A Handbook for Self-Guided Motorcycle Touring

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Do you dream of self-guided motorcycle touring? If so, you’ve come to the right place!

This handbook will provide all the information and resources needed for a successful self-guided motorcycle tour. From choosing the right bike for your journey to packing essentials and safety tips while on the road, this guide will help riders of all levels enjoy their self-guided motorcycle tour.

We’ll cover everything from prepping for your trip to ensure you get the most out of it – no matter what level rider you are!

Still not sure whether you should be riding a guided or self-guided tour? If so, check out this post, which details their differences: Should You Consider A Motorcycle Touring Holiday?

self-guided motorcycle touring - suzuki loaded up

Why Choose A Self-Guided Motorcycle Trip

In short, all the planning and hard work is done for you! The to-do list can be daunting if you’ve never planned a motorcycle tour. There’s a lot to get right – and a lot that can go wrong if you don’t.

Self-guided tour operators negate this work by sorting everything out on your behalf. The routes are set out – and pre-loaded into your sat nav.

Your hotels are pre-booked, breakfasts are taken care of, and they will suggest local restaurants for dinner.

Along the route, you’ll be given a pack which shows you a map of each day, along with the miles, duration, and notable places to stop and explore.

Finally, you’re never truly alone on a self-guided tour. The tour operators are only a phone call away. So, if anything goes wrong or you have a breakdown, everything is taken care of.

In terms of gear, most operators will send you a list of recommended kit to bring with you – based on the route, time of year, and experience. Even if you lack certain items, most operators can loan the bits you need (at a cost.)

When To Choose Self-Guided Motorcycle Touring

In the realm of touring, self-guided tours are an anomaly. Experienced riders don’t need them, and complete novices often fare better with fully guided tours.

So, who are self-guided tours for, and when would you choose one?

Well, I’ll use myself as an example. I’m an experienced touring rider with hundreds of thousands of miles. I’ve travelled a lot, and I know the ropes.

But I’d look at a self-guided tour if I wanted to tour Central America.

I don’t need someone to guide me in a physical capacity. But I would like to ride a pre-planned route that guarantees all the best roads and sites – preventing me from getting lost, wasting time, causing unnecessary stress, and/or missing hotel reservations.

I would also rather rent a bike than ship my own. Plus, I’d like someone else to have the nightmare of sorting out my paperwork!

motorbike side of winding road

Benefits of a Self-Guided Motorcycle Tour

A self-guided motorcycle tour can be an excellent way to experience the thrill of the ride while enjoying flexibility and control. Here are five advantages to taking a self-guided motorcycle tour:


When exploring on your own, you set the pace of the tour. You don’t have to worry about keeping up with a group or other riders holding you back. For instance, if you get up late or decide to take a scenic route instead of sticking to the planned itinerary, you can easily make those changes as you see fit.

Self-Guided Motorcycle Touring is Cost-effective

Joining a guided tour usually means paying for your meals and accommodation as part of the package. However, a self-guided motorcycle tour allows you to save money by choosing cheaper accommodations or even opting to camp. Controlling your expenses means you can stretch your budget and travel longer.


When you’re in control, you can choose your destinations, routes, and difficulty level. With a self-guided motorcycle tour, you’re not limited by a pre-set itinerary; you can veer off the beaten path and explore hidden gems.


Unlike joining a guided tour, you don’t need to follow a specific schedule, and you can ride at your own pace, stopping when and where you want. This means you can take time to appreciate the breathtaking scenery, stop for a bite to eat, or even spend a night in a place you weren’t planning.


When touring alone, you face unexpected challenges that can make your adventure even more exciting. You can witness some fantastic (and unexpected) experiences you wouldn’t have had if you followed a planned itinerary or stuck to the group’s schedule.

Self-Guided Motorcycle Touring: Summary of Advantages

In summary, self-guided motorcycle tours allow you to explore at your own pace, personalise your trip and experience the thrill of the ride. A self-guided motorcycle tour may be the best travel method for those who crave adventure and independence.

self-guided motorcycle touring - biker and pillion mountain road

Disadvantages of a Self-Guided Motorcycle Tour

While self-guided motorcycle tours offer the freedom to explore at your own pace and personalise your trip, there are also some disadvantages to consider. Here are five potential downsides to self-guided motorcycle tours:

Planning and navigation

Unlike joining a guided tour, a self-guided motorcycle tour requires a certain aptitude for navigation. You’ll rely solely on GPS or map reading skills. And if you get lost, you won’t have anyone to fall back on. This can be avoided if you’re knowledgeable in using your GPS or route-planning app. We recommend Scenic Motorcycle App, and you can read why in this post: Scenic Motorcycle App: Unlock Your Adventure.

Safety concerns

When taking a self-guided motorcycle tour, you won’t have the security of having a tour guide at your side. Accidents do happen, and if you get into a mishap, you’re on your own – physically, at least. There’s also the risk of safety if you venture into a dodgy area without the backup of a group.

Increased risk of getting lost

Without a tour guide, there’s a greater risk of getting lost while navigating new terrain. Roads can sometimes be unmarked or in disrepair, particularly in some rural areas. Also, there’s no one to ask for directions if you find yourself lost or confused.

Limited camaraderie

Self-guided tours lack the strong bond of camaraderie that comes from joining a group tour. You’ll miss out on the companionship of a group of like-minded bikers and the social activities and shared experiences that come along with that.

Language Barriers

Language barriers could be a problem when communicating with locals. Exploring new places without the advantage of conversing in the local language could lead to being unable to find a hotel, get fuel or food, or even communicate with medical professionals in an emergency.

Self-Guided Motorcycle Touring: Summary of Disadvantages

In summary, while self-guided motorcycle tours offer freedom and excitement, they also have some potential downsides to consider before embarking on one. You’ll have to take matters into your own hands, plan, keep an extra eye on safety, and risk getting lost somewhere unfamiliar to you while navigating with a language barrier.

rider by canyon and lake

Choosing the Right Bike for Your Journey

When it comes to self-guided motorcycle touring, choosing the right bike for your journey is essential. The type of bike you choose will depend on where you plan to ride, what kind of terrain you’ll be encountering, and how comfortable you are with riding in different conditions.

As mentioned, you can rent an appropriate bike from the tour operator. But if you choose to ride your own, there are a few things to consider.

Consider purchasing a used motorcycle if you’re looking for an affordable option. While Instagram shows extravagant trips on top-of-the-range BMW GSs, used bikes are often the better choice for the normal rider., used bikes are often the better choice for the normal rider.

Additionally, consider the bike’s size and weight when deciding. These factors will play a massive role in determining how easy (or difficult) it is to manage it throughout your tour.

Lastly, ensure the bike you hire (or buy) has adequate storage solutions for your kit (panniers, top box/roll bag, tank bag, etc.) And remember to read up on the tank range! This is especially important if you’re headed off the beaten track, where you might not see a fuel station for a few hundred miles. 

Preparing for a Self-Guided Motorcycle Tour

Preparing for a motorcycle tour requires careful planning and attention to detail. Fortunately, most self-guided tour operators do the hard work for you!

Before you hit the open road, a few steps must be taken to ensure your journey is as safe and enjoyable as possible.


As mentioned, ensure you select the right bike for the tour. Consider your riding style, terrain preferences, and budget when choosing your motorcycle. 

If you’re going off-road, more robust machines may be required. Here is a post on the best bikes to tour around the world to give you an idea: The Best Motorcycles To Tour Around The World: Our Top 7.

Additionally, you must be familiar with the mechanical aspects of your motorcycle, such as tyre pressures, oil levels, chain tension, spark plugs, and any other maintenance issues. This is less of an issue with a hire bike from the operator, but it’s still good to have a general idea.


Next, you will need to gather the necessary gear for the trip. This includes bike-specific gear such as your helmet, gloves, jacket/pants, and boots. It also includes your personal gear, spare clothes, camping gear and food (if camping).

Ensure you have (and are familiar with) navigation equipment like GPS, maps, or route-planning apps.


Finally, ask the tour operator if the bike has basic tools for repairs while on the road. If not, consider bringing your own – particularly a puncture repair kit!

self-guided motorcycle touring - bike with helmet

Packing Essentials to Bring Along

Packing essentials vary from person to person and from trip to trip. It’s important to consider the type of terrain you’ll be riding through and the length of your trip when planning which items to bring – as well as the weather and time of year.

At the very least, you should pack comfortable clothing for long days in the saddle, including layers for changing temperatures. Bring additional items such as a waterproof jacket or rain gear in case of sudden rain or cold weather.

In addition, carry appropriate tools for emergency repairs if needed. For normal (road-based) tours, a puncture repair kit and a basic tool kit are all that’s needed.

Navigation equipment is also essential for self-guided tours. Ensure you have enough maps or a GPS (or route-planning app) loaded with all necessary routes before heading out.

As mentioned above, most self-guided tour operators will pre-load your sat nav with the routes or send them to you in GPX format to upload to your route-planning app of choice.

Proper Maintenance and Safety Tips While on the Road

Proper maintenance and safety tips ensure a successful and enjoyable self-guided motorcycle tour. Inspect the bike before embarking on the journey and ensure all components are in good working order.

Most hire bikes from operators have less than 20,000 miles on the clock. They’re also well-maintained and are swapped out regularly for new ones. But it doesn’t do any harm to give the bike a once over when you pick it up.

This includes checking fluid levels, tyres, brakes, and other moving parts. If any of these items require attention or replacement, they should be taken care of before beginning the trip.

I always bring my own riding equipment rather than rent. For example, you don’t know if the helmet you rented has been previously banged or dropped.

Plus, I dislike sharing helmets, gloves, or clothing!

motorbike tools

Getting the Most Out of Your Experience

  1. Research self-guided motorcycle tour operators to find the one that suits your requirements.
  2. Make sure your bike is in good condition and properly maintained – or check you can hire an appropriate model from the operator.
  3. Pack only essential items that are necessary for a successful journey. This is especially true if you’re hiring a bike and are unsure of storage capacity.
  4. Stay up-to-date with weather conditions along the route and plan accordingly.
  5. Take regular breaks throughout the day to rest, hydrate, and refuel.
  6. Document your experience by taking pictures and videos of your trip.
  7. Connect with locals at every stop for recommendations on places to see, eat, or use the recommendations issued by the operator.
  8. Follow all safety guidelines while riding, such as wearing protective gear and following traffic laws.
  9. Enjoy yourself – take the time to appreciate nature’s beauty, try new activities, explore different cultures, etc!

Self-Guided Motorcycle Touring: Conclusion

When it comes to self-guided motorcycle touring, having the right resources and advice can make all the difference in your experience.

Read up on the differences between guided and self-guided tours – this could save you a lot of heartache in the long run. Be sure you know which would suit you best!

Knowing what type of bike is best suited for your journey, how to prepare for the trip, and what essentials to bring along are just a few of the considerations.

A touring bike will likely suit you best for tarmac-based tours covering big distances – thanks to their luggage space and comfortable riding positions.

For off-road tours, select an appropriate off-road or trail bike that offers a good balance between power, range, and agility.

If you need help determining what kind of bike you need for your tour, you can match the bike to the tour by using our post on the different types of bikes available.

Finally, read the operator’s guidelines on the kit you should bring and prepare for this well in advance. Consider the time of year (and your specific needs) and plan for these accordingly.

And remember – the operator is on the other end of the phone. So, if anything goes wrong, they will come to your rescue!


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