A couple of months ago, I was preparing to head out on a road trip. As I was getting ready and planning what I was going to be doing and what I would need, I was asked about planning a motorcycle trip.

Picture of Charting a Course

Before I go somewhere, there is a list of things I want to make sure I have ready before I set out on the road. This is what I have come up with.

1. Determine Where You’re Planning on Going.

I know this sounds like it should be a no-brainer, but this really is one of the best things to have figured out before you take off!

Picture of a Question Mark

  • Where is it I am planning on going?
  • If I want to maintain __ mph, how long will it take me to get there?
  • What mileage does my bike get and where will my fuel stops be?
  • How many miles do I want to go in one day?
  • Will I need to stop for the night? If so, how far do I want to go before I sleep?
  • Am I staying in a hotel or am I camping?
  • What is the weather supposed to be like where I am and where I am going?
  • Who can I let know where I am going and where I will be staying?
  • Do I have a route picked out? Depending on the season, will the roads be open?
  • Do I have alternate routes in case I have more or less time in the day?

Before you set out on the road, it is a good idea to plan ahead. This last trip took me to California from Utah, and I spent the better part of five hours just trying to figure out the route I wanted to take, whether the roads would be open, where my fuel stops would be, and where I wanted to eat and sleep along the way. And that was just trying to figure out where I wanted to go!

2. Make Sure Your Bike is Ready for the Trip.

While getting ready for this trip, I needed to make sure my bike was ready to go. It was going to be almost 2,000 miles round trip, and I wanted to make sure my bike was up to the task. I had ridden quite a few miles and knew that my next oil change was almost due, my tires were getting close to the wear bars, and my rear brakes were getting pretty thin.

Instead of worrying about all of that while on the road, I decided to make sure it was all done before I left. One word of advice: If you are getting ready to go on a trip, do not wait until the day before to fix what needs to be fixed!

I can’t tell you how many times I saw this when I worked at as a mechanic! We would have someone come in and say, “I’m leaving on a trip first thing in the morning, and I need this or that done now!” Sometimes it would be something that we didn’t have in stock or something that was a special order. In some cases, the customer would get mad or upset because we didn’t have those parts, or sometimes a tech would have to stay long after closing to get it done.

Again, for your sake and the sake of those working on your machine, please give them and yourself enough time to make sure your bike is ready to go.

Picture of a Motorcycle Parked Nearby Palm Trees and a Beach

Checking Your Motorcycle

It is not hard for you to go out and check your bike to see if it is ready to go. Here are a few things to look for and consider when seeing if your bike is ready for the trip.

  • How are my tires? Is the tread decent for the distance? Are there weather cracks? Is there cupping, pitting or splitting? What is my tire pressure?
  • How are the wheels? Are my spokes tight? Am I missing spokes? For mag wheels, are there any cracks, major dents or gouges?
  • Do all my electrical components work? This includes headlights, brake lights, switches, signals, etc. These are very important!
  • Do all my levers function?
  • When did I last have my bike serviced? This includes engine, transmission, drive shaft, primary fluid, etc.
  • Is my drive belt okay?
  • How are my brakes? Are they getting thin?
  • Is there any clunking or rattling?
  • Are my critical fasteners torqued to spec?
  • Does everything feel good?
  • Are there any leaks?

There are some things to look at and consider before you leave. It is no fun to be out on the road and have something happen that could have (and should have) been prevented.

3. Get the Proper Gear.

Okay, so you know where you want to go, and you have your bike ready. What about you? Are you ready for the ride? I know that on my last trip, I wasn’t completely ready. The trip went through some mountain passes and smaller mountain towns. I looked beforehand to make sure the roads would be open and the weather would be okay, but once we left, I realized I didn’t have some of the gear that I should have had. I had to stop in one of these smaller towns and buy a pair of really nice wool socks to warm my feet and my legs. Glad there was a store where I could get those!

Like I said before, it is no fun to be surprised on your ride and have to stop and spend some money that you didn’t account for. Luckily, I only needed a pair of socks that cost me $10. Always ask yourself this question when planning: According to the weather where I am and where I’ll be going, do I have the gear I will need? (If you don’t, you know where you can find it!)

Proper Gear
Picture of a Fieldsheer High Temp Mesh Motorcycle Jacket Picture of an AGV Miglia II Motorcycle Helmet Picture of a River Road Firestone Leather Motorcycle Gloves

Proper Jacket

One that matches the climate, vented for warm weather, insulated for cold and that will have the protection I need in case I go down.

Proper Helmet

Yep, I said helmet. Here in Utah, if you are over 18, you are not required to wear a helmet, but all states are not like this. Wherever you are going, you need to know helmet laws. California requires that if you are on a motorcycle, you must have a proper helmet. When traveling, I like to have a full face helmet. My reasons for this are my own, so if you like a half face helmet, so be it.

Good Gloves

There are a myriad of styles and fits. Get some that will work best for your riding and weather conditions.

Picture of an Alpinestars Oxygen Air Motorcycle Overpant Picture of an Icon Patrol Waterproof Motorcycle Boots Picture of a Pair of Glasses

Riding Pants

Most of us think jeans, but I can tell you they won’t hold up if you go down. A good pair of overpants, leather chaps or Kevlar jeans are a good way to go!

Boots

Notice I didn’t say shoes? Riding boots are made for riding – weird! They usually have grippy soles, reinforced ankles and toes and other improvements over shoes. I would get boots.

Glasses

How’s your vision? I would have a good pair of glasses for daytime and nighttime. You’ve only got two eyes; take care of them!

Different weather requires different gear. Please plan accordingly.

Lastly, make sure that you are comfortable in your gear and that you can move freely and operate your motorcycle safely. Don’t be like the younger brother on A Christmas Story: “Ralphie, I can’t put my arms down!”

When I left on my trip, it was warm enough for just my leather jacket. When I got to the middle of Nevada, I was glad that I had packed a heated vest and heated gloves! We went from 65 degrees to 30 degrees and snow. (That’s why I needed the warmer socks, I only had jeans and chaps.) Even though it will take more room in your bag, it is nice to have if you need it. I also had some rain gear just in case the snow turned into rain. (Rain gear can be a good windbreaker as well.) Once we made it to California it was nice enough for my jacket and summer gloves. Again, it is nice to be prepared for what might come.

4. Be Prepared!

So you know where you’re going, your bike is now ready, and you’ve got the gear you’ll need. What’s next? The thing that comes to mind is the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared.

  • Stay hydrated. Drink as much as possible, then drink some more.
  • Do you have some snacks for the road? I like hard candy such as jolly ranchers.
  • Do you have a first aid kit in your bag? You should!
  • You should have a tool pack with specific tools for your machine.
  • I like to be ready to camp if I need to. Have some sort of fire source and a way to stay warm if needed!
  • Do not ride tired! Please get plenty of rest before setting out. If you need to, pull over and take a short nap. Riding tired hinders your reflexes.
  • Make sure you have conditioned yourself for the ride. Go on a few longer rides to make sure you are ready for your upcoming ride.
  • Make sure you have the money you need. Also, it never hurts to have a backup in case something gets stolen or your card doesn’t work.
  • Do you have a map? I mean the paper kind! Sometimes that handy dandy little GPS won’t work. Do not rely on your electronics to get you home. They are nice if they do work, but I wouldn’t always rely on them. I’m speaking from personal experience.
  • Are there any shops or dealerships along your way? It wouldn’t hurt to know of them in case some unforeseen mishap occurs.

Picture of Two Motorcycles Packed for a Road Trip

I don’t like to be unprepared on a trip. I don’t like surprises. The more I plan for, the less surprised I will be. I do believe that the Boy Scouts are on to something when they say Be Prepared. If you are prepared, you will be okay. This last trip was a great one, and I was ready for most of what happened. Everything else wasn’t too big of a deal. I knew we would be riding through some pretty remote country, so I had some survival tools if I needed to start a fire, build some sort of shelter to sleep in, or get food. I like being ready for what might lie ahead; it makes the trip much more enjoyable.

Conclusion

These are only a few things you can do and look for before you set out. Are there any others? I am sure there are, but this will give you a good foundation to build off of. I am only saying that you should use your head before you set out on some journey. It is always good to let someone know where you are going and how long you plan on being gone. It is also good to ride with someone else. In case something does happen, there will be someone else there. Be smart before you start, and your trip will be a good one!

Keep it safe!

Technician Disclaimer

By Matt Bretzing