This summer, not counting regular ass riding around in cities, I have clocked nearly 3000 miles.
The total distance has made me realize how utterly achievable it is for me to travel the trans-American highway from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Already, I am dreaming of the day when I can ride from Virginia to California, mostly on back roads, hopefully.
My travels have also brought me to a proper reckoning with my gear. I figure I should share my revelations, for all the sport bikers out there who might want to rock exit to some place far away.
For me, an important aspect of riding is being comfortable. I don’t want to ride for an hour with wet undies or a heavy ass bag on my back jacking up my shoulders. There are a lot of people who deal with this stuff like its whatever, but that ain’t me. So keep this in mind as I offer these suggestions.
1) Get a more comfortable seat.
Sportbike seats are made to transmit feel to the rider. So they are hard. That is not what’s up out on the highway. So get some gel shit or a Corbin seat or something. Then, for good measure, get some bicycle shorts that have all that padding around your sit bones. This single thing will improve your possible saddle time most of all.
2) Wear your best helmet.
Your best helmet is the one that is most comfortable. I used to rock an old Scorpion EXO-700 in the city. It was perfect for daily riding to and from school. But if I had it on for more than an hour, it would jack my face with pressure points. So for long distance, you gotta make sure that the lid won’t give you a headache. This is what you are paying for, I think, when you buy a Shoei or Arai or whatever: comfort over a long period of time. (To be fair, I think the new Scorpions are coming around on this too. That EXO-R2000 seems quite nice.) So make sure you are properly fitted.
3) Be ready for the rain.
I have a mesh/leather Rev’it! suit that has a rain liner. The jacket liner is too short, so I replaced it with a Fox MX rain jacket, which is perfect. It is a bit of a hassle to put on the rain pants, since they go on underneath the suit and not on top of it, but they work perfectly when they are in place. However, I think it is best to have rain pants that just go on top of whatever you are wearing. That way, when you see the clouds, you can just pull off right quick and pop it on, as oppose to risking indecent exposure charges like I have to.
Also, your boots have to be waterproof. I honestly don’t know why the very first pair of boots I ever got weren’t Goretex. There is no advantage whatsoever to regular leather race boots. One should either get the “air” version of these boots, for hot weather, or waterproof boots for moderate weather and rain. Leather boots cost marginally less and take for fuck ever to dry out when you do get caught in the rain, as all dope riders do. So, seriously, if you are going to get race boots, get waterproof race boots.
You also need waterproof gloves. I have had a couple pair over the years and I can say quite easily that the Held Air N Dry gloves are the best. Mainly because they are two gloves in one. So, when it is not raining, you can cool your hands all serious, and when the torrent is coming down, you can be dry from that Goretex goodness. I didn’t think they could be so dope until I tried them on for myself. Yeah, they cost a lot. Yeah, they are worth it.
4) Keep the weight off your back.
I have a few bags. A small Ogio tank bag. A Cortech tail pack. A Kriega R35 with a US10. Here are my thoughts: Any tail pack that isn’t waterproof is a waste of money. Yeah, sure, you can pack your stuff with plastic bags to stay waterproof, but that is just extra shit to do. The ideal zone is to rock a Kriega US20, with maybe a US10 on top of it. These bags strap quite brilliantly to the tail of even the smallest rear sections, of which the R1 is a serious contender. That way you don’t have to worry if your electronics and such are going to be okay. Plus, Kriega bags are quickly attached and detached. So you don’t have to fumble with taking off your seat and shit just to take your bag into the motel or brothel or where ever you are visiting.
For the tank bag, however, I have a bit of a different perspective. This is because I feel the tank bad should be the bag of gear and should be easy to access. A Kriega bag is not really going to fit this description because of the way they close up (they roll and snap. The Ogio bag just unzips at the top like regular). So I kind of like the Ogio tank bag. In it I put all my gloves, my other visor, balaclava, and the little ass toe shoes I walk around in. All that. And, because I’m a hypocrite, I pack them in a plastic bag in case of rain. Because, look, those rain covers that cheap moto bags have may block a light drizzle, but they don’t do shit about rain.
So, I don’t keep much in my R35; Mainly I wear it so that I can carry things around whenever I get to where I am going. However, I do stick a water bladder in it so I can sip throughout the ride. Riding hungry is alright. But riding thirsty is fucking madness, kids.
6) Smartphone and Charger.
Okay. Got a trick for you. Sportbikes don’t usually take kindly to GPS mounts and all that. There just isn’t the space for these things on the clip-ons. So this is what I did; I got a cell phone arm band type thing from ebay and put it on my left forearm. Then, I put a stylus in the top clear pocket on my tank bag. So, when I pull off the road to check where I am going, I don’t have to remove any gear or unzip anything. Also, when I get to my destination city, I can just turn on the phone navigation and use it to get me to the address. Obviously, I can’t use it in the way that people do when they are driving; I can only afford the quickest of glances when out on the road. But that is really all you need to find a place. And the mounting there on my arm makes me feel kind of like a sci-fi superhero. It worked out so well on my last trip, I am thinking about getting the arm band sewn into my jacket, so it can always be perfectly placed for my quick glances.
Yeah, and if you are wondering where to pack your phone charger, let me help: Put that shit in your jacket pocket. That, way, when you stop off at Starbucks or whatever roadside nasty you have to eat at you can just plug in right quick, get some charge.
7) Oh, and about that phone…
I don’t know about IOS, but Android’s Google Maps are quite useful. Here goes the style. First, you can tell Maps to cache certain areas so you don’t need to have coverage to access them. This is offline mode, which is accessible from the menu. Next up, you can save particular locations in maps by “starring” them. This means that you don’t have to search for a place over and over again. You just click on the star on the map and you can navigate there. This simple thing makes it way easy to chart a course from spot to spot out on the road. Also, you cats need to know about Glympse. If someone is waiting on you, this can hip them to the moment when they need to open the gate or put the tea on.
If you are thinking that your phone won’t be able to sustain the use of these apps because its battery is shitty, you need to get that shit modded by some nerds. I run Avatar ROM and I can get 20 hours with moderate use.
Alright. I have one other piece of advice which is a bit more personal. It goes like this:
8) Make an adventure out of that shit.
I watched this show recently. Neal Bayly Rides or something. This cat took a bunch of GS riders on an adventure to some janky ass white privilege-confirming orphanage. Maybe it was the editing, but this whole thing had the look and feel of the lamest ride ever. At every turn they were at some nice ass hotel, soaking in swimming pools, having boring conversations with each other. One cat didn’t even want to eat the basic snacks of whatever country they were in. I say no to this.
If you are going to be on the road, then meet new people. Have conversations with motherfuckers that you would never talk to. Stay in places that aren’t hotels. Couch Surf. Or even rock that AirBNB style. Or camp somewhere, if you have the kit. Or sleep under a truck. Look, you don’t ride a motorcycle because it’s safe. You ride it because, as the man says, you can live more in 5 minutes going fast on two wheels than some cats do for their whole blood clot lives. I got a homie retired in the suburbs right now who used to race, who once got passed by Kenny fucking Roberts on the track. This cat put 60,000 miles on the devilish 2004 ZX-10 without ever scratching the tank. Cops used to knock on his door wondering if he was the guy who evaded their sirens out on the road. That is what I’m talking about. If you have to look back on your life, then let there be moments when you courted danger and uncertainty for no other reason than because you could, where you came out on top or paid some price. “Adventure is discomfort recounted at leisure.” We live in a nation and age of incredible opulence and security. The least we can do is try to get jacked up every now and then.
It seems daunting to ride for a long time on a bike that does not seem to be made for such a thing. Even for those who have bikes closer to the touring spectrum, there is a kind of apprehension about covering the miles. But here is a general fact: If you can ride for 45 minutes straight, you can ride for an entire day. Maybe your wrists or knees start to hurt a little. Sure. But you can adjust your weight and stretch out in the saddle and you won’t be riding for longer than your small ass gas tank will let you anyway, so there will be plenty of breaks.