Have you heard of the Iron Butt Association?
If you haven’t, it’s not an organization of people with metal implants in their posteriors.
It’s an organization of people who go on motorcycle rides, covering extremely long distances within a deadline (one of the minimum distance challenges known as the Saddle Sore, requires you to ride for at least 1000 miles within a 24 hour period). Upon completion of which you’d probably feel like you have metal implants in your posterior.
Designating themselves the “World’s Toughest Riders” (and for good reason), the membership is 75,000 strong.
Now, the IBA (using an acronym because the full form makes me chuckle. Certain parts of me are still 13.) is out of reach for most of us who don’t have the time/ energy/ resources to devote a good chunk of our time to motorcycle travel.
That being said, going on long distance motorcycle tours is an incredible, sometimes miserable, sometimes mesmerizing and ultimately life-changing experience.
Every time I go on long distance rides that span a couple of weeks, I come back home with a different perspective. On everything. And the more different the environment, the stronger the change in perspective.
Something about the long hours upon hours, sights you see and the proclivity of the activity to meet people cause you to develop a connection with the open road, in a way that is hard to explain to those who don’t ride.
All of the above in tandem with the sights, sounds, scenery, loneliness, boredom, and most important of all- freedom- make it an extremely intense experience. Despite the iron butt (chuckle).
But, you need to prepare well before you embark on such a journey. This article is going to tell you all about what you need to know before you go on a long-distance ride.
Specialized Personal Gear
Regardless of whether your road trip is going to last just a couple of days or span over a couple of months, you need to pack everything to make sure that the stops you make, be it at groceries or rest stops, is at a minimum.
The list below is a compilation of long distance motorcycle riding gear you need to buy in general. But, for a more specific list, we highly recommend you do more research (by using this list as a starting point).
People either pack too heavy or pack too light while traveling, but to stay on the safe side, we’d advise you lean toward the former.
This one time, I ended up wearing my clothes for 3 days because I lost one of my bags in the water while trying to take a cool picture of my trip milestone. (Chasing validation on Instagram doesn’t pair well with having butterfingers.)
- Windbreaker Jacket
- Walking Shoes (separate from your motorcycle shoes)
Proper Riding Gear
Let’s face it- no matter how experienced you are, braving thousands of miles of asphalt with just two wheels is a risky endeavor. The vast majority of those sharing the sea of asphalt with you do it with twice the number of wheels and twenty times the safety- and they have the liberty of not having to be as conscious as you do.
That’s why you need, NEED, to be equipped with the following- especially if you’re riding for long distances:
Some of these are so obvious you’re probably rolling your eyes, but the rest get skipped over, more often than not.
- AAA Batteries
- Hydration Pack
- Non-perishable food items
- Small Soap
The ride is the main entertainment here. So by “electronics”, we’re not implying that you need to carry your PS4 all the way to Alaska. That being said, there are some essential gadgets you should carry with you, to ensure that you never run into issues on your way to your destination while keeping the opportunity for roadside assistance at a minimum. And have the means to document your motorcycle trip in detail.
Of course, the main aim here is to keep the majority of your journey with your iron butt glued to the seat on top of the two wheels so dear to us- but you will need to get some shut-eye on the way. And to make your sleep/ resting periods as comfortable and safe as possible, you have to have adequate equipment.
- Sleeping Bag
- Flexible Chair
We often forget how much being sick sucks- until we’re sick again. And the probability of you getting sick, bruised or hurt increases exponentially when you’re riding thousands of miles per week while passing through hundreds of environments.
- Pain Meds
- First-aid kit
- Energy Bars
Specialized Motorcycle Gear
Tail Bags: This easily accessible, portable bag should contain all the items you need to access immediately.
Saddle/Tank bags: Hard-shell, large cases present both behind the seat and on either side of the rear wheel, the saddlebags are your “luggage” that you carry for the entirety of your trip. They contain the bulk of your equipment.
Heated Grips: While heated gloves mitigate this as well, having a back-up never hurts.
GPS Mounts: We’ve established in multiple articles prior that Google Maps is not the best form of satellite navigation for motorcycles, due to the demanding nature of the vehicle.
The mount should be designed in such a way that the GPS device is easily visible to you at all times.
Chain Oil/Wax: The chain of a motorcycle should be lubricated every 300-600 miles to prevent a fall in performance. Lubrication has to be done after riding, not before.
Tire Repair Kit: To repair flat tires.
Tool Kits: Your tool kit should include wrenches, hex wrenches, star bits, a five-in-one screwdriver, pliers, nut drivers, a two-in-one spark plug socket, and a tire pressure gauge.
Note: Aside from regular maintenance, your motorcycle is also going to accumulate a lot of dust, debris and dirt along the way- pack your saddlebag with cleaning essentials that you can spruce your bike up with, every couple hundred miles.
Planning Your Route
Most mapping software available nowadays is pretty accurate, as far as highways, interstates, and roads, in general, are concerned. But for motorcyclists, in particular, a lot of the times such software misses out on covering routes that can (and in a lot of cases, should) be accessed with the flexibility that motorcycles offer.
For mapping software that falls within this niche, ButlerMaps and REVER are the golden standard.
Because they contain maps with intricate detailing both on the macro and micro level, often offering location-specific maps. For a price, of course.
Plan all your stops ahead of time, especially for hotels, restaurants and gas stations. If you don’t, you’re going to be spending an unnecessary amount of time wandering in the wrong direction in the spirit of “wanderlust”.
In addition to this, keep in mind to work a route that avoids rush hour/ traffic throughout the day.
How To Prepare Yourself Before A Ride
Keep this in mind- you’re going on a marathon, not a sprint. That means preparation for months in advance, for both the trip and the precaution against obstacles along the trip.
Make sure that the equipment you carry isn’t too convoluted/ difficult to use at times as you’re going to be fatigued from riding, and the last thing you want is more hassle while you’re dead tired.
Borrowing from above, if you can delegate your work- such as planning to stop for tire shops on the way instead of carrying tires yourself- do that as much as possible to keep the ratio of your riding to your non-riding as high as possible.
Adjust your suspension to reduce the pressure on your body as much as possible.
Every time you make a stop for a decent while, don’t forget to lube your chains and check your tires.
Doing a superficial run-through of your two-wheeled baby every time you make a stop will help prevent any mishaps in the motorcycles that compound overuse from happening, by identifying the problem at its roots (and screws).