Nick Sanders' advice on sportsbike touring

The world's a big place. And there's a lot of ground to cover quickly. Nick Sanders is known for his globe-trotting adventures

Posted: 7 January 2011
by Nick Sanders

Years ago you went round the world on a BMW and took two years to do it. But today you can ride round the world on a sportsbike and do it in a month or two.

People say Yamaha's R1 is a track only bike and uncomfortable for long distances. The truth is it's an extremely suitable machine for fast touring.

It's a question of how you ride it and where you distribute your weight: if you ride too heavily on your wrists then they're gonna hurt, and leaning so far forward might make it difficult for your back. But distribute your weight appropriately and the R1 suddenly becomes the world's best sports tourer.

On other bikes making progress and building up speed takes time, but on the R1 acceleration is always on tap so I can overtake quickly and get into and out of difficult situations with impunity. The sports riding position lets me look at my vanishing point so I can see where I want to go, and the R1 will get me there with pin-point accuracy.

You can also cover a lot of ground very quickly. There's a stretch across Winnipeg on Alaska's Trans-Canadian highway that is so boring you fall asleep, but I get through it in no time as the R1 eliminates the need to travel slowly. The low centre of gravity also means cornering is superb and this lets you make the most of the world's best roads. It's so easy and forgiving to ride.

But sportsbikes are dreadful for carrying luggage so it's pointless even going there. There are some excellent tail packs, sports panniers and racks on the market to make up for this, but the rider should really adapt and learn to take less. It's a shame to spoil the R1's awesome power-to-weight ratio with excessive baggage. You must work out what you really need and discipline yourself. So that's a passport, visa card, toothbrush, a few pairs of underpants and one change of clothes. You don't need to carry wash stuff - you stay in hotels and get them there, or you buy them en route and chuck 'em away when you're done. There's nothing clever about it.

How many hours a day you ride is up to you. With determination I can ride 18 hours, but six hours with a break every so often is fine; a higher average speed means you can cover ground faster on a sportsbike anyway. Of course there's the issue of fuel capacity, but in Europe you don't have a problem with gas
stations. In North West Australia where there can be 300 miles between gas stations I carry a jerry can on my pillion seat; I'm thinking of fitting an endurance tank to the R1 this year.

Clothing is the old leather vs textile issue. Leathers are safe but they're cold and get soggy if it rains, but they look fantastic and you feel less vulnerable. If it does get cold you can always use an undersuit and heated grips. Textiles tend to flap a bit and don't look particularly sexy, but they're warm, cosy and waterproof, so much depends on where and when you're touring. I've used both, and in May when I do my sixth round-the-world trip I'll be wearing two-piece leathers.

The bottom line is, the R1 will go anywhere. I've ridden it through 30 different countries, six continents and round the world three times so I know that. But you don't need to go that far to find fantastic roads - the Alps or the Pyrenees offer some of the world's best sportsbike riding.

Of course, you can just stick to track days. But it's like going through life not learning to play an instrument or to paint - you're missing out if you don't give something a go. R1s, Honda Fireblades, Suzuki GSX-R1000s - they're all great touring machines.

Previous article
Make your bike better for nowt
Next article
How to achieve the ultimate upper body strength

sportsbike, touring, superbike, advice, long distance, nick sanders, around the world

Discuss this story

"a stretch across Winnipeg on Alaska's Trans-Canadian highway ??"

 Kinda like that section of  road in Scotland owned and operated by the Spanish

Posted: 07/01/2011 at 14:59

In these few paragraphs, Nick has summed up everything you need to know....except for one thing...which is...Nick could & would ride a C90 around the globe & say "yeah, just fine as long as you allow enough time for overtakes".... 

Nick is our Rossi of the road. Give him any bike & he will bend it to his will. Both ride with their hearts & souls because it's their passions that drive them forward with a love for riding as their fuel.

We can ALL aspire to be them. We, who ride, are spiritually, kin.


Nick might be sponsored by Germoloids for his next "Sunday Run"

Posted: 07/01/2011 at 17:12

Nick is absolutely correct on the R1, I have had a 2005 one for the last 5 years ... and have done 85,000kms on it ... long distance, short hauls and trackdays.

sitting position does matter a lot, on the kind of rides you do ... but lugguage space... its non existant unless you end up spoiling the look of the sports bike.

there was a time I was planning to get handgrip warmers ... but they would look a bit ...

Posted: 09/01/2011 at 21:42

Have you published any of your round the world routes? I'd like to give this a shot on my 1098, but worry about taking a wrong turn in Mongolia.

Posted: 09/09/2011 at 23:16

Yes, take less baggage, that's the secret, bare minimal clothes. Most don't get that one and travel with army style packs all over the bike and rider. Nonsense, but very common. You just dont need all that shite.

But going quicker because you're on a sports bike v a BMW? Not sure about that. There's very little difference between them in the real world, very little. On one trip I got overtaken by a BM with pillion doing 160, I sped up to join and that thing was flat and sweet on the road, over the bumps, fast in the corners as you can imagine.

Im considering getting rid of the sports to go for a trail / road hybrid because the cops are so bad here now you have to get off main roads to enjoy yourself or you will, that is will, be booked for doing 10 over the limit.

I think advice touring now needs advice on how to stay away from cops.

Posted: 21/11/2011 at 04:30

Classic Saunders!

Gotta love:

"the R1 eliminates the need to travel slowly"

"It's a shame to spoil the R1's awesome power-to-weight ratio with (excessive) baggage"

"when I do my sixth round-the-world trip I'll be wearing two-piece leathers”

Just completely p1$$es all over the lame conventional wisdom about long distance m/c travel

Most refreshing!

Posted: 21/11/2012 at 00:06

Hi Nick, Touring Northern Spain at end of this month and am getting different info as to what the legal requirements are for motor bikes and rider. Any help with this would be much appreciated.

Posted: 10/06/2013 at 16:12

"...distribute your weight appropriately and the [insert your sportbike here] suddenly becomes the world's best sports tourer."

And many good points made above too. I had a 15 inch stack of pillion packs on my ZX-9R once for a 1,200 mile ride. That much weight up high and back presented a real handling problem for aggressive S-turn cornering. Saddlebags or just one saddlebag would have proved much better & safer.

For an overnight touring or long distance bike, I'd recommend the Ninja ZX9R, especially the later E & F California specification models. The bike comes with a 5 gallon fuel tank and runs 48 MPG in stock form. With some minor tweaks it can do better than that, but even still, you're looking at a tank range of 240 miles; for a sportbike!

But again, this bike sport-tours best for the rider when you can mix the highways in with some twisties. Then it's not too difficult to ride all day...and you'll get a workout you'll enjoy!

Posted: 10/11/2015 at 23:35

Talkback: Nick Sanders' advice on sportsbike touring

Busiest motorcycle review conversations