Riding your motorbike abroad – Part Two

Harley-Davidson parked up and loaded with luggage outside the Eagle Rider rental centre in LA 700px

We’ve moved on from planning your trip and now it’s all about preparation.

Here you need to think about what you’re taking, what you can physically take and then getting rid of anything that is not absolutely essential.

Essential equipment

If you’re going abroad on your bike then you’re probably going away for a while which means you’re going to have to pack appropriately.

We know that packing clothes for a holiday is stating the obvious but not everything in this guide will be quite so blatant and, you never know, it could save you a freezing climb or a roasting ride through Europe.

Don’t over pack

If you’re trying to pack three dinner suits, eight pairs of shoes and a fine selection of linen trousers, going on holiday on your motorbike probably isn’t for you.

Space is at a premium so make sure you only pack the essentials. Be brutal and cull any items that are in the nice to have pile and stick to the need to have pile.

Your luggage

Going abroad on your bike requires an important initial decision when it comes to your luggage options: hard or soft.

Hard luggage pieces, as the name suggests, are toughened, secure containers and boxes that are fitted to the bike.

They are tough, waterproof and built specifically for your bike. That means they’re easy to detach and won’t imbalance your motorbike.

Soft luggage is a temporary solution and therefore a little more flexible because it doesn’t necessarily require brackets and frames to fasten them on.

However they are less secure and require a little more attention when fixing them to your bike.

Either way, you should always make a short journey to test out your motorbike’s stability and feel when it’s laden with luggage.

Dave's bags for his USA road trip

Luggage racks

If you’re taking a lot of luggage it might be worth investing in luggage racks.

These racks attach directly to your bike and allow you to securely (and easily) attach hard and soft luggage to your bike.

With racks, you can usually attach more luggage to your bike as well, as you’re not relying on attaching your gear to random bits of your motorbike’s back-end.

Riding gear

Guessing the weather is difficult but if you’ve packed for different eventualities (dependent on your research) a change in weather shouldn’t be a catastrophe.

Unlike the unprepared rider, last seen wearing a sweaty waterproof in the midday sun, a prepared rider will not be caught out by surprise or sudden changes in weather.

There are lots of clothing options that will help riders in different types of weather, helping you avoid any surprise conditions.

Gore-Tex suits are waterproof and breathable, as well as offering the same level of protection leather suits provide, while base layers can deal with changes in weather and temperature.

Read up on typical weather along your route and at your final destination before matching your clothing choices to them.

If the weather is typically dry but cold when you’re going away, look at warm clothing – it’s not rocket science but it will help you on the road.
Dave's jacket and boots for his USA road trip

Legal essentials

When you’re abroad and on the road there are legal requirements depending on your destination.

The basics include a GB sticker and you will usually need to set your bike’s headlights up, dependent on the side of the road you’re on, differently to at home.

However, there could also be additional legal requirements like carrying a breathalyser in France or a spare pair of glasses (if you use them, of course) in Spain.

Read up on your destination’s road laws – they might seem strange to you but you could land yourself in hot water if you don’t adhere to them.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has developed a tool that reveals what you need to know about riding in different countries.

Once you’ve settled on your country and you’ve prepped your motorbike and got your head around all the equipment you’ll need, you can then move on to the fun stuff; planning your route.

Next page: Riding your motorbike abroad – Part Three