Vanity, thy name is Bear. I have flown to the beginning of more motorcycle trips than I can possibly remember, over more years than I care to remember. Along the way I have worked out some rules for myself about packing; and generally they work pretty well. So picture me arriving at the Portland depot of MotoQuest, from whom I am borrowing a Suzuki V-Strom 650 for a three week ride through British Columbia. I’m starting in Portland because it is the nearest MotoQuest depot, not because of its varied and excellent craft beer.
Just so you know.
I open my suitcase, change into my riding gear (and put my flying clothes into the case, which I will leave at the depot), transfer the pair of pre-packed bags to the bike’s Pelican side cases and strap my camera bag to the rack. I’m ready to roll, and basking in the admiration of Tony, the man from MotoQuest who’s been watching me.
“Man, you’ve done this before,” he says. I shrug modestly and take off.
Three days later I’m in Omak WA, checking my paperwork for the next morning’s border crossing into Canada. I do not have my passport. You saw this coming, didn’t you? A phone call to Tony confirms that I’ve left it in my pants’ pocket, in the suitcase. So I ride the 800 miles back to Portland, taking a detour along the coast, and up again to the border.
This should not detract from your attention to my packing hints which follow.
First of all, I figure out what I will need. It’s simple, really. When I’m riding, I want to be warm when it’s cold, cool when it’s hot and dry when it’s wet. I also want crash protection, and I don’t want to carry a lot of extra stuff.
Dry when it’s wet – I’ll take my French-made Ixon Soho Urban jacket which is very, if not absolutely, waterproof. It did let some water through once when I was inundated by the bow wave of a truck on a drowned road in Belgium – the French and the Belgians never did get on – but it’s held up to rain very well. It also has good back, shoulder and elbow protectors.
I do not want to carry extra wet weather gear, so I need something rainproof for the nether regions that I can also wear when it is dry, and that offers crash protection. Fortunately, our good friends at Draggin Jeans have just what I want. The pants are called Oilskins, and they are both waterproof and smart-looking so you can wear them any time. A slight boot cut means that it’s no problem wearing them over your boots which don’t fill with rain water. They also have quality protectors for knees and hips.
As for being cool when it’s hot, both the jacket and the pants breathe. This would not help much if I was riding in serious heat, such as the recent 39 degrees in Hungary or the 45 degrees I’ve copped in Abu Dhabi, but I do not expect that level of heat under normal circumstances.
And as for being warm when it’s cold, the jacket has a quilted insert which is nice and snug and which can also be worn as a separate puffer-type jacket when wandering around after the ride is done for the day, if it’s chilly. I also wear this on the plane. Bonus. I’ll carry a pair of long Kathmandu underpants to take the chill off my legs under the Oilskins if it gets really cold.
See what I’ve done here? Among the gear to keep me comfortable, the only things I need to pack while I’m riding could be the quilted jacket insert, which scrunches down nice and small, and a pair of long undies. I could carry those in my pocket if I had to.
This leaves more than adequate room for another pair of pants, a shirt and some T-shirts, a pair of shoes, a few changes of undies and the other small stuff you need on the road, like a couple of adapter plugs and cables, Kindle and iPad, torch, wet pack, medication – which takes up quite a bit of room in my case – and… not much else, really. Oh, a bottle of cold medicine, usually Wild Turkey. One pannier also holds the tyre repair kit and chain lube.
The cameras and their bits and pieces reside in a shoulder bag which fits perfectly into my medium-sized SW-Motech tail bag (which doubles as my airline carry-on bag), allowing a bit of extra room for spare gloves, notebook and pen, sunscreen and a helmet lock.
In the evening, I pull the bags out of the Pelican cases and unstrap the tail bag before carrying them into my motel or hostel room. Easy as. No, I don’t camp any more; I’m in my seventh decade and my bones are entitled to a bed. Sue me.
Or suggest a way to make sure I don’t forget my bloody passport. Old fool.