The open road. Exploring and experiencing new destinations on two wheels. Oh yes, motorcycle road trips are magical, aren’t they? But riding a motorcycle on multi-day, long road trips are more involved than packing a bag for a quick scoot. Read on for 10 tips for motorcycle road trips.
Riding Down the Highway: Tips for Motorcycle Road Trips
I’m lucky to live in Colorado, where many of the best rides are just a day trip away. But my husband and I also enjoy multi-day, long road motorcycle road trips. Packing for a day trip, or even a weekend motorcycle scoot is a different animal than those long multi-day motorcycle road trips. From pre-trip to post-trip and everything in between, here are my tips for motorcycle road trips.
1. Before your motorcycle road trip, service your bike thoroughly.
There is nothing worse than your bike breaking down ON your road trip. Service your bike thoroughly BEFORE leaving for any motorcycle road trips. Check and replace the oil and other fluids as needed. Order and replace Harley Davidson parts when needed. Check the tread of your tire. Basically, check as many components of your motorcycle as possible to ensure safety on the open road.
NOTE: Service your bike at least a week or so before departure. This gives you enough time to take your bike out for a few test runs. That way you can check for any leaks or other mechanical issues before hitting the open road.
2. Roll and pack.
Whether carry-on luggage for a flight or preparing for a motorcycle road trip, packing requires some finesse and strategic pre-planning. Although for other travels checking an additional bag is an option, your motorcycle has a finite amount of space. Pre-plan by laying out clothes according to the day. Yes, you can re-wear jeans.
The best packing tip for a motorcycle road trip is the same as a flight: roll and pack. Rolling conserves valuable space on your bike. Here’s an excellent video on how to pack for a motorcycle road trip:
Line your bags with a cheap kitchen trash bag to keep your belongings dry, even if you have waterproof bags). When overnighting, place the dirty clothes on the bottom in a trash bag and the clean dry clothes on the top.
Packing Tip for Motorcycle Road Trips: Short on room? Remember sometimes it’s better to buy than pack. Take sample size toiletries and buy more at local convenience stores when and if you need them.
3. Emergency supplies
Although you may be able to cull back on clothing for your motorcycle road trip, do make sure you pack a first-aid kit, waterproof matches, emergency blanket, energy bars/snacks, flashlight, and phone charger. Pack a spare key (motorcyclist lost key to gas tank story) Hubby and I pack our spare keys in the other’s bike (my spare in his; his spare in mine).
And perhaps the most important is a list of personal contacts and medications!
When my hubby and I rode to Sturgis for the first time more than a decade ago, our small T-bag came loose and fell off the bike. We didn’t know we’d lost it until miles down the road. We re-traced our steps, with no luck at locating the bag. Unfortunately, this was the bag with extra credit cards, our full itinerary (hotel stay info), cell phones, and some cash. Fortunately, the itinerary included our emergency contacts. And fortunately, the biker who found the T-bag called to let our father-in-law know it had been found. We connected with the motorcyclists near Sturgis, who returned the bag with all contents intact. (We gave her a cash reward.)
3. Check your motorcycle every morning.
You may have thoroughly serviced your bike before your trip, but each time you stop for the night, check your motorcycle every morning BEFORE heading out. In less than 5 minutes you can check the simple stuff—air pressure, oil level, loose or missing fasteners. Consider following this motorcycle pre-ride checklist.
5. Be Prepared! Weather changes quickly on the road.
No matter when you are traveling, weather-appropriate gear is critical to your safety and comfort. Depending on the month, gear to deal with the sun and heat (cool neck wrap, sunglasses, sunscreen), the cold and rain (gloves, long underwear, heated vest liner, waterproof outerwear, etc.), or often both.
It’s awesome to get lost in the scenery, but not so awesome when those clouds start darkening. This happened to me and my BFF girlfriend when riding the backroads of Nebraska. We spotted the storm coming in, but unfortunately, we weren’t close enough to our hotel room in North Platte to escape the rainstorm. Believe me, we were grateful for our rain gear and motorcycle jackets for women.
Although not all states require a helmet, I always wear my helmet. When the weather conditions turn nasty, such as snow, sleet or rain (the latter which happened on my Nebraska motorcycle road trip ), the difference between an epic motorcycle road trip or a fail are wearing motorcycle helmets when riding. Sometimes, when the sleet and rain pelts stung my face, I wished I had a full face helmet too.
6. Schedule frequent stops on your motorcycle road trips.
Sitting in the same position on a motorcycle isn’t always comfortable. Frequent stops increase your alertness and comfort level when riding. Rest more than you think you should. Get off the bike and stretch.
Stay hydrated and drink water every time you stop. Freeze a bottle of water before leaving and toss in your saddlebag. I have a friend who actually freezes water in an empty plastic quart sized milk bottle, which surprisingly stays cold even in the heat of a summer afternoon. (Although a frozen water bottle would do the trick too.)
7. Refuel often.
When riding scenic back roads, sometimes gas stations are few and far between. Scout your path in advance, utilizing the best apps for motorcyclist riders. Be aware of your motorcycle’s estimated miles per gallon. For those riding with others, be sure to communicate your fueling needs. My husband rides a Harley Davidson Road Glide. I ride a Harley Cross Bones. His gas tank is larger than mine, and he sometimes forgets that I require fuel more
For those riding with others, be sure to communicate your fueling needs. My husband rides a Harley Davidson Road Glide. I ride a Harley Cross Bones. His gas tank is larger than mine, and he sometimes forgets that I require fuel more often.
9. Be realistic on daily miles.
Even on a motorcycle, freeway miles zoom by, and yes, you might be able to ride a butt-burning 400-500 miles in one day. But when riding those scenic back roads or mountain passes, 150 miles may be a full day. Be realistic on how much you can and want to do — and still be comfortable. My sweet spot for a motorcycle road trip is about 200-250 miles per day (max 300-350) as I want to enjoy the journey along the way.
10. Go off the beaten path.
I’ve been a fan of road trips since a young girl, but there’s something about a motorcycle road trip that just makes me feel like I am really THERE. One of the best tips for motorcycle road trips I can offer is to go off the beaten path. Know where you’re going and if the road is safe for a motorcycle.
I did just that on my Nebraska motorcycle road trip, opting to ride gravel and dirt roads (at a slow speed) through the 71,516-acre Valentine National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge is located in the Sandhills of north-central Nebraska. Just after sunrise, and within 10 minutes of entering the refuge, we came upon a massive migration of elk — amazing! We wouldn’t have experienced this epic sight without checking with the park rangers to ensure that the road was safe for us.
11. Keep it local.
No matter my mode of travel, I LOVE to keep it local. I search for hotels or B&Bs that are locally owned, and within walking distance of restaurants and shopping. That way we can park the bikes, enjoy a nice dinner and adult beverage. A perfect example of our trip to Redstone, where we opt for the Redstone Cliffs Lodge, park our bikes and literally walk next door to the Crystal Cafe. Bike stays parked. We explore this peaceful (with no phone service) small town in Colorado.
I avoid chain restaurants. Instead, I choose locally owned diners, mom & pop restaurants, local pubs, and hole-in-the-wall bars and restaurants. I enjoy getting to know the locals and supporting their community. I discovered that most locals welcome the bikers and share tips and other places worth visiting.
Sometimes, I will actually research the local motorcycle community in advance, and check to see if my scheduled arrival coincides with any local motorcycle runs. For example, we plan an annual motorcycle road trip to Florence, Colorado, at the same time as their annual St. Judes Ride. We bookend that trip with travels throughout Colorado.
12. Take lots of Photos!
Take photos of places and things including historic roadways, road signs, people, bars, hotels, etc. Whatever makes you want to click, take pictures. Be sure to include photos of your group including the above amazing view of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park on our motorcycle road trip via the West Elks Loop.
My husband and I always try to take photos at every town we stop. We’ll take couple’s selfies and photos with our friends. We’ll ask the waitress, bartender, or random traveler to take our photos. This gives us a photo diary of where we’ve been, what we’ve seen, and the people we’ve met.
Where will you ride? Share your tips for motorcycle road trips!