10 Tips for Planning Your First Overnight Motorcycle Ride

Must-read advice for anyone planning to tour

Story courtesy of RoadRUNNER Magazine
Most motorcyclists start out strictly as day-trippers, meeting with other riders on the weekend for the proverbial breakfast or lunch ride. This allows them to focus on just the day of the ride. If the weather forecast is dry, they may not take rain gear. If they do get caught in the rain, there’s always dry clothes and shelter waiting at home.

“You should make sure the other riders know you will not be
trying to keep up with them…”
The type of gear worn also may be more light duty in nature: half or three quarter style helmet, perforated jacket and pants, one set of riding gloves, no heated gear, no extra set of dry clothes, etc. On day trips, riders also may not bring along more tools than those that came with the bike, or navigational aids like maps, GPS, or other items often packed for multi-day touring.
Once riders are exposed to the vicissitudes of nature, unexpected road hazards, and navigational challenges on a multi-day ride, they quickly realize that they’re in a whole different ballgame, so to speak, than when they were just day-tripping to a restaurant and back home. Covering greater distances during long days of riding requires riders to do some pre-planning. As the old bromide cautions, “Plan for the worst and hope for the best.”
Touring multiple days on a motorcycle can be an invigorating, uplifting, and confidence building experience for riders. But, if you (or a riding buddy) haven’t done it before, here are a few planning tips.
1. Buddy-up

While always a good idea to tour with a partner, it’s especially important for inexperienced touring riders to have a companion who is experienced. Unforeseen problems on the road are always more manageable if there’s more than one person to tackle them.

10 tips for planning your first overnight motorcycle ride buddy
If you dont have a riding buddy, one way to find one is through social media and by connecting with a riding club near you.

Make sure you have the gear that’s appropriate for the intended trip. Don’t wear anything, head to toe, that you wouldn’t want to crash in. Also, don’t leave home without reliable rain gear, extra layers of dry clothing, and a second pair of riding gloves.

10 tips for planning your first overnight motorcycle ride harley
No matter what style of motorcycle you ride, sport touring, sportbike, or cruiser, being geared up from head to toe is essential for having the safest and most comfortable touring experience. (Photo courtesy RoadRUNNER magazine)
3.Check your motorcycle

Make sure your motorcycle has had its proper maintenance and is mechanically ready for the trip. Pack any extra tools, which might be needed, and make sure that your bike is properly loaded with luggage (weight centralized as much as possible). Anything loaded outside of side and topcases should be well secured with locking nylon straps, not elastic cords.

10 tips for planning your first overnight motorcycle ride OEM tool kit
Always have along the tool kit that came with your motorcycle, as it often contains special tools for your specific motorcycle.
4.Check your route
Make sure your planning includes consideration of the route to be taken. Will the terrain and roads be mountainous, flat, arid, wet, curvy, straight, paved, or unpaved? Are your skills, your gear, and bike appropriate for what is expected in the coming territory, which may be far different from your accustomed backyard riding routes?
10 tips for planning your first overnight motorcycle ride curvy road
These days with Google Maps and Google Earth its easy to do research ahead of time on the routes youll be riding. Its also a good idea to check the website of the Department of Transportation of each state in which you plan to ride for any detours and construction zones.
5.Check and anticipate weather conditions

It’s also important to gain as much advance information as possible about your route’s likely weather conditions, including range of temperatures, possible severe weather, etc. There is a lot of weather forecast information available nowadays on the Internet and via a smartphone.

10 tips for planning your first overnight motorcycle ride arizona
Even in places like Arizona where the sun shines most of the time, its a good idea to always be prepared by checking the forecast and taking rain gear for that unexpected rain shower.
6.Match your skills to the route and other riders

Let’s say you’re accustomed to riding in relatively flat terrain, but are contemplating touring through mountainous areas with more experienced motorcyclists who prefer an aggressive pace. You should make sure that the other riders know that you will not be trying to keep up with them and that they should wait, periodically, for you to catch up. After assessing the riding risk environment and your comfort level, don’t be reluctant to decline their touring invitation. Meaning it’s okay to say “not this time.”

10 tips for planning your first overnight motorcycle ride group riding
At WRN, we always tell riders to listen to that inner voice when contemplating where and with whom to ride.
7.Bring navigational aids

In unfamiliar territory, consider using up to three levels of navigational assistance. Level 1 is a GPS with the route pre-programmed on it. Level 2 is a paper map(s) with the route highlighted on it (usually a computer print-out of the GPS programmed route). We always do levels 1 and 2 because electronic devices can fail. Level 3 is usually a state highway map, which may not be sufficiently detailed to show the route, but will allow us to navigate to a more populated area for assistance if both levels 1 and 2 fail. We like to take precautions when it comes to motorcycle navigation.

10 tips for planning your first overnight motorcycle ride GPS
A GPS is good to have along, but consider bringing paper maps too, as electronics can fail.
8.Pack only essentials

A common mistake that first time overnight riders often make is loading their bike up with things that aren’t necessary. First, you don’t want to exceed your bike’s maximum load restriction (as specified in the owner’s manual), because that alone may precipitate an accident. Second, having a lot of stuff complicates the daily loading and unloading process. Most riders trips entail riding, eating, and sleeping so generally items needed are ones that directly support these three activities.

10 tips for planning your first overnight motorcycle ride packed bike
How NOT to pack a motorcycle. Way too top heavy!
9.Let others know your itinerary

If you will be riding alone, it’s important for at least one person to know where you will be riding and when to expect your return. Cell phone coverage is often spotty in lightly populated areas so it can’t be relied upon as your only way of reaching out for help. Letting others know about your plans is a good failsafe backup strategy.

10 tips for planning your first overnight motorcycle ride new mexicoWhether you ride alone or in a group, be sure to let at least one person know your travel plans.
10. Ride your own ride
Although riding your own ride is sage advice for all motorcyclists in virtually every situation, it becomes paramount on a multi-day tour. Suffering an injury while far from home in unfamiliar surroundings is both physically painful and psychologically distressing.

10 tips for planning your first overnight motorcycle ride
At the end of the day, you must be comfortable with your motorcycle, your gear, your route, your speed and everything else about your trip. We can’t say it enough. Listen to that inner voice of wisdom—your intuition. It usually steers you in the right direction. (Photo courtesy RoadRUNNER magazine)
Now share your tips in the comments section below for riders taking their first overnight ride. 
10 tips for planning your first overnight motorcycle ride christa neuhauser
RoadRUNNER magazine publisher
Christa Neuhauser.

Story courtesy of RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel magazine exclusively for WRN. RoadRUNNER is published by Christa Neuhauser, a passionate motorcycle rider. 

Often called the National Geographic of motorcycle magazines, Christa works hands-on, ensuring that each issue includes the best photos and the most interesting travels. Special subscription rate for WRN readers: RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel is a bi-monthly magazine dedicated to touring and traveling on motorcycles, and is available on newsstand and by subscription. WRN readers can take advantage of the discounted price of $20 for a year’s subscription. Visit RoadRUNNER.travel or call 866.343.7623, and tell them WRN sent you.

6 thoughts on 10 Tips for Planning Your First Overnight Motorcycle Ride

  1. Whenever I’m traveling alone locally or cross-country I run a free Droid app called CRADAR. If the app detects an impact (and you can adjust the sensitivity so it doesn’t get triggered by potholes) it asks you if you are okay. If you do not respond within however many seconds you have set then it will send a text message you have prepared along with a map showing where you are so your selected friend or loved one can call you and/or send help. However you must be in an area where you can send texts – as the article says, there are remote places (especially in the mountains) where your phone does no good. I have no affiliation with the app, but my loved ones feel much better knowing that I haven’t had an unexpected get-off.

  2. When traveling on a bike alone give extra thought to your gas stops. That single gas station on a remote stretch of highway is find during the day, but might not be so at night when stations pumps are on auto and no attendant is present. Don’t set yourself up to be a victim. Look for areas where restaurant, hotels and multiple gas stations are listed. Truck stops are often very busy and can offer many amenities. But be alert when mixing a bike in with 18 wheelers and lots of cars.

  3. I have lists for short 2- to 3-nights trip and tip for 7+ nights. I have them saved in my PC so I can print them off and check off as I pack. Eliminates overpacking and wondering if I have remembered everything I want to take. One essential that most people don’t think about is having a medical form and insurance cards with them. List your contact info, medications, allergies and any medical problems you have. This could save your life if the unexpected happens.

  4. Take out half of what you pack. I’ve heard stories of riders that throw a comb and a toothbrush in a pocket and take off, but I think thats an urban legend!

  5. We always take a tiny screwdriver for emergency glasses repairs.

  6. Flat tire repair kit with air source is of upmost importance for any length of ride.

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