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How to: Pack like a seasoned overlander




Adventure riding has become a bit of a rite of passage in recent years. From C90s to R1200 GS’, no matter what you ride you’ve not really ridden it until you’ve wrestled it through 300 miles of gravel and sand; conquered a nose bleed-inducing mountain range, or took a sabbatical to ride the Pan American Highway.

There’s endless amounts written about what bike you should be riding and where to ride it; how to plan your route, the kit you should wear and how to hone your riding, but what’s often ignored is what to take and how to pack it.
Take too much and no matter how state-of-the-art your bike is, it will be too heavy and handle badly, and you’ll spend your trip at the side of the road rifling through your panniers for that thing you really need and then struggling to get it all back in again.

Take too little and you’ll quickly come unstuck without the tool/change of clothes/other thing you decided you didn’t need, but now really need. It’s a tightrope, but thankfully there is a way…

Here’s what to take and how to pack it…

Before you go anywhere

Do your homework
Sounds obvious, but it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of packing for every eventuality, and it invariably ends in you strapping the entire contents of your garage and wardrobe to your seat.
Having a clear picture of where you’re going, what is/isn’t there, and the weather conditions and type of terrain you’ll encounter etc. will tell you what/what not to take, eg: if there aren’t many hotels on your route, you’ll need some camping gear.

Leave your baggage behind
Buy a six-piece luggage set and you will fill it. As a solo rider, some decent sized panniers should give you enough space for clothes, tools, electronics and toiletries (we’ll tell you how in a minute). A compact tank bag or map case will hold stuff like documents, phone, money etc. You can use the pockets in your riding gear for other bits. That’s all you should need.

Unless you’re two-up, avoid a top box. Again, you’ll fill the space with unnecessary stuff, adding weight where you don’t want it.

How to pack light:

The secret here is replacing heavy/bulky things like jeans and woolly jumpers with lightweight outdoors-type stuff, and going multi-functional – a mid-layer you can use on the bike and off it etc. And remember that packing for two months is the same as packing for two weeks, you just need travel wash or coins for the laundrette.

Slim down your toiletry bag by not taking items you’ll get for free in hotels/B&Bs or by sharing with your pillion or riding buddies.

Even if you’re 100% confident that the AA/RAC will still be able to rescue you, and that there are plenty of dealers on your route for major repairs, a few tools to help with the basics is a must. Only take the ones that fit your bike and not full sets to save room and weight, and try them out before you go.

Again the secret here is to go multifunctional – a smartphone can be a camera, laptop, and sat-nav all in one. If you can’t double up on devices, get a universal charger instead of carrying separates. Or leave it all at home and just enjoy the ride…

Camping gear is more compact and lightweight than ever, so leave the old family canvas ridge in the attic and invest in some new stuff. Go for gear designed for cyclists – if it’s small and light enough for them, it’ll be a doddle to carry on a motorcycle.

Packing tips:

Use compression sacks, plastic tubs or zip-lock bags to separate clothing, toiletries etc. and make them easy to find

Hard panniers? Get some inner bags, as they’re much easier to manage off the bike

Keep camping gear separate, in a waterproof bag strapped on your seat or rack for a quick and easy pitch

Aim for an even distribution of weight between your panniers, and keep the bulky items low down and as far forward as you can

Keep items you’re going to need quicky/regularly – rain suit, documents etc. in your tank bag or at the top of your panniers.

Oh, and one last thing… Always double check everything is secure before you set off!

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Phil's probably the shortest motorcycle journalist on the planet, standing just 5ft 4in, but has almost certainly got the longest beard in the industry (we've not measured it yet). Cruiser test then?


How to: Film your motorcycle tour




There’s little doubt that the availability of compact cameras, and the ease at which you can get published online, has made cameramen and directors out of many motorcyclists.

And why not? Filming a trip not only gives you the opportunity to relive it from the comfort of your own home, but can inspire others to do so – and might make you a few bob in ad click-throughs in to the bargain.

There’s more to filming a bike tour than just sticking a GoPro to your helmet though, to come back with consistent, quality, usable footage takes a lot of planning , a good helping of discipline on the road, as well as plenty of creativity and at times some outright brass neck to get those really good shots. Here’s how not to make complete hash of recording your next tour:

Can you cut it?

First things first: ask yourself if you really want to stop enjoying those lovely, twisty mountain roads, pull over and set up your tripod, ride back and forth ‘till you get the shot you want and then pack it all up and carry on. If the answer is no, then filming is not for you.

Sort your set up

Think about the shots you want to get and how you can get them: want a rider’s eye view? You’ll need a helmet mount; fancy some tracking shots? A tripod is easier than balancing on rocks etc. Either way, decide on your kit before you go and keep it as simple as possible.

Shoot some cutaways

Cutaways are ‘atmospheric’ shots that help paint a picture of your trip and can help guide a viewer through the film, eg: zipping up jackets, pointing at maps, putting the bike in and out of gear etc. Even if they seem mundane to you, you’ll be glad of them when you come to edit.

Keep it rolling

You’ll sometimes meet situations where maybe you shouldn’t be filming eg: crossing a border, talking to someone in a cafe etc. If you think you can – safely – get away with it, keep the camera rolling, as situations like that can often produce some fab footage.

Angles and positions

Don’t just stand there with the camera at your face pointing it at things, or it’ll start to look like your dad’s old VHS holiday films. Shoot a few different angles and perspectives to help bring the subject alive.

Hold the shots

Don’t stop shots abruptly, hold them for longer than you think you need – when filming people riding off from a stop etc. – that way you’ll have lots of room to play with when editing and you might just catch something unexpected.

Catch some context

Keep an eye out for things that are country-specific, like signs in foreign languages, flags, local people in traditional dress, well-known landmarks etc. and try to capture some sounds like people talking in native tongue etc. to give a real sense of where you are.

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All motorcycles have a singular beauty. However, if it is YOUR motorcycle, there is a deeper connection.

Your relationship is one of trust and respect that transcends time.

From the first time you meet, a connection is established. Your one love is hard to find. I have been out at the dealership and seen some hot Italian bikes but in the end, they are high maintenance, expensive to keep up, and they will not stand the test of time.

Looks are important, but a relationship is more than skin deep.

How does that bike make you feel? Every time you gaze upon your bike, you should smile; you have found the right bike. The worst thing you can do is settle for a bike you don’t truly feel a connection with.

I am a one-motorcycle guy – truly monogamous. Having two bikes is hard to juggle. I think a small, fast motorcycle that is good-looking, handles well, and has a classic appeal is what I always
wanted, and I think I have found it.

Stay with a motorcycle that has stood the test of time. A bike that’s made you smile, given you a thrill, and stuck with you through thick and thin. A solid, well-built motorcycle is a thing of beauty.

Be smart, and cover that motorcycle so no one steals it at night. Buy your motorcycle expensive accessories, and take it on trips to exotic lands. Up or down, thin or flush, treat your motorcycle well.

Respect it, and it will return to you amazing experiences, expand your world and open your eyes.

Understand that this is a partnership. From the first ride to every terrible bump in the road, stay with that reliable bike and remember she is your one LOVE.

Happy Valentines Day, Mrs. Sterling.

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