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.?
25 thoughts on “What to take when Riding Overseas”
Wow that sounds like such a lot of luggage. Will you have room for anything else? I can’t help you with what you need but you seem very prepared already.
It’s not so bad, wear the jeans and boots on the plane and lots of the other stuff fits in the carry-on helmet bag.
How exciting, I’m planning to go to France this summer! I’m so following you now!
Yes we are really looking forward to the ride as it is covering some amazing countryside in the US and Canada.
I spent some time riding the Pyrnees a couple of years ago (there are blog posts on that ride) and it was fantastic!
I will look out for your ride photos.
Thanks for the comment
I absolutely LOVE my Garmin Virb. At under $100 for the older model, it takes amazing pictures! I set it to snap a shot every 5 seconds. It’s mounted to my helmet & I always get some beautiful photographs for a fraction of the cost of the Go Pro. It is super easy to use & has a viewfinder on it. Love it!!
I’ve not heard of that camera before. I’ll check it out.
The thing I don’t like about a fixed mount camera is that you only get one perspective. If you have a look through my various blogs I hand hold the camera when taking photos. On my bike I have the camera tethered to my tank bag. When on a different bike it’s in my pocket.
Thanks for the comment
It sounds like you have some good ideas already. While I’ve never been out of the USA, I have spent countless days travelling the countryside on a motorcycle here at home. I’m sure you know that North America covers a huge area. The weather in one part of the country may be beautiful for cycle riding but there may still be snow in others. In 2011, I was out west and riding across Oregon. I wanted to take Hwy 242 but it was still closed because of snow, and this was June, 22. On that same trip. there was still 10′ of snow on the side of the road in California, on Hwy 120, east of Yosemite N.P.
I live in the northern part of Wisconsin, and I usually get the bikes out in March but I have to accept the possibility of snow until at least mid April. It won’t stay around many days, but it still might snow!
As far as packing things, I used to over pack and bring way too much crap. Now days, I’m good with riding gear, a couple of long and short sleeved T-shirts, an extra pair of jeans, a pair of comfortable shoes, a baseball cap, some underwear and socks, and a small bag for toiletries… As much as I like to camp and tour, I find it so much easier to stop at motel/hotels every night. I have no problem doing laundry every couple of days. I few dollars in quarters…. and a hour or so at night and I’m all set for the next few days. Don’t forget, almost everywhere you go will have store that will have just about anything you’d ever need on your trip.. We don’t have a lot of “outback” here… well, maybe most of Nevada and parts of eastern Oregon….
We usually never have a plan and seldom make reservations. But then we tend to stay far away from populated areas and places that attract a lot of tourists… Probably, not the kind of sight seeing you’re interested in doing!
Good luck! It sounds like fun!
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Like you I generally like riding trips with only a loose plan. This time however we are actually doing a full on tour with a group. I’ve not done anything like this before so it will be interesting to see how it goes. They do say that you can do your own thing duuring the day and meet up at night. The other advantage with a group tour is that someone carries your gear…
Thanks for the commetns.
Pretty helpful information. I’m planning a trip down to US this summer … I’ll try to stay as light as possible.
thanks for the comment.
For us light is important for plane trips otherwise all our weight allowance will be bike gear.
Where are flying into and what’s the route? I am in Southern California and if you have any questions let me know. I’ll try to help out.
We will be in Seattle and doing an Eaglerider tour (see link below). While I’m not generally a tour type person, the dates worked into our timeframe perfectly and as my wife is joining me on this ride it’s a nice easy entre into riding overseas.
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That sounds like a great itinerary. I will be up in the Glacier – Waterton – Jasper – Banff area heading north somewhere around mid to end of July. Hope we can pass and say hello.
That’d be great if it works out. Our trip starts 1 August.
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My golden rule for fly-ride trips is take gear I know works. I have broken this rule a couple times and always got caught out ha-ha.
Are you going in summer? I have ridden where you are headed in August. BC was mild on lower roads. Cool to cold in morning and in lower mountains. High passes in Washington and Montana still snow at top and chilly. The canyons and flat plains to the south were dry and baking hot.
I pack my helmet now with padding around it as whilst technically allowed airport security have stopped me in two places and makes life easier not to have to carry it around. Tip: ask for fragile label and your bag is treated better and arrives on belt early. I put most of my changes of clothes in my carry on bag which is light to carry around airport yet frees up space in check bag to fit all the ride gear.
Enjoy your ride it is a beautiful part of the world.
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I agree about taking gear that works.
We are going early August so I’m expecting that it may be mild in a few places but we’ll be on a lounge chair (goldwing) so we should have some protected from the weather.
Our bags are a bit small for helmets – i tried before hence why i carry on. Also I know we’ll have heaps of stuff in the bags on the way home.
It’s hard fitting everything in. When I travel to Europe to ride I have a 30kg allowance and use every gram. Taking camping gear as well doesn’t help. Have a great trip
Yes that’s certainly the problem with packing your gear, heance why I carry helmet and wear teh jacket.
Good list. You’ve brought up some things I never thought of, especially insurance. Thank you for sharing that. I seem to acquired too many jackets (if that’s possible). My favorite for our unbelievably brutal summers is a white, which is highly visible in traffic and cooler, Joe Rocket. It has some nice little ‘bling’ on it which appeals to my girly side. My second favorite is a blue reflective BMC Mercury. That’s for winter.
Blessings. Ride Safe. 🙂
I don’t think you can have too many jackets. Looking through my wardrobe of jackets they are all fashionable black in various states of fading depending on how many seasons they have seen.
Awesome plan and helpful list. I have packed numerous times for riding in Australia. I bought the largest suitcase allowed and even packed a seat and windscreen to fit a VStrom! The only thing I would change on your list would be the helmet – I love my modular. Allows me to eat, talk and/or cool my face. (but as I recall we discussed that already). Hope we can meet up when you are in Alberta.
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I’ve not tried a modular helmet yet as they have been typically heavier. The problem is they are a big cost to just try one. But this is the same for all helmets.
I take my own helmet and jacket. I ride in normal denims and Cat steel-toe ankle boots.
Camera is a biggish Fuji XT-2 and 18-55mm lens. As I do podcast and radio work, I always take a Zoom H5 recorder, two external microphones and proper headphones and because of that I don’t have a lot of space for any more gear.
I use paper maps. No comms equipment.
Change of clothes, extra socks and jocks, waterproof shell. Three buffs.
Gloves: one pair of Petzl belay (rock climbing gloves) for hot-weather riding, ski gloves for cold weather.
And if there’s a lot of riding on freeways or in traffic, a Respro mask and spare filters because I don’t like breathing other people’s exhaust fumes.
Personal medical kit which includes adrenaline injections (2) for bee stings.
I used to take a big camera but I don’t like the ‘tourist’ look of it so I’ve gone for a smaller good quality point and shoot that I can also use while riding. I don’t generally do video as I rather stills – or I’m crap at editing footage…
Respro mask – I had to look that up. It’s not something that I’ve even thought about as the air quality of where I generally ride has been really good and I don’t ride much in big cities.
thanks for the comment