Want to go the long way round? Or just find some forest trails and go motorcycle camping? This is where you get started.
You'd think this would be easy to explain. You're interested in adventure motorcycling, some of that travel the world with only what you can carry stuff that everyone in the motorcycle world is talking about. You want to explore the unknown aboard your bike — camping, cooking and living The Good Life along the way. But what kind of stuff is essential? A motorcycle, yes, but what else will you need to start exploring? Well we're here to help, offering you — the entry level adventure motorcycle enthusiast — an easy guide to the gear, gadgets and other accouterments you'll need to get going.
The Bike: Whichever bike you decide to buy, there are a handful of items and accessories you'll need to add to ensure a safe journey, as well as carry your crap. You'll also want a bike that is easy to work on, affordable and off-road oriented. Something a shade tree mechanic might be able to fix, if necessary, could save you one hell of a headache, as well as quite a bit of cash. And riding a bike with plenty of ground clearance, a decent suspension system and 50/50 dual-sport tires will allow you to disappear down Forest Service roads rather than leave you stuck on pavement.
Petrol Power: Fuel range is important on so many levels. For a big trip with big miles, upgrading the tank can save you trips to gas stations and the fear of getting stranded in the middle of BFE. Companies like Clarke Racing, IMS, Acerbis, Touratech and JustGasTanks offer larger fuel tanks for most dual-sport and adventure motorcycles.
Protection: An aluminum skid-plate, hand guards, headlight guard and engine crash bars (if available), as well as folding mirrors will allow you to confidently lay 'er down, then keep riding. Depending on what you're on, there are number of companies that produce the aforementioned protection parts for your motorcycle.
Luggage: Lastly, you'll need to tote your stuff. To do so, having the right luggage will affect the distribution of weight on the bike, your center of gravity and determine what gets wet when it rains. Wolfman Luggage outfits a wide range of dual-sport and adventure motorcycles with soft luggage and dry bags and we're massive fans of Kriega products too. Touratech, a German company, manufactures aluminum luggage that is both water tight and secure for almost every full-sized adventure motorcycle.
The Riding Gear: You (should) already know you need to wear gear while riding — ATGATT, etc. But some people forget the small, albeit important stuff, like wearing the right pair of gloves for the conditions, and boots that offer ankle support, a sturdy sole and overall protection. Adding this stuff to a jacket-and-pant combination that is armored (think: D3O), waterproof and ventilated can save you quite a bit of skin and bones. Icon manufacturers a variety of affordable riding gear for ADV enthusiasts, to include their ICON 1000 line, which is what we'll be wearing in Baja. Aerostich is a great option if you have more cash to spend.
The Tools: Iain Glynn, an established off-road racer, GS Trophy competitor and die-hard ADV enthusiast offered this advice when I asked him which tools to take on my upcoming month long trip into Mexico: Disassemble your motorcycle as much as you're comfortable with, reassemble it, and then take the tools that you used to do so on your trip. It's best to replace the factory tools that look weak or damaged with quality options. You can always carry extras, but it's best to start with a good foundation and add some (necessary) frill.
Irons, Etc: Tire Irons, a patch kit, a valve stem snake, Co2 (for a quick fill), and a tire pressure gauge don't take up a lot of space or add much weight. If you've ever changed a tire – especially on a smaller dual sport with old stock tires — it can be a huge pain. These are things that can be carried with little hassle that make a world of difference.
Grips & Wrenches: An appropriately sized crescent wrench, along with a pair of vice grips are essential for any motorcycle adventure. Loosening an axle nut bolt, creating a make-shift lever, bending, breaking, banging, as well as an assortment of other Neolithic activities, are made all that much easier when you have the proper grips and wrenches.
Spare Parts: Some of the spares you'll need to carry on your adventure are obvious. Others aren't. If you're riding a motorcycle with a 21" front wheel and an 18" or 19" rear wheel, all you really need are some spare 21" tubes. In the event of a pinch flat or puncture, you can stuff a 21" tube into either the front or rear wheel and ride out safely. It isn't optimal, but a 21" tube packs considerably smaller than the others, and will snake around inside the tire, offering you enough air and traction to get somewhere safely. Here's where the patch kit we mentioned in the tools section comes in handy!
Most motorcycle dealers will have what is often called a 'Track Pack' available for your bike. What is essentially a small box full of nuts and bolts, a Track Pack is an essential for anyone on an extended adventure, as you'll undoubtedly need a random nut (or bolt) at some point.
The Navigator: It can be an investment, but a solid GPS unit takes you to the places you want to go with the ease of a Power On button. Where maps are fool-proof and don't need batteries, a GPS unit creates play-by-play navigation without memorization or distraction. Plus, it tells you the time.
Security: GPS units can cost quite a bit of coin, and if you're off the beaten path or parked somewhere precarious, theft can be an issue. It's best to secure your GPS unit with one of Touratech's vibration dampening, locking mounts. They can be keyed to match all of the other accessories that Touratech sells, and will allow you to leave your bike unsecured for a spell.
Software: Having the correct software installed on your GPS unit can be the difference between a fun-filled day of off-road excursions in unfamiliar territories and a long, confusing day of dead-ends and dangerous crossings.
Butler Maps: With or without the GPS unit, a waterproof and tear-resistant Butler Map can save you a great deal of time, prevent you from getting lost and help with preparation for your on or off-road adventures.
The Camping: Honestly, you only need a few things to make a comfortable camp; a tent, sleeping pad and sleeping bag. And a lot of people would tell you the tent is superfluous – a tarp being an often used alternative. But, let's be realistic, comfort is important, so having a decent space to sleep will make your adventure a much more enjoyable experience. Mountain Safety Research (MSR) makes a number of lightweight, tough-as-nails tents that are easy to assemble and waterproof. Nemo Equipment makes sleeping bags that have space for a sleeping pad to slip in, preventing you from sliding off the top when you toss and turn at night. A little light is also important. Snow Peak, a Japanese camping company known for their titanium sporks, makes the Mini Hozuki, an LED light that is exceptionally bright given its size. Prioritize things that pack as small as possible — you're working with limited space — and which are capable of surviving days, weeks or months of vibration, impacts and bad weather.
The Cooking: Restaurants, taco stands, coffee shops, et al. Yea, food can be found, but cooking at your campsite will save you some scratch and will likely be quite a bit healthier.
A camp stove that runs on anything is important. MSR's Dragonfly stove can be powered by white fuel, as well as the gas you can siphon from your fuel tank. It has adjustable heat, which allows you to sauté something and collapses down and fits into a small sack, fuel bottle stored separately.
A mess kit is also important — think pot, cup and plate. No need to explain those items. You will, however, need something to stir, poke, pull and cut what you intend to eat. The aforementioned titanium sport from Snow Peak is an excellent option, especially with the addition of their 'hybrid spatula.' Lastly, a proper pocket knife, something you should already own, is essential to any camp cooking kit. A blade that is both sharp and should handle all of your cutting tasks with ease. We like Kershaw's Leek knife, for instance.
The Coffee: If you're wondering why this is an essential, maybe you're a morning person? Or, perhaps you have some kind of superpower? I, however, require one – maybe two – cups of coffee before I can function. Enter Caffe Vita - an independently owned Seattle coffee company that recently released the Ultimate Camping Brew Set. The kit includes a banet (think: collapsible wire coffee filter holder), a porlex burr grinder, two enamel camping cups and a 12oz bag of beans. The set is small and will easily fit in the same space as all you other cooking equipment.
About the Author: Justin W. Coffey is the co-owner of Kook Stack, a multi-platform digital marketing and social media agency, and is the author of the Peanut Butter Coast, a travelogue about surfing and the Pacific Northwest. Justin and his girlfriend Kyra are headed to Mexico for a month aboard two small dual-sport motorcycles in order to document the 47th annual Baja 1000. You'll be reading more about that trip soon.
IndefinitelyWild is a new publication about adventure travel in the outdoors, the vehicles and gear that get us there and the people we meet along the way. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.