Riding a motorcycle on the highway is a sharp contrast to the experience of riding a motorcycle through a busy city. On the highway you'll be traveling at a faster speed, the surrounding vehicles are also moving at a higher speed, wind is in your face all the time, different kinds of safety gear are recommended, and you have a different list of obstacles to be careful of. But the open highway is also the ultimate pathway to freedom for every motorcyclist looking to embark on an adventure.

There are approximately 160,155 miles of highways in the U.S. according to the National Highway System, which means there is a lot of riding you can do from every corner of the country. But in order to do that, one would have to need a certain set of skills and experience in order to take on these roadways safely. For many newer riders, the highway can feel like an intimidating monster that they have to conquer sooner or later. But much like any other skill, the more you do it, the more confident you will be. So let's take a closer look at some helpful hints that beginner and experienced riders can use the next time they're hitting the highway to commute to work, or to set forth on that cross-country road trip.

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1 Enter The Highway Safety

A red 2022 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special
Action shot of a 2022 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special

For newer riders, jumping on the highway sounds a lot easier said than done. You've got at least three lanes of traffic, and vehicles of every size are plowing through at speeds over 55 mph. So for a first-timer, getting on the highway can feel a little intimidating. Not to mention that some are not fully comfortable operating their motorcycle at a higher gear.

However, you have an advantage most drivers don't normally use. While the average driver relies on their side-view mirrors before entering the highway and changing lanes, a motorcyclist has the luxury of using your actual vision by simply turning your head for a quick moment to gauge how much space and time you have to enter your lane. The more you are aware of your surroundings, the safer you will be. Because the last thing you want is to land in a driver's blind spot, and have them not be aware of your presence.

2 Wear A Full-Face Helmet

2023 Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic 114 up front and Road King Special in the back
2023 Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic 114 and Road King Special

While wearing a helmet is common sense for nearly everyone, only 18 U.S. states have mandatory helmet laws. That means if you're going to put your head at risk, you will also have to face the consequences. Because most riders don't feel like kissing the pavement anytime soon, strapping on a helmet is the way to go. But because there are so many different kinds of helmets how do you know which kind is right for you?

For those that understand the true value of safety, a full-face helmet is the way to go. Unlike 1/2 and 3/4 helmets, a full-face helmet grants you 100% protective coverage from all angles. They are also incredibly valuable for keeping bugs, dirt, debris, and any other unpleasant substances off your face while cruising down the highway. There are also some higher-end models that come equipped with Bluetooth speakers inside, allowing you to listen to your favorite songs and podcasts while your noggin remains intact.

3 Wind Protection

Red 2023 Harley-Davidson Road Glide rounding a curve
Redline Red 2023 Harley-Davidson Road Glide rounding a curve

A mistake many newer riders tend to make when riding on the highway is not having any kind of proper protection against the wind. That could mean a lack of a windshield, protective fairing, a full-face helmet, or even a protective riding jacket/vest. Without any kind of wind protection, your body is going to take a beating while riding at high speeds. That means that your stamina to riding for long rides is going to literally and figuratively take a big hit. Not to mention how tired you are going to feel once the ride is over. If your motorcycle does not come equipped with any sort of wind protection, it is strongly recommended that you add a detachable windshield or protective fairing of some kind. Especially if you see yourself hitting the highway more often than not.

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4 Always Scan For Obstacles

Harley-Davidson Road King
Action shot of a 2022 Harley-Davidson Road King

If there is one universal habit that every motorcycle rider should utilize at all times, it is keeping a watchful eye for any obstacles and hazards on the road. This is especially vital when riding on the highway because you'll have different kinds of obstacles to deal with than what you would in the city.

On the highway you've got other vehicles, litter, roadkill, deer, etc. There will be times when you can ride for hours non-stop and not encounter anything. But sometimes there will be something that pops up out of nowhere that will require you to make a split-decision at a moment's notice. An eighteen-wheeler semi-truck could wear out one of its tires after miles and miles of use, causing its treads to delaminate and go flying into the air. If you happen to be riding behind it, and you don't notice it in time, you'd better hope that luck be on your side.

5 Ride With Others

Harley Davidson Street Glide ST riding shot
Riding through a canyon on the Harley Davidson Street Glide ST

Riding with a passenger or with a group of other motorcyclists make the journey even more fun. You have the opportunity to share the adventure with others and enjoy each other's company in an experience that a very small percentage of people will ever know. You'll be creating memories and stories that will be traded and passed around for years to come, and that makes these kinds of trips even more worth it.

There is also the added benefit that there is safety in numbers. A single motorcycle in dense traffic can get easily lost in the crowd. However, if you travel together in a group, you can't help but not go unnoticed. By extension, the more people are aware of you and your friends' presence, the greater your safety will be.

6 Mind Your Distance

A driving 2023 Harley-Davidson Breakout 117
Front action shot of the 2023 Harley-Davidson Breakout 117

The highway is a lot like the ecosystem of the African savannah. It is full of wide-open plains with animals of every shape and size. So if you equate a giant tractor-trailer to an elephant, a motorcycle might as well be a gazelle. So if a gazelle is running at top-speed, and it slams into an elephant, who do you think is going to be more hurt?

Keeping your distance away from other vehicles spells more safety on your part. It is recommended that drivers stay at least four feet away from motorcycles, but you cannot rely entirely on the courtesy of others. Motorcyclists require at least two seconds of stopping time if you need to come to a halt in case of an emergency. So the more room you have between yourself and the vehicle in front of you, the more time you will have to come to a complete stop.

7 Stay Hydrated and Rested

Indian Chieftain riding shot
Indian Chieftain in black riding from left to right

As fun and exciting as it is, riding on the highway for hours can zap some of the energy out of you. That is way it is important for yourself, and your fellow riders to make pit stops to stretch your legs, refuel, and stay healthy for the trip ahead. Riding a motorcycle is a fun activity that requires some level of physical effort. Not to mention the amount of physical impact your body takes against the wind, the amount of energy to move while wearing heavy-duty leather, how the sun can drain you dry, and so on. So sometimes it's important to give yourself, your passenger, and your fellow riders a break. Take a moment to get some gas, use the restroom, drink some water, give yourself a big stretch, and grab some snacks before venturing out again.

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8 Be Seen And Be Heard

2022 Harley-Davidson Lowrider ST
Press photo of the 2022 Harley-Davidson Lowrider ST

Because safety is always a priority for every motorcycle rider, the most useful kind is awareness. By making other drivers aware of your presence, whether they see you or hear you, that means they will be taking your safety into account when moving about the highway. A phrase many bikers are familiar with is "loud pipes save lives." Because in the event you're in someone's blind spot, a loud set of pipes will alert them that you are nearby, preventing them from making any knucklehead moves that would put you at risk.

Sure, some people think a loud set of pipes on a motorcycle sounds too obnoxious. But bikers would rather be alive and annoying than dead and convenient. The same goes for one's chances of being seen. By wearing protective gear that is very visible to everyone on the road, that also spells safety for you. Hi-vis, reflective clothing is especially vital for when you are out riding in the dark. This is especially fun for extroverts that don't mind the extra attention. If they like to wear outfits with a little more flash and boldness, riding a bike makes it even more worth it.

9 Get Comfortable

A shot of a 2023 Harley-Davidson Ultra Glide Limited parked in front of a road Motel
2023 Harley-Davidson Ultra Glide Limited

Sitting on a motorcycle for hours is part of the journey when embarking on a cross-country road trip. Depending on the kind of motorcycle you are riding, some will keep you comfortable longer than others. The best ones being large, touring motorcycles like the Harley-Davidson Road Glide, or the Indian Chieftain.

These kinds of motorcycles make comfort a big factor into their design because they are built mainly for long-distance trips in mind. That means if you intend on riding all day, you are going to want to be in a relaxed riding position that will allow you to stay on the bike for hours without feeling fatigued. Their larger frames, saddle seats, floorboards, forward controls, handlebar options, and fairing options give you a big variety of models to pick from, and variety is the spice of life after all. It is no mistake that many touring bike owners equate riding these motorcycles to riding a couch.

10 Take Advantage of the Left Lane

Harley Davidson Street Glide ST riding shot
Harley Davidson
Harley Davidson Street Glide ST riding left to right

When riding on the highway, most motorcycle owners will suggest riding in the left lane is the smartest move and that you should only have to change lanes for when you need to overtake another vehicle, or allowing another vehicle to pass. Not to mention that the left lane in major metropolitan areas is reserved for motorcycles and commuters, meaning you have the opportunity to bypass the traffic one might encounter in the morning and in the late-afternoon.

Choosing the ride in the middle lanes will put you in the position of being surrounded by vehicles on all sides, and can serve to be intimidating to newer, less-experienced highway riders. That is unless the highway is completely open and vacant, to which the middle lanes are yours to enjoy.