Motorcycle Safety Tips For The Perfect Tour

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There are a tonne of posts out there on motorcycle safety tips. And that’s a good thing – especially for new riders.

But if you’re a touring rider, you’ve likely already got a few (hundred) thousand miles under your belt. So whilst being told to “wear a helmet” is valid and noteworthy for a newbie, it’s probably a bit beyond your particular knowledge set!

So in this post, I wanted to go through motorcycle safety tips for touring riders.

For chronological sense, I’ve split this post up into five categories:

  1. Pre-tour checks
  2. Pre-ride checks
  3. Gear
  4. Mindset
  5. On the bike
motorcycle safety - group of riders on winding road

Motorcycle Safety Tips: Pre-Tour Checks

When we say pre-tour checks, we mean months before your departure date. You’re more likely to have a good trip if you plan and prepare early. Pre-tour checks will also make your tour safer than winging it – as you would have put solutions in place to many potential problems.

Do An Advanced Riding Course

Right off the bat, the first motorcycle safety tip is to book yourself onto an advanced riding course. There’s plenty to choose from, so you can tailor it to the riding you’ll be doing on tour.

For general road-riding tours, book an advanced riding course with someone like RoSPA. Here you’ll learn to finesse the fundamentals of riding (such as observations, road positioning, overtakes, motorway riding, and riding on country roads – amongst others.)

You can also choose from a host of off-road courses if your tour is off the beaten path.

Related: How Advanced Motorcycle Training Can Enhance Your Touring

Plan Realistic Routes

Be honest when you set your route in stone. 400-mile days sound easy when you’re on your couch with a beer. But when you’re actually riding it, it suddenly doesn’t seem so much fun.

Use enjoyment and time as metrics rather than miles covered. If you continually plan too many miles, you’ll be tired, cranky, and irritable, and you’ll make silly mistakes.

Check out our Route Planning category for more tips!

two riders on mountain road

Gear

When touring, you need to be prepared for every eventuality. So whilst you need the obvious things like a helmet, some gloves, and a pair of boots, we need to be more specific when we go on extended trips.

Clothing

You may be touring in the height of summer, but you might still encounter challenging weather if heading to the mountains.

For summer tours, I take everything I need for hot weather, plus the following:

  • Waterproof (and/or heated) winter gloves
  • Heated clothing (namely jacket and gloves)
  • Waterproofs
  • Buff/snood

Finally, don’t forget that your gear should be comfortable as well as practical. You can have the best jacket/pants/boots in the world. But if they make you uncomfortable when you ride, this should be sorted pre-tour.

Failure to do so could result in a distracted, uncomfortable, and potentially dangerous ride.

For more, have a look at our dedicated Gear category.

Get Familiar With Your Sat Nav / Route App

One of the most dangerous things you can do while riding is faff around with your sat nav or route app. This usually happens when you’re not 100% sure what you’re doing and are pressing buttons as you ride.

Practice using your sat nav or route app on local rides in the months leading up to your tour. Become comfortable with the features and set them up in a way that works for you.

This way, if you’re hit with a road block, traffic, or other unforeseen problem, you can navigate around it with minimal stress, minimal disruption, and maximum safety.

Do A Dummy Ride

Once your route is planned, and you have a list of everything you need to take, do a dummy ride.

Pack all your intended gear into your intended luggage – as if you were leaving for your trip.

Now go on a decent ride out with full kit. Cover a few hundred miles and see how you fair. Is your luggage secure? Are you comfortable? Is you’re bike pulling one way or the other?

Messing with this stuff when you’re actually touring only serves as a potentially dangerous distraction when you already have enough to think about. And as a rider, you have a duty to look after your own motorcycle safety.

For more on luggage and accessories, check out or Luggage category.

Consider A GPS Tracker Or SOS App

I must admit, this isn’t something I’ve toured with traditionally. However, I’ve been working with DetechtApp over the last few months and have taken advantage of their Emergency contact system.

This is a nifty little system that alerts designated contacts of my location in the event of an accident and is an excellent motorcycle safety tip.

You can also use hiking GPS trackers, such as the Garmin InReach, which will put you in touch with the emergency services should you get lost/injured.

Motorcycle Safety Tips: Pre-Ride Checks

We had pre-tour checks above, so now we’re onto pre-ride checks. These are the checks you can do the night before each ride. You shouldn’t have to make any major changes pre-ride. More than anything, it’s all about familiarisation and making your life easier/safer the following day.

Look Over Your Route The Night Before

As mentioned above, you would have already planned your route many weeks ago. But once you’re actually on tour, spend a few minutes looking over each route for the following day.

You don’t have to memorise it. But familiarising yourself with certain aspects of it (like towns you’re heading towards or where your fuel stops are) removes some of the guesswork when tomorrow comes around.

Recognising signs for towns on the motorway (for example) means you can position early rather than frantically switching lanes at speed and ramping up the danger.

Familiarise Yourself With Speed Limits & Laws

Navigating the traffic in most places can be done relatively safely with a calm head and some basic common sense. But it’s worth familiarising yourself with speed limits and laws.

For example, the ‘priorité à droite’ rule in France gives right-of-way to vehicles entering from the right – which is massively counter-intuitive.

Oddly enough, it’s easier to negotiate these in busy towns and cities. Because whilst there is more traffic, it’s generally moving slower.

It catches you out more in quiet towns and villages where locals fly through these junctions at speed. If you don’t stop to give way, it has the potential to ruin your day. Or your trip.

Or your life.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Touring Europe on a Motorcycle

Keep One Eye On The Weather

As a touring rider, you should be prepared for whatever the weather throws at you. But having a general idea of the forecast before you leave means you can prioritise your clothing set up for the day.

Does it look like rain in the mountains today? Then you can leave with your waterproofs already on, or you can put them within easy reach and throw them on quickly when the weather turns.

Is it going to get cold? Then you can choose to leave with your heated gear already on.

Doing this now prevents you from getting cold and wet and lets you take control of your own safety in advance.

It also allows you to edit routes at the last minute (or not go at all) if you see a good chance of snow or ice on your intended route.

Bike/Luggage Walk-Around

Before you leave, spend a few minutes checking over your bike. It doesn’t have to be anything in-depth. But checking lights, tyres, brakes, and indicators goes a long way. Whilst there, look for any damage to your bike that may have accumulated along the way.

Lastly, double-check your luggage. Ensure it’s positioned correctly and all the straps are secure. The last you need is a wobbly top box or a roll-bag sliding around each time you corner.

Also, check your tank bag. Ensure it’s not in your way when you’re on the bike and that it isn’t obscuring your view of the dials or steering.

Aim To Leave Early

Leave earlier than your intended time (or at least plan it in advance) where possible. The quickest way to make a ride dangerous is by going too quickly because you’re late.

Not only is rushing dangerous, but it detracts from the enjoyment of the ride itself.

You’ll skip lunch stops and breaks to make up time. You’ll get tired more quickly, and you’ll make silly mistakes. 

Where possible, aim to leave early – and therefore arrive early. This prevents the above but will also give you some wiggle room if you hit traffic (or some other unforeseen issue.)

Mindset

Mindset is the most important part of ensuring a safe and enjoyable tour. Without the right mindset, you have nothing. This part of the post is about putting yourself in the right headspace to maximise enjoyment as well as safety. And as with most things, this starts the night before.

Indulgence & Sleep

By all means, enjoy a nice cold beer in the bar when you reach your location. And enjoy a glass of local wine with your dinner. But don’t over-indulge, and ensure to counteract the effects by drinking water in between.

Despite sleeping like a log when you have a few too many, the quality of your sleep suffers. And this means you’ll be tired, groggy, and irritable in the morning before you ride.

Not only this, but you’ll likely skip breakfast, get up late, and dispense with the pre-ride checks.

And when you put all this together, it doesn’t bode well in terms of enjoyment or safety.

Enjoy a beer. But also enjoy your sleep and put yourself in the best possible mindset for tomorrow’s big day in the saddle.

Don’t Ride Angry

Nobody has a smooth tour. The very nature of touring is that it’s unpredictable – and we usually have to deal with things on the fly.

Losing keys, breaking panniers, misplacing passports, and a bunch of other inconveniences are all par for the course. But don’t let them rile you before you get on the bike.

We make silly mistakes when we’re angry. Our use of the throttle and brakes become aggressive and snappy. Plus, we’re likely to cause havoc on the roads – making the entire charade even more unsafe.

If you followed the advice above and allowed yourself enough time, you’ll be able to chill for half an hour. Have a coffee. Have a cigarette. Sit in the sunshine and just be.

When you’ve calmed down, reset, and prepare to enjoy your day.

Ensure Your Pillion Is Happy

If you’re riding with a pillion, don’t treat them as a second-rate citizen. Yes, you’re in charge of the bike. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take into account their enjoyment, too.

Take the time to confirm they’re okay. Don’t rush or pressurise them if they’re late or leave something in the hotel room. 

A comfortable, happy pillion makes for a comfortable, happy ride for both of you. And if your passenger is fidgeting around on the back because you didn’t give them time to get comfortable, you’re inviting safety concerns.

Finally, if they’re not comfortable (mentally), they’ll stiffen up and could make your control of the bike a nightmare.

Related: How To Ride A Motorcycle With A Pillion Passenger

motorcycle safety - rider and pillion

Motorcycle Safety Tips: On The Bike

So we’ve done our pre-tour checks, and our pre-ride checks, and we’re in the right mindset to ride. The only thing left is to jump in the saddle and enjoy everything we’ve planned over the last few months. Here are a few final points to remember.

Ride Your Own Ride

One of the most dangerous things I see is when people with fragile egos ride in groups. There will always be someone quicker than you. Get over it!

If you’re touring as part of a group, don’t feel pressured to keep up with the faster riders. Even if you’re the slowest in the group, let the quicker riders go – whilst you tinker along at a pace that’s comfortable for you.

Not only is it dangerous, but it isn’t enjoyable, either. The scenery will pass you by as you desperately focus on the rapidly disappearing tail light in front of you. It isn’t worth it!

Related: Group Motorcycle Riding: Top Tips You Should Know

Observations

The best thing you can do (by far) to maintain safety when touring is to make a conscious effort with your observations.

We wrote about observations at large in the posts below. But knowing what’s going on around you at all times allows you to prepare, anticipate, and act efficiently yet timely.

Another thing to consider (especially in the mountains) is how you look for traffic when turning onto a major road. Cars, bikes, caravans, and even lorries hurtle across the mountain passes at speed!

When you look, look properly. Rather than glance rapidly from left to right (or right to left), make each glance last two seconds. This stops you from falling into the trap of ‘looking without seeing.’ 

Road Positioning

Again, we spoke about this extensively in the above posts. But simply changing your position can have profound effects on your safety.

For one, it can make you infinitely more visible to other road users. But secondly, it improves your vision through corners, allows you to see hazards earlier, and makes riding smoother and more enjoyable.

Finally, leave plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front. When touring abroad in unfamiliar places, leaving a gap allows you to safely follow the lead of the vehicle in front whilst simultaneously avoiding hazards ahead.

rider on s-shaped road

Motorcycle Safety Tips: Conclusion

I’ll be honest with you, I can be a bit of a demon in the twisties. I like to push myself and my bike. And the mountains become a careful balancing act between looking at the scenery and having a thrilling ride.

But I can tell you unequivocally that planning and riding a tour with safety in mind is the best way to ride it – because it means you can keep on riding it.

A major part of safety (for me, at least) is minimising stress. Stress comes up multiple times a day when touring. So taking the time to put measures in place helps you stay safe whilst also allowing you to enjoy it – which is what touring is all about.

So put these steps in place next time you tour – and see for yourself the difference they make!

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