How to plan a motorcycle trip - Part 2: Motorcycle Preparedness

By: Kevin JohnsonFeb 25, 2020

Give yourself a pat on the back!  Assuming you’ve read the first part in this series, you now have a decent handle on a few things…where you’re going, how long it’s going to take you to get there and back, what clothing you’re bringing, and a general idea of packing.  All of that is swell for you, but what about the bike?  Motorcycles are vastly different from cars.  Sure, there are the obvious differences, but generally speaking I find that they require just a little bit more attention.  Example: I always let my bikes warm up a little bit when first getting going for the day, but with a car I very seldom do that.  I pay a lot closer attention to the tires and drivetrain on the motorcycle since if something were to happen to a tire let’s say, you have 50% (or more) of your stability removed from the road than say in a car, when you only lose ~25% and still have your balance.

All of this isn’t to scare you but instead open your eyes and make you aware of what’s at stake so you’ll focus on the little details that could save you from at least a headache, or bigger, your life.  But this article isn’t really about that, it’s about preparing your bike for a trip, so let’s get into the details!

I break prepping the bike down into two pieces:

  1. Truly preparing the motorcycle before hitting the road
  2. Preparing for some potential motorcycle failure while pounding the pavement

Prepping the Bike

Assuming you’ve owned your bike for a while, you should have a pretty good idea of where it stands mechanically, and likely already have a list of things you want to make sure get done prior to hitting the road.  Every bike is going to be different simply based on it’s life from inception to where it currently sits.  I’m pretty anal about keeping up with maintenance on motorcycles, and yet I still run through my list of things to check before pack up and go.

  • change the oil
  • check the tires and possibly replace
  • check the chain and adjust – also know the age and look for signs of wear
  • look for sprocket wear
  • inspect the brakes and change pads if necessary
  • change the brake fluid
  • grease the wheel bearings and axles
  • check the valves and adjust (if applicable)
  • adjust the tension in your clutch cable if necessary
  • test your battery voltage for rough life left

Short of some decently major problems with your machine, assuming all of these areas of the bike are sound, you should be ready to rock and roll!  But what happens when you get out on the open road and something happens…

Prepping for the “What Ifs”

A decent percentage of what I pack and carry with me on the bike is a tailored tool kit for that specific motorcycle and related parts.  Preparing for roadside situations is a fine line though because on one hand it’s nice to be prepared for any situation, but on the other hand you’re not going to carry your entire garage with you, so you need to be realistic and arrange for the most likely situations.  As is true with everything regarding motorcycles, every person and every situation is different, but here are the tools and parts I carry with me, no matter the trip distance.

  • specialized tool kit that will allow me to:
    • remove both wheels
    • remove brakes
    • remove seat and any plastic covers (if necessary)
    • adjust the chain
    • tire spoons (for tubed tires)
  • both a front and rear tire tube (if necessary; and you could get away with carrying just a front tube and using it in rear tire and limping somewhere but I don’t like that idea)
  • tube/tire patch kit
  • mini-compressor to air up tires
  • chain lube if necessary
  • electrical tape
  • zip ties

If you’re on a dirt bike in the middle of nowhere I would also recommend a spare clutch cable.

Again, every person’s tolerance for the unknown is different, and a lot of times you can MacGyver yourself out of situations, at least halfway decently, so you can get to a place to truly fix the problem.  With a basic understanding of the motorcycle, your abilities, and a little prep work you will be able to avoid a lot of unnecessary headaches along your journey!

Kevin Johnson
Kevin was destined to ride motorcycles from a young age since bikes are a family pastime.  Only recently did Kevin become an internet motorcycle influencer and change the lives of no one while blogging about his exploits, both on and off the road.  He is currently (and constantly) thinking about the next places two wheels might take him, much to the dismay of his wife, so stay tuned for what's to come!