While it’s tempting to take everything you have in your garage in your tour toolkit, as with most advice relating to motorcycle trips then less is more. We provide a very comprehensive list in the tour packs of exactly what to bring in your toolkit to cover most eventualities. Our guides are absolute wizards at getting bikes back on the road and we never leave anyone behind but if you have all the kit with you then everyone’s life is a little easier if you do get stuck on the side of the road!
Have a quick check on when your next service is due and take into account the mileage of the tour you are about to embark on. Consider getting it done a little early if its looking tight or your bike stands for much of the year unridden so you’re covered. Problems on the road are much more tricky to sort than they are at home before you leave! At the very minimum check all your fluids or drop it into your local dealer and get them to give you a “pre tour” once over.
An easy one to check before you leave, get help from a friend and walk around the bike checking they all work, Spare bulbs should be in your toolkit and are a legal requirement in many countries too. If you have LED headlights then of course it isn’t cost effective to carry a whole spare unit but many of the other lights on the bike may take regular bulbs so check these work and that you have spares.
Electrical and battery issues are the second most common problem we encounter whilst away. Having your battery on an Optimate or similar when not in use keeps the battery in good fettle but they still have a limited lifespan. Make sure you test it before you go, if you don’t have the kit then most dealers will happily test it for you for free as only takes a minute or so.
This is another area where if you have any inclination that it might be on its way out then get it replaced. Swapping batteries out on the ride is of course doable but it’s a needless inconvenience and can easily be avoided.
Ensure you have plenty of wear left in your pads and that your disks are in good shape too. Pads are an easy item to carry spares of and in most cases can be swapped out in a few minutes when needed. Well worth bringing spares if you’re running low as it’s not always that easy to get hold of a set depending on how remote you are when they decide to give up the ghost.
Tyres are the number one issue we have on tours. Make sure you have plenty of tread on your tyres before any tour and give them a quick spin to ensure you haven’t got any nails or foreign objects lodged in there. When touring abroad you can go through tread much quicker than at home, you’ll often be carrying more weight, sometimes a pillion too, on nice sticky hot tarmac and possibly giving it a bit more beans than usual. The rule of thumb is if you think it’s even a possibility that you’re going to run them low then replace before you go. Tyres the exact size you need aren’t always the easiest to source when away and you can always store your part worn ones and have your local fitter stick them back on when you get back.
While you’re checking your wheels it’s also good practice to pop your bike onto the centre stand (if you have one) and make sure there isn’t too much play in the wheels that could indicate a bearing failure. These can take days to get sent out and would mean the end of your trip if they go whilst away.
Fork seal leaks are relatively common when away, compress the suspension and check that there isn’t any oil leaking out of them with your finger. We’ve never lost a bike to this and have always got people back on the road using our guide’s Macgyver like ingenuity but popping a few spares into your toolkit is a great idea. They are cheap and you’ll need them one day so why not carry them with you.
Touring screens are by no means essential but they provide some much needed relief on longer days depending on your riding position. If you already have one then lips and various extenions are available to ensure you get the best “air pocket” for your size and posture. Google is your friend here.
You’re going to be spending a lot of time in the saddle so you want to ensure that you are as comfy as possible. Many modern seats sacrifice comfort for style but trust us after several hours in the saddle you’ll curse your cool racer seat! There are a wide range of options out there from pads to gel inserts, airflow mesh and more. Most of our guides find that AirHawk type set pads are the best bet but its a very personal choice.
To avoid getting into a sticky situation when away, make sure that your number plate complies with the legislation in your home country.
Tweaking the ergonomics of a bike can do wonders to its long distance touring capabilities, bar risers are available for most bikes in a range of different sizes and can take pressure of your lower back or reduce the reach needed to the bars. Some Googling will present you with plenty of options for your steed if you feel you might need them.
If you don’t have heated grips then an aftermarket set is well worth the investment. You’d be amazed how much difference they make if you’ve never tried them.
Make sure you know how to adjust and clean your chain. Some bikes are trickier than others to sort out so if in doubt get your dealer to run over this with you and make sure you’re good to go before the trip. You can buy a cheap kit to bring along with you to keep them clean and you’ll be in good company in the carpark at the end of the day as those with chains form their own little crew exchanging tips and tricks before the first beer of the evening.
If you have a shaft drive bike then there is less to maintain but make sure the fluid levels are topped up before you go and you have the right tool with you to fill up whilst away if needed.