Just can’t wait, the riding season is about to start in ernest!
Although I have been riding during the winter, I have done it in summer conditions. You know, it is always summer somewhere.
As I was pondering my coming rides, I also realized that the season will start most likely in rather challenging condition. I.e. it may be cold and wet, even icy, but most certainly road surface will be dirty and much more slippery that when I left the season in the fall. It is time to give safety and safe riding some thought.
Before we all attend the safe riding refreshers, now is a good idea to enjoy the thought about the coming rides and to watch a few videos to get in the right mindset. Youtube is full of good tips, sometimes also some not so good. Therefore give the ”advice” you get some thought and pick the good ones. Just have a browse, it will be worth it anyway.
To get you started, I picked up for you some good advice I came across by Men & Motors. The winter tips are valid for the start of the season as well.
The videos are only under 3 minutes each, so easy to watch through!
Next adventure is in the horizon and I find my mind pondering the usual ”what to pack”. With experience, packing gets easier but it is amazing how much mind space it may take, particularly with more uncertainties about the conditions one is heading for. There really is no one solution, every trip is different and tarmac riding is different to river beds and mountain forests.
There are many good guides on various types of armour, etc., so I skip that part for now. Just being prepared for varying weather conditions may hugely increase the load on the bike. To get my mind organized before my next trip, here are some thoughts about…
What Clothing to Pack
Packing for a trip on a motorbike can be a pain. Particularly for varying weather conditions both on and off the bike. The obvious problems arise if you take too much clothing with you. Or equally, if you miss something.
I do touring and adventure biking, so I ride long days making many stops for sights. I prefer clothing that gives me the protection I need when riding, while is light and easy to wear when off the bike. Low-maintenance clothing preferred. Also the bike is easier to handle with less items attached to it. This is particularly true with smaller bikes and difficult terrains.
Clothing – the basic shirts and trousers – is usually what makes most of the luggage and gives you the biggest head ache to try and fit everything in the small packs. Basic clothing should not be such an issue, as it is also usually the easiest thing to fix on the road – clothing is available virtually everywhere! A lot depends on where you are heading and I have really just one advice: Take less. If in two minds, if it can be easily found on the road, leave it home. You can buy clothes on the go and most likely you will be buying souvenir t-shirts etc anyways. It is also difficult – and often unnecessary – to prepare for absolutely everything.
You may not need your newest, best brand underwear or socks and in emergency you get new ones virtually anywhere. Some technical sports underwear is always good. Something that will be comfortable even when sweaty or wet. I have found HeatTech clothing from Uniqlo very good. Something that can also be worn without washing often. Anything made of thin Merino-wool is always good and can be found in specialist outdoor shops or from any serious boating shop. Skip cotton in any critical ware. Still, a small pack of washing detergent will take you a long way.
Specialist outdoor shops also carry technically advanced items that take very little space. Large microfiber towels fit in very small pouches and they dry fast. Forget the heavy and bulky cotton towel. Also silk sleeping bags with built in mosquito repellent can save your night. And several days to follow. They are just the size of your fist. Packable down ultralight jackets are very warm and come also in very small packs and weigh next to nothing!
Comfort for all situations
Regarding the proper riding gear, for varying hot/cold weather riding, my choice is a mesh jacket and light rain gear. Mesh jacket is cool when the weather is hot, letting the air pass through and it is warm when you put a rain coat on top, stopping the air flow. The air trapped in the mesh keeps you warm and waterproofs do not feel sticky with all the air in the mesh. Same goes with the trousers, often no need for hot waterproof trousers. The light rain gear is surprisingly handy even without the rain and takes little space. Handy in the occasional rain as well!
What really is important
Focus on what you really need. Medication and first aid for different situations. Starting from stomach issues to mosquito repellent and battling infections due to cuts in skin or even just a flu. Be prepared as these can really make your trip a misery and being prepared does not take much space!
Pack your items in small laundry bags or gym bags, any small and light bag to keep then organized, making it easy to reach the items you need. On the bike, your stuff may not be as easy to reach as from a suitcase. Finding something simple from your bag may just mess your well organised packing completely.
When off the bike and exploring the surroundings, you may need a bag to carry some stuff around, cameras, spare clothing, etc. Take a very brightly coloured bag. I have a bright yellow travel back bag that folds into a small bag. A bright bag is less likely to get stolen and can more easily be monitored and spotted.
Regarding tools, spares, etc, – Share the load if you are many.
Also you may want to keep an alarm with your valuables – the kind that will alarm you if you leave them behind. Not much bigger than a two-euro coin, a BiiSafe device fitted to your passport bag is all it takes and your mobile will sound an alarm.
Do not forget cameras, memory cards, camera mountings, chargers, PC?, mobile for local sim, extra charging battery, … You may want to re-live your adventure again by the fire on a dark and stormy night…
OK. I think I have my head now organized. Off to packing it is…
Motorbiking is a very social hobby. Bikers feel that mutual bond and the most obvious proof is the friendly wave of a hand when passing on the road.
Riding with friends is great but sometimes you may want or need to ride on your own. Perhaps on the way to a rally or another gathering or to meet friends a bit further away. Or just to explore new roads and countries on your own. Holidays and other schedules do not always meet but when you have to go, you have to go.
There is really no reason why you could not just go on your own. To many it may be a bit daunting prospect, particularly if you are not a seasoned bike traveller. But fear not! We have all heard and witnessed the comradely on the road when a fellow biker has stopped to help out a friend. Showing the way, booked a hotel or helped fixing another problem.
Here’s my two pennies worth,a few words about going solo on a biking trip.
Now, start planning where you want to go! Explore travel blogs, blogs of your interests, etc.
I skip the obvious, like the pre-arrangements that you may have to do regardless of who you travel with, such as passport, visas and other paperwork (can be complicated and take time – carnet for one – depending where you go but usually known before travel – find out if in doubt!), insurances for YOU and your bike (often Green card), vaccinations, etc. Membership cards for discounted travel or accommodation. Learning the basics of your bike’s maintenance.
Note that hotels or ferries are not necessarily something you need to book in advance but you can decide on the go. This is often the best way and gives you the freedom of choice of roads and places to go. Just be mindful of peak/holiday seasons, so that you are not left stranded without an accommodation or a ferry.
Finding your way
Finding your way is important, even if you plan to go without a plan. A GPS navigator is a good investment although you can navigate without one the old school way. GPS may be handy if you need to pinpoint exactly where you are for any reason. A mobile with a suitable app also does the trick.
In any case, have a paper map of your planned area of riding with you and you can also usually get more detailed maps from petrol stations on the go. Do not just rely on the phone and make sure your phone app has off-line maps functionality. I have found Maps.me good but I am sure there are others. Also apps for finding wi-fi hotspots…
If you are not rigidly following you GPS route, which usually may be the case, I recommend that you keep north UP. Many GPS maps tend to have your direction of travel up but I have found that having north up lets you keep the general direction of travel without following the GPS dictated route. This is much easier than trying to look at the small compass arrow.
Overnight in a Guesthouse or a Hotel
You may want to check local habits for check-in times for accommodation. Many country guesthouses and even small hotels may close early. Even if you could check-in, you may be left without dinner. Start your day relatively early and after a day’s ride you can look for a place to stay before 6pm in the countryside. Hotels in bigger towns you can usually check-in whenever.
You may want to find out some biker friendly hotels on the way to stop by. In any case, on the road you are usually not alone and can ask help from fellow bikers, make new acquaintances or even life long friends.
Have Wing Men – Join a Club
When riding solo and without the safety in numbers, the most important rule is: Make sure you are not on your own! You may travel alone, but not on you own without ”wing men”. These wind men can be some local contacts on the road or someone at home who can launch a rescue operation, should it be needed. Preferably both.
Many of us are members in motorcycle clubs with international reach and a good idea is to take with you some international contact numbers of your bike club – and/or Automobile club recovery number. Perhaps a good reason to join, if you are not a member of one already.
Sew your club patch on your riding gear together with your national flag. A good way to start a conversation.
Inform the Closest
It is a good idea to let your close ones know where you are and that you are OK. Daily. The modern social media applications are good for this. WiFi hotspots are usually relatively easy to find and a local sim card can be a good investment. It is a good idea to have a spare phone with you.
There are also stickers and documents that you can carry with you for emergency, particularly if you have illnesses that need attention in case of an accident. Have these on your bike, helmet, wallet, bracelet… where appropriate. I also carry an organ donor card and as I will never need it myself, someone else might! And before anyone comments – this has nothing to do with my choice of transportation!
Venturing Further Afield
If you go anywhere more exotic, before you go, do your research, make contacts, read web pages, etc.Identify who are the people ”traveling with you”. These are the people you will have to rely on should something go wrong – big or small. Your contacts must be able to help you in ANY situation.
In exotic travel, it is a good idea to spend a bit more time in finding the right contacts to arrange the trip with. Particularly if your plan is to do more that hire a scooter form a street corner for a day, find a contact that can plan you trip with you, stays in contact during the trip and is reliable.
You rely on them to launch a rescue operation should it be needed.This may sound exaggerated but as it happened when traveling to Nepal, although I could expect an earthquake, the previously peaceful Nepal passed a new constitution just before my trip after eight years of deliberation! Ethnic groups started internal skirmishes and people got killed. The aggressions came too close for comfort at some of the road blocks near the Indian border. Also this could have turned nasty.
Seize the Opportunity
If you travel for business, do not be afraid to make a solo tour and seize of the opportunity to see the area further than just the hotel and airport. Just check with the dealer, get a Harley and visit the local sights! Worth it!
The biggest downside with traveling on your own is that there is no-one to share the experience with you and no-one to encourage you to explore the opportunities that do not occur to you. You probably will miss some local habits, history and interesting places.
Also being alone may limit your ability to wander away from your bike. Leaving your gear behind is not often advisable. Bring a few locks that you can easily use.
You get to go! You get to ride your bike. You can go wherever and whenever you like. You get to see places and you get to make new friends. As you are a party of one, you may be invited to places where a group would not be able to get. A family dinner perhaps! You will certainly have something to tell to your children and grand children about.
… that elusive day we keep putting good things off to…