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Making your long-haul biking trips safer

Sabyasachi Biswas | Updated on June 12, 2014 Published on June 12, 2014

Ride safe While picking out riding gear, considerthe diversity of terrain and weather conditionsthat you might encounter. SABYASACHI BISWAS

If you’re riding out, make sure you’re comfortable and completely protected



The summer is halfway through, and the passes in the mountains have opened up. For motorcycle riders, this means riding time. But before you decide to hop on your bike and start riding, you need to check if you are likely to throw your back out while riding. Moreover, you need to check if you have the right riding gear, and if you don’t, then what you can get without burning a huge hole in your wallet.

Comfortable riding

For long distance biking, it is always advisable to ride a touring bike. However, if your bike isn’t really a tourer, you may have to make a few adjustments to ride comfortably for long hours. The first thing that you’ll have to check is your handlebar position, as the riding posture affects your fatigue levels.

Ideally, wide and straight handlebars are preferred, unless you’re riding a cruiser. Low-slung clip-ons (as found on Yamaha R15, Kawasaki Ninja 300, Honda CBR 250 etc) are good on the street and track, but on long journeys they can be back-breakers, as you’d have to slouch forward. You can fix this by raising the handlebar height using risers, which are usually available in all touring or performance biking stores.

The next thing that you’ll need to check is how comfortable your seat is. It shouldn’t be too hard or too narrow. Motorcycles like the KTM Duke 200 and 390 come with very hard saddles. A gel pad usually solves this issue. If your seat is too narrow, it might start hurting the insides of your thighs, and hence it would be a good idea to replace it with a wider saddle. Also, if you’re riding two-up, then get the pillion a good backrest.

If you expect rough roads, check your suspension’s stiffness. If you think the setup is a bit too hard, you can adjust it by one or two levels, depending on whether it’s just a bumpy road or a total lack of asphalt in certain patches. But don’t loosen it up too much – it’ll affect your bike’s stability.

It’s always good to travel light, but there are a few things that you must carry at all times while touring. The absolute essential is a first-aid kit and a toolkit that covers all basic repairs. Keep a spare tube ready and the essential fuses –you may not find a puncture or repair guy for hundreds of kilometres. Also, it’s good to invest in a proper saddle-bag, as it eliminates the need for you to carry a heavy backpack. ViaTerra and Cramster offer saddlebags for all the popular bikes at reasonable rates.

Safety gear

On the highway, risks increase phenomenally. It is absolutely essential that your helmet is of good quality and fits your head properly. A well-fitting helmet will have cheek pads that press gently against your cheeks and there’s no gap in between. Also, it shouldn’t press hard against your ears and your skull. Check for the visor’s clarity, glare protection and make sure it offers a good field of view.

Other than the helmet, always wear high-ankled boots or shoes, or proper motorcycle touring boots. These shoes will protect your ankles from impact and also against the weather. If you’re expecting water-crossings or rain, get boot-covers or all-weather boots. High-ankled boots would cost you around ₹2,000, and proper motorcycle touring boots start at ₹7,000.

A good pair of biking gloves will offer you a good grip on the handlebar, apart from protecting your palms from abrasions in the event of a crash, and will also give you protection against the weather. Depending on the weather, check for insulation levels, and make sure that the gloves have good padding under the palms and over the knuckles. But always make sure that the fit is perfect and you have maximum flexibility for your fingers.

Knee and elbow protection is also a must, and most riding jackets and riding pants come with built-in CE approved riding armour. However, if you don’t want to spend that kind of money, you can get decent knee-pads and elbow-pads between ₹2,000 and ₹9,000.

Apart from all these, always make sure you have the correct and updated paperwork for your bike and yourself. And most importantly, while travelling long distances on a motorcycle, always keep yourself awake, alert and hydrated. Never travel when you think you’re too tired.

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Published on June 12, 2014
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