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Touring Tips: How to Ride Long Distance Like a Pro

I ride an average of 9,000 miles per year, more than half of which is during long-distance trips. Those miles have occurred without a single get-off and took place during all types of weather and road conditions. During that time and over those miles I’ve learned a few things, some of which are included below. Most of these tips pertain to long-distance touring rather than short single-day trips or commuting.

1. Take classes and practice specific skills. Take the Basic Rider’s Course from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation to get your endorsement, then after 5-10,000 miles, take a more advanced course. I suggest Lee Park’s Total Control.

2. Don’t buy cheap gear. Quality is a higher priority than price. Quality gear is usually more comfortable, making the ride more enjoyable.

3. When buying gear, get pants and a jacket that is waterproof via the outer layer. Gear that uses a removable waterproof inner liner is a waste of time and money.

4. Rub Pledge furniture polish on the outside of your face shield to make rain bead up and run off. Rub shaving cream on the inside of your face shield to prevent fogging.

5. Keep some kind of tool kit on your bike. My suggestion for its contents are: flat repair kit, DC air compressor, electrical tape, adjustable wrench, allen wrenches, multi-tool, small can of WD40, rubber gloves, paper shop rags, and one large black plastic bag.

6. Keep a bottle of water and a power bar in your tank bag. It’s also a good idea to keep a half-roll of toilet paper in a ziplock bag.

7. Wear earplugs.

8. Look down at your side stand when you put it down. Be sure of the surface before resting your bike’s weight on it. Crush a pop can and put that under the side stand foot to give it more stability on loose surfaces like gravel or sand.

9. Leave cotton clothes at home. Use merino wool socks, even in the summer, and wear synthetic wicking underwear and t-shirts as your base layer, especially during warmer rides. In colder weather, use polar fleece as an insulating layer under your jacket and pants; bonus points if your polar fleece is the wind blocker variety.

10. When it’s hot, wear a vented or mesh jacket and get your t-shirt wet underneath. You’ll actually get a better evaporative cooling effect this way than riding without the jacket at all (warm air compresses against your chest and is actually warmer than the ambient air temperature).

11. This is a tip about riding in general rather than specific to long-distance touring: look ahead, don’t look at the road right in front of your bike. Your cornering will be a lot smoother and more efficient, and you’ll even be able to take the same corner faster than you would otherwise.

These are some rules I live by:

Riding is optional. Never ride when it isn’t safe to do so, either because of weather conditions, the mechanical condition of your bike, your physical health or mental state (don’t ride stressed or distracted, etc.)

Never drink and ride. Ever. No exceptions.

Your ability + current conditions = riding safety margin. Never exceed this.

Take care of your bike. Pay attention to maintenance items like fluid levels, tire wear and pressure, chain cleanliness, etc.

Ride respectfully. Be courteous to other riders regardless of their brand of bike. Be respectful of the communities you ride through. Be a positive reflection of motorcyclists and never leave a negative impression of riders upon those you meet.

Some people consider All The Gear, All The Time (ATGATT) to be a flexible matter of personal choice. I don’t. I consider it a basic rule that should never be broken. I value my health and safety too much to violate the rule or even bend it, regardless of conditions.

Always wear a helmet, even if one is not required by law. Keeping your brain contained inside your skull is more important than keeping the wind on your face.

Never buy a used helmet. If you drop your helmet, replace it. They suffer internal damage that is not visible or detectable and you need it to be factory-fresh in case of an accident.

Looking good is nice, but never sacrifice safety for the sake of fashion.

If another rider needs assistance, do what you can to help. You may need help someday and good karma is a handy thing.

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