How to plan and pack for a long trip with a passenger

  • Packing for two on a long trip can get dicey. It is a good idea to pack the bike together so you both know where everything is located.

    Packing for two on a long trip can get dicey. It is a good idea to pack the bike together so you both know where everything is located. Courtesy of Harley-Davidson

Posted7/30/2017 6:00 AM

This is the time of year when folks are planning to take long motorcycle trips with spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends or significant others. Many of these passengers will not have experienced travel on long trips before, which are different from shorter day rides. So here is some friendly advice for planning and sharing packing space on those longer trips with a pillion passenger.

I have 42 years of experience with an outstanding wife who would rather I take long motorcycle trips without her, but who has accompanied me on rare occasions for long weekend trips. I also have spent many days on the road traveling with a multitude of friends and their wives or significant others on long trips to Sturgis, South Dakota, and other destinations, so I believe I have learned some useful tips to pass along.


First, when planning a long trip, make sure your planning can accommodate her capabilities as well as yours. If most of your rides together are four or five hours in length, don't plan on two or three 12-hour days in the saddle. That won't fly.

Make your passenger a part of the planning process and turn her into a co-rider rather than just a passenger. Give her the opportunity to plan some points of interest along the way that she would like to see (even if it's the world's largest ball of twine, or the world's largest frying pan). Lord knows you must have dragged her to countless places that only you wanted to see.

Next, be flexible with your plans. You may be able to endure six hours of riding in a downpour, but she may not, so it may be necessary to adjust your itinerary accordingly. Pushing on for two more hours after she's had it won't make for a fun night at the motel.

Next, keep her as an active partner. If you're keeping mileage information, gas receipts or a trip log of your stops, ask her to help with that to keep her engaged, as well. Get yourselves helmet-to-helmet communicators. That way she can hear what's going on with GPS directions, and when to expect turns and distances to the next stop. Also, she can enjoy music and you'll be able to talk back and forth along the way about the scenery and necessary gas and rest stops.

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Packing for two on a long trip can get dicey. Women usually require more clothing options and space in the luggage. In my case, my wife requires all the space in the T-Bag, plus all the space in the left and right saddlebags. I get to take anything I can wear on my body, plus whatever I can stuff in my pockets! Just kidding … I get all the room in the tank bag, as well. It might help family harmony to ship some items to your destination, and ship them home afterward.

Another good tip is to pack your grungiest T-shirts and wear them on the trip going out. Then throw them away each day. You know you're going to buy the souvenir T-shirts at the event, so now you'll have room to pack them and wear them on the trip home.

The same rules apply whether packing for two or for one: the heaviest items should be placed as low as possible in the saddlebags, trunk or T-Bags. Rain gear goes on top so it's easy to access quickly. And an emergency hair brush, makeup and any other creams, emoluments and unguents she might need also should be on top for easy, quick access.

It is also a good idea to pack the bike together so you both know where everything is located. Now you must both follow these three rules.

• Rule No. 1. Whoever opens it, closes it.


You don't want to find yourself going down the road and seeing your saddlebag fly open and spewing clothes all over the road because you each thought the other one closed it at the gas stop.

• Rule No. 2. Put it back in the exact same place where you took it out.

You don't want to search through every bag looking for that spare pair of gloves you know you packed in the left saddlebag yesterday, but isn't there today.

• Rule No. 3. Don't forget rules No. 1 and 2.

One more helpful hint you won't want to forget; In the unlikely event you have an accident, ALWAYS check to see how she's doing BEFORE you check on the damage to the bike. Otherwise you'll be paying for that mistake for the rest of your life.

When you return home, unload the bike fully and make sure all the gear is unwrapped, washed or cleaned immediately. You don't want to discover your rain gear is all moldy and grungy a month later because you left it in the saddlebag. And while you still have the energy, it's a good time to give the bike a good wash and wax so that you'll be able to spot any damage, fluid leaks or problems before you take the motorcycle out again.

Recently, a friend of mine and his new wife returned from their first weeklong tour together. Apparently they encountered some fairly rotten weather on the way home, and a flat tire stranded them for hours on a cold, rainy evening. After he unloaded everything from the bike and put away all the gear, he said to his wife: "Well sweetheart, because I did all the hard stuff like riding all those miles, packing and unpacking and maintenance checks while you just sat there enjoying the ride, you can wash and wax the bike now." The poor guy wasn't wearing his helmet at the time. The funeral service was lovely.

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