Before embarking on a long ride, you should do some basic bike preparation. Once you start off on your epic journey, you want make sure that your ride will be as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.
Take a few long day rides in different weather conditions and note anything that you find annoying or uncomfortable. Two day weekend rides can help to identify any weaknesses so that you can fix them before starting out on a long ride. Small annoyances can become quite problematic when you spend multiple days on the road.
Depending on the bike you have, you may be able to tweak things like the position of footpegs or handlebars to make them more comfortable. You might also discover that the seat that is fine for an hour or two becomes uncomfortable during longer rides.
When you spend a week or more out on the road, foul weather is inevitable. Anything you can do to minimize the effects of poor weather will pay huge dividends in the long run. Is your windscreen the right height to block wind and rain? Are you able to adjust the windscreen to allow cool air to pass by when it gets hot outside? Is your riding gear and luggage truly waterproof? Anything you can do to address these issues before embarking will make your ride more tolerable when the weather turns bad.
Storage is important when travelling so you should do a test fit of the luggage and/or gear that you plan on taking with you so that you know how you’re going to attach everything to the bike. If you think you’re going to be gathering souvenirs during your trip, have some extra space available.
Make sure that all of your gear can be mounted securely and isn’t going to shift around. Any straps that flap around in the wind will scuff paint so make sure to trim them to the proper length. Keep it simple and make it easy to attach and detach because after riding 10-12 hours you want to be able to quickly and easily unpack each night and then repack the next morning.
Finally, you’re going to want to do all of the routine maintenance before leaving. Here are a few obvious things that you want to do or at least check before embarking on your long ride:
- Fluid change (oil, transmission, rear differential, etc.)
- Lights and turn signals
- Check/replace coolant
- Check overall condition, check critical fasteners, clean radiator fins, etc.
Fluid changes are relatively easy and inexpensive so there’s no reason not to do this before leaving. There’s no harm in changing them even if you haven’t reached the normal service interval.
Tires are a bit trickier. They’re expensive and may not be worn out when it’s time to start your trip. You need to decide whether or not it’s worth spending money on a new set of tires now, or plan to change them while out on the road. It’s certainly easier to change tires at home than it is to try to find a place with the right tires for your bike when you’re out on the road.
You might also want to consider fitting a different tire than you normally use. If you generally use a sticky sport oriented tire, you may want to consider a sport touring tire that will provide higher mileage to extend the distance you can travel on a set of tires.
In addition to the unknown cost of replacing tires in some unknown city, it also takes time. You’ll probably need about half a day to make the arrangements and get your tires changed which is time you won’t be riding. For me, it’s not worth the hassle I did this once and the time lost getting a tire changed wasn’t worth saving a few dollars.
In closing, you want to do everything you can to make your ride comfortable and enjoyable before you commit to weeks on the road. A bit of preparation ensures that you will be able to enjoy a nice comfortable ride without interruption.