On our Fastest Circumnavigation of the World by Motorcycle Guinness World Record in 2002, we averaged 1,008 miles per riding day, travelling two-up on a BMW R1150 GS, and then we achieved the Trans Americas Guinness World Record in 2003. Ensuring that long distance motorcycle riding is safe and comfortable is not something to be taken lightly. It’s a true test of mental and physical endurance. Yet, it’s probably one of the biggest challenges an adventure touring rider can face, yet one that many overlook. Based on our experience, we’ve given you some of our top tips for riding big miles.
The high miles club
No matter how well a route or itinerary is planned, you can never rule out having to ride a big mileage day. Maybe a border or road is closed, or there’s a ferry to catch and you’ve been held up en-route. Perhaps there’s been an incident and you have to go the extra miles to get help. Maybe you’ve just underestimated how long it takes to get to your end destination in the country and conditions your riding in. Generally, you can go a lot further and faster in Europe, than you can in Africa or Asia.
Here’s our top tips for managing a long day.
If you know you’ve ended up with 1,000 miles to go and only two days left, then make sure you are up early and off. We always aim to make progress in the early part of the day, so you’ve done two thirds of the ride by early afternoon. We always balance this advice, with trying to avoid riding in the dark, so check your sun rise and sunset times to know how much daylight riding time you have.
Don’t rush to get ready
Knowing you’ve got big miles to do, may lead you to rush about in the morning to leave early (as recommended above). But before you leave, remember to do the basic checks around the bike, that your packing is secure and you have all your documents. Don’t be the one who rides for 50 miles and then realises your passport is still in the hotel safe! Taking a few extra calm minutes before you leave to double check everything, as it could save your hours later on.
For long riding days, especially if you’re motorway riding, then we always use custom molded earplugs for noise reduction. Medical experts state that exposure to excess noise can be fatiguing and stressful, and can ultimately lead to tinnitus or more severe hearing loss. Some riders will use earplugs that are linked to listening to music or audio books whilst riding, and certainly this can boost morale on a long riding day, although its not everyone’s “cup of tea”. Earplugs are small and easy to carry with you, so we highly recommend that all riders should have them.
OK, so this is not something that you can change easily when en route if a big miles day suddenly presents itself, but generally when touring, seat comfort is key and many riders will change to an after market seat or seat covers to assist in staying comfortable. On our Guinness World Records we used Airhawk seats and on the Trans Americas ride, Julia even “double airhawked” on the passenger seat. More recently we have used Cool Covers to aid seating comfort.
Always take breaks
Even if it’s just five mins, you should get off and stretch your limbs and have a drink of water. A five-minute break is worth its weight in gold. Never ride until the point of exhaustion. Our mantra is “”STOP TO GO FURTHER”.
Being properly hydrated helps keep your concentration level up. We always have water within easy reach when riding. If you drink little and often, as you are riding, we find it keeps you more alert. This is better than going for a couple of hours without water, getting thirsty, making a stop and then consuming a whole bottle in one go. Little by little! We prefer to have our water bladders in our tank bag, with the water tube just visible from the zip, so it can be pulled out and used when riding. Others will wear a Hydropak or Camel Bac.
Eat little and often
Don’t stop and have a big meal, as the blood goes to your digestion system and this can speed up tiredness. Caffeine has been proven to help, so like the old public information film said: “Pull over, drink a cup of coffee.”
Full throttle and full brake is not good. You should try and maintain a consistent speed, not too fast though, as your concentration level goes up. Your fuel consumption goes up too! Smooth and steady wins the race.
Learn to listen to your body. You should recognise the signs of tiredness, fatigue, hunger, body temperature etc. and learn not to ignore them. If you can sense a problem, deal with it right away.
Whatever the reason, being capable and confident riding for longer periods is a skill that not many train to do, but sometimes there may be no option. Be prepared, so that if a 500-mile day presents itself you are up to the job and you can tackle long distance motorcycle riding with ease.
Kevin and Julia