Right about this time of year, when the weather is pretty much awful pretty much everywhere, the thoughtful motorcyclist opts to spend quality time dwelling on more pleasant topics – like perhaps a longer ride than usual this summer. Here’s some food for thought.
Bike: If something as crass as money is not a concern, purchase whatever new motorcycle you deem perfect for whatever task you’d like to be at hand. For 99% of us, however, there’s a more comforting thought.
What you have will do just fine.
My first long ride was from Minnesota to Seattle and back on a camping trip in 1968. My steed was a Yamaha YDS 250, a two stroke twin that weighed about 300 pounds and had 33 horsepower or so on a very good day. It was terrific. Two years later, after a few west coast adventures and one return ride to Minnesota, a Honda 450 Street Scrambler took me from Seattle to Florida. Neither of these machines would fit anyone’s definition of a touring bike. Both of them were fine touring bikes. This summer I’ll ride my Triumph Speed Triple on another sojourn to Minnesota and back. Anyone who tells you that a large touring bike is required for a long ride has either never done such a trip at all, or on anything else, or is trying to sell you something. If you already own a large touring bike, of course, this entire paragraph has been a waste of your time, and hopefully the next few will be of more use.
Two rules for the long ride:
- You need more carrying capacity than you think.
- You need to pack less stuff than you think.
These appear to be contradictory, but are not.
1. You need more carrying capacity than you think because you’ll be spending a lot more time either by yourself or at the very least further from your usual sources of help and supplies. That means, if you do not carry them at all times now (as I do), you’ll need space for a First Aid kit, a tire repair kit, and an air compressor. Flat tires do occur, and they happen more frequently to people who are not prepared to have them who are riding on a lovely road that is 75 miles from the next town and in an area with no cell phone service. Some tire repair kits carry small canisters of gas to inflate the tire. What if you botch that? What if you do not have enough? What if you have two flat tires?
You’ll also need to carry water, sun tan lotion, bug repellant, visor cleaner, water, maps, and perhaps batteries or chargers for your phone, GPS system, and other et ceteras we cannot seem to live without these days. In addition, it is an excellent idea to take at least three pairs of gloves to deal with heat, cold, and rain. You’ll need a jacket liner and a sweater and perhaps a neck tube thingie for the cold, and in the mountain regions it is always cold in the morning. When the temps hit 80 or so, you’ll need enough capacity to be able to carry the layers you want to shed. To help you keep all this organized and compact Nelson Rigg offers compression bags for this. You place your clothing items inside, connect the compression straps and start compressing your load by pulling on the straps. Reducing the volume of stuffed bag by 50% or more isn’t at all unusual, and while you’re t-shirts and such might have a few wrinkles when you take them out, you’ll sure appreciate the extra space they can provide.
Most of us do not carry a cover for our motorcycle at all times, and yet a Nelson-Rigg cover can be a real asset on a long ride. People of lesser morality who like to steal things seem to go blind when confronted with a cover – they do not see that there is a motorcycle there at all. Therefore, covering your bike even when parked in the relative security of a motel parking lot can do a lot for peace of mind. As an intended bonus, it can keep the bike dry and clean if you find a rain system on your travels. But covers can fill up a whole saddlebag, right? Not anymore. Most Nelson Rigg covers now have one of those nifty compression bags included. Just to give you a better example of how effective compression bags can be for motorcycle traveling; you can now take a full dress Goldwing cover (that use to take up an entire saddlebag to store) and by using the included compression bag, you can compress the cover to the size of a can of coffee (or to about the size of an NFL football if you relate better, since the season just wrapped up). So now there really isn’t any reason to not take a cover with you.
All of this means the need for more carrying capacity than you might be accustomed to for day rides or commuting. My bike has “too much storage”, said no motorcycle rider ever! Right?
Choices. Depending on the bike, you may need to add saddlebags (panniers), a tail bag or tail rack and trunk, a tank bag, and/or a back pack. All of them have advantages and disadvantages and time perusing the Nelson-Rigg catalog will help pass the time until your adventure, offering a lot of good information and quality choices. Once you made your choices, you’ll need to address the next point.
2. You need to pack much less than you think you do.
Almost everyone who goes on their first long ride packs way too much clobber. This is particularly true of clothing. We spend time in preparation trying to imagine every possible need, and pack everything we think might ever be needed. But the reality is that most of the situations and needs we think up will never occur, and a lot of them can be given a lower priority and taken care of with a charge card if the need arises. A charge card takes up virtually no space and you would be carrying one anyway.
The famous writer Peter Egan once shared his own packing system for a long ride. He would start the trip with the most worn-out and shoddy t-shirts in his drawer, the ones you should probably throw out but never get around to. You will be riding a full-coverage jacket all day on your ride (or you should) so the shirt you are wearing will not be seen as you are styling your way through a gas station or rest area. At the end of the day, Mr. Egan would take the shirt, perhaps clean the bike with it, and then toss it. He reasoned that he would probably want to purchase a shirt or two at the event he was attending anyway, and those would replace what he threw away and be stored in the same place.
A lot of us have a lifestyle that features daily changes of every clothing item, daily showers, and daily shaving. Out on the road there’s a tendency to get a little bit more liberal with these things, and as a consequence you may go through clothing items less frequently. Or, in a motel or a campground, you can do a pretty good job of washing a few clothing items by hand and they’ll be dry by morning.
If you like to wear leathers, or even non-traditional clothing, you’ll need a set of rain pants and jacket (see the Nelson-Rigg catalog again) to keep you dry and protect your expensive leathers!
If you wear a one or two piece textile suit, all you will need is one pair of jeans for “evening wear,” a pair of shorts and perhaps a swim suit, and one small and light pair of tennies for relaxing.
Obviously, this is all very general, because I do not know how much time you’ll have or where you want to go. This is intended to be the prod to get you thinking, however. So many people think about a long trip every year and never do it. But you? Why not you? Make this your year (if you’ve never done this before) or the best year, if you have. You have map books to peruse, event schedules of various types to consider, and vacation days to put in for. Get busy!
For our blog content, Nelson Rigg partnered up with David Preston who has been riding motorcycles, and talking and writing about them, for 47 years. For more of his thoughts, on motorcycles and motorcycle related information, please follow our blog.
David Preston Copyright 2014