6 Pack: On the Road with Kuda



Having more than a few miles under my belt, a lot of ‘em riding my old rigid ’49 panchop, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve got a real knack for getting myself into trouble. I’ve never done my genealogy, but I’m certain I’m related to the infamous Mr. Murphy. However, I’ve chosen to focus on the positive side of this fact. By my way of thinking, once you’ve been there, done that wrong, and got the ratty, greasy old t-shirt of survival to show for it, not many things surprise you anymore. And you’re a whole lot better prepared than most when shit does indeed happen--and it will, of that you can be sure. So with that in mind, here are six things in no particular order that just might help you keep it upright and moving down the road. My tips are geared more toward the guys who build their own but may not get a chance to ride ‘em long distances, so folks that’ve done the long rides before will likely find this a bit too simple for them.


Quick oil check and dump

1) Fix Your Shit!

Seriously! If you’re planning to run the long rides you have GOT to invest a little time beforehand (NOT the night before, either) in getting your bike and gear in order. Band-aid fixes are just that: temporary, and will likely leave your ass stranded. And that rear tire that’s starting to look like granddad’s head? Replace it! You get the idea. If you don’t spend some time before you leave, you’ll be spending it on the side of the road. Well, you just might anyway, but try to make sure it’s not something you could have avoided. Don’t be "that guy" who bungees his oil tank on the night before and can’t figure out why it’s leakin’ now. And always carry tools and spare parts, but that’s a whole subject of its own and I’ll get to that later. As for tools, that’s easy, and it starts NOW: next time you work on your bike for any reason, put every tool you use in a box when you’re done with ‘em. Oil changes, tune ups, adjustments, etc, put it in a box. After a few months or so you’ll find that you just have to reach in the box to fix something. And that right there is your tool kit for the road.  If it ends up being huge, think about how to reduce the size. One way is to make things dual purpose. For example, if you need a long ½-inch box end to get at that carb mount, and a long 5/8” open end for the motor mount, you can just cut ‘em both in half and weld ‘em together. Does the job and takes up half the room of two combo wrenches. Use your imagination and I’ll bet you can cut the collection size way down and still be able to do the same work out on the road. The beauty of the “box” method is that you’ll end up knowing exactly what you need to keep your bike running when you’re on the long rides.


Trusty ol' handlebar bag

2)  Making time on the road
OK, so now you’re out on the road, and you’re trying to cover some ground. Since it’s always a good idea to get most of your daily mileage done in the first half of the day when you’re fairly fresh, the best way to cover ground is to keep riding. Really--it’s that easy. And the way to do that is to not stop. Well, OK, you have to stop for gas and stuff, but making those stops as fast as possible means you’re back on the road and covering miles, not sitting on your ass. I don't know about you, but I’ve never thought gas stations are the greatest places to hang out. A little dive bar, sure. Local Bada-Bing type club? No problemo.  But a gas station? Eh, not so much. So in order to minimize the stopping time, here’s a little trick that’ll help get you back on the road faster: tie a small bag that’s easily accessible to your pack/bars/tank/forks, wherever. this bag should include:

  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm w/sun block
  • Soft clean rag for cleaning sunglasses
  • Ear plugs (spare)
  • Clear glasses
  • Rag for checking oil, wiping seat, cleaning gas off tank, etc.
  • Handywipes to scrape the crap off your face once in a while
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Pain reliever
  • Smokes (if you need ‘em)
  • Granola/trail mix (more on that one later)
  • List of phone numbers of folks you might need on the road

The idea is to have everything you’ll need right at your fingertips so you can take care of all that stuff while you’re gassing up.  Clean your glasses/sunglasses at every stop. Oh, and a good habit to have: always put on sunscreen/sunblock before you head out in the morning.  Even if it’s cloudy now, there’s a good chance it’ll be sunny at least part of the day and that’s one less thing you’ll have to do at a stop. That said, that new spray-on sunblock is great: two quick sprays on each arm, the front and back of your neck, a shot on the hand and a quick wipe of your face. 15 seconds and you’re done. I’ve NEVER had the spray-on stuff melt into my eyes. Never.  Another thing I love about it. That granola/trail mix I mentioned earlier? Instead of taking the time to eat a meal that’ll only sit like lead in your stomach, just grab a couple handfuls of trail mix at EVERY stop. It’ll keep you going and won’t make you crash like a full fat meal will. A big dinner is fine tho’, unless you’re plannin’ to keep rollin’ for a while. If you have to go inside for anything, do that first and gas up last.  Remember, gas is stored in tanks underground and it’s pretty cool down there.  Fill up your tank (which is sitting on your hot motor) with that cold gas and watch the gas start to pour out your overflow as it heats up and expands.  Or, if you ride old iron like me, you know that bikes that originally came with center stands don’t have great seals on the gas caps. So if you fill up the tanks and sit it on the side stand you get to watch a ½ gallon or so end up on the ground.

One caveat about keepin’ the stops short: the big exception is if you end up stumbling upon a cool place or meeting cool people. If that’s the case, screw it, take your time. After all, that’s the beauty of traveling the long rides, right? I remember finding a little dive bar in Dodge City, KS, where a certain famous outlaw shot a hole in the center of a playing card from across the bar on a dare, but I digress. You get the idea. 


Ready to roll. Functional sissy bar, WP bag, hydration and cruise control

3)  Always carry water
Period. There are hundreds of different ways to carry water on a bike, chose whatever works for you.  A friend of mine uses one of those fancy CamelBak backpacks that holds a gallon or two of water which he freezes before hittin’ the road.  Gives him ice cold water all day long. Me, I’m low-tech--I use a bicycle water bottle holder that straps to the left rear frame section, right below the seat where it’s easy to reach with my left hand.  It’s dead important to stay hydrated, especially first thing in the morning (after drinkin’ all night or after coffee, either way you’re dehydrated) and later in the evening. Sometimes when you get really tired towards evening you don’t need coffee/soda, you need water--dehydration makes you feel tired. Getting that water in your system while you’re riding makes for one less thing to do at the stops. And always have at least one more bottle in your pack somewhere for emergencies. Like if someone runs out of gas/breaks down/etc. and you’re standing around for a long time in the hot sun.  But of course that never happens to us old iron riders...  

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Comment with Chopcult (34)

Commented on 8-19-2009 At 10:32 pm

Awsome!! I can't waite to go on a long ride.

Commented on 8-19-2009 At 11:02 pm

Great article. I pick up a few tricks with every trip,and it's nice to see what others are doing through their own experiences.

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 12:11 am

good stuff, makes me long for the road.

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 12:38 am

could not have said it better , thats about what I take on the long ones.

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 01:17 am

cool kuda - see you in NY. no fingertight bike this year, but that means no fun in tunnels with police - sorry

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 04:49 am

kuda - one of the few real 'riders' in our world. lookin forward to puttin in some more miles with you soon man.

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 06:39 am

Great article. I think I'll end up taking your advice on the PVC duffel. I always use an old military A.L.I.C.E. pack with plastic bags inside. Another thing I've found that works are those plastic travel bags that seal at the top and have an air valve at the bottom to squeeze out excess air. Not the kind that require a vacuum, but the manual kind. They roll up tight and keep out the water, plus I've found 'em at WalMart.

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 08:08 am

Good list. I don't usually camp when I'm out on a long ride, but having the other stuff is essential, especially for those of us who choose to ride older bikes.

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 08:54 am

Good info to have, and use.

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 08:58 am

Thanks man. I will definitely be using the packing list before my next trip.

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 09:58 am

invaluable experience to pass on, thanks bro.

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 11:46 am

Great list.

Totally agree on #2 - as I like to quote: "let's hit the fukin' road" - I find once I get into stopping too long, it turns into a pattern. If I just fill and go and fill and go then next thing I know it's hours later and I'm almost there.

Another tip on the dry-bag (I got one that's also a backpack for luggin around) - throw in a dryer sheet or two. Those bags don't breath so if you make the mistake of putting something smelly in there everything gets it. The dryer sheets help out a little. Plus chicks dig that fresh scent (don't they?)

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 12:12 pm

good shit.... the marine corps has taught me a thing or two about having everything you need on a long hump, but none the less.... this article really helped. thanks for taking the time out and giving back.

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 12:52 pm

thanks! great ideas, now all i want to do is start packing!

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 02:24 pm

Makes me regret I am stuck on an island.

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 02:46 pm

Great write up! I really like that wrist rest.

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 04:33 pm

Great article! I've never seen anyone write about this important topic. Makes me want to gas up the bike and dip out! Timely man timely!

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 07:16 pm

+1 on Aerostich. They carry lots of cool useful shit that will make your life easier.

Commented on 8-21-2009 At 08:25 am

Makes ya think. I really need to get my shit together!

Commented on 8-21-2009 At 09:10 am

Really nice writeup, thanks for taking the time to do it

Commented on 8-21-2009 At 05:20 pm

this is a cool ride up
the last long ride I did was Sacramento to New York a few years ago
the weirdest thing that would happen to me? After I left the inside of the gas station and I was some miles down the road I was able to sing lyrics/melodies to songs I had never even heard before.

Fuckin engine drone is brutal and soothing to the inside mind.

Commented on 8-22-2009 At 09:03 am

just to add a little something about tools. I've learned to try to use as many of the same size fasteners as possible all over the bike, that way you won't need 12 different combo wrenches and it makes finding/borrowing nuts and bolts that much easier. and every truck stop/gas station and whorehouse has at least a crescent wrench you could borrow. Those chrome 12 point bolts and fancy torx bolts look cool, but ol' man Jenkins ain't gonna have one of them in his barn for you to scrounge.

Commented on 8-22-2009 At 10:51 am

Sounds like you got everything covered.

Commented on 8-24-2009 At 05:45 pm

I have to disagree on the stopping part, but I guess it's just personal preference. I like to stop and really take in my surroundings when I ride. The way I see it, if you just ride non-stop you end up missing out on a lot of great places and people. Slow down and just enjoy the world, you know?

I also have to point out that wearing loose clothing might flap around a little, but it sure does keep you a hell of a lot cooler in the summer.

Just my .02

Commented on 8-25-2009 At 06:32 am

Great ideas, thanks alot.

Commented on 8-25-2009 At 12:27 pm

this article is great I need to set up a trip and fast.

Commented on 8-26-2009 At 10:25 am

Thanks for the info... very useful

Commented on 9-2-2009 At 04:26 pm

Awesome article Bill! Just got back from a trip and everytime I go I think how I'm gonna pack next time. This is exactly what I'm talking about! Sure hotels are nice, but who can pay for that on a two week ride? If you haven't laid out a blanket on the side of the road and slept under the stars with your bike you're missing out. Those are the nights I remember most. Shiftace has some great points too. Great article!

Commented on 9-3-2009 At 07:18 pm

Awesome article! Makes me wanna give the finger to my responsibilities and just head west. (I'm near DC - hey, doesn't Kuda live out this way? Can some one set up a play date, please?)

Commented on 9-18-2009 At 05:41 am

Hey wrench monkeys!!! I can tell you the God's honest truth that Kuda is no bullshit!!! This past June I had the honor of riding 1300 miles with him from northern Virginia to Houston Texas, two days 700 miles a day 14 hours in the saddle. The dude can ride as some of you can contest to that!!!! He told us all this stuff before we left and it saved our asses. It was 103 down across the delta and he kept us going. Through the rain, through the heat, through the times you didn't think you could ride anymore. Even through the times when the pan broke a gas tank mount, lost the screw out of his timing cover(which he found several hundred miles later) and even through the broken solid gas line that cracked cause the tank mount broke!!!! He's about has hardcore as they come in my book and it was an honor to make that trip with him...........even if did ride my ass into the ground. LOL You da man Kuda!!!

Commented on 9-21-2009 At 07:06 pm

the cig lighter helped me sooooo much when i did a loop around the country. i also wired in a little ac inverter very handy. yeah you kinda look like a dork but trust me when your in the middle of the texas desert and your harness fries a soldering iron is gods gift.

Commented on 10-27-2009 At 11:05 pm

thanks for the info..changes the way i get ready for trips..

Commented on 2-13-2010 At 05:21 pm

It was a good reading...and a nice ride as well!

Commented on 6-15-2010 At 04:07 pm

wow, great read! lots of great tips in there!

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