10 Motorcycle Touring Tips for New (and experienced) Riders

Here is a list of 10 tips we’ve learned over the years of motorcycle touring in all different weather and road conditions. Some were learned the hard way and some came as pleasant surprises but all have helped to make our subsequent tours safer and more enjoyable. Pay heed to these tips and make your next motorcycle tour even better than the last.

  1. Cool-looking bikes don’t always make the best touring bikes. On our honeymoon, my wife and I met a couple at a great B&B just outside of the Sequoia National Forest. They were in their early 40s and riding a full-dress Harley touring bike. They appeared much fresher and well rested than us after a similar day of riding. We began to discuss this observation and after looking at our bike, a custom cruiser, the Harley owner stated that he had given up buying bikes that looked really cool (like ours) but weren’t made for touring.  Our next bike was more touring oriented and now we too are much fresher and rested after a long day of riding. The lesson we learned: buy a bike for its intended purpose and live happily ever after.
  2. Try new things. We’ve been on more motorcycle tours than we can count. Those that were overnight tours we often ended up staying in various hotels and for the most part, don’t remember anything outstanding about any of them. The trips that do stand out in our memories were those where we tried something new or different. One particular trip we stayed at a KOA campground (we were roughing it), and as the sun went down the folks next to us came over offering cold beer and friendship. We ended up talking well into the evening and having a great time sharing our stories, food, and beverage around a campfire. It was a great time. I don’t recall many experiences like that when staying in a hotel.
  3. You don’t alway need to plan every ride down to a gnat’s butt. One day we simply headed out in a general direction with no set plans or destination. We ended up finding a great little cafe in the middle of nowhere that we now visit regularly. On the way home we took a back road that we had never been on, and wasn’t even sure where it went (we had a full tank of gas just in case). It turned out to be a little-traveled and scenic byway with undulations and great curves – a great motorcycling road! We would have never found it had we not allowed our sense of adventure to guide us.
  4. Stick to the ride plan. This sounds like it contradicts #3 and it does in a sense but applies when you do have a set destination and especially when riding in groups. On one particular overnight tour with a group of friends it was decided to deviate from the ride plan and add an additional stop – without extending the duration of the tour. It seemed not to pose a problem and everyone was up for it. As it turns out, by the time we made this additional stop most of the group was tired and did not want to continue with the route as planned and the group split. There was no real harm in this but half of the group missed out on the best part of the tour and we lost some of the camaraderie that goes with group riding. When on a timeline it’s best to stick to the ride plan.
  5. Don’t trust weather forecasts. We headed out once for a great day of riding. The weather forecast was sunny and a pleasant 66 degrees. A few hours into the ride it was 41 degrees and raining. 41 degrees on a bike feels much colder with the wind chill factor. Needless to say we were quite cold, and had we not found a cafe with hot coffee, would have been quite miserable! This leads to #6.
  6. Always bring as much riding gear as you can carry for varying weather conditions (see #5).
  7. There is no replacement for proper riding gear. One of our first motorcycle trips we got caught in 27 degree temperatures coming home. We thought we were prepared with our multiple layers of flannel shirts, thermal underwear, and winter coats. Wrong! We froze our butts off and the next day invested in proper cold-weather riding gear. There is a difference in gear made specifically for motorcycle riding versus everyday wear and it is worth every penny you pay for it.
  8. Motorcycle trips take longer than car trips. Touring motorcycles can be very comfortable for extended durations but rarely as comfortable as your car where you can stretch out, change leg positions, recline your seat, etc. For this reason you will generally find yourself taking more rest stops when touring on a bike. That’s okay, if you choose a scenic route, staying off the freeways, it’s more enjoyable anyway and extending the time to get to your destination is actually desirable.
  9. The little things can make a huge difference. We took a week-long tour through the beautiful mountains of Colorado and awesome desert scenery of northeastern Arizona…and I didn’t enjoy a minute of it. The helmet/earplug combination I was using caused incredible discomfort in my ears and no matter what I tried, I still couldn’t make it comfortable. Upon returning, I decided to research various earplugs, as they do not all fit and work the same, and now have found a pair that can be worn all day comfortably (By the way, here is a link to a useful earplug review that might help if you experience similar problems). The point of this story is that small details can make a big difference in your riding experience. Pay attention to these details, often times just a simple change can make a world of difference.
  10. Talk to the locals. Some of the best roads, restaurants, places to stay, and things to do can be found by simply asking the locals wherever you are at. We were on week-long tour, staying in Silver City, New Mexico, and decided to extend our tour for a few more days after a very kind and knowledgable couple told us about one of the local favorite motorcycle routes. We had no idea it existed and it turned out to be the highlight of our trip. We would never had know if we didn’t ask the locals for tips.

 

 

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