Touring Tip: Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst

Apr 09, 2013 View Comments by

Touring Tip: Hope for the Best, Prepare for the WorstThis month’s touring tip reminds even experienced riders that it’s always good practice to follow the Boy Scouts’ motto and “Be Prepared.” Because of the limited carrying capacity of most motorcycles, critical items are often left behind; I know, because I’ve done it myself. There, also, seems to be something hard coded into our DNA, which makes us eternally optimistic: “Oh that won’t happen to me.”

It goes without saying that on a motorcycle you’re exposed to physical elements and risks that folks in cars aren’t. So what are some of the critical items to have along on a motorcycle trip? Here are my top 10 categories of must-take items:

1. Protective Gear: I always wear a full-face or flip-up helmet, jacket & pants with armor, motorcycle boots, gloves, rain gear, and sunglasses.

2. Appropriate Clothing & Toiletries: Under garments for both expected and unexpected weather conditions (both hot and cold), casual clothes, prescription medications, and personal hygiene supplies are packed in.

3. Navigational Aids: Both paper maps and a GPS unit are included, along with a GPS locator device, if I’m riding alone or in remote areas.

4. Communication Devices: These days, a mobile phone and an auxiliary charging device are must-haves.

5. First Aid Kit/Dispensary Items/Food: A compact first aid kit should include an assortment of bandages, pain relievers, allergy pills, antibacterial ointments, etc. It’s also a good idea to have water and snacks packed, in case food is not readily available

6. Currency & Credit: Always take plenty of cash and one or two credit cards, which can be divided between locations that are readily accessible and hidden.

7. Emergency Contact & Medical Information: You should have in an obvious place on your riding gear the names and phone numbers of emergency contacts and critical medical information, including blood type, any drug allergies, a list of all prescription medications and their daily dosage and a list of any chronic medical conditions, like asthma, hemophilia, etc.

8. Selected Tools & Spare Parts: Because flats are the most common reason for a breakdown on the road, riders should have a repair kit for tubeless tires and an inflation device. For tube-type tires, take along extra tubes and tire removal and remounting tools. Other tools, like wrenches and duct tape, for minor repairs should also be taken. Also, bring spare bulbs for head and tail lights and turn signals, and an extra key that can be hidden somewhere on the bike or the rider’s person. For bikes with a manual clutch, take along an extra clutch cable. For trips into more remote areas, bring an extra quart of oil and a quantity of brake fluid.

9. Spare Pair of Gloves: When leather gloves become wet, it seems they never dry out while you’re on the road, so always bring an extra set.

10. Cleaning Fluids & Cloths: Bring a spray cleaner and cloth for your helmet face shield to ensure clear vision. For chain drive bikes, bring chain lube and cleaning cloths.

The above list assumes a trip of a week or two on paved roads in North America or Europe. More exotic locations, off-road riding, and camping undoubtedly will require additional items. Like astronauts, a rider should have as much redundancy built into his or her take-along-items as possible. By focusing on items that serve more than one use, riders can minimize both weight and bulk.

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