dinsdag 25 juni 2013

The Roadwarrior Rulebook

I'll leave it up to you whether that includes Mad Max. Did he ride a motorcycle beside his Interceptor by any chance?

Anyways, a few people asked me about general advice when going on a big motorcycle trip, and I thought it to be nice to turn it into an 8-rule list of impenetrable wisdom. Some of them apply as much to riding in general as they do to big trips, but alright... here goes!

Rule #1: Don't do anything other than riding

This seems kind of obvious, but especially when multimiling it's easy to let your mind wander off, lose focus and look for other stuff to entertain yourself. It's also the main reason my tankbag doesn't take the maps for the route - I can't afford to try and find out my route while traffic is upon me.

Unless it's something I can see in a glance like the time (watch on handlebars) or general direction (compass), I am not going to bother.
Sometimes though I still need to remind myself of this rule, eg. when my tent had moved around on the bike during the Britain-tour and I wanted to put it back while riding (in photo). Self-slap on the wrist, pull over, job done.

Rule #2: Beware of the Abominable Cager Ninjas (what's a cager?)

In my mind, the roads are filled these guys - you are aware of their presence, but you never know where they're hiding, nor when one of them will swerve his car into your lane or do something else to try and kill you.

A rule of thumb is simply to ride as if everyone's both blind and crazy. See the signs, plan ahead, and defuse an attack before it takes place.

Rule #3: Ease up, calm down

Repeat after me: it's more important to get there than it is to get there quickly. If you need a break, take a break - don't push on because in your mind you need to be somewhere at a certain time - if you're not going to make it, you're not going to make it. It's no use to risk plowing into a tree, gorge or rock face just because you want to adhere to a schedule.

If a schedule is really necessary (e.g. to get to a ferry in time) make sure you plan in enough leeway for any unforeseen hiccups. Keep distances under 400km a day to help you with this. Also, prevent riding at night as much as you can.

Rule #4: Avoid city centres with the bike as much as possible

Traffic in city centres is usually a stop-start kind of thing, which on a multimile tour is something you just don't need.

Sure, it's nice to visit cities of interest (I know I have) but when you're lugging 500-600 pounds of motorcycle around without any riding wind to cool you down, circumstances will quickly become annoyingly uncomfortable. It's bound to become a downright exhausting affair, which in turn compromises your patience and with it, your safety.

Rule #5: Fill up when you can ( be it petrol, oil or air)

This one sounds really lame, but especially in countries unknown to you petrol stops may be a lot scarcer than you think... and since you're on a motorbike without thousands of gallons sloshing around below deck, you need every chance you can get to top it up. Preferably, pay with cash too as your card may probably not work.

It's also useful to take into account that the extra luggage eats away at your regular mileage - normally, I use around 1L per 22km and on a trip this drops to 1:20.

Furthermore, keep an eye on oil consumption and tire pressure - things which are easily overlooked. During the Greece trip, I made it a tradition to start a day with topping up fuel as well as checking tire pressure (something which you should do with cold tires anyways).

Rule #6: When in Rome, ride as the Romans do

Don't forget that you're not at home, so other rules may apply - filtering for example is illegal in some countries. If by any chance you still manage to get yourself pulled over, behave like the awesome friendly humanperson you are... the last thing you want is them to stick you somewhere where you share a bunk with Wradislaw The Impaler.

Rule #7: Keep it simple

Weight and balance is everything on your motorcycle, so don't pack up unnecessary stuff and make sure most of the weight is located between the wheels (so not in your top case!). Prioritizing is the name of the game - every pound you bring is another that will make riding a little bit tougher. Not saying you should go on a diet, but just leave that BBQ-set at home. If you use panniers, make sure they both have the same weight.

Another thing is the equipment itself. It's nice to have a gazillion gadgetries, but they'll all need power and subsequently run the risk of breaking down. Things like a booklet as a diary or a paper map for navigation won't ever break. The less complicated something is, the less there is on it to go wrong.

Rule #8: Don't forget to spoil yourself

Now, with all this habberjabber about rules and all the other things that come along while on a big ride, it's really easy to forget the most important thing of all: you're on holiday. So, don't forget to indulge yourself every once a while.

Ofcourse, everyone of you is a battle hardened testosterone pumping steel muncher whose only requirement of a bed is a flat surface (AHRRRR!), but don't forget to ease off the gas. Pamper yourself a few times... you know you want to. And besides, you gotta recharge your cam batteries somewhere, right?