It’s hard to know when to stop, isn’t it?
Midway through your first tour, you become aware of just how many mistakes you made during your preparation. From the wrong kit to the wrong luggage, and from unsuitable clothing to unneeded accessories, you’ll pledge never to make the same mistakes again.
So the following year, you remember all the things that went wrong the first time around, and you make a plan to remedy the issues from last year.
And that’s admirable!
But inevitably, your master plan goes awry once again when you get on tour and realise that all the accessories you bought to make life easier have actually been expensive disappointments.
In theory, they all make sense. But in reality, they often come with their own inconveniences – and the sole reason you bought them in the first place was to overcome inconveniences!
As touring motorcyclists, we’re always learning. We get better and learn what works for us as time goes on. It’s a long and continuous journey.
But if you’re new to the touring world, listed below are 9 of the most overrated motorcycle touring accessories that you simply do not need!
And just to help you out, we’ll also give you more practical alternatives.
Related: Check out our Touring category for more touring-related tips!
1. Overrated Motorcycle Touring Accessories: Panniers (In General)
Ooooooo I can almost hear thousands of people gasping in unison at the very notion that panniers are overrated!
But for most people, on most tours, they sort of are.
I’m not saying you never need them. We all have different circumstances and need to carry different things on different tours. But in general, if you’re only going away for a week and you need panniers, I’d argue you’re taking too much.
To put it into context, I was in the French Alps last year for the best part of a month – and I went without panniers. You can, too!
For ANY trip, the solution is to pack appropriately. You don’t need 21x t-shirts, 21x sets of underwear, and 21x pairs of socks for a 21-day tour. What you need is 2-3 of each and a little bit of washing powder.
You don’t need mid-layers for riding and mid-layers for evening wear. Just take one set of mid-layers that you can wear both on and off the bike.
Once you’ve got your kit down to only the essentials, these will then fit nicely in your top box and/or roll bag.
Save yourself £1,000+ by foregoing the OEM pannier system and get yourself a £50 roll bag instead!
2. Smartphone Route Guidance
I won’t lie, I’m the world’s biggest hater of traditional sat-nav units. Don’t get me wrong, I have one and I use it extensively – because I need it.
But I dislike faffing around with it, and I dislike how much I had to pay for it in the first place. It’s a nightmare to alter on the move, so if I have to change the route mid-trip, a drama will almost certainly ensue!
So surely smartphone navigation is the way to go, no?
Well, yes and no.
I’m a firm believer in smartphone sat navs in the car. And I’m also a firm believer that smartphones will (one day) completely overtake dedicated GPS units on motorcycles.
But they’re not quite there. Yet.
There are oodles of motorcycle apps for both Apple & Android – most of which I’ve used at some point or another. And I’m going to try and exclusively use my phone for route guidance on our month-long trip to Norway this year.
But there’s no hiding from the fact that you will lose signal when you need it the most, the sun will reflect off the screen rendering it useless, and it will undoubtedly overheat and switch itself off mid-route.
Until the time comes that smartphones are stable enough for long-term usage on tour, you might want to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket for now!
Simply update the maps and upload your routes, and you’re good to go.
Of course, it likely won’t be waterproof and won’t have many of the features present on the dedicated motorcycle GPS systems. But it will do the job.
Still intent on using your phone on tour? Buy a cheap used one rather than destroying your nice new £1,000 iPhone!
Related: Motorcycle Sat Nav vs Smartphones
3. Overrated Motorcycle Touring Accessories: Dedicated Tank Bags
Dedicated tank bags are great for keeping essential items to hand when touring. Passports, cash, credit cards, medication, phone, those sorts of things.
But tank bags often get in the way. The expandable ones are so high that they can obstruct your view of the dash. And they can even hinder your riding position.
You constantly have to stretch around it every time you want to start or turn off the bike. And that’s not to mention the fight you have each and every time you get to the petrol station!
And it gets worse at home. Sometimes you want to take to your phone and wallet etc., but you don’t want the inconvenience of a tank bag.
So what happens?
You leave your £200 tank bag in the garage and opt to stuff all your valuables in your pockets instead!
Rather than buying a dedicated tank bag, buy a bag that can be used either as a tank bag or tail pack.
This gives you the option of using it as a tank bag on tour or turning it into a tail pack for weekend blasts at home.
If you need items where you can access them, keep it as a tank bag.
If you’re simply using it to carry stuff on a ride out, attach it to the pillion seat where it won’t get in the way or inconvenience you.
Bags that can be used as tank bags or tail packs can often be used as a shoulder bag, too. And that means you can use it off the bike as well as on it.
Win, win, win.
4. Motorcycle Backpacks
To this day, I still wince every time I see a motorcyclist come past me wearing a backpack. You’re just asking for trouble!
If you come off your bike whilst wearing a motorcycle backpack, you will almost certainly cause yourself some real damage.
But even if you don’t come off, I can’t think of anything worse than riding to the Amalfi coast in 35-degree heat with a sweaty backpack chafing against my skin.
And that’s not to mention the aches and pains that come from wearing one extensively.
I’m not saying backpacks should never be used. Off-roading through Morocco, for example, is one such time when a backpack and hydration pack outweighs the dangers of wearing it.
You might fall off and hurt yourself – or you might not. But you’ll certainly suffer the effects of dehydration without it.
As mentioned in the panniers section above, if you’re touring with a backpack because you couldn’t fit everything into your dedicated luggage, then pack less shit!
Be ruthless in your prep and cross everything off your list that isn’t essential.
And then leave the backpack at home.
5. Overrated Motorcycle Touring Accessories: One-Piece Leathers
I’m not a fan of leathers in any way, shape, or form.
In my humble opinion, textiles are more comfortable, warmer in winter, cooler in summer, more flexible, and can carry more stuff.
For touring, textiles win the long-distance battle every single time.
If you prefer leathers, that’s fine – you do you and I’ll do me. But do yourself a favour and get a two-piece!
Two-piece leathers offer more versatility. You can take the jacket off whilst sitting in the sun having your lunch, for example.
And it’s way easier to drop your pants in the toilet than it is to get a one-piece suit off when the lunch you just demolished disagrees with you and decides to make an emergency evacuation.
Buy textiles. Or if you must wear leathers, get individual pants and jacket for loads more flexibility, manoeuvrability, and comfort.
6. Expensive Intercom Systems
I’m one of those people that appreciates the art of good sound. I have a decent pair of headphones for training in the gym, and I like to listen to my Audible book in quality, too!
But I don’t need to listen to my voice-guided sat-nav in surround sound. Nor do I need to have a full-length conversation in crystal clear clarity with my riding buddies over the radio whilst riding.
I want to enjoy my ride in peace. I want to soak up the environment and take in the memories – I can talk to my riding buddies later over dinner!
Intercom really does help – especially when it comes to voice-guided navigation. For years, I’ve used cheap Chinese headsets off eBay.
These do the job and are good enough for basic navigation and the odd comment from my riding buddies.
But they don’t cost the earth – and I can spend the £300 I saved on something more important.
7. Overrated Motorcycle Touring Accessories: One-Piece Rain Suits
This is very much in the same vein as one-piece leathers.
The first time I toured, it rained torrentially as I made my way north towards Calais. But it wasn’t continuous – it came in heavy, sporadic bursts and then stopped.
Every time it started, I would find a place to pull over, fight to get the pants over my boots and fight to get the top bit over my jacket – whilst getting pissed wet through in the process.
No sooner did I get on, it would stop raining, and the sun would come out – where I would get too hot.
So then I would find another place to pull over to take it all off.
Can you guess what happened next?
The rain would start again, and I would go through the entire process all over again.
In this predicament, you have two choices. Either keep the waterproofs on and sweat yourself to death or keep them off and get soaked to the bone.
Neither are good!
As with the leather suits, get yourself a two-piece suit instead. Oftentimes, I will keep the pants on all day and just use the jacket when it starts raining.
You might also choose to keep your pants on the outside, and your waterproof jacket on the inside as a layer for warmth in the cold.
Furthermore, you can use a waterproof jacket in the evening where a high-viz one-piece rain suit doesn’t seem appropriate!
8. Motorcycle ‘Cruise Assists’
If you’re unsure what a cruise assist is, it’s a clip that goes around your throttle. When your throttle hand starts to ache on the motorway, you push against the clip with your palm to give your hand a rest.
In essence, it’s a solution to resting an aching throttle hand when your bike doesn’t have cruise control.
A few years back, I was out riding in the twisties with a riding buddy who was a very good rider. Leaning into a right-hand band, he counter-steered by pushing his right hand forward.
Whilst counter-steering, he accidentally caught the throttle assist with his hand, span up the revs, and slid his bike 100m down the road. His bike was ruined, and he came to an undignified stop in a ditch.
The lesson here?
Don’t use cruise assists!
Unfortunately, there isn’t a solution! If cruise control is important to you, buy a bike with cruise control. You can get aftermarket kits, but I’m not familiar with them and I haven’t used them.
Other than that, suck it up and ride with an aching hand.
9. Overrated Motorcycle Touring Accessories: Chain Oilers
I’ve had a few bikes in my time. And every single time, I’ve been jealous of my dad and his shaft-driven bikes.
Because every time we pull up after a long day in the saddle, he casually strolls into the hotel whilst I have to take all my luggage off and get the bike onto the centre stand so I can lube the damn chain.
I get it. It’s annoying as hell.
And I’ll admit that I’ve also been tempted by oilers in the past. Especially at first, when I had a habit of either under-oiling or over-oiling the chain.
But then my friend came along with his new automatic oiler system. And it turns out his troublesome oiler would either over-oil or under-oil the chain as I would!
Learning how to oil your chain is trial and error. And using an oiler is trial and error, too. If your bike has a centre stand, do yourself a favour and learn how to oil your chain properly. Then spend the £200 you saved on something more exciting!
As mentioned, trial and error is all part and parcel of the process. The more you oil your chain, the easier it gets.
And the easier it gets, the more you’ll be pleased that you didn’t spend a fortune on an oiler that gets it wrong just as often as you do.
Overrated Motorcycle Touring Accessories
Did we miss anything? What motorcycle touring accessories have you bought that turned out to be a waste of time?
Let us know in the comments!
Top image: Louis Moto on Unsplash