Never has “pack light” been more of a mantra than when travelling on motorcycle tours. Over-packing not only makes your motorcycle heavy and handle badly, it can invariably end in you angrily rifling through all your belongings at the side of the road, then struggling to get it all back in. On the other hand, you can keep it so light that you only have the gear you are standing up in, a credit card and passport, but there’s a healthy balance.
Here’s what to take and how to pack it:
As a solo rider, two side panniers should be more than enough space for clothes, tools, electricals and toiletries. Add a small tank bag or map case for documents, phone, money etc. and put any other bits and bobs in your jacket pockets. That’s all you should need.
If you’re camping, a tough waterproof bag strapped on your back seat or rack separates tent, sleeping bag, mat and cooking gear, and makes for a very quick set-up.
Unless you’re two-up, avoid a top box; you will fill the space with something, adding more weight exactly where you don’t want it.
Packing for two months is the same as packing for two weeks, you just need a bottle of travel wash. The secret is making lots of small adjustments: replace heavy jeans or sweatshirts with lightweight ‘outdoors’ clothing, synthetic fleeces; get a lightweight travel towel and leave the bath sheet at home; and make sure you go as multi-functional as possible – a mid-layer you can use both on the bike and as a jumper in the pub etc.
Other than tools, the heaviest/bulkiest items tend to be associated with electricals – batteries, chargers etc. Double up on devices where possible – a smartphone is a camera, laptop, and sat-nav all in one. and pick up a universal electrical adapter instead of carrying separates. Alternatively, free yourself of it all for a few weeks.
Take only the tools that fit your bike and not full sets; slim down toiletry bags by not taking items you can get free in hotels or share items with your partner. Camping? Get some modern gear, it all weighs significantly less now than it did a few years ago.
Pack it in, properly:
- When packing you need to have a working system – we wouldn’t travel without inner bags for the panniers, for example, as it’s easier than grappling with small bags or heavy alloy boxes.
- Use compression sacks, tubs or zip lock bags to sort out clothing, toiletries and first aid. Aim for an even distribution of weight between your panniers, and keep the weight low and as far forward as poss.
- Items you need to hand (eg: rain suit) should be kept at the top of your panniers. If in a pannier, then in your left one (UK or other “drive on the left” countries) or your right (Europe or other “drive on the right” countries) so you’re not standing in traffic when you want to get it out.
- Finally, always check everything is secure before you set off: putting all your travel documents at the top of your pannier and failing to secure the lid, isn’t a recipe for a smooth and enjoyable motorcycle tour.