Aug 16, 2023

How To Travel Light On Your Motorcycle

When it comes to long-distance traveling or touring, light is right!

Traveling on a motorcycle has always been the biggest expression of pushing your boundaries. It teaches you how to endure more, take on any challenge that may present itself without a warning, and come out on top with the cherished gift of experience. That is why the explorer in you sets that bag of yours on the bike, rev the engine and gets going.

But that going can very easily get tough if you don't take care of a few easy things beforehand. You are not in a car where you can stuff 10 chunky suitcases in the boot and forget about it. Your bike is an extension of you as a whole, going through the same challenges and bending on the same corners. Hence, it's critical to keep your bike as light as possible to ensure that you have maximum control at every second. Here are a few tips that will enable you to travel light on your motorcycle.

Related: 10 Motorcycles That Look Terrible Without Luggage

Let's start with the easy stuff first. We know how much you love your pair of jeans. But let's be honest, your beloved denims are not what you should be carrying, let alone wearing on the bike. Especially when the whole game is about reducing weight. This is where dual-purpose clothes come into play.

Most adventure-riding pants nowadays are built in a manner which makes them breathable enough to be worn while off the bike. That simply negates the purpose of carrying an extra pair of jeans and helps save all that space in your bags. Similarly, riding boots can double up as hiking boots when you decide to take that less explored trail and items like your bandana can double up as a mask or even a small handkerchief if the situation arises.

Tool kits are essential irrespective of where you are going. Even if it's a short ride or a long one, having a toolkit with you on the motorcycle is something that just cannot be ignored. Having said that, carrying non-essential tools and additional spares is never a good idea. It's simple - tools are made from hard metal and they are heavy. Heavy enough that a couple of such tools may take up all the weight that you could have otherwise used for something a lot more important. That means while it's important to carry a toolkit that fits your motorcycle, it's equally important to optimize those tools beforehand and gauge the ones you might need on your upcoming trip and the ones that are an easy choice to leave behind.

This is a common beginner mistake that a lot of folks invariably end up making. Carrying your heavy fur coat has no place when your intention is to travel light. Not only are they heavy, but it's a nightmare to pack such big items. We understand you may have a weak immunity against cold weather. In such cases, the best thing to do is to layer up, rather than to layer heavy. Start with a well-insulated base layer, and add a light full-sleeved thermal layer. Over that, add another lightweight middle layer and then finally comes your top layer, which can often be substituted with the winter liner that comes with your riding jacket. Merino wool clothing is a great choice for those who are looking to layer up - check it out!

Related: Tips For Easy Breezy Riding In The Summer

Ergonomics. The term that can make or break your travel experience. How your bike handles has more to do with how you balance the added weight and less to do with the bike characteristics itself. You do not want to be the guy that carries three heavy metal boxes at the rear of his bike without a second thought. Always remember to counterbalance any weight that you add to your motorcycle, while it may not be pound for pound necessarily.

Left-right balancing is the most crucial aspect of this. If you are adding 40 pounds worth of weight to your left luggage bag, add the equivalent to the right side as well. Similarly, if you are adding a whole lot of weight at the black of the bike, make it a point to add some weight towards the front. This is where accessories like crash bar bags and front fender bags can come in really handy.

"If it gets really cold, I might end up needing an additional jacket." "Maybe I’ll end up using the entire bottle of shampoo for my two-week ride." - These are some of the most common misconceptions of riders. There are just too many ifs and maybes and if you were to plan and pack according to all of those situations, let's face it, you would be better off traveling in your pick-up truck.

You are on two wheels, and you have to accept the fact that you cannot possibly carry everything that you think you might need. If the need arises, and you do find yourself and such a situation, remember that you will always have some kind of solution around you. There will be stores where you can buy a thing or two that you did not bring along, and there will be people around who might help you as well. The rule of thumb is to carry the absolute essential gear you need on your travels.

The best way to get rid of those if and maybes is by doing all the important research beforehand. That research should include an extensive understanding of the weather forecast. Internet is your best friend - understand what kind of climate you should be expecting in the area you will be riding around so that you can plan and optimise your gear and your luggage accordingly. There is no point carrying all that extra heft of winter clothes if you are going to see relatively warmer sunny days from the saddle of your bike.

You’re only human, and you are only bound to pack a little bit more than you might need. But the good thing is there is a solution for that. By the second or third day of your ride, you will gather a fair idea of the gear that is useful to you and all that you can do without. Simply go to your nearest shipping service in the area you are in, and parcel or ship all that you do not need back home.

Once you do that, and you realize the convenience of this practise, it will become inseparable from your future adventure travels. Your friends and family back home can receive your parcel safely, and you can ride a happy man on a light motorcycle. One of the most useful practices you can inculcate by far!

Related: 10 Motorcycle Safety Tips That Will Take Your Riding To The Next Level

This is apparently the only way to go if light is your goal. We understand that soft luggage comes with its own set of limitations. It might not be the most secure solution for you, and it may need some extra effort to put on and take off after a long day's ride. But you simply cannot ignore how light soft luggage is. Technology has come far, and we can no longer complain that soft luggage systems cannot keep your gear dry. There are plenty of waterproof solutions in the market. And if a solid, rigid, shape-maintaining luggage bag is what you're looking for, semi-rigid soft bags might be the thing you need.

Being a lone wolf can be a heck of an experience but the added advantage of riding in a group are far too many. You can share a lot of gear that can be commonly used between different people. Common tools like wrenches and Allen keys can all be shared. That means you do not need to carry any more than the tools that are specific to your bike. Things like camping equipment, electronic gadgets and frozen food can all be shared and hence, the weight of carrying these items can be shared too. While it's not for everyone, but if you are someone who does not mind riding with your buddies, it can prove to be a game changer for you in your intention to travel light on your motorcycle.

The last but in all fairness, the most important tip. Upgrading your ability to maneuver your motorcycle can do wonders for you. The same bike on an inexperienced pair of hands can feel a lot more heavy than when ridden by someone who has good technical knowledge.

Once you do work on your skills and enhance your riding ability, you will realize that the same motorcycle feels a lot less heavy and that's down to one thing - the knowledge of managing the same mass in a different manner.

Utkarsh has over a decade of experience traveling and documenting his adventures through photographs and films.He has a YouTube channel where he shows his motorcycle adventures through India. On days when he is not writing about motorcycles, he's riding one.