Spring fever is hard upon us, my fellow Zillans, and all across the land the regulars of the ZLA Army are fingering maps, Googling distant destinations and daydreaming of that quintessential American motorcycle experience: the summer road trip.
Part of the prep is packing. No, this is not another article exhorting you to buy and master the use of a specific set of expensive tools. Given the liability, we're not interested in advising you on which brand of polarity collator will best realign the unified field generator in your Hyperdrive GS1400S Adventure. Plus, we have no idea if it's even safe for you to use tools. For some people, the best tool kit is a cell phone, a roadside assistance plan and a commitment to avoid straying too far from civilization.
So we're skipping tools. Instead, this is about personal choices from a small sampling of minds at RevZilla. Things you may not think of. Things you may find totally superfluous. Or utterly essential.
So now, after way too much ado, here are our idiosyncratic lists of five things we always try to remember to take on tour.
Touring philosophy: Overpacking is for the weak. Hey, did anyone bring toothpaste?
Most likely to be seen touring on: Something that's puking oil all over those slow enough not to be in front of me, as well as shucking parts faster than a breakdancing leper.
2. Spare nuts, bolts, ratchet straps. Stuff wiggles off a Harley. These things let us put it back on. Between my buddies and me, we have a whole extra bike we're dragging around.
3. Flip-flops. They take up little space and are perfect for wearing around camp. You can't air out your motorcycle boots if your feet are in them.
4. Baby wipes. Shower in a box.
5. Electrical junction box covers. They're cheap and I want at least two when camping in a muddy field: one for my sidestand and one for the bike to the right. I don't need someone else's handlebars putting a dent in my tank when it sinks into the mud at 4 a.m.
Touring philosophy: Have a plan but plan to deviate from it.
Most likely to be seen touring on: An anniversary edition Honda VFR800A, whether dragging pegs at Deals Gap or fully loaded two-up and bound for Maine.
1. iPhone/iPad charger. My iDevices are my maps. For shorter rides, I'll often try to memorize, but for longer rides, Google maps is a must.
3. Zipties. Best form of field repair. I once passed Delaware inspection by "attaching" an FZ6 rear fender to my bike with these.
4. Allen key. Take whatever tool is needed to remove the fairings on your bike. If you can't get the fairing off, you're not going to fix many problems.
5. RevZilla stickers. Wouldn't want to pass up a chance to add recruits to the ZLA Army!
Touring philosophy: Stop and smell the roses, take a hundred photos of them, and spend hours in roadside diners talking to old men who gather there.
Most likely to be seen touring on: A road-worn Triumph Bonneville T100 wearing nine years of dirt and grime.
1. A camera and a journal. When I left home after college, my parents gave me a Canon G10 and it's been in my tank bag for every trip I've taken since. The photos and a few notes in a journal will spur memories years later that would otherwise be lost beyond retrieval. The notes will also come in handy when you're trying to remember the name of the restaurant with the spicy crawfish jambalaya or how many beers Mikey had before passing out. Also, if you take the camera, you'll have a photo of Mikey sporting the handlebar mustache his brother drew on his face after he passed out. You can use that photo to impress every woman he dates for years to come.
2. Maps. I am not talking about a GPS, but rather an old-fashioned paper map. Maybe it's because of that map-reading course I took as a Boy Scout, but I still prefer certain "analog" systems over their digital counterparts and maps are one. GPS units are great but batteries die and backroads are left untracked.
3. Spare inner tubes. I know what you're thinking: "I have a patch kit, so I'm good." If you shred a tube in the middle of nowhere, a patch kit will be as successful as using a Band-Aid to cover a gashed artery. Clarke says they even work as a tow strap.
4. Appropriate gear. I know it sounds ridiculously basic. But have you ever been pulled over by an Arizona State Trooper at 9:30 p.m. for having no tail light and then had to camp on a fire road until daybreak? I have. I learned that although the temperatures were a blistering 103 degrees all day, they plummeted below 40 by midnight, and a light fleece blanket and a perforated jacket were thin comfort. Plan for all the conditions you could encounter.
5. Extra fuel. Even in the land of the free and the home of the 24-hour convenience store, there are long stretches of road without gas. Companies like MSR make 11-ounce to 30-ounce containers small enough to transport aboard any ride and keep the fire burning in your cylinders until you reach the next filling station.
Touring philosophy: The purpose is to enjoy the ride, not get there as fast as possible to get it over with.
Most likely to be seen touring on: 1967 rigid Shovelhead.
1. "Gentleman's walking powder." Also known as Gold Bond medicated powder. Keeps moisture under control when it's hot and humid, because if you're not happy, your trip is not happy.
3. Safety wire. Good for everything from a makeshift exhaust bracket to a tool to clean carburetor jets.
4. Sunblock. My nose was bleeding from sunburn after just one day riding through the wastelands of Arizona. Cancer isn't cool.
5. Kindness. So many breakdowns involve help from random strangers and have created some of my favorite stories from the road. Kindness goes miles, even when your bike can't. Take it with you and pass it on.
Touring philosophy: Pack light, travel solo, ride quickly, but document it all for a story later.
Most likely to be seen touring on: A Kawasaki Versys with Givi bags and heated handgrips; not a good enough mechanic to ride bikes with "character," like Lemmy and Clarke.
1. Tire repair kit. I've been lucky. In decades and many thousands of miles of riding, I've had to use a tire repair kit far from home just once. But that once was a Friday night when there was no hope of a motorcycle shop being open to fix a tire for me. Roadside assistance plans are great, but on a weekend night, being able to get the rest of the way to my destination with a temporary tire repair eliminated tons of hassles.
2. Basic first aid. My gear covers every square inch of skin when I'm on tour, but I still carry a small kit with bandages, antibiotic, aspirin and the like. In case I bash a knuckle plugging my flat tire.
3. An extra key. I have a motorcycle I've owned since 1998 and I've never had a spare key for it, so my track record of not losing keys is good. Still, when I'm far from home, I carry a spare. It's already saved me once.
4. Water. Most of my compañeros here mentioned extra fuel on their original, full-length lists and Lemmy buys lubricants by the case. You need liquids, too, especially if you're stuck making a roadside repair in the sun. Don't wait until you're dehydrated and mentally fuzzy before you do something. My army surplus canteen tucks in a saddlebag.
5. Spares. Extras of whatever it is you absolutely have to have to be comfortable on the road. For me it's ear plugs and gloves. After years of using them, I hate to ride without earplugs, and I also hate paying twice as much at a drug store on the road somewhere as I would pay at RevZilla. My hands also want to be comfy and maintain intimate contact with the controls at all times, even if the weather changes, so I carry two, sometimes three pairs of gloves. Whatever you can't live comfortably without, take an extra.