There’s a lot more to heading off on a tour than simply chucking a few bits of clothing in a bag, strapping it to the bike and chucking a leg over.
It doesn’t need to be a particularly complicated affair but with some carefully chosen bits of kit and some pre-trip planning, you can make it a delight rather than a task, whatever the weather and wherever you stay.
Luggage is part of it of course but so is clothing, helmet, whether you take any tools or spares, how you’re going to find your way. A lot will depend on personal preference but there are some basics to take into consideration.
We’re going to assume for the purposes of this feature that you have accommodation taken care of; you’ve either booked a series of hotels or B&Bs en route or you’re camping and have your gear for that sorted – if not, check out our motorcycle camping essentials, too.
We’re going to concentrate more on the essentials that everyone will need regardless of their sleeping arrangements.
Motorcycle touring during the Covid-19 pandemic
Although the current travel situation is far from clear when it comes to heading for the Continent, the basics of what to take with you remain the same. You can find out everything you need to know about riding in Europe in our guide.
A word on routes; for many, touring is about the journey, not the destination and so they tend to avoid motorways. Generally speaking, there is far more to enjoy, see and do on the smaller roads than long, straight two-lane blacktops.
However, if you are heading for a specific region to tour and it’s a distance from your landing point – for example, the south of France or Spain - then however monotonous they are, European motorways tend to be an excellent way to get somewhere fast.
When you’re planning your tour, be realistic about daily distances and average speeds. While you can reckon to do anything up to several hundred miles a day if you’re on motorways, an enjoyable day’s riding on fun roads may well be a fraction of that, depending on where you are heading for.
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You’re better off to end the day early and enjoy your overnight stop than arrive shattered after 18 hours in the saddle and nowhere is open for food or a relaxing beer. Build in time to stop, look around and have a coffee or lunch.
It’s also a good idea to have a rough plan but not one that you have to stick rigidly to. Perhaps you may know roughly where you want to go and have booked a couple of nights of hotels ahead so you know you’ve got something sorted.
However, if you can, go with booking with no cancellation charge so that if the weather turns, for example, you can change your plans and head elsewhere without forfeiting your booking fee or the cost of a hotel.
Make sure the bike is up to the task before you head off. If you’re likely to hit a service mileage while you’re away, consider getting it done before you go. Similarly, if your tyres are starting to look a bit squared-off, then replace them before you saddle up – you want to do jobs like this on your terms, not at an unfamiliar tyre shop in the depths of an emergency.
Avoiding for the moment the tagline u2018From a tight-arsed Northerneru2019s perspectiveu2019, the premise of this book is to provide insight and inspiration for motorcycle touring that doesnu2019t, as the author says, include; u2018Blogging tips or advice on how to take the perfect selfieu2019.
It is aimed at riders who want to go on a tour rather than circumnavigate the world and is based on the author’s own experiences. It gets pretty good reviews from its target audience, in fact, I’ve just ordered a copy for myself.
Great Motorcycle tours of Europe
Collette Colemans has assembled a selection of iconic European motorcycle tours, from heading for the desolate beauty of the Arctic Circle to the sweltering beaches of the Aegean Sea.
Each tour is highlighted with facts and maps as well as insights into the riding conditions and the attraction of that particular route. There are 50 tours in all, so there is definitely something for everyone.
Shoei GT-Air II
Editoru2019s Pick - Weu2019ve tested this product and would spend our own money on it
The GT-Air II is Shoeiu2019s flagship sports-touring helmet and will suit the riding position of both a sports tourer or a more upright, adventure-style bike. It has a large visor aperture with an internal drop-down sun visor and is supremely comfortable and quiet u2013 two key factors essential for a long tour.
It is heavier than some though but there is also a dedicated Sena intercom available that fits within the helmet if you want some music, sat-nav instructions or speak to other riders or passengers. I’ve used this for some time and it’s a great helmet.
Oxford Mondial Suit
Oxfordu2019s laminated suit is a great option for all-weather performance and all-day comfort. It uses a nylon outer layer with Oxfordu2019s Dry2Dry laminate membrane to create a single garment that is water and windproof yet allows the body to breathe.
There is an integral removable thermal liner in both the jacket and trousers as well as vents in the chest, arms, back and thighs. It comes with CE armour in the shoulders, elbows and knees and there is an optional Level-1 or Level-2 back protector available as well.
CE Rating: A
Armour Rating: Level-1
Alpinestars Web GTX
These touring boots from Alpinestars are super-comfortable and super-waterproof. They have a leather upper and while their protection isnu2019t quite as obvious as say a sports boot, they achieve the highest levels of CE rating.
They feature a Gore-Tex membrane so they are waterproof while allowing the foot to breathe and are super comfortable, both on the bike and off, allowing you to stop and walk around to visit attractions, for example.
CE rating: 2-2-2-2
Richa Street Touring
The Richa Street Touring gloves are proven winners, gaining a Best Buy award from our sister title RiDE. They are relatively light so should suit most climates and the addition of the Gore-Tex membrane means that they will keep all wind and water out while breathing, preventing the hands from getting too warm.
They have hard-knuckle armour and padding on the fingers, thumbs and heel of the palms and have two Velcro straps to secure them.
CE Rating: 1 KP
Cardo Packtalk Bold
If you want to stay in touch while youu2019re riding, this universal-fir intercom from Cardo will do the job for you. It comes with JBL speakers for excellent sound quality if youu2019re listening to music and will pair with your smartphone and sat nav for making and taking calls and direction instructions as well as music.
It will also pair universally with other Bluetooth intercoms for rider-to-rider or rider-to-pillion communications and it has Mesh connectivity built-in, allowing it to seamlessly connect to multiple other users over distance. It also has a built-in FM radio and is very easy to use.
Oxford Aqua T50
If youu2019re touring, youu2019ll need to take clothing with you and choosing luggage is key. We have used Oxfordu2019s Aqua range in the past and found them to be very well constructed and completely waterproof u2013 essential on any long tour.
They are available in a range of sizes (20 litre, 30 litre, this 50 litre and a huge 70 litres) and colours (including this black/fluoro version) and feature roll-closure lids with straps securing them shut.
They have integral carry handles and come with a shoulder strap as well as securing straps to fit to the bike using the base-mounted D-rings through over-the-top luggage straps also work well.
Puncture Repair Kit
One accessory you hope youu2019ll never need but when you do, it will be invaluable. This will help repair punctures in tubeless tyres and comprises a reamer to open out a hole, a needle to insert one of the 15 included repair worms, and a knife to trim the worm off flush with the tyre.
As long as the puncture is in the centre of the tread (never repair a sidewall) and is less than 6mm in size, then you are good to go. Just reinflate the tyre and you’re off.
TomTom Rider 550
There are so many reasons to want u2013 nay, need u2013 a sat nav on a tour and this one from TomTom will do the lot. It will take you the fastest way to your destination, using motorways if you want. If not, then set it to use winding or hilly routes and it will avoid major roads and choose more fun ones.
It comes with European maps pre-installed and will sync with your smartphone and headset for instructions as well as notifications from your phone. You can pre-plan your routes on a computer using the MyDrive app then download them to the device for use on the ride itself. Comes with the excellent Ram mount system for fitting.
Portable Air Compressor
Being able to repair a tyre on the side of the road, using a kit like the one above, is one thing but you also need to be able to reinflate your tyre so you can carry on. This battery in this rechargeable compressor should be good for up to six motorcycle-tyre inflations so not only will it get you going again, its digital pressure gauge will also help you check your pressures before each day of riding. It charges by USB and gets great reviews.
S100 Chain Lube Spray
If youu2019re off on a long tour on a chain-driven bike, youu2019ll need to lubricate your chain somewhere along the way. While carting a large can of lube around may be overkill, this 75ml can from SDoc is small enough to tuck away in your luggage or under the seat but can be refilled for numerous trips from a larger can of the same product. Handy packaging for an essential bit of kit.
Kappa Alpha Tankbag
A tankbag can be extremely useful when touring, keeping a smartphone safe and in view, for example as well as housing wallets, passports, tickets and money or cards for motorway tolls if you are using them.
A quick-release version is best, as you don’t want to leave it on the bike if you’re stopping off for a coffee or comfort break and many modern bikes will either have plastic tanks or covers over metal tanks, so magnetic versions won’t work.
This tank-lock version from Kappa will house all your essential bits and bobs but will attach and release quickly and easily to a bike-specific tank ring (around £12.99 and available separately).
Sealey Underseat Tool Kit
This handy little toolkit from Sealey will tuck away easily in your luggage or under the seat and while it wonu2019t allow you to tackle any huge jobs on the bike, should give you enough capabilities to make emergency running repairs or tweak your bike as you go. There is a small ratchet handle and five sockets, pliers, Allen keys and a screwdriver handle and bits.