It is no secret that many long-haul rides are made on specialized touring machines – sport or adventure tourer motorcycles – which are purpose-built for comfort, stability and luggage capacity.
But that does not mean that other types of motorcycles are not up to the task. The best motorcycle to ride is the motorcycle you have! Cases in point: Juvena Huang, AKA The Wandering Wasp, has ridden across 25 countries on her Vespa, and Henry Crew is presently touring the world on a Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled.
I rounded up some tips to make motorcycles more “tour-able” and tested them out over a 7,000km ride around Indochina. Coincidentally I used the same “base” motorcycle as Henry Crew. Keep in mind that the upgrades I listed are not limited to the brands I used; there are others available in the market which may do just as well!
Comfort is arguably the reason why touring-type motorcycles are the go-to choice for long rides. Less fatigue means better concentration and a more enjoyable ride; less massage sessions required!
Comfort Seat — Sargent Seat
Some motorcycles come with seats that are simply not designed to be sat on for long hours. For many of my rides, I have upgraded to a Sargent Seat and I continue to swear by them. Comfort seats are typically wider than stock ones and are made of firmer materials. Now it’s possible to stay in the saddle for more than 2 hours at a stretch!
Windshield — SW Motech + Unbranded spoiler
Joy rides are colloquially known in Hokkien as Jiak Hong (translation: eat air). But literally eating air for extended hours is no fun at all! Windshields help to alleviate wind blast fatigue and fend off the weather, insects and dust to a certain extent.
Handlebar Riser — Rox Riser
This is helpful if your motorcycle has a forward leaning posture that is not sustainable for long hours in the saddle. But take note that if the handlebars are raised too high, strain can be induced as well. I had the 2 inch risers but perhaps 1 or 1.5 inch will work better.
A bag pack might be okay for shorter trips but this can quickly wreck your shoulders, back, and more during longer rides! Better motorcycle luggage systems are certainly essential on multi-weeks trips.
A single top box may work for light travelers, but note that rear luggage racks may break when travelling off-road with a heavy load, because of their cantilever designs.
Side Panniers — Lone Rider MotoBags 31L
These bags are waterproof, lockable, and handle impact well. Their locking function comes in handy at rest stops. Soft bags are especially recommended for off-road riding conditions where tip-overs may occur — these don’t break legs like hard cases do!
Tank Bag — Oxford Products
Magnetic tank bags provide extra storage for important items like passports, wallets and documents. They can also be taken off the motorcycle easily and carried with you. However, it is best to keep the tank bag small so that it will not get in the way of you standing on the pegs during off-road travel.
Other miscellaneous add-ons which cap things off….
Fog lights — Unbranded
While I do not recommend riding at night, sometimes it is inevitable. When that happens, additional visibility is a big safety boost!
Accessories Mount — RAM Mount
For those who cannot navigate without digital help, RAM mounts allow phones or GPS units to be attached to your handlebars and swapped around easily. RAM mounts have proven secure even at higher speeds.
USB/12V Charging Ports — Unbranded
With these, you can charge up your electronic devices on the go. After all, digital navigational aids will not be of much help if they run out of juice! 12V charging ports can also be used to power portable air compressors when needed.
Auto Chain Oiler — Unbranded
Chain maintenance helps to reduce early wear and tear on longer rides. I have discovered that the delivery tube must be routed in a manner that minimizes damage from road debris, or even from the chain itself.
Tank Mileage Extension — Custom by Bike Fabricator
It is always helpful to have a larger fuel range as insurance against the unexpected. Having extra fuel capacity made all the difference when I decided to skip a fuel stop. But the extra weight affects handling on all types of terrain. This is only a must-have if you plan to travel to areas with sparse petrol stations.
These are just some modifications you can do to improve your motorcycle’s “tourability”. They were definitely put to good use on my travels! Although perhaps the most crucial modification should be to change the mindset that only certain types of motorcycles can be used for long, adventurous rides.
Which other must-share modifications do you think we missed out? Let us know in the comments below!
Richard finds that riding a motorcycle is less nerve-wracking than navigating around the potholes of art world politics. He is just as happy gripping a paintbrush as a throttle.