Riding Through the Desert

By Shannon Aikau

Quick Throttle got together with Count’s Kustoms Master Bike Builder Shannon Aikau who is also a cast member on the hit TV show Counting Cars. Since Shannon lives and rides in the desert, he has a ton of desert riding experience we can all learn from. Here is a distilled collection of tips Shannon shared with us, to help make your next ride through the desert a great one!

Basic Trip Planning Considerations-
Think about whom you’ll ride with and how long you’re staying out there. You may want to co-ordinate with your ride companions on some things to bring like tools and supplies to minimize duplication or weight. What bike will you ride? If you have more than one, pick the one best suited for the conditions and roads you will travel and your desired comfort level.  Will you ride through remote areas or outside of the US? Check your cell service provider’s coverage in area you want to ride, especially if remote. See tips on the above subjects and more in the list below:

Route Planning-

  • Plan stops – especially for gas, and even more so in remote areas or Mexico.
  • Bring GPS but also bring up-to-date paper maps
  • Advise family/friends of your planned route & ETA for destination or returning home

Mexico/International Travel-

  • Bring Passport, get Mexican insurance (Sanborn’s Insurance is Quick Throttle Magazine’s “Go To” company for Mexico insurance), Mexico/international cell plan
  • Gas stops more critical, know what what stations are open along route

Bike Preparation-

  • Decide what tools to bring- a few basics for your bike’s needs
  • Check tire wear & pressure, replace tires if in doubt
  • Check for loose bolts, spokes etc, fix prior to trip
  • Know Your Bike, make sure it is ready!

Packing (What to Bring)-

  • Cell phone of course
  • Maybe satellite phone for extreme remote areas
  • GPS unit with trackable feature in case you get lost
  • Solar charger- clip to backpack or gear (securely), charge phone while riding
  • Electronics- Buy quality vs low cost & check online reviews
  • Light food items
  • Water, some frozen in bottles
  • Tarp for shelter
  • Leather jacket may be too hot in desert sun; layering lighter items can work better.
  • Chaps however help protect legs in all weather from wind & sun
  • Non-cotton moisture-wicking clothing
  • Use water strategically for cooling body
  • Gloves- stitching allows wind penetration
  • Handgrip shields can help retain heat in hands

For camping along the road-

  • Tarp to loop over bike for shade/sleeping alongside
    • Or a small pop-up tent
  • Small cooking grill?
  • Rope- 2 lengths:
    • One to secure tarp
    • One to lay on ground around sleeping area – snakes are said to avoid crossing over

Safety/ Emergency Items or Parts & Supplies

  • Small basic tool kit for your bike
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Any parts or supplies your bike tends to ‘go through’ or use up- Spare quart of oil? Spark plugs? Headlight bulb? (often specific to your bike)
  • Carry spare tube for tube tires
  • Bring tire plugs & CO2 cartridges for tubeless tire fixes
  • Roadside Assistance Kit
  • Glow sticks


  • DOT, lining that helps with cooling, face shield, sunglasses too.

Body Care & Medications-

  • Sunscreen, kidney belt
  • Pocket hand warmers
  • Ad hoc insulation ideas- newspaper inside clothing to block wind
  • Layered clothing may not look cool, but you will feel better
  • Medications- take enough + extra for contingency

Packing Your Bike-

  • If riding with friends- coordinate tools brought to split among all in group, avoid duplication & unnecessary weight
  • Pack frequently or quickly needed items to be easily accessible
  • Take a test ride to ensure load is secure especially over bumps and around turns

Planning Your Road Time-

  • Use caution when riding at night- critters can roam in your path
  • Consider rising/getting on road early early AM or by sunup to avoid heat of day
  • Allow extra time for motorcycle travel time vs car travel time- 8 hour car trip = 12-15 hours on bike


  • Take a class or find a mechanic willing to teach you general knowledge about your bike, what to check or adjust, and how to know what issues need attention.

Go Riding!

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