Going the (First) Distance: Touring on the Cheap

The mere idea of riding a motorcycle long distance can be daunting. As discussed in Point #3 and in the points that follow, there is a LOT to consider and put in order before hitting the open road. For some rookie touring riders, there is a tendency to spend inordinate amounts of money on touring accessories. The discussion in Point #3 may scare a few readers into buying $300 heated grips or a $1,500 seat. After all, a new touring rider would not want to risk being uncomfortable.

In short, the one irreplaceable part of touring preparation is actually getting out on the road. The only way you can fully know your needs is to do a test ride, then go on a few short tours. In reality, fully and properly outfitting the rider and the motorcycle for long distance riding is not an event, but an evolutionary process. It is better to not front-load all of your available resources toward your initial touring gear and accessories. Rather, as you ride and use different touring products, you will gradually better understand not only your needs, but what products will fully meet your needs.

While equipping a motorcycle and a rider for long-distance motorcycle riding may be a little complex, it need not be expensive. It more important to get more of the right equipment, gear, and accessories, rather than get top-of-the-line everything. Buying top-shelf accessories can become a serious financial burden. A rider could use some of that money to actually go touring, rather than just prepare for it.

Moreover, buying expensive gear and accessories is not a guarantee of either comfort or reliability. When starting out in touring, look for less expensive accessories that will still meet your comfort needs without breaking your budget. It is also better to start with shorter tours so that if gear or accessories do not work out, you are not too far from home. Some examples of lower-cost touring accessories for seating, wind protection, warmth, hand and foot controls, and navigation can be found in Point #2. Choosing luggage and riding gear will be discussed in Point #5 and Point #10, respectively.

In large part, not spending a lot of money on touring accessories prevents new touring riders from putting all of their “eggs” (read: money) into one basket. You may have a friend who is into touring and just loves Corbin seats. So you follow their lead and buy a Corbin. Maybe it works out for you, but it may not. It is better to buy one or two much cheaper seating accessories to see if something softer (like Alaskan sheepskin) or harder (like the wood beads) works better for you. It is just as important to understand what you want in a more expensive accessory as it is to understand that you have a need in one of those areas.

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