Most of us dream of riding across the country and exploring a new place. Many go back to the same location to relive their previous experience and may be better their riding skills.
Many break downs and bad calls later I am finally living out of a motorcycle. I started small and after many short distance or weekend rides, I gained confidence. Understanding of motorcycles, the route and a bit of people skills have come a long way. It’s been 10 plus years and every road trip is as exciting as the very first one
It exciting to see someone just load up the bike and ride out into sunrise, but if he isn’t prepared well, the ride will turn into agony in no time. Thankfully new age motorcycles have ensured lesser breakdowns and eliminated that bulk of spares we had to carry earlier.
I am breaking down the preparation in to five major parts,
- Comfort zone – Before you go exploring the lesser known roads, start with smaller trips. A day or a weekend trip will give you enough confidence on the motorcycle and might train you on handling a few situations. These rides should be of various terrains so as to gain a fair idea of the bike and your skill level. Riding a full fledged ADV up in the mountains is a fun idea, but if you can’t handle it then it’s all an agony that lasts longer than the trip. Get comfortable with yourself and the motorcycle, this will go a long way.
- Route planning – Keeping in mind your experience and skill level, break down the trip into multiple days. On a good highway you could cover anywhere between 600 to 700 kms, but in the mountain roads, it comes down to 200 and sometimes a bare 100 kms. So understand the route and read up the comments from locals and finally break it down day wise. Ensure to keep rest /free days, this would help handle surprises. Could be a new place to explore, rest for the body or some unexpected work on the motorcycle. I avoid riding in the night and book my stay to check in by 4 (ish) , depending on the road conditions I would plan the distance ahead and make sure I land up before its dark. Take enough breaks, and as and when you stop, ensure to look around your motorcycle for any wear and tear and fix them incase any.
- Riding Gear – It’s like insurance, you might never need it, but when you do, you wish it came with much better coverage. There are a dozen brands in the market now and social media has become a good resource to find reviews around it. Try to take in the real life reviews and pick up gear that fits you NOW. Riding gear is like your second skin and will take the impact on the fall so pick accordingly. Depending on the weather conditions, pick up an armored touring or a mesh jacket. A full face helmet that fits you snug should be a must, armored riding pants, ankle length boots and gloves complete the kit and ensures you are ready in case you take a fall. I usually carry two pairs of gloves; this comes handy in changing weather conditions or a fall.
- Bike Preparation – preparing the bike for the trip ensures, you have lesser break downs and that you cut down on carrying too many tools and spare parts. You are going to spend some long hours on the motorcycle so you might as well spend a bit more in prepping the bike.
- Crash guard – Depending on your motorcycle get the right guards, this would ensure lesser damages in case of a fall.
- Saddle stay – if you are choosing a saddle bag, it would be advisable to have a stay that holds the bags in place.
- Usb chargers and phone mounts – helps in navigating on the move and also keeping the phone charged when needed.
- Aux Lights – While it would be great to avoid night riding, aux lights come handy in case you end up riding late. Set it up such that it has a separate harness and is not draining the battery. Ensure to fix lights that don’t trouble the oncoming traffic.
- Tires – Select tires depending on the route conditions. If you are sticking to highways, the stock tires are good enough. Dual sport patterns are advisable for mixed terrains.
- Workshop time – Sit with a mechanic and understand the basics of the motorcycle. This would help you carry out basic services and also guide a road side mechanic in case of a breakdown. Make a list of the consumables and plan up a kit.
- Tool kit – you cannot have a standard kit across the motorcycles and you don’t need a full tool box . With the time spent at the workshop, you will be aware of the relevant tools for your bike; carry a set of that and it should be good to go. Any major accident would mean you need a mechanic and usually they have the full kit.
My travelling toolkit
- Chain maintenance kit
- Multiple Fuses
- 10-11, 12-13 spanner
- Monkey wrench
- Allen key set
- Combo screw drivers
- 10,11,12,14,17 box/Socket, Universal joint, Extension bar and Ratchet handle
- Head strap Flash light
- Zip ties, duct tape, electrical tape
- Puncture kit
- Chain link lock
- Air pump
- Most of us go overboard with this and end up struggling all through. Figuring out what and what not to carry becomes a major problem. A good riding gear eliminates the need of multiple jeans and tees. Also, if you are fine with Dri fit material, you could cut down on the number of clothes you carry. I usually pack 4 tees, pair of shorts, couple of undergarments and a few buffs. Dri fit material can be washed and dried over night, also they take up way less space compared to other materials. Also slippers or shoes to change into when not riding.
Keeping this in mind figure out if a saddle bag or duffle bag works for you. I prefer duffle bags for unto a 4 day ride and for anything longer, I shift to a saddle bag. Even if the luggage is the same, the fatigue might not help you get on a bike with a duffle bag. I prefer waterproof luggage as weather conditions vary across the country. If you do stall your bike in the middle of a water crossing in the mountains waterproof luggage is your saviour. As of today most of luggage options are rentable, this means you could try them out on short rides and then decide.
I also use a small tank bag to carry my essentials like a gopro, batteries, cables, wallet etc. and is usually a 18 litre or lesser in capacity.
- The essentials – First aid kit plus the tool/Essential kit mentioned above.
- Rain Gear – I usually pick a size bigger rain gear from decathlon. This goes above the riding gear and comes handy in case of rain or just to cut off the cold winds. Also as its slightly loose, its easier to put or remove.
About the Author
Sarath Shenoy – Bringing alive the love of motorcycles, one motorcycle at a time. I live out of a motorcycle and go wherever the mind belongs, only stop for good chai and friends.