Motorcycle Tour 101: Traveling by Motorcycle (2022)

Traveling by motorcycle is like unpacking and releasing true freedom.Does that sound a bit poetic?Ok, but motorcycle tours really allow you to travel at your own pace through both cities and totally offbeat places.

Not to mention that driving is by far more rewarding than catching an old bus!Camping at the base of majestic mountains and slow mornings in a foreign land are both favorites of longtime motorcycle travelers.

But with great freedom comes great responsibility!Traveling by motorcycle can be difficult to organize and even downright dangerous.I mean, you're racing around blind corners with nothing but a leather jacket between you and the asphalt.

The moments I had to enjoy a motorcycle trip were highlights of my travels.So I've put together the basics for the nervous motorcycle traveler for the first time!And, dare I say, even the seasoned pros might be reminded of some good points while reading it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Because hitting the open road on a badass bike should be on EVERY traveler's wish list.This beginner's guide to motorcycle touring is for you to whiz down Route 66.

After all, the road is always the best teacher.

Why travel by motorcycle?

"On a motorcycle … you're in touch with everything. You're in the middle of it all, no longer just watching, and the sense of presence is overwhelming." – Robert Pirsig

This quote sums up what drives many of us to travel by motorcycle.The thrill of removing the "windows" and leaning into each curve of the road is absolutely exhilarating.

You never feel like you're commuting or just getting from A to B.You'll be busy asking locals for directions and riding back roads into the remote hinterlands of different countries.

Since you're often traveling to offbeat places, even the most popular countries can appear in a new light when traveling by motorcycle.Whenever you want, you can just stop and take an epic photo.In your spare time you can stop and chat with locals or explore your surroundings.

Not to mention, when you're touring by motorcycle, you can design your own itinerary and slow down your trip.These days, there's a bit of hype about living minimal and living free, and rightly so. Traveling by motorcycle encourages you to be both minimal in your stuff and maximal with your experience.

On top of that, beer just tastes better after a long day of riding. ๐Ÿ˜‰ When you put your bike in gear and hit the road with it, you can be sure you'll return home with plenty of stories to tell.

How to plan a motorcycle adventure

When it comes to adventure travel, there are usually two types of people: those who plan too much, and those who plan too little.So I present to you: the dreaded compromise.Before you saddle up and roar off into the peachy sunset, I think you should have a rough plan in place.

This is not a meticulously maintained itinerary where you are in 3 places at once and all your accommodations are booked months in advance.But it's also not just a napkin with a smeared name of a city someone said would be cool to visit.

Still, it's not witchcraft – it's just traveling by motorcycle!Now that I've had a few epic rides, I present to you the most important considerations to include in your plan to travel by motorcycle.

Tip number one: buy a good bike

For as many motorcycle travelers as there are so many different opinions on the best bike to ride!However, we can all agree that spending a little more money on a bike in better condition will save you money in the long run.

You'll spend less time sitting on the stool in front of the mechanic, and more time enjoying the scenic and winding roads when your bike is in good condition!And especially if you're going to be on the road for an extended period of time, it helps a lot if you know how to fix your bike yourself.

Take it from someone who has learned to be covered in engine snot instead of calling a mechanic every time something goes wrong – it's worth it!Not only will you save money, but if your motorcycle adventure goes the way you envisioned, you may not be around a mechanic!

When you're in the forests of the Laotian jungle or the rolling plains of Kyrgyzstan, there won't always be someone who knows how to fix your bike!Plus, it's so satisfying and confidence boosting to know you can make a beast out of a bike run with just a little tinkering.

When considering your bike, I would also consider whether to rent or buy it.For shorter trips to far-flung countries, it makes more sense to rent a bike.If you go through a reputable company, the bikes should be well maintained and you don't have to spend too much time in mechanics!For longer trips or if you already have a badass touring bike, service your big beautiful beast and hit the road.

Create a budget

The secret to motorcycle travel is to treat it like long-term backpacking – at least in terms of your budget.It means all the budget backpacking hacks stay in play and you can travel off the beaten path longer.

Once you're on a budget, you can enjoy the place you're traveling to more thoroughly – without the stress of running out of money.

I mean, who wouldn't want to ride the Old Silk Road and channel the empires of years gone by?You'll have one of those adventures that sounds almost mythical when you recount it years later.With a good grasp on the budget of your adventure, you can really throw yourself into the wilderness and mild insanity that always makes a motorcycle trip worthwhile.

As with any kind of budgeting, setting a travel price is like asking how long a piece of string is ..

But if you have a schedule and a maximum amount you can spend, you're halfway there.I recommend setting aside 5% – 10% for emergencies and splitting the rest over the number of days you expect to be on the road.If it turns out that number is a little lower than you think possible, it's time to get back to the basics of budget backpacking!

What's the deal with lodging?

If you're on the cheap end of a tight budget, our old friend camping plays a big part.Get a good motorcycle tent and boom!The world opens up to you.

Of course, if you have a little extra money to throw around, it will be more convenient to stay in a hostel and hotels along the way.But I would argue that part of the experience of a motorcycle adventure is the gritty camping-style sleeping accommodations.The stars are just a little clearer and the morning coffee just sounds different when you're camping.

When you set up camp for the night, you can leave room for a clothesline and hang your clothes to dry (weather permitting). And you'll probably cook your own food instead of eating out.Sure, you might have a cheeky can of beer to celebrate the end of a long day of biking, but you're not going to go clubbing and spend money.

Camping invites you to reminisce about the days when we played cards in the evening and chatted the night away.It's about more than saving money: It's about gaining experience.

But I'm not gonna lie.Life on motorcycle trips can be tough.Sometimes – especially on long rides – your spirits can drop a bit.And you know what lifts the spirits like nothing else?Have a hot shower and a proper bed.

It's worth putting a little money in your budget so you can book an Airbnb or stay in a hotel every now and then.It will do a world of wonders for your morale if you ride all day long!

Let's talk about food

Eat local and cook your own food.

Here's how I would sum up eating on a budget!And believe me, it's not that bad.If you decide to take a motorcycle tour of Vietnam, you're in luck when it comes to cheap and delicious food!On the roadside there are many stalls and they are all filled to the brim with delicious soup, spiced fruit and beef prepared in more ways than I have fingers to count.

Even when I was riding my motorcycle around New Zealand, I didn't quite stick to cooking my own food.I treated myself to the pit stop style meal: hot chips smeared with vinegar.And I mean lathered – the fact is completely unbiased that chips taste better when soaked in vinegar to the point of being mushy.

Ok, it's not the healthiest thing to eat on the road, but I'll tell you what those hot fries tasted pretty darn divine after 8 hours of driving.

However, when you're traveling through an expensive country like New Zealand, you usually want to cook for yourself.That's not so bad, though!If you get yourself a nice camping stove, there's no limit to your imagination when it comes to cooking.I've had particularly memorable one-pot meals – although after riding all day, I may have just been so tired that anything tasted good?

Factor in these additional costs from the start!You never know when a hard-to-find repair part will hit you with a high price tag.

It's also important to know if your trip will be a round trip or if you'll need to send your bike home.Shipping a bike is not cheap.But when you compare it to the thousands of extra miles and costs you'll have on the road, it can suddenly become more palatable.

And then there's YOUR health.What if you ate a dodgy curry and became best friends with a toilet for a few days?What if the worst happens and you fly off your bike and end up getting all bruised up?It's not nice to think about things like that, but it definitely pays to have contingency plans in place!

That's why I recommend setting aside 5% – 10% of your budget for emergencies.Think of it as your little crash landing pad; your financial leather riding jacket.

Annnnnd, have insurance

It's important to talk about insurance – and not just because it's supposed to cover you when your back is splattered on the road.Many major travel insurance companies do NOT cover motorcycle travel.

You have to pull out your magnifying glass and read the fine print to find out they only cover "accidental" motorcycle trips.

Look, I'm not going to get on my soapbox.It's up to you whether or not you buy insurance.But as someone who had to crawl to the nearest hospital in Guatemala to get used to the good stuff, I'll tell you: It's nice not to think about money when you're sick!

And one travel insurer that covers motorcycle travel that I would recommend is SafetyWing.They essentially act as international health insurance and work a bit like a subscription service.You pay for the months you want to cover.It's super flexible, customer service is top notch, and they follow through when you need them most.

Monthly payments, no commitment contracts, and no itineraries required: this is exactly the kind of insurance digital nomads and long-term travelers need.Cover your pretty little self while living the DREAM!

SafetyWing is cheap, easy and administration-free: just sign up in a snap so you can get back to work!Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing's setup, or read our Insider review for the full tidbit.

We need to talk about safety

Well, amigos, it goes without saying that you're purposely whizzing around corners at 100 mph with nothing but a sexy leather jacket between you and the road.You're probably also hoping to take fancy trips to countries where bribery isn't so much frowned upon as it is almost approving with a sly nod of the head.

And then you add that you're still on the road and that often involves a drink (or seven). I don't need to pull my hair out and lecture you on how to play it safe.You will most likely be perfectly fine and stay safe and sound during your adventure!

But I would be remiss if I didn't give you these top safety tips for traveling by motorcycle:

  1. Familiarize yourself with local traffic laws.
  2. Don't drink, snort ketamine or drive drunk.
  3. Keep your valuables locked up.
  4. Know your bike.
  5. Know your limits.
  6. BONUS!When the cops start demanding bribes, you stop speaking English ..

Pack to travel by motorcycle

Ooooh boy.Systems upon systems!

A motorcycle often comes with two discs and a luggage rack near the seat.This is not a lot of storage space, so you need to travel light!And yet, there are definitely a few key ingredients that you can't travel without.

When you're in the jungle, you need bug spray.If you're in the cold tundra, you need voluminous layers.

And wherever you are, if you're on a badass motorcycle adventure, you need a badass packing list.

Osprey Aether 70L Backpack

You can't go hiking anywhere without a damn backpack!Words can't describe what a friend the Osprey Aether has been to The Broke Backpacker on the road.It's had a long and illustrious career; ospreys don't go down easily.

 

Feathered Friends Swift 20 YF

My philosophy is that with an EPIC sleeping bag, you can sleep anywhere.A tent is a nice bonus, but a really smart sleeping bag means you can roll out anywhere and stay warm in a pinch.And the Feathered Friends Swift bag is as high quality as it gets.

Keeps your brew hot and bevvies cold

Keep your brew hot and bevvies cold

Grayl Geopress Filter Bottle

Always travel with a water bottle!You'll save money and reduce your plastic footprint on the planet.The Grayl Geopress acts as a purifier AND a temperature controller – so you can enjoy a cold Red Bull or a hot coffee no matter where you are.

Petzl Actik Core Headlamp

Every traveler should have a headlamp!A decent headlamp could save your life.When camping, hiking, or even if the power just went out, a quality headlamp is a MUST.The Petzl Actik Core is a great piece of kit because it's rechargeable via USB – no more batteries!

Never leave home without it!

Never leave home without it!

First aid kit

Never go off the beaten path (or even on it) without your first aid kit!Cuts, bruises, scrapes, third-degree sunburn: a first aid kit will be able to handle most of these minor situations.

Destination Inspiration – Top 3 Destinations to Travel to by Motorcycle

This world is full of pretty epic destination inspiration.There are so many roads to travel and so many more crumbling mountain trails to share with goats.But for me, there are 3 places in the world that offer the best motorcycling.

Feel free to have your own favorite motorcycle routes, but I think you'll have a hard time arguing that these 3 places aren't pretty darn spectacular!

#1 The big, bold and beautiful U.S. of A

Ah yes, the iconoclastic home of the bald eagle, Route 66 and 50 states desperately chanting the Star-Spangled Banner in an attempt to glue themselves together and call themselves a nation.America, heck yeah.

The United States of America is many things; "boring" is not one of them.Back in the 1950s and 1960s, they committed to becoming a country connected by highways.Today there are 4 million miles of public roads.Damn!

And all these roads have to go somewhere.The U.S. has an incredibly diverse landscape to match its incredibly diverse patchwork of cultures.Motorcycle trips across the U.S. are a wild ride (pun intended) through southern fried chicken, crumbling monuments, the Rockie Mountains and Walmart.

The sense of spiritual vastness and rugged lands is inescapable as you ride through the prairies.And yet, cultural bankruptcy is rather inevitable when you see homeless Walmart employees in every other major city.The roads and landscapes themselves make for amazing motorcycle trips, but the U.S. makes for a wild trip in and of itself.

#2 Vietnam

This was the first country I've ever been to on a motorcycle – and oh boy, did I save the best for right from the start!Vietnam just screams to be explored by motorcycle.It's a long, thin strip of mountains that taper off into epic coastlines.

The cities are bursting at the seams with skyscrapers and steaming pasta.Motorcycles are THE mode of transportation of choice here and you will be one of a sea full of them as you navigate the cities.But as you stroll through mountainous back roads, the cities fall away and the other Vietnam is revealed.

You and your noble steed of a motorcycle will have to wait for buffalo to cross the road before continuing through rice paddies, hill tribes and breathtaking sunsets.All this without mentioning the fact that Vietnam is a long culinary trip.

Vietnamese food is a perfect balance between salty and sweet; yin and yang.The food is often simply necessary – Vietnam has been ravaged by poverty and war for many years.But the food is always rich and delicious in flavor.Vietnamese food has so much more to offer than Pho noodle soup…

You'll notice a change from noodles to rice; From spicy to savory; From dry ingredients and fish sauce to "greener", fresher ingredients as you move from north to south.

I was so caught up in the excellence of the food that I didn't even wax poetic about the excellence of the roads!A motorcycle trip in Vietnam is truly unique – just know that once you explore the country by motorcycle for the first time, you'll be hooked for life!

#3 New Zealand

Aotearoa, New Zealand.This beautiful, thin slice of subtropical island paradise is also great for motorcycle travel.

When I lived on the South Island of New Zealand, my neighbor owned a badass Royal Enfield bike.The stars aligned on a trip together and that's what convinced me about New Zealand: it's simply one of the best places in the world to travel by motorcycle.The mountains are magnificent and the sky is grazing; The cows are exceptionally curious.

The roads are pretty well maintained and the feeling of leaning into each curve reminds you why you started driving in the first place.Not to mention that the Kiwis are resourceful and friendly.So if you do run into problems with your bike, a helping hand is never far away.

New Zealand has an advantage over its huge neighbor across the Tasman Sea (Australia) in that the distances between places are not prohibitive.You can drive a few hours every day and end up in completely new landscapes and cities.In the morning it may be subtropical palm fronds and in the afternoon snow-capped peaks.

This makes New Zealand doable even on a time budget.

Final thoughts on traveling by motorcycle

While it may be a little intimidating for the novice, traveling by motorcycle is pretty darn addictive!Once you get a taste of the glorious mountain road adventures, the sneaky food stops along the way and the satisfaction of a beer at the end of a day of driving, you'll be hooked for life.

Throw in a tent and a thirst to keep going, and you'll be looking to quit your job and travel the world.Freedom camping and unparalleled adventure are something that's hard to beat.As long as you layer up with a leather jacket and a little insurance, you know you won't fly off your bike and stop your travels before they begin!

After all that the last few years have brought us, a motorcycle tour would probably do us all good.

Remember, motorcycle trips ultimately give us more time on the road.And the road is eternal, the wind is constant, and what else comes with such a guarantee?

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