How to plan a motorcycle trip
We probably all know someone whose idea of the perfect motorcycle road trip is to chuck a change of clothes into a rucksack, then ride off and decide whether to turn left or right only when they get to the end of their road.
Most of us, however, prefer to put a little more time into planning a motorcycle trip before we leave. After all, free time is a precious commodity, and therefore it makes sense to do as much as we can to make the most of our time in the saddle.
Creating a motorcycle route planner is a well-established starting point when considering a motorcycle trip, but what do you start with? And what should you consider?
Choose a destination for your motorcycle trip
It sounds obvious, but it helps immensely to have even a rough idea of where you're headed; and yet 'the destination' is often the most difficult decision in the first place. A lot depends on what you want from your road trip. If you have a destination in mind, then great, but do you want to go straight there and back, or are there potential scenic routes worth exploring? Whichever way you choose, are there any interesting places en route that you'd want to stop off at?
How long are you going for? A weekend motorcycle trip is probably going to come in at a lower total mileage with fewer sightseeing options than a 7-day tour, and that will of course affect the number of directions and routes you can explore. Try fully opening up an old-fashioned paper map on the floor for destination ideas, or Google 'motorcycle routes in (whatever county you live in or near)' for lots of suggestions.
Once you know your destination and length of tour, then you can begin to work out what you're going to pack. You'll need your touring suit and full-face helmet, of course, to help defend against whatever the road throws up at you as well as whatever the weather throws down at you. After that it's nice to have a couple of clothing options that allow you to layer up in case of cold weather (is there anything worse than riding while too cold?), and then any 'civilian' clothes you'll want for blending in among normal people, like for well-earned refreshments at the end of the riding day.
Top packing tip: pack the heaviest gear at the bottom of whatever luggage you use, to keep your centre of gravity as low as possible. And if you're using panniers or saddle bags then it'll help with on-road handling if you can distribute the weight equally on either side. Our blog article “Pack the perfect pannier” will give you a few more ideas.
One major rookie mistake is to stretch the length of visits between petrol stations.
On paper it might seem more efficient to minimise the number of fuel stops, but it only takes one slight diversion, or a getting lost episode, or even some big impassable traffic jam, and your refuelling options can quickly look a bit bleak.
Your options depend on where you're touring. If you're nipping up and down the A1 then don't worry too much, but if you're rolling through twisties in the Scottish Highlands then you might want to fill up whenever you get the opportunity.
A fuel stop is often a good excuse for a comfort break; but you can build in additional stops for simply stretching your legs, refreshments, or take in a local tourist hotspot. For example, many riders who find themselves cruising the M6, M1, A5, or M69 in the East Midlands take a slight detour and build in a break at Triumph Motorcycles' Factory Visitor Experience
Inspect your bike
It goes without saying that you really don't want to risk a breakdown while you're away. The only way to fully enjoy your ride with maximum confidence is to give your bike a full health check before your motorcycle road trip.
If you're so inclined, put your bike in for an interim service. If that's not possible then at the very least do visual checks on your tyres, clutch & brake cables, and all your lights. Top up your oil, coolant and brake fluid where necessary, then check that the suspension is as you want it, and the chain has the requisite amount of give (and no more). Finally, make sure that your bike's stand is fully functional and springs back correctly.
Do the above a week or two before you're due to leave, so if you do spot a problem area then you'll have time to get it sorted.
And remember, if you're not going to service your bike then the above is the minimum amount of inspection you should be making before your trip.
Personal preference will dictate your plans for bedding down each evening.
If you're able to stay with various friends all along the way then your route planner will write itself. And if you think a motorcycle road trip isn't really a road trip unless you sleep under canvas every night, then you'll have to plot your route to run fairly near camping sites (and then pre-book a place to avoid disappointment).
Of course, value hotel chains and independent bed & breakfast accommodation are fairly cheap, clean and commonplace pretty much wherever you go, but you should always book in advance, again to avoid disappointment.
A motorcycle road trip can be one of the most relaxing and wonderful experiences that life has to offer. It can also – occasionally – become a bit of a frustrating and stressful challenge.
Give yourself the best possible chance of enjoying the best possible experience with just a little bit of prior planning.
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