Useful/Essential Kit

I think I might remove the word essential... For essentials when touring you could really limit that to yourself, a bike (anyone will do BUT the level of comfort/challenge will vary), some means to pay for fuel and that's it - my sensible side would argue that you should include the safety kit- in fact most countries mandate the wearing of a helmet. So this list is really things I regularly pack whether taking a weekend trip to Wales or an 18 day trip to Norway. Of course no sooner do I take the pictures than I think of other essentials... Not (yet) listed here: First aid kit, visor cleaning kit, cloths, water bottle, something disposable to clean seagull deposits from your seat.

Tyre plugger

Tire Plugger Kit

I actually bought this kit ahead of my first big tour to europe in 2013 and would thoroughly recommend anyone anting to tour on a motorbike with tubeless tyres to get one. It comes with almost everything you need to repair pretty much any puncture by nail or screw. It's worth adding a thin pair of pliers to remove the offending item and, obviously, some means to re-inflate the tyre once repaired. It's also useful to have a plastic bottle of water (Iusually carry one incase thirst overcomes me on a journey) as this can be useful in locating any puncture.

Ideally I would suggest you use the kit to repair a tyre before you go away, this build confidence and will check that you have everything you need. So I have spoken to people who suggest that bike tyres shouldnt be repaired but replaced but when in the middle of nowhere that's not a very comforting thought.

The first time I rode on a repaired tyre I was quite nervous and kept the speed right down. I have since returned from a tour and replaced my rear only to discover that I had ridden back from North Wales, 2 up with luggage and a rear that had 3 repairs!

Garmin Zumo 390 SatNav

SatNav

I bought the Garmin Zumo 390 back before my first European tour of 2013. No sooner had I done this than everyone else in the group bought Tom Toms. A bike SatNav is more expensive than it's car equivalent, it needs to be weather proof and generally will have a battery that will run the SatNav for around an hour with no connection to the bikes battery. The touch screen also has to be useable with fingers encased in thick protective gloves.

In a car I use a sat nav to help me travel from A to B, it can also be useful in keeping you up to date with an expected ETA. When touring on a motorbike the satnav can be used for a similar purpose BUT generally it's more about the journey than the destination - the satnav is used to keep you on the intended route of the journey in order to:

(a) Travel the more interesting roads
(b) Take you past specific points of interest
(c) give you designated reassembly points should your party get separated.

I'll cover this more in my pages on planning a tour.

Tyre pressure monitor

Tyre Pressure Monitor

One of the reasons I opted for the Garmin Zumo 390 was because you could link it up to these screw on tyre pressure monitors. They aren't particularly cheap but now that I had the kit to fix my tyres I didn't want to be unaware of a puncture whilst riding through the Alps. It doesn't take much riding on a flat tyre to ruin the structure of the tyre itself rendering any repeair a strictly temporary measure. I bought two of these though now I think about it, I've never had a puncture on the front tyre of a motorbike to date! I've often had people wonder how I could be unaware of a puncture when riding a motorbike but the speed with which monitoring reports a puncture is quite amazing - to the point that I know exactly what caused it. On my first trip I was lucky enough not to have any punctures and bikes that I have owned since that time have had built in tyre pressure monitoring.

Power bank

Power Bank

Available in all sorts of size and capacity, I guess I should also say pack the necessary cable(s) and I would have listed a mobile phone if it wasn't for the fact that mine is so old it would be quite embarrassing to include a picture of it here.

On the kinds of tours I have participated in a mobile is essential, finding accommodation, calling for assistance, getting in contact with lost members of your party - or better still monitoring the progress of lost members of your party using the FindMyFriends app to ensure that they can't beat you to the next hotel and greet your arrival with a raised beer and cheers AGAIN.

Whilst mobile signals tend to be so much better in the middle of nowhere overseas than in built up areas in the UK, a mobile battery is often discharged simply through all the switching between masts for signal. The last thing you want when you need to make a call is to see the 2% battery remaining indication. Since i've started carrying a power bank I have no longer had battery issues on my phone so I guess this is preventative...

clips

Clips

The cheapest item on my kit list, I carry these in my little "glove box" since seeing someone use them at the channel tunnel to affix the boarding card to the screen on their bike. Brilliant idea! Quite who thought of the amusing idea of giving a motorcyclist an A4 piece of card with boarding details that needs to be on show to board the train I don't know but I assume they had never been to the windy & wet conditions in the UK. Just be careful that these metal clips don't scretach your screen - I usually pad with paper to the rear.

Gerbing heated gloves

Gerbing Heated Gloves

Okay so they are getting a little long in the tooth now BUT I bought these gloves back in 2010 and the'll see me through one more tour. When others thought I was mad and wanted to compare heated grips I bought these. They can be powered by rechargeable batteries - great for a commute of around 45 minutes - or wired into the bike for longer periods of time.

Not only are these the best gloves I've ever had (and most expensive) but as I always say heated grips warm the inside of my hands but the wind chills the outside and these  gloves have that covered, you can set them from a slight warming effect to burning a grid into the backs of your hands so you arrive looking like you have pinhead from hellraisers hands.

I'm trying to bring myself to buy a replacement pair at the moment... £180 in 2021!

Bluetooth Communications

Bluetooth Communications

Okay I've saved the most "contraversial" item until last - I will insert further items ahead of this one. So most of us get on our bikes to leave the world behind so why on earth would be voluntarily add some form of communications?

The one I've gone for has power to last a week, it can allow you to:
* make & receive phone calls - I don't do that.
* You can listen to your satnav give you audible instructions - I switch that off
* You can link up to others in your group & chat - Nope
* Listen to music as you ride - I have done that on occaision, especially when I had the R1200RT because I could insert a USB stick into the bike and control playback from the bikes handle  bars , but not so much any more.
* You can chat with a pillion passenger - yep sorry that's me.

So whilst it is possible to set up some gestures and signals for I "I would like to stop for a toilet break", "I need the toilet" and "STOP NOW!" what I can't cope with is at the end of the days riding when my passenger says something like: "Did you see that house?" This is not the start of a conversation that will end well or quickly.