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On the road to Sturgis

On The Road To Sturgis

(or any over-nighter)

Your Bike

Before you even think about going on a long putt like this, get your bike serviced and tuned up.  Check your fluids and oil.  Check your tire tread and pressure.  Since you aren't going to be taking a spare tire, unless you have a crash rig chasing you, you'll probably want to be certain your tires are ready for a trip of this scale.  The chance of there being a nearby motorcycle shop with an exact fit for your bike isn't always 100%.  Oil needs to be changed around 3k miles on average. Snug-up your nuts and bolts.  If your saddle bag bolts are loose, there just went $800 along with the contents of your bag.  Some guys use a little Loctite on the nuts most likely to rattle off.  Where do you get a tank nut at 11:00pm?  Check your oil cap, make sure it's snug.  Make sure your clutch and brake cables are good to go.   If you ride, eventually something is gonna break, especially if you don't pay attention.  Make sure your mechanic rides, takes pride in their work,  and will treat you like they'd want to be treated.

Recently, I went on a ride with some friends.  Around 75 miles out, we pulled into a gas station to top off our tanks, I hit the kill switch, and my bike was DEAD.  No fire.  Checked the connections and it turned out to be the battery.  I had a slow trickle charge on it over the 2 months that it's difficult to ride where I live, so I figured I was good to go... my mistake.  When a battery is dead, it should be replaced. There's not much you can do with it other than that.  It was a lesson learned.  Don't expect there to be an open motorcycle shop in a small town on a Sunday.   Later we'll talk about tool bags...    

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Carry your Emergency numbers

Put any important numbers you need including your own contact information on a couple of business cards and carry them in your wallet AND add them to your cellphone.  You never know when you'll need them.

If you should get into an accident, someone will need this info to help you get home, etc.  If you lose your cell you'll still have a copy in your wallet, and vice versa.  Dog Tags can be stamped out with any bit of info and are another good alternative.   Alert Bracelets for those with time sensitive medical conditions are clearly something you wouldn't want to leave home without.


There is pollen EVERYWHERE.  Wind blowing in your face all day long will certainly coat your T Zone with enough pollen to KO you.  I'm not a drug pusher, but believe me, it's better to have taken a 12 hour tablet of allergy medication than to ride all day with your eyes blurry and itchy, and your nose raw and running.  That being said, remember, it's always better not to ride impaired in any manner.  Generally, if you are an allergy sufferer like me, you have probably already built a tolerance to allergy pills and thus won't need to worry about the lethargy associated with them.  Just remember it's always a bad idea to mix any drug with alcohol.  Drugs bad, m'kay?

Speaking of the T-zone, your eyes are at the top of the list when you ride.  If you can't see, you can't ride, it's as simple as that.  Sometimes while riding, your eyes might become sore or red for other reasons.  I was riding through Kansas and all of a sudden my eyes began to burn like someone had poured acid into them.  I discovered later that my sweat had mixed with the sunscreen I had applied to my forehead which ran into my eyes.  Who would have ever thought this would even be a thing?
It forced me to the side of the highway in a hurry.  My suggestion is to keep your forehead covered with a bandanna or another type of head wrap, especially when the sweat pours.  Helmets alone aren't always going to help in this regard.  It can happen in both dry and moist climates.  If you start to feel a burn, take care of it before your eyes burn so bad that you become riding impaired.  Sweat, dirt, pollen, and even oily skin can all impede your riding.  I know it's weird but it does happen.  I know firsthand.

Medical Conditions and Chronic Pain

Long "Iron Butt" trips aren't a good idea for those with health conditions that preclude them.  Being sedated or amped on meds during a trip will put you out of your optimal riding safety zone.  Riding whilst in pain or otherwise impaired is not good for you or anyone else.  You're like a giant stray cannonball under the influence of booze or medication.

Angry or "juvenile" riders are just as dangerous since they take risks needlessly riding above their ability, trying to prove something.  Avoid riding in a pack with people such as this.


What should you take?  Well, certain things are obvious.  Campers take camping gear while over-nighters going to a motel probably won't need any of that.  So it's really based on what you will NEED.  Let's dig into this further.


Here's a great list of potential and essential gear, inspired by years of touring and solid experience.  Think small so you can pack tight and light.

__  Windshield (Strongly recommended)
__  Quality T-Bag
__  Tank Bag, if you have room these can be very handy.
__  Wool sheepskin seat cover
__  Tools - Basic tool bag or roll-up kit for road side emergency repairs.
__  Extra set of spark plugs (Recommended)
__  Extra set of fuses for everything!
__  Bungee cords (pack a few extra)
__  Helmet Net, if you don't want to wear your lid in freedom states
__  Flashlight
__  Knife and/or Leatherman (pocket or belt loop style)
__  Map - even if you use a GPS take a paper map for backup
__  12V cellphone/GPS charging adapter
__  Cellphone charger and adapter for vehicles
__  Cellphone
__  Rain Gear
__  Cloth or Chamois  for wiping down seats due to rain, etc... Check into the ShamWow.
__  Body Chamois, for drying off at the bath house
__  Small soft cloth for cleaning riding glasses/goggles
__  Clear lens riding glasses/goggles for night, rain, etc...
__  Leathers - Boots/Jacket/Chaps/Gloves/Vest  (I also recommend a Leather Bandanna)
__  Helmet (If you do not normally wear a helmet check the Helmet Law map.
__  Skull cap for wearing with or without helmet
__  Camera/GoPro, most cell phones will be adequate these days
__  Tent (stay with 2 or 3 man tents-think small!)
__  Self-inflating sleeping mats
__  Sleeping bag (Recommend the fleece sleeping bag)
__  Waterproof bag with hook for shower supplies
__  Small plastic bottles for shampoo/conditioner/body wash etc.  Check the dollar store.
__  Shower scrunchy in lieu of washcloth (drys fast!)
__  Disposable hand wipes, such as Wet Ones, good for hands and butts.
__  Toiletries - shampoo, soap, razor, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc...(packed in the waterproof bag you will be taking to the shower house with you)
__  Chamois shower towel, dries quick, packs up small
__  Sunscreen-Lotion-Chapstick and take some eyedrops!
__  Flip flops or sandals of some sort for shower house
__  Shorts, sweats, yoga pants, etc... to wear to shower house
__  At least one sweatshirt, fleece, or something to wear for rainy days, cool nights, etc...
__  Pain reliever (Aspirin, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, etc...) for the aches and pains from riding hundreds of miles every day!!
__  Band-aids, hand sanitizer (mini first aid kits may be a good idea)
__  If you have prescription medication of any kind, don't forget it!  Allergy meds if you take them.
__  Clothing - Keep it simple, a couple pairs of jeans, underwear, socks, and a few t-shirts will do!
__  Insurance card/motorcycle registration, BAM info, AAA info
__  Snacks - such as jerky, almonds, etc... keep it simple, light, and small, avoid stimulants
__  Water (stashed in your T-bag) Deserts are hot and dry.  Stay Hydrated.

Trim it down

One of my best riding buddies takes VERY little.  In fact he brings old socks and underwear and throws them away while on the road.  If (usually WHEN) he needs a new set, he picks up what he needs at a store along the way.   You'll have more room to pack a few things home in your saddle bags if you aren't over-stuffed.  If you find something you want to take that is bigger than your available space, don't bug your buddy to pack it home for you.  Just get to the post office and mail it home.  It'll be on your doorstep before you get home usually.  Don't try this with chocoloate, LOL.

All that might seem like a lot, but it will pack up nicely on most touring sleds.  Don't bring everything you think you'll want.  Stick to what you need.   

Packing your gear

The idea is to take all your necessities and as little clothing as possible, minimizing the weight and the size footprint of all your gear so that you and your passenger (if you have one) aren't uncomfortable and the rear end of the bike doesn't throw the bike out of balance.   Improper weight distribution is one of the causes of poor traction and wobble in the front end, which can be just as much a nuisance as poor tire tread and "cupping".

Again, the rule of thumb here is pack only what you need to arrive safely, and pick up anything else you may need along the way and keep the weight dispersed efficiently.  Fortunately my motor is heavy and my passengers are (usually) light.

Keep your gear Clean and Dry

The last thing you want is to get caught in a downpour, soaking all the gear you are supposed to wear for the week.  Damp clothing will smell awful and isn't generally good for your skin.  You'll be the guy that has his own campfire...

Of course you can waste a bunch of time locating a laundromat every time it rains -or- you can prevent your gear from getting wet right up front. The use of a "Shrink Sack" or a large Ziploc Bags will help protect your clothing from moisture, dust, and filth along the trip.  Make certain to put your soap, shampoo, toothpaste and anything that has a protective lid inside a bag.  The vibration of the bike can and likely will rattle your gear to the point of coming loose and potentially creating a zombie, well maybe not that bad, but there could be goo all over your new Sturgis T-shirts.

Shipping gear

Another great way to tour is to offload anything you may not need.  Utilize the postal service or a shipping company to pack up and send your unnecessary gear home.  You are no doubt going to pick up a few shirts on the way, adding to the bulk and weight of your trip.  You may decide to wear them, and send your old smelly shirts and knickers home.

You'll want to be cautious about what you send home, however.  For instance, you wouldn't want to mail your rain gear or your "fix-a-flat" canister back home.  Better safe than sorry.  And if you plan on camping, don't ship your tent home.  There is usually a store somewhere that you'll be able to pick up replacement items as the need arises.  Don't over pack your bike in the first place and you won't have any issues.

Protective Riding Gear

Sun and Wind

Everyone encounters strong winds at some point or another.  While it's difficult to face a strong headwind, it's even more challenging to ride in a crosswind, especially with solid rims such as those found stock on many FLSTF - Fatboys.  In addition to a crosswind tossing your bike around like a rag doll, high winds can pound on your eardrums causing serious ear aches.  My solution is to use ear plugs.   Not only will they prevent the wind from beating up your ear drum on the offending side, but it will reduce the negative impact of prolonged engine noise and loud pipes.   Wind can also stir up particles that can literally sand blast you, your gear, and your bike.  If you have to ride in strong wind, just make sure to keep your eyes up!  Nothing is less fun that catching high velocity flying debris in the face... Even something as small as a tiny pebble or house fly at 65mph will hurt like hell.  Another possibility riding in wind is of course, "wind burn".  Like a sun burn it can irritate your skin and drive you nuts.  Sunscreen or an aloe based lotion is recommended.  Protect your hearing, your vision, and your skin from the elements.  You'll need them later in life as much as you need them now.

Compression gear

Not to push any particular brand of course, but I have found that wearing an "under" layer such as Under Armour can really help regulate your body temperature, shed excess sweat, and keep your muscles "compressed" which will minimize fatigue.

Rain Gear

If you haven't ridden in the rain yet, you will.   Rain can soak your gear unless you anticipate and gear up for it.  Rain gear is a great investment, and the whole outfit is usually somewhat thin, usually compressing down into a small footprint inside it's own hood.  Remember if you are taking a passenger, they'll most definitely need their own set.  On the other hand, one veteran rider told me, if you've forgotten or chosen not to use rain gear for one reason or another, leave your leathers on and use trash bags in a pinch!


Leather is a great way to cut the cold and wind out of a ride.  Sure we love the wind but after 8 hours of it heading into the early evening, it can get pretty brisk.  Textile riding gear is more lightweight and usually has built in armor and even rain protection in some cases.  Most people I know prefer leather to textile gear.  To each his own.  During very cold weather, i personally like the combination of the two.  I wear a textile riding jacket simply because it's thicker yet lighter, longer in the sleeve, and then I just put an oversize cut over the top of it for additional wind protection.  Both have neck level collars and secure snaps at the top.  I added a zipper to my cut so that the buttons didn't keep popping open in the wind.  Nobody wants that stuff flapping around like a drunk bat at any speed.  The 1% Frisco style cuts come with zippers to abate this issue.


If you don't have chaps, you need them.  These are both my favorite and most irritating piece of riding gear.  Make sure they are comfortably fitting around the butt and thigh, and somewhat looser around the boot to accommodate for your thicker riding boots and your pant leg.  Here's the kicker with chaps.  If they are too loose around the lower leg, they'll flap around and become extremely annoying.  You can prevent this by either purchasing a better pair of chaps, or buy Velcro or leather straps to wrap around the offending area.  Though I personally recommend better chaps, if you have a shoe repair or leather shop near you, they can usually provide quick fixes or custom overhauls to your "flappy chappy" problem.  In addition to the wind cutting properties of leather chaps, they also help protect you if you skid.  Alternatively as with the textile jacket, there are "riding pants" that have the feature of armor plating or inserts for additional safety.


A good leather vest or jacket, (AKA "Cut") serves the same purpose as chaps, keeping out the wind, providing a little extra warmth, and a small amount of storage.  It's really a riders personal billboard for who they are.  Patches and pins for keeping track of rides, ranks, MC and RC clubs, are better flown on your cut than in a shadow box on the wall of your man cave.    As with anything, you get what you pay for.  There are plenty of places to get "good hide" and even more that pump out substandard product.  Without going into brands and pushing any corporate sponsors (of which I don't have, as it relates to motorcycling)  I will say to be aware of not only the outer leather, but especially the inner lining of your cut.  If it's made of weak fabric or very thin silk, it's junk and will be easily damaged.  My current vest has been customized to increase the strength of the pockets because they ripped the first day I put my cellphone in it.  You don't want to fish for your keys to find they have fallen out along the road somewhere because the keys dug a hole in the lining of your jacket.  In my opinion it's better to put your keys in your pants pocket or a well attached windshield bag.  (best according to HD forums)

Minimizing the Footprint

You won't need or want heavy gear on all the time.  In the flatland you might get hot and dry during the day, and you'll want to shuck off some of your gear.  If it's too bulky, where will you put it?   Are you gonna make your passenger carry it all in their lap?

Here are a few ways to fold your chaps into a "Chap Pack" for easy storage in one of your bags.
This will compress your chaps into their smallest footprint while you are not wearing them, making them simple to stash in your saddle bags or T-bag.  The result can also be used as a small "pillow" in a pinch.  Chaps don't make a very soft pillow however.

Pack Efficiently

When you get on and off the bike, you'll want your most needed items in a part of your pack that is most accessible.  Keys, wallet, phone, vapor cig, etc all this can go in one of the bags to minimize what you are packing on your person, minimizing your own carried weight and saving your butt back and shoulders and providing better blood flow.  Sound nuts?  Try it sometime.   Chances are, your saddlebags will be filled with other things and covered by your tent, mattress, and sleeping bags strapped on with bungee chords, and will be difficult to get into until  you unpack it all at the camp site.  More efficient stash points are usually either the fork bag, windshield bag, tank bag, or a T-bag.

Bungee chords are your friend for strapping on gear, but can also be an enemy if they are poorly made or have an abrasive edge, which can and will scratch your paint, chrome, and even leather.  I picked up some non-metallic, non-slip, adjustable Master Lock brand chords and they are awesome.

Prepare Yourself

Junk in, junk out.

If you want to spend the whole ride in the restroom with lower gastrointestinal issues, diarrhea, gas, bloating, then consider carefully what you will be eating whilst on your trip.  There won't always be a restroom or biffy nearby and you may have to find "a tree".  If you'll remember that too much of anything can cause problems, and to avoid the excess, you should be fine.   For instance, a little salad is good, whereas a 5 lb block of pepper-jack cheese is simply not gonna sit well... Ten energy drinks may quench your thirst, but it won't do you any favors while trying to ride relaxed.  Too much caffeine or sugar will simply not allow your body to operate at it's best.  

How to prepare your body for a long ride is like prepping for any sport where you will need both mind and body in good condition, both inside and out.  Again "Don't Ride Impaired" is a good motto.
Hydration is your first priority.  Keeping your blood sugar levels where they need to be is also very important.  You don't want to get sick on a long trip if you can avoid it.  A week long trip with the flu or the scours would be a horrible experience.  Eating healthy foods that are light and nourishing, getting plenty of water or tea, and rest will be the key in staying in peak condition for your trip.  Lots of cheese or dairy products in general can really mess up your digestive tract and lead to discomfort and pain while saddled up for 6-8 hrs per day.  Also, too much caffeine, coffee or soda, can give you gut rot, and really won't help you "stay alert" like pulling over and getting some rest will.  The bottom line here is get your system flushed out and ready.


Your skin will last as long as you care for it.  If you expose it to solar radiation on a daily basis, kiss it goodbye.  Take care of it!  Get some SPF 35 sunscreen and apply it to your exposed areas including the neck, ears, and face.  If you get burnt on your first day out, you could be miserable the whole trip.


Hotels vs Camping

The benefits of staying in a hotel versus camping are numerous.  Hotels are everywhere.  They provide you with a comfortable place to rest, a warm shower, clean bathroom, air conditioning and heat, and the front door locks.  But considering that many of these hotels, especially as you get nearer to the rally point will be EXTREMELY expensive per night, some having minimum time requirements and huge deposits, sometimes it pays to find a cheap camping spot, especially if all the hotels are booked.  Believe me, it happens.  You don't want to roll into a town somewhere and have to get back on the bike and ride another 200 miles to the next available motel.

Many of my friends prefer to save their money for the food, fun, and games, and just pitch a tent if there is somewhere reasonably nice to stay overnight.  Give yourself plenty of daylight to get where you are going.

If you know you are going to camp out, save some daylight so you can easily get your gear unpacked and your camp site set up.  It's much harder to do this stuff at night.  Pack a good flashlight or two, just in case.  These days they make a great LED based flashlight that are as bright as a halogen lamp.

Keep your tent dry!

Yeah this sounds impossible, and guess what, it IS impossible.  Wind and rain happen a lot at Sturgis.  But for most tents if they are staked down well enough, and you get one with a decent tent fly, you should have confidence that your gear will remain safe inside.  A tent fly should shuck the water from the thinner tent material.  Anyone that "tents" knows that the less you nestle against the walls of a wet tent, the less your gear inside will cross-absorb the exterior moisture.  As for condensation, there is little you can do to prevent that.  A person can certainly take the time to chamois the tent or even use a plain towel, but the best way to dry out a tent is to set it up in the sunshine with the windows open, letting it completely "air out", then stake it down somewhere after it's dry.  I have found less morning dew and vulnerability to rain under tree branches.  Many tents are reasonably waterproof if you get a good one.   A cheap tent will likely prevent the rain for a while, but in a three day rainstorm it will get soaked.  Storms are normal on this ride and sometimes the wind can get very severe, and the hail can be large and painful.  Overpasses are an option, but can be deadly due to low visibility of oncoming vehicles.

How to ride in harsh weather

I'm personally NOT much of a rough weather rider; I prefer to just ride and relax.  But uncooperative weather is going to happen often so I just go for it even if the temperature is below 40 degrees or if the wind is over 20 mph.  I don't ride on ice or snow.  On occasion I ride in the rain since I live in a state that often has rain storms.  Those are my preferences, but unavoidably you get caught in inclement weather and do what you must.  And let's face it; the worst day on a motorcycle is usually better than the best day with the bike parked.

All this aside, here are some tips for riding in wind and rain.   The weather conditions in Sturgis in the summer time can be as variable as night and day.  One year we rode in the rain and hail the entire weekend.  I didn't bring a full face / modular helmet and I got beaten to a pulp.  I could barely see the tail lights of the vehicles ahead of me and wound up with soaked gear.  These are the lessons the road can teach.

It all boils down to having your bike in good working condition and taking the right gear for the season.  Make room in your saddlebags for all weather extremes.


Don't rely only on your cellphone or GPS for your riding plan.  Paper maps are also a cheap backup and good to have should your devices fail.  My road buddies call these "Solar Maps."  They are much more emmersive than one might think.

Harley Davidson usually has bike tour maps for sale at any dealership with highlighted routes suggested for touring.  You can also pick up the Rand McNally Ride Atlas of North America on Amazon for cheap.  They show the best roads and mark camp sites along those routes.  If you can get one of these maps, do it.


When I take a long trip, such as the long road to Sturgis Bike Week (Black Hills Rally), the ride itself is my favorite part.  But hey, while I'm there, I love to have a good time, too!  There's tons of things to do once you arrive.  If you are like me, then the thought of waking up with a hangover doesn't appeal to you whatsoever.  Control yourself, and hydrate.  If you ride around the hills wasted, you are asking for trouble.

Thanks for reading.

Future topics:


Shrink Sacks
Plastic Ziploc Bags
Misc Sites


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