Mad or Nomad are a husband and wife team who knew that they wanted to see the world. Having travelled for months at a time, they soon realised that was not enough, and so made plans to up their game.
Having both ridden bikes for over ten years, and Andy previously working as a professional motorcycle journalist, travelling on bikes was a no-brainer.
On the 1st of January 2018, Andy and Alissa waved good-bye to their jobs, house, friends & family, sold all their worldly possessions (apart from their trusty 2010 Yamaha XT660R) and set off to explore the world, meet new people and discover another way of living.You can follow Andy and Alissa’s exploits at www.madornomad.com, or read their travel tips in a new six-part series, here on BikeSocial.
Travelling with a motorcycle doesn’t mean you need to sell everything you own, re-mortgage the house and come back penniless. You can travel on the cheap, extend your trip and make your pennies go further easily.
It’s all about figuring out what you spend your money on, and then limiting the amount you spend by cutting corners. This can be applied to any type of trip, whether you’re going for a week, year, or 10. But that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. If you enjoy your luxuries and have the means, then that’s cool. But if you want to really save your money, read on.
Your biggest expenses when motorcycle travelling are accommodation, food and drink, petrol, repairs and handling money. Here’s a few tips for each…
Travelling on the cheap is easy if you’ve got a tent and a stove!
This can either be your biggest or smallest expense. If you’re serious about travelling on the cheap, then chances are you’re going to be camping… a lot. It doesn’t mean you need to refrain from all sheltered accommodation all the time and of course, you’re going to need a motel/ hotel/ hot shower at some point. But camping allows you to sleep for free. But that does mean avoiding paid for campsites and choosing to wild camp instead. If you’re a long-term bike traveller, then wild camping will soon become your bread and butter.
When you wild camp, just pick a spot away from the main road, out of sight and out of mind. Plenty of travellers are unsure about wild camping because you’re potentially exposed and isolated. While that’s true, it’s really down to personal choice and whatever you feel comfortable with.
Most campsites come complete with their own laundry room
But instead of always opting for a motel, take a look at websites like Couch Surfing, where you can stay with like-minded travellers for free and meet incredible people. AirBnB is huge the world over and can save a lot of money, especially if you want to stay somewhere for a longer period of time. You can also join Facebook biking groups in the countries you’re travelling through and meet up with fellow bikers. You never know, they may have a hot meal and a place for you to pitch your tent as well.
Eating at restaurants can be a little 'deer'
Food is an expense that obviously can’t be avoided, but can be controlled. Alcohol is your biggest budget buster, so try and limit the amount you drink. Other than that, it makes a massive difference if you plan ahead so you’re not caught out in an evening and have to visit an expensive restaurant. Prepare your food in the mornings, shop at local stores, eat street food, prepare your own meals and limit eating out to a few days a week.
Al fresco dining and beautiful Japanese mountains all from your bedroom window
If you’re travelling long-term, you’d be surprised at how much money is spent on bottled water. We only realised a year ago how much we were spending after continuously running into cyclists travelling through Central Asia. They’d always be knelt over a stream, syphoning water and purifying it. They go through double the water we do on a motorbike every day and saved a mini fortune by filtering their own. It all adds up, especially if you’re in countries where there aren’t many hotels and you spend all your time camping, so need to purchase water for washing and cleaning. There are plenty of filtration options on the market instead.
This station has a pump, but it hasn’t worked in years. Luckily, they have a dirty old bucket instead
In Europe, petrol is far more expensive on the autobahns and motorways. Always pull of the motorway, head into a little town and fill up there. When travelling further afield, you won’t have this problem – more likely the problem will be if you can even find petrol! Be sure to carry a fuel filter as dodgy petrol can quickly damage a motorcycle. There are options out there like Mr. Funnel or petrol tank socks.
Repairs abroad can be cheap. Completely rewelding the pannier racks and making new luggage cost about £2.
It helps to know as much about your bike as you can before you go. That way you can repair or bodge most things yourself and avoid garages. But the further away from western countries you get, the cheaper the repairs and the more creative the bodge jobs are. Parts will always set you back though, so take care of your machine to avoid replacing unnecessary items sooner than you’d otherwise have to.
But you don’t need to be an ace mechanic to travel, we’re certainly not. Always watch carefully and pick up as much information as you can when others repair your bike and offer to help out.
We’ve met plenty of travellers who are so careful about their expenses, yet use debit and credit cards which charge extortionate foreign transaction fees, coupled with fixed non-sterling fees. Get yourself a Monzo or Revolut card before you go. You don’t need to change your bank account, just apply for the card, download the app and transfer money from your bank account onto your Monzo card (you can transfer from anywhere in the world that you have an internet connection). You can then use that card abroad for transactions with zero fees and also withdraw for free too. You can withdraw up to £200 a month on the card, any more and you’ll get charged between 2-3%, which is still far cheaper than high street banks. The £200 limit resets on a monthly basis. You can use these cards anywhere in the world, from the UK, to Europe to the middle of Tajikistan or Vietnam.
Living on the cheap can mean living on the edge… literally
You really, really don’t need the most expensive tent, pannier set, bike and kit to go adventure bike travelling. Instead of buying a £50 tool tube for your bike, make one out of old guttering, glue an end cap on one end and use a screw cap on the other for £3.50. Or buy an old army ammo box of eBay and bolt it to your bashplate. Use a cheap sheepskin for your seat instead of expensive gel inserts. Buy your tools second hand, forget about expensive Gore-Tex and just buy cheap adventure gear and use a £5 throw-over waterproof. And go on a cheap bike that you’ve fixed up, you’ll know more about your bike and chances are it’ll go for longer. The amount of brand new expensive bikes we’ve seen stranded would surprise you.
Go on what you’ve got, with what you’ve got, wild camp, make friends with locals, cook your own food, clean your own water, fix your own bike, be self-reliant, work as you go and travel for as long as you like!