We all lead busy lives and don’t always have time to go away for as long as we like, but with a motorcycle and a spare weekend you can still get out and explore places you’ve never been before. For those who’ve never travelled far on a bike it can be a little daunting heading off for the first time, but here are a few things to consider that will help you on your way…
Where to go depends on how far you want to ride and how long you want to spend on the bike. One option is to be ambitious and aim for the most distant point you can think of, spending most of the time trying to get there, and back again.
Alternatively, you can look a little closer to home, using a map to identify places a few hours away that you’ve not been to before. Aiming for National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Beauty is always a good idea as then you can get there by midday and spend the rest of it exploring the quieter roads, back lanes and local attractions.
Try to plot a circular route, so that your return leg isn’t the same route as you took to get there. If you live in the Midlands a good option is to hit the east coast in Lincolnshire, head up to Whitby and then come back down through the North Yorkshire Moors. A stopover in Whitby and you’ve had a good ride out and seen some of the country. Most of all be realistic with your distances. You don’t have to spend all weekend on the bike to have a good trip.
The latest motorcycle sat-navs often have ‘winding’ or ‘adventurous’ routing, which sees the device choosing more exciting roads to your destination – they can be a great way of discovering new places, though of course don’t beat local knowledge. Read our reviews of the latest GPS units here.
For the top ten motorcycle routes in the UK, click here.
Be ambitious but be realistic; a simple paper map can be a good way of marking out the way.
This depends on whether you want to camp or to stay in a hotel or B&B. For the purpose of a weekend ride it’s probably less faff to just book somewhere on (for instance on booking.com or Airbnb.co.uk) than it is to take a tent and all the gear that goes with that.
You could also use the weekend as an opportunity to visit friends or relatives, heading there on the evening and having an interesting ride on the way to and from.
When booking a hotel or B&B it’s always worth considering the security of the bike and where it’s going to be left at night, especially if it’s in or close to a major city. There have been a few reports of riders heading up to Scotland to ride the NC500 coastal road having bikes stolen in Glasgow and Edinburgh, so it can be worth checking if there’s somewhere safe to lock up the bike – ask nicely and many hotels will let you lock your bike up in view of the reception. For more advice on keeping your bike secure, click here.
If you are going to tent it, then just find a nice site and aim for it.
Again, this depends on whether you’re camping or staying in accommodation. If you’re doing the latter then a simple tank bag of around 20-litres or more, plus a small backpack or tail pack would hold more than enough for a night or two away.
To pack economically should be the mantra of every trip, but it always surprises me to see what people think they might need for just a few days away on a bike. If you’re camping and don’t have the option of hard or soft panniers, then an easy solution to carry your gear in is a 40 or 60 litre dry bag, which is easy to strap onto the back of the bike and big enough to carry all you’ll need, even for a week away.
RokStraps are a brilliant and cost-effective set of straps that make loading luggage to your bike easy and secure. You can get them from most motorcycle accessory stores and are easier to use than regular bungee cords or straps. When strapping to the bike, make sure any loose ends are securely tucked in and that the load is stable. Put the heaviest items to the bottom of the luggage to help keep the weight low, and take the bike on a short spin before heading off to make sure everything’s secure.
For reviews of the best motorcycle luggage, click here.
Hard panniers make life even easier but the danger with those is thinking that you must fill the space with stuff you’re never going to use, so as with any trip, start with a simple list of what you need and when you have everything packed then stop there and don’t be tempted to keep on going. I’ve heard more people complain that they’re over loaded than they have complain that they’ve not brought something they need. And worst case, if you’re only away for a few days and have forgotten something then there’s always shops on route to pick things up.
A cheap cagoule or army store raincoat might not be the height of fashion, but is cheap and effective
Comfort is arguably the most important thing to consider when heading off on any trip, whether it be a weekend or a month. Obviously, your gear also has to offer some protection, but if you’re comfortable then that’s half the job done.
Everyone has their preference. Some stick with leathers, other textiles. Make sure the basics are covered in terms of protection to the shoulder, elbows and knees, and don’t ever be tempted to go without gloves.
Waterproofs are the most important thing. Some of the textile gear has a waterproof liner but that’s not always the best bet, as by the time it comes into effect your outer jacket (if it’s more than a few months old) is already waterlogged and heavy, and if you’re sleeping in a tent you’ve no chance of getting it dry by the morning. This isn’t an issue with quality laminated Gore-Tex, which is waterproof on the outer surface, but it is expensive.
A cheap cagoule from a walking shop, or even an army surplus store, can be stuffed into your luggage for when the rain comes down. For reviews of the best textile motorcycle kit, click here.
Another important consideration is ear protection; miles on the road can take their toll on your ears, so whether you prefer moulded or disposable, make sure you wear them.
Be realistic with your distances. A few days away on a bike is supposed to be enjoyable, not a challenge to see how numb you can make your backside with miles in the saddle. Two hundred miles might not seem like a lot, but if you’re stopping to take photos and meander along back roads then it’s plenty, especially if you’re carrying a pillion.
Pace yourself, take regular breaks and keep the fluid levels up, especially in hot weather. Also watch for fatigue or carelessness late in the day, usually when the accidents happen.
Unless you’re doing an Iron Butt challenge, it’s less of a question of how far to travel, more a case of what to see along the way. And you’ve also got to enjoy it, or you’re unlikely to want to do it again.
Just like any holiday, a trip on a motorcycle – be it in the UK, Europe or beyond – can be ruined by delays, lost documents, illness and more. There are plenty of travel insurance options, but you need to make sure you get a policy that includes riding motorcycles, and if it does, that it's for bikes of the engine size you'll be riding (many only cover up to 250cc). At its most basic, you should look for insurance that provides cover for the following:
In addition though, if you’re taking a motorcycle (or you're renting one while you’re away) be sure that your insurer will cover you for any medical expenses, should you have an accident. You must also think about where you’re riding – some policies won’t cover you if you’re trail or enduro riding, or if you’re on a race track. Remember – this isn’t about your bike being covered, it’s about your medical expenses, should the worst happen.
If you're only going away once, a single-trip policy will likely be all you need, but also consider an annual policy, which could extend to cover your family holidays too (a good insurer should also be able to offer cover for your whole family).
BikeSocial’s parent company, Bennetts, has a motorcycle-specific travel insurance policy – find out if it suits your needs by clicking here.
While they are easier to use and less hassle than making do with a car GPS or using your phone, they are a big investment. If you don’t want to use a bike sat-nav, consider fitting a 12V charger to keep your phone or other devices fully charged while riding – running navigation apps can quickly drain batteries.
There are also paper maps, which take more involvement but are great for giving you a better awareness of where you’re riding, and help you to see and plot different routes, rather than just blindly following the arrows on your navigational unit. Of course, you can also plot any route you like with a sat-nav too, either on the device (fiddly) or on an app that connects with it (our prefeered method)
Break the trip down into simple pace notes that you can tuck inside a tank bag for quick reference. Equally, try not to stress about getting lost or missing turns; it’s all part of the adventure, and sometimes you can have the best ride when you’re fathoming your way through, doing it the old way by stopping and asking people for directions.
This also leads onto being flexible, which is a good tip for any trip: try not to stick rigidly to a pre-determined route. Allow yourself the time and space to roam a little….