Hours of highway riding can make me pretty cranky from boredom, discomfort, and fatigue. To better endure long hours in the saddle, I asked “Longhaul Paul” Pelland (Me & My Bike, Sep/Oct 2017, MC) for his expert advice.
Pelland is a marathon motorcyclist, racking up more than 80,000 miles in 2017 alone on his way toward riding 1 million miles for multiple sclerosis awareness and fundraising. There are many reasons for riding long distances, including simply getting somewhere. For Pelland, long-distance riding can also be a type of “moto medicine” that helps repair some of life’s problems.
“When I ride long distances, my mind is often completely consumed with absolutely nothing at all,” Pelland tells us.
“I am only in the present, in the ride, observing and reacting to sights, sounds, and sensations as they happen in real time.”
Big-mile endeavors start with a strategy that includes realistic expectations and a flexible itinerary. Determine the total amount of miles then divide the trip into manageable chunks separated by frequent breaks and overnight stays.
“Be willing to alter your plan on the fly,” Pelland adds. Flexibility is key for handling mechanical issues, unexpected traffic, or bad weather that can derail even your best-laid plans. Get off the road for a break, or end your day early if you experience significant signs of exhaustion.
Pelland’s Yamaha Super Ténéré is set up to allow “tank-to-tank” comfort. His selection of accessories includes adjustable wind protection and a Bill Mayer seat. The right gear is also critical. “I have a garage full of the wrong gear,” Pelland declares. His protective gear of choice is an Aerostich suit combined with lightweight wicking and thermal underlayers, a fleece liner, and a neck warmer. Electrically heated gear and a pair of Lee Parks gloves help manage a wide range of conditions.
While Pelland’s Ténéré has been near bulletproof, he stresses the importance of knowing your bike and how to repair it. At home he uses only the tools in his onboard tool kit to ensure that he travels with what he needs—including specialty tools and hard-to-get parts that would stop him from riding if he can’t make a repair. Pelland also suggests taking apart your bike before embarking on a big ride. “You don’t want to have to perform a repair for the first time with trucks blowing by at night and in the rain.”
Pelland recommends that you don’t leave home without a spare key. You might also consider a GPS tracking device if your adventures take you to remote locales, where sketchy cellular service will prevent access to roadside assistance and emergency services.
Whether you ride long distances to get somewhere, escape for a while, or meet a personal challenge, Pelland stresses the importance of enjoyment. “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong,” he says. On a long ride or a short one, that’s something we can all agree on.