My brother-in-law always asked why would you bother hmm, probably to him a golfer, it is worthless activity. They say you should always listen to a good critique and when you are undergoing a absolutely intolerable time in a flimsy tent while there is a massive storm outside your sheet of cotton then you can hear these people speaking loudly in your head, sure a nice Motel with a inviting shower, electric blanket, TV, breakfast served in your room, and free tea and coffee.
Compare the pair, going to bed early as there is no light, vulnerable to trees dropping limbs on you, leaking in rain, varmits critters and bugs, camping stoves, nothing to sit on, waking at the crack of Dawn, wind loosened guy ropes, uncomfortable sleeping bags and bed mats, limited food and drink, no toilet, standing on wet or frozen grass pulling your boots on, I could go on.
The third solution is slightly better camping in a caravan park you have toilets, showers, BBQ’s and sometimes a common room, but that’s not great with a bloke dumping his sewer from the caravan at six in the morning, neither is arriving and finding all concrete at your caravan park unless you carry a pneumatic hammer drill on board!
Your greatest asset the correct motorcycle, there are plenty of bikes not to choose and a few hard decisions to make your two or three wheeler must be comfortable, reasonably easy to repair, have stowage space for those creature comforts and have a very good stand if solo to prevent it crashing on top of you in a tent.
Unbelievably there isn’t that many of these traits you can find on new motorcycles as they have got taller, heavier and more uncomfortable for passengers this backward development can be seen for example in newer BMW’s and surprisingly some of their earlier models for-fill these simple requirements more than the current versions.
Tyre repairs and changes have become impossible in the outback or cleaning out contaminated fuel, even fixing simple wiring issues have become to complicated, there are groups of people specialising in complete refurbishment of these more practical earlier versions. Capacity is another problem if you haven’t a machine with it you will find difficultly carrying a passenger or lots of gear sports bikes are as useless as the proverbial “Tits on a bull” extremely uncomfortable to ride long distances for you or a passenger especially when that passenger is carrying a 60 kg back pack!
Of course Ewan McGregor chose a BMW to do his famous rides all over the world , it wasn’t his first choice though KTM was but BM offered more, amazingly every man and his dog rides them now mainly to work instead of around the world a bit like the Toyota Land Fills ferrying kids to school in suburbia not a purpose they were designed for.
Ideally multi purpose bikes (not one purpose bikes) that were made up to about 1990 are adaptable to be used sometimes more than the most recent variants, ie: people used to take full on road bikes into the outback and camping trips for years well before specific machines were developed for such purposes you would find R100RS, R100S with knobby tyres fitted and miles from anywhere well before the famous GS models were invented, Honda 750 and Goldwings the same not to mention Triumph Bonnie’s, Moto-Guzzi and Yamaha FJ 1100 as well as a plethora of brands not associated with this type of work. What happened, manufacturers designed purpose built bikes grossly overweight with plastic that snaps off, idiotic liquid cooling which can cause a major problem in the water starved outback,huge ground clearance making it impossible to mount and impossible to fix unless you have a factory Paris-Dakar team driving behind in a truck, the days of number 8 fencing wire is well gone chaps.
If you drop the bastard nothing short of Hulk Hogan is going to get it off the ground and if you broke an arm, ribs or a leg, then mate start writing your will. Around 80% of standard road bikes will serve the purpose of taking you away on holidays and cruisers are designed especially for it or even earlier road bikes are viable once overhauled and possibly updated for your needs with tyres, and GPS etc they are easier to fix and lighter to boot you can tour two up or pull a sidecar as they have steel frames all bonus’s in my humble opinion.
Preparing your machine
After a through service and fixing all niggling faults that annoy you on short trips and tyres that are new a fresh chain and spare joining link, or a spare belt, the purchasing of a tank bag is convenient as is a a decent pannier system Givi or Ventura are two good brands some people prefer soft luggage again buy good quality components and known reputable brands. Try not to carry a back pack as these are very wearing on your stamina over thousands of klm’s”s the poor passenger that maybe foisted into carrying it will be whinging to you daily and you will wish you had traveled solo, this brings me to the next point your arse. Standard seats are rarely comfortable or if they are it usually over a short distance, aftermarket seats such as Corbin or Mustang are worth the extra cost they are beautifully made and ever so comfortable for you and your passenger no point suffering a iron butt when it can be quickly altered some manufacturers offer comfort seats like Triumph it pays to ask for this option if purchasing a new machine. A handlebar screen in foul weather is also a godsend with a set of heated grips you will be in heaven, if your machine isn’t fitted with a clock buy one it helps planning your time for breaks etc. A cable lock is handy to carry for locking your machine if leaving it while walking down the pub in the evening for a meal, and a decent set of tools, cables or if fitted to your tyres a spare tube, sure you can think of more accessories but these are more nonessential items the stuff listed is basic and will ensure you won’t wake up in the morning dreading getting back on the bike.
What to pack?
First pack all the parts for your faithful steed , a full kit of tools that fit your bike , no point taking a Bunnings metric toll kit on a early British bike or a Indian Chief, then a spare tube a bicycle pump, fuses, joining links, spare clutch and throttle cables etc and any unique bits that are renowned to fail on you model this info is usually found on the Google machine, spare globes, this will get you by but fit a charging point so you can charge the most precious tool your mobile phone.
Next is your personal stuff clothing, pack for the worse carry 2 pairs of gloves to suit the weather, a armoured jacket for safety, a back protector, and decent waterproof boots, not forgetting a set of waterproof pants and and comfortable helmet.
Your personal stuff will be dictated by the remaining space left but in harsh weather don’t forget good undergarments aircell type clothing is a way of turning foul weather conditions into a comfortable trip, buy the best clothing you can afford and Gortex if possible you will not regret it!
Needs to firstly be well clothed as most newbies have no idea how hot or cold it can get on your motorcycle, I remember taking a new girlfriend from London to Brighton on a Norton Atlas in foul weather she wore jeans and a fluffy parka, although the ride took little over half a hour she was freezing and looked like a Siberian Husky after falling through a ice flow by the time we arrived! The passenger needs also to know about leaning into corners with you and not fighting to sit upright in a corner, worse still moving around on the seat like they have thistle in their pants. When camping female passengers want to take everything including the kitchen sink it can be difficult explaining that they can have only one pannier bag for everything to last sometimes weeks. Make sure your passenger is compatible with you as a whinging passenger will make the holiday of a lifetime miserable, try also to take coffee breaks or plenty of stops so they don’t get bored looking at the back of your helmet, with the right passenger a intercom is worth considering, get the passenger to plan parts of the trip so they have destinations to look forward to and if you can afford it a few odd nights in motel accommodation will make the tension ease.