Motorcycle Travel, Part III: Comfort & Convenience
Here at Leader we’re all about comfort and convenience! So now that we’ve covered planning tips (see articles "Dreaming" and "Planning"), it’s time to start thinking about the ‘little things’ that will make your trip so much more enjoyable.
Packing is super important on a bike because you have such limited space. You don't want to look like this guy!
Think about the weather where you are traveling and realize the temperature may swing from high to low in the span of a day.
Layer clothing whenever possible, and make sure you have the essentials: jeans, underwear, extra socks, long-sleeve shirt and your favorite T-shirts. Another must: rain gear and good-quality leather chaps.
Know the helmet laws in the states in which you’re traveling. Don’t get caught without one in a helmet-law state! (No fun to get a ticket on your dream trip.) Check out this site for a map of the states where helmets are required.
Don’t try to do too much
If you’re not used to riding long distances, don’t force yourself to stay in the saddle for hundreds of miles. Plan stops along the way: for hydration, a bathroom break, or just to walk around and get the blood flowing (and give your rear a break). Plan the total number of hours or miles to be comfortable for you and you’ll have a much more enjoyable trip.
Invest in a set of Desert Dawgs for rain and wind protection; a butt cushion (or custom seat if your budget allows); or some music… anything for comfort and convenience.
NOW you’re ready to go! Or are you? We’ve got a few MORE tips for you! Stay tuned for our next post on recording memories, taking precautions and preparing your bike.
- Tracey Cramer
Motorcycle Travel, Part II: Planning
Have you picked a destination you want to ride your motorcycle to? Great! Now have some fun planning it!
See cool stuff
The roads are not the only reason for the trip. Make sure to plan fun and interesting destinations along your route. That could mean a beach, a mountain range, a forest, a city, a monument, a desert, an amusement park, an ocean (or, heck, some relatives or friends!). The list is endless.
Don’t get lost
You’ll enjoy your trip more if you’re not stressed about finding a place to sleep, or wondering how far you can go on a tank of gas.
Get a GPS or a navigation app on your smart phone (See our blog post about GPS vs. Phone) and plug in your route. That way you can simply follow along and not have to worry about getting lost.
Some minor adjustments to your GPS can make you more comfortable (such as turning the screen brightness all the way up). And, of course, you want to make sure your phone or GPS is securely mounted (hint: use a Leader mount!).
Look for out-of-the-way “local” places to eat (they often have the best food and atmosphere).
How about taking a tour of America’s weirdest food? Ever tried Scrapple in Pennsylvania? The name is as it implies. Scrapes of the pig! (Could it be good??)
Wisconsin - up in our neck of the words! - is famous for fried cheese curds. (These are amazing!)
Geoduck anyone? The leathery siphon protruding from the six-inch shell of this odd-looking deep-water clam can reach up to three feet in length. Served like sashimi and sauteed in butter. (Not sure about this one...)
Try to plan your day’s travel so you end up at a location where lodging is available. In peak times of the year lodging can be hard to come by so you may want to make reservations in advance. Knowing where you are going and where you will stop helps make the trip less stressful.
Think about where you want to stay. Do you prefer a big hotel or something smaller? I love a good B&B (bed-and-breakfast); they’re often quaint or quirky, and the food is usually fantastic. Plus they have their fingers on the pulse of what is happening locally and are a great source for things to do in the area.
Every state (and many municipalities) has dedicated tourism websites that can be helpful in identifying destinations and lodging.
- Tracey Cramer
Motorcycle Travel: Part I: Dreamin’
Do you dream of life on the road, just you and two wheels (or three)? Places you’ve always wanted to go, but just haven’t made the time to visit? Start planning your motorcycle trip and make this the year you make it happen!
Planning a motorcycle trip can be daunting. Where do you begin? We all have places we’ve been daydreaming about. Pick one from your ‘bucket list’ today!
Pick the route
The beauty of traveling on a motorcycle is that no one just “takes the freeway.” For some the point/goal is to pick roads they’ve never ridden on. Others look for scenic drives, roads with lots of curves (hooah!) or quaint towns they can explore along the way.
Google the words “scenic routes” and all kinds of things come up. Roadrunner Travel is a great resource when planning your trip. This website/magazine has tons of riding routes along with events and organized tours. Get out your “old-fashioned” map and peruse your route to see what towns and sights are near it.
If you’ve always wanted to see a landmark (say, Mount Rushmore or Niagara Falls) or tourist attraction (Disneyland?!), plan your route to take you through it (or by it).
Now that you’ve got an idea of where you want to go, what kinds of things should you consider? Check out this article for ideas!
- Tracey Cramer
How to Keep your Hands & Fingers Warmer
They’re hangin’ out there with no protection from the windshield or fairing. Yep: your hands (and by extension, your fingers). So what’s a rider to do?
Today’s riding gloves are way better than I remember them being twenty years ago (actually I've been riding longer than that but who's counting?). Still, there are drawbacks. The biggest one (in my opinion): Gloves add bulk, which can make it more difficult to grip and definitely more difficult to shift gears.
In the past I’ve had heated grips on my motorcycle. Let me tell you, that was heavenly. But it’s not a perfect solution:
- Wiring them through the handlebar was a P-A-I-N.
- They don't protect from rain.
- I can’t prove this, but I’m convinced they drain the battery faster
Until recently, there were only a few products available that attempted to deal with wind chill on the hands, but they simply didn't work well. We know - we tried them and were disappointed.
What you need is basically a "fairing" for each hand that allows you to adjust the area of protection for each hand. The ATV and dirt bike market figured this out long ago and I can’t figure out why the cruiser market hasn’t embraced this concept!
One of the better ones we've found is the WingShields by Brukus, which are made of a tough polycarbonate that makes them extremely difficult to break, yet light (and clear, which we like). You clamp them to the handlebar or mirror stem and align the curved shield ahead of your hands.
With a few extras like these on our bikes, we've been able to extend our riding season - and start earlier in the spring!
- Tracey Cramer
Minimize Helmet Buffeting and Wind Noise with the Right Windshield
Windshields get the wind off your body, chest and head, funneling it around you and protecting you from rain, insects, grit and small rocks. A good windshield will create an effective pocket of wind protection, minimize helmet buffeting and reduce wind noise.
The height of your windshield determines the area of protection.
As I learned while working with Memphis Shades, the rule of thumb is that the top of the windshield should come to nose level when you’re sitting upright on the seat (or between upper lip and nose). This creates a ‘slipstream’ effect to push air up and over your head; it also allows you to look over the windshield if you need to (which I do when it’s raining hard!).
That said, I personally find that having a windshield on the tall side gives me a little more protection from wind in particular.
Rain can affect visibility (and so can sun glare), so get a high-quality windshield with good optical qualities (ask for DOT-certified clarity) and anti-scratch properties such as windshields made of Lexan polycarbonate. It may cost a little more but like so many things in life, you get what you pay for!
- If you can, visit windshield manufacturer’s booths at rallies or trade events and ‘try on’ different windshields.
- Remember that the ‘height’ of the windshield will start about an inch above the headlight on most motorcycles.
- Many riders like ‘quick detach’ or ‘quick release’ windshields so they can be removed in warmer weather.
- Tracey Cramer
Motorcyclist Beware: Nine Common Road Hazards
Road hazards are a common cause of motorcycle accidents. Things that have little effect on a car can cause a motorcycle to crash.
Motorcyclists should understand what constitutes a hazard, be alert for such dangers, and take precautions to avoid them. Here are some of the things bikers should be on the lookout for.
We have a lot of these around our home base (which consists of county roads, a popular choice for bikers). Rough and bumpy roads happen due to disrepair, construction work, or resurfacing efforts.
Gravel is possibly the trickiest hazard, at least for me (it has factored in two incidents in my riding history!). Unfortunately, gravel on pavement tends to be more common on winding roads, which are, of course, popular with bikers (and which require lots of cornering). Gravel can be particularly troublesome if encountered during cornering -- and especially dangerous for riders going too fast, or riders who haven’t done a lot of cornering yet.
An edge break is when two traffic lanes are different heights. (These are common here in Minnesota, where we have two seasons: ‘winter’ and ‘road construction’!) Edge breaks are a piece of cake in a car, but can be problematic for unsuspecting bikers, especially at higher speeds - and especially if you’re forced to ‘side step’ over them (try to get as straight-on as you can).
Expansion & Bridge Joints
Expansion joints connect two sections of a road together, or a section of a road to a bridge. Bridge joints hold sections of a bridge together. Both allow the road or bridge to expand or contract without cracking.
We have a bridge over the St. Croix River on a route along the MN/WI border that I love to ride. This bridge always makes me tense because it has everything a biker dislikes: expansion joints and open bridge joints that are really wide (ever get that ‘grid’ feeling when riding across a bridge?!). This particular bridge can be slick even on a sunny day, especially if it’s humid.
Ah, yes, another one we have to be aware of here in the land of deer, raccoon and even possum! Hitting a small animal can throw a motorcycle off path and/or off balance. Unfortunately, animals that run into the road are difficult to anticipate and swerving to avoid them can cause an accident as well. I once hit a pheasant that ‘flushed up’ behind the bike I was following.
It goes without saying that hitting a large animal (like a deer) could really mess up a rider (or worse). On a trip to Colorado, I was following my dad when he hit a deer. He managed to stay upright but his entire fairing and all his lights were crumpled. (The deer faired even worse.)
Slippery surfaces that you might not even notice in a car can be problematic for a motorcyclist. The unstable nature of a two-wheeled bike and the smaller, lighter size mean that sliding on the road can easily result in a crash. Slick surfaces are even more dangerous when the biker is turning. The list of potentially slippery objects/surfaces is long but includes:
- Crosswalk Lines
- Any painted surfaces
- Anti-freeze or oil
Bikers must also be cautious of rain after a dry spell. Dust, dirt and oil on the road combine with water to form a slippery layer.
The first half hour of a rainstorm is the most dangerous time to ride on the road. Standing water can cause hydroplaning. And though some of you reading this don’t have to deal with snow and ice, here in Minnesota we do! Personally, I try not to ride in it, but if you must, see our blog post for winter riding tips.
Railway tracks and crossings
Motorcycle tires can get caught in a railway track, causing a crash. Some railway crossing areas have metal or wood between the tracks, which become extremely slick when wet.
Debris or objects in the road
Debris or objects in the road, such as parts of tire treads, things fallen from trucks (furniture, tools, boxes), branches, or rocks, are more hazardous to motorcycles than cars. Not only can they cause a crash, but the object itself can hit and seriously harm the rider.
If this all sounds a bit overwhelming, take a deep breath. With a little caution you can retain your joy of riding while staying safe!
Also see: Eight Tips for Defensive Riding
- Tracey Cramer