How to ride a Motorcycle on long distances | Practical tips and tricks
On a general note, as riders, we always want to push our rides further and further as we try to keep that feeling of freedom going for as long as we possibly can.
That inevitably translates itself into long distance riding.
Regardless if your long distance bug becomes a lifestyle or only makes an occasional appearance, until we become experts at that we all have to face a steep learning curve.
From days when we freeze our asses for hours on end to days when we just want to reach our destination because our bodies are killing us and comfort seems like a definition we long forgot, we all have to hit heads first into problems to learn their fixes.
Today we are going to try and give you a jump start into long distance motorcycle riding, and try to shorten your learning curve so that you can enjoy the most out of your rides!
We would say there are a few points that one needs to keep in mind, six to be precise, but let us start by quoting a seventh that although obvious, stays forgotten too often.
- The “that’s obvious!” point.
Make sure your bike is problem free.
Of course no one will start a big trip or a long distance endeavour without a correctly working bike, of course not… until you do.
We all have a little something on our bikes that is far from perfect; we tend to refer to those problems as personality traits of our bikes.
Nothing wrong with those, but if you see your brain as a processor with limited capabilities, knowing there is a little trick you always have to apply, occupies a bit of that processing power.
Long distance means that you will be far away from your house, your garage and tools, your mechanic, and many times even from known people to ask for help if you need to, and nothing wrong with that either, it's for many part of the appeal of this kind of trip.
However, if something goes wrong with the bike, you are now faced with a set of problems that will occupy such a big part of your processing capabilities that enjoying the ride gets seriously bumped down your to-do list.
Make sure you service your bike beforehand, you fix all the “personality traits” you can on a permanent way, and that you have an on-road maintenance plan for the duration of the trip.
This mind freedom of knowing the chances of having a problem are as low as possible will free all of your processing space to enjoy the ride more, and as such, it will make your ride just that more comfortable.
- Stay in shape during your drives.
Long distance riders are not racers, so the shape most of us are in is far from gym fit, and more towards the “I’ve indulged one too many dinner parties” physics, and that is ok, however, when riding we need to pay attention to our bodies as much as our fitter counterparts.
Cramps, sour muscles, twitchiness, lack of feeling in extremities, all of those can happen to anyone that stays too many hours on top of a bike.
Believing that a good night sleep will fix the problem and that the next day will be a breeze? That is a rookie mistake.
Stretch, and stretch often!
If before you start your day, you do an overall stretch and warm up, and repeat when you stop for meals, and after you park your bike for the day, you will see an enormous boost in your quality of life.
Because we are sitting down most if not all of our time when riding, it's easy to forget that riding a bike long distance, even at its most leisurely pace, is a sport, an endurance sporting activity to be more precise.
As such, and as with all sporting activities, it's wise to prepare your body for the task and to stretch it all back once it's over. On a bike, it's no difference, and it has nothing to do with being in shape or with driving at a racing pace.
- Bottoms up!
We have all been in that position where we stop the bike after a days ride, and realize that other than a glass of water in the morning and at lunch, we didn’t have a sip to drink all day.
A common mistake with severe consequences.
Dehydration is real, it settles in slow, and it does not let you know it's coming unless you are very aware of its symptoms.
- Increased thirst.
- Dry mouth.
- Tired or sleepy.
- Decreased urine output.
- Urine is low volume and more yellowish than usual.
- Dry skin.
If dry skin or a dry mouth isn't of much concern while driving, tiredness, and dizziness can lead to a crash.
On top of these, if you are dehydrated, your muscles will struggle more to recuperate, which means you will most likely start the following day far from 100% ready.
Another common mistake is to ingest sugary or energy drinks to hydrate and stay sharp.
If you are serious about keeping hydrated, your Coke’s and Red Bull’s need to stay on the shelf.
Sugar and caffeine will force your body to use more of its water, and will actually make you dehydrated faster in the process.
- Gear up.
This one is hard to advise for as all of us have different comfort temperatures, so trial and error is a must here.
Some people prefer to suffer over cold weather, some favor sweating a bit more when it's warm, and some try their best to keep their temperature stable in all conditions.
No matter how much money you want to spend on a suit, no one suit alone in the world is going to be perfect for all weathers.
That being said, you will always need to layer up, and build from there.
If the words base layer, mid layer, and outer shell mean nothing to you, you need to dedicate some time into fixing that.
After you master the layering techniques, you may find it's not enough, and if for cold weather, you can layer up some heated gear, for warm weather, you are stuck with the vents of your suit.
Remember when we said that no one suit could do it all?
Well, that limitation tends to be more visible at high temperatures.
For suits to be wind and waterproof, they cannot go crazy on the vents, and even the ones that succeed into make their 4 season suits well vented, not even those will be a match for proper summer gear.
In the rain you will find similar limitations.
Making something waterproof is easy. However, it's hard to allow for that same surface to be breathable and facilitate your sweat from flowing out of the jacket/pants.
When it comes to gear, always consider the 4 seasons when going on long distance rides to compensate for climate changes, and if needed, pack more than one suit.
Body temperature control is critical to make sure you ride comfortably for longer.
- Don’t slouch!
It's easy to get distracted by the surroundings, after all, we are riding to enjoy the view, but that means, less processing available to remember posture.
Slouching and stiffening your muscles will hit hard on your discomfort key.
However, frequent stops, moving around when riding, keeping an eye on your posture, and paring all of this with the stretches we covered earlier, will earn you your bodies eternal gratitude!
- Walk it out.
If stretching and paying attention to your posture is still not enough for you, take those periodic brakes to take a walk.
Walk around the parking lot, walk around the bike, not mater, put in 5 minutes walk in every stop.
This forces your body to move all the muscles you are not using while riding and it improves blood flow.
- IT’S TOO LOUD!
Although most of us acknowledge the benefits of using earplugs while riding, not all of us consider that one of those benefits is pure comfort.
Remaining in noisy environments for extended periods of time will make anyone tired faster, no matter who you are or if you are on a bike or not, noise plus time equals tired.
On the other hand, even knowing that quiet means relaxed, too quiet is not good either, as it will prevent you from paying attention to outside inputs such as traffic and your own bike.
Now if too loud isn't good, and too quiet is also a no go, you guessed it, you need to find your balance.
Once you do, you will find that your rides will feel way more relaxed, so play around with different ear plus. Save your ears the degradation, and allow yourself to enjoy your trips to the fullest.
All of these points are rather personal, however, we hope they will provide you a solid starting point that will let you to enjoy more out of your rides and for longer periods of time!