Motorcycle touring gear makes or breaks a trip. And what works for you won’t work for someone else.
But over the thousands of miles I’ve completed on tour, I’ve learned what works for me and what doesn’t.
And I’ve learned that there are a few items of motorcycle touring gear that I simply wouldn’t be without on ANY motorcycle tour!
Is it absolutely imperative that you tour with a heated jacket? No, of course not. If you don’t have the extra cash to splash on a heated jacket (or if you just don’t like the idea of being wired into your bike), then don’t take one.
The world won’t fall apart if you don’t have one. But in my experience, a heated jacket is an item of motorcycle touring gear that makes life that little bit easier when conditions turn against you.
You never miss a heated jacket when you don’t need it.
But after a long day in the saddle when you’re tired, hungry, fed up, and cold, you’ll be grateful that it’s there to perk you up and get you to your hotel!
My personal favourite is the Keis J501RP heated jacket which you can find here.
I’ve advocated roll bags so much on this website that I’m sick of hearing myself! But the truth is, a roll bag will completely transform how you tour.
For a start, I prefer the way my bike feels when I ride with a roll bag instead of panniers. They also make filtering easier. And because they’re cheap, you don’t have to baby them.
When you have £1,000+ panniers, you’re petrified of scratching them or denting them. But with a £50 roll bag that doesn’t dent and is wipe-clean, who cares?!
Yes, they’re a faff to get on and take off. But I can fit more in a single roll bag than in two panniers. Plus, it won’t amputate my leg if I come off my bike.
The one I’ve used from Oxford is now discontinued. But you can find similar ones here on SportsBikeShop.
Yes, I know you’ve spent £2,500 on your top-of-the-range textiles. But trust me, there will come a time when they leak!
You’ll be riding over a mountain pass somewhere or blasting down the motorway on a transit day. The rain will come down, and you’re already long day has just become even longer.
And then it happens.
Rainwater starts to seep through your jacket. Or worse, through your pants into your crotch. With no additional waterproofs, I’m afraid you’ll be sitting in it, getting wetter, colder, and more miserable each minute.
Cue cheap waterproofs!
They take up next to zero space and weigh nothing. They’ll protect you when the deluge comes, and even if it isn’t raining, you can use them as an effective layer to keep warm when it’s cold.
Don’t be without them!
For me, it’s Oxford to the rescue again with this affordable two-piece rain suit.
I put off buying Altbergs for quite a few years. Mainly because they seemed like an expensive initial outlay.
And they are expensive. But they’re worth every damn penny!
They’re comfortable, waterproof, non-slip, warm, and look good. And when the sole starts to wear away, simply return to the Altberg factory where you can keep the upper and get a new sole fitted.
They’ll even perform an ‘MOT’ on your boots, and they’ll come back to you with a new lease of life.
Finally, they’re comfortable for walking. I’m not saying I’d wear them for a hiking expedition, but if you like to get off your bike and explore a little, Altberg boots are great to walk in.
Are they essential? Yes, I’d go as far as to say they are. Of course, you could opt for heated grips if you prefer.
Have you ever tried riding in the rain all day in the bitter cold? You’re a liability on the road when you’ve lost all the sensation in your hands and are struggling to operate the clutch and brake lever.
Not only that, but when your hands are that cold, it’s difficult to concentrate on anything but your hands.
And that means you’re not concentrating on the road.
A lack of concentration combined with a lack of control will lead to trouble. Do yourself a favour and get some heated gloves!
Being a fan of Keis, I recommend their G601 premium heated gloves.
GPS & Cheap Intercom
These can be as cheap or as expensive as you like.
But you don’t have to get the best of the best.
You could get a used GPS unit off eBay, or even a bog-standard unit for a car for not very much money. Once you pair it with a cheap Chinese intercom, you could have an adequate set-up for £100.
A sat-nav isn’t essential – you could get a paper map for a fraction of the price.
But personally, I find I can enjoy the trip, the scenery, and the experience a whole lot more when I know the sat nav will chime up when it wants me to take a turn.
I use cheap intercoms for the same reason. When plugged into my helmet, I can concentrate on what’s around me, knowing the voice will emit through my lid when it’s time to take a turn.
Not only this, but the GPS is great for finding fuel, finding restaurants, and finding your hotel at the end of the day.
Is a smartphone a motorcycle item? I’m not sure! But I use it a lot when touring, so I’d have to say it is.
I’m the sort of person that doesn’t carry paper copies of routes, documents, ferry tickets, insurance certificates, breakdown certificates, or medical information.
For me, it’s easier to store them all in a dedicated folder on my phone, and then I know everything is all in one place.
It also comes in handy for finding restaurants in the evening, finding fuel on the go, and even taking a few snaps at the roadside.
Lastly, if you break down, you can check your phone for the exact coordinates of your location. This makes it a million times easier for the breakdown truck to find you – especially considering the driver might not speak your language.
For me, being comfortable, warm, and dry is half the battle of touring. If I can get those sorted, the rest is easy.
And base layers are the ultimate in keeping comfortable, warm (or cool), and dry.
First and foremost, base layers have a job to do. They actively work with your body to dispel heat and moisture – unlike a cotton t-shirt that gets sweaty and sticks to you.
They also weigh nothing and are quick-drying – meaning you can wash them at the end of the day, and they’ll be dry for the following morning. This means you can pack fewer clothes overall.
Lastly, they are comfortable off the bike. Taking base layers means you don’t need any t-shirts at all. And a comfortable mid-layer can be worn both on the bike and off it.
The Rukka Mark thermal set is great value for money.
Dry bags are so convenient! If you’ve got something that you need to keep dry (passport, money, laptop etc.,) just pop it in your dry bag and know it won’t get ruined by the deluge you will find yourself in.
They also do a great job of keeping wet clothes away from your dry, clean clothes. If your clothes from the night before haven’t dried in time for when you leave, stick them in the dry bag.
And if you’re camping, you can blow the dry bag up and use it as a pillow.
I wouldn’t be without one!
Buff (Or Snood, Or Whatever You Call Them)
A buff is one of those cheap items that makes a big difference.
They do an excellent job of keeping driving wind and rain off your neck and down your jacket. But in hot weather, they do a great job of staving off sunburn or being blasted by sand off-road.
I also find them useful when the strap on my helmet gets wet – because it rubs on the skin under my chin.
Simply pop on the buff, then fasten the helmet over the material of the buff to protect your skin.
They also come in handy in the evenings when it’s chilly, and you want to go out for food.
We recommend this buff from Alpinestars.
Motorcycle Touring Gear: Conclusion
As you can see, everything mentioned in this post is personal to me for a variety of reasons. And yours may be different.
So what’s on your list of motorcycle touring gear that you wouldn’t be without?
Let us know in the comments!
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Top image: The Rumorist