Any bike can take you there if you want to go. Don’t let excuses or nay-sayers stop you. My girlfriend and I took my Bonneville from Los Angeles to Vancouver this summer for three weeks. Every bike is different, but as riders, we need the same things; comfort, protection, range, reliability and fun. My 2009 Bonneville SE had a few of those checked off, but it still needed a few things to make it into a bonafide tourer. Here is a write up of the parts I needed, how they performed and a few pictures that I hope you enjoy.
I don’t know what the first thing your bike would need to start making those miles roll by easier on a long trip, but the Bonneville has infamously bad OEM suspension. So upgrading the fork springs to heavier load capable progressive springs, as well as replacing the rear units with heavy duty progressives improved the ride quality a great deal. The OEM’s are built to a price and the result is an over-sprung, over-dampened ride that will clack those molars on even the slightest bumps.
On any trip, costs need to be kept in check. But if you are having trouble justifying the expense of upgraded suspension for a long trip, just think about your average ride and how much you’d pay per day- per bump to smooth them out. It adds up really fast. In the end, if you’re more comfortable, you’ll be less tired. And that helps make you safer not on just those long days, but everyday. *Not really a performance part, but I installed fork gaiters to help keep the fork seals in better shape. -And they look good.
If your bike has one, great. But is it a touring windshield? If not, at least look into one. Even a used one from Ebay, craigslist or from the classifieds of the moto forums you visit. The reason is, a good touring windscreen will keep you more comfortable and safer. First, they keep the wind off you. And you might be saying, “I like it better in the wind, I’m a real rider/man/woman/etc.” While I like it in the wind too, you have to think about the miles, temperatures and hazards ahead. Keeping the wind off you helps with normal fatigue and increases the temperature range you can comfortably ride in. I experienced this first hand riding for hours along chilly coastline and frigid mountain passes. My touring shield protected my hands from the cold so I was able to wear my comfier summer gloves longer. Another safety point I must make is that a windshield keeps bugs, gravel and other debris from hitting you. This keeps your gear cleaner and in better shape too. A side note that I will go into later in more detail is that if you’re traveling in a group or two up and using a Sena or Chatterbox to communicate, a good windshield cuts down on wind noise allowing for clearer communicating, especially at higher speeds or in high winds. I was able to find a barely used, amazingly sturdy and effective “National Cycle N8101 GT Plexifairing” for a deal on the TriumphRat forum.
If you get hot spots or aches after even an hour of continuous riding, you need to pamper your butt. Nothing can spoil a great ride quite like an unhappy derriere. It makes you tired and distracts you from the road. Even a foam pad or sheepskin cover can make a difference. In my case, the SE model seat is only comfortable for about 40 minutes. I have ridden all day on it, but I wanted better for my woman’s rear end. So I found a Triumph brand King & Queen seat on the TriumphRat forum for a bargain and I am happy I did. It really enhanced the gains in comfort made by the upgraded suspension and was worth every penny. We never felt bothered by saddle soreness in 3,800+ miles.
Sweet Jeebus, thanks for highway pegs. For a six foot tall guy, the little Bonneville SE can feel a bit cramped. Adell is tall herself and the passenger seat/ pegs situation probably wasn’t designed for all-day riding. This was especially bad for a couple who each have permanent knee injuries and need to stretch out and change leg positions. Only problem with that is the Bonneville doesn’t have any where to mount the highway pegs. So I found a perfect solution in a set of engine dress/ crash bars (whatever you call them) made by SW-Motech.
These added to the durability of the bike in the case of a crash and added a location for me to mount the highways bars. With these installed, I would stretch out and rest my feet and knee while Adell moved her feet forward to my pegs. This again allowed us to remain pretty pain free so we could enjoy more of the sights and ride longer.
This was a real quagmire because Adell was adamant about having a backrest and we needed a rear rack for the custom tail bag she was sewing. But a product that had both a backrest and rack was universally extinct. Fruitless weeks were spent searching and emailing until by chance I found a unit that had it all on Ebay. A complete backrest, rack and saddle bag bar combo. Suffice to say, even though it was used and it was Ebay, it was not cheap. But we absolutely needed it. We planned to camp about half the time and stay in “No tell motels” to shower and whatnot. So we needed space for all the gear and tools and camping equipment. We couldn’t find what we needed, so we made it.
Sometimes you have to do that. To Adell’s credit, when she was finished, we had a bag big enough and complex enough to do everything we asked it to. -And it was bright orange with “hi-viz” reflective stripes to help make our two-wheeled RV even more noticeable. Again, safety is key when you’re over 2,000 miles from home.
Here are a few bits that don’t fit in a category, but do help increase convenience, safety, etc.
In order to make loading & unloading the bike easier, as well as mounting it with two riders, I installed a used Norman Hyde centerstand and although it added to the weight, it did make it easier when all that weight was already on the bike.
We used a pair of Sena SMH10 units to share music and talk. It was one of, if not the most essential part of our gear for the trip. I cannot stress how important it was/is to be able to effortlessly communicate.
The miles rolled by so much more easily while sharing music and managing navigation and talking about the environments. She could research stops and detours on the fly with her iPhone. She pointed out exits and hazards like a true co-pilot. I know the pleasure of isolation and zen a motorcycle can bring, and I still had moments of that on the trip, but it was so fulfilling to share the experience of the trip with someone else just by talking to them.
Some other good ideas are:
MSR fuel bottle
Tire puncture kit (inflater also)
Charging system for phones and cameras
Under armor type longsleeve tops and bottoms
Appropriate touring gear (heated is best)