Screwdriver tip – preparations for the motorcycle vacation tour

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Screwdriver tip - preparations for the motorcycle vacation tour



Screwdriver tip – preparations for the motorcycle vacation tour

Screwdriver tip – preparations for the motorcycle vacation tour
Tips for the motorcycle trip

A tour, whether big or small, is one of the highlights of motorcycling. However, you should not start unprepared. It is better to check the condition of the machine well in advance of departure. The loading and equipment must also be right. Tips for the motorcycle trip.

Ralf Petersen


It starts with a systematic technical check of the machine. In what condition are the chain and tires? Depending on the load and the route chosen, the clutch, brakes and tires are of course subjected to different loads. A big alpine tour with pillion rider and camping equipment makes for a completely different strain than a weekend trip to the Dutch coast. Extremely winding country roads in the south of France with their rough surface naturally lead to a much higher tire wear than normal. It is best to start testing and replacing worn parts around two months in advance and do a major inspection. So you have enough time to z. B. running in new brake pads or correcting errors. Special maintenance work such as changing the telescopic fork oil should also be considered. When in doubt, it is more intelligent to play it safe and to change too much rather than not at all and to be forced to a time-consuming and cost-intensive workshop visit later on the tour. The following points deserve special attention: The battery and alternator are checked for correct voltage values. The chain wheel and pinion should not have shark teeth, the chain must not be unevenly elongated and, if the tension is correct, cannot be lifted off the rear of the chain wheel. When it comes to the brakes, not only is the thickness of the lining checked, but also that they are working properly. 

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The pistons must not jam, and the sliding bolts of floating caliper brakes must be free to move. Depending on the design, you can remove the brake caliper to check whether all pistons are working properly and the linings are evenly worn. Always replace brake fluid that is more than two years old. The same goes for the engine oil. Pay attention not only to the tread depth of the tires, but also to their age. If they are older than five years (DOT number!), A change is advisable, even if the profile is still in order, so that the fun cornering does not end in the ditch due to the lack of adhesion of the rubbers. A look at the candle image gives at least an approximate indication of the correct setting of the motor. If the candles on all cylinders are evenly fawn brown, there should be nothing to worry about. Special attention is also paid to the clutch. Is it easy to operate and the clutch cable is not already chafed, but above all: Separates it properly without slipping? 


Since the load can strongly influence the chassis geometry, the suspension / damping of the machine must be adjusted to the additional weight. To do this, the spring base is adjusted accordingly (note positive / negative spring travel) and, if possible, the damping in rebound and compression is also adjusted. It is imperative that you undertake an extensive test drive with the appropriate load (and possibly pillion rider) and, if necessary, correct the setting of the suspension elements. Don’t forget to check whether the chain tension changes during loading (it does that very often) and whether it has to be readjusted. Often, however, it only becomes apparent during the course of the journey whether the selected suspension setup really fits. The hook wrench / adjustment tool should therefore be within reach in the tank bag. Another important aspect of loading is the correct distribution of the luggage on the motorcycle. When the machine becomes a packhorse, the center of gravity changes, and with it the driving behavior, sometimes dramatically. The following rule applies: the heavier an object, the further down it belongs or the closer it should be to the center of the vehicle. Under no circumstances should you only load particularly heavy things into the back of the suitcase and, even worse, into the top case, thereby relieving the load on the front wheel. A tank bag is therefore not only extremely practical, it also ensures the desirable, more even distribution. When traveling solo, you can attach part of the heavy luggage to the back seat, while two of you must of course move the luggage further back. However, it is essential to observe the (often surprisingly low) permissible total weight!

Luggage transport

In the accessories, there are many offers for luggage transport, for which you can spend a small fortune, but by no means have to. Nobody really needs full adventure equipment with huge aluminum boxes to go on a motorcycle holiday in the Allgau for a week. 

Fixed systems

From Hepco and Becker to Touratech, there are numerous providers on the market. If you are on the road more often and / or longer, it is best to mount a solid luggage rack and side case. The cultivation is not rocket science, but sometimes the indicators have to be relocated. The H&The B-carrier of my NTV even has a smart, fold-out handle with which you can jack up the fully loaded load. The matching side cases are stable and practical, and the whole thing is in working condition even after almost 200,000 km. However, side cases should not be too wide and, if possible, should not be painted if they are heavily used. The equipment always suffers a bit on a real (camping) tour. I think a large top case looks awful, but it is extremely practical because you can load and unload it without any problems (e.g. when shopping) without the load falling out as with the side cases. That’s why I always leave a little space in it. A tank bag not only holds heavy equipment such as tools etc., as mentioned above, but also has a map compartment. So you have a road map or road book perfectly in view. If the tank bag is full, it must be properly fastened, regardless of whether it is with a strap, magnet or a quick-release system (e.g. Quick-Lock from SW-Motech). Make sure that you do not block your view of the speedometer and control lamps. If you use a permanently installed navigation system, you should mount it accordingly. 

Mobile systems

The simplest variant are the classic luggage rolls that can be attached with tensioning or lashing straps, or saddlebags that are placed over the bench. With these systems you don’t even need a luggage rack as long as you are riding solo. They change the appearance of the machine very little and are also relatively inexpensive. However, the attachment with the supplied straps can sometimes be an adventure. Of course, the whole thing has to be stable not only when driving on the highway, but also when cornering. In extreme cases, loose luggage can lead to serious falls. During assembly, I therefore always use sturdy lashing straps, which I attach to the frame / shock absorber eye, etc. with consideration. When I am firmly lashed, nothing wobbles, but I still routinely check the tension of the belts at every stop. However, due to the firm pressure of the softbacks / lashing straps on the contact surfaces and the inevitable chafing, the paintwork can be seriously affected. This can be remedied by special paint protection films (Polo / Louis approx. 20 euros), but their wrinkle-free application requires a bit of tact. Once applied, they protect the paint perfectly, last a good two years and can easily be removed again at any time. For my sevenfifty, which was converted in retro style, I chose the new, visually very nice QBags from Polo (pair approx. 100 euros), which go really well with the motorcycle. If necessary, I can also mount a mini luggage rack in five minutes with just four screws (max.load five kilograms!). Thanks to modern, lightweight materials, that’s enough for a roll of luggage with a mini tent, sleeping bag and sleeping mat. Regardless of which system you choose, suitcases / luggage bags are usually not really waterproof, especially after prolonged use. Therefore it is essential to pack your luggage additionally. Compression bags are well suited for this, in which you can also store your holiday clothes in a very space-saving way.

Tools / breakdown assistance and co.

The composition of the tool is individual and should be based on the screwdriver skills, the travel destination and the duration of the trip. Logically, you take more with you to cross Africa than for a weekend trip. Most of the time, the part for which you don’t have a replacement with you breaks anyway. Indispensable for me: minimal tools in addition to the often unsuitable on-board tools, suitable sockets especially for the quick-release axles (wheel removal / chain tensioning), a tire repair set / tire milk, a replacement spark plug in a plastic safe, a box with small parts such as screws, nuts, wire, a tube of liquid sealant, a piece of gasoline hose, a repair kit for trains, cable ties and duct tape and a flashlight. Sounds like a lot at first, but everything goes in one small bag. A leak-proof metal bottle with motor oil (0.5 l) also does a good job. If the oil filler neck is difficult to access, there are practical foldable filling aids, e.g. B. by Louis. Riders of motorcycles with chains must of course also think of chain spray. If you have a chain but no main stand and are not accompanied by strong friends who can tip the motorcycle over the side stand, it is best to buy a lift stick, which makes it much easier to lubricate the chain on the go. In the 21 years that I have worked as a tour guide, I have learned one thing above all from breakdowns: improvise, improvise, improvise! Since I mostly dealt with problems with the battery and electrics, a jump-start cable for motorcycles or a battery booster as well as a voltage tester or a built-in battery guard are part of my basic equipment. A good brake disc lock is usually sufficient to prevent theft. In addition, I always have a spiral lock with me, so I can securely attach the helmet to the frame during breaks and don’t always have to carry it with me. I find a pad for the side stand practical (preferably made of metal). It prevents the stand from sagging on soft ground and the moped from tipping over. Finally, you shouldn’t forget a safety vest and first aid kit (depending on the country and regulations).

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