Going the Distance

Long Distance Motorcycle Riding Tips

It was late November when I set out on my journey – temperature, 26 degrees. My trip began in Michigan, my final stop, Las Cruces, New Mexico. Despite the challenges of the cold, rain and warm weather, my trip was successful, all because of planning, training, friends and my Gold Wing.

During the planning stage, you should ride your bike in all types of weather conditions – driving through heat, rain, cold weather and at night. On the road is no place to discover that you lack the skill to negotiate these situations – road and traffic conditions change rapidly. A GWRRA ARC class is a must. Another class recommended is on tire performance in various road conditions. On long trips, I have had to perform evasive maneuvers – rapid stops, turning around on narrow streets. You may encounter objects on the road or an object that has just fallen from a car/truck. I have had to navigate tight turns at gas stations.

Rider in SuitConduct several shakedown rides with all of your gear. Far from home is no place to discover that your gear does not fit. The most common conditions you will encounter are rain and cold weather or both at the same time. Make sure you wear clothing in the configuration that you plan to use during your ride. You may encounter rain and the next stop is 50 miles away. A raincoat may not be enough. I wear a heated jacket liner under my raincoat. I have found that your raincoat should be the brightest object on your body. People take notice of high visibility clothing before they see your bike or its lights. I wear a “Safety Green” rain jacket. Know your limitations and be mindful that safety is first. If you are uncomfortable riding in rain, stop at a safe location. However, always be prepared for rain.

Riding a 2010 Gold Wing, I found it is best to pack rain gear on the left side because on the right, a hot exhaust pipe runs behind the saddlebag. Over the years, I believe the heat degraded my Frogg Toggs lining causing it to leak during the rain. I switched sides and have since had no problems.

Cold weather riding can be challenging. Over my heated clothing, I wore a Tourmaster Transition Jacket. Over my heated pants liner, I wore Sliders Quest 3 Kevlar Riding Pants. I have heated foot footpads and heated gloves. Even though your bike may have heated grips, you should wear heated gloves. I wear tall boots to block out wind from coming under my pant legs. I must warn you – Before you leave, clean your heated clothing connections with denatured alcohol. You may find that your connections build up a film; during cold weather, your riding clothing may not heat as well.

Long distance riding will also require you to wear your helmet for long periods. A helmet that fits for short trips may become painful over a long distance. During preparation, wear your helmet for at least three hours. Wear your helmet for two main reasons – for safety and for bugs. Rocks and large bugs have struck my helmet. The rock chipped it. Had I not been wearing a helmet, I would have received severe injuries. No matter how tall your windshield, objects find their way to your head region.

There are always debates on how far you should ride each day. If you ask any seasoned traveler, your answer will vary. The distance will depend on your comfort level and your bike. Remember, it is difficult to know when you are getting fatigued. When fatigue sets in, often it is too late. I suggest instead of miles to travel, use time traveled. I found for me it is best to do six to nine hours of travel per day. If you are riding four hours and you find that your next three hours will be winding roads and/or heavy wind, stop and rest for the night. Safety always comes first. In hot weather, drink plenty of water and monitor yourself for dehydration. If you stay at hotels, sign up for their awards program. You will be shocked how fast you will receive free night stays.

Also, know your bike. I found that many Honda shops did not know what size tire a Gold Wing requires. Know what tires you have. If you ever have a tire changed, inspect your bike and tires to be sure the tire fits properly and the valve cap is on. Inspect your bike before you leave the lot. You should have a small cache of tools to perform small repairs, like changing light bulbs, fuses and tightening screws or bolts.

In some parts of the country, parking your bike may become a challenge. If you park your bike facing downhill your bike may roll forward and tip over, if you are pulling a trailer, your bike may roll backwards. Finding a suitable place to park may become a challenge.

Rider on Gold WingFor those times where you may not find an adequate place to clean your hands, I carry baby wipes (they are larger than handy wipes) and liquid hand sanitizer. I also carry two pairs of riding gloves, eyeglass cleaner (clean your glasses, face shield and windshield often and if you ride in the rain put RainDex on your face shield), emergency first-aid kit, fire extinguisher, two pairs of glasses – sunglasses and clear lens glasses. Traditional transitions lenses do not get dark enough for long distance daylight riding. I discovered the active transition lenses get dark behind your helmet shield and dark enough for the road. For road comfort, I suggest an MP3 player and an XM Radio. My MP3 player has over 30 hours of music.

You should have cash, a credit card, debit card and gas card. For gas, I use my gas card. I usually carry $200 dollars and if I need cash, I can always find a store to get cash back. I have a virtual road coordinator/ navigator. While on the road, I call my coordinator to give me locations, best price and best-rated hotels. One app I recommend is Booking.com. You can find well-rated hotels at good prices, book it and pay for it right from your phone. Make sure you have your insurance card and telephone number of your insurance agent and Rescue Plus. If your bike is ever involved in an accident and can be ridden, take your bike through all the gears, checking the reverse gear and braking functions. I discovered that my reverse gear was damaged because of the accident. “Failing to plan is a plan to fail.” Ride safely and sensibly.

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One Response to “Going the Distance”

  1. Glenn Reed

    Really appreciate you taking your time to share this with other riders. Never would’ve entertained the thought of a coordinator/navigator.

    Thanks for sharing


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