There isn’t another machine that is a truer expression of the visceral, untamed, adventurous instinct of a truly ‘living’ human being than a motorcycle. This is true beyond argument. Anyone who tells you otherwise, needs to ride. Truly ride. A soul which resides between two wheels has achieved salvation. There’s no space for worldliness on the saddle. The rapture of losing yourself with that motor whirring ecstatically under your behind transcends material needs, worldly greed, brands and labels. And when you think of motorcycling or biking in general on those spiritual lines, long distance riding is a genre that probably represents that sense of freedom better than any other forms its takes.
For those who wish to explore the beauty of this wonderful world in the most palpable, connected and uninhibited manner, a long distance motorcycle ride is arguably the best option. And much as the activity might be rewarding, it has its own share of perils and predicaments. There are, however, some simple ways in which you could mitigate the lurking dangers which might play spoilsport during your next long ride. Here’s a list of five simple things you can do to ensure that your next ride is safe, convenient, comfortable and utterly enjoyable
Plan and act before you start
While venturing out into the unknown might be the idea for the adventurers amongst us, having a fair understanding of the territory you are going to tread is not just advisable, it’s a must. Before you leave for a long-ish trip, you must prepare a broad outline of the route, the destinations you wish to visit, an assortment of halting options for a variety of route plans and some understanding of the weather, road and socio-political conditions. Ask around, call your biker friends, join biking communities to ask pertinent questions, and in general, have your anxiety-arousing questions answered to a satisfactory level of detail before you set out.
In addition, you also need to ensure that you give your machine a thorough once over and have it serviced before you start the journey. Generally, if you are riding a well-built, reliable machine, critical mechanical component of your bike will not break on you. Relatively susceptible components like tyres, brakes / clutch cables and bulbs etc aren’t as reliable even for some of the most tank-like bikes though. Carrying a puncture repair kit, a couple of cables, a small toolset, fuses and a bulb for the headlamp won’t take up much space within your baggage, but would be a godsend in case of a crisis.
Drop that load off your back
And when we say that, we mean both mentally and physically. From the time you start off, ensure that you are stress-free and are in a mindset to enjoy the ride. Don’t carry your mental stress on the saddle. Don’t create a mental strain for yourself by setting unrealistic itineraries or racing against time. Remember, you choose to ride as a stress buster, as a therapy, and not to add further to your emotional woes. So wear that genial smile, forget all you worries, and enjoy the ride.
About the physical aspect, you would have often scene riders travelling interstate with a haversack on their back – don’t be one of them. Riding with your back loaded is one of the biggest mistakes you can commit while travelling long distance. Not only would that extra weight tire you out way more quickly, it would have an adverse, and may we add, irreversible affect on your spine in the longer run. Use tank bags or saddle bags to carry your luggage on a motorcycle. You can use bungee cords to fasten a normal bag in case you don’t have bike specific bags. Whichever variety of bags you use though, make sure that they are properly fastened, don’t hang off precariously or won’t come off in case the bike goes over rough surfaces. This would ensure that you focus on riding safely, and not bother about the luggage falling off over every speed bump or pothole.
Pace yourself well
This begins with you assessing yourself honestly and fairly as a skilled rider. You should realistically know your limits as a safe rider, and plan the pace of your journey accordingly. Set realistic targets, and ride steadily to achieve them. The average attainable speeds on Indian roads are quite low, taking into account the bad state of tar and the unpredictable, chaotic nature of the traffic, so set the pace of your ride sensibly after taking into account the kind of roads you’re are going to travel on, weather and traffic conditions.
A good way to set a realistic target is to apportion some time for butt breaks, tank ups, answering nature’s calls, refreshment breaks and the occasional halts to soak in a nice view and take some images. Remember it’s as much about the journey as the destination – so enjoy your ride, and don’t try to push yourself to dangerous limits.
Avoid riding in the dark
While you cannot entirely avoid riding in the dark, as sometimes unforeseen circumstances put you off your pre-planned schedule, riding in broad daylight should be the most preferred way to travel for a rider. Sure, there are techniques to ride faster and safer in the night too, but we will discuss those another day. For the average Joe, riding during night, especially while travelling long distance, is not a very good idea. We’ll tell you why.
The first reason is the very apparent fact about visibility. The limited visibility during night reduces your scope of vision drastically. You cannot look clearly till far, this not only reduces your speed, but also is a tad more dangerous owing to the ill maintained roads and unpredictable traffic. Secondly, the constant glare from the oncoming traffic blinds you on several occasions, and the safety hazards associated with that phenomenon are very apparent. Even if you’re not entirely blinded by the lights of the oncoming traffic, the constant dilation and contraction of your eye pupils owing to appearance and recession of lights tires your eyes much faster than during the day, when the spread of the light is pretty constant.
Lurking dangers are also relatively less visible during dark hours and the chances of you not spotting an apparent danger are higher during night. Finally, the help sought in case on any emergencies is not readily available during the night. So unless you are a pro rider with extensive training, control and endurance to ride in the dark – try avoiding it as much as possible.
Keep in Shape
More important than anything else is to have your vital biking muscles in shape, and keeping your weight down. Working on your core muscles can be good point to start. Riding regularly and for long distances on your bike by itself trains the muscles you engage during rides and somewhat conditions them for longer rides. Being lighter keeps your spine under less stress and having that paunch tucked in also reduces the amount of stress you’ll put on your back. Well exercised abs, core, shoulders and arms go a long way in providing you the strength and endurance you need for those extra long rides.
Another aspect you need to keep in mind is the food you consume along the way. Always ensure that you have your refreshments at a hygienic eatery where locals visit regularly. Do not have any uncooked or partially cooked meals during road trips, and avoid unfiltered water at all costs. Packaged drinking water may cost, but it’s a great way to avoid water borne diseases while being on the road. Finally, while it may not be possible for everyone, avoid having non-vegetarian stuff during such journeys, especially at nondescript eateries, as the chances of an upset stomach and food poisoning with non-veg food are higher as compared with a vegan meal.
So that’s that. Hope you found our long distance riding tips useful. If you wish to share one of your long distance rides on your TVS bike, you can submit it to us through the section provided on the page. If you wish to add any points to the list, do share your thoughts in the comments section below. Finally, do share this list with your biker buddies who you think might benefit from it.