Maintenance and emergencies - Get it done before you go. You'd be surprised how many adventures are curtailed because of a bad chain and sprockets, worn-out brake pads, or bad tires. Consider the distance you have to travel (round trip) and determine if the consumables are going to last. Think ahead. If your tires will only last 1000 miles and you're taking a 2000 mile trip, what's your plan?
On this same subject, what's the status of your tool kit? Do you have one? Does it include everything you need? I keep a toolkit in my R1 that consists of:
- two 12mm combo wrenches for chain adjustment
- one 10mm combo wrench (just because)
- one combo screwdriver (1/4 inch drive mini)
- one pair of pliers
- one factory axle nut wrench and extension
- one 6mm hex wrench (fits seat and all other body fittings)
- one tire repair kit (plug type)
- one mini air compressor
- one tire gauge
- a couple of sharps (single edged razor blades, small and effective)
- a hand pumped siphon (sportbike tanks aren't very big)
Supplies - There are things you need to bring with you to maintain the motorcycle. One of these is chain lube if you have a chain driven motorcycle. (If you bring it, make sure you use it.) Some of you might bring along a quart or two of your favorite motor oil. Do you need a funnel for the oil? Others will bring a cleaner and polishing cloth. In this case, bring what you need and be prepared to leave the "nice to have" stuff behind. Motor oil and cleaner can be bought almost everywhere, so stashing it and hauling is falls under your own personal "nice to have".Comfort and convenience - Gear storage is always an issue on a motorcycle trip. For some strange reason, lots of rookie travellers think it's OK to carry all their gear in a backpack on their backs. Wrong! Backpacks are OK for short trips to the store or work, but they're hell on your shoulders after a few hours. The solution? Bungee cords! Bungee the backpack (and all your other gear) to the passenger seat and tail of your motorcycle. Yes, it will change the handling a little bit, but believe me, it's the way you want to go.
General safety - First and foremost, stay hydrated. Buy a CamelBak or other hydration device. Drink water regularly even if you don't feel thirsty. It's easy to become dehydrated on a motorcycle...... there's a lot of air passing over you and water evaporates off your skin at a tremendous rate. It's common for endurance racers to lose 5 pounds of water weight over a couple of hours on their bikes....
For the same reasons, you should keep your skin covered even in the summer when it might seem smart to let a bunch of air down your chest..... The truth is that you need to protect yourself from dehydration. Being warm might be uncomfortable, but being dehydrated can be deadly.
Cell phones, medical alert bracelets / dogtags, or info cards should be where they can do the most good when needed. My cell phone has specific entries called "Home", "ICE", and "Ed (lastname) ICE". ICE is becoming a standard cell phone entry for "In Case of Emergency". Use it and set it up right now!
Info cards are easy to make. We all use computers, so go into Word and just type out all the info you think an emergency responder might need to know. Format isn't terribly important and neither is your blood type if you don't know it. There's no excuse for not having an info card.
Ok now, general info tips:
Plastic bags are your friends. Ziploc freezer bags are your best friend. Large black plastic lawn bags are your second best friend. Plastic bags do two very important things. They keep stuff out and they keep stuff in. That may sound like "DUH!" info, but consider the practicality of keeping stuff contained and/or keeping stuff protected. Plastic bags do both. Use them.
A couple of shop towels never killed anybody. It never hurts to have at least a light duty first aid kit. And as stated elsewhere in this blog - examination gloves - they're just handy.
Paperwork! If you're travelling outside your state of residence, take your registration (or state equivalent) with you. Certainly if you're travelling outside the country, find out what your documentary and insurance requirements are in advance. You don't need to be doing this kinda stuff at the border.
Clothes....... consider the weather possibilities wherever you're headed. Dress in layers so you can modify your heat retention options. Try to wear fairly tight clothes with elastic or closeable wrists, neck and torso. You want to eliminate "flapping" as you ride through the wind and you want to reduce the amount of air that enters your layers at the wrists, neck, and torso. Flapping causes fatigue of the rider and the clothes. Air entry reduces the ability of the clothes to retain your body heat. You also want to reduce the amount of evaporation so you don't become dehydrated. Visibility is a desirable feature of your outermost layer.
Ok, so I've gathered all this stuff..... and it fits in my 33 liter Givi topcase (or the backpack you might have bungee'd to the passenger seat)....... and damn, it takes up a lot of room! Where am I gonna put street clothes and some underwear?
Simple. Roll them up individually and stick them wherever they fit. Then get rid of a bunch of your "nice to have" stuff from above, and roll some more clothes up and stick them wherever they fit. Repeat if necessary.
This isn't an exact science...... I just offer these ideas and methods for consideration.