Riding to work is a good way to break up a monotonous day and get more seat time. But it can just as easily be a lesson in frustration if you’re not prepared. So here are a few tips and considerations I’ve picked up that make any moto commute that much better.

Stay Visible & Stand Out

Commuting means peak traffic hours and more seat time, which means your chances of being in an accident/crash go up. Besides good riding practices and staying alert, keeping yourself visible and getting noticed (not in a wheelie sort of way) is the best thing you can do. It’s fairly straight forward.

Number one on the list is hi-viz gear. It’s a good excuse to get new duds, but if you’re in the market for new gear anyway, check out your options because there are more high visibility colorways than ever. And there’s a bonus! They don’t terrible.

high visibility police officer
The style isn’t for everyone, but you can’t deny this officer stands out. “Photo” via pixabay licensed under CC0.

Don’t like hi-viz? Brands are catching on and adding more dark-colored reflectivity that goes unseen until it glows up in direct light.

Other options are hi-viz vests you put over your regular gear, adding extra driving/brake lights, getting a modulator for your lights (check your local laws), and slapping some reflective stickers anywhere you can think of. The more of these you do the better, but still, something is at least better than nothing when it comes to visibility.

several high visibility jacket options
A handful of good-looking, high-viz options. (Starting top left, Cortech Latigo, Icon Overlord, AStars Andes, Rev-it Vapor, Rev-it Tornado 2, Firstgear 37.5 Kilimanjaro)

Sign up for Roadside Assistance

If you ride enough, sooner or later you’ll get stranded and you won’t be able to do anything about it, so think of tow coverage like a get out of jail free card. Your insurance provider should have some kind of tow option but other choices exist from organizations like AAA and the AMA.

Before you sign up check a couple of details first. Make sure you yourself are covered and not just your motorcycle, because you could get stuck if you’re riding a different bike. Double check the rules on where your bike goes when it’s towed. Some policies will only take you to the closest mechanic, others take you anywhere within a 50 mile radius for example.

Lastly, check to see if there’s any fine print preventing you from hitching a ride with the tow truck, because watching your bike get hauled off while you wait for an Uber is just salt in the wound.

Ride on the Right Tires

They’re your only contact with the road and absolutely crucial when you rely on them daily. Anything not worn to the cords could get you to work, but the best rubber options for commuting combine the best lifespan, dry traction, wet traction, and handling.

If your tires don’t have these traits they may not be up to snuff, which means you could have an extra death-filled exciting commute thanks to a tire that hydroplanes in the rain or wears out prematurely.

pilot road 4 tires
All the lines and dots on these Pilot Road 4 tires are the siping and water dispersion features Michelin designs into the tire. They’re what give the PR4 its solid all-weather traction.

As far as choices go, sport touring tires work well and usually come in sizes that fit a large range of bikes. I personally like Bridgestone’s BT-023, but there’s a sizeable cult of riders that worship the wet traction of Michelin’s Pilot Road 4. Dunlop D404s and Metzeler ME888s are popular for cruisers, and ADV riders seem to love the Anakee 3 for slab and the K60 Scout for a more dirt bias.

Maintain Your Bike

If you’re trusting your bike to get you to and from work, you owe it to yourself to make sure it’s as reliable as possible. For most of us, staying up on routine maintenance will be enough to keep our bikes up to the task. Just don’t take it for granted because commuting means you’ll be racking up more miles and putting more wear and tear on your bike, making maintenance that much more important.

Getting a service manual, gathering a basic set of tools, and logging your work are simple things you can do to get a significant leg up, and there’s a huge benefit to the increased awareness and visual inspections that accompany maintenance. And don’t dismiss the small stuff, because even something as simple as checking your tire psi is one of the single most important maintenance procedures you can do.

But, if you want to dive a little deeper, pick up a front and rear stand to get both tires up off the ground and try your hand at more involved maintenance like changing tires or adjusting valves.

old motorcycle
Definitely a cool bike, but probably not the most reliable choice. “1934 DkW ULd” by William Morris, licensed under CC0 1.0 Universal

Keep a Tool Roll Handy

Frequently overlooked and incredibly important during a breakdown, a few key tools will help you get home or at least limp your bike off the side of the road. Size and versatility are priority so your bike’s factory kit is usually a good start. It already has tools specific for your bike and a place to store it, so toss in a couple additional tools and you’ll be set.

The video below is specific for dual sports, but it’ll still give you some good ideas for your own kit.

 

 

If you’re starting from scratch, do some basic maintenance, notice what tools you use most, and include those in your tool roll. Others additions I’d include are a headlamp (not a flashlight), tire plug kit, co2 cartridges/inflator, and a pressure gauge.

Hopefully everything will fit with your stock tool kit, otherwise you can go with a fender bag for dual-sport/supermotos, a tank bag for sport/nakeds, or a handsome fork-mounted tool pouch that will look good on most cruisers.

Get a Way to Charge & Mount Devices

They’re not crucial, but they are nice to have since it’ll turn your bike into a portable charger and let you use your phone for things like navigation, music, and real-time hud info (with the right app). And since device mounts have increased in popularity, there are a ton of choices for mounting position, adjustability, and level of security

Ram Mounts is a brand with good reviews and plenty of options, and you’ve likely already seen their popular X-Grip Mount out in the wild. They’re inventive with mounting locations ranging from the steering stem to mirror base, but it’s hard to beat the affordable, reliable, and simple U-Bolt mount in my opinion.

pigtail and usb adapter make for cheap charging
This pigtail and usb adapter are convenient and cheap. You’ll have reliable charging for under $20.

For power, keep it simple by either mounting a 12 volt outlet near your handlebars, or attach a quick disconnect pigtail with a USB adapter. As a bonus, you can use the pigtail to charge your bike’s battery and use with power option to power your heated gear.

Get Room to Carry Stuff

Having storage on your bike is a convenience that’s easily forgotten until it’s needed. Even if you only ride with your phone, wallet, and keys, luggage opens up options like stopping by the store on the way home, keeping waterproof, thermal, etc. layers on hand, and riding to work even when you need to unexpectedly carry something.

Backpacks always work and have a good amount of space, but they get uncomfortable and heavy. Saddle bags offer great space, but they can widen your bike and get in your passengers way. Top cases are a personal favorite because they’re so versatile, but they can get expensive and typically need a specialized baseplate/attachment point. Tank bags are probably the most handy and least intrusive option, but unless you opt for an expandable, touring oriented option, you won’t get much space.

It sounds like I’m focusing on the negatives, but all of these options are good to have. It just comes down to your own preferences and priorities. And don’t forget that cargo straps and bungee nets are an option too, something that’s great for large or awkwardly shaped cargo.

Some bags, like this one from Nelson-Rigg, can double as storage and a mount for your devices.

Keep Clear Vision & Protect Your Eyes

The sun’s shallow angle and less than attentive commuters make rush hour the worst time to have limited visibility. Without tinted eye protection, chances are you’ll end up with a headache from squinting or a serious case of being dead when your blown-out vision misses that car merging into you.

Thankfully there are options. Sunglasses for open face helmets, tinted/mirrored shields for full face, goggles for off-road and adventure helmets. Keep in mind, sunglasses get wiggly in the wind and don’t always feel nice in a helmet, tinted visors aren’t safe when it’s dark, and goggles can feel bulky sometimes. Or you could snag a helmet with an internal visor and start wondering why people would use anything else.

Protect Yourself From the Weather

Finally, one of the biggest concerns. If you commute you’ll need to protect yourself from the cold, the heat, the wind, and the rain. Realistically it should be a top priority, and it’s all in the gear. Just like how you choose gear based on protection, commuters need to pick their gear according to what weather they plan on riding through.

 

goretex layer cutaway
A cutaway of the layers inside a Gore-tex laminate and how they work.

Insulation is easy to handle with removable liners and additional layers, but wind and rain are tricky. Rain barriers are critical for staying dry and they help as a windbreak too, just be aware that breathable membranes can make a big difference when it comes to cooling. Hot, sweaty air can exit through a breathable membrane, but if you have any vents open that fresh air will get caught by the waterproof layer instead of coming in and cooling you off. But that’s not a deal-breaker in my eyes, because there’s always mesh gear for seasons when heat is a serious concern.

 

bavarian police scooter
Or you could get a bike with a roof like the police in Bavaria do. “BMW C1 of the Bavarian Police” by Pionic, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Comment

What Do You Think?

That’s all we’ve got for now. There are plenty of other tips and we certainly aren’t the only game in town, so tell us what we missed and what commuting advice you think is worth mentioning in the comments below.