Sheetal Bidaye jots down 30 very useful tips that would make any short or long distance ride more interesting and fun.
Touring is by far the most loved activity of most motorcycle riders. Travelling great distances for the pleasure of motorcycling or riding along with buddies on short weekend tours to nearby states is what riders look forward to all year round.
1. First and foremost, always carry a spare motorcycle key along with you on your ride. Carry it in your travel pouch or exchange spare keys with your ride buddy.
2. No matter what time of the year, whichever season, whatever the terrain it may be, always carry a hydra-pack on all your rides.
Keeping yourself well hydrated at all times is the key to avoiding exhaustion and you will soon realise that being able to sip as you ride is a big boon!
3. Eat when others won't!
Although it may sound weird, it's the best way to avoid long queues in packed highway restaurants where everyone rushes -- between 8 am for breakfast, noon for lunch and about 9 pm for dinner.
Having weird meal timings saves you some precious time.
4. Always listen to the radio each morning before you start your ride and whenever possible, at breaks.
Not only will the radio keep you alert but may as well guide you in case of any natural or man-made calamity that arises in the region you are in or riding to.
5. The best way to avoid morning traffic in any city is to ride to the far side of the city (in the direction of your next destination) before you find a place to sleep in.
Doing so shall eliminate all the unnecessary honks and blocks while saving you time, once again.
6. Having a map handy is always good on rides but stopping every once in a while to check your location isn't the right thing to do. Plus, opening a map in wind and rain gets too cumbersome. An easy and efficient way to tackle this is to get yourself a tank-bag with a map-case.
7. If you are going on a long trip, visiting a lot of places, you must keep yourself well organised with the envelope system. Before you leave, prepare one envelope for each day on the road. Mark the dates and locations on the outside, then stuff things like hotel reservation, info about the place, good restaurants and places to visit and things to do. This will come very handy rather than carrying the load of your travel books and then juggling with its pages trying to search for the info you need.
8. Go ahead, buy that GPS you've always wanted. They're perfect not only for finding yourself, but also for allowing you the freedom to get lost in the first place! Don't forget to get a proper holder and waterproof cover to attach it on the handlebar.
9. Travel books are invaluable, but a lot of information is available online these days. Do try an internet search about the places you plan to visit. You will surely come across newer places of interest, hotel reviews and online offers.
10. You will definitely get the best rates online for hotels but in case you have no reservation, feel free to call and ask the hotel for the best rate -- even if you're two blocks away -- you can often get a better rate than if you just walk in. And if you have access to the internet, you may get spectacular internet-only deals available these days.
11. Every time you park, turn around and take a good look at your bike. Lest you left something undone or forgot one of your gloves! Similarly, take a look back at where you parked every time you ride away. You never know what you would be missing.
12. Being on a ride doesn't necessarily mean you are on an endurance run! Take time to appreciate the nature around, mix with the locals, observe their customs. At the same time, don't have a fixed number of kilometres to be covered each day. While on some routes you may take 4 hours to cover 200 km, you may end up spending the entire day covering just 150 km -- reason being bad roads or exceptionally scenic vistas. Plan your travel time correctly depending on road and weather conditions.
13. On every long tour, plan for at least one day every week of doing nothing. This should calm you down while helping you relax mentally and physically apart from replenishing your body. Food and rest are essential in building up your energy reserves which play a key role in making your ride memorable.
14. Keeping eye-drops handy on high-mileage days turns out to be a good idea. Not only do they get your eyes rid of dirt but also give a cooling effect apart from a clearer vision.
15. Use ear plugs to help reduce wind noise. You can get them at local chemist shops, at hardware stores and dealers, or you may as well order online.
16. Keep your stuff dry in saddlebags by using thick garbage bags as waterproof barriers. If properly packed, you may carry laptops as well.
17. While shopping if you come across a good bargain but are reluctant on buying it because of space issues and don't know how to carry it back home on your bike, you need not worry. Here's the solution: Always remember that local post offices are situated just about everywhere in our country and reliable too, unless you prefer and find a courier agent.
18. Small checks save you from big trouble. Every morning, before you leave, look over your bike carefully checking for simple stuff—air pressure, oil level, chain lube, loose wires or missing fasteners.
19. Always carry a small towel or rag for wiping dust and dew off seats, windshields and mirrors, and even for doing a quick whole-bike clean-up. Synthetic chamois cloths work particularly well.
20. Pack extra bungees and zip-ties. Also a sturdy rope -- it may come in handy as a clothes line if not as a tow-rope!
21. Watch out for 'Roadside Assistance' signboards as well as Mechanic/ Puncture repair shops on route and either note down their phone numbers or simply take a picture of them. You never know when the need may arise!
22. A cell phone can be a lifesaver in an emergency. You can dial 100 if you need police assistance wherever you are, but you'll need to tell them your location. Keep track of route numbers, interstate exits, towns you've passed, mileposts -- anything that can save emergency officials time in getting to you.
23. Stash a little hidden cash somewhere on the bike or on you, so you can make something happen when all else fails.
24. Before you take off from the hotel or campground in the morning, double check every strap on your tank-bag or soft saddlebags, and every latch on hard luggage. Accidents are waiting to happen.
25. Always carry a card with your name, contact info and emergency contacts along with your blood-group, especially if you're riding alone.
26. Good motorcycle gear really is worth it. Waterproof, breathable linings in boots and jackets will transform the way you think about bad weather. A number of companies offer materials that work well, but always test your gear on a rainy day at home before facing a storm on the road.
27. A packable motorcycle cover not only keeps your bike clean and dry overnight, it also discourages thieves. And don't forget a stout lock with a chain to lock it with the bike itself.
28. If you feel sleepy, it's advisable to stop on a safe patch and take a snooze. But even if you are not, a nap can do wonders on a long day.
29. Never divulge your personal details or place of stay to strangers, especially when riding alone. In fact, don't even let them know that you are alone.
30. Always carry some munchies with you. Be it health bars or nuts, always be prepared to face hunger pangs!
Photograph: Courtesy Dirt Track Productions