Some riders stick to local roads their entire riding career. Some of us ride into other states, and sometimes other countries on the regular. When you’re preparing for a long distance motorcycle tour, there are some key riding gear decisions you’re going to have to make.
First and most importantly: test all your gear first. Don’t leave your house on a long trip wearing a piece of gear you’ve never worn before. You could be setting yourself up for misery. That said, we all know that part of riding motorcycles, and especially riding motorcycles long distances, involves some discomfort, but perfectly preventable pain is just a bummer to have to live with on vacation.
Plan For It
Bring rain gear. Yeah, I know, the weather forecast looks sunny and gorgeous for the entire trip! How long are you gone, a week? Two weeks? The weather will change. Bring rain gear–it’s not just to keep you dry but can serve as an extra emergency cold-weather layer, too.
Wear Good Base Layers
An often-overlooked source of extreme comfort? Your base layers. What are you wearing under your gear? You really don’t want to wear jeans sitting on a motorcycle all day. High-tech workout gear made specifically for the weather you’ll be riding through (hot or cold weather specific) will help regulate your temperature and keep you surprisingly comfortable no matter what the weather throws at you. This includes long-sleeved shirts, leggings, and socks. Warm-weather, wicking base layers yank the sweat out of you and make that sweat work better.
Wear Good Gear
Which of your riding jackets and pants are the most versatile? You’ll want to wear your well-armored, stout gear that is comfortable, fits you, and has both a removable insulative layer as well as good ventilation. Take your jacket and pants to a tailor, and have them install a zipper so that the jacket and pants connect.
While you’re on a hot ride you may be tempted to take your gear off, but I am here to tell you, that is a false sense of comfort. The sun will braise your uncovered skin, dehydrating you much faster than if you’d kept your jacket on. If you crash your bike after baking naked in the sun for a few hours, chances are your trip will be over. Wearing good gear means your chances of continuing on with your trip even after a moderate unplanned getoff are pretty good. You want to get up and ride tomorrow, and the day after that, too, right? Keep riding; wear your gear.
Sure, you might roast in waterproof boots some of the days on your journey. On those days when it turns chilly and rainy and you have no option other than to keep going, though, warm dry feet will make a huge difference. Non-waterproof boots will get wet in the rain and stay wet for days. Motorcycle-specific socks are often quite excellent and worth the investment.
You may not bother with ear plugs on short trips or along your commute. When you are riding all day, every day, for a week or more, protecting your hearing becomes extremely important. You’ve already tested out a bunch of ear plugs at home and found the ones that work best in your ears, right? Put them in every morning so that you don’t have to listen to the terrible music of your ears ringing every night.
Your Best Helmet
A really good helmet is one you won’t mind wearing for eight or more hours a day. It’s a full-face deal, since you don’t want a minor crash to be a broken-jaw show-stopper. A tinted shield for bright sun will keep your face cool. A clear shield in bright sun will turn into a greenhouse over your face with the clear shield closed. Drop-down sun visors are great for commuting, but that clear main shield will cook your face. I carry a separate clear shield on tour in case I end up riding at night. When you pull your helmet on and hop on the bike, everything should feel like home even when you’re thousands of miles away from your garage.
Now go hop on your bike and explore!