13 Must-Have Things for a Longer Bike Trip

Motorcycle touring is the expression of pure freedom 1 photo
Summer’s here and I can almost hear the planetary humming of riders all over the world planning their trips. Whether we’re talking about a longer weekend or are planning a real vacation on two or even three wheels, things are pretty much the same, as in the smaller or bigger problems a rider may have to deal with.
Now, space and storage is definitely one of the things which are premium aboard a motorcycle, and the only really lucky guys are those riding machines the like of Electra Glide, Gold Wing, sidecars or K1600GTs, who can also use a generous trunk. Being confronted with the need to optimize the luggage, some of the things many riders and especially their better halves would like to bring on the trip will have to stay home.

Even big adventure bikes such as the BMW R1200GS, KTM 990/1190 Adventure or the Triumph Tiger Explorer XC, which are often referred to as “everything but the kitchen sink” machines cannot offer enough space for the iron, huge professional hair drier, several pairs of “just in case” shoes and similar whatnot. Besides the limited space aboard a motorcycle, you must also consider the payload limits of the vehicle. Checking with your bike’s reference manual will instantly reveal the weight limitations of your bike, and help you pack everything the safe and functional way.

One of the most important things which have to be mentioned ahead of this 15-entry list is a roundup before you start to actually pack things together. The keyword for not packing half of your household is FUNCTIONALITY. Before adding anything to the “I need this“ pile, you and your passenger have to provide a honest answer to the question “do I/we REALLY need this?”

Like in any other situation which involves more than the rider on a bike, communication is paramount. I can tell you from my own experience, that when you start riding with a new passenger, the first rides will be awkward, from a luggage point of view, unless your pillion is not doing this for the first time. If he or she is new to longer motorcycle trips, then you have to mitigate the somewhat natural inclination to carry her grandmother’s fan and so.

Still, when it comes to deciding what comes on the bike and what stays at home, things will eventually be solved. And the sidecases, saddlebags, top cases, tank bags and roll packs are your ally, as they never lie. Sometimes all you need is a quick show-and-tell to prove that a certain object is not fitting in your luggage.

1. Second pair of gloves and rain gear.

It’s no fun riding in the rain and get soaked. Even during the summer, once you’ve got wet and start drying out, the temperature of your body will drop because of evaporation, and you WILL catch a cold or even worse, pneumonia. Fun with that – zero. So getting Gore-Tex breathable gloves is a very smart idea if you don’t live in the desert or are likely to meet rain on your way. Personally, I carry 2 pairs of gloves: a summer one in kangaroo leather with exceptional breathability and very decent abrasion resistance, and a pair of thick, waterproof gloves which can keep water at bay for 10 hours or so.
If you don’t ride with weatherproof clothes, some rain covers are also a great idea. You can find either pretty cheap ones which might need replacing after several trips, or can spend a little more and get sturdier one-piece suits which can really take a beating. Either way, as long as you’re dry and healthy, the ride is a good one.

2. Spare pair of shoes

Even if you don’t ride in the rain or do so but your boots are very good and keep your feet dry, at the end of the day you’ll have to stop and get some rest. It matters little whether you’re sleeping in a tent, a motel or a 4-star hotel: you’ll feel relieved to take your riding boots off, maybe take a shower or bathe in a river and wear something more comfortable.

From sandals to sneakers, anything goes since the main idea is to help your feet relax. Now, if you’re planning to spend several days in the mountains, maybe it’s wiser to bring a pair of trekking shoes, just like a weekend or more at the beach might favor lighter shoes.

Needless to say, you’ll be so much happier in case you do get wet feet while riding. Having to wear wet boots for the evening brings us back to square one – catching a cold, and the same null comfort. If you choose your spare shoes wisely, they should not take too much space in your luggage. Several spare pairs of socks wouldn’t hurt, either.

3. Flat tire kit

Tubes or no tubes, a flat tire is a pain in the back, and what’s even worse is that it can happen to anyone, pretty much anywhere. Still, a flat tire must not be regarded as the one mishap that will ruin your trip. There’s enough technology around to help riders in the darkest hour, so despair has no place in your luggage.
Those riding bikes with tubeless tires will make it past this obstacle quite easily. Flat tire kits are cheap and can be bought in pretty much any bike shop, so getting one is child’s play. Even more, they only take up minimal space in your luggage, and are very easy to use. Now, the purpose of this piece is not exactly to teach you how to fix a flat tire, so I’ll just say that having one of these kits on a trip is exceedingly wise.

If you’re aboard a bike with tubes, things may be a little more problematic. However, if the hole in your tube is a tiny one, a special pressurized latex foam spray might work, as well. It saved the day for me twice, despite some said it would not work with tubes. There are high chances that it will give you enough slack to reach a tire service, believe me. Just don’t forget to tell the guy that you used the spray. Obviously, if you can, bring two tubes with you.

4. Tool kit

I guess there’s rather little need for explanations as to why you should have your bike’s basic tool kit with you. If anything comes loose or your bike needs minor repairs, the tools included by the manufacturer should help you get though.
Many riders, especially guys who buy second hand bikes, no longer have these tool kits… but the manufacturers do. OEM ones are not the cheapest solution, though getting them from an authorized dealer is the simplest way to more peace of mind. Or, you can simply check online and see the contents of your bike’s tool kit and get separate items. You might come off cheaper, but the kit might take some more space, as many manufacturers offer multi-purpose tools. If you buy separate items, make sure you get GOOD gear: it’s no point in carrying a lousy wrench with you and watching it bend as you try to unscrew a bolt. Yes, this happens a lot with cheap, crappy hardware.

5. Spool of braided steel wire

Clutch and throttle cables can break in the middle of a trip, and this might leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere. Riders with sufficient skills can shift gears without pulling the lever. It’s not rocket science, but this operation needs a smooth hand and a very good ear, plus it’s not exactly the healthiest treatment for your transmission. However, once, you’re on the move, you have good chances to make it to a repair shop.

With a severed throttle cable, there’s no going anywhere, but if you do have a spool of braided steel wire and the pliers in your #4 tool kit, you can fabricate a makeshift throttle cable, possibly using the very bullet at the end of the faulty one. Modern ride-by-wire bikes are free from such problems.

6. Flashlight, matches, lighter

Maybe you don’t smoke, but you definitely need light in case you stop in the dead of the night, possibly down with a technical problem. You won’t be doing much repairing in the dark, so a source of light is a real saver. Or, if you camp at night, a flashlight will help you spot flat, rock-free, dry ground and raise a decent tent. Matches or the lighter will help you light a fire in case of need, as well, and they’re always a good thing to have at hand.

7. Swiss Army Knife

It doesn’t even have to be Swiss, German Walther knives are just as good, let alone that you can find zillions of such multi-purpose knifes in almost every shop. Small and smart, such tools can help you get around problems much faster.
Usable for cutting, prying open, drilling, sharpening things, opening cans and a ton of other purposes, an utility knife is an extremely valuable must-have piece in your inventory. Really good ones have exceptional blades which stay very sharp for a long time under normal use. Me and some friends even used a knife for performing some ad-hoc surgery on an infected wound, after disinfecting it with scotch. Not the most sanitary solution, but a solution nevertheless, and a solution that worked.

8. Medical kit

Fact is, when you start thinking about all the things which can go wrong on a longer bike trip, you’d be tempted to carry half a hospital with you, and even trail an MRI apparatus behind you. Pointless!
If things go down really bad, there’s rather little you can do until specialized fast-response medical teams arrive at the sight. If they don’t, then you don’t need Dr. House’s entire hospital with you.
Plasters, bandages, band aid, aspirin, maybe some cold relief tablets should do. If need be, you can use numerous things as a makeshift tourniquet, and if you have a Swiss army knife you’ve already got scissors and a knife so you’re good to go. And if the wind noise is a nuisance for you or your passenger, ear plugs are also a good thing to put in the small medical kit.

9. Elastic cords

Often looked at as the essence of improvisation and an object traditionally associated with endure-touring riders, elastic cords are one of the best friends a rider can have. They can help you strap luggage in place more securely, they can help you add extra luggage in place securely and they can also help you fix a variety of broken things which need to stay together, from cracked fairings to saddlebags with defective locks and beyond.
These don’t take up space at all, but can make a huge difference for you, your ride or other guys you’re traveling with. They are dirt-cheap and universal, truly a must.

10. Money

It’s always good to have moderate amounts of cash with you. That is simply because you might be stuck in a place with no ATMs around and in need to “pay the man” who helps you. Or for any other reason, such as small bribes in case you’re riding in certain areas of the world where this habit is usual, to say the least.

11. Physical map

Yes, we all use Google Maps or specialized bike GPS units, but these gadgets need power. If your bike breaks down and won’t start again, there’s not much time left until your GPS will shut down. If you have a physical map of the region you’re traveling in, all you need is sunlight during the day, or the flashlight at night. Even more, think about using your smartphone for navigation in areas with very ppor reception or no reception at all. Not exactly handy, isn’t it?

12. On-board adapter

There’s never enough juice left in your smartphone, no matter what you do, so installing an onboard socket for your automotive plug-in adapter (and not forgetting the aforementioned adapter at home) will keep your phone charged all time. When you stop, you’ll be on an 100% charge, no matter whether you decided to stop or the touring gods put you to the test and break down your bike.

13. Chain lube

Obviously, belt- and shaft-driven bikes don’t need chain lube. If you do ride a bike with a chain final drive, you might want to take care of it, so adding a can of chain lube to the tech side of your luggage is mandatory. With motorcycle chains needing lube every 400 km (250 miles) or so, you’ll definitely need this spray on long hauls. Or you can install an automated chain lubrication system and forget about it. A comprehensive guide on How to Take Care of Your Bike's Chain can be accessed via this autoevolution link.

There may be more items to this list, of course, but these look like the most important things to have with you if you leave for a longer two-wheeled trip. And don’t forget your camera!
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