Long-Distance Motorcycling: 17 Tips For Enjoyable Riding

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Long-distance motorcycling isn’t for everyone. In fact, it’s probably not for most people.

But there will come a day when you’re touring and you have no choice but to cover a monster day of 400 or 500 miles.

If you’re really unlucky, it might even be more miles or for consecutive days.

There are two important sides to this coin that you need to consider if you know you have a few massive riding days coming up: Efficiency and Comfort.

In this post, we’ll go through both elements relating to long-distance motorcycling.

yamaha tracer 900 in mountains - long-distance motorcycling
Long-distance motorcycling is about balancing efficiency and comfort (image via Yamaha)

1. Build Stamina For Long-Distance Motorcycling (Pre-Tour)

If the extent of your usual riding week consists of a 40-mile blast on a Sunday morning, you’d be pushing your luck jumping straight into a long-distance tour.

Like everything else in life, you need to build up to it.

Start by riding 50 miles and work your way up to a hundred.

Then try 150. And 200, and so on until you can comfortably cover a fair amount of distance in a single day.

Not only does the practice allow you to acclimatise to long-distance motorcycling, but it also allows you to test out various luggage set-ups so you know what works for you in the real world.

straight road in the alps between mountains
Put in the miles pre-tour to build up your riding stamina

2. Refine Your Long-Distance Motorcycling Set-Up (Pre-Tour)

Most people don’t go on Sunday morning rides with full kit.

If you’re not used to riding with full luggage, it’s well worth getting used to the feel of your bike when it has panniers, a top box and a roll bag.

Whilst building up your stamina with ever-increasing distances (above), consider riding with luggage.

Not only will this allow you to get used to the feeling of riding with a fully-ladened bike, but it will also allow you to refine your set-up.

Use these practice rides to try different setup configurations. Find out if you prefer a tank bag or a tail pack. Try riding with your top box and a waist belt to see what works best for you.

Related: 5 Of The Best Tail Packs

small capacity motorcycle off-road fully ladened - long-distance motorcycling
Refining your set up pre-tour will make your long-distance tour more comfortable (image via Jaume Galofre)

3. Improve Your Riding Fitness (Pre-Tour)

Riding fitness is one of the most over-looked factors of long-distance motorcycling. But it’s so important that I even posted a dedicated article on the subject. Check out our Riding Fitness post.

As mentioned above, long-distance motorcycling is incredibly taxing both physically and mentally.

In the months leading up to your tour, try to get in relatively good shape.

Nobody is saying you have to be able to run a marathon or enter the Iron Man competition. But a basic level of cardiovascualar fitness and muscular endurance will stand you in good stead for long-distance motorcycling.

Having a good level of fitness will enable you to complete your long distance trips safely by helping you maintain focus and concentration.

Plus, you’ll have enough energy to enjoy your destination once you get there!

biker in leathers and helmet on spin bike in gym
You’ll get so much more from your tour if you energy to enjoy it! You’ll also be more aware and safer

4. Implement Your Long-Distance Motorcycling Set-Up (On Tour)

Okay, so you’ve tried a few different luggage configurations (above) and you know exactly what works best for you.

Now (for the actual trip) you need to make sure you pack your kit optimally so you have everything you might need to hand. And I’d definitely recommend a checklist.

There’s nothing worse than arriving at a border crossing only to realise your passport is at the bottom of your roll-bag!

Ensure anything you might need is stored in a place that is easily accessible when needed.

Related: Hard vs Soft Luggage

bmw fully ladened off-road - long-distance motorcycling
Ensure your setup is efficient so you can find what you need when you need it

5. Look At The Bigger Picture

It’s all too easy to go into melt down when the shit hits the fan.

But don’t worry. All is not lost.

First things first, get your map out (be it a physical map or a digital one) and look over your route. Find where you are and where you need to be. Calculate the miles.

From here, have a look at simple changes. When long-distance motorcycling, it’s often the little changes make the biggest difference to the overall route.

So for example:

  • Can you swap out any scenic roads for motorways/highways?
  • Avoid notoriously difficult roads or mountain passes.
  • Are there any obvious shortcuts you can take?
  • Toll roads are a drag, but in these sorts of scenarios, the extra expense is often worth it.

Related: Route Planners: A Step-By-Step Guide

3 bikers checking road map
Looking at the bigger picture allows you to plan ahead and/or make up time

6. Long-Distance Motorcycling = Early Starts

One of the easiest ways to cover more miles in a day is to simply get up earlier!

Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT a morning person. I like to get up at 8am, have some coffee, enjoy a leisurely breakfast, and maybe then (after another coffee) will I even consider getting on my bike.

But by this point, it’s 10am. By the time I’ve packed, it’s 11am and half of the day (literally) has gone.

If you need to transit, get up early! Get up in the dark, and set off in the dark if necessary. This will give you a fighting chance of covering as many of those miles as possible in the hours of daylight that you have.

Also, I have always found that I cover more miles in the morning than I do in the afternoon and evening.

In the morning, I’m fresh and enthusiastic about my day. In the afternoon, fatigue starts to set in. I slow down and I don’t have the same drive to forge ahead as I did in the morning.

3 bikers on country road at sunrise - long-distance motorcycling
Winning the morning means winning the day. Get up early for long-distance motorcycling!

7. Plan Smarter Breaks For Long-Distance Motorcycling

A lot of people seem to seperate fuel stops, lunch breaks, coffee breaks and general ‘stretching’ breaks.

If you’re transiting, plan breaks where you can do all of the above in one place.

Motorway service stations are excellent for making time-sensitive breaks.

Make it a priority to refuel, eat/drink, go to the toilet and stretch your legs all within the shortest time possible.

Bonus tip: Don’t drag out your breaks. The longer you’re off the bike, the less you want to get back on it! Keep your breaks short to maintain that touring mentality and momentum.

motorbikes parked up in UK motorway service station
Make the most of your breaks by incorporating fuel, food, and toilet breaks all in one go. (Image via Roadchef)

8. Eat Little And Often

It’s so tempting to chow down on that massive lunch when you’re starving and have been riding all morning.

And yes, I know that big glass of ice-cold beer looks appetising whilst you’re basking in the sunshine.

But both the heavy meal and the beer will serve no other purpose than to make you feel lethargic and tired so save both for your evening meal!

Instead, eat small but healthy meals and wash them down with copious amounts of water.

9. Stay Hydrated

I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping hydrated! Don’t underestimate how much water you will go through on a bike.

Oftentimes, we are touring in hot climates. And on top of that, we are sat on top of a burning hot engine.

You will be sweating more than usual and that water needs to be replaced.

glass being filled up with pouring water - long-distance motorcycling
Staying hydrated will make you feel better as well as keep you more alert

Replacing Electrolytes

In hot climates, it’s not uncommon to go through five or six litres of water (or even more.)

If you’re drinking enough water to keep hydrated, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself lacking in salts.

Make sure you replace those salts with soluble tablets or the occasional electrolyte-rich drink.

Hydration Packs For Long-Distance Motorcycling

The easiest way to keep hydrated when long-distance motorcycling is with a hydration pack.

Get yourself a 2L hydration pack, fill it up, and sip on it every 10-15 minutes to keep those fluids topped up.

Drink water during your breaks, and don’t forget to fill the hydration pack back up for each leg of your journey.

Related: 10 Tips For Motorcycle Touring Hydration

off-road biker in desert with hydration pack
Kriega Hydro 2 hydration pack. A great way to keep hydrated when long-distance motorcycling. (Image via Kriega)

10. The Hare & The Tortoise

The optimal way to cover distance is by maintaining a consistent speed.

I see so many riders who are aggressive on the trottle, and then equally aggressive on the breaks when they reach a bend in the road.

The quickest riders are those who maintain a steady but consistent speed all day long.

Not only is consistency quicker, but it’s safer, more fuel-efficient, sustainable over longer distances, and less tiring.

The same can be said with breaks. Don’t ride hard for an hour and then have a break for an hour because you’re tired.

Bank time by riding consistently for longer. And team that up with shorter, more time-efficient breaks.

Related: Motorcycle Touring Styles: Which Is Best For You?

honda goldwing with pillion on road with field and fog - long-distance motorcycling
Riding consistently is quicker than jumping from full throttle to heavy braking (image via Honda)

11. Choose Your Riding Buddie(s) Wisely!

You really don’t want to be transiting with riding buddies that don’t share the same riding style as you.

It will be incredibly difficult to make up time if your riding buddy wants to stop every half an hour.

On top of this, if you want to make up time but your buddy wants to stop all the time, this will lead to arguments and disagreements.

Whatever you do, don’t ride mad!!

For this reason, I usually choose to ride alone.

If you’re planning on long-distance motorcycling by yourself, try our post on Solo Motorcycle Touring.

3 bikers riding twisty road in Wales
Choose your riding buddies wisely to make good progress on transit days (image via Pexels)

12. Caffeine And Long-Distance Motorcycling

Caffeine can be a wonderful thing, but it’s worth drinking it wisely.

If you normally abstain from caffeine, you will get a real hit from an espresso if you have one when you’re really beginning to fatigue.

However, don’t drink too much!

Caffeine (for me at least) acts in the same way as sugar or alcohol: I get an initial surge of energy but if I have too much, I find my mood dips significantly and I begin to get sleepy and irritable.

For this reason, space your caffeine hits out throughout the day. Allow a good few hours between drinks so you can get the energising effects from it without the diminishing effects of having too much.

coffee in cup surrounded by coffee beans - long-distance motorcycling
Caffeine can you give you the lift you need when fatigue is setting in

13. Wear The Right Gear

Having the appropriate gear for the conditions makes all the difference.

If you can keep warm, keep cool, keep ventilated, and keep dry, you’re onto a winner!

Being able to swap out gloves also helps if you have room in your top box.

If you can buy riding gear that is waterproof and breathable, all the better! If not, make sure your waterproof gear is somewhere accessible so you can put it on quickly if the weather turns ugly.

Related: Motorcycle Touring Kit: Tried & Tested

Helmets For Long-Distance Motorcycling

A special note with regard to helmets.

Don’t be tempted to go with an open-face helmet just because it looks cool. Make your life easier and get yourself a full-face helmet.

With a full-face helmet, your head, eyes, and face are completely protected (including your lips from the sun.)

Not only does it protect you from the wind, rain, and other flying debris you might come across, but it also protects you from any bugs that are on a kamikaze mission to destroy your retinas.

Related: 7 Of The Best Dual-Sports & Adventure Helmets

rider wearing helmet
Wearing the right kit will keep you dry, warm, cool, and safe. It should be a priority! (Image via Vander Films)

14. Long-Distance Motorcycling: Ride With A Screen

Screens are funny because there is no one-size-fits-all.

Different people like different screen heights for a whole range of reasons. The best thing you can do is either get yourself an adjustable one, or, one that you know you are comfortable with.

Riding without a screen on quiet, country roads is all well and good. But riding 700km on the motorway at 130kph is something different entirely!

Riding all day with the wind blowing you about can really take its toll on your energy.

Protect yourself with a screen that takes the hit for you.

15. Wear Earplugs

As with screens, you can get away with not wearing earplugs on a leisurely jaunt to the countryside.

But when you’re spending hours and hours on the motorway, the constant engine, traffic, and wind noise can really sap your energy.

Physically, the constant noise can leave you with headaches. But mentally, it can become exhausting and even hinder your sleep.

Earplugs also help you stay alert for longer without the constant barrage of noise in your ears. So they make your ride safer.

Related: A Guide To Motorcycle Earplugs

pinlock earplugs on motorcycle petrol cap - long-distance motorcycling
Earplugs protect your hearing, but they also reduce tinnitus, ringing ears, and let you sleep better after a day in the saddle. (Image via Pinlock)

16. Tailor Your Bike For Comfort

During your pre-tour stamina rides (at the top of this post), take note of what annoys you or makes you uncomfortable.

Maybe you get achy wrists. Or perhaps your arse really starts to hurt after a few hours in the saddle.

Now make any necessary changes to alleviate these issues before you leave.

For me, I always make sure the handlebars are at a height that works for me. I also adjust the levers to fit the natural angle of my hands.

Footpegs that vibrate is another pet peeve! Try to find some with a rubber top that will absorb any vibrations whilst riding.

Consider An After-Market Seat Or Seat Pad

This isn’t always necessary but it’s a nice luxury if you can afford it.

It’s especially important if you find you can’t ride for any period of time without getting pins and needles or numbness.

If you find your motorcycle seat uncomfortable, swap it out before you leave for your tour. Failure to do so will result in a very miserable few weeks!

Related: 7 Of The Best Motorcycle Seat Pads

AirRider seat pad by Saddle Craft
AirRider seat pad by Saddle Craft (image via Saddle Craft)

17. Power Up For Long-Distance Motorcycling

If your bike doesn’t have a power port as standard, it might be worthwhile investing in one.

Power ports can come in really handy if (for example) the hard-wiring of your GPS fails. Rather than continue your trip without GPS, you can simply plug it into the power port instead.

I also use mine to charge my phone or camera equipment on the move.

If you have heated gear (jacket/gloves etc.) a port can also be another way to power them.

Power gives you options. So make sure you have a way to feed those devices!

Related: The Best Bluetooth Headsets: Budget To Premium

moto guzzi v85 dash - long-distance motorcycling
A power port can get you out of trouble and/or make your life more comfortable (image via Moto Guzzi)

Top image via Honda

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