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What You Need to Do to Get Your Motorcycle Road-Trip Ready

A handy guide to preparing your bike for the long voyage ahead

A lone motorcycle zips along an empty highway lined with large trees, a hilly snow-topped mountain seen in the mist behind

To get the most out of any motorcycle journey—whether it’s a one-day jaunt up north or a multi-day epic expedition to some undiscovered part of the country—you need your bike to be up to the task. This guide will help take the guesswork out of preparing your motorcycle for its first lengthy trip.

Run through your motorcycle pre-ride checklist

If you ride, you’re likely familiar with the detailed T-CLOCS pre-ride checklist. The Rider Training Institute, an Ontario-based riding school operating in 13 cities, offers a simpler agenda.

A young bearded man works on a motorcycle in a dimly lit garage 

“At RTI we teach something called DEFT,” says Shane Rajapakse, a riding instructor who is no stranger to 10,000-kilometre bike trips. “It stands for drivetrain, electrical, fluids and tires.”

Experts like Rajapakse suggest making sure that these items get ticked off the list before hitting the highway on long road trips.

Have your drivetrain lubricated and ready for the ride

Whether a bike is shaft-driven, belt-driven or chain-driven, riders should refer to their owner’s manual for maintenance schedules.

Chain-driven bikes require a little more upkeep than their counterparts, says Rajapakse.

“If I’m riding 1,000 kilometres per day, I lubricate my chain at least once per day. On wet or dusty roads, I’ll lubricate it around once every 300 kilometres.”

The chain tension should also be checked (your owner’s manual will tell you what it should be).

“If I know my trip is going to be 20,000 kilometres, I check my records to see if I need to do a change up front,” says Rajapakse. “If not, I have an anticipated shop that can replace it [along the way].”

Make sure your battery has enough power before riding off

On motorcycle trips, you need to be visible. Rajapakse uses a voltmeter to check battery strength throughout the journey, so he knows his lights are always working.

A person's hands are seen checking a motorcycle battery 

“What’s your battery condition like?” he says. If your battery struggles to start, “you want to change it before your trip.”

Plan ahead and ensure you’re always topped up

“Sometimes on a trip, I’ll take remote roads, so it’s really important to plan how much gas you have for whatever area you’re going into,” Rajapakse says.

If you’re running non-synthetic oil, it should be changed every 5,000 kilometres. You can get away with changing it every 8,000 kilometres with synthetic, though.

Think ahead and consider your bike tires

Carry a small puncture kit in case of flats.

“I always carry a mini compressor. But even a simple hand pump will do in a pinch,” says Rajapakse. “I’m looking at the age of the tire and the tread depth, and matching that up with what I expect from road conditions.”

You should also check your brake pads before a long trip. You can ask a professional how long they’re expected to last and replace as needed.

A final pro tip

“I’ll keep a PDF version of my owner’s manual on my smartphone so I can access any information that’s beyond my capabilities while on the road,” Rajapakse advises.

A man in flannel shirt is seen atop of black motorcycle speeding down a tree-lined highway 

May is Motorcycle Awareness Month, and though it’s almost over, let’s keep safety top of mind all year round.

Not two-tired for more motorcycle advice?

From tips on how to gear up with safety essentials before hopping onto a bike for the first time as a beginner to offering motorcycle assistance to riders of all levels, CAA is here to help maximize your fun on wheels.

And for peace of mind wherever you go, there’s CAA Travel Insurance.

Image credit: istock/philipimage, istock/g-stockstudio and Pexels