Solo motorcycle touring, eh?
A concept all of us have contemplated, yet few of us have attempted.
Let me start this post by saying this.
And don’t even bother asking your riding buddies.
See, the way it usually starts is on a Saturday night over a barbeque and a few drinks. The beers are flowing and the mood is happy. Someone mentions a dream bike trip to Portugal and all of a sudden, plans are being made.
Let me stop you right there.
Walking The Walk
If you’re reading this, I know you. And I know the kind of person you are.
You’re a maverick.
You have fire in your belly.
Not only have you made a plan, but you’ve made a fricking awesome plan. You gave your word and you’re excited to embark on a journey of such goodness that it will change you as a person forever.
But the other eight or nine people who were a part of your plans that night, aren’t like you.
As the month’s tick by, the excuses will roll in as to why they can no longer make it. Some genuine, some less so.
But you’re not like that. And that’s why this post is for your eyes and not for theirs.
1. Solo Motorcycle Touring Doesn’t Have To Mean Alone
One of the biggest misconceptions of solo motorcycle touring is that you’re going to be alone from the minute you leave the house. But the truth is, this doesn’t have to be the case if you don’t want it to be.
On The Boat
From the second you get to the ferry port, you’ll see other bikers waiting in the queue to board. You’ll start talking to people immediately.
Your conversations will continue on-board. You’ll meet in the bar during the evening to exchange routes over dinner. Or you’ll break out the maps over beers whilst you swap road recommendations and route suggestions.
And there’s a good chance that they’ll be on the same boat you’re on when you come back! So once you get back on the boat after your amazing week of touring, familiar faces will be waiting to hear your story. And they’ll be dying to tell you all about theirs as well.
Cafes And Restaurants
Chances are, if you’ve chosen a specific cafe or restaurant for lunch in the middle of a riders paradise, you won’t be alone. Because every other biker in the vicinity would have had the same idea.
Sometimes you’ll hear voices in your native language. You’ll say hi, and all of a sudden you’re a guest at their table.
Other times, you’ll meet people from different countries. You don’t speak their language, nor do they speak yours. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. You make it work.
Sharing the Pyrenees
I was once riding a solo motorcycle tour of the Pyrenees.
I’d been riding for hours and the only glimmer of another human I’d seen was that of a BMW 1200 GS with a German number plate. He would materialise out of nowhere, we’d cross paths, then he’d be gone again.
All of a sudden, he pulled out of a road behind me. And now he was riding the same road as me. I had a friend.
I tilted my head as I looked at him in my mirror.
I waved back, and we rode through the Pyrenees together for a good few hours.
Sometimes he followed me, sometimes I followed him.
We took turns leading, and we rode like it was the last time either of us would be on a bike.
Eventually, I came to a T-junction. I popped on my right indicator and when I checked my mirrors, I saw his left indicator flashing away.
That was it. Our ride together was over.
I never saw his face. I never knew his name. But that ride will be carved in my memory forever.
2. Solo Motorcycle Touring: Share Your Itinerary
One of my traditions before I leave home is to share my itinerary. In my house, the itinerary is stuck to the fridge door or shared via Tripit. I recommend you do the same a few days before you leave.
You family will appreciate knowing where you’re going to be at any given time.
Pop the names and phone numbers of any hotels you will be at on there as well. If the worst comes to the worst and they haven’t heard from you, they can always call the hotel to see if you’ve checked in.
This information could be vital in terms of finding you if the worst should happen and you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere.
Related: 10 Essential Apps For Bikers
3. Look After Your Bike, And Your Bike Will Look After You
When solo motorcycle touring, you have no other friends to share the burdens as they arise.
Your bike is your friend. It’s your best friend. You need it to get back just as much as it needs you to ride it.
So look after it!
Get your bike checked professionally before you leave. Service it if need be. Put on some new tyres. Give it the best you can afford.
During your tour, treat it to good fuel. Check the chain regularly and lube it up when it needs it. Keep an eye on the tyre pressures and fluids.
It doesn’t have to be anything too in-depth – just a 60-second walk-around in the morning before you start your ride should suffice.
4. Solo Motorcycle Touring: Start Early, Finish Early
This is actually true for most rides, but even more so for solo motorcycle touring.
If you leave late, it means you will get back late. And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the problems that may arise during the hours of darkness.
- If you get lost in daylight, at least you can see where you are. If you get lost in the dark, it’s a whole different story.
- A breakdown during daylight means you’ll be waiting for the recovery service during daylight. A breakdown in the middle of the mountains during darkness means there’s a chance you’ll be stuck there until morning.
- You might come across some spectacular roads along your trip. If you get there early, you’ll have enough time to enjoy them twice. If you arrive there late, you’ll have to head back before it gets too dark.
- Riding mountain roads in darkness is manageable. But it’s far from ideal.
- Animals and critters usually run across the roads when it’s dark – making them harder to see.
5. Travel Light
Try your best to be strict with your packing when solo motorcycle touring. There’s nobody to share the weight, so make sure you get it right before you leave.
Consider clothing that keeps you warm, keeps you cool, and keeps you dry. Take a few sets of base layers which can be washed and dried in an hour rather than seven cotton t-shirts, for example.
Zip-off pants cover the bases of both pants and shorts. And a tiny bottle of washing powder takes up far less space than a roll-bag full of clothes.
6. Stay Hydrated
Your performance will drop like a stone if you let yourself get hydrated.
- Down a pint of water in the morning
- Take a 1L bottle of water to sip on throughout the day
- Drink a 0.5L bottle of water every time you stop for fuel or coffee
- Drink a pint of water on your return to the hotel
- Sip on water throughout the evening
For more in-depth information, check out this post: Raise A Glass: 10 Tips To Keep Hydrated
7. Enjoy Days Off
My general advice is to enjoy a day off for every three or four days of riding.
You can alter this somewhat depending on the tour.
But days off play just as much a part of your tour as being in the saddle.
Use the time to visit the local town. Sample glorious food in restaurants and cafes. Visit attractions. Soak up the culture of where you are.
Oftentimes, these days off are truly immersive and allow you to experience everything a place has to offer. Don’t feel guilty for having a day off. Enjoy it!
8. Solo Motorcycle Touring: Back Up Your Routes
When it comes to your routes, I’d recommend backing them up before you leave.
If you’re using a navigational device to plan your tour, back up the routes as GPX files to the Cloud (such as Google Drive.) If you accidentally delete your routes or need to update them on the fly, it can often be a faff on a sat nav. Using your smartphone/laptop to re-install or edit your routes can be a lifesaver.
Finally, take a hard copy of a map for your area. Circle or highlight your routes and hotels. If the worst comes to the worst, at least you’ll have a map.
9. ICE & Important Information
When solo motorcycle touring, make sure ICE (In Case of Emergency) information is easily accessible.
Ensure your emergency contacts are on your person or luggage along with phone numbers. Include your country dialing code (e.g., in the UK, it’s +44.)
If you need specific medication for a condition, ensure this information is there as well.
Solo Motorcycle Touring: Conclusion
You’ll plan it by yourself, ride it by yourself, and finished it by yourself.
You’ll deal with all the pitfalls along the way. You’ll navigate around all the problems and you’ll figure everything out on your own.
Because you’ll have no other choice.
When the trials and tribulations of solo motorcycle touring come looking for you, pick yourself up and forge ahead like the champion you are.
And when you finally make it home, you’ll be blessed with a feeling of strength and achievement that will stay with you forever.
Now go and do it. And in the words of AC/DC…
For those about to rock, We salute you.