Bruce Smart spent over a year going around the world on a super bike, here he explains some of the kit he took with him and why it might be of relevance to you…
It’s always the way isn’t it, when the time comes to head off to the horizon on your moto-adventure, you find yourself with an Everest-like stack of kit to transport on your trusty steed!
When I first left on my 74,000 miles, 54 country, 442 day RTW ‘TeapotOne’ adventure, I literally had a mountain of kit on the back of ‘The Beast’, my trusty GSX-R1000 companion. It was a farcical sight, a nightmare to ride, and a huge pain in the derrière to load, unload, unpack and repack each, and every day. Eventually it helped snap the sub frame too, so there’s no doubt excessive kit weight can even hurt your pride and joy!
So what’s the secret, the key to successful and minimalist packing for a motorcycle trip?
Read on 😉
What do YOU need? The basics…
We all know that person don’t we; the one who literally has every bit of kit to cover every eventuality. If that’s you then fair play to you, you’ve probably already worked out your best system and the mere fact people know you as ‘this’ person means you’ve nailed it – you can effectively carry all the kit YOU need. Awesome job!
But then there’s the rest of us. We pack the night before we go, mild panic setting in – how many tops will I need, do I just take t-shirts or will I need a drinking shirt, can I get away with one pair of pants for a 7-day trip, do I take textile or leathers (or both), not to mention tools, puncture kits, maps, waterproofs – I’m starting to sweat just writing this!!
Having made MANY mistakes over the years, carting redundant kit across countries and even continents, these are my ‘must haves’ when I go away on the bike, the things I won’t leave home without.
Mobile phone: It’s literally everything for me these days. Using your phone in Europe no longer means having to re-mortgage when you get home, whatever your tariff is in the UK is the same in most European countries (but check before you go). With it I can access my emails on the go, meaning ferry tickets and hotel reservations can be found at the swipe of a thumb, instead of printing out on reams of paper that get wet and fall apart on the bike. If needs be I can access the t’interweb to book a hotel for the night wherever I am at the time, navigate out of that city I’ve found myself stuck in, or seek answers to the greater questions in life via Google or Bing (other search engines are available).
Get your phone unlocked before you go and should you find yourself in a foreign land, you can easily pick up a pay-as-you go type local SIM card that will give you hassle free local calls/text/data at a fraction of UK costs
Credit card/bank card: Common sense this one, but it’s amazing the amount of people who worry about getting money in foreign lands. Here’s a wee trade secret, there are cash machines available EVERYWHERE, and with a bit of street savvy you’re perfectly safe to use them and gain access to the local currency, often at better exchange rates than you’d find on the UK high street too. Just exercise a bit of awareness around you when using an ATM – is there anyone standing over your shoulder, make sure you cover your pin as you enter it, check for visible signs of anything out the ordinary around the card slot, display or keypad – just the same as you would here in the UK.
Passport: Goes without saying, unless I’m going to be staying in the UK on my travels, it’s an essential bit of kit and I literally have it with me ALL the time. Keep it wrapped in a sandwich bag, or similar, to keep it waterproof and protected from the elements, and always have it secure on your person in a zipped pocket that never leaves your person.
Travel adaptor: Absolute MUST-HAVE, without it you can’t charge up your phone…. Unless you have a 12V on-bike power source. An absolute Godsend is the ability to charge up ancillary devices whilst on the bike – things like your phone, cameras, sat nav etc. If a power outlet isn’t standard on your bike then you can pick after-market kits up off eBay/Amazon cheaply. I even found them available at petrol stations around the world. They wire direct to your battery, or get them wired into your ignition loom so they are only usable when the ignition is on (that way they won’t drain your battery when the bike is switched off and you’ve forgotten to unplug the device from the charger!). Combine this with a tank bag or pannier and you have yourself a mobile charging station for all your worldly tech. Lovely job.
Cable Ties and gaffa tape: I NEVER, EVER leave home on the bike without some of these stashed in my rucksack. There are three things that will survive a nuclear apocalypse – cockroaches, cable ties and gaffa tape. With the last two you could probably outlast Bear Grylls, although he’d more than likely just eat the cockroach.
Bungee cords/nets: These are a total lifesaver and I’ve always got at least a set of bungees or a net at the bottom of my rucksack when on the bike. If you find yourself having to acquire that memento whilst away on your travels (think Top Gear’esque model tall ship) you can easily just strap it to the bike and off you jolly well go. On a more practical basis, I ended up strapping my tent across the front of my GSX-R using a bungee net and it was perfectly safe, freeing up valuable real-estate at the back of the bike for other items. I even did the mountain section of the TT course at over 150mph without any dramas!
Sandwich bags: Yep, you read that right, but not in case you get peckish. Take a couple of these along rolled up in your pocket or tucked away in your bag and you have instant waterproof protection for the likes of your phone, passport, cash etc.
Puncture/plug kit: Providing you have tubeless tyres (if you don’t just replace this with an inner tube and repair kit), this will at the very least allow you to limp your bike to civilisation should you pick up an unwanted hole in the rubber on your travels – and nobody likes that!
They come in a small handy self-contained pack that will usually fit underneath your seat (it fits under my GSX-R seat but surprisingly not under the GS one?). Replacement CO2 canisters, plugs and glue are readily available should you need to top up. Check out the likes of eBay and Amazon for suitable kits. I always go for the ‘AirPro’ variety and it has never let me down.
Tools: My mechanical knowledge pretty much stops at turning the key so there’s just no point in me carting ‘Snap-ons’ complete works around with me. I literally take a little cycle multi-tool in my bag that has the right sized allen keys, screw driver and socket to cover the absolute basics of maintenance; i.e. taking off fairings, tightening the chain etc. Anything more complex than that and I’d need to take it to a dealership anyway, where they’ll have all the tools for the job. You will always be able to muddle by enough to get somewhere where people will help – that’s just part of motorcycle travel.
Clothing: This depends on how ‘aromatic’ you are prepared to be. I did my entire RTW trip with 4 t-shirts, 3 pairs of pants & socks, a pair of lightweight combats, flip-flops and a base layer to wear whilst riding under my leathers. That’s it!
When I’m touring with my tour company ChickenStrips I don’t take much more, but we’ve developed a bit of a trick these days that means we actually come back with less than we started. Pop along to the likes of Primark and get yourself a stack of cheap t-shirts. You can often get 5 for £10, and I’d suggest black as they are the most practical, yet also slimming!
We wear a fresh one for the evening, then wear it again the next day on the bike and once you stop for the day, you can use the now dirty top to give your bike a quick once over!
Another option is to use Marino wool base layer tops. They can be worn for days without smelling, look good off the bike meaning you can rotate them for the evenings, and are versatile keeping you warm in the cold and cool in the heat. Alternatively, take three
t-shirts with you and just wash the dirty one in the sink each night, rotating them as you go.
Trouser wise I’d always recommend lightweight cargo-style bottoms such as Craghoppers or similar. You can even get ones that zip down into shorts, allowing you to air your pale lower limbs to the exotic funny bright thing you see in the sky in foreign lands. Just watch out for the mozzies!
At grass roots level it’s got to be flip-flops for me. They are lightweight and pack away great, taking up hardly any space in the bag. If you have to take trainers or shoes, one pair is fine and pack your socks and other small items tightly inside each one to further minimise packing volume.
Coat/Jacket (depending on whether you’re Welsh). Again lightweight is key here, the type found in outward bound stores is ideal, allowing you to be cool when hot and vice versa, all from one versatile, easily packed away top
Let’s Hit The Road!
So there you go, what’s stopping you? You can easily get all that squared away in one US20 Kriega Drybag or similar, and if you can stretch to a rucksack and/or a tank bag, you could take all you need to conquer the world for years on end.
If you’d like to see what I took on my TeapotOne RTW trip, checkout the vid on the ‘TeapotOneVids’ YouTube channel – remember to SUBSCRIBE please! 😉