Touring 101: Beginners’ Guide to Motorcycle Touring

I would describe motorcycle touring as a series of experiences to do with new destinations, great moments, and new people. Touring is just another word for finding your freedom. There are riders who hit the road and never come home for months. Beginner riders, however, might just want to do a trip that lasts a week or 10 days, for starters. This can be a perfect way for motorcycle enthusiasts to unwind after hectic work days that seem to never end.

The particulars of riding on city roads and on the highway are completely different. There’s a lot that you’ll need to keep in mind when you are on a long tour. On the road, you’ll come across a lot of uncertainties, for one, and there won’t be familiar faces around you to help you out. You’ll need to be careful and take precautions. And before you hit the road, you’ll need to make sure that everything is set: good planning and preparation can go a long way toward keeping you safe on the road. Let us look at some things that we need to keep in mind before you embark on long motorcycle tours–starting with you, the rider.

The rider

Being on the saddle doesn’t seem like much of an athletic feat, but you do need to be physically and mentally fit to be able to do a tour. Tiredness, anxiety, and stress can all be signs of an ill-prepared rider. You need to assess yourself: How long have you been riding? What’s the longest ride you have been on? What have been your experiences on the road? You need to be able to remain calm, and this quality is something that you will develop after you’ve spent more time on the saddle and made a few road trips. 

You also need to make sure that you are well hydrated and that you are eating properly–by which, I mean you need to have light meals when touring (having heavy meals before a ride may cause you to feel drowsy or lethargic). Furthermore, being dehydrated can make you lose focus and your vigilance can be greatly affected, which can mean the difference between life and death out there. You need to make sure that you are in your best riding condition. Finally, don’t forget to get some proper riding gear so that you are protected at all times. 

The plan

Having a plan can help you visualise your trip before it has even begun. You can work through your plan and run through it weeks before your tour. This will help you tackle those niggling questions related to the route, and minimise the uncertainties that you might face on the road. Writing the plan down and tweaking it as needed will help you focus and will allow you to handle unforeseen events and emergencies.

The route

This one goes hand in hand with your plan. You need to make sure that your route is planned out. If you are just starting out, you would do well to explore known routes and stay clear of unknown ones. Exploring new terrain and places can be exciting, but if you aren’t an experienced rider, you just might get overwhelmed—or even lost. So it is best to plan out your route beforehand and know your fuel stops and rest stops. You wouldn’t want to be stranded in the middle of nowhere, with no fuel in your motorcycle. 

That said, your route need not be etched in stone: you can always alter your route on the basis of recommendations you get from the locals you’ll meet along your route. But having a basic outline of your route beforehand can save you from wasting time and allow you to plan accommodations and logistics more easily. Speaking of accommodations, it is always a good idea to pre-book them.  

The ride

Just like yourself, you need to make sure that your motorcycle is in top-notch riding condition. Make sure that you drop by your mechanic’s a few days prior to your ride. You wouldn’t want your accelerator wire to snap just after having traversed a few kilometres or have to deal with worn-out brake pads. You can also take this opportunity to have some basic maintenance procedures done, like lubing the chains or cleaning the air filter. You can also fit your motorcycle with panniers and saddlebags to accommodate extra luggage. 

The weather

You can never be about weather conditions, and heat and cold can have a great impact on your body while you are riding. Rain is also another variable that you will need to keep in mind: rainwater can find its way through substandard clothing or gaps in your outfit. So make sure that your gear has a thermal layer and a rain inner. You need to be ready to tackle any kind of weather on the road. Also, you should carry spare warm clothes, as it is harder to warm up than to cool down. 

Emergency planning

Apart from all the things mentioned here, you also need to remember that you can never be too cautious. Always have an emergency plan for when things might go wrong. You should have a first-aid kit in your motorcycle at all times, and always have your mobile phone with you. 

Budget planning

You should have a realistic budget plan and think through the expenses you will incur. You wouldn’t want to be spending mindlessly. But you do need to be ready for unexpected mechanical breakdowns and other events of that nature.    

Hand gestures

Last but not least, you should also learn how to use hand gestures–to communicate with other riders and vehicles on the road. 

A final word on touring: motorcycle touring can be addictive, and you’ll find yourself out on the road way more than often you’d bargained for. But rest assured—you will come across a lot of great people on your journeys. Just make sure to make every journey a memorable one.

Stay safe and ride safe. 

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