“I look my best when I take my helmet off after a long motorcycle ride. I have a glow and a bit of helmet hair.”
— ERIC BANA
A motorbike trip to somewhere outside the maddening city life needs no introduction. It is one of the most coveted types, and those who indulge in it feel the bliss while those who don’t always wish that someday they would. A good biker knows that safety is paramount in a bike trip and takes all necessary precautions beforehand to keep at bay distasteful memories. Depending on how long the trip is and how rough the ride can get, there are a few basic points that always remain in his checklist. This post will take you through how to plan a bike trip, proper gear and accessories to pack, and how to take care of yourself as a biker.
HOW TO PLAN A BIKE TOUR
Needless to say, a motorbike trip won’t be as comfortable as flying around and taking local taxis, but if this is something you have always wanted to do then just keep your excuses and anxiety away and go for it. Imagine yourself cruising around your dream destination amidst pretty landscape and find your motivation. If Olympic athletes can use the power of visualization to keep their spirit high, so can you.
For first time riders, it is better to join a group tour as you understand and learn more about how to plan, pack, follow schedules and maintain the health of bike on the road. Take note of how far the destination is, how many days you want to spend on the road and plan the daily travel time and distance accordingly. Some websites with their populated forums and user discussions that can help in planning a bike tour are BCMTouring, India Mike, Harley Davidson Ride Planner (create own map routes), Best Biking Roads, Motowhere and Sunday Morning Roads (no coverage for India).
CLOTHES FOR BIKERS
Whether you are going for a trip long or short, a bike isn’t a place to lounge around and unless you just can’t, you should pay attention to what you are wearing. Starting right from a sturdy helmet with a face shield to biker’s boots, there are many things in between that need attention. While it’s not absolutely necessary to upgrade your entire biking wardrobe, a bit by bit they’ll just start making your journeys more comfortable and safe. So start with what you need to gradually moving on to getting better quality stuff.
- Safety gear– not only is a helmet a necessary protection against accidents, it also protects from sun, rain, mosquitoes and dust, so try to make a good investment here. And, riding without one might be cool for college kids but will be scorned off by mature bikers for the ignorance. Next, you might not have thought about earbuds but they are an important part of maintaining health. On highways even if there are no blaring trucks around and your bike also doesn’t make noise, the wind speed is believed to be high enough to cause gradual hearing loss over time. We get so used to wind noise over the course of the journey that we stop noticing and don’t realize how it constantly hit the ears. Also, worth considering are buying knee and elbow caps to prevent injuries.
- Jacket– the leather jacket is a true classic as the tough second skin provides better protection in case of accidents than most other materials, but for the summer you may want to choose one with a more light-weight synthetic fabric. For serious bikers though, they can deal with sweat but not with compromised safety. So from whatever your budget allows, choose the most durable fabric. When riding in the cold, a wind breaker jacket is a very good option to retain the body heat.
- Trousers– a quick drying or waterproof trouser with zippered cargo styled pockets is an ideal companion. Better to have a removable thermal lining as well if the bike happens to be a cruiser and you are at the risk of burning the leg if you touch the exhaust.
- Shoes– give the sneakers a break and a get strong pair of waterproof, slip and abrasion resistant shoes that protect the ankle as well.
BIKE CARE TIPS BEFORE THE TRIP
Before an upcoming trip, get the bike thoroughly checked by a good mechanic and get a ‘bike-fit’. If you’re a solo rider than you need to be completely self-sustained. So, learn the basics and get a toolkit with some spare parts. Not to forget, that being able to repair your own motorbike is a useful skill considered manly while running to the mechanic for every small issue isn’t.
BIKE ACCESSORIES FOR A LONG JOURNEY
Mostly dealing with how you choose to pack your stuff there are a few accessories that you can get to become efficient and well-prepared, other than ensuring a healthy state of your bike. (Read more about multi-purpose travel accessories)
- Detachable saddle bags– not only is carrying everything on the shoulders uncomfortable, it also not good for the back when going long distances. If you are a frequent rider then spacious saddlebags would be an investment or else for occasional use they can be just rented. Having multiple pockets will help compartmentalize stuff and make your life on the bike easy. Do make sure to have rain cover or simple plastic bags to cover all bags if the need arises.
- Medical kit– not only the medicines for basic illnesses but also the antiseptics and dressing material to address an injury. No one would want to see a small, preventable wound grow. For a more comprehensive list, check out the detailed post by Sankara, a travel blogger and avid biker himself.
- A small day pack/waist bag/tank bag– since most of the stuff is packed away in a bigger bag, keep a small front accessible bag for phone, keys, wallet, water bottle, snack bars, sanitiser, license and other small stuff that will be needed time and again during the journey.
- Maps– become a savvy rider and get a physical map of the place if possible, or else mark all important locations and routes on the GPS beforehand as you never know where the network might ditch you.
- Portable speakers– entirely optional, but what fun to have your favorite songs setting the mood for you amidst the vast expanse of scenery! And the songs, they will always remain emotional mementos.
Other than this, don’t push too much distance in a single day and stop when you feel like it. Stretch it out after every few hours to avoid a sore back, stay hydrated and just enjoy the journey, ‘cause if planned properly the trip will remain one of your favorite ones for a long time to come. (Read about how to plan a perfect guys trip in India)
Think we might have missed out something? What are your bike essentials?