Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Some long distance riding tips

I thought I'd write down some of the tips I've learned, discovered, re-learned and put to good use as I've ridden both my motorcycles up and down Colorado's roads and the roads of several other states.

First and foremost, take care of your motorcycle and it'll get you home. I do my own services where I can, not only to save money but to get to know my motorcycle more closely in case it ever breaks down. Not only that, but when I do a service, I know it was done and done as right as I can possibly do it.

Speaking of working on your motorcycle, try and do the work with just the tools you normally carry on your motorcycle. You obviously won't have that fully stocked tool chest in your garage with you when riding, will you? If I find my onboard toolkit does not have a tool, I buy it and carry it from that point on when riding. I've accumulated quite a bit more tools/materials than what the motorcycle came with! LINK

Buy a good service manual, check your basic stuff at least once a week: Tire pressure, loose or missing fasteners, check the oil and brake fluid reservoirs, your lights and signals, the horn and lastly check for leaks. Keep your motorcycle clean so you can spot the leaks early! Buy your motorcycle the high octane gas, she deserves it.

Carry a tire puncture kit and know how to use it, heck, practice using it on an old tire. The side of the road, in the rain and late at night is not the time to try and read the instructions that came with the kit! Invest in a small air compressor, those CO2 tubes really aren't up to the job.

Carry a cellphone, along with a charger for the longer trips, more often than not, you'll have coverage and can call for a tow truck.

Now, for on the road:

Read up on and practice the Master Yoda Riding Position. Sound weird but it works! I've done many a 10-12 hour day, 600+ miles at a stretch, and still not hurt too badly at the end of the day, and this is with stock seats on both my motorcycles! If the link above is broken, just google the phrase!

Your feet are not meant to just be in one position on the pegs, move them around once in a while! Point your toes down a bit if your knees are starting to feel sore, it really helps. When I first started motorcycling, I thought you were supposed to keep your feet still and in the same spot on the pegs, wrong!

Move your butt back towards the rear of your seat if your knees are getting sore, I sometimes slide back onto the pillion seat to allow my legs to stretch out a bit during the straight runs.

If your motorcycle's clearance allows it, and you can get up on the pillion seat while still holding the grips, then you can let your feet dangle free for a few moments. You can also try resting the back of your booted ankle on the top of the pegs as well to give your knees some relief. Remember, be careful and do this when there's little traffic and no curves!

On the same line of long straight stretches of road with little traffic, invest in some kind of "wrist rest" device, sometimes referred to as cruise control for motorcycles. There's many types and brands but they all do one thing: They allow you to lock the throttle in place, letting your free your throttle hand for a few moments to stretch your fingers, wiggle your wrist and whatever else hurts from holding the throttle for long periods of time.

Personally, and I am not saying to try it, but sometimes with the throttle locked and going straight where I can see very far ahead, I'll lean back and rest one arm on the respective side case for a minute or so, it helps stretch the back and shoulder muscles.

Get a kidney or back support belt and wear it nice and tight under your outer riding gear. Speaking for myself and my bad posture, having some lower back support is a wonderful thing on the day long rides!

Consciously avoid using the death grip on your handlebar grips, a light touch is plenty most of the time. If your wrists are bent downwards, you're not doing it right. Try to form and keep a V shape with your thumb and index finger when gripping the throttle and left hand grips. Keep your elbows up and your back straight!

The cruiser riders like to stretch out their legs and rest them on top of their engine guards or on highway pegs they've mounted on their engine guards or frame. I like to sometimes rest, for a just about 30 secs or so, my boots on the engine guards that I mounted on my R80 airhead. No such luck with Maria, my 2004 R1150RT due to her fairing. Yes, they do make pegs that one secures to the valve covers but its not in my future.

Sometimes, if the road is really empty and straight, try standing up on the pegs, while securely holding onto the handlebar! Don't go blaming me if you crash for doing something this risky without at least giving it some thought! Just standing while riding, for 15 seconds or so, makes the world of difference for me and allows me to ride further on.

Note: You may attract unwanted attention from the local law enforcement, apparently they believe your standing is a prelude to popping a wheelie or a mark of being a squid up to no good.

Standing on the pegs, it's been floated on the Internet, is also a way to get that idiot cager who's been tailgating you to back off as you're exhibiting unexpected and possibly dangerous behaviour. I don't know how effective this is, just be careful.

Invest in good riding gear, use the layers concept to stay warm in hot or cold weather. Pack rain gear, because you will get rained on if you ride enough. Wear a helmet!

Yes, being ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time) can be a PITA, can make you sweat on hot days but you damn sure won't have time to put it all on when you go down! Let the others make jokes, or try and tell you that you don't need all that gear. I am here to tell you, it's saved my butt a couple of times. Gear can be replaced....your body parts tend to be sensitive to pavement when contacting it at anything above say 5 mph!

Plan your meals around the traditional meal times, otherwise you get caught in the "lunch rush" and lose valuable riding time. I tend to not eat a big lunch when riding, it I eat at all....I get "food comma" where one feels sleepy after a big meal, not a good thing when riding a motor vehicle!

Spare key, carried somewhere independent of your regular motorcycle key.

Known how long you have, in terms of mileage, when either you have to switch to final reserve on your older motorcycle or the fuel low warning light comes on in your newer motorcycle. These things are a pain to push even for a short distance. It will, most times, pay off to top off when you reach the midpoint in your range, sometimes the planned for gas stop is not there or its closed.....

Keep hydrated, even in cold weather, you lose a lot of water through perspiration of course in hot weather, but you lose water as well in cold weather. I am bad about this but working on it, I do travel with a water bottle now, even for day trips. The cognoscenti say: "if you pee is a dark yellow, you're not drinking enough water". Signs of dehydration are headaches, sore throat, and impacts on your reactions and reasoning abilities. Be careful, if you stop sweating in hot weather, that's bad. There's more to riding in hot weather, I might do a posting on what works for me, later on.

Keep exposed skin to a minimum, to avoid sunburn, windburn, excessive evaporation due to wind. If you're doing ATGATT, this should not be an issue except for the back of you neck.

That's all that comes to mind for now, please leave a comment if you've tips I've not mentioned.


Shawn King said...

Great points on LD riding. I couldn't find an email address for you so my apologies for posting this request here.

I'd like to interview you about this article for my podcast "Your Bike Life" ( If you're interested, please email me at shawn (at) Thanks!

mike howard said...

I enjoyed reading your comments and have a couple of small additions....Make certain those leathers you are wearing fit right! Too loose a jacket and in an accident it rides up and is no protection, too tight and you don't get proper ventilation while riding. I also carry a couple or 3 different pairs of gloves with me, to change as I stop for gas or bladder break...full leather gauntlets in the morning when the air is crisp and cool, leather fingerless or dirt rider ventilated for later in the day for sun protection but still have a little palm protection. Make certain if you ride after dark that you get some reflective material, tape or such, on your helmet and bike, so the cagers can see you a little better. Black leather looks and is sweet, but you can get black reflective tape that in a car's headlights is brilliant white! I have it on both my normal riding jacket, both my full and shorty helmets, and even around on the frame and black bags on my bike!

Doug C said...

D - Perfect timing for some quality advice. As you may know, I'll have the chance to rack up some 500+ mile days in about a month, and tips like these are something I was looking for - especially from someone who regularly will ride 8 to 10 hours in a day.

I have confidence in the bike. Ftigue is my greatest concern. Sending this article to the print queue...


Charlie6 said...

mike howard, a belated thanks for the additional info you posted. thanks for writing in.

doug c. glad I could possibly help, just don't ride beyond your limits, you'll do fine!