Many of us spend most of our time riding in the city for the daily commute rather than touring out on open roads. But there’s no need to lock the bike away for the weekend. Short trips on two wheels are great fun, and they don’t require much planning or extra kit on top of what you already have. And even small capacity bikes can be capable tourers if you plan the journey with care.
If you enjoy getting away, there’s nothing stopping you going away for a night, a weekend, or even longer. Either way, if you’ve never been away on your bike, you’re missing out. Leaving the stress of city traffic behind you and discovering new places, roads and people is pure bliss.
WHAT DOES IT COST?
Weekend trips can be cheap as anything, and with the low petrol prices you might spend more money travelling by public transport. Once you know the route you want to take you can work out roughly how much fuel you will need. It’s worth adding a small contingency fund as the route might change due to roadworks, change of plan or simply as a result of getting lost.
Accommodation costs are probably the biggest variable in your budget. If you want to keep the costs low, staying with friends or family is free, and camping is cheap. Splashing out on a B&B or a hotel will add a bit of luxury to your trip but also cost you more.
PLANNING YOUR ROUTE
Planning a trip on the bike can be almost as much fun as the trip itself. Poring over atlases or scrolling through Google Maps is the easiest way to get started. There are plenty of books and websites with suggested routes if you want some inspiration. Google Street View is a great tool that lets you see what the roads you plan to ride actually look like. It’s a fantastic way to see if a road is worth a ride.
It’s easy to get a bit excited and add more and more miles to your trip when planning the route, but try to be realistic about distances. It’s not much fun to spend all day just riding from A to B without stopping on the way. There are far too many nice views, events, picturesque villages and cafes serving cream teas that you might miss if you’re in a hurry. Allowing yourself plenty of time will also help if the weather turns nasty and you want to stop for a while to get warm and dry.
PREPPING YOUR BIKE
Regularly checking that your bike is in tip top order is a good idea anyway, but if you’re going away it’s particularly important as you will likely have a lot further to walk back to the nearest garage in the event that something goes wrong. The usual memory aids for checks, such as POWDER (Petrol, Oil, Water, Damage, Electrics, Rubber), are a handy way to ensure that you cover all the bases.
If your bike hasn’t been serviced for a while and you’re not sure how to go about it yourself, it’s best to take it in for a service before your trip. Better safe than sorry. Scooters with plenty of underseat storage or bikes with a top box or panniers are ideal for touring, but a simple cargo net, a waterproof bag on the pillion seat, or an aftermarket luggage solution will also work nicely.
There’s also the option of a good old-fashioned backpack. Just be mindful that if you make it too heavy your neck and shoulders will pay the price on a longer journey.
PREPARE FOR THE OPEN ROAD
If you’re used to riding in cities, taking the bike out on country lanes means that you will be dealing with different conditions, traffic and speeds. It’s nothing to worry about, but it’s good to be aware that you will also encounter different forms of traffic, including slow-moving tractors, caravans and the odd sheep on the road. Road conditions can also be different in places where tractors have left mud on the road.
To keep your concentration levels high take regular breaks and stretch your legs off the bike. Especially if it’s cold and wet, you can get tired quickly and lose concentration. Always ride at your own pace. Don’t let the traffic around you lure you into riding faster than you are comfortable with. Just because the locals who know the roads like the back of their hand are driving like demons doesn’t mean you have to step out of your comfort zone.
WHAT TO TAKE WITH YOU
Every trip is different and where you go and how you want to travel determines what to pack, but to give you a few ideas we have put together some examples of our favourite touring kit on the RIDING GEAR pages.