Before You Roll - Motorcycle Touring - Tips

Road Loading

So you've nailed down a destination, and now you're chompin' at the bit. Throw a few Jockey shorts in the backpack and off you go, right? Not so fast-any overnight trip requires a bit more forethought. And if you're headed on an extended tour on two wheels, remember, "less is more." Even if your week-long odyssey is on a full-blown touring bike, you'll have to make every inch of cargo space count (especially if there are two of you). That ice bucket will start looking pretty dumb after Mile Marker 3. We talked with Tom Mehren, author of the new book Pack Light, Pack Right! (available at Mehren's also a proponent of the less-is-more theory. Following are his main packing points:Heavy On The BottomStuff heavy gear closest to where the bag will be mounted on the bike. I like to use a three bag system on extended trips: one big sack for the large stuff, a medium bag for necessities and a smaller one for traveling fast and loose. (This one comes in handy off the bike.) The big bag should be weather- proof, durable and flexible enough to accommodate different loads on different bikes. Attachment points, stiffeners or frames help the cause too. The medium-sized bag should essentially be a stuffable, soft bag that can be rolled up, and I usually grab a backpack for light, off-bike excursions.

Pack Small

For clothes, two shirts, two pants, two pairs of socks and underwear, one pair of shoes (not including riding boots) and two pairs of gloves are all you need. Group smaller items into small, plastic freezer bags. Clothing gets rolled up and put into a mesh bag. Store these separate bags vertically, so they're easier to access.

Dump Your Cotton

Cotton is bad-you get so much more space out of your luggage if you stock up on synthetics instead. A laundromat is usually easy to find, and washable garments made of Coolmax can dry in a few hours.


Pack items that have multiple purposes to minimize space. A Leatherman tool can handle three or four chores, while a waterproof dry bag can be used for laundry, storage on the bike or a beer cooler at the campground.

Spread The Load

First Aid kits-only one rider in the group needs to carry one. Same with other large items-one person can stow the pump, the other a set of jumpers and so on. And don't buy cheap stuff! Once you purchase quality gear, you should be done shopping for years. It's worth it in the long run.

Touring Resources

Even modern-day Magellans need some sort of third-party support. The following tools should help you fine-tune your target.

Harley-Davidson Great Roads And Ride Planner

Harley's Web site is a wealth of info. On, under the "Experience" tab, you'll find great online tools for riders. The "Great Roads" section is chock-full of destinations and roads (currently 52) that are rated for ride and scenic value. Click-and-drag maps allow you to view the lay of the land and access lodging info.

Mad Maps

If you prefer hard copies of a certain region, check out the Mad Maps series. These foldable, weather-resistant charts are a real boon for motorcyclists, listing color-coded routes, attractions, fuel stops and tips on each area. Regional maps are $8.95 each; Get Outta Town series $5.95 each. See the whole series at

Microsoft Streets & Trips 2007

This software has helped us plan dozens of forays flawlessly, and the new version's even more intuitive, featuring an interactive GPS locator that you can plug into your computer. It'll even figure fuel mileage for you. Get it for $129 at

Harley-Davidson Ride Atlas Of North America

Here's a rubber-covered reference atlas covering ride maps, along with detailed U.S. state and city maps tailored to riders' needs, with minor highways and secondary roads highlighted in bold color. It's produced by Rand McNally and available at or Harley-Davidson dealerships for $34.95.

AAA TripTik

You can always go back to the classics too; we heard that AAA recently made its famed online TripTik service available to non-members too. This mapping tool is more auto-biased, but it's an interactive resource for things like road conditions, gas stops and construction zones. You can even book a hotel online and check fuel prices. See

Ama Ride Guide To America

A fine selection of road trips, routes and scenic suggestions around the country from the good (and knowledgeable) folks at the American Motorcyclist Association, it's divided by region for easy access. The guide is $24.95. Check for more info.

The Essential Guide To Motorcycle Travel, By Dale CoynerIf you need help preparing yourself and your bike for a long-haul ride, this one's for you. Whether you're getting ready for a weekend trip to the local mountains or a transcontinental odyssey lasting several years, good planning is the key to enjoyment on the road. Get it for $24.95 at


But what if things don't go as planned? There's now a new medical evacuation program designed specifically for riders. MedjetAssist's Motorcycle Protection Plan protects bikers who fall sick or get injured while riding virtually anywhere in the world. If a member is hospitalized 150 miles or more from home, MedjetAssist will fly them to the hospital of their choice aboard a medically equipped aircraft. Pre-paid annual memberships for individuals up to 75 years of age are $225 each. For more info, visit

On The web

We've also found the following route-specific Web sites to be invaluable for trip planning:
Motorcycle Roads

America's Byways

Firestone Legendary Drives

Road Notes