Motorcycle: Riders View - Touring
Date: Sunday, October 31 @ 15:47:30 UTC
Topic: Motorcycle, Motorcycles, Motor Cycle
Motorcycle touring means different things to different people. From a gentle weekend trip to an epic journey around the world; from a professionally planned expedition involving dozens of riders, to the result of one person's sudden urge simply to get on a motorbike and ride. The beauty of touring by motorbike is that the journey itself is as much a part of the experience as the stops.
With its unique ability to cover reasonably large distances while immersing its rider in his or her surroundings, the motorcycle is perfect for explorers. Ted Simon, author of Jupiter's Travels, the best-selling story of a four-year trans-world ride on a 500cc Triumph twin in the 1970s, wrote of his gut feelings about how he wanted to travel. He instinctively knew his transport had to be a motorcycle, even though he had neither bike nor licence before planning his trip.
Simon chose the Triumph Tiger partly out of patriotism and partly because it was fairly light while relatively simple and solid - a positive boon when it came to repairs. Similar thinking has led many more recent two-wheeled explorers to use single-cylinder trail bikes such as Honda's XL600 and Yamaha's XT600 Tenere. Others accept the extra weight of BMW's long-running boxer twins, notably the dual-purpose R80 and R100GS models, to the benefits of increased comfort and shaft final drive. Husband and wife team Richard and Mopsa English also opted for an old Triumph twin for the round-the-world trip described in their book Full Circle, but they added a large sidecar too.
Choosing the basic motorcycle is merely the first step in preparing for a very long tour, particularly one through difficult terrain. Any bike will require modification, notably to enable it to carry the large amount of luggage necessary. Solid fibreglass or preferably aluminium panniers may be fitted, in conjunction with soft luggage of leather, plastic or canvas. Many riders fit home-made metal racks that hold cans for spare fuel and water. Other common modifications include large-capacity fuel tanks, oil-coolers and protective engine bash-plates, extra fuel filters and heavy duty wheel-rims and spokes.
None of those things is necessary for an average bike tourer, whose trip maybe lasts for two weeks in Europe or America and is all on tarmac roads. Most medium or large-capacity bikes can be pressed into service for an annual touring holiday, merely with the addition of a tank-bag, a set of throw-over panniers and per-haps a rucksack either worn by the pillion passenger or strapped to the empty seat.
Purpose-built tourers such as Honda's Gold Wing, Yamaha's Venture or Harley's Electra Glide make life easier with fairings, big seats and easily detachable luggage facilities, and often provide accessories such as stereos, electrical sockets, cruise control and footboards. But small and apparently unsuitable bikes can be used successfully — provided factors such as route, daily distances and luggage are chosen accordingly.
Riders wishing to venture further afield without the time and expense of buying, preparing and possibly transporting a bike can turn to a growing number of specialist firms. Some offer just bike hire, but many provide complete motorcycling package tours for which the cost usually includes a local guide, food and accommodation, plus a following vehicle to carry excess luggage and deal with problems. Whether you want to ride a BMW in the Alps, a Harley-Davidson across America or an Enfield Bullet through India, there is a firm that can arrange it.
Several manufacturers have seen the potential for organized excursions, too. Honda's Transalp Rallies provided a good excuse for European owners to test their XL600Vs' dual-purpose ability, and Honda has also arranged longer, more road-oriented trips for the ST1100 sports-tourer. Harley-Davidson tours have included an 80-strong excursion to Norway's Nordkapp, deep inside the Arctic Circle. Best of all were the series of Spirit of Adventure trips organized by Yamaha for owners of Tenere and Super Tenere trail-bikes. These were demanding treks, in Egypt, Mexico, America and Australia, which gave owners the opportunity to ride through harsh and often beautiful terrain, with organization, riding gear, machinery and back-up - including a medical helicopter—taken care of.
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