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.
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.
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!
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!