Tips for Motorcycle Touring in Spring and Summer

Consistently warm weather is on the horizon! Sunshine and comfortable temperatures are the perfect combination for long motorcycle journeys. As COVID-19 travel restrictions continue to loosen across the country, you may be able to plan a much-needed road trip!

A significant amount of preparation can help ensure you have a successful, memorable adventure. Consider these tips to get started.

Have the Right Gear

riding motorcycle on open roadNot all clothing and saddlebags are suited for the demands of motorcycle touring. We strongly advise against riding while wearing shorts and sneakers. You’re better equipped with the following gear:

  • Protective Footwear: Make sure you wear boots that protect your ankles from debris and exhaust.
  • Weatherproof Essentials: Bags and gear designed to block out rain and wind can keep you cool and dry. Also consider a windproof jacket and a full set of rain gear.
  • Layering Pieces: Leather should be worn as your top layer for its durability and protection. Underneath, wear a combination of breathable and moisture-wicking lightweight and midweight layers to hold onto body heat, without adding bulk.
  • Tank and Saddlebags: The tank bag sits on top of the fuel tank and saddlebags go on either side of the rear wheel. Both are designed to hold your gear, tools and other essentials. For more storage, consider a trunk bag if the rear seat will be empty.
  • Comfortable Grips: Heated grips can help keep your hands warm and comfortable, while padded grips assist with reducing fatigue after hours of riding.
  • A Supportive Seat: A gel seat and a back rest can offer more support to reduce strain as you ride for miles, day after day.

Have the Right Motorcycle

For optimal touring performance, consider these two well-suited motorcycles:

  • Proper Touring Motorcycle: Designed to keep you comfortable during hours of riding, touring bikes can reduce back strain by allowing you to sit upright. Touring motorcycles also have a trunk area, which can be supplemented with saddlebags.
  • Cruiser Motorcycle: Can handle the strain of a long ride and has a tank bag and saddlebags for sufficient storage. Consider adding a windshield, so the air passes around you to reduce fatigue as you ride.

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Getting Ready for the Motorcycle Riding Season

While the 2020 motorcycle riding season was unlike any other due to the Coronavirus pandemic, 2021 represents a new beginning. There is a vaccination available for the virus, we have developed new riding techniques to socially distance and are better prepared for any potential risks.

To get your spring riding season off to a solid start, consider these tips.

Prepare Your Bike

group of motorcycle ridersThis initial step remains the same no matter if it’s a pandemic or ordinary motorcycle season. Never hit the road before you’ve checked and updated the following areas:

  • Tires: Look for wear and tear, flat spots and check the treads. Also measure the tire pressure, as it likely decreased during months of winter storage.
  • Wheels and Brakes: Give the wheels and brakes a once-over for signs of wear, particularly noting the quality of the brake pads and discs.
  • Inspect the Full Bike: Examine the chains, wires, levers, pedals, frame and other parts for damage. Test the lights, check the battery and look for signs of pests.
  • Check the Fluids: Even with proper winterization, moisture can still build up and lines may experience leaks. As such, replace the oil, coolant and gasoline before you take your bike out for a trip.
  • Belts & Sprockets: Check belts and sprockets for wear, as well as rocks embedded in them. Also check chains and sprockets on older bikes.

Review our list for more spring maintenance tips to help determine if repairs are needed.

Go Over Your Gear

Your gear won’t be all that different this year but you should be prepared with a mask when making stops. In busy areas, make sure to social distance. Additionally, have protective pants, a jacket, boots and gloves. In spring, make sure to bring layers to adjust to variable conditions and rain gear in case you’re caught in a storm.

Once you have the right clothing items, make sure they all fit and there are no seams coming apart. Worn out safety gear provides reduced protection out on the road.
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Best Starter Bikes for New Riders

Older, more experienced motorcycle enthusiasts often have loyalty to one brand and type of motorcycle. Yet for beginners, the number of models and amount of specs to review can be overwhelming! If you’re just getting started on two wheels, learn more about the best options for new riders.

Cruiser Bikes

young man on a cruiserAlso called a “street cruiser”, this type is exemplified by the classic Harley-Davidson and is considered the quintessential motorcycle. Cruisers span a wider range of models, from a 250cc to a 2,300cc engine, to mid-century American motorcycles and heavier-duty Japanese models introduced in the 1980s and 1990s.

In terms of design, the typical cruiser has more metal than plastic on the exterior, although carbon fiber parts in more recent years have helped lighten the once-heavier weight. These bikes also tend to be situated lower, requiring the rider to sit upright or lean back a little.

Aside from these attributes, the ideal cruiser has a high-torque V-twin engine and bigger tires. As you get more immersed in motorcycle culture, you’ll find that when riders talk about custom bikes, they nearly always mean modifications to a cruiser.

A cruiser can also be a solid choice for beginners due to the slower speed, reduced power and ability to travel longer distances. Especially if you’re looking for a starter bike that will give you several years of use, the larger engine in a cruiser better handles wear and tear for longer trips and highway riding.
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Post-COVID-19: What Motorcycle Riders Need to Know

States across the country have begun to reopen, following the global Coronavirus pandemic. Many non-essential businesses that temporarily closed can now accept customers, but restrictions remain in place on a state-by-state basis, including for non-essential travel.

When you factor in motorists who have driven less often over the past few months, your next motorcycle ride becomes fraught with uncertainty. Consider the following points to help you prepare for a safe trip.

Roadways Will Have Less Traffic

motorcycle parked on the open roadA recent article in the New York Times described the experience of riding through the near-empty streets of New York City. Especially for urban motorcycle riders, this sounds like paradise: You don’t have to worry about traffic and can actually enjoy the open road.

Yet there’s one major catch: In an environment like this, some riders may be tempted to speed or forget to watch out for other road obstructions.

A driver may turn a corner without looking properly or a vehicle may back out of a blind driveway right into the street.

As you enjoy the freedom of less congested roads, obey the speed limit, be aware of your surroundings and ride defensively.

Motorists Are Not Expecting to See You

A report in the Seattle Times found that motorcycle accident rates started to increase in April and continued through May in Washington State, hitting the highest level since 2006.

Two factors likely point to this trend. For many riders, the motorcycle season started later than previous years. Typically, we’re back on our bikes and have completed a couple long-distance trips by April or May. Yet, motorists have primarily kept their cars and trucks in the driveway, only venturing out to the grocery store.
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Tips for Motorcycle Riding with a Passenger

The feel of the open road doesn’t always have to be enjoyed solo! When you want to share the sensation of traveling on two wheels, you invite another person to come along on the back of your motorcycle. Yet, it’s important to be an experienced rider to carry a passenger.

Before heading out, make sure you’re comfortable with another person on your bike and the passenger is comfortable being on a motorcycle. What else should you keep in mind?

Passengers Add Weight

motorcycle riders with passengersThe extra weight of a passenger will make the bike a completely different machine. When accelerating from a stop sign or stoplight with a passenger on back, do so gradually. Start with a slow and steady twist of the throttle, so you have complete control of the bike.

Know the State Laws

Whether you’re riding alone or with a passenger, know the state motorcycle laws. For instance, only passengers under the age of 18 have to wear a helmet in Connecticut, while Rhode Island requires a helmet for all passengers.

Getting On & Off the Bike

Before a passenger gets on your bike, make sure it’s completely upright and you grip the front brake, while holding the handlebars tightly.

Riding Around Corners

When you enter a corner and are leaning, make sure the passenger is comfortable and lets you control the bike. Your passenger should relax and react to the bike, avoiding any sudden or jerking movements.
Do you have experience riding with a passenger on your motorcycle? Share your tips and strategies on our Facebook page.

Pros & Cons of Motorcycle Windshields

When Plexiglas entered the market in the late 1920s, windshields started appearing on motorcycles. Windshields continued to grow in popularity through the rest of the 20th century and today, are one of the most-requested aftermarket accessories.

Yet, windshields are not for every rider. Some feel they break up a bike’s visual flow and would rather feel the flow of wind. If you’re considering one for your bike, think about the following points.

Improve Fuel Efficiency

motorcycle windshieldBy design, motorcycles are not very aerodynamic. With a windshield, air is diverted around the rider’s body, which reduces the dragging effect and lessens the amount of fuel used.

Shield From the Elements

Perfectly warm spring and summer days with clear skies can suddenly turn windy or rainy. Without a windshield, riders have to face cold gusts, precipitation and flying gravel.

A properly fitted windshield creates a cushion of air to keep you warm, divert rain and guard against debris headed your way.

Limited Wind Exposure

Touring motorcycles helped the popularity of bike windshields, and for good reason. Cold weather and precipitation can drain a rider’s energy for long distance rides.

Wind exposure causes fatigue to set in: The faster you ride, the more force wind exerts on your body and the sooner you’ll get tired. A windshield can help conserve energy on these longer trips.

Could Obstruct Vision

In a perfect situation, the windshield is positioned so the rider looks directly over the top. However, if the model is too tall, dirt and bug residue will eventually cloud your field of vision. Should it rain while you’re out, the windshield may suddenly become blurry and water-covered. Test a windshield out to see how high it sits on your bike before buying.
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6 Common Late Fall Riding Hazards

Many riders would agree, fall is prime motorcycle season. Near perfect temperatures, clear blue skies, changing leaves and less traffic on favorite backroads make for great end-of-season rides.

On the other hand, fall has a few downsides. With winter right around the corner, riders have to be mindful of freezing overnight temperatures and black ice. These hazards, combined with falling leaves, roadwork and drivers who aren’t expecting to see motorcycles this time of year, remind us to ride carefully and defensively through the end of fall.

As you enjoy the few mild autumn days we have left here in New England, keep these points in mind.

1. Beware of Fallen Leaves

fallen leaves on the road Our region of the country is a must-see spot for leaf peepers – however, changing leaves have to come down eventually. When they do, they can form a slick, muddy blanket that greatly reduces tire traction. An unsuspecting motorcyclist may start to slip and slide, especially if their tire treads are worn out.

Large leaf piles can obscure potholes and uneven pavement, also catching riders by surprise. Added to this, high winds may bring small branches down with the leaves, creating another level of obstruction.

With these risks in mind, here’s how to approach a leaf-covered road this season:

  • Ride around the piles, as you never know what lies underneath.
  • Go slow, until you’re past the areas with fallen leaves and acorns.
  • Make sure your tires have sufficient traction.
  • Slow down and take care around corners.
  • Never ride over broken branches, as they have potential to rip and puncture your tires.

2. Adjust to Shorter Days

When daylight saving time comes to an end, you’re more likely to end a late afternoon ride in the dark. For this reason, make sure your bike’s headlights, brake lights and turn signals are all in working order. So other motorists can see you, further make yourself visible with reflective clothing.

This time of year, the sun now sits lower in the sky. Unless you’re traveling north, this positioning often creates glare and, with fewer leaves on the trees, there is nothing to block the light. To reduce the blinding glow and any potential accidents, make sure you’re equipped with appropriate eyewear and take it slow when the sun prevents you from seeing far ahead.

3. Think About Animals

Plenty of creatures are migrating south, searching for food or seeking hibernation this time of year. Due to these factors, you’re more likely to come across deer and other medium-to-large mammals, especially at dawn and dusk. To anticipate this risk, ride with appropriate protective gear and keep your eyes peeled for animals approaching from the side of the road.
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4 Tips for Riding Over Rough Pavement

You’re enjoying a smooth ride when suddenly, your motorcycle hits a bump. You maneuver your way around the potholes and loose gravel in the road, hoping for smooth asphalt around the bend.

For cars, these disturbances are a minor annoyance but for motorcycles, they can lead to a fall or bike damage. Unfortunately, you’re likely to encounter uneven, ridged roads at some point while out on your motorcycle. What can you do to get through these rough patches?

1. Plan Ahead for Rough Pavement

road construction signWhen you see signs for construction or enter a highly trafficked road, you may ride over:

  • A grooved surface
  • Gravel or an unpaved surface
  • Rumble strips, usually around diverted routes and construction zones
  • Fresh pavement, which brings oil to the surface when wet
  • Slick pavement, worn-out blackout tape and pavement markings
  • Steel plates, which may be smooth or rough in texture
  • Manhole covers

In particular, pavement milling can be very noticeable on bikes with narrow front tires. When driving over these uneven surfaces, don’t panic. Stay relaxed and ride through it slowly.

In many of these instances, the change is sudden. Coupled with the uneven or traction-free surface, your bike may become harder to control. Take it slow and allow yourself enough time to see the obstructions before passing over them.

2. Look for Smoother Ground

Maneuver around ridged, cracked areas and seek out smoother ground. Similarly for slick surfaces, move around what appears to be wet, oily or shiny. Keep in mind that on highways, this smooth area may toward the center of the lane. Be careful of debris that ordinary motor vehicles can drive over.
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Brushing Up on Your Riding Skills

Warm days and clear roads are finally here! Before you hop on your motorcycle this spring, think about how you will refresh your skills to stay safe.

Refresh Yourself

Like many skills, riding a motorcycle is all about muscle memory. When winter arrives and you take a hiatus for several months, you may need to refresh your skills with a quick ride around the neighborhood.

If you feel like you need a more thorough refresher, motorcycle safety classes cover basic skills, maneuvers and strategies.

Stay in Shape

two men riding their motorcycles in the sunshineIt’s a good idea to keep your muscles in shape. Particularly during the holiday season, you may relax and put on a few pounds. Once spring arrives, your body suddenly has to get back into the groove of riding.
Maintaining your physical fitness has many benefits, including:

  • Improved stamina, so you’ll be able to ride farther.
  • Better physical flexibility.
  • Greater concentration, so you can stay focused on longer routes and road trips.

Work on Bike Maintenance

It’s never a good idea to throw your bike into storage and leave it unchecked until spring. Pests, rust and corrosion, mold and viscous fluids may negatively affect its condition. Even after sufficient pre-storage prep, check your bike and make repairs before the new season.
The end of winter into early spring is the prime time to start making these updates. To begin, put together a checklist that covers the following:

  • Suspension adjustments
  • Engine tune-up
  • Valve adjustments
  • Fluid changes
  • Battery check

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How to Plan Your First Spring Motorcycle Trip

Once the warm weather of spring arrives, you’ll be back on your motorcycle. Are you ready for your first trip? Rather than hitting the pavement with no destination in mind, plan ahead to increase your chances of a successful journey.

1. Know Where You’re Going

riding motorcycle on a sunny dayFor your first trip, choose a familiar destination where you already know the roads. However, potholes and uneven pavement may not be addressed by early spring. Even a route you know well could present a few riding challenges.

Wherever you go, you will need the stamina to get there. No one wants to get fatigued halfway through and turn around. Pick somewhere you know you can ride to without significant warm up. If you’re traveling in a group, decide on the destination together.

You can also get a sense of the route and current conditions with a trip in the car.

2. Pack Up Supplies

Never set out on a motorcycle trip without the right supplies. Bring the appropriate riding gear, including waterproof pieces in case of rain. This time of year, temperatures can still plunge unexpectedly, so have a balaclava, gloves and a lightweight set of layers.

On the flip side, you don’t want to lug around too much gear. Clothing aside, stick to the basics for warmth, shelter and food without weighing down your bike.

3. Check Your Motorcycle

Even if your motorcycle was properly winterized, it will likely need maintenance before your first ride:

  • Fuel: You likely added fuel stabilizer before placing your bike into storage, but make sure your bike has fresh gasoline before you set out.
  • Tires: Check the tires for flat spots, lumps, general unevenness and proper inflation.
  • Fluids: Change the oil and check the brake fluid to make sure your bike is not leaking.
  • Belts: Check the belt drive system for wear and tear.
  • Suspension: Check for rust and tarnishing around the suspension system and have it scrubbed off.

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