Spend the weeks or days leading...
Spend the weeks or days leading up to your trek meticulously marking up your map and planning your route. Keep in mind extended freeway stints will become monotonous, while roads that are too technical may leave you exhausted by day’s end or put you behind schedule. When planning your trip, also make sure gas stations are prevalent on the route you choose.
Long-distance rides are not for the faint of heart, the ill-equipped or impatient. As demanding as they are though, long-distance rides can be quite exciting — rewarding even once completed. For those who have yet to embark on a long excursion, or those fearful of the challenges that lie beyond each forgone mile marker, know that there are a number of tricks and tips that can make your time in the saddle less daunting and more enjoyable. As with anything, the key is preparation and a comprehensive understanding of your abilities; don’t write a check your butt can’t cash by setting off on a ride without adequately preparing yourself and your equipment.
Traversing 500-plus miles in a single day is no easy feat no matter what motorcycle you’re cuddling up with, and there are a number of aspects that must be considered well before your journey even starts. If you have a destination in mind, start by grabbing a map and determining the best route. The task seems simple enough, but screw it up and you’ll be sorry. Pick a route that has you aimlessly cruising down freeways, interstates or thruways, for instance, and you’ll find yourself losing your sanity at an exponential rate. Select roads that are too tight and technical, however, and you may find yourself exhausted by day’s end or falling behind schedule.
Having the proper gear is...
Having the proper gear is instrumental to surviving any long-distance ride. An Aerostich Roadcrafter one-piece suit may not be the most fashionable, but it works well in most weather conditions plus can be removed in seconds, a nice feature when you want nothing more than to be out of your gear.
When planning a long-distance ride on a motorcycle, it’s also important to remember that fuel stops are going to be more frequent. As such, avoid riding through extremely isolated areas where gas stations are few and far between — the good scenery simply isn’t worth not knowing if you’ll make it to the next gas stop. To be certain you choose the best route, spend the days — or even weeks — leading up to your ride on the internet or reading books that discuss the better motorcycling roads across the country, making certain there will be no hiccups mid-journey in the form of dead-ends. Understand however, that weather, road conditions and other unforeseeable circumstances can force you to detour from your predetermined route, which is why it’s smart to always have an alternative route marked out.
Hopefully, you’re already riding with some sort of tool kit packed away in your under-seat compartment (if not, you’d better think about it). The tool kit necessitated by a long-distance ride is going to be slightly more in-depth, but will come in handy often. Among the usual assortment of sockets, screwdrivers and allen wrenches, your kit should also include a tire plug kit, stout cable or disc lock, tire pressure gauge and flashlight. After a recent radiator-penetrating ride up north, we will also add to that list a bottle of radiator stop leak and small tube of JB weld. If luck is on your side, you may rarely have to break your tool kit open, but be prepared for the worst and make sure that when it comes time to make roadside repairs, you are up to the challenge.
Going the distance on a motorcycle...
Going the distance on a motorcycle means you may need to get creative when packing your clothes and other essentials. Remember that when fitting your bike with tail and tank bags, that the added weight will affect the bike’s handling.
With all the extra cargo needed for the long haul, where to store your essentials quickly becomes a concern. For that reason, touring motorcycles are a great weapon for the open road, as they typically come equipped with saddlebags capable of storing your clothes and/or extra gear. For those daring enough to go the distance on a more sport-oriented machine, the best option is to fit removable saddlebags to the bike. Not only will soft luggage provide added cargo room, but they’re also convenient in that they can be easily dismounted when you want to carry your stuff into the hotel room for the night. Tank bags and tail bags will offer additional cargo room for your essentials and are a smart choice, plus most tank bags have a map pocket that you can stick your marked-up directions in for easy viewing. When stuffing all you can into your saddlebags, tail bag and tank bag however, remember that the additional weight will affect the handling of your motorcycle. Try to centralize the weight the best you can, and make sure your accessory bags are strapped down securely — too many times we’ve heard stories of tank bags or tail bags dismounting themselves halfway through the ride.
It’s good practice to always inspect your bike before setting off on any ride, but it’s especially important when leaving on a long-distance adventure. If it’s been a while since your fluids were replaced (be honest with yourself), it’s a smart decision to go ahead and replace the oil filter, oil and brake fluid. Check the torque on hardware too, assuring bolts won’t come bouncing off when riding in the middle of nowhere. Consider also the amount of miles you plan to ride and take into account that your tires and brake pads may not be up to the challenge. Replace if necessary.
Touring bikes are clearly...
Touring bikes are clearly the best weapon for long-distance rides with their additional cargo area, more comfortable seats, wind protection and pleasant ergonomics. Sportbikes will make long-distance rides more challenging, but can be made more accommodating with the addition of removable saddlebags, a larger windscreen and an aftermarket seat.
Unless you plan exceedingly well and have luck on your side, chances are you will experience varying weather on your ride, which is why it’s important to pack the right gear. An Aerostich Roadcrafter one-piece suit is typically one of the better options, as it provides relative warmth in cooler conditions and has great ventilation for warmer weather. The suit can also be removed in mere seconds, which is a plus when you want to get off the bike and get comfortable for a minute or two. Boots and gloves that fit well and work decent in varying conditions will also be well worth the investment when covering hundreds of miles in a single day since comfort is an absolute necessity.
How comfortable you are on the ride will correlate with how many miles you can cover in a single day. Note, however, that the number of miles you’re able to ride in a day will also vary on the roads traversed, the bike you are on and your mental attitude. A Gold Wing rider may have no problem riding over 800 freeway miles in a single day for instance, whereas a ZX-6R-mounted rider may find it challenging to squeeze even 400 miles out of a day. Over the years, we have found it reasonable — and manageable — to aim towards a maximum of 500 miles per day.
Those 500 miles won’t be a walk in the park though, and the honest truth is that a lot can go wrong at any point in time, especially if the rider loses focus and begins to make mistakes or errors in judgment. Frequent stops are the key then to surviving long-distance rides, so don’t be afraid to pull to the side of the road when need be. When off the bike, stretch, replenish fluids and eat a snack to avoid muscle cramps and fatigue in the later stages of your ride.
Given the number of things that can go wrong during a long-distance ride, it goes without saying that they aren’t for everyone. They can be very rewarding though and offer a chance to see places that you may have otherwise been unable to visit, plus give you a chance to ride roads that simply aren’t the same on four wheels. Plan accordingly by picking the best route and packing smart and much of the battle is already won. Stop frequently to nourish and hydrate your body and the ride will practically fly by. SR