Whether your motorcycle tends to sit in the garage or you ride it every day, taking it on a long road trip requires much more careful planning than just driving it back and forth to work. If you've got plans to head out of town, and you haven't a clue where to start planning, here are four things that must go on your checklist to help prevent accidents and minor mishaps along the way.
There's a saying that rubber is the only thing separating you from the asphalt. When you look at it that way, it's easy to see the importance of checking your motorcycle tires before traveling.
Under-inflation in car tires might just bring down your gas mileage, but on motorcycles, it can lead to more severe circumstances such as sluggish and unpredictable steering or the tires coming off the rim. At a minimum, you're looking at possible tire damage.
Over-inflation can cause you to lose traction once the tires overheat.
Upon quick inspection, the tires may look fine, but you have to dig deeper. Check the pressure in them when they're cold. That means if you don't own a pressure gauge, you need to get one. Otherwise, expect to wait 20 minutes after arriving at a service station before checking the pressure. This is how long it takes the tires to cool for an accurate reading.
Your owner's manual will tell you the recommended PSI for your particular motorcycle.
Inadequate tread will prevent your tires from gripping the road the way they should, which can be really dangerous in the rain and snow. But it's easy to inspect with a simple coin. Place a quarter inside the groove with Washington's head facing down. If the tread meets or goes past his head, you're good to go.
To make sure that every part of your motorcycle is running smoothly, it's a good idea to have a tune-up at a shop like Six Bends Harley-Davidson and handle any needed repairs right before you leave town.
Hopefully you have a luggage rack attached to your bike, but if not, this will be a must for an out-of-town ride.
A lot of people make the mistake of thinking they can pack most of their clothes in a backpack and "wear" their luggage to their destination. That might work fine for the ten-minute ride to school or work every day. But it's a bad idea for an extended trip, and here's why. Even if you pack lightly and assume that your backpack or shoulder pack doesn't weigh much, you'll definitely change your mind after about an hour, when it suddenly starts to feel like you've got a boulder on your back. The fatigue alone can make it difficult to stay focused while driving.
In addition, the multitude of straps on the bag can come loose from high winds, and before you know it, you're getting beat in the face by pieces of vinyl or leather. This can obstruct your vision, or worse, cause an injury.
A luggage rack is a pretty simple preventative measure to take.
Suppose you pull over to stretch your legs or grab a quick snack. You notice that one of the bags previously secured to the bike has moved over or is hanging off the edge of the rack. When you check it, you discover that it's loose.
While you can't always prevent every single bag or suitcase from getting a little loose, you can easily fix the problem by bringing along plenty of extra utility rope or bungee cords to refasten them and keep them from flying off the back of the bike.
Hopefully you have the basics when it comes to personal protective gear. Things that can shield against abrasions and other injuries in case of an accident include helmets, goggles, and gloves.
But another item that may not be on your checklist is a riding suit. A lot of bikers don't have one if they only ride recreationally when the weather is nice. But for a long trip, you don't want to be caught without one. Getting drenched in a downpour will certainly slow you down.
If you want something that's mainly intended to keep you dry, a nylon suit will be sufficient. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation recommends that the suit have an elastic waist, tie-strings or stirrups at the bottom to secure the pants to the boots, and a high collar that snaps closed or has an adjustable fastener.
If you want something that will offer a heavier layer of protection against injury from a crash, consider purchasing an "abrasion-resistant" material like leather, ballistic nylon, or that which is found in quality, name brand suits.