It’s well-documented that riding a motorbike can bring a huge sense of freedom and when you tour solo for longer distances over many days this feeling is even greater. For a beginner, that first big solo motorcycle trip can be quite daunting, raising many what-if questions – what if I break down? what if I get lost? Some people are just more naturally confident, whilst others are less so, worry more and find the idea of riding out into the unknown uneasy.
If you’ve not travelled long distances by bike solo before and are somewhat nervous about the proposition, but do what to overcome this fear and explore, then read on. This article will hopefully give you some solo motorcycle tour tips to beat those fears and plan for a trouble-free motorcycle adventure.
Planning and Preparation
Thorough trip planning and preparation beforehand is a great way to both alleviate worries of potential pitfalls and ensure things run smoothly in practice. “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail” as the old adage goes.
Spend time on Google Maps and plan a route beforehand, whether it’s for your sat-nav, phone, paper maps or directions taped to your tank. Work out where you want to go, which towns you want to pass through, and note some potential pitstops for lunch, breaks and fuel. For your first trip keep miles and hours of riding per day lowish, say 150-200 miles / ~5hrs. Check sunset times and plan your route to finish at least an hour or so before. Riding unfamiliar routes in the dark can raise anxiety.
The more you familiarise yourself with a route before you go, the more at ease you’ll be with the route when riding it.
Do also check for any road closures before setting off, planned or otherwise – traffic incidents, flood, snow, etc. Unanticipated long diversions can impact your timing and refuelling plans, adding stress you don’t want.
When it comes to accommodation, it’s best to also plan ahead and book each night beforehand. Trying to find somewhere with free rooms late in the day is a recipe for stress and will undoubtedly cost you top dollar. Knowing you have a warm shower and bed waiting for you at the end of a long ride definitely puts one mind at rest.
Stuff to Pack
When travelling on a motorbike you will need to pack lightly, and you can often get by with a lot less than you might anticipate. There are however a few essentials you should definitely pack.
Pack clothes based on the weather forecast for your route. Many thinner layers you can add or remove typically work better. You may set out on chillier mornings, hit mid-day heat, and then finish riding on cooler evenings. I personally prefer thin Merino wool layers as they’re comfortable under a bike jacket and can work well in a wide range of temperatures, either wicking moisture or trapping heat.
Ensure you have waterproofs, if you don’t you can guarantee you’ll be caught in the rain. A good textile suit can cover all weather, otherwise, some rolled-up over-waterproofs stowed in a handy place can be sufficient for the odd unexpected cloud burst.
A second set of gloves can also be a good plan, in case one set gets soaked in rain or to allow you to switch between a warm and cool pair as temperatures change.
Essential for emergencies, Google Maps, online banking etc. If you’re travelling abroad check your roaming costs, it may be more economical to invest in a SIM card specific to the country you’ll be in. Before leaving, download offline maps for the area you’ll be riding in, it’ll save on data charges and hassle finding a signal or wifi out there.
Charger & Battery Pack
Don’t forget that phone charger (and any travel adaptors needed). Take a decent USB battery pack too, you don’t want to be caught with no power left whilst out on the road.
Breakdown Cover Details
Ensure you have breakdown cover organised and have their contact details handy. A paper copy backup of their number and the policy details is also wise.
Puncture Repair Kit
Everyone will get a puncture at some point, it’s just one of those things that happens. Whilst breakdown cover can sort you out here, it’s wise to carry a repair kit and familiarise yourself with using it. It can make the difference between being stuck at the roadside for 20 minutes or 2+ hours. Most punctures can be (temporarily) repaired quickly and will suffice to continue your journey to the next town or hotel, where you can plan a garage visit more leisurely. A long wait on the roadside is the last thing you want when trying to catch a ferry crossing or other scheduled connection.
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Take a credit card with you to cover any unexpected costs, e.g. breakdown or puncture repairs, any additional kit you find you need to buy etc.
If travelling abroad look for cards that offer good exchange rates or low fees. Whether credit cards or pre-pay cards (like Starling). It’s still wise to carry some local currency too in case you find places off the beaten track that don’t take plastic.
Water and Refreshments
Pack a water bottle or canteen which you can refill and drink plenty. A long day of riding can get you dehydrated quickly, which can drastically affect your concentration and cause you to make mistakes. Take some sustenance like cereal bars, to give an energy boost when tiring, planned food stops don’t work out or if you happen to get stuck somewhere.
Other handy things worth packing:
- Carrier bags – to separate clean and dirty clothes, and keep things dry
- WD40, gaffer tape and cable ties – incredibly useful for all kinds of improv roadside repairs. Top Tip: wrap a load of gaffer/duct tape around a mini WD40 can to save space
- Visor cleaner spray and cloth – keep handy for use on each pitstop
Go Do It!
With the right preparation, most solo travel worries can be put to rest, freeing your mind to concentrate on the ride and enjoy the trip. You may not stick to your plan 100%, detours may catch your eye, but with a good plan to fall back to you’ll be able to adapt with ease. Trust me, you’ll love the freedom of being on tour and you’ll be thinking of your next adventure the moment you return home.
Let us know if you have other great solo motorcycle tour tips, or if you have any stories from your trips.
7 replies on “Solo Motorcycle Tour Tips”
Arthur, great tips! One thing that’s kind of silly that I always pack is a couple of extra pairs of underwear. No matter what happens that way you know you’re going to have a fresh pair of skivvies.
Great tips and thanks for sharing. I must agree with the above comment especially as you get older, I’m in my 70’s and considering going bike camping on my own for the first time since I was a teenager
I collect old pairs of pants at the back of my underwear drawer over the course of the year, then wear them and throw them away as I tour.
It saves having a steaming pile of dirty washing in the topbox!
Top tip! Just tell me you don’t wear them both ways out to get extra day on the road out of them… 😆
If you’re using the motorways in France to cover some distance quickly, a couple of things to note:
1. The rest stops (aires) that don’t have fuel & shops always have picnic areas and also have fresh water and toilets. I normally stop for fuel and grab a snack then go to the next aire to eat/rest.
2. If you need to pay for a tolls and you want to use a card, the card readers use the magstripe so if you’re using a card such as Starling you need to enable the magstripe (and it disables automatically if unused for 48 hours)
Great advice! I’ve certainly got caught out by the disabled by default magstrip on the Starling card and it took me a while to twig what was wrong. Also, lots of places in the US still seem to need the magstrip enabled and will swipe the card.
Thanks for the information and tips. I plan to buy Piaggo mp3 and this knowledge will be very useful 🙂