Motorcycle riding and adventures

Last Updated on: April 20, 2024

Motorcycle riding and adventures is a great way to explore, whether near or far. A bit hard to explain to those who’ve not tried!

This post started out to be about motorcycle riding in Europe. Thought to share some tips. But the post evolved into something else. And while it evolved it shifted more and more in the direction of a general blog, about motorcycle riding, and adventures. I guess that is what blogging is about. Or writing in general. Not always ending up where you thought you were going.

It certainly is how I ride, for one thing. Not knowing where I’ll end up. Some 8 or so years ago I was about to embark on a new journey in life, a journey or multiple journeys that involved motorcycle riding. Guess I’m not alone at that. Returning to a teenager passion.

Motorcycle riding: At Edelweissspitze, Austria

At Edelweißspitze, Austria (2021). One of many go to places for motorcyclists

A “nation” on the move

Every year, as the spring arrives and motorcycle seasons begins (on the northern hemisphere) hundreds of thousands of riders get out on roads, cross countries and continents. Like in Europe, from the plateau of Nordkapp in Norway, to the southern tip of Italy. Every season a nation or culture is on the move, exploring.

Motorcycle riding and motorcycle adventures may not be for everyone. But once you’ve tried it there is a high probability you will be hooked.

Sella Towers, Dolomites, Italy (2017)

Sella Towers, Dolomites, Italy (2017)

For me it began back in the 70s and lasted into the early 80s. Then life happened, family, kids, work, and so forth. But in 2015. after more than three decades of absence, the interest came back. I was inspired by a friend and quickly got hooked, again. The thrill-seeking lust resurfaced. It manifested itself in a variety of forms.

Motorcycle riding definitely was one such for for me. I consider a motorcycle to be an adventure tool. Type, brand, design, colours, those things are secondary.

What creates memories is not always the luxurious, the smooth or challenge free. What creates memories, what enriches life, is a diversity of experiences. Being on a motorcycle puts you closer to nature while in motion. Being on a motorcycle brings an exhilarating sensation of freedom.

Motorcycle riding: Timmelsjoch alpine road into Italy

Memories: riding Timmelsjoch High Alpine road into Italy (2016).

Life’s too short for not having adventures. Of any kinds. Some prefer to travel in their minds. Others fancy adventures by foot or trekking, or with bicycles. Some travel with a car, camper or with mobile homes. As for the last group they too are a nation or culture very much on the rise over the past few decades.

Motorcycle riding – types of bikes

Different people, different rides. This is true, whether we think about type or style of motorcycles, or aspirations. Whether for roads, for tours, or goals. I started with motorcycle riding in Europe on a touring bike.

BMW RT is a great touring motorcycle. My last was a 2010 R1200RT (picture below). I rode some some tens of thousands of kilometers with that bike. But as a result of change of interests, the following year I traded the RT for a BMW R1200 GS Adventure.

A 2010 BMW R1200RT in Obergurgl, Austria (2016)

A 2010 BMW R1200RT in Obergurgl, Austria (2016)

It’s not that you cannot ride gravel with touring style motorcycles. But it might be risky, or dangerous. It depends on the bike and, not the least, rider and tires. Another factor that influences a choice is ergonomics. I know of many people who’ve switched to adventure style bike because of fatigue, or discomfort. Something that would manifest itself on long or longer adventures.

Motorcycle riding: : 2019 KTM 1290 Super Adventure S in Lofoten, Norway

2019 KTM 1290 Super Adventure S in the Lofoten archipelago, Norway (2021).

What to choose? Well, despite all the videos, the reviews, the blog posts, all the recommendations, love or hate, the real answer to that question comes through personal experience. There is of course lots to learn, from others. But opinions about what works best, especially from an ergonomic point of view, is a highly personal one.

The 2016 BMW R1200GS Adventure

2016 BMW R1200GS Adventure in the Dolomites.

If touring is what you want to do, then a BMW RT, almost regardless of age or incarnation, is a good choice. Or a BMW GS, which is more of a crossover motorcycle.

Motorcycle riding, adventure and time

How much time do you need, or want to spend? Not sure? For me a summer adventure quickly could amount up to between 5000  to 7000 kilometers (>3000 to 4359 miles). Or even more. It depends on the length of the journey, in days. On how much time I have available.

2-3 weeks can get you quite far. That’s pretty average for me to spend on a motorcycle adventure.

D902 view south of Col d'Izoard

View from road D902 south of Col d’Izoard, looking south (2021).

Not all can take that. Or will feel fatigue. Or get bored. I’m kinda different. For me riding is like meditation. A daily average of 450-800 kilometers is not uncommon. Some of my friends think of me as a bit extreme. Don’t think I am. My reply? The road goes on, the adventure unfolds as you are in the saddle.

That said, taking a day or two off, do other things, when or if you’ve found your place, can be a good idea.

Traveling is like having a meal. Or a series of meals. Short or long ones. You can only eat so much and you need time to digest. Traveling or experiencing things is a form of consumption. A consumption of impressions, of experiences and expenditures, of money, time and energy.

At one point you get full. And when you get full then perhaps it’s a good idea to head back to base. For digestion, till the next adventure.

Motorcycle riding – with a plan?

Well now, that’s where I depart from most of my friends. Most, but not all. I don’t make plans. Or, I can make a sort-of-a-plan, but highly likely I’ll end up deviating from it. Or take a completely different direction than what I originally planned.

Motorcycle riding: : Strade dell' Assietta, Italy

Not planned! Along Strada dell’ Assietta (2021)

Again, people are different. Some need plans, routes, and routines. Others dislike even a notion of plans or fixed routes. For me a plan is more of an outline of an idea. Without boundaries or restrictions. Something elastic, that can take on various shapes or forms. Allowing factors such as roads and weather influence the outcome.

Above Locarno, Switzerland (2021)

Not planned! Small road riding above Locarno, CH (2021)

Looking back on motorcycle riding in and through Scandinavia or Europe, few of the rides happened with more than figments or outlines of a plan. And that’s how it will be, also for the future. And perhaps one reason why I, for the most part, travel alone. Stop wherever I choose to, to take a picture, or enjoy the scenery.

To those who’ve never done it; try going alone on an adventure! You’ll always meet people along the road. Keep an open mind, embrace the freedom, let the front wheel take you in whatever direction. I’ve long since lost count of all the cool places I’ve ended up. Without a plan!

Things to consider

Mentioned above, if you’re in the process of looking at motorcycles for your adventures, below some of my tips. I’m not going into the topics of brands and such. Anything can work, or fail. Buying a motorcycle is like buying a tool. Different tools, different purposes.

Choice of brand is secondary. Doesn’t help if everyone recommends something if it doesn’t suit you. Don’t buy a motorcycle just because your friends said so. Take it for a ride, an hour is usually too short time to find out if it’s the right choice. As a result of too hasty choices, some might end up with a bike that wasn’t right. But there’s no shame in making mistakes.

In general

  • Type of bike: “If it fits you sits”. If the bike isn’t working for you on shorter rides, then you’ll not be happy on long ones.
  • Size of bike: select something you can control. Especially important if you plan to do any form of off-roading, ride gravel or fire roads. As you pack on luggage that becomes more important for safety.
  • Weight: Lightweight bikes have advantages. But that doesn’t necessarily make them ideal for touring. It can be quite the opposite actually.
  • Fuel capacity/consumption: If you plan to do touring then a sizeable tank is good.
    • Small overloaded motorcycles use a lot more fuel.
    • On the other hand, large bikes plus passengers and luggage aren’t necessarily better.
    • Then there’s this about riding style and being able to control oneself. Don’t know about others but I quite consistently get better mileage on my motorcycles than their given averages.
  • Ergonomics: the longer you ride the more important it becomes. Touring or Adventures motorcycles are more likely to suit you. Especially on long adventures. Risers, comfort seat and a spoiler for windscreens can have a huge impact on how a bike feels or behaves.

Used motorcycle

  • Bike age: certainly, any motorcycle can fail or break. Regardless of age. New advanced motorcycle may have issues. if you buy an older, second hand motorcycle, buying from a (authorized) dealer perhaps is a better solution.
    • But that depends, not the least on the dealer.
    • A dealer might be more expensive, but also an insurance, in the longer run.
  • Service history: should be impeccable. Black holes in service history is not good.
  • Ownership history: a motorcycle with many owners might be fine. However, it makes it more difficult to judge what you’re getting into.
    • One or two, max three previous owners, I consider optimal.
  • Mileage: indeed, some bikes runs 100ths of thousands of miles without any issues. Owner history plays a part here. If you don’t trust the guy you buy it from then drop it.
  • Test it: There are many things to check, and you probably don’t have a lot of time, below some points:
    • check for steering wobble. Wobbling can indicate loose head bearing. Or issues with wheel or tire. Don’t have to be serious but certainly noteworthy.
    • the bike pulls to one side. Could indicate serious things, such as a bent frame. But it could also be lack of balance.
    • Brakes, do they work properly, and how to they behave?
    • Suspension: No leaks and seals look ok? Sweating can indicate failing seals.
    • Engine is a much more complicated matter, since some engines rattles like they’re about to cease or die.
  • Besides testing: get a second opinion by people who are knowledgeable and you trust.

Equipment and stuff

  • Rider aids: if you’re new to riding, some rider aids will be good for safety. Some rider aids can and will help any rider, regardless of skill level.
  • Plastics/protection: although good with regards to the below bullet point, the more plastic, the more things to be removed for service, equals higher service costs.
  • Weather protection: If you travel in or to warm places, or in warm weather, protection quickly becomes a downside. It’s a fine balance. One that good motorcycle gear will influence as well.
  • Tires or tyre choice: oh don’t get me started, or check out this page.
  • Luggage type: Soft or hard? Depends on your needs, both have advantages. For solo riders travelling around in Europe lockable hard luggage has many advantages.
  • Mind your packing: the more luggage room the more you bring. And do you need a lot of stuff?
  • Tank bag: a must for me.
  • GPS: even if you are freestyling, or perhaps even more if you are freestyling, a GPS comes in handy!

The above lists, far from complete in any way, contains some things to remember when buying a motorcycle. And also things I personally didn’t think about and got to experience, later. Ah, you’ve been there as well?

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