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Tips on How to Prepare for a Long Motorcycle Ride



Start your dream adventure.  Quit talking about it.  Do it.

Several folks swing in every season asking us about tips and tricks relating to long distance motorcycle riding.  

A lot of what we mention here is ideal.  You may not have the space and you may not agree, but most of what we talk about is based on experiences. Sometimes it is positive and sometimes negative, either way why not learn from someone who has knowledge of long motorcycle ride essentials?


Gear for you and your passenger.  

Obviously proper gear is a must have. One of our owners, John Lyon, uses Harley-Davidson's Passage Adventure Gear by Revitt. The Passage gear is waterproof, armored, and designed to withstand the warm and cold temperature changes.  The gear has several features which make it perfect for different climates, but that is beyond this short article and we aren't trying to throw out the sales pitch to buy our gear.   Still, looking at options from the all-in-one Passage collection is a great place to start.  This gear also help save on the need to pack additional waterproof liners/gear.  Investing in good quality gear will enhance your experience. 



We recommend two pairs of gloves.  One to dry out.  One to wear.  You don’t get an opportunity to dry out gear like you do on short weekend trips.  Again Harley-Davidson  makes a variety of great gloves.  Investing in good thermal layers (Polypro, Silk, Wool).  If you are not using Revitt products (which are waterproof) invest in good quality rain gear.  Cheap rain gear will tear after your first ride.  Good quality rain gear will last a lifetime.  Socks are a must and once they are wet, you should pull off and change them.  Finally, neck gators. They protect your neck from the sun, can keep you warm if the temp drops and can also help cool you down if you dampen it with water (as you ride, the wind going through the damp gator gives a nice cooling element).

Heated Gear. 

 Harley offers a wonderful lightweight infrared heated system of jacket, gloves, pants, and socks, which plug directly into a pigtail on your bike's battery. When its cold out, wearing heated gear will improve endurance and comfort.  You will fell less tired. Wearing a skullcap, balaclava, or turtleneck will trap heat in your head and neck.


You know what they are, but if you need additional info on chaps then here are two basic reasons for motorcycle chaps.  They provide abrasion resistance and protect your legs from your engine and pipes. 


This can be a little controversial.  However, one thing we always suggest.  The longer the trip, the bigger the helmet.  Shorter trips don’t require as much protection from the elements, or you can at least deal with the ramifications of a cold face, or sun on your skin.  For a long motorcycle ride, a full-face helmet lends a great deal of protection, and comfort.  It reduces wind on your face and most full-face helmets have a sunshield that quickly flips down with one push button  Moreover, some models allow you to hook up a speaker system to take calls or just listen to your favorite music.  Whatever you decided to go with please, please, make sure that your helmet is safe!


Other products.

Zip Lock Bags to hold products like your cell phone (and charger) and extra cash to avoid them getting wet. Toilet Kits. Get the small stuff.  You can always pick some up on the way, but you can certainly go without the full size shampoo and toothpaste on something like a cross country motorcycle trip.  It’s also handy to have a baseball hat to walk around with.  For one it keeps the sun off your forehead and if your hair is a mess, no one knows it.  Aside from your riding boots, walking shoes or sneakers are also a must have.

GPS or a Regional Map.  A lot of times, reaching out to your local HOG chapter will net you with a map that highlights all the great motorcycle routes. John always mentions the fact that when he was riding in Tennessee that the HOG map was dead on with fantastic routes he would never have found without it.  

Gear for the motorcycle

Have a gear bag, backpack, or saddlebag liners to make it easy to go from the bike to the lodging place (always think about making sure any luggage/pack can be made fully waterproof and secure while on the bike).  There is nothing worse than getting caught in the rain and noticing the next morning your change of clothes is wet.

A tiny flashlight, or your cell phone, are great for those late night stops where you need to see your bike or the gear. 

Baby powder or Monkey Butt Powder.  Some people need this.  Some people don’t.  We suggest that if you haven’t been on a lot of trips.  It’s relatively inexpensive and won’t hurt you either way to sprinkle this on your bum to prevent chaffing.

Remember to bring an EZ pass if there will be tolls along the way (no one likes to fumble for change with gloves on).  Some suggest that if you have change in your pocket, it gives you a good chance to plant your feet on the ground and stretch for a second.  We like the EZ Pass method because you can find a better place to stretch. 

Sunscreen. Don’t forget this.  There are rub on and spray on options. We recommend the rub on kind and applying a thick layer on your nose, hands, ears, and forehead.  All those places get a ton of sun regardless of what gear you wear.  If It’s not covered, put sunscreen on it.   

Kickstand pad or puck.  Often times, you have to park in an area where it is fresh pavement or uneven ground.  Bring a kickstand pad to keep your motorcycle upright. A piece of wood will do in a bind, but we like the HD kickstand puck since it works so well and the jiffy stand won't "fall off it" like it will on a piece of wood.

If you travel into Canada.  Bring some fuel treatment.  Fuel is not always the same and sometimes the octane is low.  Most dealerships will have some octane booster just in case.  While you may not have ever dealt with that in the past, a fully loaded bike with gear, and people, will ping with low octane.  Pinging over time is not good. 

If you have the space, always have a basic tool kit (include plenty of zip ties and some fuses).  A heavy rain storm could cause you to blow a fuse, so having an extra (most Harleys have a couple extra in the bike) is a must. Also, bring a micro fiber towel to wipe down your windshield, glasses, or helmet shield. 

Saddlebags locks.  All saddlebags have a maximum weight.  Harley-Davidson makes a locking mechanism to ensure they stay hitched to the bike.  Having a saddlebag fall off with a bunch of gear can change your trip substantially. 


For your body. 


Pack Snacks.  Try and focus on simple stuff that doesn’t melt in the heat and doesn’t ever go bad.  John has snacks in his bags from 2011 and while some may be picky and throw those out, he leaves them in there for a trip when he is starving on the road.  An old granola bar will taste pretty good when you haven’t eaten in a while and need a few more miles to get to your stop.  Not to mention that you won’t be tempted to eat an old granola bar when you aren’t that hungry—why?  Because it’s old. 

Water bottles I think are ideal for throwing in your saddlebag or tour pack.  Water bottles that haven’t been open stay good.  We don’t need to remind you to hydrate—but make sure you are drinking.  It does affect your attitude and stamina. 

Eating light breakfasts and lunches with a heavier dinner is our approach.  When you have a light breakfast, you are more apt to stay awake and alert.  Big breakfasts might allow you to skip lunch, but you get groggy.  A heavier dinner after you are done riding will ensure you sleep like a bump on a log. 

Places to stay and eat.

We recommend the mom and pop stops when you can.  Those are adventures and you end up learning something about the area when you do stay at them.   

Hotel at night.  Get gas at night before you pull into the hotel.  Start looking at hotel locations around 3:30-4:00 p.m. and do your best to find places that are walking distance to restaurants.  When you are done for the day, it’s good to get some time on your feet and obtain exercise.  Again, mom and pop locations often will take better care of you and your motorcycle.  Plus, they often will let you park it in a secure location and assist you with items to wash your bike if you like to keep it clean.  Your garbage can in the room is a great water bucket.  Fill it up from the tub and ask for a mitt. 

Motorcycle Movements

Plan multiple stops throughout the day.  Keep in mind that riding a Harley-Davidson is an adventure.  If you are stopping and checking things out, you're going to remember the trip.  Know your limits as well.  A newer rider may only want to do a 200 mile day.  Others want to push it and rack up 700 miles in a day.  We won’t offer any opinion on this. 

When you see a tractor trailer truck and you are anywhere near it.  Get around it if it is a passing area or back way off.  Don’t hang out the back of one or on the side of a tractor trailer.  It’s not safe. On group rides be sure to know how to pass automobiles as a team.  


Closing Thoughts

Packing your bike.  When you are packing your motorcycle.  Place everything next to your bike.  Packing items that are “just in case” like first aid/tool kits, in the bottom of your storage.  After your first long trip, you will realize that you didn't need half of what you brought.  

If you make any gear changes or mods to the bike, be sure to test them out, get used to them, and consider a service checkup before a long motorcycle ride.  Of note, you should put a couple hundred miles on your bike if you have made any handlebar changes.  Have your dealership check your motorcycle over good before it goes on your trip.  If your tires or brakes are 50% life or less, change them.  You don’t want to be searching for dealerships when you are on a freedom vacation.

Ensure you are riding with people that are adventurous.  If you have positive people who enjoy the idea of adventures, you will make some memories that will last a lifetime. Plus, when you get "lost" you will find that your adventurous friends don't mind.  

If you are traveling into Canada.  Make sure you are obtaining Canadian insurance.  Not all carriers provide medical insurance when you are out of the country. 

This list is not the ultimate authority.  Everyone misses items, but this will at least get you going in the right direction.  From time to time, we may add or take items away.  Feel free to email us at Info@wilkinsharley.com with your thoughts or experiences. 

Lastly, if you are looking to purchase a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle, whether for long distance motorcycle riding, or you are just looking for something new, then browse our collection of Harley's today!