We ask that all our travelers check their bikes thoroughly before the trip! Checking the brakes and brake fluids is especially important. Making sure the lights function properly is imperative as well. The shocks should be checked and adjusted to accommodate the bike's increased weight (for luggage or perhaps a passenger) if necessary. If you don't want to handle this yourself, many repair shops offer to prepare your bike specifically for travel.
The tire pressure can be easily checked by the rider prior to the trip. Remember to adjust it to the “maximum pressure” setting in order to accommodate the additional weight. Also check your tires for damage and make sure you have enough tread. It's a lot easier to get new tires before the trip than it is to find a tire dealership after you've discovered an issue during travel. And don't forget: Southern European countries especially tend to use a rougher type of asphalt, potentially causing a higher rate of wear and tear! Riding on “slicks” is not only dangerous, but can also result in a 50 Euro fine and points on your license.
Make sure you check your oil, and check the chain for tension and lubricate it. Clean lights make travel safer by allowing you to see better and also to be seen.
On a narrow vehicle such as a motorcycle, evenly distributed luggage is an important safety issue. Heavy items, such as tools, should be stored at the bottom of the tank bag, near the bike's centre of balance. Effort should be make to not unduly displace the bike's weight towards the rear, because otherwise the motorcycle might start to wobble and precise manoeuvring becomes very difficult. The tank bag must not be filled to the point where motion of the steering bar is hindered or view of the instrument panels is obstructed.
Rain gear and snacks are items that should be easily accessible during the trip. They, too, should be stored in the tank bag. Like with all other luggage, things stored here should be packed so it's waterproof and safely fastened. Flexible belts and cargo hooks can be very helpful when securing items. Side-bags should be loaded evenly. As with the gas-tank packs, heavy things should be on the bottom of the bags. Less is more! It's better to bring some detergent than it is to pack another outfit, and you may even have some extra room for souvenirs at the end. The luggage rack shouldn't hold anything too heavy (please refer to manufacturer's guidelines regarding luggage racks and top-cases. In most cases, there's a 5 kilo maximum (~ 10 lbs)). The luggage should also be fastened as far towards the front as possible so the bike's center of gravity isn't displaced towards the rear as much. Heavy backpacks are often uncomfortable for the rider and frequently cause bad posture and premature fatigue. Don't forget to take the overall weight of the bike into account. You should be able to find more information in your registration documents. Front and rear shocks have to be adjusted to accommodate the increased weight, and the tire pressure should be adjusted to the allowable maximum. When it comes to built-in luggage, there's usually a corresponding maximum allowable speed, which may be well under the speed the bike is capable of achieving. It's recommended that you take a test-drive on your fully loaded bike prior to the trip so you can adjust to the new riding conditions.
Even on a well-planned trip, materials can occasionally be unable to stand up to the strain. Therefore a basic set of tools should be part of your gear. Wrench, duct tape, tyre sealant spray, light-bulbs, and spare brake- and clutch- lever don't take up much space, but usually allow you to get to the next repair shop if you have a defect. You should also carry a small first-aid kit and a safety vest with you. A kit specifically designed for motorcyclists is recommended, and is mandatory in some countries. Another important item is the biker's emergency kit. It serves as the emergency triangle when placed over your helmet. It allows bikers to alert traffic to keep their distance from the site of a possible accident or if the bike breaks down. The inexpensive set easily fits into the gas-tank pack, and is accessible in case of an emergency. A bright yellow or white cover with a pictogram conveniently turns your helmet into an easily seen signal.
A bike with a heavy load responds differently than you're used to. The driver should expect to need more time to brake and to have shortened suspensions travel. Obviously luggage and/ or a passenger on your bike will move the centre of gravity towards the rear of the bike. Hence the front tire has less weight on it and – as you go faster – it may begin to “wobble”. Uneven lanes can severely impede your ability to steer precisely, especially in a curve. There's also an increased possibility of doing an unintentional “wheelie”. In any case, it is always better to ride at a more leisurely pace when the bike is fully laden. A little bit of practice, mimicking various driving situations with your bike fully packed, can help you avoid any number of uncomfortable surprises during your trip.