The season is upon us. Cool air is starting to dissipate as warm fronts and sunshine brush past our cheeks. Trees and flowers are coming to bloom, varying in shades of verdant green speckled with assorted crimson buds. It’s time for the weekend warrior to return to nature.After hibernating in a man cave for the long winter months, filled with glory stories and whiskey drinks, we need some fresh air. What better way to celebrate our seasonal freedom, then hopping on two wheels and seeing where the road takes us? Setting the city behind you and following the twisting two-lane country highways, this is the American dream. No distractions – well ok, so maybe some distractions...damn smartphones and emoticon texting from those pesky 4-wheeled sardine cans.
"On a cycle the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.” - Robert M. Pirsig, an excerpt from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
Just be forewarned, the romanticism of motorcycle camping can turn downright depressing if not prepared. Let this serve as a beginners guide to relish in the freedom that comes with a successful motorcycle camping trip, while still keeping some creature comforts of home.
The ‘Right’ Motorcycle
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Spoiler Alert: This is not it...[/caption]If you ask any gear-head what style of motorcycle is best suited for long hauls, a wide range of responses is to be expected. Yet when it comes to motorcycle camping, most will agree that the dual sport style is the best transport on two wheels for outdoor adventures; comfortable seating, a workable windscreen, suspension capable of going off road, and plenty of saddlebag support. After venturing thousands of miles on my ’11 Triumph Bonneville T100, I can assure you that street bikes are definitely not the right choice. The once liberating wind turns into a chesty battle of stamina if you go without a windscreen. Constant engagement of the bellicose gusts can exhaust even the most iron-sided of riders.
So, what’s the best dual sport motorcycle you ask? I am Triumph through and through. Hence my choice - the Triumph Tiger Explorer. She’s buttery smooth and takes corners with ballerina-like grace, not to mention ABS and multiple rider suspension settings. Regardless of what manufacturer you go with, make sure there’s some form of cruise control – be it electronic or manual modification on the throttle. Nothing is worse than tingling fingers when trying to set up a tent, or chop kindling for the fire.
The ‘Right’ Riding Gear
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No words needed...[/caption]Let’s start with riding gear. I find my full-face helmet, with Bluetooth connection, to be essential for any long ride. Rocking out to some Bruce Springsteen while watching the bugs splatter on your face shield is pure bliss. I know, you’re already thinking, “well I want to look like Jax Teller.” Too bad. He’s a handsome actor and that just isn’t going to happen, half-helm or not.A water-resistant, but breathable, jacket with shoulder and elbow armor makes for a safe and prepared pilot. Don’t put your safety in the hands of a fly-by-night meteorologist. Plan on rain, and be pleasantly surprised with sun.
The ‘Right’ Camping Gear
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Pure genius...or just a general sense of IDGAF![/caption]With the cross-industry saturation of modern day lightweight camping gear, prices are finally crashing on all brands. The key here being lightweight. Every ounce counts on two wheels. Grab a lightweight 3-season tent, unless you plan on doing a lot of snow riding, and make sure it’s at least a 3-person tent. Marmot makes an amazing 3 person / 3 season tent, called the Limelight 3P - and weighs in at 6 lbs. 0.5 oz. The cost: approximately $300. My equation for tent sizes is occupant number plus one. You never know if a passenger wants to tag along, and there is no better way to get unnecessarily intimate with someone then within the confines of a small tent.Although the tent fends off the elements, any outdoorsman knows that comfort lies in the sleeping pad. I’m partial to roll ups, compared to inflatables, as they can leak and require inflation. It’s easy to strap down a roll-up sleeping pad on your luggage rack; plus you look like a traveling vagabond to boot.
A solid knife never goes out of style. It doesn’t have to be a machete, or a Rambo-inspired Bowie knife, just something with a solid sheath and heavy enough to facilitate the hacking of firewood.Depending upon how long your adventure is planned for, always bring an extra day of rations. Call me crazy, but Mountainhouse dehydrated meals taste pretty damn good by a campfire. Not to mention they’re lightweight and all you need is fresh boiling water. Bon Appétit!All this talk of food is making me salivate, which leads my thoughts to cooking utensils. One word. Metal Spork. O.K. so that’s two words, I can count, whatever. Just give thanks to the inventor, Samuel W. Francis. The Spork is a one-stop shop for modern day (org. 1874) comfort.Last, but not least, you need something to cook those delicious campfire meals. Again, focusing on lightweight gear, the 1.1 liter GSI Outdoors Halulite Boiler Pot is an excellent choice. It weighs only 8.6 oz. and can fit a 220g or 110g isobutane fuel canister inside, saving precious space. Plus, as an added bonus, it only costs $30. I know what you're thinking; that's not real lumberjack style. Well, if you don't care about weight, then I would suggest picking up a cast iron deep skillet. All culinary experts can all agree, cast iron is the ultimate outdoorsman’s chef de cuisine. Albeit the heaviest of equipment, the sturdiness and overall versatility make it the go-to piece of cookware. Just make sure the lips are tall enough (over 4") to handle boiling water.
The ‘Right’ Safety Gear
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Coffee is one hell of a miracle drug.[/caption]I could be flowery and detail each piece of safety gear required when camping, but that just wouldn’t be interesting. So here’s a bullet point checklist:
- Compass (GPS is an extra)
- Spare Tube or Fix-A-Flat gear (for flat tires)
- Adjustable socket wrench
- Multi-sized Allen key set
- Spare Chain or Belt (depending upon motorcycle)
- Chain Lube (necessary every 300 miles)
- Cell Phone (Emergencies Only!)
- Bug spray and Sunscreen
- Excedrin (I prefer Goody's headache powders)
- Head Lamp
- Instant Coffee and a mug (Safety first, nothing kills like a tired rider)
- Fire Starter (magnesium striker at least as a backup to a lighter)
- Reflective rain gear
- Waterproof case or bag
- Deodorant (yes, this is for the safety of all others on the road and in your party – your stench loses it’s manly quality after day 2)
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My ol' girl Desdemona. Stupid graduate school application fees took her too soon...[/caption]Touring through the backwoods can be an amazing and refreshing experience; trees passing in a lingering blur as hawks soar overhead. Just be sure to come prepared, and Keep It Simple. You could always bring a Bluetooth boombox, or a soft-sided cooler bag to keep the brewskis refreshing, but just make sure you have the necessities first – a.k.a. a flask filled with whiskey.This is about roughing it in style, not just transporting your apartment to the woods. A fine balance between necessity and comfort is always a toss up in lightweight packing. Nothing demands this much as the limited space on a motorcycle.Finally, check your local camping laws and permits. There’s nothing like cracking open a cold one, after a long glorious ride, only to have the local park warden issue your 33 year-old-self a criminal citation for “Possession of Alcohol in a Prohibited Zone.” Yes, that happened. I'm such a badass...