24 tips to prepare for a long-distance motorcycle ride

Nothing captures the spontaneous spirit of motorcycling like hitting the open road. But don't be fooled — it takes planning to make a long-distance ride as carefree as it looks. Use this motorcycle road trip checklist to make sure you don't cruise straight into trouble.

packing for your motorcycle trip: what to bring

Since they can't rely on the ample space of a car, motorcyclists have to pack efficiently (and sometimes a bit creatively).

1. Weather-appropriate gear

Depending on the month, you'll want gear to deal with the sun and heat (cool neck wrap, sunglasses, sunscreen), the cold and rain (gloves, long underwear, heated vest liner, waterproof outerwear, etc.), or often both.

2. Maintenance supplies

Tire inflation kit, tool kit, jumper cables, bike cover, and motor oil are some basics to consider. If you're particularly handy, you might also include things like spare spark plugs, replacement fuses, or a clutch cable.

3. Personal comforts

Motorcycling is all about traveling light, but there may be some personal items you need to ride comfortably (and safely) — toiletries, lip balm, ear plugs, or others.

4. Emergency supplies

Include a first-aid kit, list of personal contacts and medications, waterproof matches, emergency blanket, energy bars, water, flashlight, and phone charger.

5. Roll up clothing

By rolling up your personal clothing, you'll be able fit more than you can by folding.

6. Choose synthetic clothing over cotton

They dry much faster after being washed or rained on.

7. Compare lists with other riders

Don't needlessly duplicate items with your spouse or riding buddies, and look for things you can share (toothpaste, sunscreen, etc.).

8. Buy instead of pack

If you're short on room, leave cheaper items at home that can simply be purchased at a convenience store.

9. Arrange your gear low and toward the front

This is the bike's center of gravity. Dispersing your stuff evenly in this area will help you ride smoothly, even with the added weight.

10. Group similar items in zipper-lock plastic bags

Your stuff can be arranged more neatly and is easier to access.

11. Get a bag guard for saddlebags

Even if they hang clear of your tires when sitting in the garage, saddlebags can suffer tire burns during your ride as they move about.

12. Situate luggage safely

Avoid hanging saddlebags around drive chains or exhaust pipes, or strapping items to the front fender and blocking airflow to the engine. It never hurts to use extra straps to keep bags or other items secure.

13. Arrange items based on when you'll need them

Accessing a right-side saddlebag is safer than reaching toward the left (and closer to oncoming traffic). Keep items you might need while riding on the right and others on the left.

14. Use trash bags

If your luggage isn't waterproof, a trash bag makes a fine (if less handsome) option.

getting your bike ready to roll

Your journey hinges on your motorcycle's performance, so make sure your hog is up to the task.

15. Note your bike's load limits

Your owner's manual and VIN plate should both list the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). This is the maximum total weight your bike should carry at one time. Try to stay under this limit.

16. Tighten suspension accordingly

Stiffening the suspension is a good countermeasure as your luggage, racks, and other items transform how your bike handles.

17. Inflate the tires

The tire pressure you usually maintain while riding about town may not be enough for your bulky, long-distance trip, so check the instructions in your owner's manual and adjust as needed.

18. Aim your headlamp

With gear strewn about, make sure not to block the path of your headlamp.

19. Inspect key components

Give your bike a good once-over:

  • Check the belt or chain for weak spots
  • Test the spark plugs
  • Look at the fluid level in each battery cell (and charge the battery if you haven't ridden in a while)
  • Clean or replace dirty air filters
  • Fill up low fluids
  • Lubricate the brake and clutch cables
  • Ensure all lights are working

20. Go for a test ride

This is the best way to know what to expect when you set off (and what needs adjusting so you can make it past the driveway).

plotting the finer details

Planning a motorcycle trip doesn't need to involve copious travel arrangements (it's hard to imagine Brando or Dean fussing over online hotel reviews, after all). But your journey will go smoother with a few details nailed down.

21. Map out a route

We're guessing you probably haven't decided to quit your job and roam the highways full time. In which case, you'll likely need to map out your basic route so you can keep yourself on at least a loose schedule.

22. Bring proper documents if crossing the border

Heading into Canada or Mexico? Don't forget your passport, other necessary documents, and maybe even some local currency.

23. Plan sleeping arrangements

Whether camping outdoors or living the motel life, figure out which towns offer places to stop ahead of time.

24. Find your fill-up spots

Gas stations can be few and far between on scenic back roads, so scout your path before you leave or bring along a touring map that lists where to find them.

bolstering your motorcycle coverage

Don't forget one last crucial item on your motorcycle road trip checklist — strengthening your motorcycle insurance to withstand the risks of the road.

For instance, adding towing and labor coverage can give you peace of mind in case you get stranded. And trip interruption coverage provides the ultimate in long-distance-riding security, with funds for alternate transportation, lodging, and food to hold you over while waiting for bike repairs.

Start a free quote to secure your motorcycle coverage or log into your policy if you're an existing Esurance customer and want to make changes.

Rules for group motorcycling
Riding with others can be a delicate (but super fun) art. Learn how to safely enjoy this quintessential motorcycling activity.

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