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International motorcycle travel

Stromtrooper, one of the motorcycle forums I belong to, is a fantastic source of information and insight about V-Stroms in particular and motorcycling in general. Recently, a forum member posted a request for advice about an upcoming trip with two buddies from Michigan to Brazil. Here was my response:

International travel

Regardless of your mode of transportation, you have a lot to think about when traveling internationally. You’ll need to get a lot of visas lined up, be sure you have high resolution copies of your passport and all related documents scanned into PDFs that are loaded onto your phone as well as in some cloud-based location like Dropbox. I know someone who lost -all- their docs and were able to get new workable copies from an Internet cafe in the middle of Bolivia. You’ll need to get a bunch of shots and vaccinations from your doctor. Check with the State Department’s web site to make sure there aren’t any new conflicts or hostage escalations in the areas you plan to travel. Etc.

Long-distance motorcycling

Traveling long distances on a motorcycle has its own set of concerns. Take good care of your chain, and clean it and keep it lubed especially after doing any kind of dusty or dirty/muddy riding. Go to your local service shop, ask to borrow an old to-be-discarded motorcycle tire like yours. Drill some holes in it and practice plugging it with your patch kit. Practice removing a wheel from your bike (front and rear), changing the tire, and remounting it to the bike. Make an inventory of the size wrenches you need to change the oil, change a rim/tire, replace mirrors or turn signals, etc. and make sure your tool roll has all of those sized wrenches (don’t forget allen wrenches). Clothing … I suggest ExOfficio and similar brands of travel wear. It is super lightweight, packs tiny, can be worn several days w/o washing if needed, can be easily washed by hand and dries quickly, and is super durable. Cotton is great for pajamas, not for long-distance travel. You will likely need to get new tires at some point along the way. Identify reputable dealerships in safer cities and contact them. Find out if you can pre-ship your new tires to their location so they’re waiting for you when you arrive (if they don’t already carry them in-stock). You’ll also be doing a couple of oil changes along the way. Take the gear (gloves, rags, wrenches, tinfoil, etc.) you’ll need — you can buy oil on the road. Don’t pack single-purpose items; save space by only taking items that are compact and can do more than one thing (as a general rule, anyway). Pack the same way every time, so you always know where your stuff is and can easily tell when something has gone missing.

Personal

Have you made a list of the bills that have to get paid, and when they have to get paid, while you’re gone? And made arrangements for someone to take care of those things for you? It’s great to go on a long trip, but no fun when you return home and your water got shut off from delinquent payment. Contact your motorcycle and health insurance companies to let them know your anticipated route, and find out anything they don’t cover. Also find out the procedures if you need to make a claim while on the road. Store their international phone numbers in more than one location, not just in your cell phone (which can be easily stolen, lost, or damaged). Be cautious about announcing your departure on places like Facebook because people will go to your house knowing you’re not there and rip you off (it happens, sadly). Do you have a Will? Not to be morbid, but it’s a good idea even if you never leave your own county.

Spend your time before your trip thinking about all these kind of things. Read books by Greg Frazier, etc. to learn what you can from people that practically do this for a living. It’s better to be organized -before- you leave, than try to reactively deal with complications once you’re already on the road.

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