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Our website is all about motorcycles, especially BMW cycles. We cover rides in the Southwest and Mexico, motorcycle modifications and review motorcycle products. 

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Filtering by Category: "Mexico Motorcycle Touring"

Motorcycle Touring in Mexico: The Basics

Ricardo Perez

Highway & Lupe from Corpus Christi, Texas

We haven't travelled into Mexico on motorcycles since 2008 due to the rash of violence especially along our border towns, but for those that venture into Mexico here's a report on the basics for travel in Mexico. It may be dated and things always change so make sure to find out what's new and what may be different.
You'll need permits for yourself and your ride if you plan to go beyond the 22 kilometer mark. A kilometer is .62 of one mile so just multiple 20 X 6 = 120 or 12 miles. This formula will come in handy throughout your trip. It's best to get your permits at least a day or two before your ride if time permits, if pressed for time you can get them as you enter Mexico at the Port of Entry.  Getting those requires pesos. The best place to get your dollars converted to pesos is at any of numerous “Casa de Cambio” (Exchange House) businesses located at all US border towns.  Some banks also exchange dollars for pesos and usually at a better rate since they provide it as a service to their customers. In 2008 the exchange rate was approximately 10 pesos to one dollar. I usually carry about $100 US dollars per day or a thousand pesos.

Here are my typical day’s expenses (in US Dollars):

     Gas:            $25
     Tolls:            25
     Snacks:         20
     Meals:           25
     Hotel:            75
     Beer:             25
     Souvenirs:        5

     Total:         $200.    

That’s about $2,000 pesos in one day or well beyond my $1,000 budget. So I usually cut back on one or more of the above. A good hotel can be $90 or more per day and a small non-name brand hotel in a small town is usually $30 to $40 per day. I don’t buy many souvenirs and I usually don’t eat three full meals a day, but do enjoy a great dinner with refreshments before. If the bigger cities are your destination then you can limit the amount of cash you carry if you charge your room on a credit card. Always carry small bills in a pouch or a pocket you can reach into with your gloves on to pay for tolls. Tolls usually run between 19 to 30 pesos and you don’t want to have to turn your bike off and start striping clothes off just to reach for a toll. So have it ready and within reach. If you don’t have small bills you’ll be getting lots of change and that will pose a problem if you don’t have a ready place to stash it without having to stop.

You need two permits. The Tourista Permit which is your personal traveling permit and one for your bike, unless your significant other is riding along with you then they'll need a permit as well.

To get these permits you need to cross into Mexico with the bike. It’s best to do it on a weekday afternoon when it’s not so crowded. You’ll have to pay anywhere from one to two US dollars to cross from the US side to Mexico. Have your toll ready. Friday afternoons are too busy and you risk running into long lines and the weekends are not good. I usually cross over at Nuevo Progresso which is a less crowded international crossing and it gets me in and out usually within 30 minutes. As you cross on your bike the Permit Offices are typically just before the Mexican Customs, where all the traffic is usually going – into Mexico. There are signs in Spanish and English instructing you where to go to get your permits. In some international crossings if you go beyond the inspection point on the Mexican side where the custom officers are located you may have to turn around, pay a toll at the Mexican side and make another turn back towards Mexico to get to the Permit Office. Trust me, you don't want to have to do this especially if you're riding two-up in heavy traffic.

When you get to the place you're looking for, it's usually called the Tourista Permit Office. There you will be given a Tourista Permit Form or depending on how good the officer is feeling she may fill out the form for you. You need to declare where you are going and how long you’ll be in Mexico. You can get a seven day permit for no fee or one valid for 180 days for approximately $20.  You need some form of identification such as a wallet size birth certificate, drivers license, or passport. Passport works best, followed by a birth certificate and then a valid drivers license. You will be asked to sign the visa then you will be directed to a cashiers booth or local bank where you need to take the visa and pay for it. That’s why going during non-banking hours complicates things. You can actually pay for it on your trip at any local bank, but if you’re like me you will forget and when you surrender the visa you’ll be fined approximately ten dollars plus the original cost. So don’t procrastinate and get it done.

The second permit is for your bike. This is a little more elaborate procedure. The most important thing to remember is that you must pay for it using either a MasterCard or Visa credit card. Its Mexico’s way of having your credit information in hopes of preventing people from taking their vehicles into Mexico and selling them. Theoretically, the idea is that they can take the value of your vehicle off your card if you fail to return your permit. Don’t test it. You will also need some pesos on you. You will be asked to go to a clerk to make a copy of your vehicle registration document and pay cash for the service, less than a dollar. Return to the vehicle permit office and submit your vehicle documents, identification, and credit card. After a short time you will be given your permit, check it carefully. Make sure the VIN number is the same as the one on your Vehicle registration document and on your bike (usually on the fork or lower frame of your bike). Once in the interior it is possible to be checked for consistency so check it yourself. That permit will cost about $28 dollars.

You will also need insurance for your bike to travel into Mexico. Your regular insurance only covers travel in the US and within the frontier of Mexico and not any travel within the interior of Mexico. The fee an insurance company charges is based on your bike’s value and the number of days you’ll be in Mexico. As an example, a six day trip on a bike valued at $23,000 costs approximately $113. Carry proof of insurance.

It’s always a good idea to pack a couple of days before your trip. If you’re like me the anticipation of the trip won’t let you sleep much the night before the trip so don’t make it worse by trying to pack when you should be trying to sleep. We all know how to pack so I’m not going there (rain gear) except to mention a couple of things that you may need which typically don’t come to mind riding on US roads. In Mexico roads can be rough so it’s always a good idea to take nylon tie straps, duct tape, baling wire, and lock-tight to keep from losing things that can fly off your bike. It’s better to tie down that XM Radio or GPS unit than to test how well it’s mounted! There’s a more complete list attached as appendix A.

Getting through town can be an experience all its own, but don’t let that set the tone for your trip. As soon as you cross into Mexico you’ll pass through customs, as you ride up you will see a set of lights much like our traffic signals, but these only have two colors, green and red. Typically, you’ll get a green light which means that you don’t have to stop for inspection. If you do get a red light you proceed into a bay, usually to your immediate left or right and someone will either wave you in or just have you stop wherever they are stationed and ask where you are headed and what you may be carrying. It’s important to note that any type of fire arm or bullet or even blank cartridge will send you straight to an arrest, sent to local jail then a federal prison somewhere in the interior of Mexico. My neighbor accidentally took his revolver in his trunk and spend a couple of months in jail, cost him over $10,000 in legal fees in Mexico, and lost his car since it was impounded (or confiscated by someone needing a better ride). They take this very seriously and even guys that know people in the right places don’t help much. So check your bags carefully, under your trunk mats or saddle bag liners, etc. just to make sure you don’t have an old shotgun shell from a bird hunt or something like that. Of course, I go into Mexico frequently and have never had any of those problems, and it’s been years since I hit a “red” light at customs. So in all likelihood, it won’t be an issue, just worth noting.

Once you’re past customs you’ve got to make your way through town and on to the open roads. If you cross in a big city like Reynosa then you can expect to take a while to finally get through town. If you cross in at less crowded points like Progresso or Harlingen or even Pharr you can make it through really quick. The best way to get through town is look at the signs, know which general direction you’re going and you can ask at any corner which way to your destination. People are really friendly and are more than willing to help or even lead you with their vehicle to your point. There’s some common Spanish questions attached as appendix B which will help you communicate while in Mexico.

In town driving is usually hectic. Be careful and keep alert. Intersections are very dangerous so make sure you have the right of way before assuming that you can just fly through them. Traffic signals are the same as in the states, but before the red light comes on, the green light will start flashing to warn you that it is about to change from green to red. Intersections without lights and with or without stop signs must be crossed using common sense and courtesies. It is not unusual for someone to allow the entire group of riders to cross, but be careful.

Highway driving in Mexico is also different than in the states. Since there usually are a limited number of lanes someone is always trying to pass you. They come up awfully close to your rear and when they pass don’t be surprised when they start moving over before they are actually passed your bike. Don’t fight for your space the norm is that you slow down enough to give that person the lead. It’s usually a good habit to give to much space between yourself and the vehicle in front of you. Drivers only take that as an invitation to pass you up. Likewise, when you want to pass, especially a truck, they will turn on their left turn signal as a sign that all is clear up ahead. Most passenger cars give the same signal. So if you are up on a big truck and you don’t get the signal it is certain that there is an oncoming vehicle.

The autopistas, or expressways, are usually very good and it’s easy to cruise at a good clip.

About 22 kilometers (13 miles) outside the city is the first real checkpoint. You may be asked to open your saddle bags, trunk, etc. and to see your permits. If it’s all in order they’ll wave you on and you’re officially in the interior of Mexico.

Those steps; crossing, customs, getting through down-town and the 22 Kilometer checkpoint are probably the most stressful and you’ll welcome the open highway. The highway comes in various forms and shapes. The best roads are the Autopistas (Expressways). These are toll roads and they usually are not cheap. For example, the toll on the autopista from Reynosa to Monterrey is approximately $20 (US Dollars) for an automobile, less for a motorcycle. If you want to make time these are the roads to take, usually the return routes.  Non toll highways are usually two lane with two way traffic and often with no shoulder to pull off onto. 

Speed control in cities and small villages is controlled by speed bumps called “Topes”. They are very effective and work well at slowing down every mode of transportation. Big trucks and buses are the slowest to get over these topes and if you get stuck behind one it will be a slow moving process. I usually try to pass them if the oncoming lane is clear. Harleys with lowered kits and BMW LTs with the new hydraulic center stand will almost certainly hit bottom so your speed has to be very slow, but not slow enough to stall over one of them.

There are typically three types of topes. The most common is the speed bump made of asphalt or cement and usually its just one, but you can encounter a series of topes. Next is the steel bullets which should be crossed by riding in-between the bullets. The last is the vibrator type which is a raised rippled cement tope that will definitely vibrate any loose part off your bike. It is a good idea to tie down your accessories like XM radios and GPS units so they won’t fly off at an inopportune time. Bikes with knock-off mirrors like the BMWs should have their mirrors tethered. Of course, you can get lucky on some topes which have a small gap in the middle which you can ride through or around the edge, either on the opposing lane or off the street. Usually, the shortcut off the road only presents a pothole that’s worse than crossing the tope.

Right about this time you’ll be looking for gas. There is only one nationalized gas company in Mexico, Pemex. There premium grade is good gas and 92 octane. Typically, the regular gas hose is colored green and the premium is red so you can just ask for the “roja” (red) brand. You need to remover your tank cap, but there is no “self service” in Mexico. An attendant will fill it up for you and usually they are careful not to spill any gas on your tank. You’ll pay them in pesos so typically you’ll be paying about 80 pesos per stop. Don’t gamble on running too low, some Pemex stations are few and far between so it’s not a bad idea to “top off” unless you know the next town is well within your bike’s range. It’s not necessary to tip the attendants. The diesel pumps are usually at separate islands so make sure you don’t pull up at those pumps. It’s not unusual to pull up to a Pemex station with lines of vehicles waiting to be gassed up. Almost all stations have directional arrows indicating which side of the pumps you should pull up to. If the opposite side is open just swing around and enter in the right direction otherwise you may get blocked off. Once you gas up pull away from the pumps being careful not to stop where the truck lanes begin for the diesel pumps. Once out of the way you can take your time to get your gear back on or to take a restroom or snack break.  The Restrooms often charge one or two pesos for us so it’s always a good idea to have spare coin change in your pocket.

Every town has multitude of restaurants, many with sidewalk tables which will serve up a nice hot meal. Order a soda or “Topo Chico” (mineral water) or a soda to drink. It is smart to stay with bottled water or drinks than to drink the water or eat the ice.


Just about every town has at least one or more hotels. Prices are usually set, but if you’re in a group you can ask for a discount and you will usually get it. The bigger cities have American Hotels like Hilton, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn, etc. All of these hotels take all major credit cards. The amount shown on your receipt will be in pesos so don’t panic when you see the receipt. Your credit card company will automatically convert the charge to dollars on your statement.  The smaller cities do not. Air conditioning is not a standard option so you have to ask if your room has air conditioning. Ask to see the room if you have time and try the unit before you unpack. Typically, the AC units are window units and they can be on their last cycle with little cooling ability or motors whining so loud that sleep is impossible. Amenities are rare. Things like hot water, shampoo, and soap may not necessarily be available so it’s a good thing to check it out. Most hotels have never heard of ADA standards for the handicapped so don’t be surprised to find steep narrow steps, shower step-offs more than twelve inches, and other inconveniencies. Don’t expect WiFi, Internet Ready, or telephones in most rooms. Most hotels do have secure parking areas so ask if that’s available. I have found that in most small villages your gear is safe, but I always remove most gear, that handy toll money, sunglasses, and lock the bike up for the night. Many times they will also offer to wash your bike for about twenty pesos ($2.00). If you don’t care about your paint job then it’s a good deal, but more often than not the water they use is the same bucket water they just used on the big suburban parked next to you.


Communication with the folk back home is usually done via mobile cell phones so it’s important to see if your carrier provides any type of service in Mexico. Take your phone charger and make arrangements to have at least one phone within your group with service in Mexico. It’s always a good idea to share phone numbers with everyone and with their relatives. Getting separated in Mexico can be stressful and sometimes the only way to reach someone is to call their home or close friend back in the states and have them call your friends giving them location instructions. It’s always a good idea to agree on rally points should you become separated. Don’t leave everybody guessing as to whether you went on ahead or turned back to look for your friends.

Bike to bike communications via CB radios is a real plus in Mexico, especially if you’re caught behind a huge truck carrying sugarcane and smoking down the highway at about 15mph. It’s always nice to have the lead bike communicating with the sweeper at the rear and giving him the okay to pass.


Weather in Mexico can vary from hot to hotter and cold and rainy. It all depends on where you’re headed and what time of year it is.  Good rain gear is nice as well as warm and/or well ventilated clothing. Of course, sunscreen and lip balm are always a plus.

Once in town it’s always nice to have a good pair of sandals and shorts for walking through town.


There are many types of trips you can take and you can certainly vary the time and distance to fit your schedule. We have outlined some weekend trips, followed by some longer trips as examples of what to do, where to go, and how much you can accomplish on your trip. There are also the hard core riding trips and the leisurely paced trips. Terrain always dictates how many miles you can cover in a day, but generally speaking a hard-core ride covers about 350 miles a day and a leisurely paced ride covers 150 to 200 miles a day.

What I Carry on Motorcycle Trips

Tomas Perez

Updated: 2012/11/17

I know there are hundreds of postings on what to carry on motorcycle rides and this posting is just one more opinion. My concept is to keep it simple (and light) but carry what you must. My joke to friends is "if you got your cell phone and a credit card that is all you need"... but of course I add a few items to that list.

My list:
1 - Windshield cleaner, micro cloths and regular shop rag (in fairing pocket).
2 - Multi tool.
3 - Flash light.
4 - Torx tools.
5 - Plug kit and air compressor.
6 - A couple of straps in case I have to strap something on the bike.
7 - Zip ties.
8 - Pocket knife and a micro multi tool.

I need to add a couple of notes at this time. I'm older now... maybe wiser... when I was very young my list included bungee cords and chain lube... and none of the items listed above. Point #2 - I recently added the items in #5 above. I purchased a new bike less than two years ago and got a flat at 612 miles. I had not even gotten home yet. It happened on the way home from the dealer. I had two more flats before the 3,000 mile mark. Just bad luck. I now have 23,000 miles on the bike without any more flats (I know I shouldn't have said that... knocking on wood...).

These items are in addition to my normal riding gear including rain gear. I got light and heavy rain gear. That also includes rain covers for the seat and tankbag.

I'm not recommending any particular product but I'll include photos of some of the items that I use.

This is the tire plug kit and compressor that I carry. I used it to plug the last flat that I got and rode the bike for a few hundred miles without any problems. The plug kit is in the tail section of my bike (R1200RT). Compressor is in a saddle bag.  Update: I now carry the compressor in the tail section also.  I now have both items with me at all times.  I moved things around and still have plenty of room left over in the tail section.

I like these Torx wrenches (Star Pro). At home I have the 3/8 inch drive types but I almost always use these to work on the bike. They are handy and pack small. I carry them in the existing tool pouch under the seat. Note: I'm currently riding a BMW motorcycle that uses mostly Torx fasteners. I did not have this tool set on my Honda.

I used to carry the Leatherman 300 but found it a bit heavy for carrying in a tank bag. I found the flashlight and Leatherman Fuse on sale at Academy for I think $25.88 for both items. The flashlight is very good. It's the Leatherman Monarch 400. It shoots a beam of light a long ways thus not the best type for road side repairs where a flood type is best but great for campground or search type use.  These I now carry in the fairing pocket.

Update 07/23/2012 - I am adding another flashlight to my touring package.  I purchased a FourSevens Quark Pro QP2L-X flashlight.  The Leatherman 400 is rated at 45 Lumens for 1 hour on one AA battery.  The Quark runs on 2 CR123A batteries and has 8 operating modes - moonlight, low, medium, high, max, strobe, SOS, and beacon.  Moonlight is 0.3 lumens and runs for 25 days!  The other settings for regular light functions are 3.0 (5 days), 65 (11 hours), 160 (4 hours), and 360 (1.7 hours).  This is a much better flashlight for long term use (for example camping).  FYI: There is also a MiniX that is about half the size and uses only 1 CR123A battery.
I also ordered a Preon 1 from the same company to use as an EDC.  That unit uses a single AAA battery.

FourSevens Quark Flashlight

Leatherman and SOG Aegis

I always carry these on the road and whenever I'm in casual wear. I have a few knives that I use but the SOG Aegis (about $70) is one of my favorites. I now carry the Leatherman Micra (about $20) also because I have used it so much recently. Not just for bike stuff but everyday stuff. Matter of fact someone borrowed it a few days ago to install batteries in their kid's Christmas toys. My tool box was out in the garage but the Micra did the job.
Update 2012/11/17 - Why the SOG Aegis?  It's large enough to get most cutting jobs done yet not so large not to fit in any size pocket.  The blade opens very easily and only one hand is require to open the blade.  By the way, you can also lock the blade in the closed position if you want.  It's very light for the size of the knife.  I think it is 3.1 oz.  The lock blade mechanism is very solid.  The clip is located very high so that when you have the knife in your pocket very little of it shows.  BTW, this is a tip up only carry.  That is not a problem with me - I prefer tip up carry.  The clip can be switched to the other side so that it becomes a left hand carry.

I probably forgot an item or two but these are the main items I carry. Like I said, the older I get the more items I carry. And I still want to add a few items like siphon tube, jumper cables, more tools, trail mix, etc. At any rate, this is my list - some carry more, others carry less. This past summer I met a guy riding from South America to the USA, then Canada, and finally Alaska. Not sure of all that he had on board but we did learn that he had two helmets and a final drive for his GS.

I'm still considering two items that I've never carried before - a small siphon hose and jumper cables (motorcycle type of course).  I would go with the siphon hose before the cables.  One of the guys that I often ride with carries jumper cables which he once used to help start another bike.  Both of these items sure are handy when you need them.


Motorcycle Riding in Hot Weather

Ricardo Perez

Riding When Its Hot Enough To Melt Your Shoes!
This summer I decided to run up to Dallas or rather Mesquite, Texas just east of Dallas to meet up with my brother, Tomas, and fellow riders Ed Ramirez and Marco Gutierrez. They were making their way back home from a ride through eleven states from Natchez Trace in Mississippi to the Dragon's Tail in North Carolina and the American Motorcycle Museum in Columbus, Ohio. I was unable to join them for the ride, but figured I'd go up a few miles and escort them home over the weekend. I rode approximately 540 miles on Saturday and a like amount on Sunday's return ride.
Living in South Texas and riding each summer through West Texas makes us feel like we're seasoned hot weather riders, but this ride really challenged that thinking. I left Mission at 7:20am and decided to make some time so I elected to ride the Interstate all the way into Dallas. The first four hours were actually pleasant then north of San Antonio it began to get unbearably hot. The expressway spans over 300 feet wide, most of which is asphalt and cement, reflexing heat right onto you. My Harley air temperature gauge was pegged at 120 degrees, but its universally accepted common knowledge that they're notoriously inaccurate and just about worthless, but even if they're off 20 degrees it gives you an idea that it was HOT. I usually ride with my Shoei full faced flip-up helmet with the eye shield raised so I can get some air, but it was so hot that I couldn't bare to have it open so I rode all afternoon with it closed. The air felt just like a hot furnace and I actually thought that my face would burn if I left the shield open. I forced myself to drink lots of water at every stop. I started early in the morning by drinking a 16 oz bottle of water before I left the house and had another at the rest-stop, about 100 miles from home, another one in San Antonio, and a large Gatoraide in Salado, Texas followed by another three water bottles when I arrived in Mesquite.
The return ride on Sunday was hotter and this time the sun was in our faces as we rode South. We left Mesquite by 8:15am and reached Lockhart by 11:30am. A quick and pleasant first leg. We stopped at Smitty's BBQ in Lockhart for lunch before continuing home via Kennedy. By the time we reached Luling it was 110 degrees and occasionally spiking to 113.
So what's the best way to beat the heat when riding? I'm not sure, but here's what we do to help us make it through the day. The most important is to stay hydrated, drink plenty of water or any drink with electrolytes such as Gatoraide. My general rule is that if you can't pee then you're not drinking enough water. I also limit intake of beer the night before or too much coffee at morning breakfast. It's also good to have something setup on your bike that will hold a water container and allow you to drink while on the road. I had that setup, but it didn't work too well so I removed it from my handle bar, but most guys I ride with have some type of cup holder on their bikes. I'd rather stop and get something to drink.
I wear a perforated jacket which keeps me cooler, but protects me from the sun. Some guys wear short sleeve shirts, or thin perforated jackets that allow too much air flow and I think that's a mistake since the hot air hitting your skin makes your body work overtime in trying to keep you cool through added perspiration. Added perspiration means more water loss and quicker dehydration. I usually wear a long sleeve shirt underneath my jacket and ride in jeans (no chaps) and boots. I also wear a full face helmet and keep it closed when it's too hot. I'll douse my jacket with water as well as my skull cap and bandana, but those tricks only last about 10 minutes out in the heat, but it's a welcome relief as short as it might be. I know guys that put ice in their jacket pockets, guys riding with shorts under their riding pants, and guys carrying mist water bottles.
In hot weather it's important to do whatever you can to stay hydrated even if it means stopping more often than you planned. Each time we ride in very hot weather we start that debate about what's worse riding in hot weather or cold freezing weather. I guess hot weather is best in that you can always peel off layers and in winter you better start off well bundled because once you get too cold (hands) its hard to keep going without possibly causing some long term damage.