Motorcycle touring is a joy that is once tasted, it is hard to forget. It is addicting, that’s why people keep on doing it no matter their age or position. The following article presents the essential aspects of motorcycle touring.
Firstly, no skimping on safety. A small fall while returning from a great trip can dent the whole tour’s memories. Always dress for crash, not for wedding. A bare minimum helmet and gloves for rider, and helmet for pillion is a must. If you don’t have any of these, then you are unnecessarily risking yourself. As mentioned in one of the previous articles, safety does not necessarily come with a cost.
Start the tour in early morning, even as early as 4.00. The reasons are simple. First, the roads are clear and you cover a good distance in a day. You get good photographs of sunrise once you cross the town border and enter an less density area. Moreover, should something bad happen to your bike, like an engine failure (least likely) or even a puncture (quite likely especially when you are in hurry), you have full day with sunlight to sort out everything. In night, your chances of getting help diminish very fast, and the risk of unknown increases. This is something that should be considered by singles, and be absolutely avoided by couples.
Once on a ride, with wind in the face and speedy ride along the sleepy town, we get carried away and keep on riding. Please don’t do this. Unless you are participating in endurance racing, there is absolutely no reason to keep on riding without breaks. My rule is 50 kilometers or 1 hour, whatever happens first. In Rajasthan, where we have damn good roads, the limit rose to 75 kilometers or 1 hour. But always have this one hour cap. You may not feel the difference in first or second hour, but after that it is a downward ride. A well rested tourer is anyday more alert than a nonstop one. Just a bit of caution. Take your halts around habitation, or some dhaba. Don’t halt in middle of nowhere, unless it is the call of the nature! Such breaks become part of the planning when riding as a couple. Make sure your riding partner doesn’t have any such inhibitions, because there are many roads where the two hotels with good wash rooms are many kilometers apart.
Whenever you halt to rest, drink up. Keep on hydrating yourself, irrespective of the season. No matter if it means increased nature calls. While riding, the wind dehydrates the body faster than we anticipate. The effects of dehydration are not gradual, but sudden. Till one point you will be all fit and fine, and at the next moment dehydration will get you and you will suffer. There is no quick escape from dehydration once struck, and even if there be, better be safe than sorry. Some people carry juices, while some carry chocolates to munch along. Whatever rocks your boat, drinking enough water is a minimum health requirement of a ride.
There is a saying that there are only two types of riders: those who have fallen from their motorcycles, and those who will. Similar situation applies to a puncture on a tour. After getting three punctures in a tour, all in night, I have had enough, and started searching for help. Tubeless tires help a good deal in reducing the probability of a tire burst. Even if a nail pierces the tire, it will not deflate, but rather the nail will now become part of the tire. Of course you have to remove it once you get to a tire mechanic. But it gives a safe alternative of riding slowly to the next mechanic as against pushing the bike to him. Tubeless tires cost in the range of 2k each tire. Both tires are to be upgraded at a time, but if you can afford only one at a time, let the rear one be the first.
Other option for tubeless is to learn tyre puncture removal. When my bike was new, I wanted to safe guard myself against the punctures, but didn’t want to sell the brand new tires and take a loss. That time, I went to a local tire shop in afternoon, and paid Rs. 40 to the mechanic there to teach me how to remove punctures. It is not easy as it seems. You may think that if that little skinny boy at the tire shop can pull out the tube and put it in, so can you. Wrong. It will take a great amount of sweat, and perhaps if you misjudge, then a little blood to realize your folly. The easy option is to learn to remove and re-fit the tire. So that if at all you are stuck in a place where the next tire shop is 10 – 15 kilometers away, you can take the hill to mohammad if mohammad is not coming to the hill! Rs.40 and a few hours at the shop are enough for lifetime to save you from emergency situations.
On any tour, one day or one month, you have some amount of luggage with you. It is alluring to put it all in a backsack and ride. After all the back sack rests on the pillion seat, and thus your shoulders are not taking the burden, correct? Not exactly. When you have something pulling at your shoulders, no matter how light, you are going to have a painful body at night. The solution is to keep the backsack tied to rear seat using bungee cords. Or in case of pillion, to put the bag on the pillion’s thighs. When you go on a long tour, the luggage amount increases, and you need to invest in bags. If you are travelling on a scooter, you have little space to use, but in case of motorcycle, there is hardly any space to keep the cleaning cloth.
There is a something called ‘tank bag’. It is a bag with magnets at its base. When one keeps the bag on the tank, it sticks to the tank and doesn’t fall off at speeds or on turns. I have been using one such bag for many thousand kilometers, and it is still going strong.
The larger option of luggage is ‘saddle bag’. It is bag made by sewing two bags together with a little space between them. Like a saddle on horse, it is kept on the pillion seat so that each of its two bags is placed on two sides of the bike. The pillion can sit on top of the bag, thus your people carrying capacity is still the same, only thing is the luggage carrying capacity is increased manifolds.
Many times we tour in remote locations, where getting ATMs or Credit Card machines can be tricky. In those cases we have to carry paper money with us. But where to keep it? What if it falls out of pocket, is stolen by pick pocket, or is kept in the bags which are cut open by thieves? The best solution is money pouch. It is an age old techniques that really needs a comeback in touring circle.
Money pouch is a long string of pouches where you can keep the money separated by either amount of types of notes (20s, 50s, 100s etc), and then are wrapped around the waist held by Velcro.
It is pretty discrete, and the safety is unmatched.
On the electronic front, take the camera, its charger, your mobile’s charger in a zip lock water proof bag. Even if it is not monsoon.
Make sure that on your ride, someone back home knows where you are and where you are headed next day. It will help tremendously in very rare but high impact events. Ideally carry SIMs of two carriers, should one fail to connect. A maximum Rs.50 insurance for a long time.
Once you are on the track of regular touring, learn photography basics. Don’t sweat too much about joining class, or even getting a better camera. If you don’t know about the PASM modes, a DSLR is not going to help you much. Upgrade only when you either burn out your camera, or explore all of its features and it starts seeming very restricting, or when you are getting a crazy deal on a good camera. Make sure the upgrade in camera is an upgrade of photographer in you, not just a downgrade in your bank balance!