If the touring bug has bitten you lately, unlike a few years ago, the quality of our roads has improved and there are a lot of capable machines to pick from. But unlike a car, you can’t just dump your luggage in the boot and drive away. Touring on a motorcycle requires planning, a sound machine between your knees, and of course, the will and courage to brave the elements since the idea is to be among them. If you’ve made your mind and have already thought about the destination, here’s a checklist you will need to tick before you set off.
Prepping The Machine
The very first thing you need to pay attention to is your motorcycle. Ensure that it has been serviced and all its vital parts are in a sound state. Replace any component which has worn out or is near the end of its life. Make sure those tyres have enough tread for you to complete the trip. For total peace of mind, we’d recommend replacing them with new ones if there have been more than a couple punctures or if they have developed any cuts or bulges.
Top up all fluids, clean/replace all filters, check the electrical system, the braking setup, and make sure all sources of illumination work bright and nice. If you plan to ride extensively in the night and the stock headlight isn’t bright enough, consider some auxiliary illumination which doesn’t eat the battery too much. Learn the basics about mending a motorcycle yourself. Jot down the location and contact details of all the authorised service stations en route. As a backup, make friends with your local mechanic or the service advisor at the workshop and get their telephone numbers.
It’s not going be a ride to the grocery store and back. The first thing you must invest in is a high quality, comfortable helmet. Get the one whose insides are washable and come with some kind of germ protection. Ensure the lid has enough ventilation points and its visor offers fog resistance. If you already have a lid, change the visor if it has too many scratches. If you’d be riding through the day under the Sun, along with the tinted visor, carry a clear type for riding in the dark. A lot of helmets even offer in-built sunglasses which can be slid down when it gets too bright.
Get a high-quality jacket which offers in-built protection, a few pockets, and is built of breathable material. Comfortable gloves, riding boots, and pants will complete the picture. Consider the weather conditions you will encounter during your travel and buy all the above gear accordingly. If they come slapped with some reflective stickering, you will be more visible when it’s dark. If not, it’s a 15-minute job where all you need is some 3M tape and glue.
Once you are sure about the motorcycle, turn the attention towards yourself. If you haven’t been into the habit of riding long distance, start off by making weekend trips to nearby places. Spend as much time in the saddle as you can and understand the limits of your body and the machine underneath. Understand that it’s not a race. You will be travelling to come back with an experience to cherish.
Train your mind to be relaxed and transform your riding style if you are the gun-it-as-you-go types. Consume lots of fluids and stay hydrated. Avoid too much caffeine or any such substances, as it will dehydrate your body and make you feel weary. Fitness is important and you will feel the difference once you start spending time on the motorcycle. Drag a little fitness schedule in your day if you are too busy with a 9 – 5 otherwise.
Invest in a pair of water resistant saddle bags which do not foul with any moving components of the motorcycle. A tank bag will provide easy access to things you will need frequently during the ride. Things like the bike’s documents (ensure you make several copies of the same before you begin), your wallet, a camera, your phone, and some knick-knacks can easily fit inside the bag and remain safe. If there’s any additional luggage, ensure you tie it securely with a bungee cord. Pack all essentials in a neat manner, so that things don’t require any more space than they need.
Carry a first-aid kit and medicines for common and any known ailments. Carry a portable charger for the cell phone and any other gadgets you will use. Do not live dangerously by plugging in your earphones while riding. It is illegal and fatally distracting. Carry spare footwear and clothes according to the weather you will encounter. When mounting, ensure weight is evenly distributed and doesn’t change the handling characteristics of your motorcycle.
Spares And Tools
The standard toolkit that comes with your motorcycle is basic. Invest in a compact sized toolbox which can help in the dis-assembly of most components on your bike. Do not depend on the inbuilt torch on your phone and do carry a flashlight. Motorcycles don’t come with spare tyres. A puncture kit will ensure you can plug the leak yourself. To refill the air, a portable, electronic air-pump plugs into the power socket if your bike offers one, or can be wired directly to the battery. If not that, manual pumps do the job as well if you are fit enough to pump in the air yourself. If your motorcycle has a tube type tyre, make sure you carry spare tubes.
Carry spare clutch and accelerator cables, bulbs, a can of engine oil, coolant, spare fuses and some standard sized nuts and bolts. If you feel safe carrying an extra pair of brake and clutch levers, do that. In the event of a fall, they are most likely to bend or break. If you will be travelling to a place where fuel bunks are rare, fuel up at the first bunk you see and get compact sized, air-tight canisters which can carry a little extra and sit in the quick access compartment of your saddlebags.
Carry the spare key along in case if you manage to misplace the original. Ensure the motorcycle is insured and the policy isn’t expiring anytime soon. Get a valid PUC, carry copies of registration, your licence, and ensure in addition to your cards, you always have enough cash on you for emergencies. Make sure you keep in touch with family and friends and carry a piece of paper with their contact details. Most importantly, enjoy the experience, plan your trip well, and come back with happy memories, only to go out again and make new ones.