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Bike Preparation Tips for Long-Distance Motorcycle Trips

Tips to help ensure your journey remains an adventure, not a misadventure.

Published on 03.02.2016

Murphy’s Law Is Out There Waiting For You

Once the motorcycle is refreshed and dialed in, it’s time to consider what types of maintenance and repair items will go with you. There is no universal rule to this. It depends on where you are headed and how long the journey will take.

Minimally, you should inventory the entire range of nut and bolt sizes on your motorcycle and be sure to have wrenches that can reach and fit them. I’ve put together a tool set that works with everything on my bike. The tools are in a tool roll, which allows me to just grab them anytime I am venturing out to explore our pale blue dot. There is no guesswork. Everything that will fit my motorcycle is in that tool roll.

long-distance motorcycle trips toolkit
A well-thought-out toolkit with wrenches to fit every bolt on your bike, may be the most important item you bring on your trip.

In addition to the tool kit, I carry a tire patch kit, tire irons, a tire pump, spare inner tube and a canister of Slime Tire Sealant (for tubeless tires). But I also carry a dead blow hammer in case I need to pound something back into shape, like a dented wheel. A set of headlight and tail light bulbs doesn’t hurt either. They are cheap, lightweight, and can really save you if you were to lose or damage one. All of these items can be found in portable forms and packed relatively easily.


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An extra sprocket and chain set usually go with me on long-distance motorcycle trips, along with chain lube, which I use frequently. My motorcycle is a twin, so I carry two pair of spark plugs. They are small and lightweight, so I like to carry extras just in case.

What You Take Can Be Part of the Problem

OK, so now you have an ideology of motorcycle prep to consider. But there is one more thing you need to be weary of — overpacking. What is important is that you balance convenience and self-reliance with payload. Otherwise you may find that you have paved the road to Hell.

overpacking long-distance motorcycle trip
Take too much on a long-distance motorcycle trip and your trusty mule may object.

I typically do not carry extra tires with me because the extra weight and bulk can negatively impact the handling of the motorcycle. A badly damaged tire can usually be fixed with a repair kit or an inner tube and some ingenuity. If the journey is long enough where I will need a new set of tires along they way, I try to make arrangements for picking up a fresh set of tires, at a predetermined location, before departing. If I were traveling through remote regions like Mongolia or Tanzania, I might change my mind. In those situations, risk outweighs payload. But on the North American continent, the risks are more manageable (for the most part).

pack light for long-distance motorcycle trips
Finding a good balance between payload and self-sufficiency can be like walking a tight rope.

An adventure consists of many experiences you want, and some you don’t. You can’t control for every risk factor on a long-distance trip, but every little bit of risk management helps increase your chances of a successful journey.
 

Long-Distance Trip Motorcycle Checklist

REPLACE PARTS
  Tires
  Heavy Duty Inner Tubes (if applicable)
  Brake Pads
  Spark Plugs
  Chain and Sprocket Set (if applicable)
  Battery
CHANGE FLUIDS & FILTERS
  Oil
  Oil Filter
  Air Filter
  Fuel Filter
  Transmission Fluid (if applicable)
  Final Drive Fluid (if applicable)
  Brake Fluid
MAINTENANCE CHECKS
  Valves/Rocker Arms
  Gaskets (head, engine, sight glass, etc.)
  Oil Pump
  Fuel Pump
  Throttle Bodies (if applicable)
  Hoses and Rubber Lines
  Cables
  Rear Shock
  Fork Seals
  Steering Head Bearings
  Wiring (exposed or crossed)
ITEMS TO TAKE ALONG
  Comprehensive Tool Kit
  Bolt Set
  Gorilla Tape
  Gorilla Glue
  JB Weld
  Zip Ties in Different Sizes
  Tire Patch Kit
  Tire Irons
  Tire Pump
  Front Inner Tube
  Slime Tire Sealant (for tubeless tires)
  Dead Blow Hammer
  Headlight/Tail light Bulb Set
  Sprocket and Chain Set
  Chain Lube
  Spark Plugs

Photography by Aleksandra Radich, Jim Vota, and Kristen Vota

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Author: Jim Vota
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Comments
 17

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17 thoughts on “Bike Preparation Tips for Long-Distance Motorcycle Trips

  1. Pingback: Long distance prepping – D.I.Y. Motorcycle Adventures

  2. I think you touch on some good points about preparing your bike for a long trip.

    But, there are a few items on your “Items to Take Along” list that might need consideration.

    For example, the dead blow hammer. While yes, a hammer is useful, it’s a very bulky and heavy thing to carry. Rocks and dead wood however, can can be found laying on the ground anywhere in the world and do the same thing.

    Sprocket and chain set? Really, the whole thing? Yes, chains fail, and sprockets get chewed through, but I don’t think necessitate carrying an entire spare driveline. Chains are repairable with some simple tools and small spare parts. Sprockets wear predictably so replacements can managed like tires. I carry a small chain breaker, a few spare links and a spare master link for chain repair.

    The front inner tube and patch kit makes the Slime redundant, and even if one was tubeless, the front tube has more utility than the Slime for about the same weight. Not only will a tube definitely give you inflation on either wheel, it won’t cause a huge headache later.

    With the three things above: You just eliminated at least 5-10lbs of luggage.

    Also, I think that Gorilla Glue is kind of junk, and can’t imagine a use for it if you already have the rubber cement for tube repair. A bit of JB weld “steel stick” though… I’m surprised you didn’t mention it as it’s useful stuff for many types of emergency repairs. (include a small patch of 320 grit sandpaper if you bring it)

    • Very good points made in this comment! I would like to say that there is one way to travel long distance on a motorcycle. But there isn’t one way. And there are factors to consider. Terrain, weather, payload, distance just as a start.

      The point about the JB Weld is a wonderful one. And I hope others listen to it.

      My desire to have a dead blow hammer with me comes from experience. We had a friend bend a front rim once. There were no rocks around, or wood for that matter. But he did have a dead blow hammer. He got his rim back to fine, and didn’t ruin the rim in the process. I was sold at that point. I’ll handle the extra weight.

      Don’t know what to say about the tube and the Slime. I like to be ready for the unknown, I guess. The same goes for the sprocket and chain. There are some trips where this is not needed. But many of my trips are off road and can get aggressive. So YES, they come with me. Not interested in having a bent sprocket to bad chain. They ARE a bit heavy. But it’s a decision I made to have it as a priority item on LONG JOURNEYS.

      Thanks so much for your contribution! It is great to be able to learn from one another. 🙂

    • For extensive trips off the beaten path, it’s always good to have options for dealing with different situations. I always like to bring Slime for slow leaks on tubeless. You may not be able to find a small puncture or a patch could be leaking, so slime offers a quick fix that can seal a slow leak without having to resort to taking off the wheel and putting in a tube.

  3. When travelling remote areas (e.g. Atacama desert or the Andes in Southern America) I do always pack essential spare parts to get me back to the next town on my own, even after an accident: Clutch and break lever, clutch/throttle cable repair kit, tire repair kit (already mentioned in the article), chain repair kit. And if you mention spare bulbs, you should also consider fuses 😉

    As a best practice: Pack some water, energy bars and consider a few liters extra fuel in a separate canister or fuel bottle. Flipping the bike over in rough terrain or harsh weather conditions can you get in trouble with running out of energy, fuel or both.

  4. Great article. I’ll be saving the checklist for reference and reminder. I’ve learned my lessons about carrying extra gas and about starting every trip with brand new tires and brake pads. I’ve also talked to people who will replace their stator if their trip involves being in a very remote area. Mine went out in the middle of my last trip but luckily we were able to get to a shop that got us back on the road the next day. Needless to say, we made sure there we were on a good hill whenever we had to stop.

  5. Overall I tend to agree with your recommendations and list. Mine is slightly different, but as in one of your comments you admit that there are multiple ways to take a long road trip. Each person is going to have their own packing list and techniques. For example, I do virtually all the routine service on my BMW and am very familiar with it. As such I don’t do wholesale replacement of tires, brakes, plugs, fluids and filters. I know at what mileage they were last performed and the estimated mileage of an upcoming trip. If I’m going to cross that mileage or feel something will wear out before finishing then I will replace ahead of time or replace en route (mostly only tires for really long trips).

  6. Pingback: Preparing for a Long Motorcycle Tour – Battlefield Biker

  7. I like that you pointed out that it would be smart to check your ego when it comes to repairing your bike. My brother thinks that he can fix anything on his motorcycle. However, I don’t want him to have his motorcycle break down on him in the middle of nowhere. It would probably be best to have a professional take a look at it before you leave.

    • Emily. Thanks. Some people know more than others. But knowing what you don’t know…or what you might not know is important.

    • Wyn.

      Yes. I carry a big pack of them with me all the time, whether taking a short or long trip. They can be incredibly helpful in many situations.

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