How to ride a motorcycle in the country
What a way to live, riding a beautiful scenic country road on your current motorcycle, soaking in all that atmosphere. Its definitely good for the soul, but there are a few important facts to be aware of when cruising these country roads. No matter where you are located or where your riding, route planning, preparation and some training (smaller test rides) are key to safely traveling country roads on a motorcycle. Its always a good idea to have some experience riding in all conditions if possible. You don’t want to be stuck on mountain roads in the rain if you have no wet weather gear or have no experience riding in slippery conditions.
To comfortably travel country roads on your motorcycle, grip the tank with your knees and use your core to hold on to the bike, leave your arms and wrists nice and relaxed. Ride in the groves made by other vehicles on the road surface to avoid dirt and debris. This is the key to not absolutely owning your wrists while putting down the miles and keeping your tyres safe from debris on the road. If your riding a more powerful motorcycle you will need to take extra care especially in changing weather conditions. Keep an eye on your fuel levels and plan out fuel stops if the distance between fuel stations is vast. There are 7 potential risks to be aware of before tackling these country roads listed below.
7 Potential Risks
- Road Surface – Roads can lack maintenance resulting in potholes, cracks, or uneven surfaces. Dirt or debris on the road can be lingering around the next corner. Water may have collected in potholes potentially hiding them from view. Some isolated roads may not contain lines or get very thin creating a hazard for oncoming vehicles. Coming across dirt roads may be a possibility, which could become muddy due to rain. Weather conditions will change the surface of the road creating less grip. This could be in the form of rain, ice or extreme heat. Always be on the lookout for these road surface hazards to avoid that heart beat skip when you hit a pothole.
- Surroundings – Pay attention to whats happening on both sides of the road. There could be thick trees or bushes potentially hiding animals. Be on the lookout for farms with cattle in paddocks near the road or coming across a cattle crossing or cattle grid. Take notice of other traffic on the road, especially trucks. The wind force behind trucks can hit you hard. Be careful when entering corners on twisty roads, the corner can tighten further along out of your vision, creating a potentially dangerous situation. Theres always potential danger around a corner that you can’t see, so enter with caution. Be aware of approaching rain clouds, a big raincloud in the distance may signal its time to pull over and slip into some wet weather gear.
- Millage – Miles will rack up quickly. While covering large distances riding country roads, your body and bike can suffer. Its a good idea to stop every hour or two depending on your experience and endurance. Stretch out your body and walk around a bit to get the blood pumping. Your back, wrists, legs and buttock will need a good stretch-out. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water and have a snack if available. Keep your body nice and refreshed. Give the bike a quick check over while you stretch out. Make sure your tyres and chain are ok and have a quick glance at the fluids if you can. Personally I like to keep a small micro-fiber cloth and visor cleaner in my bike compartment to clean my visor on these short breaks. When sitting at higher speeds for a long duration, bugs will splatter your visor. Keep in mind that the trip is just as much about the journey as the destination, so be careful putting pressure on yourself to reach a certain point or cover a certain distance.
- Mental focus – After putting down a bunch of miles your focus can and will start to wonder. This is amplified on a straight road with minimal traffic and large open land. If you notice your mind wondering too much its definitely time for a short break. A short break with some water, a snack and stretching your legs will help you keep your mental focus stronger while riding a bunch of miles. As important as it is to keep your mind on the job at hand, cruising country roads is a great time to ponder the important things in life, so make sure you find the balance between pondering life and staying safe and alert. Personally I’d recommend getting a good nights sleep and getting on the road nice and early to avoid some traffic and get that fresh morning air into your lungs.
- Other road users – One of the biggest major threats on the road is other road users, whether they are motorcycles, cars, trucks or cyclists. This is one of the variables you can’t control. Country roads can get thin in spots, potentially forcing you off the road with oncoming traffic. Twisty roads make visibility difficult and oncoming traffic may not stay in their lanes around corners. Give yourself plenty of space heading through corners in case someone takes the corner too wide. This happens way more than you would think! Other drivers or riders may be experiencing a lack of mental focus due to traveling country roads creating potential danger, especially traffic travelling head on. The trick is to keep a safety bubble of space around yourself, so make sure to create space around other road users to give you time to react in an emergency.
- Your motorbike – The general maintenance of your motorcycle is extremely important. There is so much that can go wrong with a motorcycle from tyres, to chains and sprockets to brakes and the engine itself. Even something as simple as a blown brake light or headlight can put you in danger. It doesn’t hurt to have a small repair kit on hand including some duct tape and cable ties. I personally just leave those things in the back compartment of my bike for future problems. The most important part of you motorcycle in my opinion is the tyres. The rubber on your tyres separates you and the road, so make sure you invest in the right kind of tyres and keep them healthy and maintained.
- Weather – Having some experience riding in different weather conditions is extremely valuable. You need to be prepared for different weather conditions, especially if your a solid distance away from any help or protection from the elements. Make sure you check the weather radar for the day, giving you a general prediction for how you need to prepare gear wise. Extreme heat can dehydrate you fast. Rain will alter the road surface, fog up your visor, impair your vision and wet you through to your core, especially if you don’t have wet weather gear with you. Cold conditions can make riding extremely uncomfortable, and fog may set in effecting visibility. If travelling long distances its important to keep a closer eye on your chain, wet weather will lather your chain in dirt and gunk much quicker than normal conditions.
While out in the country potentially travelling long distances, changing conditions can and will happen, something every rider needs to be aware of. A change in weather conditions can happen very quickly, even if you study the weather radar before you leave. Sun and heat can go to cold and rain in the blink of an eye. There are 2 types of protection against this.
- Wet weather gear – A waterproof textile jacket, waterproof covering pants, waterproof gloves and waterproof riding boots. Personally I have waterproof covering pants permanently in the back of my bike. They are very thin and roll up into an extremely small package. If your out riding in heavy rain, nothing is completely waterproof, but it will definitely help to be somewhat prepared. Leather gear in heavy rain is not good, so keep this in mind. Wet leather will get damaged, be hard to dry out and potentially grow mold. Make sure to have some textile gear around if you plan on riding in wet conditions.
- Experience – Being caught in the rain will happen to all riders somewhere along the line. Its important to have prepared for this by learning as much as you can about riding in the wet. A good preparation technique is to head out when its raining on purpose, riding in a quiet easy location to get used to how the bike handles on wet roads. This will build up some confidence and prepare you for the inevitable downpour on you and your bike. While riding in the rain, the general gist is to make all your movements and controls much more calculated and smooth. No sudden movements with the throttle, gear changes and brakes, and lean the bike over gently during corners. Traction is the aim of the game, so be alert and careful.
While riding a motorcycle out on country roads, being alert and wary of all the risks mentioned above will improve your chances of staying safe. Make sure your mental focus is always fairly strong, taking regular breaks to drink water, snack on food and give your mind and body a few minutes to pump some blood and recover. Make sure to prepare for a potential change in road or/and weather conditions. Keep a close eye on how your motorcycle is travelling, with the tyres and chain being your main concern. Be careful relying on technology such as phones and gps, have a backup plan in case these fail.
Always carry some money/cash with you for fuel stops, food and water breaks and a potential emergency. Keep your eyes up and forward and don’t forget to enjoy the scenery. Suck in the fresh air, enjoy the smell of nature and the freedom that comes with riding a motorcycle out in the country.