Preventing some of the bad things that could happen on a motorcycle tour is easily achieved with a little forward planning. Mileage is one of the most significant factors to consider, along with the impact the miles will have. Yet the most important thing to consider is perhaps motorcycle breakdown insurance.
Wherever you have decided to go touring, the miles you expect to cover is a key factor. You don’t want to start a two thousand mile tour if the oil and filter need changing in fifteen hundred miles.
Same goes for brakes. You do not want to find out you need new pads when you are approaching a mountain hairpin bend. Make sure your brake pads will do the distance.
Nearly all of the route planning software will give you a total mileage. Add another 10% and you know what is likely to need doing to your bike before you get back.
On average, I get 6,000 miles from a rear tyre before I want to change it. Tyre wear though is also not linear. In rough figures, the first half of a tyre’s life will cover 70% of the mileage. After that, the wear rate gets faster and faster.
There are a few different theories as to why this happens, the most sensible one I know of comes from Mark at Mobile Bike Tyres
“ … as the tyre wears its circumference gets smaller and so rotates more for the same distance. Plus, the tyre gets hotter because there is less rubber to dissipate the heat ...”.
The beautiful grippy road surfaces you find in Europe, especially in Spain, also contribute to faster tyre wear. Then there is the extra luggage you are hauling and some spirited use of the throttle to factor in. Put all of those together and that last 3mm of tyre tread can disappear quickly.
Changing the tyre doesn’t mean throwing it away. A skilled tyre fitter can swap the tyres for you and tell you how to store them ready to go back on the bike when you need them.
Before talking chains, would all the shaft drive owners please skip down to the next section.
Yes, we know … We should have bought a GS 😊 but we didn’t.
Chains are another item governed by mileage, and lubrication is essential. I’ve done several tours carrying a can of chain lube, and its a perfectly workable solution. Just don’t forget to do it or put it off.
That said, what works even better – well certainly more convenient – is a ScottOiler. These wonders of modern motorcycling, keep the chain lubricated as long as there is oil in the Scottoiler reservoir.
Typically I get six to seven hundred miles from a full reservoir and refilling the reservoir is literally a 2-minute job. The refill bottle is also smaller than a can of chain lube. An added bonus if you are looking to travel light.
Whereas a Scottoiler keeps chain maintenance down to a minimum, the chain still may need adjusting while you are away. In your collection of tools remember to include a socket for the rear spindle and a breaker bar. It sound so logical it almost comes across as patronising, but it happens.
I’d bet you the first round of beers that someone in your group doesn’t have the right sized socket with them. You can normally spot them, they are the one who arrive at the meeting point needing fuel.
What other tools you need to take with you on tour is a hotly debated subject. I started out taking everything I thought I would need. Over the years this has reduced, and I think I’m about down to the minimum now.
Access to Spares
If you read the article on Touring Tool Kits, it explains why I recently put a replacement brake and clutch lever at the bottom of my pannier. Along with spare bulbs, which are a legal requirement in some countries, and fuses, that is about all the spares I carry.
The theory is, with a minimum number of tools and at the side of the road, I’m looking to fix the bike sufficiently to get to a dealer. If the problem is beyond simple fix, then I’m reaching for the paperwork that came with my Motorcycle Breakdown Insurance, and I’m giving the problem to someone else.
Motorcycle Breakdown Insurance
The reality of life is that “sh*t happens” and when it does, you want to be covered. No one likes to pay for insurance, right up to the point that they need it and then it was the best investment they ever made.
You may find that breakdown insurance comes with your bank account as one of the extras they throw-in. If not, there are numerous companies offering motorcycle breakdown insurance, for single trips through to year-long coverage.
However you get your breakdown insurance, the crucial part is understanding what you are getting for your money.
If your breakdown insurance is cheap, then there is a reason it is cheap. You don’t want to be adding to your troubles when the company you call for assistance turns out to be a waste of space. As the saying goes, when in a hole, don’t start digging.
Thankfully I’ve never had to use my insurance, but I know of someone who has. They made one call and were collected from the roadside. They enjoyed two nights in a decent hotel, while their bike was fixed, and then returned to them.
Medical cover is also worth checking. As the UK leaves the EU, those magic EHIC cards that ensured medical cover was available across the EU will no longer work.
A top-tip I picked up from fellow IAM Roadsmart Observer Ian M. An important part of being prepared is chocolate. Nothing makes being stuck at the side of the road with a broken bike look at little better, than your favourite chocolate bar. It is why Wagon Wheels were invented.