Some bikes come with all of the touring accessories a rider could possibly want, but for many of us our bike requires a few additions. These categories are the top areas where touring riders may want to shop to enhance their riding experience.
It’s hard to imagine any other component on a bike that can spoil a motorcycle trip faster than a seat that becomes uncomfortable after an hour or two of riding. Most OEMs under engineer their seats to keep their bikes’ MSRPs competitive, and it’s something a prospective buyer doesn’t notice in the showroom or even on a short test ride. Of all of the bikes I have owned or test ridden, only a few OEM seats were comfortable during daylong sessions in the saddle. It’s definitely worth the time, effort, and cost to add comfortable seating to your ride.
Rider safety, especially while touring far from home on a motorcycle, is paramount. A rider’s ability to spot and avoid potential hazards, however, is only half of the motorcycling safety equation. It’s just as important that other motorists see the rider and his or her bike. Auxiliary lights are usually one of the first things I add to a bike I’m setting up for touring, or even one for just riding around town. It’s much easier for other motorists to three-dimensionally identify and judge the closing speed of a vehicle with multiple lights. If a rider is caught out at night, when wildlife is usually the most active, the extra lighting can also help. Reflectors and reflective strips on saddlebags are also important. And finally, I like the taillight modulators to help guard against being rear ended at stoplights. I’m not a fan, however, of headlight modulators, which can be annoying and distracting to other motorists.
As discussed in a previous Touring Tip, inadequate wind protection on a touring bike usually accelerates rider fatigue and can hasten hypothermia in cold riding environments. On my main touring bike, I have two windscreens: a smaller, narrower one for summer and a taller, wider one for cold weather riding. But a windscreen shouldn’t be so tall that a rider has to look through it while riding. An adjustable windscreen is an excellent accessory for any touring mount.
It almost goes without saying that any luggage added to a motorcycle should be waterproof or at least have a waterproof cover that can be attached for riding in inclement weather. But I also like to have at least one lockable component of touring luggage (usually a top case) for safely storing valuables on the bike during lunch or at some other stop. Otherwise, I put valuables in a tank bag, which has to be carted around with me. Lockable luggage may not be a necessity, but it’s definitely a “nice to have.”
And speaking of “nice to haves,” many of us have become so accustomed to programming, and relying on, a GPS that we can’t imagine taking a trip without this navigational aid. I liken GPS use on motorcycles to power windows in cars. Back in the day, few cars had power windows, but try to sell a car today without them. Like power windows in cars, the GPS for many touring riders is no longer considered a luxury. And one of the great features of a portable GPS is that it can be transferred and used in multiple vehicles. Having extolled the convenience of a GPS, though, I hasten to add that I always have paper maps in my saddlebags—just in case.