It is important to remember that while motorcycles are fun one mistake can have life altering consequences. When traveling with a group, any accident is going to impact on the level of fun for all. To ride safe observe the following rules of the road:
1. Obey all federal, provincial and municipal laws.
2. Do not drink and drive.
3. Maintain an equal or greater following distance than you would in a car. A fully loaded motorbike takes as far to stop as a SUV!
4. Know where the group is going and concentrate on getting there rather than staying with others.
5. Ride in predetermined groups of four rather that trying to stay with the whole group. Each pod should have an experience, predetermined leader. Do not pass within your pod and ride as constant a speed as you can. Pods should leave any site at five minute intervals. This will prevent the frustration of piling up and doing the accordion with everyone’s speed.
6. Stagger your position in the lanes so the person in front can see that everyone is together. Watch the person behind you in your pod of four. If they stop, pull over and wait for them.
7. Understand the various hand signals riders use for slowing down, stopping, turning, low on gas, etc. and use them.
8. Get off the bike once an hour and stretch.
9. Keep well hydrated while riding. It really affects your alertness and endurance. A camping water bottle can easily be attached to luggage for easy access. Stop to use it!
10. Dress in layers of clothing to keep warm. If you are cold and stiff, reaction time and alertness is impaired.
11. Watch vehicles as you go by to ensure that their load is secured. Understand that many of the people in motorhomes or towing trailers do not have experience to drive them. Watch passing them and especially watch when they pass you. It is very common for them to forget the trailer and cut in while still beside you.
12. Don’t stay beside or close behind semis. If they blow a tire, (which they often do) the debris is deadly.
13. Ensure that you have the proper gear. Also have a first aid kit (plus a bottle of peroxide) and a tool kit.
14. Remember sun screen. Not only are you exposed to the sun but also the wind can give quite a burn.
15. Make sure that your baggage is waterproof. Something that may repel water sitting still does not do as well at 100 km. Waterproof canoe bags are excellent if you do not have sophisticated baggage. Even with good bags, it is wise to bag your stuff internally within bags. Grouping clothing, etc. in bags also makes packing easier. Check every time you stop to make sure nothing has worked lose.
16. If it starts to rain, you have little tire in contact with the road surface. It is easy to go down, so slow down! It can be dangerous riding in the ruts if they are full of water, however due to the oil and motor fluids that drip in the centre; it is not a going choice either. Just outside of the right wheel rut, towards the edge of the road, will give you the safest riding spot, free from oil and water and farthest away from oncoming vehicles. Going beyond the outside line is not recommended because debris on the road increases there and with the rain, it is hard to see.
17. Do not haul a passenger unless you have the experience on a bike to do so. I would recommend at least one season first.
18. Do not attempt the trip on less than a 500 cc motorcycle. Even this is marginal. Most experienced bikers that do long trips will do so on a heavier cycle with larger displacement. You need a bike that will travel (loaded) all day at highway speeds without laboring or overheating. If you are not sure, ask an experienced rider or do a road check of several hundred kilometers before the trip.
19. Make sure your bike is up to the trip. Have it properly tuned and serviced. Make sure tires have lots of tread for the distance you will travel. Motorcycle tires are much softer that a cars and typically have only about 15,000 km tread life on the rear and double that on the front. Blowing a tire is lethal and they are not that expensive, so do not worry about wearing each set out.
20. Do not park you bike so close to the next person’s that if it falls over, it will hit it. If you knock over someone’s expensive machine, it is easily a $3,000 bill that you will not want.
21. Ride relaxed and enjoy. This trip is not a marathon. We all live that way. We are doing this to relax!