By Zee Traveler
When I ask this question, I receive any number of answers ranging from a few hours to all day, 200 miles to 1,000 miles. Most commonly I hear a couple hundred miles followed by admiration, or crazy looks, for what I’ve done in my riding career. Long distance riding is something just about anyone, health abiding, can do and I’d like to encourage you to try it for yourself.
Before you attempt long days in the saddle, make sure your bike has been given the proper maintenance and you’ve made it as comfortable as possible. If you don’t do your own maintenance, take it to your mechanic and tell them your plans. If you do you own work, start by checking your tire tread, air pressure, oil levels, air filter, chain tension, and lube/clean the chain. I’d recommend doing an oil change or replacing your tires if they won’t make the trip without concerns. There’s no need to worry about it when you’ve got a long day ahead of you already. Next, make sure you’ve done everything you can to make it comfortable. I always recommend a decent seat or seat additive like a sheepskin, my personal favorite, or something like an AirHawk, beads, or mesh cover. A CrampBuster, which allows you to keep pressure on the throttle with your palm, will help if you don’t have cruise control. Adjust the windshield, if you have one, to a level that will reduce wind fatigue. If there’s anything that annoys you that you haven’t gotten around to fixing, like a whistling sound, loose part, badly angled mirrors, make sure and do that before you go. Once the bike is situated, it’s time to prepare yourself.
To begin with, don’t jump on and try to do an Iron Butt (1,000 miles in 24 hours or less) on your first long ride. Slowly build your way up from your comfort zone, no matter where you’re starting. We all started somewhere so don’t be ashamed if three hours is your max
Push to four, five, and before you know it you’ll be riding all day without even blinking. Take a friend if it makes you feel better or even map out your gas stops if you’re scared of running out. To help get thru the day as smoothly as possible, start out well rested and eat something healthy. Try to stay away from excessive caffeine to avoid crashing. Keep snacks in easy reach, stretch at every opportunity, and don’t be scared to stop if you’re feeling uncomfortable. It’s not a race or a competition so don’t add unneeded pressure on yourself.
Above all, the most important part to being able to do long distance riding is simply believing that you can. You’re going to want to turn around and give up at least once but keep going, because all of us other riders believe in you. Soon you’ll be agreeing to a 1,000 mile round trip just to get lunch in another state, province, or country and the adventure stories will pile up. You’ll be recounting amazing experiences with everyone before you know it and then you’ll be the one getting crazy looks. So, what’s stopping you now?
If after reading this article you keep asking yourself “why would I want to ride long distance?” then here’s just a few reasons. Your confidence in yourself, your skills and in your machine will increase as you go further. Once you’ve accomplished a goal you set for yourself, you get the sense of achievement and bragging rights. You experience the sense of “the further you go, the further you leave things behind.” Hours behind bars can be like meditation or therapy for many and you won’t know if it’ll help you unless you get out and try it.
~ Zee started out on a cross country tour in August of 2016 and has been living on her bike ever since. Check out her website to follow her adventures, www.zeetraveler.com