone has the latest firmware and all the configuration has been set before the day of departure
Space is limited on a motorcycle and every kg matters, so pack wisely.
Unless you have a GoldWing, first thing to ditch if possible is the pillon, ideally if they can ride their own bike both of your comforts will improve and you’ll have twice the space.
When packing, focus on essential items such as riding gear, wet weather gear, spare clothes, toiletries, and minimal camping equipment if you plan to camp. Make a checklist to ensure you don’t forget any crucial items.
Invest in quality waterproof luggage, saddlebags, or a top box to maximize storage options. I’ve found packing items into small plastic bags keeps things dry and easy to find. Distributing the weight evenly to maintain balance and stability while riding.
Overloading your bike can lead to wind buffeting, poor handling and damage to the bike. If you need items at your destination consider sending it by post.
Budgeting and Finances
While we like to say motorcycling is an affordable transport option, the reality is its far from free and there is a very real cost per km which adds up over long distance.
Before planning the trip set a realistic budget that includes fuel, food, accommodation, any mechanical or gear expenses and entertainment along the way. A good ballpark figure for a full day of riding and an affordable motel is $200-250/day however this can vary greatly.
If travelling off the beaten path be sure to carry multiple forms of payment, such as cash, a credit card, and a backup card. In rural areas, older readers may not accept the latest ApplePay or have telecommunications outages.
Leave In Good Health
There is no denying adventures of any kind will be taxing on the body and leaving at the peak of your health will help set you into a routine.
- Avoid partying late into the night before departure and get a full 8 hours reset, especially if leaving early
- Avoid drugs and alcohol for 24-48 hours prior, you don’t need to be impaired to still feel the effects of a wild time which can include fatigue, cloudy judgment and throw off your metabolic system.
- If you have a sore back or injury, hours and hours on a bike will not do it any good and your ability to find medical care on the road may be limited
Planning a long-distance motorcycle trip can be a lot of work, but putting in the preparation beforehand will help ensure things go smoothly and reduce any the likelihood of unexpected surprises along the way.
Are you planning or have been on motorcycle adventure recently, let us know your experiences in the comments below