Had I had the benefits of this book back when I took my first real motorcycle trip, I would have been a good deal happier. Here we were, two 17-year-olds tearing around for two months on a pair of used 250s, and I think the closest thing we had to rain-gear was my old army poncho. We didn’t even have any real notion of how to fix a flat tire, let alone the tools.
What is that line about some higher body looking after fools and young motorcyclists?
For anybody who has never traveled far in a single trip, let’s say a thousand miles, The Essential Guide to Motorcycle Travel (Second Edition) by Dale Conyers is a real savior, covering the rudiments as well as the latest electronic sophistications. The basics of travel are the motorcycle, the way you pack the bike, and what you wear.
I remember well starting off on a three-day trip, with my wife riding her Ninja. I did an admittedly cursory check of the bikes, noted that my rear tire was a bit worn, but figured it could last one more go-round. Two days later, we arrived at the top of 8,700-foot Ebbetts Pass in the Sierra Nevada mountains. I had been accelerating hard going up the steep eastern climb, and Sue pulled up alongside and said, “You have a white stripe around half your rear tire.” Down to the cord. It would have been a lot easier and cheaper to change it at home.
Packing? If you’re carrying 200 pounds of gold ingots, you should not put them in the scoot-boot, trunk, whatever you call the big box which sits high up behind the rear axle.
Riding gear? Best not to start a trip with a brand new suit and helmet—they might turn out to be uncomfortable. Use gear that has been properly broken in. On at least two of these organized tours which are so popular, I’ve seen riders struggling with flashy new clothing that did not fit.
Dale breaks his book down into four sections: Planning, Preparing Yourself, Outfitting, and On the Road. Planning includes everything from an overnighter to a national park, a two-week trip about the U.S., or a ride around the world. Preparing has two subjects; preparing yourself mentally for the excursion and getting the right riding gear together. Outfitting covers a hundred pages, from selecting luggage to wiring up Bluetooth audio systems—with even a chapter on trailer-towing. The final section, Roads, deals with subjects like tools, repairs and weather.
Read and absorb the 16 chapters in this book, and you should be ready for that first, or next, trip. It covers all pertinent aspects of traveling on a motorcycle, from adding extra lights to making your saddle comfortable to fixing a flat tire.
I realize that the majority of Rider readers are already pretty experienced travelers, but as well as the basics, the book deals with all the latest electronic gimmicky, from communication systems to helmet cameras—very useful. I should add that this is the 2nd edition, with the first having come out in 2007, and the new edition has a lot on the latest gizmos, dealing with advances in the last seven years, that can make it useful even if you already have the original—which you can pass on to your niece who recently got her motorcycle license and wants to go see Grandma, who lives 500 miles away.
Back to that first trip of mine so many years ago: fortunately neither of us suffered a flat tire, and there was very little rain that summer.
The Essential Guide to Motorcycle Travel (Second Edition) is published by Whitehorse Press, paperback, 190 pages, with some 275 pictures, Cost is $27.95. It’s available at most bookstores, or directly from Whitehorse (whitehorsepress.com).