When traveling alone on a motorcycle trip, safety is an issue that shouldn’t be ignored, even more so if you’re a woman. There are so many rewards and adventures out there when you choose to travel solo, and they are very different from traveling with a group. But, being alone means you are vulnerable many different threats, and you should be prepared.
Here are 15 different ways that you can stay safe when you’re on a solo motorcycle trip, in no particular order.
1. Email your Itinerary to Family or Close Friends
Letting people know where you are and where you’re going to be each day can be the difference between going missing and being found. Sending your travel plans to people that you trust is one way to keep safe. When on a long trip, you may have an initial plan, but things can change along the way. If you realize that your route will be changing significantly, or if you know you will be staying the next night in an unplanned location, drop a quick email, or even a text to let someone know.
The reason you want to use email or text, is to keep your location as private as possible. Your closest friends or family should know where you are, but not everyone has to know. That brings us to the next tip.
2. Don’t Post your Travel Plans on Social Media
That’s right. No Facebook posts about “Hey, I’m traveling alone and I’ll be in Timbuktu tomorrow night staying at the Motel 6 on Main St”. We may consider all of our Facebook followers as friends, but, if you have a large number of people who follow your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter accounts, you can never be too sure about who you’re “friends” with. There are some crazy’s out there and advertising your location may embolden one of them to pay an unwanted visit. In the bright side, there’s nothing wrong with sharing information and pictures of where you’ve already been.
3. Don’t Share too Much Information with Strangers
Admittedly, some of these safe travel tips are far more useful for female travelers, and that’s an unfortunate truth. But, these common sense tips really are just as beneficial for everyone. One of those tips is, don’t share too much information with strangers. One of the great things about traveling solo, as opposed to traveling with a group of riders, is that it makes you more approachable to friendly people who are intrigued about your adventure. It’s really a pleasure to meet the locals of a small town, and you can have some great conversations. But, when it comes down to sharing personal details about your life, it’s best to keep it to yourself. Avoid heated conversations that can get emotions riled up, like politics or religion. Avoid sharing your weaknesses or vulnerabilities to someone you just met. Avoid telling people where you’re staying, especially if you’re getting any stranger danger vibes from someone.
4. Follow your Intuition
If something doesn’t feel right, if you have that strange feeling in your gut, or if you get a weird vibe from someone you encounter, don’t ignore it. Your intuition is trying to keep you safe and out of harms reach. Sometimes these little inside warnings are unfounded, but, better safe than sorry. Does this mean you can never talk to strangers while out on a solo trip? Of course not. In fact, that’s one of the pleasures of travel, meeting new people. But, trust your instincts on who to talk to and who to avoid.
As a female on a fully loaded motorcycle, I usually get plenty of attention. In fact, when I owned my 1985 Yamaha FJ1100, I had middle aged men striking up conversations with me at almost every stop. Mind you, they weren’t interested in me, they wanted to talk about the bike. I knew guys like this were perfectly harmless and I had some great conversations. But, I’ve also had guys come up to me and say stupid stuff like “You ride that all by yourself?”. Those are the one’s to avoid, and my gut always told me so.
So, trust those feelings and your instincts. If someone seems like a creeper, don’t talk to them. Be nice, but don’t engage in conversation. And if a place doesn’t feel right, such as a campsite, don’t stay.
5. Wear a Road ID Bracelet
A Road ID bracelet is a personalized identification bracelet that you wear on your wrist. I have a nice, black leather wrist band that I wear every time I ride my motorcycle, my bicycle, or when I go hiking or backpacking. It has a metal plate that is engraved with my emergency contact names and phone numbers, the medication I take, and my blood type. In the event of an accident where I am not able to communicate this information, emergency personnel will have it available. Road ID’s (found here) can be purchased for a one time fee, but they also come with additional subscription based services. A personal identification number on your ID will allow emergency personnel to look up additional information that won’t fit on the bracelet itself. The Road ID is a great addition to your riding gear and will give you and your loved one’s peace of mind.
6. Carry a Paper Map and Compass
Let’s face it. GPS units, or anything that runs on electrical power, can go dead. Carrying a paper map of the location you will be traveling, will help you find your way if your phone or GPS fail you. It’s also a good idea to carry a good orienteering compass, and learn how to use it. This is your fail safe, especially if you are traveling off paved roads and on forest roads or dirt trails.
7. Finish your Day’s Ride Before Dark
Rolling up into a unknown town, a big city, or a campground after dark is not nearly as safe a getting there when it’s still light out. First of all, it’s easier to find you way around when it’s light so you can find your hotel or campground. Arriving in daylight allows you to get to know your surroundings and get a sense of any dangers that may be close by.
Off-loading your motorcycle luggage in a dark hotel parking lot puts you more at risk. And, setting up camp after dark is not only a pain in the rear, but can also make you more prone to injury. Yep, I admit, I’ve tripped over rocks that I couldn’t see in the dark.
8. Consider Carrying a Fire Arm
Carrying a fire arm, whether concealed or open carry, is a personal decision and the writers and owners of packupandride.com are not here to influence your decision on whether or not to do so. Obviously, carrying a fire arm comes with it’s risks and should only be used as an extreme last measure in self defense or for your protection against wild animals.
If you choose to carry, always make sure you check the laws of the cities, counties, states and/or countries in which you will be traveling. Always make sure you have taken safety classes and have learned how to use your weapon properly. And, exercise extreme caution for your safety and for the safety of those around you.
9. Carry Bear Spray
If you’re going to be camping in bear country, which is almost anywhere in North America, you should carry a can of bear spray just in case of an encounter. For the most part, bear encounters or rare. If a bear sees you first, you probably won’t even know it’s there, as the bear will try to avoid you. But encounters still happen, and on very rare occasions, a bear will attack, and bear spray has been proven to be very effective in deterring aggressive bears. A can of spray is not very expensive and you can find them here on Amazon.
The effective ingredient in bear spray is Capsaicin and related capsaicinoids. While this is the same ingredient found in pepper sprays used for personal defense, it is not the same. The Capsaicin level in bear spray is much lower, at 1% to 2%. When used, the spray is released in a wide fog and is most effective when a is within 25 feet of you. It should be sprayed in short bursts of 2 to 3 seconds, using a slight sweeping motion to spread the fog in front of the bear’s path. Often, the sound of the spray and appearance of a large red fog will be enough to make a bear back off. Bear spray has also been know to deter other animals such as mountain lions, even though sightings of cougars are even more rare than bears.
While carrying bear spray will help deter a bear, your best defense against a bear attack is to be diligent with your campsite. Keep your site clean from trash and food. Keep your food and toiletries in a bear canister or hang your food and any other scented items on a large tree branch away from your campsite. Never eat in your tent and always clean up after cooking and eating.
10. Carry Pepper Spray
Talk to just about any young woman and you’ll find that many of them carry a small canister of pepper spray for personal defense against attackers. It’s smart for anyone, male or female, to carry pepper spray when they are active and alone. Traveling, hiking, backpacking, cycling, or solo motorcycle camping, are situations where it is good to have an extra layer of protection.
Pepper spray contains the same active ingredient as bear spray, but at a much higher concentration. It is designed to be used on humans rather than animals, although some people carry it as protection from aggressive dogs when running or cycling. When used properly, it can incapacitate a human attacker long enough to give you time to escape. Pepper spray should be directed at the attackers face at close range either in a stream, spray or mist. It should be used in a short burst of 2 to 3 seconds, sprayed at arms length.
Pepper spray is not legal in all 50 US states and might not be legal in all countries. There are different strengths, some for personal use and some for law enforcement’s use. Be sure to check the laws in your state or country to avoid an citations. Also, it’s important that you learn how to use it properly. Check with your local law enforcement to see if they have information or training on proper use of pepper spray.
11. Carry a Whistle
Survival whistles, like the Fox 40 Sonic Blast (on Amazon) are an excellent way to signal out to someone should you find yourself stranded or injured in a remote location. If you find yourself in this situation, having the ability to signal for help is the most important factor for being rescued. Whistles are also useful for personal protection and safety on city streets, in a crowd, or alone in a parking lot at night. Drawing attention to yourself can ward off an attacker in a lot of situations.
One thing to look for in a whistle is that it has to be loud, very loud. It must be able to produce a high pitched, penetrating sound so that it can be heard over a great distance. The whistle needs to be resistant to the weather, such as cold. You don’t want a whistle that will be difficult to blow if it’s cold out. It also needs to be easy to find. Whistles with lanyards that clip to your riding jacket or backpack, or those that go around your neck, will keep your whistle close at hand when you need it. Also, a brightly colored whistle will be easy to find in your tent or in your bag.
12. Carry a Neck Knife
A neck knife is a small, fixed blade knife that fits into a sheath that is designed to be worn around the neck, so it is easy to reach in a self defense situation. They generally have handles that are designed to help you grab them quickly to impale or slash your attacker, be it human or animal. They are also very handy for slicing salami or spreading mayonnaise on your sandwich.
Not everyone is a fan of wearing a knife around their neck as they can be a little clunky if they are too large. And, if they hang too low, they would be hard to reach in some emergency situations. It may be better to wear a very small, minimalist blade that is light weight and on a short cord. A neck knife like the one I carry, is light, small, makes a very useful tool and is a good last mode of self defense. And, if you don’t like wearing anything around your neck, it can be warn on the belt, or clipped to a pocket.
13. Personal Locator Beacon
Satellite technology and GPS makes it easy for the average traveler to use the same location beacon system that has been used for decades in boats and other marine vehicles. A Personal Locator Beacon, or PLB, is a hand-held device that uses satellite to send a unique personal identification signal to a continually monitored distress network. In other words, the PLB sends out a powerful signal when activated. This signal, which is set to a certain frequency, will be received by search and rescue organizations. Rescue teams will use the signal to pinpoint your location usually within 500 meters. PLB’s do not require a subscription service, but you are required to have your registered to obtain a Unique Identifying Number, or UIN.
NOTE: A Personal Locator Beacon should be activated only in situations of grave and imminent danger, and only as a last resort when all means of self-rescue have been exhausted.
Satellite Messengers are different from PLB’s, the more popular being the SPOT (check the current prices here). These devices require a monthly subscription plan, but they care more features than a PLB. With a messenger, you can send a signal to the host website and record your location as you travel. You can send pre-written messages via text to your family or friends letting them know you’re ok. They also have an SOS feature that functions like a PLB in the event of an emergency. These devices are based on a satellite signal and don’t rely on cell phone service to function properly.
One important thing to note is to always place a beacon on your person, not on your motorcycle. In the event of a crash or injury, you won’t always be near your motorcycle. You want rescuers to find YOU, not your broken bike.
14. Consider Carrying a Taser
Personal tasers have become more popular as a means of personal protection. But, the hand held contact type of taser is not the best method of personal defense. This is the type that does not shoot the electric probes at your assailant, but instead, you must hold it directly against the skin of your attacker. They are weaker and take up to 5 seconds or more to be effective. So, the down side of these defense devices is that you must be in close contact with the person or animal attacking you. This is the opposite of what you want to do.
Instead, if you choose to carry one of these devices, consider a stun-gun that will make contact from a distance. As with a fire arm, always make sure you have the proper training and know how to use one. Also, check the local and state laws regarding these self defense methods.
15. Learn Self Defense Techniques
Consider taking a course in self defense and learn some good techniques that will put distance between you and your attacker or give you just enough of a break to get away. There are courses designed specifically to get yourself out of dangerous situations. They are not the same as taking boxing classes or martial arts, instead, they teach you how to fight back just enough to get free and run.
But remember, the most effective method of self defense is to avoid a physical altercation in the first place. If a conversation or argument with a fellow bar patron gets too heated, know when to walk away from it. If a situation gets out of hand, swallow your pride and call it a night. And, ladies, if your creeper alarm goes off when some guy wants to buy you a drink, say no thank you and walk away.