How to Plan a Motorcycle Trip
January 15, 2013 - San Diego, CA
Your motorcycle may be sadly tucked away in the corner of your garage under a motorcycle cover with a tank full of fuel stabilizer until the spring thaws out the ice on the road, but that doesn't have to stop you from pulling out your road maps and planning your next motorcycle trip.
Whether it's your first real motorcycle trip or your 100th trip, there's a few things you need to keep in mind while laying out the plan. Sure, there's the ever appealing want to just hop on the open road and see where it takes you, but let's be honest, a lot can go wrong. Avoid mayhem and motorcycle mishaps by remembering these few tips when planning out your next motorcycle trip.
First, take stock of the amount of storage space on your bike. Do you ride a bagger or a sport bike? Depending on the type of bike you ride, you'll have very different motorcycle luggage, which means different restrictions on the things that you can bring. Make sure that you have enough room for your supplies before deciding on the type or length of a trip. For example, if you're doing a cross country motorcycle camping trip, you're going to need the storage space to bring a sleeping bag and enough spare sets of underwear to get you through the trip.
From there, sit down and make a list of your motorcycle trip "must have's." The most important things will be a motorcycle toolkit, a motorcycle tire repair kit, a first aid kit and some other repair necessities such as spare parts and duct tape. Get a full list of suggestions in this Ten Things to Take on Every Trip article.
Before hitting the road, you'll also want to have a pretty good outline of when and where you'll be riding. Plan out where you will be stopping for breaks such as at restaurants or rest stops and how long you will be riding between them. Because you will be more susceptible to the elements on a motorcycle, you'll be more likely to suffer from fatigue. In order to not only keep you riding as safely as possible but to also allow you to enjoy your ride to the fullest, try not to stretch yourself too thin by riding for too many hours at a time. Know your limits and abilities and plan accordingly. Schedule stretch, food and even nap breaks to keep you at your fullest ability and comfort.
Of course, you'll also want to calculate out how much gas your tank holds and where you'll need to re-fuel. Nothing can put a damper on a motorcycle trip faster than running out of gas. When in doubt, fill up. It's better to over fuel than the alternative.
With everything you need packed up and ready to go, spend the night before or the morning of your trip fully inspecting your motorcycle. One of the best ways to make sure that you check everything essential is to follow the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's T-C-L-O-C-S method:
T: Tires. Check the pressure in both of your motorcycle tires with a tire pressure gauge. If you're unsure what the pressure of your tires should be, check the sidewall for the PSI listing. Here's a handy guide to help you read and care for your motorcycle tires: Inspecting and Maintaining Your Street Motorcycle Tires. Also, be sure to check the tread of your tires. If there's any possibility that you're close to needing a new set before your trip, don't wait until after. Tire failure is one of the biggest causes of motorcycle accidents.
C: Controls. Be sure that your motorcycle cables, clutch and brakes, as well as your controls are working smoothly.
L: Lights. Double check that all of your indicator lights work. Flip on your motorcycle headlights on both low and high beam as well as check your motorcycle's turn signals and the brake light.
O: Oil & Fluids. Check and top off any and all fluids including your motorcycle engine oil, brake fluid and coolant.
C: Chassis. Do a once over on the frame, suspension and chain of your motorcycle as well as all fasteners to make sure they're all secure and structurally strong.
S: Stands. Inspect your motorcycle stand, center stand or side stand, to make sure it's not cracked and that the springs are working properly to make sure you don't get any nasty drop surprises during a break or stop.
Once you're sure your bike is up for making the trip, refresh your memory on the plan one last time before hitting the road. If you're traveling with other riders, double check that they're clear on the plan as well. You might also want to run through your group's hand signals with each other. With that all said and done, hop on and let go. Sure, planning is important but also be open to rewriting the plan a little as the moment arises. It is an adventure, after all.