What could be possibly better than going out for a quick little ride on your motorcycle?
The answer: Riding all day, for several days or weeks or months at a time! Touring and travelling on a motorcycle gives you things that you can't get in a car.
Robert Pirsig put it best in the classic novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:
"You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you, boringly in a frame.
"On a cycle, the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming. That concrete whizzing by five inches be-low your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on, it's right there, so blurred you can't focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience, is never removed from immediate consciousness."
When you roll into a small, unfamiliar town on your bike, people are curious and friendly, and they want to talk with you to learn where you are from, where you are going, and what you think about the weather.
You don't have to buy a Dresser. My first street bike was a 400cc Yamaha XJ with a Reagan-era redline of 55mph. I rode this for a solo, weeklong trip from Portland, Oregon, to Sacramento and San Francisco, California.
I added a few inexpensive accessories to convert my little commuter bike to a touring bike. You can go touring on nearly any bike. Here are some suggestions to make your bike more comfortable for long-distance, all-day riding.
Tips to Making Your Motorcycle More Comfortable
Motorcycle Windshield or Fairing
You can add a windshield, windscreen or fairing to any bike. If you have a sport bike with a low windscreen, you can get a taller windscreen. Sport-touring and Double-Bubble windscreens are taller than the stock racing windscreen on sport bikes.
More than anything, a larger windshield, windscreen, or fairing reduces fatigue. It protects your upper torso and maybe your head from fighting the headwind. In doing this, it allows you to hold the handlebar with a more relaxed grip, reducing strain and fatigue in your hands, arms, shoulders, neck, and back. It will also block some of the headwind from your face and eyes, reducing the drying of your skin, lips, and eyes. In addition to the headwind, a larger windshield offers extra protection from the cold, the rain, and the heat. Protection from all of these factors improve comfort and allow you to ride longer.
Lighting serves two important functions - It helps you to see better and it helps others to see you. Additional accessory lights or fog lights should be installed as wide apart as possible. Wider lighting makes your bike look more like a car than a bike, and grabs the attention of other drivers. Although it might be unintended, fog lights might also make you look like a police bike, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. If other drivers see you earlier, there will be fewer incidents to require your emergency accident-avoidance techniques, which reduces your stress and allows you to ride more hours in the day in comfort.
Motorcycle Heated Grips or Heated Gloves
Obviously, heated grips and heated gloves help to keep your hands warm and help to prevent your fingers from going numb, allowing you to ride in greater comfort longer hours in the day. Keeping your hands warm improves safety - Your fingers can react faster when they are not cold.
My wife and I each have touring bikes that came stock from the factory with heated grips. I love them so much that I added the Oxford Heaterz Premium Grips to both my sport bike and my trail bike. The Oxford grips are super-easy to install, and they switch themselves off after the bike is parked, avoiding killing your battery.
Heated gloves may be worn on any bike. Heated gloves do a better job of warming the backs of yours hands, which are more vulnerable to the cold headwind and have thinner flesh than the palms. If they are available for your bike, you might add on Enduro style handguards to block the wind and some of the rain off your hands.
Take a look at any touring bike and you will see that the handlebars are at a medium height and that they are wide.
Wide handlebars improve your leverage to push the bike to lean in to the turns. Low handlebars are great to improve the aerodynamics of a race bike, but they can create too much body weight on the hands, and cause strain on your neck while trying to hold your head up. If you want to raise the clip-on bars on a sport bike, you will need to look for bar-risers such as the Rox Speed Risers.
Ape hangers make you look like a bad ass cruising the boulevard, but holding your hands up high causes the blood to run down and makes your hands cold. Do you remember how you're supposed to hold your hand up if you cut your finger? Conventional, one-piece handlebars are easy to exchange and replace.
Motorcycle Throttle Assist
Some modern, luxury touring bikes come with an electronic cruise control that operates just like the cruise control in a modern car. Electronic cruise control is nice to have, but difficult and expensive to add on to a bike that did not come with this feature as stock.
The Throttle Assist devices are also known by other names such as Crampbuster, Throttle Boss, Cruise Assist, and Comfort Wrist Cruise. These all perform the same function. These create an extra nub to stick out of your throttle's twist grip on which you can rest your palm. This allows you to relax your grip - not squeezing so tight. This helps to prevent your right hand from going numb. This is particularly helpful for a long stretch on a straight highway.
A mechanical cruise assist screws-on to the end of the throttle twist-grip. This locks the throttle in its position. It is important to know that a mechanical cruise assist might make it difficult to decelerate.
Motorcycle Seat Cushion
There are many options for seat pads and seat cushions to add to any bike. It's important to know that these may significantly raise your seat height. Raising the seat allows you to stretch your legs, which improves comfort, but it might make it difficult to set your feet on the ground.
There are many after-market seats and saddles, which are more comfortable than the stock seats on most bikes.
Some high quality touring seats use a foam rubber that is more firm than the stock seat. It might seem crazy to go more firm rather than softer however, a very soft foam collapses under your weight and after long hours in the saddle, you might contact the hard seat pan under the foam. The firm foam supports you better and keeps you off the hard pan under the foam.
Motorcycle Foot Pegs and Floorboards
Many dual-sport and adventure riders are upgrading their off-road footpegs for larger footpegs, which give you more support and a larger surface area to stand on. This is especially helpful for trail riding and standing up on the footpegs.
Many touring bikes and cruisers can be upgraded with floorboards. Not only do floorboards offer better support than footpegs, but they also allow you to change your foot position forward and back just for the sake of change. For long stretches on the highway, changing your foot position improves blood flow to your legs and feet, improving comfort and allowing you ride longer.
Sport bike riders can look for footpeg lowering kits. Lowering the footpegs allows for more leg-room and less cramping. The high footpegs that are stock on superbikes are needed only for the extreme lean angles on the racetrack.
Depending on the bike, backrests might be available either the passenger or the driver. You're not really supposed to lean back on the backrest, however a backrest improves comfort by supporting the lower back and improves your passenger's confidence that you are not going to fall off the back of the bike.
Motorcycle Heated Jackets
Electric-heated garments create heat to make up for when our bodies are not creating heat. Believe it or not, an electric vest or jacket-liner will actually keep your hands and feet warmer than without. By keeping your torso warm, you keep warm blood circulating through your entire body. If our torso gets too warm, our bodies push excess heat out to our heads, our hands and our feet. Read "How To Keep Warm for Winter Motorcycling" for additional information.
Being exposed to the outside elements and wind can cause dehydration. Not only might we get thirsty, dehydration can be felt on the skin, the lips, the nasal cavities, and the eyes. You can carry a water-pack on your back while riding, and route the drinking hose to your helmet strap. It is helpful to continue taking small sips of water every few minutes, all day long.
Motorcycle Tank Bag
A tank bag is a great place to store little things you want to access quickly, such as sunglasses, extra gloves, helmet cleaner, wallet, compass, cleaning cloths, tissues, drinks, candy bars, beef jerky, peanuts, and maps. There is the added security of having valuables such as your credit cards and cell phone right in front of you. Most tank bags have a map case which allows you to read the map from the pilot's seat.
Motorcycle Cell Phone Mount and Charger
Mounting your smart phone on to your handlebar allows you to use the GPS. There are many phone mounting devices available from Giant Loop, KTM, Oxford, Ram Mounts, and Show Chrome.
You will also need to add-on an Auxiliary Power outlet, cigarette lighter adapter, or USB outlet. These are easy to install.
The bike handles best if luggage is carried low and close to the center of the bike. Saddlebags and panniers are best, which is why they are the most popular. Soft saddlebags can be added to nearly all street bikes and sport bikes. Some bikes may require racks or stays to keep the luggage out of the rear wheel.
Hard-shell luggage is more durable and easier to live with than soft luggage, easier to load and unload. If shopping for hard-shell luggage, you must first shop for the required luggage racks to fit your particular bike.
Rear Trunks are mounted high and very far rearward, beyond the rear axle. This position causes any weight in the trunk to affect the handling of the bike. It's best to keep the rear trunk empty, and lock your helmet inside when you park. If you must carry something in the trunk, keep it light, like a down-filled vest. The bike handles best if the rear trunk is light. A proper handling bike is easier to ride, improving comfort and stamina to ride all day. If shopping for a rear trunk, you must first shop for the required luggage racks to fit your particular bike.
Motorcycle Rear View Mirrors
Larger mirrors improve your view of what is behind you. Mirrors with longer stems that stand out wider make it easier to see beyond your elbows. It is easier and more comfortable for your head and neck to have mirrors up high so that you don't have to look down towards your mirrors.
You don't have to go deep into debt for an expensive luxury touring bike. You can go traveling in comfort on just about any motorcycle. University student Ed March rode around the world on a Honda C90 Cub. Austin Vince and the ten-member Mondo Enduro Team rode around the world on Suzuki DR350 dual sport bikes. The Soldiers of Destiny Scooter Club crossed the US from Florida to Washington State on scooters. Robert Pirsig crossed the US on a 1966 Honda 305cc Super Hawk. Ted Simon rode around the world for four years on 500cc Triumph Tiger. Journalist Lois Pryce has ridden a Yamaha XT225 from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, the full length of Africa, and from England to Iran.
Whether your trip will be a full day, a weekend or a year, anything you can do to make the bike more comfortable will encourage you to ride more hours, more miles, more often.