While our trip to the US is still months away I’ve starting to turn my mind to what we need to take for the ride component of our trip when we hire a bike for a couple of weeks. What don’t we have and need to purchase. In knowing this I can keep an eye out for the right thing at the right price. For other things it is good to have them early so you can become familiar with their use (such as communications units) or wear them in (such as boots) so they are comfortable to wear all day, every day.
While I don’t consider myself a seasoned overseas motorcyclist – I have found that the amount of gear I take varies depending on how long the bike trip is. In the past if I’m just riding for a couple of days it’s hardly worth taking all my own gear as I can put up with ill fitting gear for a day or so. But after that it becomes intolerable. As we are planning a 2 week trip we will be taking most of our own riding gear.
At this stage my list of motorcycle specific gear looks like this:
Helmets – for this trip we will be taking our full face helmets. For transporting our helmets I use an oxford helmet bag. The Oxford bag is a nice lined bag that provides a level of protection for the helmet and makes the helmet much easier to carry as carry-on onto the plane. In the helmet I generally stuff some of my riding gear such as plastic wet weather trousers, thermals, a supply of earplugs, and gloves. There is also room in the bag to carry the dark visor so I have the choice or both dark and clear visors on the ride.
Trousers – generally I just take my Kevlar jeans, and plastic over-trousers for wet weather protection. I also generally take some light thermals which can double as a comfort layer under the Kevlar if it starts getting uncomfortable on your skin, and an additional layer if it gets a bit cooler. That effectively gives me three layers which covers most circumstances and doesn’t take up much room. I’m sure one pair of jeans will be fine with a couple of washes (or rain) during the time.
Gloves – generally I take a couple of pairs. Which two pairs is generally dependent on time of year and where I’m going. It’s funny over the years I’ve got more pairs of gloves to suit different weather and riding situations, now when I go away the decision is harder to choose which 2 pairs.
Footwear – The last couple of times I’ve ridden overseas I’ve just used my hiking shoes, however they really don’t offer the level of protection I like. But the downside of riding boots is that they take up so much room (and are heavy). So after looking around we both purchased a set of Alpinestar short boots (male, female). After using them for the past couple of months they have proved to be really comfortable to wear all day and walk in, and offer good protection and coverage over the ankle, and will be much easier to pack than tall boots.
Jacket – normally I take my jacket (if there’s no room to pack it I wear it on the plane and pack the armour in my bag) but this time the tour company are providing us with a custom jacket so hopefully it is all good otherwise we’ll be looking for a bike shop real quick for a replacement.
Communications – I’ve never really worried about comms gear when we are riding as we are both comfortable with sitting in silence in our own head-space. However for this ride we are going to spend a significant amount of time on the bike exploring new places and it will be good to have the option to talk. But what to purchase? After considerable reading, looking, and talking with other riders I have opted for a set of Sena 10R bluetooth headsets. These were my criteria:
- low profile – I really don’t like the size of many of the bluetooth units and how they hang down from the rim of the helmet. I want something sleek and unobtrusive but functional.
- looks probably shouldn’t be a major concern … but they are. Some units are just plain ugly!
- simple to use – I think manufactures have lost the plot. Most of us just want a unit that is easy to use, with the functions we need. Not thousands of other functions that just make the unit complex to operate, and considering we need to operate them by touch with gloves on, while moving – it is important that they are easy to use. The 10R has just three buttons and while there are a couple of sequences you need to remember the basic options of turning intercom on/off, music on/off are pretty straight forward.
- good quality sound – by all accounts the 10R is supposed to have excellent sound as it uses the same speakers as the 20S. My initial impressions are very positive. With earplugs in I find you need to drive them pretty hard but that’s true for most units.
- good battery life – with the sort of riding I do I need really good battery life. The 10R has a separate battery which provides a really good range. It is possible to change it (if you have a spare) or it can be charged on the go.
GPS – Previously I’ve taken my own GPS unit (Garmin Zumo 660) which doubles for bike and car with local maps loaded.
Camera – Currently I have an Olympus TG2 which is a few generations old but is still a great camera. My biggest problem on the road is transferring photos from it to my iPad for writing my blog. I have the apple adaptor cable but unless both the camera and iPad are fully charged it doesn’t work very well. It’s a real pain.! So I started looking at a new version of my camera as it has WiFi but a new camera was money I just don’t have right now. Then after deploying a bit of Google-Foo I found this … a Toshiba wireless SD card which allows you to transfer photos via WiFi from Camera to phone or tablet. At $60 for a 32Gig card it is considerable cheaper than a new camera. After using the card for a while it works really well. I’m guessing that as the amount of photos increase on the card then the whole process of viewing photos to transfer will slow down. But overall I think it’s a winner.
Insurance – This is essential. However a word of warning … not all travel insurance covers motorcycling so read the fine print very carefully.
Unless I’ve forgotten something I think that’s most of the bike gear sorted.
I’d be interested to hear what you see as essential gear when you travel overseas to go riding.?