Call me crazy, but I think it’s a good idea for every motorcycle rider to take a long trip at least once per year.
Some physical reasons for this include burning through the old fuel in your tank and replacing it with new, giving the battery a good charge, and in general reminding us and the bike that it is a machine that is built for performance.
Yet more than that, planning a long trip changes the way we look at our motorcycle and the way we look at ourselves.
A long trip changes the way we look at our motorcycle in terms of maintenance. We’re much more inclined to make sure all our maintenance is up to date when planning a big trip. We perform that oil change we’ve been putting off, fix that wonky clutch lever, and tighten up that mirror that always wants to wiggle loose.
We take a closer look at the tires, the wiring, and the indicator lights that we take for granted when we commute on the bike every day. We perform those in-depth checks that we know we’re supposed to from our motorcycle safety classes, yet don’t because we’re human and we procrastinate.
There are more intangible reasons for taking a long motorcycle ride as well.
A long trip changes the way we look at ourselves in terms of evaluating what we really need. Packing for a motorcycle trip gives us a chance to evaluate what we’re bringing along for the ride and why. Do we really need to bring along four favorite shirts or can we get away with one? Do we really need several sets of matching shoes or can we get away with bringing only one really comfortable pair?
A long trip changes the way we look at ourselves because it helps us re-align our priorities. Am I a person that likes beaches and pounding waves, or do I like mountain vistas and the sound of the wind in the trees? Do I like sleeping in comfy beds every night and treating myself well or am I the type of person that likes to be close to nature and “rough” it?
Are you a self-sufficient motorcyclist bringing everything you need in your panniers and camping on the rim of the Grand Canyon, or are you the type that likes to roll into town at dusk, take a hot shower and head to the local pub? Are you the type of motorcyclist that pounds the miles testing your limits of endurance and goes back to work utterly exhausted, or do you like riding fewer miles and deeply experiencing all that a certain locale has to offer?
Making these types of decisions and going through the motions of planning and preparing for a trip helps you gain clarity on yourself and your priorities. Whether it’s a two-day trip or a two month trip, these insights and definitions help us when we come back to our everyday lives.
We come back knowing more about ourselves, our motorcycles, and more about the world around us. We both perform better as well.