Motorcycle Touring For Beginners: Welcome To The Club!

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If these are your first tentative steps into the world of touring, I’m thrilled to welcome you to this motorcycle touring for beginners guide!

At this point, I should imagine you’ve already got your licence.

You’ve no doubt been riding around on your first bike, getting to grips with the world of motorcycling and finding your feet.

By now, you would’ve stumbled upon a group of bikers in a cafe, had your first real ride out with some real bikers, and you feel you’ve been welcomed to the club!

So what’s next?

Well if you’re reading this guide to motorcycle touring for beginners, then the call of two-wheeled adventure has no doubt begun to consume your thoughts.

And as exciting as that is, I totally understand the apprehension, doubt, and lapses in confidence that are sure to follow those feelings of ambition and adventure.

But rest assured, we’re here for you.

Our beginners guide to motorcycle touring was put together for people just like you; the ones who dare to explore, to live, and to experience.

What Do We Mean By “Motorcycle Touring”?

motorcycle touring in mountains - motorcycle touring for beginners
“Motorcycle Touring” can mean different things to different people (image via Pixabay)

Well, this is the part where you need to forget everything that all your new riding buddies have told you. Because touring is as different for you as it is for me. And it’s as different for me as it is for them!

It’s different for every single one of us.

For some, it’s all about the roads.

For others, it’s about the scenery.

Some people are happy with two weeks away whilst others never fully return. For these people, the road becomes their spiritual home.


Many enjoy the peace, serenity and solitude; the opportunity to reflect on life as they tour alone.

Others see it as a holiday away with their buddies; enjoying the roads and the beers.

You see, motorcycle touring is whatever you want it to be. For the time you are away, the world stops. Time doesn’t matter. Work isn’t important and your phone is turned off because for once, the incessant notifications just aren’t significant.

Motorcycle touring is whatever you want it to be. Sometimes, it turns out completely different from what you planned. But you know what? That’s fine.

You are at the mercy of mother nature. Pack your bike, strap on your helmet, and enjoy what she’s about to give you.

Because whether it’s good, bad or otherwise, it will shape you for the rest of your life.

motorcycle and tent
Your motorcycle tour will shape you for life! (Image via Pixabay)

Prepare For Change

I hope you’re excited about your impending motorcycle tour. You should be!

But one thing missing from the location guides and sales literature is the fact that you are about to change.

Returning from your trip will be a slightly different version of yourself.

For the better.

You will feel a sense of overwhelming achievement. Your confidence will soar and those dizzy heights at work that you thought were out of your reach will suddenly seem attainable.

Your belief in you will mean something and it will radiate from you. Everybody will notice it.

See, motorcycle touring brings with it all kinds of trials, tribulations, laughter, and tears. You’ll see things you could never imagine. And upon returning, you won’t be able to find the words to describe what you saw and what you felt.

The beauty of the mountains will bring a tear to your eye. And then when they give you a puncture in the middle of nowhere, they’ll bring a very different tear to your eye!

You’ll rise above it, you’ll conquer and you’ll grow.

Prepare yourself; because a better version of you will be coming home from your trip.

Resist The Urge To Compare!

harley-davidson livewire, orange
Just because Charley Boorman & Ewan McGregor covered 13,000 miles on a HD Livewire, that doesn’t mean you have to! (Image via Harley-Davidson)

As much as you enjoyed watching Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor in Long Way Up, you need to take it with a pinch of salt.

Don’t forget, they had a team of people helping them who were based in various places across the world to look after the logistics.

And unless you have a prototype, electric bike and a team of engineers installing charge points along your route, you can be pretty certain that your trip won’t look anything like theirs did!

Don’t compare your trip to theirs. In fact, don’t compare it to the trips of anyone.

Take stock in the knowledge that your trip belongs to nobody but you. And no matter how hard anyone tries, nobody can ever recreate your trip in the same way you can never recreate anybody else’s.

See This Is As Your Cornerstone Post

In an attempt to keep this beginner’s guide to motorcycle touring from spanning many thousands of words, each point will be broken down into individual sections and referenced – but not expanded upon.

Over previous weeks, I have written in detail about all points covered in this post. And I’ll link to those detailed articles through this post.

Use this as your cornerstone content; your general overview of motorcycle touring for beginners. From here, you can expand upon any section you like by following the included links to the designated, detailed posts.

1. Motorcycle Touring For Beginners: Choosing Your Bike

triumph tiger 800 - motorcycle touring for beginners
Don’t fall for the glossy pictures! You don’t need the best or most expensive bike to go motorcycle touring! (Image via Triumph)

Don’t get too hung up on this. Convincing yourself that you need the latest and greatest of adventure touring machines is an easy trap to fall into.

If you use social media, you’ll no doubt see these amazing trips undertaken on expensive adventure bikes and all the best kit.

But it’s all nonsense!

Trust me when I tell you that you don’t need any of that stuff to tour.

When it comes to choosing your bike, the trick is to sit down and think about what you need it to do. I know the temptation is to research it to death and then buy the same as everybody else, but it won’t work.

You need to consider your own priorities.

Are you going off-road? Will you be camping? Are you taking a pillion? Will your trip last a few weeks or a few months? Do you plan on eating in restaurants or will you take a stove?

And then there’s the personalisation of a trip. Are you intent on covering miles or is it more important to do fewer miles per day in order to spend more time enjoying it? Have you considered your touring ‘style’?

Moreover, what about the dynamics of the bike? You can get away with a big heavy bike on tarmac. But if you plan on offroading, will you be better off with a 250cc bike that you can handle more easily? Are you touring alone or in a group? Does this affect the kind of bike you can take?

Choosing Your Bike: Detailed Links

2. Motorcycle Touring For Beginners: Planning Your Route

Planning your route can be as easy or as difficult as you like. If you do a web search of motorcycle routes in Europe, there are an abundance of ready-to-go routes that you simply import to your satnav, and you’re away.

It really is that simple!

If you want to plot your own route, it will take a little more time and patience and you may have to figure out which platform works best for you.

My biggest tip for beginners venturing into motorcycle touring is to plan for time rather than miles. The worst thing you can do is set yourself up for weeks of clock watching because you’ve given yourself too many miles to cover.

It’s also worth considering the ‘type’ of tourer you might be. Are you content on going from one hotel to the other and never really settling? Or would you rather spend a few days in one location/hotel and explore it properly?

Both have their pros and cons; you’ll just have to figure out what works best for you.

Planning Your Route: Detailed Links

Planning a route can save time and miles

3. Motorcycle Touring For Beginners: Get The Right Kit

Kit is somewhat of a blanket term. You’ll need an entirely different set of gear for touring Norway in October to someone who’s touring the Dolomites in July.

But most people (especially in Europe or the UK) head to the Alps or the Pyrenees; which is pretty easy to plan for in the summer months.

Make sure you don’t just rush out and buy everything you see. Firstly, it will cost you a fortune. And secondly, you’ll have nowhere to put it all!

Take a minute to consider exactly what you need.

Will you be riding in leathers or textiles? Will you need base layers? How about a heated jacket or thermals?

If you’re riding in the height of summer, do you need kit designed for hot weather? What about hydration packs or waterproofs?

Once you know what you need, you can buy more targeted kit when it’s time to go shopping.

Use the links below to personalise your beginners guide to motorcycle touring.

Get The Right Kit: Detailed Links

ktm 890 adventure r
Think about the kit you will need before you let rip with your credit card; take only what you need (image via KTM)

4. Motorcycle Touring For Beginners: What To Pack?

The first thing to consider here is your setup. Are you taking panniers? How about a roll bag? Or will you be going minimalist with a top box, tank bag and tail pack?

Are you offroading or staying on tarmac? If you’re offroading, you’ll be better off with soft panniers, but if you’re staying on tarmac, you might prefer metal panniers.

What Will You Be Taking?

If this is your first time, I absolutely promise you that you’ll overpack!

Don’t worry, it’s natural and everybody does it.

Hell, I still overpack if I don’t monitor it carefully!

The truth is, you only need about half of what you’ve written down on that list of yours.

The secret to packing for a motorcycle tour is packing light. And the best way to do that is to pack items that have multiple uses. Take clothes which you can wear for a few days, or take a small bottle of washing concentrate and wash as you go.

Keep your tools, wash kit, and riding gear to the bare essentials. And unless you really need all that technology (and all the chargers to go with them!), leave them at home.

My advice is to write down everything you think you might need and then refine it from there. To help you out, we’ve provided a free download that you can use as part of your beginner’s guide to motorcycle touring.

What To Pack: Detailed Links

bmw motorcycle panniers - motorcycle touring for beginners
Will you need hard panniers or soft panniers? (Image via Pixabay)

5. Motorcycle Touring For Beginners: Rider Preperation

With long-distance touring, it’s not just your bike that needs to be in tip-top condition.

Your body (and mind) won’t be prepared for the onslaught you’re about to unleash upon it!

In the weeks leading up to your tour, you need to think about getting yourself ‘motorcycle fit.’

Nobody is saying that you have to spend 4 hours a day in the gym. Nor are they saying that you need to take up that marathon training plan you never got around to.

But being physically fit has a direct correlation with being mentally fit. It should be a part of any beginner’s guide to motorcycle touring.

I’d go as far as to recommend that if you ride motorbikes in any capacity, your personal health should be taken just as seriously as the health of your bike.

Whilst you’re at it, improving your riding skills never did anybody any harm. Not only will it give you more confidence, but it’ll also develop your skills for when you have all that extra luggage on the back of your bike.

Rider Preperation: Detailed Links

motorcycle on country lane - motorcycle touring for beginners
Riding fitness plays a pivotal role in maintaining levels of focus on the road (Image via Adobe stock)

6. Motorcycle Touring For Beginners: Others

Planning For An Emergency

Whenever we swing our leg over a bike, we have to accept that with it will come a certain level of risk. This risk is bad enough at home, in your own country, where you know the laws, rules and customs.

But what about when we’re riding abroad?

Hoping against all hope that we’ll be okay just isn’t enough. We need to be prepared.

We can start with the basics such as ensuring our paperwork (such as insurance) is in order. And we can ensure that people at home know where we will be on any given day by issuing them with a copy of our itinerary.

Keep any medication or medical notes close to hand so authorities can access them if need be. Also, ensure any emergency contact phone numbers are readily available.

God willing, our precautions for an emergency will never be needed. But at least they’re there if the worst happens.

Research, Research, Research!

In the world of the internet, we are constantly inundated with online information.

Use the tools available to you to read/watch other people’s experiences in the countries you wish to vist.

If you search hard enough, you’ll probably find someone who’s already visited on a bike before you; and most bikers are only too happy to offer up information and little bits of advice.

Use the many reviewing platforms available to you (such as Trip Advisor) to read about people’s experiences, where they visited, and what they rated.

Check out the various motorcycle touring forums on Facebook Groups or Reddit.

All of this information is there to help you shape your tour!

There Comes A Time When The Planning Needs To Stop!

You can literally spend a year planning a trip.

I remember once planning a trip in the winter months for the following summer. But then I had a little mishap and wrote my bike off on some slippery roads in Wales.

By the time I got a new bike, I had to wait until the summer the following year! Of course, by this point, I’d planned, re-planned, and planned again my tour.

When the time finally came for me to set off, I was actually sick of thinking about it. Rather than eagerly awaiting my departure date, I was secretly wanting it to be over with.

Suffice it to say, it was my least enjoyable tour. And despite the oodles of planning, it seemed to go wrong at every possible juncture.

I’m a big believer in planning for a tour. I believe you get more from your trip with a little bit of forward planning and some organisation.

However, the time will come when you feel it necessary to say enough is enough.

And when that point comes, trust it! Trust your judgement, get on your bike, and go and enjoy the best trip of your life!

Top image via TopSpeed

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