Going on a road trip aboard your trusty motorcycle is the best form of travel, adventure, and let’s face it, therapy there is. We get it; we love motorcycle touring just as much as you do. Just like you, we’re constantly browsing maps and chatting to friends about new destinations.
The one thing that people rarely mention in their ride reports, however, is safety. Staying safe on the road is key to have the adventure of a lifetime on two wheels because nobody wants to deal with stolen bikes or broken bones while on the road (or anywhere, really).
So if you’re already plotting and scheming your next long-distance motorcycle ride, here’s what you’ve got to keep in mind.
As with any epic road trip, prep time is key time. In order to prepare for a long-distance motorcycle trip, you’ll need a few things: patience, time, and curiosity. Every motorcycle journey is different, as every rider is different. However, whether you’re heading left, right, or North, you’ll still need to do the basics.
First off, pick your destination. While easy for some, for others, that’s the hardest part. Most travelers will tell you long-distance motorcycle touring is all about the journey, not the destination, but you still need a rough direction. Depending on your budget, if this is your first long-distance motorcycle odyssey, we’d say pick somewhere relatively cheap. This way, you’ll be able to fine-tune your riding and traveling style without paying an arm and a leg for it. As an example, South America and Southeast Asia are still cheap, which means you’ll be able to stay at better hotels and have secure parking for your bike every day without even thinking about it. Norway, Switzerland, or Iceland is a lot more expensive, however. Here, you’ll need to consider your accommodation, food, and fuel choices a tad more carefully.
Now that you know where you’re going, the fun part begins. It’s time to connect the dots and actually plan out your route. Regardless of what bike you ride and what’s your experience level, we’d say keep the daily mileage under 300-400, even if you’re an Iron Butt cowboy. It’s simply because when you don’t know the terrain or the traffic conditions, it’s safer to plan shorter distances and avoid things like riding in the dark or fatigue.
Be mindful of terrain and seasons when you’re planning your route. If you’re crossing mountains, you’ll be riding slower than along the Pacific Coast Highway. If you’re heading to South Africa, keep in mind that the seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere, and double-check things like rainy seasons.
You know where you’re going, and you know how you’re going to get there. Awesome! Now is the time for your packing list. To stay safe on the road while motorcycle touring, we highly recommend you pick protective riding gear. Decent quality, sturdy motorcycle boots, motorcycle pants and jacket, a good helmet, and a pair of gloves are a must. However, if you’re planning to be on the road for longer than a month, you should also think about varying altitudes and weather. Pack some thermals and some riding gear, and if your boots aren’t waterproof, get yourself a pair of Goretex socks. If you know you’ll be heading somewhere cold or if there’s a high-altitude mountain range between you and your destination, you might want to get a heated jacket.
When it comes to packing for a long motorcycle trip, don’t overdo it. Pack the bare essentials, your camping, and cooking gear if you’re planning to rough it along the way, and try to minimize your electronics as much as you can. Do, however, pack a cable lock and a motorcycle cover. You won’t always have secure parking for your bike, so the ability to lock it up will come in handy as you travel.
Finally, if you’re heading somewhere remote or off-road, we’d recommend thinking about getting a SPOT or similar device to make sure you can call for help if something happens. You don’t necessarily need an expensive satellite phone, but a SPOT or Garmin In Reach tracker would add some peace of mind.
If you’re all packed, dressed up, and ready to go, it’s time to hit the road. However, since you’re embarking on a long-distance motorcycle adventure, you’ll probably be riding abroad. Expect crazy traffic, unusual road courtesies, and weird speed bumps, and always ride aggressively. Assume you’re invisible to other vehicles, especially cars and trucks, and keep alert and aware.
Speaking of being alert: if you’re doing long distances each day, make sure to sip water as dehydration adds to the fatigue, and go easy on the coffee. Healthy, protein-filled snacks will work much better than RedBull. If you’re feeling tired, stop and look for a hotel. It’s so much safer to adjust your route and daily mileage rather than trying to push through the fatigue.
When it comes to your route, try to avoid sketchier regions as much as you can. That is, do go to Mexico, but maybe avoid the states of Sinaloa and Colima. Do go to Central Asia, but perhaps stick to the Tajik and not the Afghan side of the Pamirs. You get the idea. Talk to the locals as you travel, as they are the best source of information. Locals will always warn travelers of trouble ahead, whether it’s landslides or riots.
If you’re headed somewhere remote or unstable, see if you can connect with local riders, too. Most of the time, riders love welcoming motorcycle travelers to their country, and they’ll happily show you around or perhaps even host you. It’s a fantastic – and safe – way to explore new countries on two wheels.