Moto Travels

At some point, you are going to cheat on your partner with your motorcycle.

“Just ride me, moto says. We’ll only be gone for a couple days. You’ll be back before your partner knows it. :D”

Having an escapade with your moto is no walk in the park (it’s actually a ride on the moto … ha-ha!). There are things you have to think about. Unexpected scenarios you have to prepare for. Significant others and partners you’ll have to sneak around.

I’m a rather minimal (read: one bag) sort of traveler, so putting together a moto pack is challenging. I want to be stylishly prepared (look good and take down bears), yet agile and comfortable (Navy Seal in PJs). It’s not an easy feat. There is some expected trial and error for the first few trips. You’ll over-pack the first time, under-pack the second time, forget that one-fucking-vital-item the third time, and finally, just finally, forget another-fucking-vital-item the fourth time. You might consider quitting the fifth time, but by that time you’re addicted - you’ve quit your job and are moto-traveling full time. Too bad.

As you go on more and more trips, you’ll find that there are things that you actually didn’t need. I could be wrong; I haven’t been on a trip longer than a couple of days. I also haven’t run into the issue of being completely screwed over in the middle of nowhere, so, not a seasoned veteran of moto-touring. This post is perhaps born from wanting to share my process of preparing for a minimal moto trip.

My most recent trip was nice. I packed for a week and some. Four days were spent frolicking on the moto roads from the Bay Area to Los Angeles (two down the coast, one re-living the land of LA, and one day back, barreling like a speedster on the 101), and another three days to Washington D.C via plane (no motos here) from LAX. Thus, I had to pack enough clothing and whatever for about a week in one backpack and one tail bag. It was a rather interesting challenge, trying to determine what was absolutely necessary. The goal was to leave as much shit behind as I could, and go with just my senses and the bare essentials. However, it’s much more difficult than just throwing all your shit in a car, dusting off your hands, and flipping on the TV. Space, weight, and usefulness constraints all come into play on a moto. Potential worst-case scenarios and encountering the proverbial fan that all the shit hits can really sour up a trip.

With that, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Before you set off and get all oogly boogly about your trip, the primary thing you want to make sure is that your health is in excellent condition. You’re the one that’s going to pilot the motorcycle. That means staying awake, having decent reaction times, good dexterity, and all of your sharpened senses. If you’re not 100%, get the fuck off the moto.

Once you’ve passed the health test, make sure your moto is up to par. If you’ve got that leaking coolant problem that’s been around for a year, your oil is as thick as molasses, your brake pads are gone, and your tire has five plugged holes, it’s time to put spend some time and money for some moto TLC (or a new moto, for frick’s sake). Also, START YOUR CHECKS EARLY, so you have time to get things in order.

A quick moto pre-tour checklist.

  1. engine oil & filter 1

  2. brake fluid & brake pads 2

  3. chain 3

  4. tires 4

  5. suspension 5

  6. battery & ECU 6

  7. air filter, carburetors & valves 7

  8. tighten, lube & adjust 8

Questions to ask yourself:

Space considerations:

  1. Do you like carrying a pack on your back when moto-ing?

  2. Do you ride with luggage?

  3. Are you comfortable and able to pilot the moto with all of your luggage?

Weight considerations:

  1. Are you going to be carrying another passenger?

  2. Are you going to be carrying enough luggage to affect the suspension?

  3. Do you need a different type of tire for touring?

Tool considerations:

  1. Bring tools for the common failures for your moto (yes, do some research).

  2. Bring tools for common fixes.

  3. Bring multi-use tools to save on some space.

Mindset tips:

  1. Be intelligent about the risks you’re taking, and preparation, preparation, preparation.

  2. Don’t panic. Deep breaths. Problem identification and solution generation.

  3. “I’ll fix/overcome whatever shit comes my way.”

  4. Are you prepared for the absolute worst case scenario? Broken down at the side of the road, late at night, rain, cold, no cellphone reception, middle of nowhere, all at the same time?

Finally, an example pack (mine) :D

  1. tailbag: disc locks / steel cable / moto cover / foot pump / nice shoes / rag / sunglasses / tweezers / usb charger / paper map

  2. moto “trunk”: pocket tire plugger / allen wrenches / adjustable wrench / mm wrenches for moto / screwdriver / pliers / zipties x 2 / cutters / duct tape / loctite

  3. extra gear: gloves / rain pants / down jacket / extra keys / towing number / cash

  4. personal: sleeping clothes / outgoing clothes / earplugs / chargers / toiletries stuff

  5. survival stuff: knife / firestarter / flashlight / first aid / reflective blankets / rope / iodine tablets / batteries / compass

  6. random: water bladder / snacks / e-book reader / notebook / pencil

  7. longer trip stuff: extra gas tank / lubes / cables / battery cables

Oh, don’t forget to wear your gear :). Don’t overthink it. Hope this helps.

  1. Check oil level and oil color. Make sure your filter isn’t too old. ↩︎

  2. Check brake fluid level and color. Bleed your brakes if necessary. Change your pads if there is less than 50% of brake pad remaining. ↩︎

  3. You should be cleaning, lubing, and adjusting every 500 miles. Clean with kerosene, lube with chain lube, and adjust your free play. ↩︎

  4. No tread? - change that shit. Less than 50% tread? - change that shit. Chicken strips? - change that shit. ↩︎

  5. Adjust your suspension as necessary for weight. ↩︎

  6. Get or borrow a multimeter. Check your battery at rest, and under load. Trickle charge or get a new one if necessary. Load the correct computer mapping (if your moto is fuel injected and uses an engine control unit). ↩︎

  7. Clean your air filter. Clean your carburetors. Check that your valve clearances are within spec. Requires taking the tank off - not super easy jobs for first-timers. ↩︎

  8. Lube cables, kickstand, other shit. Adjust your throttle play. Tighten framework bolts and other shit to proper torque. ↩︎