What to pack for motorcycle touring? Is one of the most common questions we get asked.
Firstly, there’s really no set fast rules when it comes to what to pack for motorcycle touring. Rather its more guidelines and as such no “right” way to do things, but more of a personal preference. Experience is the best teacher and, in this article, we’ll share some of our experiences with you. However, we’ve found packing for a journey can be an exciting part of the anticipation to the trip rather than a tedious chore. In much the same way as preparing your bike is – which we cover in the article “How to prepare my motorcycle”.
There’s a bit of myth around that packing for a motorcycle journey is more about what you’ll have to leave behind rather than what you take.
The technique we use; is to put everything we’d like to bring into a big pile on the bench or floor. Then we remove the least essential items first, one by one until we have a manageable pile that is packable in our saddlebags. A quick word of caution here too, it pays to check the cargo weight limit of the bike so as not to overload it.
The following list is what we use as a starting point when we pack for motorcycle touring. However, the final packed bike kit varies with each journey, for instance, if we’re camping at a bike rally we’ll include our swags and camping equipment conversely if we’re checking into motels the kits a little different minus the swag.
The Personal Bits
The first item, without question, in any travel pack, should be the ol’ bog-roll. We always pack a half roll that’s stowed in a reseal-able plastic bag.
Lightweight synthetic clothing such as T-shirts and underwear are great for daily wear and can be quickly washed in a hotel sink and will dry overnight. (Cotton fabrics take too long to dry in this manner).
When we’re riding down south in Victoria and Tasmania we often wear lightweight merino thermal underclothes like those from Icebreaker, which will also dry overnight easily.
It also pays to roll your clothes as they take far less space than folded items.
On long trips, we will often pack our rattiest underwear, and then just throw it away when you’re done with it, which consequently will free up space for the odd souvenir.
Zip Lock Bags
We use a few different size zip-lock plastic bags, which make organizing and storing items in the saddlebags a lot easier. They also have the added advantage of making items easy to retrieve without the need to unpack the entire motorcycle.
Plastic bags make great boot liners if you’ve forgotten your gaiters. If you forgot your rain gloves, rubber dishwashing gloves make great, inexpensive substitutes, however, the trick is to get a big enough pair that will fit over your normal gloves as rubber gloves provided little warmth.
When travelling (two-up) with a spouse or “significant other”, sharing some basic items like toothpaste and shampoo will save a lot of space.
Conversely if travelling with other riders, conserve space by comparing packing lists and eliminating duplicate items.
The Bike Bits
Pack items that have more than one use, for example, a multi-tool is handier than a basic pocketknife. If you have an iPhone or something similar you can download a free torch app.
We carry an A4 plastic zipper opening bag that contains;
- A hand pump to pump up tyres,
- Spare brake & clutch lever (that suits our bike). You never know when a bike will fall and break a lever.
- Spare throttle cables (that suit our bike).
Our Tool Bag:
- First Aid Kit
- Cable ties and Insulation tape
- Hose clamp and spare seat screws
- Rear Brake light switch. (20-year-old Harley’s have a habit of going through them)
- Allen keys,
- Open-end spanners that suit our bike
- 3/8 sockets and wrench that suit our bike
- Spark plug socket
- Axle nut wrenches
- 8 in 1 screwdriver that includes Torx bits
- Shock absorber C-spanner.
A small towel can be wrapped around your neck during a rainstorm to keep water from running down your back – and can double as a workshop rag.
Lighter is Better
If you watch the grams, the kilograms will take care of themselves. When possible, lighter is better. Credit cards and cash are the simplest and easiest items to pack. If you’re tossing up with whether or not to bring a particular item, consider simply buying it on the road if you need it.
All manufacturers advise checking the cargo weight limits of your bike – as wells as the bags and racks. We’ll simply reiterate their advice here and add – adjust your tyre pressure and suspension accordingly. When loading your bike, keep as much weight as possible close to the bike’s centre of gravity. That means low and toward the tank, distributed evenly from side to side.
If it’s possible a day or two before you leave, do a dry run. Pack the bike and go for a short ride, then you’ll have time to adjust the load as needed. With your bike fully loaded for your road trip, check your headlamp to make sure it’s properly aimed.
If you’re camping, set up your tent at least once or twice before you leave. And don’t forget to waterproof it. If possible practice setting it up in the dark. Because there has been many a night when we’ve had to unroll and set up the swag in the headlight the bike.
And above all, DON’T FORGET to pack all your cold weather and rain gear no matter what time of year it is.
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