For many motorcyclists, a long-distance tour is the ultimate ride. Nothing beats packing weeks’ worth of clothes, supplies and camping equipment on to the back of your bike and setting off in search of adventure.
Whether you’re heading to the Highlands or the Himalayas, you’re in for a treat. Superb, sweeping roads, majestic mountain passes and awesome off-roading await. Seeing the world from a motorcycle is a must, and once you’ve got the touring bug, it’ll be hard to readjust to normal life.
But where do you start…
1) Plan, but don’t overplan
The best-laid plans of mice and men often go wrong, according to the saying. And nothing is more accurate when it comes to adventure touring, with weather, breakdowns and fatigue all waiting to hinder your tour.
While it may be tempting to plan your trip to the nth degree, don’t. Not only will this be extremely time-consuming beforehand, it will also take away the spontaneity of your ride, and could mean you miss out on a lot.
That said, it’s a good idea to know where you want to be and when, and via which route you’re going to go. Expect road closures and traffic jams, and have a contingency plan in mind. Remember, nothing beats a good old-fashioned map and compass for when 4G is hard to find.
Always let someone at home know your rough route, as well as your destination for each night. Allow for a couple of rest/catch-up days along the way – you’ll thank yourself later!
2) Choose your kit carefully
So you’ve got your bike, be it a Honda Africa Twin or a Suzuki DRZ250. Now you need to choose appropriate luggage. Touratech offers some excellent and extremely hard-wearing pannier sets for larger tourers, while Kriega makes great soft bags.
Touratech also makes added protection for bikes, including bash plates, engine guards and crash bars – essential if you’re planning to do any off-roading.
Once your bike is prepared, it’s your turn. The majority of adventure touring suits are textile and feature removable thermal liners. If you’re going to a hot country, opt for a suit with a lot of ventilation, while Gore-Tex is a must if you’re riding in the rainy season. If you’re riding in a variety of temperatures, look for a good all-rounder – Richa, Klim and Icon are all good options.
Helmet and boots also need careful consideration – you’ll be wearing this kit day in, day out for a number of weeks, so you need it to be comfortable. Shark’s Explore-R helmet is comfortable, quiet and boasts an easily removable peak for off-road riding. Alpinestars, Shoei, AGV and a number of other manufacturers offer similar products. Bootwise, go for something with ankle support, a sturdy sole and overall protection.
3) Be prepared
Look at local websites for news and weather along your route and at the destination. Assess how popular the town/city will be at the time of your visit – if it’s holiday season or carnival time, it may be an idea to book a hotel room before you arrive. In many places it’s acceptable to rock up in the evening and book a room.
However, if you can, check out the online price of the hotel before you arrive, as sometimes hotel comparison sites can offer a cheaper rate.
If you’re travelling in Muslim countries during Ramadan, it may be hard to find food and water, so bear that in mind and take emergency supplies – these will also be useful if you find yourself stranded anywhere.
Also in your emergency pack should be a first aid kit, tool kit and puncture repair kit, as well as tyre levers, spare inner tubes, spark plugs and a phrase book.
4) Pack light
Despite your good intentions, you’re unlikely to wear anything other than the same stinky T-shirt/thermal layer under your riding gear.
Save weight by taking lightweight clothing, which you can layer in colder climates.
6) Keep on top of health and hygiene
Don’t let yourself become exhausted, otherwise you will be more susceptible to illness. Likewise, if you leave cuts and grazes to accumulate dirt and sweat they can be at risk of infection.
7) Stay within your budget and ability
While adventure touring does require a lot of hardship, be realistic with yourself as to your motorcycling ability. If you’ve never ridden off road before, don’t immediately attempt a rocky piste. Instead, try easier terrain until you have got to grips with it.
It is also important to be realistic with your budget. There’s nothing worse than running out of money midway through your trip. Allow a limit for food, accommodation and fuel each day, and keep receipts to keep track of how much you’ve spent.
Above all, remember to enjoy the ride. You may be tired, dirty and bruised by the end, but you will have made memories to last a lifetime.
Be warned though: readjusting to life off the road will be tougher than some of the terrain you conquered….