I find myself regularly reminiscing about the first time I toured on a bike – and the motorcycle touring mistakes I made along the way.
You see, I’d only passed my test 12 months previously. I was inexperienced and I didn’t have a lot of money.
I was naive, a little bit clueless, and totally out of my depth.
But as I began to make friends in the riding community, I started to tell them of my plans of touring. And to my surprise, they seemed inspired by them.
They wanted to come with me.
My passion and enthusiasm was rubbing off on them, and as the weeks rolled on, people began to ‘sign up’ to my tour.
We made plans and we looked at roads. We discussed where we wanted to go and we talked about camping and potential routes.
But inevitably, one by one, the numbers began to dwindle.
The Excuses Cometh
“My sister’s getting married.”
“I can’t afford it.”
“Work won’t give me time off.”
And so on and so forth.
In the end, I called off the group trip and made the decision to go solo.
Despite my inexperience, lack of money, and being completely raw to what I could expect, I took the decision to take the road less travelled.
I was going regardless.
And I’m glad I did. Because that solo trip taught me so much about touring.
Discovering Motorcycle Touring Mistakes
On that particular trip, I had nobody to fall back on. I had nobody to hold my hand and show me the way. And there was nobody to pick up the pieces when it all went wrong.
But all of that was worthwhile when I made it to the Alps.
Stood alone at the summits of mountains, I looked in wonderment over the vistas. And felt proud that I did this.
Yes, I made mistakes along the way. But those motorcycle touring mistakes molded me into the tourer I am today. And they allow me to pass this knowledge onto you.
So if you’re currently planning to get away this summer, take note of these motorcycle touring mistakes.
As Otto von Bismarck once said:
“It is a fool who learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”
1. Motorcycle Touring Mistakes: Over-Packing
Over-packing is one of the most common motorcycle touring mistakes we’ve all been guilty of at some point.
Having done your research on the internet, you’ll know about the importance of planning and preparation.
But when it comes to packing, people quite often take it a little bit too far!
You don’t need three pairs of training shoes, a pair of slippers and some flip flops.
Trust me when I tell you that you really don’t need four aftershaves or two different deodorants.
You won’t be going anywhere that will require you to be smart, so leave the cufflinks and dress shoes at home.
Not only do you have to carry all this stuff, but if you pack it incorrectly, you also risk de-stabilising your bike.
Avoid these motorcycle touring mistakes by packing smaller, lighter, more compact versions of absolutely everything you intend to take. That’s if you even need to take it at all.
To help you along, check out our free downloadable checklist.
2. Taking The Wrong Gear
We’ve just spoken about how taking too much gear is one of the most popular motorcycle touring mistakes we see.
The second one is people taking the wrong gear!
Planning on spending most of your time on mountain roads with autobahn blasts from one range to the other? Then you’ll need tried and tested gear to make your trip more comfortable.
The only thing worse than taking too much gear is taking too much of the wrong gear.
3. Taking The Wrong Bike
I’ve spent a lot of time saying that there’s no such thing as the wrong bike – in the same way there’s no such thing as the best bike.
But when we start looking at extremes, it’s clear that you will benefit from using one style of motorcycle over another.
And taking the wrong bike is one of the biggest motorcycle touring mistakes we see.
There really is no point taking a 235kg Africa Twin to far-flung parts of the Trans Euro Trail in Romania.
The trails are too techncal and the bike is too heavy.
Similarly, if you’re riding from the UK to southern Spain, taking a GAS GAS trials bike isn’t going to be the wisest choice!
Look at the type of tour you plan to ride, and consider what you want to get from it.
Now look at the bike you have and ask yourself if it’s realistic.
4. Motorcycle Touring Mistakes: Not Having A Travel Plan
You’ll come across people who will tell you that touring isn’t really touring if you have a plan.
They’ll tell you that you don’t need an itinerary and they’ll say things like “all you need is a bike and the open road.”
Well that advice is fine if you’re only travelling on one road.
Or if you’re in the cast of Wild Hogs.
But chances are, you’ll be travelling on multiple roads in multiple countries and it pays to be prepared.
For a start, you might guess that your tour will be five days. But what if it ends up being 11 days and you run out of money?
What if you can’t find a hotel to put you up for the night because it’s peak season and they’re fully booked?
All of the little stresses that come from not having an itinerary detract from the freedom of the open road anyway, so save yourself the hassle and make a plan!
Related: 10 Essential Touring Apps For Bikers
Travel Plans Help Manage Time
If you need to catch a ferry to get back home, then you absolutely need to have a travel plan. You will lose track of time and days when touring. Don’t be the one who has to cover 5,000km in six days just to make the crossing on time.
As mentioned above, the stress of it all will start to creep up on you. It’ll dominate your thoughts. You’ll start taking motorways in order to catch up – all the while missing out on the locations you’re passing through.
Eventually, the stress will poison the experience.
Avoid this most common of motorcycle touring mistakes by making life easy for yourself.
Make a travel plan.
5. Motorcycle Touring Mistakes: Trying To Do Too Much
It’s all too easy when sitting in your home planning your trip to end up planning too much.
You want to go here, you want to go there. You want to visit this and visit that before going on to see something else.
It’s easy to plan all these miles from the comfort of your home whilst enjoying a few glasses of Pinot Noir.
But in reality? Well, I find that enjoyment starts to decrease as the mileage starts to increase.
Fewer Miles & More Time
The best thing you can do for the sake of your enjoyment is trim down time pressures by selecting fewer, more attainable destinations. Allow yourself more time to get there and then allow yourself more time to enjoy them.
You’ll also find that you come across some truly amazing vistas or roads along your travels. If you need to ride another 200 miles just to reach your hotel before it gets dark, then it means not fully enjoying the wonderful location you’re in.
Giving yourself fewer miles allows for deviations such as the one above. It allows you to add to your trip when the mood takes and therefore increases the enjoyment.
More than any of that, it allows your journey to evolve from a plan into an experience.
Prep For The Long Haul
The advice above is probably one of the most valuable bits of advice I can give you. Combining fewer miles with more time will result in a more enjoyable touring experience.
But in every tour, there are times when you need to get your head down and cover miles.
And for those times, you need to manage comfort and distance. For more information, have a read of these two posts:
6. Why You Should Tour In A Group – And Why You Shouldn’t
Touring in a group comes with many benefits.
The obvious one is that it lessens the load. You can share out the menial tasks of planning and preparation.
If you’re a decent group, you can even allocate responsibilities to people who have relevant skills and experience.
And if you’re a social rider, the benefits of riding with others will far outweight the cons.
But it doesn’t come without its downsides – as is discussed in this post: Group Motorcycle Riding: What You Need To Know.
Clashes in personality, laziness, differences in riding styles, and selfishness all play a part in group riding.
And if you’re not prepared to compromise, touring in a group could be one of the biggest motorcycle touring mistakes you’ll ever make.
7. Why You Should Tour Solo – And Why You Shouldn’t
Feel free to call me selfish here, but I tour because I enjoy the freedom of going where I want, when I want. And as quickly or as slowly as I feel like.
That doesn’t make me a bad person – it just means I’m my own person.
I spend as much time as I want in locations and I stop off as and when I feel like it. I push on when I feel the need to, and I slow down to take it all in when I’m in that sort of mood.
As a photographer, I often stop to take shots. And as a lover of nature, I pull over at random places just to observe the silence or simply ‘feel’ where I am.
But touring solo also has its drawbacks. You spend all day in the saddle by yourself. And when you get to your accommodation, you’ll spend all evening alone, too.
You’ll spend the majority of your time doing exactly what you want – which is great. But you’ll also have nobody to share those experiences with.
Solo traveling can be one of the biggest motorcycle touring mistakes you can make if you’re more of a social being. Plus, there’s nobody to help when the shit hits the fan!
For more information, check our post on Solo Motorcycle Touring.
8. Motorcycle Touring Mistakes: Focusing On The Destination
If you’ve been riding for even a short while, you would’ve heard this quote (or a variation of it) by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“It’s not the destination, It’s the journey.
I know, I know. It’s so cliche!
But the reason clichés are clichés is because they’re true. And this one is no different.
Avoid motorcycle touring mistakes by keeping this quote in mind when you find yourself obsessing with arbitrary goals – like daily mileage or speed.
I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes there is a need for arbitrary goals – I spoke about it at the top of this post when mentioning route planning.
But I also said to allow yourself time to enjoy and explore.
It’s all too easy to obsess about getting to a certain location at a certain time. You’ll enjoy your ride a whole lot more if you give yourself permission to live in the moment.
9. Avoid Motorcycle Touring Mistakes By Choosing The Right Touring Style
This is one of those motorcycle touring mistakes that you’ll probably have to make for yourself before you realise what works for you.
I’m the sort of person who likes to base myself in one place for a few days. Coming back to the same accommodation each night means I don’t have to carry all my kit on my bike every day.
It also means my riding days are shorter in duration and higher in quality.
Not only this, but staying in the same place allows me to take days off the bike if I feel like it. I like to call this the flower petal approach; whereby my accomodation is the bud of the flower, and each day (or petal) looping off the bud is a ride out.
And whilst this is fine, I know people who actively seek out what I call the A to B style of riding. For this approach, you leave your hotel in the morning and you make your way to the next hotel.
Then the next hotel.
And so on, until you complete your trip.
There is no right or wrong here, but finding out which camp you’re in allows you to more tailor your tour.
For more information on touring styles, have a read of this post: Motorcycle Touring Style: Which Is Best For You?
Top image via TopSpeed