Smooth Ride

Preparing for a successful road trip on your bike

The purchase of our first Gold Wing in 1982 was the beginning of new adventures in motorcycle trip planning and touring. We learned a lot over the years about what to pack and what works for us. Everyone’s travel needs will vary. Hopefully this checklist (minus gear and personal items) gives you some guidance as you prepare for your own memorable road trip.

  1. Check your tires for wear and tread depth. Roll the tires around to inspect the entire tread surface for foreign objects, cracks or wear. Replace the tires if the tread depth is less than 2/32 inches or to the wear bars. Check and adjust tire pressure to the maximum psi (stamped on the tire sidewall) with an accurate gauge.
  2. Check the valve stems for leaks or cracks. The base of 90-degree stems with rubber can fail.
  3. Check brake fluid levels and brake pads for wear. If the brake fluid level in the reservoir is low, your brake pads probably need to be replaced.
  4. Check other fluid levels. When was the engine oil and filter last changed? Be sure the coolant reservoir isn’t damaged and that it has the proper level of coolant. Air filter and spark plugs?
  5. Check light bulbs. We suggest you choose to carry a spare headlight and taillight bulb.
  6. Trailer tires, wheel bearings, hitch and lights all need to be checked and/or serviced. Your trailer is an extension of your motorcycle and should not be neglected.
  7. Side stand or kickstand plate. I keep one in the pouch on the back of the rider’s backrest, or in the left passenger pouch on the front of the trunk where it is easy to access. Tie a string to it with a loop on the other end long enough to reach the left handgrip as a reminder for when you leave.

Trip planning

  1. Maps. Pack road maps of the areas you will travel or program them into your GPS. I still prefer a map so I can choose a back road or a parallel highway to get to our destination.
  2. Emergency contacts. Program these into your phone. Let family or close friends know your travel plans and leave them with contact information in case they need to contact you.
  3. Itinerary. This can be as basic as your nightly stops or sights of interest along your journey. Either way, it can help you stay on schedule. In past few years, I have printed a calendar to write each day’s estimated mileage and travel time (per MapQuest) and our destination for the night. I also provide this to our kids before we leave, so they have an idea where to track us down in the event of an emergency.
  4. Time of year. This can be a factor in travel time, as the daylight hours are shorter in the spring and the fall. Depending on your travels, you could be heading into hurricane, tornado or wild fire seasons. Be alert of the news and weather ahead of you.
  5. Lodging or camping. We have found making reservations ahead saves a lot of time and stress. Use print (Yellow Pages) and Internet resources. Be sure your camping equipment is in good condition and waterproofed so you’ll be rested and dry.
  6. Internet mapping services, such as Google maps. These are useful tools to provide mileage and travel times between destinations. They will provide you with seasonal travel warnings through the mountains or optional routes to avoid toll roads.
  7. Milepost. A useful publication if you plan to travel through western Canada and Alaska. It explains where every gas station, motel, campground, restaurant and points of interest are located. We found it extremely useful for planning gas stops, because of the long distances between gas stations in areas in this region.

Emergency items

  1. Gold Book – Don’t leave home without it. Keep a road atlas handy so you can see what cities are near your location if you need to contact a Member.
  2. First-aid kit. It can be basic with a few bandages of various sizes and some first-aid ointment.
  3. Tire plug kit. It can include the CO2 cartridges for tire inflation, or you may choose to carry a small 12- volt DC air compressor for roadside emergencies.
  4. Spare fuses. The fuse cover has a spare of each size but a small variety pack can be handy in case you forgot to replace the last spare. Don’t install larger amp fuses than what is recommended.
  5. Spare valve stems. I carry a couple of the $2 short, rubber straight stems for spares.
  6. Jumper cables, a small set specifically intended for motorcycles.
  7. Tools. A stock tool kit may be fine in an emergency, but it may not have everything you need. A few select tools can be stored in a small pouch in the bottom of a saddlebag or your trailer.
  8. Spare inner tubes and wheel bearings for your trailer. You may choose to carry a spare wheel assembly for your trailer, especially if they are specific to your brand of trailer (such as our Bushtec trailer). This will require those additional tools for lug nuts or axle nut.
  9. Air pump for trailer suspension. A bicycle hand pump works for trailer air shock adjustments. I carry a spare air line kit with hose, fittings and ties in case one fails.
  10. Spare headset cord. These things whip around in the wind at speed and can fail. It can sure make life easier if you and your co-rider can communicate freely, or if you are traveling with a group and need to communicate on the CB radio to others.

Preparing for a successful road trip on your bike

Terry and Debbie Goepferich, of Des Moines, Iowa, are life members – GWRRA #14903 and #14903-01.

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