Ahhh, the notorious motorcycle touring checklist.
I’ve done this whole touring thing a fair few times over the years. And as a result, I’ve come into contact with a variety of people from across the world.
And whilst there are a million things we can all agree on, there is one fundamental aspect that nobody can seem to get right.
I’m in a fortunate position where I will be away a lot in 2021 (COVID-19 permitting) so I’m currently negotiating the whole debacle of what to take and what to leave at home.
And this got me thinking – because this is something we all have to do yet very few of us can get right.
As a result, I wanted to share my motorcycle touring checklist (the exact one I’ll be using personally for my multitude of trips next year) and I’ve made it into a little PDF that you can download and check off as you start your packing preparation.
Motorcycle Touring Checklist: The Variables
I should point out here that I live in the UK and all of the places on my motorcycle touring checklist for 2021 are in Europe. If I was going to Africa or the US, my list would be slightly different.
Also, if I were going somewhere remote, my kit would be different as it would no doubt include camping equipment.
If you are planning to camp on your upcoming trip, be sure to add a motorcycle camping checklist to the PDF for your own use.
Variables aside, this motorcycle touring checklist should go some way to helping you prepare for your two-wheeled adventure.
Motorcycle Touring Checklist: The Sections
For my trips to Europe, this checklist has been broken down into individual sections; including:
- Bike preparation
- Riding kit
- Others (miscellaneous)
You will note that on this motorcycle touring checklist, I haven’t given specific amounts of what to take (for example, I’ve just written “t-shirts” as appose to “5x t-shirts.”) The number of each item is entirely down to you, the length of your trip, whether laundry facilities are available where you are going, as well as your own personal preferences.
Motorcycle Touring Checklist: Preparing Your Bike
Motorcycle Health Check:
Once I have my dates set and I’m at the point of booking accommodation, I always call my mechanic and schedule my bike to go in two-weeks before departure.
I don’t expect there is anything wrong with my bike, but the simple fact of having my trusted mechanic give my bike a basic health check helps to put my mind at ease on the road.
Doing this two-weeks before departure ensures that if there is anything wrong, I have enough time to fix any issues that need attention.
As part of my motorbike health check, I consider whether or not I need new tyres.
If my trip is 2,500 miles but I have 8,000 miles left on the tyres, I probably won’t change them.
But if I know the end-life of my tyres is either on (or near the end) of my trip, I will sacrifice the remaining rubber and swap them out for new ones.
Whilst not essential, I always like to make sure that I have heated grips fitted when I tour.
If you’re touring in the height of summer, you probably won’t need them. But I remember once being in the Pyrenees at the end of September and I was so glad I had heated grips!
And besides, even you don’t use them whilst touring, it’ll be winter a few months after you get back so you’ll need heated grips anyway.
12V USB Port:
Whilst not a necessity, one thing I absolutely hate touring without (especially when camping) is a 12V USB port – so I always make sure the fitting of one is on my motorcycle touring checklist.
You might not need it, but if your GPS mounting system fails, you’ll be so pleased you can power your device via the USB port. You should also be able to use it to power heated clothing or gloves.
At the very least, it’s really quite handy to be able to charge your phone whilst you ride – especially if you want to use it as your main source of navigation.
I’ve seen it too many times where keys have gone missing and tours have come to an unwavering halt. And it doesn’t take much to knock your hand as you get off the bike and drop your ignition key down a drain!
For this reason, I’ve rigged my luggage to lock/unlock off a different key from that of my ignition (in other words, two different keys.)
I keep a spare luggage key on my person (or in one of the lockable cubby holes on my bike) and a spare ignition key in the top box.
This way, no matter which key I lose, I always have a spare one to be able to gain access either to my luggage or the ignition.
Spare keys should be on everybody’s motorcycle touring checklist no matter where they’re headed!
This is one I’ve never had to use, but they’re cheap to buy and lie flat at the bottom of your top box. It’s worth noting here that in many European countries, carrying a warning triangle is a legal requirement and you must display it if you have a breakdown.
Make sure you tick it off on your motorcycle touring checklist.
GB (or country) Sticker:
Depending on who you speak to, you will always get wavering opinions on whether this is a legal requirement or not.
I can’t be bothered trolling through European laws and by-laws, so my number plate has GB-Euro symbol on it and I put a GB sticker on my panniers/top box as well.
This way, I’m covered twice – whether it’s a legal requirement or not.
As with the GB stickers above, this seems to change depending on who you speak to. For many new bikes, it’s very difficult to even get to the headlights if you need to change a bulb.
But if you can get to them and you can buy bulbs for them, I recommend you put it on your motorcycle touring checklist and throw a spare set in your top box just in case you either need them, or, you get pulled over.
Puncture Repair Kit:
Again, I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve never had to use one whilst on my travels.
There are a plethora of puncture repair kits out there. Find one you get along with by researching it on YouTube and ensure you get the correct type for your particular tyres.
GPS & Heated Jacket Connections:
Same as heated grips really. Using the same example in the Pyrenees above, I was out when I got caught in a rainstorm.
I was freezing cold and all my kit was back at the hotel.
Fortunately, I’d thrown my heated jacket in my top box just in case, and it saved me from a very wet and shivery off-road ride home in what was already treacherous conditions.
It’s well worth sticking it on your motorcycle checklist to have your mechanic give the connections a once-over before you set off.
- Tool kit and multi-tool
- Chain lube
- Hi-Viz jacket (legal requirement)
- Disc lock
- Cargo net (if not using luggage)
- Gaffer tape
- Zip ties
- Bungee straps
- Ratchet straps
- Kickstand plate
- Ziplock bags (for documents and cash)
Motorcycle Touring Checklist: Riding Gear
Obviously there’s a legal aspect to this, but there is also one of comfort.
Make sure you’re 100% happy with the fit and comfort of your lid because you’re probably going to be spending just as much time in your helmet as you are in bed!
It doesn’t matter to me that I’m touring in mid-July, I will always have a pair of winter gloves in my top box. Not only will they keep me warm if the weather turns cold up in the mountains, but they will also keep me dry if I get caught in a deluge.
They’re small, light, and take up next to zero room in my top box – therefore they will always be on my motorcycle touring checklist.
Summer gloves are a game-changer in hot weather and I won’t go anywhere without them! If you are blessed with glorious sunshine on your travels, having the option to swap out to your summer gloves makes for an all-round more enjoyable experience.
People will argue until they’re blue in the face about what is the best type of material. Personally, I find that whilst the top-of-the-range textiles do a flawless job of keeping you warm and dry, they lack ventilation.
This means you get hot very easily as soon as temperature rises. And not only this, but they are unbelievably expensive!
Personally, I find mid-range kit keeps me dry in moderate rain but also keeps me cool in moderate heat. I then have layers for rain and cold.
Either way, put textiles on your motorcycle touring checklist and get some that work for you.
For me, decent boots are essential. My dad bought me some Altberg boots a few years ago, and whilst they were expensive, they have never failed to keep my feet warm and dry.
If you chose to buy top-end textiles, you won’t need waterproofs.
But if you choose to buy mid-range or budget kit, I would highly recommend throwing a cheap waterproof rain suit (2-piece) in your top box.
Not only will it keep you dry, but it’s lightweight and can be used to keep you warm even if it isn’t raining.
Whether you end up taking them or not, make sure waterproofs are on your motorcycle touring checklist so you remember to consider them.
Base-Layers and Mid-Layers:
I won’t need thermal base layers on my trips because it will be summer, but I still like to carry a thin set of bases.
Not only do they wick away sweat whilst you ride, but they also feel more comfortable underneath your riding gear.
I’ll probably take one fleece mid-layer that I can throw on if it gets a bit cold or use in the evenings.
They can also be worn off the bike.
Nothing much to say here! I do find that decent socks stop your feet rubbing in the heat. But I don’t recommend riding in the same socks for consecutive days.
If possible, wear clean socks at the start of each day and wash them as you go along.
Motorcycle Touring Checklist: Documents
Cash & Credit Cards:
I don’t go mad with carrying cash; mainly because I’m in the habit of informing my bank before I leave. This means they know to expect transactions in whatever country I’m in and not to decline my card.
I do carry a few hundred Euro’s to pay for coffees or meals in off-grid places where they only accept cash.
This can vary from company to company and policy to policy so be sure to check your own paperwork!
As with my bank, I always email my insurance provider to let them know my itinerary. If there are any problems, I can then sort it out before I leave rather than risk not being covered.
You will need a green card from January 2021 to travel to Europe from the UK so make sure it’s on your motorcycle touring list!
As we leave Europe, riders from the UK will need a green card to enter European countries. They cost around £10 and are available from your insurance provider.
Find out more on the .gov website here.
Ensure your breakdown policy covers you for the countries you wish to visit. As with my insurance, I always email them my itinerary so they know where I will be on any given day.
- Driving licence
- MOT (if required)
- Ensure your phone will work abroad (call your service provider if you are unsure)
Motorcycle Touring Checklist: Clothes
- Zip-off pants
- Trainers (or comfortable shoes for the evenings)
- Sweater or fleece (you can use your riding mid-layer)
When it comes to clothes, a guy once told me that a small bottle of washing liquid takes up way less room than additional clothes – and it always stuck with me!
If possible, buy synthetic clothes. Not only are they lightweight, but they resist odour incredibly well and do a good job of keeping you fresh.
You can wash them at night and by the morning they will be dry.
Take fewer clothes, substitute the rest for a small bottle of concentrated detergent and wash them as you go.
Related: The 12 Most Underrated Motorcycle Touring Accessories
Motorcycle Touring Checklist: Toiletries
- Travel shampoo
- Travel shower gel
- Oral care
- Lip balm
- Sun cream (or sunblock)
Motorcycle Touring Checklist: Navigation
GPS & Phone Apps:
Whether you choose to travel with a dedicated sat nav unit or with a phone app, make sure the maps are fully updated.
I would also recommend testing it on a local route after an update as sometimes it can mess with your settings.
Make a note on your motorcycle touring checklist to ensure your GPS is working exactly as you want before you go. Also, check your routes are pre-installed and good to go.
If you choose to use your phone as your navigation aid, be sure to download any maps you might need so you can view them offline as well as when you have a signal.
Related: 10 Essential Touring Apps For Bikers
Sometimes I take paper maps, and sometimes I don’t – It really depends on where I’m going. If you’re going off-grid, I would recommend taking a paper map and keeping it in your top box.
The last thing you want is to have all the information you need on your phone only to realise you’ve lost it.
Putting paper maps on your motorcycle touring checklist ensures you at least consider whether you need one or not.
Back-Up Your Routes:
It’s happened to me in the past where my sat nav has updated and wiped my routes mid-trip.
I recommend that you make copies of the routes and back them up to your laptop. If you’re not taking a laptop, back them up to cloud storage so you can access them with WiFi or mobile data on your travels.
Motorcycle Touring Checklist: Tech
- Smartphone and charger
- Camera kit
- Action cam kit
- Plug adaptor (country dependant)
- Laptop or Tablet if required
- External hard drive
Related: Documenting Your Photography Trip
Motorcycle Touring Checklist: Others (Miscellaneous)
No matter where you’re going, don’t ever leave the hotel without water. Whether you choose to use a hydration bladder or simply carry bottles, make sure you have enough water to get you through the day.
Chances are you won’t need it all, but you’ll be surprised at just how much water you lose – whatever the weather.
I know you’re all excited about your trip, and I hate to bring the mood down. But you need to take an hour to think about what your action plan is if something goes wrong on your trip.
This is even more important when solo motorcycle touring.
Put it on your motorcycle touring checklist to ensure you take an hour to get your emergency contacts in order and develop a plan for what you will do if the worst comes to the worst.
- Toilet paper (because a motorcycle touring checklist isn’t complete if it doesn’t include emergency toilet paper!)
- Petrol station gloves (an excellent last resort if your gloves leak in the rain)
- Basic first aid kit (pain killers, ibuprofen, plasters, small bandages, sterile water, mosquito repellent etc.)
- Drybag(s) – to keep dry kit dry (or to store wet kit)
- Spare glasses
- Washing powder/liquid
- Coffee (there’s nothing worse than not being able to have a coffee in the morning!)
- Any prescribed medication
- Breathalysers (legal requirement)
- Spare carrier bags (for organisation or storage of wet gear)
- Earplugs (an essential on your motorcycle touring checklist)
- Face mask (whilst still COVID-19 risk)
- A few long-lasting snacks (energy/cereal bars for if you get caught out)
Motorcycle Touring Checklist: Your PDF
Top image via Pixabay