From quick ’n’ dirty weekends away to a full fortnight on the road, the secret of a successful touring trip is all in the preparation. So here are 25 expert ideas, gathered from years of experience riding across Europe, to make your next foray abroad run as smoothly as an orange 1301cc 75° V-twin from Mattighofen.
Pack your KTM 1090 ADVENTURE R for offroad and call it adventure biking. Or pack your KTM 1290 SUPER ADVENTURE T with the kitchen sink and call it grand touring. Or pack your KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT lightly and call it sports touring. Or we could just call it what it is: riding a long way away from home. Labels, eh?
But of all the things we can do with our bikes – track days, green-laning, Sunday blasts or commuting – it’s really only when we put in the all-day big miles, stretching horizons and exploring new landscapes, that a special bond forms between us, as riders, and our machines. It’s a mileage-based atomic exchange of molecules, swapping plastic, metal and human. You leave a part of yourself with your motorbike, and it leaves a part of itself with you.
But all this sentimental guff can be spoiled in an instant by any number of mishaps – some beyond our control, but most easily prevented with a bit of planning, preparation and common sense. None of those things are particularly cool and some people like the risk of running out of money, fuel and mobile phone battery in the middle of nowhere late at night. And if that’s your idea of successful touring, go with it and good luck. You’ll certainly meet a few interesting new people that way …
But for the rest of us, the leaving everything to the last second is the worst possible way to start a big trip. So here are a few ideas to make the most of your miles –after all, time is precious and none more so than riding time wasted solving those annoying problems you could’ve prevented …
Luggage options: if your KTM isn’t blessed with hard panniers and/or topbox as standard – like the KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT – don’t worry.
If you’re a KTM owner the official KTM PowerParts catalog gives you multiple options to precisely suit your kind of touring: from tank bags to roll-up waterproof tail bags, or bespoke hard panniers that clip directly to the GT and ADVENTURE models (no need for frames or racks).
All the different options have pros and cons – hard luggage can slow down filtering, but soft luggage is more hassle strapping onto the bike; but the point is to find the system that suits the way you tour.
Stick to your system: once you’ve figured out what works and what doesn’t, don’t be trying anything new that might compromise your trip the night before you leave. If you must use a new piece of kit, or wear new gear, test-run it well in advance to familiarize yourself and make sure it works the way you want it to.
Strapping practice: bungees are an art-form; learn the best way to strap your luggage on. Generally, more is better; for a tail-roll, use two bungees crossed over front to back, then another two in parallel front to back, with a final cord (or two) reaching over the bag side-to-side. Make sure no straps are left dangling. Loose luggage falling into the rear wheel is no fun at all.
Carrier bags: it might seem odd to recommend using supermarket shopping bags if you own something premium like a KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT, and they may be environmentally unfriendly – but the average plastic carrier bag is worth its weight in Gore-Tex when it comes to holding back a tide of rainwater seeking to soak fresh undies, spare jeans and various electrical bits (especially if you aren’t using KTM PowerParts waterproof soft luggage). And always pack at least two: on long trips, carrier bags come in handy for separating out stinking socks and sweaty T-shirts from clean items (but if anyone tells you your undergarments will, when left to fester sealed in a shopping bag, clean themselves thanks to a mysterious microbial interaction, they’re joking. But then, you could always try telling someone else …).
Unisex cosmetics: while there might be plenty of room for a passenger on your bike; why find room for his and hers deodorants, toothpastes, razors, hair-brushes and assorted grooming items when you can share each other’s? Or, more accurately, when you can share hers (because, let’s face it, there’s no way she’ll be using bloke’s antiperspirant). Draw the line at toothbrushes, though.
In miniature: most chemists stock handy cosmetic minis; and, although it might meet resistance from the other half, the places you’re riding to usually have shops too, so packing a supermarket warehouse isn’t necessary. We all look gorgeous with a helmet on, anyway.
Vacuum packing: vacuum zip-tie polythene bags are a great way of storing maximum clothing when space is at a premium. Fold them flat, pop in the bag, zip tie shut, then attach a vacuum cleaner to the valve and suck out the air. Saves a ton of space, even if you’ve got the KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT’s KTM PowerParts 30-liter hard panniers fitted (and a word of warning; you may have trouble re-packing after you’ve opened the bag the first time).
Go commando: ordinary trainers are an awkward shape and take up room. Converse-style shoes (orange-colored, obviously) fold flat and are more space-efficient. Flip-flops are even better. If space is really tight, the same goes for trousers; take shorts instead. And do you really need those massive KTM underpants? Go on, be daring!
Vital paperwork: use a separate place to store your vitals – passport, toll tickets, wallet, phone and any other stuff without which you can’t survive (asthma medication, etc.). The best place is probably a quality, waterproof belt bag (like the KTM Comp Belt Bag) – hard to lose because it’s literally wrapped round you, it need never come off while you’re on your bike, and is unlikely to get damaged – because if it is, then you probably are too.
PRE-RIDE CHECKS & TOURING ESSENTIALS
Leave your KTM alone! Unless you want to leave a trail of nuts, bolt-on accessories and pain scattered across the country of your choice, don’t fit KTM PowerParts accessories the day before you set off. Even the highest quality fittings in the world won’t stay in place if you don’t tighten them up properly, or forget to use thread-lock. And the last thing you want will be unforeseen problems following you on the road.
Gaffa tape: a roll of gaffa, strapped under a bungee, can solve a million potential trip-spoiling hassles with on-the-go repairs such as sticking unexpectedly loose fairing panels down, taping up broken jacket zips, protecting bodywork from bungees and even being sculpted into impromptu screen extenders. Cable ties take up no space and come in handy too.
Flat tired: you won’t truly appreciate a good puncture repair kit until you’re sat at the side of a road in the Alps at nine in the evening, with no mobile signal and 20 miles from your hotel. Get one and make it a fixture of your touring kit.
Baby wipes: serve many purposes. They’re good for oily fingers. Or cleaning visors. Or wiping the bugs off your KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT’s cornering headlights. Or wiping service station sandwiches from your beard. Or washing hands after nature has called.
Emergency supplies: no, not first aid, but stuff you don’t know you need until you do: a plastic toothpick (useful in meat-loving countries), headache pills (for hangovers, headaches and toothache), indigestion tablets and spare contact lenses and eye-drops. All this lot can rattle around in your belt bag.
Fresh tires: don’t leave for a 2000-mile round trip with half-used rubber unless you like spending a day searching out a matching tire. And not every garage has a socket big enough for the nut on the rear wheel of the for your KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT.
Ear plugs: aren’t just for blocking road noise; they’re good for blocking snoring roommates and noisy hotels. But remember to keep them handy by your bedside to avoid those scrabbling for them in the middle of the night.
ON THE ROAD
No credit: it’s easy to lose your wallet from an open coat pocket, a broken backpack zip, a hole in your non-KTM panniers … or even from being mugged! It happens and, if it does, you’ll need the spare credit card you stashed separately in a pouch, or under the seat, or in another, special, personal pocket. You did do that, didn’t you?
Stay warm: be smart with clothing. Remove the liner from your jacket and use a heated vest instead; same thickness, but you can plug it into a KTM PowerParts 12v socket when it’s chilly. Hoodies double as a wind stopper.
Socks: make great spare visor sleeves.
Stay hydrated: easy advice, easy to ignore. Dehydration reduces concentration and awareness, and raises reaction times. If you must drink fizzy pop or coffee, take on some water too. Also, remember to take a bottle to bed with you; not all hotels have it in the room and waking in the night with an unquenchable thirst is unpleasant.
Take a break: a 20-minute kip at the side of your bike when you’re tired is all it takes to refresh you enough to keep going safely for another few hours. Sleep when you need it; never keep riding.
Curry up: don’t try an Indian in France. They haven’t got a clue.
Lock it or lose it: bikes – especially KTM’s – are highly desirable, and bike theft is a problem everywhere. Take a chain, or at least a disc-lock. And some hotels in Spain come with a bike park protection racket; pay the man his five euros and sleep soundly.
Think ahead: you know how it’s a nuisance at the tills when you’re waiting for the person in front to find their wallet, like it’s a surprise they have to pay? Don’t be that person. Be ready for border controls, toll booths and fuel pumps.
And finally: the most important reminder of all. A bike like the KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT comes armed with the latest engine management, traction control and cornering ABS systems, and is one of the safest high performance bikes in the world. But even it can’t tell which side of the road you’re supposed to be on. Don’t get it wrong if you’re going from the UK to Europe or reverse!
Photos: Simon Hargreaves | KTM