Touring Tips

Tips on Preparing Yourself and Your Motorcycle for Touring

To make sure your bike is ready for that next adventure, here are a few tips to help you on your way. Getting ready for a long bike trip always fires me up on all four cylinders, I start driving the wife mad about 6 months before!

Getting the bike ready for a long trip shouldn’t be any different from normal day to day use, your bike should be kept in tip top condition at all times, remember it’s you and your pillions life we are talking about here, in my case it's my wife.

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Tyres are probably my worst issue make sure they are sound, fully inflated and with at least enough tread to last your trip, if in doubt take them to your dealer and get them properly checked. If you are doing a long trip and expect to wear a pair out, get some shipped out , otherwise you will end up with whatever’s on the shelf , getting stuff delivered around the world is not a problem these days, DHL and Fed Ex are great. Check tyre pressures every morning, the last thing you want is to end up in a desert somewhere with a nail or piece of flint in them.

Make sure your chain and sprockets are good, any signs of wear get them changed, I always take a spare chain and a couple of links with me; if your sprockets are new then you should have a good 10,000 miles before you have any problems. Same with drive belts, take a spare, grit and sand can get in them especially in deserts and dirt roads.

Your brakes are as equally important, check them thoroughly and make sure there’s enough meat on the pads, also check for any fluid leaks.

Your engine should be serviced, all fluids checked or changed including fork oil and clutch fluid as this often gets overlooked.
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All nuts and bolts should be tightened, don’t forget the have you wheel bearings and headstock
checked as these will be under more stress as well as your suspension, check the fork movement and the adjustment on the shocks.

And finally, make sure the side and centre stand are ok, especially the switches if fitted (as I found out in Germany when the side stand switch packed up.

Packing for a tour is a fine art, its no good cramming it all in and hoping for the best, use proper waterproof bags and good quality panniers. I use SW Motec Trax panniers and top boxes, they are bullet proof as we found out when we had an altercation with a crash barrier in Spain.

Make sure everything is tied down with plenty of bungees and ratchet straps, it is also a good idea the carry a couple of spare ratchet straps for and ferry crossings, we boarded a ferry in Croatia and they tried to tie my bike down with pieces of string!

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Also a common problem is if you mount a sleeping bag on the front it can reduce the airflow over your engine, causing it to overheat.

Don’t forget you need plenty of gear as well, warm layers of clothing gives you flexibility and it helps with comfort, good boots and gloves and good quality water proof jacket and trousers, neckerchiefs and bandana’s and scarfs are a must, also I take a good pair of sealed sunglasses to help keep sand and grit out of yours eyes.

Make sure you plan well, it’s easy to overdo the mileage, ride within your capabilities. I chatted to Nick Sanders about limits, he does a 1000 miles a day (that takes some doing over a long trip), I like to do around 200 -250 miles a day, its OK if you have a target, but if you want to enjoy the ride and take in the scenery, it’s a much better pace.

Its tempting to get on the bike and hit the open road, but you really need to study where you are going, familiarise yourself with the countries you are travelling in. America is huge, when you get into some states fuel and services are few and far between, I’ve spent many a time sweating on a fuel stop, I almost run out in Utah , when in doubt always fill up. Always have a good GPS and maps are a must just for back up, don’t forget water and high sugar snacks as you will be surprised how quick fatigue can set in. Once you have prepared sufficiently you will be able to relax and enjoy your trip, expect the unexpected, its what touring is all about, you will have a blast and come back wanting more!
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