Motorcycle road trip tips and Polarsteps application tips

I was dreaming about motorcycle road trip since I got my license, but as regular travels (planes) was more convenient I kept putting it away for years. Once it was not possible to travel with planes anymore, traveling while riding your motorcycle alone seemed like a great option. This was the first time doing a trip like this. That made it be something new, exciting and slightly scary (too used to regular traveling for it to be much of a challenge anymore). Below is a bunch of tips I collected/improved along the way for the next time it's possible to travel again.

Finding next stop

Every few days or once a week while checking something on the map also check the open hours to see if Google informs about some holiday. It can be a big inconvenience if you arrive in the new city/country on Sunday (or holiday day) and nothing is working, making it a challenge to find food or local SIM card.

Everyone travels differently but for me it was driving about (100 km or 2 hours) every day (with some rests days in between). The flow of the day was usually: in the evening find some point on the map far away, check available bookings -- some people suggest to book once you arrive, but I would rather know I will have some place to sleep next day --, book something, sleep, pack before checkout, usually checkout on the last minute, drive, check-in, take a shower, go explore the city, find food, repeat.

Booking accommodation

Skip AirBnb if traveling every few days as it's not a good fit when looking for place to stay at tomorrow. I used it for my accommodations for first 30 days, but it takes too much time and effort to find something.

Depending on your luck it can be really annoying and time consuming to find the accommodation. Usually you set some basic filters: where are you going, check-in and check-out dates, only show available properties, parking. Then open a few of them and check/compare if they are the good option for you. For example in one place parking might be paid, but it's still better/cheaper option.

Always check internet and parking info. Without internet you might not be able to get any work done or book a next stay (even if you have backup and place has WiFi it might be hard to do anything on-line). For the parking check the price and the type of it, sometimes parking costs about as much as accommodation, also secured parking is more preferred to just street parking (even if you need to pay for it).

Always check check-in and check-out info. It is often worth to pay more or choose less interesting option because it provides more flexibility. I will always try to find places with noon check-out and check-in around 2-3 PM. Sometimes it's worth to ask if maybe you can check-in earlier.

Adding breakfast when it costs a lot might not be worth it, but if it's only a few extra € it might be worth adding it. Otherwise might spend same amount or more on some hot dog in some random gas station.

Free cancellation is a nice bonus, but it's not worth bothering too much about it (because if everything is OK you should not need to use it and if something happens the amount is not that big).

Can add other filters to get better results, like: budget changes, type of the property (when you get tired of hotels), review score, private bathroom (to filter out all the hostel type bookings), air conditioning (can be good for both when you have been riding in 30+C weather or in the cold rain). Sometimes it's also good to look at the map to avoid places which are too far/close to city center.

Sometimes it's worth spending more for unique accommodation (like a tiny house with one-way mirror walls).

Gear

Use ratchet straps for securing your gear. For motorcyclists it seems bungee straps are very popular, but to me personally it always looked like a bad choice (not that easy to strap things in and your stuff still moves around). Ratchet straps take longer to put on, but at least I know that my stuff won't move around, especially if you put the mechanism on the left side so you could tighten it as you drive. I'm also gonna test adding re-usable zip ties to keep things even more in place (as one hook once got loose and it ended up in the back wheel while driving).

Have backups for the straps as it can always get destroyed or you might need to strap something else (like the back box with a bad lock so it opens at random times as you ride).

Waterproof bag for keeping most of your stuff dry and protected from weather. Get a metal bag protector too (like Pacsafe bag protector for example), which won't protect your stuff if someone really wants to steal it, but at least it will take care of the opportunity thefts (for example while you are paying for gas at the station). Put rain protector on the top, to keep dirt away (and curious eye of what might be inside the metal protector). Wrap some regular straps around to make sure rain protector stays in place (can put them through the botton of the bag to keep everything together).

At first I was planning to use a gear list to make sure I pack everything, but quickly abandoned that idea. Once you figure out the system it's easy to pack by function and priority so you know if you packed everything (usually I set alert 30-45 minutes before check-out to start packing).

Duct tape, trash bags, regular (electric) tape. So many uses for them. Can make waterproof clothes/boots (just make sure to have a hole at the bottom of the boots to avoid slippery accidents), or make a cover for the bike during rainy days, or making an arrow so you don't forget which side you have to drive on. Sharp pocket knife also comes in handy.

Helmet cleaner as you don't want to block your vision. Still trying to figure out some safe solution so could do it while riding, but stopping on the side to clean it is fine.

Need to try to think of something that would keep for longer, but I find it nice putting some essential oil in the air box of the helmet right before the ride. Depending on the chosen oil can keep you sharp while it lasts (which is not that long unfortunately).

Portable pump with a battery is a must purchase for motorcycle traveling. No messing around with analog pumps trying to figure out what it's displaying, or trying to find one in a million gas station with air pump. Just put it on, couple button clicks, and your tires are at the specified pressure. If you get a puncture along the way you can fix it and fill up on your own to avoid getting stuck in the middle of the road. They are also small and cheap enough.

It's good to do some preventative maintenance along the way, one of them is taking care of the chain. Chain lube paste doesn't take too much space and it's easy to cram it somewhere under the seat. Also have some basic tools, just don't take any boxes they come in, wrapping them in paper towel (to reduce the noise) and putting that in zip lock bag is good enough.

You would think that riding at 100 km/h with a summer gear in 30+C weather would keep you cool, but it does not, so every bit to keep yourself cool helps. I'm still experimenting with it, but putting something cold near your body can help a bit. Those injury gel packs don't get cold enough to be helpful, and those injury brake-to-freeze cold packs are not cold enough either (would also get expensive). Just freezing a bunch of water in zip lock bag (those ice cube bags would probably be better), put that in trash bag to avoid leaks, and wrap it around the stomach.

Zip lock bags are great for keeping some things organized and keeping them dry (like your electronics). One of the things to put in them is salt (on hot days might want some of it in your water).

If you don't have waterproof gloves and it's time to ride for hours in cold rain, regular kitchen gloves work very well. Might not be as comfortable as riding with regular gloves, but they have some grip and keeps the weather out. They are also good for brushing off water droplets off the helmet visor. A basic cheap waterproof work clothes is a good option for keeping yourself dry too. Having a tab in the browser open with current weather search term can help out to have a guess of what to expect (but don't let it make the final decision, I was once driving whole week without a drop of rain while it was saying it will rain).

Waterproof dry bag is a good option for keeping less important things to which you might want quick access. Not tested yet but on the next trip I also plan to use it for exercising (by putting trash bag inside and filling it up with water).

Get a blue-tooth adapter for headphones. I have great wired headphones (providing great seal to keep the noise out), but having them connected to phone is damaging to cable (it's already only playing mono) and I almost dropped my phone a few times while trying to take phone out of pocket. Using a BT adapter keeps everything separated and easy to use.

Upgrade your motorcycle to have heating handles/grips. Personally I haven't tried them yet, but heard this recommended a lot and my guess would be that it will end up being more comfortable and cheaper in the end. Those camping heating pads just don't work well enough (when riding they barely heat your hands and can lead to painful hot spots) and they are expensive.

Polarsteps application tips

I'm not a big fan of all the tracking and similar applications, but I found Polarsteps very useful for road trips. Personally I wouldn't bother using it if I was just staying at some city for a long time, but when you travel every day it's nice to see your progress.

First thing is to make your account private. I never really cared about social aspects each app is trying to push and don't really want someone informing everyone of what I'm doing. Personally I would really like if it had some setting to disable all the social stuff as it just gets in the way and wastes my time. Configure other settings to your liking too.

Application has multiple travel tracking modes, but I like using Balanced, it provides good enough accuracy for me personally. I found that High accuracy just makes too much steps, so it might display curvy roads with better precision, but it can make so many steps while you are staying in one place that I found it annoying (as for battery usage I personally didn't see a difference).

Polarsteps tries to fill up information for each step automatically, but it might need your help, so if you see something wrong fix it up yourself (so you don't have to fix whole trip in single sitting). This will avoid situations where one step might be in Ventspils and the next step in Wentspils.

The flow for most evenings was to back up all my photos since the last backup, go through them to look for more interesting ones to upload on Polarsteps, upload them to the appropriate steps with maybe a quick description to remember what it is about (timestamps could be used if not really sure to which step photo belongs), delete backed up photos.

It seems cooler to upload each photo to the exact step, but next time I'm bundling them. So for example if I take a bunch of photos in different locations in the city, I would choose single step and upload all the city photos on that step. That is because it provides better options when making photo albums (as each step outputs it's information which takes about half the page and feels wasteful).

The photo books you can buy from the application are a very nice way to finish up your trip. They are of good quality, not too expensive, and much nicer way to share your trip with family and friends. The interface is not the most intuitive and it can be slow so be ready to spend some times generating it (will be much easier if you did some management on the steps along the way).

Most of the time I forget to turn it on, but Strava can be a nice addition to the road trip. It provides some info about the ride and it has a good road tracking in case you find a fun curvy road and want to save it for the future.

I like to keep all the tracking locked down, but enabling someone to see your GPS coordinates on Google Maps might be a good choice. If your friends/family haven't heard from you for a long time it can provide them general vicinity of where to look for you.

Posted in: Personal, Tips, Travel

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