Now that I’ve had a little time to reflect on the motorcycle trip I took with my son from PA to FL and back, there are a few things I learned and thought might be helpful to share with others who are considering taking a long motorcycle trip. The experience was wonderful, educational, challenging and inspiring. I hope this trip will be the first of many.
1. Hydrate – Yes, the first day, I found how quickly dehydration can sneak up on you when it’s hot and you don’t realize how much you’re sweating because it’s evaporating as quickly as it’s happening. I read about the need to hydrate, I just didn’t expect it to sneak up on me as quickly as it did. Getting light-headed on an Interstate, out in the middle of nowhere is very inconvenient and, with a loved one as your passenger, it can be downright scary. From that experience forward I was never without a water bottle resting between my windshield and handlebars.
2. Bead Rider seat covers. If you’re traveling long distances, they do an amazing job. I’ve tried gel cushions and I have a very nice, supportive Mustang touring seat, but the Bead Riders significantly reduced the onset of numbness in the posterior. I first read about Bead Riders on the Iron Butt Riders web site. The long distance riders seem to be very fond of them. http://www.beadrider.com
3. A real GPS is more helpful than a GPS app on your smart phone. (I know, I know – I was feeling enthusiastic about going the App route, but that changed once I got on the highway – I may get excited about iPhone GPS if Apple actually comes out with a larger display with the iPhone 6 (UPDATE: My position on this matter has changed since upgrading to an iPhone 6; it is now my primary GPS). The larger information display on an actual GPS is simply better for seeing speed, time, where you’re going to turn, etc. A waterproof case and some sort of handlebar mounting system is helpful (I use RAM Mounts). I used a normal TomTom GPS – the motorcycle specific ones are not necessary IMO, as long as you have some way of protecting them from the elements; throwing the word “Motorcycle” in the name seems to instantly add a few hundred dollars to the price and not much difference in features (at least not a few hundred dollars worth of difference).
4. A 12v power distribution unit for your GPS/cell phone. They go on your handlebars and have both “cigarette” style jack and USB jack. They’re also handy for your 12v air compressor if you need to inflate a tire (or help someone else inflate theirs!). I started out with a unit from Eklipses, but the internal wiring is very poor and the wire to the 12v jack disconnected within a couple hundred miles. Maybe it’s just that their quality control wasn’t very good, but upon opening it up to try to repair the unit, it just looked like thrown together junk. I replaced my Eklipses unit with the one from Astra Depot which I like better for a number of reasons (smaller, has separate water resistant covers for each port). The unit from Astra Depot does seem to be a little better made.
5. A basic tire repair kit is essential. I bought one of the Slime tire plug kits. I DO recommend the T handle tools as it takes a good bit of pushing to pierce the nylon belt in the tire and I can’t imagine getting a very effective push with straight handled tools. I did have to use this kit, thanks to a brad that found its way into my tire in Sebring, FL. The plug held beautifully, even after an additional 1200 miles.
6. As mentioned earlier, a 12v air compressor. I purchased a Slime COMP02 and carry it in my saddle bags. You can also get tire repair kits with the small CO2 containers, but I like the Slime pump because it has a pressure gauge built-in (though I also recommend having a backup pressure gauge — a basic stick gauge will do).
7. Though I didn’t do it this time, I am considering trying Rain-X on my riding glasses. We ended up stuck riding in several downpours and the rain had a tendency to collect on the lenses. I assume with Rain-X the rain would run off, making visibility during riding safer. First, I have to see if Rain-X is safe for plastic lenses.
8. Real paper maps – just in case the GPS stops working. An atlas with detail will be too large to carry. Individual maps pack easily. Want to save some money? Visit state tourism web sites for the states you will be visiting or check in at the Welcome Center when you enter a state! You can request free state road maps from many of them and some may even include tourism books. A word of advice, request your maps at least a couple weeks in advance!
9. A rain suit. Though your clothes may eventually dry out if you aren’t wearing rain gear, it’s much nicer staying dry! We had rain gear with us on this trip but learned it’s better to put it on when it looks like you might be approaching rain than waiting for the actual rain to fall and having no place to pull over and change into your rain gear.
10. A weather radar app for your Smart Phone. While they may not be 100% accurate, it’s better than nothing! Being able to tell what weather may lie ahead or, if you have to take shelter from a sudden downpour, being able to see where the rain cells are and what direction they are moving so you can plan when you want to be back on the road can be very helpful.
One thing I must say is this trip showed me just how much I love long distance travel on my Honda VTX. I know there are those who refer to Honda’s (and other Japanese bikes) as “Rice Burners” (although the VTX was built in Marysville OH) but, in 2400 miles, The X didn’t burn or lose any noticeable amount of oil. It never overheated or required additional coolant (even when being ridden hard at 75+ mph for 60-90 minutes at a time in 90+ degree weather, or climbing mountains as we passed others who had to take breaks to allow their bikes to cool down, or when we put in a 12 hour day on the road). It ran and ran and ran. Kudos Honda!