Motorcycle Road Trip Checklist: 7 Steps for a Safe Ride

You might think that carefully planning a trip defeats the purpose of adventure that so many associate with motorcycle travel. You wouldn’t be completely wrong. Sticking to itineraries isn’t in the spirit of motorcycle touring but you’ll find that having a pre-ride routine will prevent you from getting stuck in the middle of nowhere.

When I went on my first solo trip, I barely knew anything about motorcycle travel. I took off following Bob Marley’s mantra that “every little thing was gonna be alright.” My lack of preparation put me in some difficult situations on several occasions but it was a huge learning experience. This travel wisdom is what I’d like to share with you.

On the Road Checklist

#1. Have your papers handy

Always keep you travel documents with you, either in your jacket or tank bag. Before you set off at the beginning of every day, check that you have your license and registration, passport, and entry papers for you and your bike (if traveling abroad).

#2. Check your tires

Tires get worn out faster than you think. It’s a good idea to keep track of how many miles you’re putting on your tires and when you should buy a new one. Before heading out on a ride that will cover hundreds of miles, check for any extra wear or perforations. A worn down tire is a ticking time bomb that may literally explode under you. Trust me, I know.

Worn down rear motorcycle tire

If you can see inside your tire, you’ve driven too far on it.

#3. Check your fuel and oil levels

Topping up your fuel before you leave is a no-brainer, but it is also wise to check your oil levels. Some bikes, like the Kawasaki KLR 650, are known for having some oil leakage issues which require paying closer attention. Check for oil spots on the ground under your bike.

#4. Lube your chain

One of the first things I learned (the hard way) was that chain drives need to be lubricated every 500 miles or so. It also needs to have a bit of slack on the underside, about an inch in both directions to avoid stretching it out. Keep your chain clean and lubed and you won’t have to worry about messes like the one below. Belt drives offer easier maintenance but it’s still a good idea to check for wear.

Broken motorcycle chain

Get ready to start walking.

#5. Fasten your luggage

Even if you have panniers that are bolted to the frame of your motorcycle, it’s wise to check that everything is fastened correctly. Budget travelers may opt to use cargo nets and elastic bands and they need to make sure that they’ll hold properly. If some hooks aren’t fastened correctly you might start to lose luggage along the way and you might not even notice. It sucks to have to backtrack 15 miles on a dirt road looking for your missing gas canister.

#6. Water

Have it and stay hydrated! This is very important.

#7. Feel awesome

Being well-rested prior to a long ride makes a huge difference. It will help you be more alert and also happier. Long rides can be tough so it’s worth being in a good state of mind. An awesome soundtrack can keep you pumped for hours too.

Being mindful of you and your bike while traveling will keep you out of trouble, but there are also steps you can take prior to leaving home that will make things even easier. Get these tasks taken care of from the start.

Pre-Trip Checklist

#1. Service your bike

Take it to your trusted mechanic or service it yourself. The point of this is to identify any potential issues you may have (wiring, battery, transmission, tires, brakes, etc). It’s also recommended to get all fluids changed while you’re at it.

#2. Pack the right gear

You’re not going to have much space to bring everything you want so bring the essentials. Packing light will also make your trip more enjoyable. Just make sure you have weather-appropriate clothing and a few tools and spare parts.

US Passport#3. Get your travel documents

You will obviously need to have your license and registration with you at all times, but if you’re planning on international travel you’ll need a valid passport and additional permits such as visas and insurance for specific countries. Wikipedia has a fantastic up-to-date page on Visa requirements for U.S. citizens, as well as similar pages for citizens of other countries.

Bonus: Learn how to repair your bike

This might not apply if you’re riding in the United States and have good roadside assistance, but if you’re riding through some remote village, this skill will come in extremely handy. This goes extra for those traveling on more sophisticated motorcycles with on-board computers. You’ll wish you had learned to do some basic maintenance when a mechanic operating out of a shack gets a bewildered look while trying to check your BMW’s engine.


Do you have any routines you perform before every ride? I’d love to hear about them. Leave a comment below!


Luis is just an ordinary guy who happens to love traveling on motorcycles. When he's not revving his bike's engine, he's writing about motorcycle travel and helping people find the best motorcycle gear that will make their trips more comfortable and enjoyable.

10 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    Really great site… I am a keen motorcyclist … and some years ago i was invited to do a trip through Europe… I had no long passed my test back then so was a little hesitant to take on such a long journey …

    This is really great information… and the kind of things i needed to know back then.. so many people are ready to jump on thier bikes and not give a second thought to detail…

    Thanks… really enjoyed!!


    • Luis says:

      Thanks, Chris. When I first started riding I thought I knew everything too and it led me to get stranded on a few occasions. This checklist could have saved me countless hours of trouble.
      I hope to see you around again.

  2. Hi Luis! Nice and informative article. I am planning to go on a road trip soon with my friends. I am already jotting down your checklist for myself. I can’t tell you how much relaxed i feel now, knowing what exactly to look after. Thanks for such a wonderful post! Cheers!! 😀

  3. Rob says:

    Good tips. I’ve been riding for decades and it’s always good to check over your bike thoroughly before going on any ride and when taking a longer trip you should also pack a few essential tools just in case something does happen. Your tires may be new but all it takes is one nail and you’ll wish you had that plug kit and pump.

    Keep the shiny side up.

    – Rob

    • Luis says:

      Very true, Rob. Nothing will put a damper on your ride quicker than a blown tire. I’ll be posting another article on the essential tools needed for an extended trip so keep your eye out for it.

  4. Jared says:

    Wow I would hate to be driving on that tire! But unless you check you simply don’t know how bad your tires are! A trip to somewhere warmer sounds nice right about now!

  5. Liam says:

    Awesome write up. Being prepared will lead to a better trip overall. And as a partsman at a Kawasaki motorcycle dealer I can agree that the KLR650s did have a oil leak issue in the 2007ish range. Still one of my fave bikes though. Im really liking the new Honda 250 dual purpose as well. Im a small guy and the 650 is too tall for me

    • Luis says:

      Thanks for the comment, Liam. The KLR650 is indeed a tall bike. I’m glad you were able to find something suitable for you. Have you taken your Honda 250 on any long trips?

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