Easy Rider | 10 Must-Haves for Travelling Bikers
Essential bits of kit for bike touring adventures - and how to pack them
The weather's getting warmer, the daffodils are coming up, and spring feels like it's just round the corner - which means it's bike riding season. Time to wheel the hog out, dust off the leathers and start planning some motorbike adventures.
To get you in the mood we've enlisted the help of motoring photographer and motorbike enthusiast Lara Platman, who talks us through her essential bits of kit - and how best to use them. After all, what's the point of having exciting ideas if you've not got the gear to make them a reality?
Old-School Paper Map
It might sound like an Instagram cliché, but when you’re riding a bike - certainly much more so than in a car - the adventure really is more about the journey than the destination. I always find that the best and most thrilling rides always start with a good, old-fashioned paper map.
Whether you want to take in the countryside or ride through towns, pre-planning your journey is essential when on a motorbike. But it’s more than that - poring over paper maps gives you a sense of adventure that clicking round a smartphone screen just doesn’t.
For all that paper maps are great for the initial planning stage, you don’t really want to be looking down at one - or heaven-forbid, stopping to unfold one - when you’re actually out on the road.
This is where new technologies like the Cardo Packtalk Slim come into play - it pipes the directions from my TomTom Rider 550 straight into the ear-pieces of my helmet, making the riding experience safe. It also has functionality that lets you create groups of riders and talk to them as if you’re on a private radio channel - excellent if you’re out with your buddies.
Despite the added bulk, body armour is essential. It gives peace of mind to you the rider, those you are riding with, and those you are leaving back home. As a woman it can be hard to find riding gear that not only fits but looks cool too, but Knox Armour and Held both make stylish motorcycle clothing that I would be happy to wear both on and off the bike.
Waterproof, high vis jackets and trousers are a vital packing item for any bike ride - especially in the UK, where the weather is so changeable. My personal favourite is MotoGirl gear - they make great waterproofs with fluorescent strips, so other road users can see you, with a feminine cut.
Getting the right dry bags, panniers and backpack - and packing them right to ensure the weight is evenly distributed and as low to the ground as possible - is essential when you’re off on an adventure. If you’re going for a weekend away one tail bag and a backpack ought to suffice.
Some people might think there’s a choice between style and safety, but to my mind, with a fluorescent set of bags you can still look awesome and make sure other drivers on the road are aware of you. Lomo, Ortlieb and Touratech make great bike bags.
Any trip further than the next town requires a toolkit, torch and first aid kit. Whether this is as simple as a single spanner and a leatherman, or as complex as a roll of tools, should probably depend on the length of journey and how far you’ll be from the nearest garage.
I find the key here is to take whatever you can fit under the seat, or in a pannier pocket, and forget about it - if you start loading and unloading your tools each time you may find they’re not there when you need them.
A Decent Lock
Often overlooked if you’re a bunch of friends going off to a ‘friendly’, countryside location for the weekend, but locks are essentials. A helmet and disc lock are simple to carry with you and deter the thieves for a little longer. It also makes leaving jackets and helmets on the bike easy so you can enjoy the coffee break en route to your destination.
Everyone can document their adventures these days, thanks to Instagram and the rise of smaller lighter-weight camera equipment. No-one appreciate this more than me - as a professional photographer, I’ve done my fair share of lugging big, heavy cameras around on my bike.
Now, thanks to the latest products from the likes of GoPro, along with lightweight tripods, and even miniature drones from the likes of DJI, creating a travelogue is easier than ever. My go-to combo is always a Leica M240 inside along with a Manfrotto Element carbon fibre tripod.
A Damn Cool Bike
Finally, the most important part of any adventure: the motorcycle itself. My latest love is the BMW RNineT Scrambler - a retro-looking boxer that’s nonetheless bang on trend, and packed with the latest in high-end German tech.
The high-mounted double exhaust, brown leather seat and chunky tyres are a very deliberate nod to the original scrambler styles of the 50s and 60s, but this is neither an off-road bike, nor an old-fashioned one. The efficient, modern engine meets all the latest EU emissions standards, and when you open the throttle up, this really goes.