World In Motion

Travel by car and you're watching a movie. Travel by bike and you're in the movie. Which is reason enough in our book to hit the road for a touring holiday. The question is, how do you want to do it?

1 SPORTSBIKE TOURING - Sportsbike minimalist, Tim Dickson

The world's a big place. And there's a lot of ground to cover quickly

Why do you own a bike? For me, it's about actually riding the thing. And while I like to get my sportsbike fix riding on the odd track day, I get a serious kick riding on - and riding to - some of the finest Tarmac southern Europe has to offer. One of the best buzzes in biking comes from rolling off a ferry at Calais or Le Havre, and heading south into a continental dawn.

I go touring by sportsbike as a reason to ride, not as a method of getting somewhere I want to be. Riding itself is the holiday, all day in the saddle, day after day spent joining up my favourite bits of road - or just the ones that look good on a map. There may be sights to see but I'm not looking at them. I'll stop for fuel, food and sleep, and that's about it. It's deeply self-indulgent and time I prefer spending alone. But that's just me.

Even if you don't hanker after a flat-out lap of France, Italy or Spain, you can still go touring on your sportsbike. It could be a weekend in the Lake District on your VFR400 or a Sanders-esque lap of the world by R1. Or anything in between.

Okay, so touring by sportsbike has its downsides. You don't get armchair levels of comfort, but if you're spending all day in the saddle something's going to be aching by the end of it no matter what you ride. At least a sportsbike's tank range will see you stopping for gas more often than a full-on tourer's. Passengers get a raw deal on a sportsbike too, and luggage space is limited. Because I'm not going anywhere but right back where I started by the most entertaining route possible, I don't need to pack much. No beach towels, no books to read by the pool, just a couple of pairs of pants, spare socks and the bare minimum to get me by.

Packing as little as possible takes longer than cramming far more than you'll ever need into too many bags and rucksacks, and knowing what to leave behind comes with experience. Attaching tailpacks and soft panniers needs to be done with care if it's going to stay on during hardcore riding; if you think something needs an extra bungee to hold it in place, use two.

Sportsbikes eat tyres, and soft compound rubber can disappear at a shocking rate if you're riding all day long - a dawn to dusk autoroute blast to the south of France can see off half a rear tyre, so always start a trip with new rubber. Chains, sprockets and brake pads need to be in top shape too. Preparation and a bit of planning is the key, but it doesn't take that much. What really matters is getting on and doing it.

The expert: Nick Sanders

Nick Sanders has ridden round the world in 31 days on his Yamaha R1

"TEN 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."

2 CONVENTIONAL TOURING - Fully loaded two-up, Alex Hearn

The world's a big place. You might as well experience it in comfort

You can tour on literally anything with two wheels. But from my own experience - especially if you're taking a partner - a good sports touring/full touring rig makes a great platform to clear off for a week or two. Or three.

I favour a full-on tourer for my two-wheeled holidays, Honda's 1800 GoldWing being at the top of the pile for its sheer competence and effortless engine. Harley's Electra Glide runs it a close second, for different reasons; mainly its lazy charm and style, but there's a lot to be said for the FJR/Pan/R1200RT crowd because they carry just as much baggage, but with a good deal more performance and handling ability.

Either way, there's nothing that quite beats the feeling of having a couple of weeks ahead with only the vaguest of itineraries and plans. Especially as Europe has so much to offer - France between the Alps and Pyrenees provides the most unbelievable riding experiences. Then there's Italy, Spain and eastern Europe - now that things have cooled down over there. Plus Morocco's just a short hop on a ferry away. There are so many roads to ride and places to visit, and with a pillion you're in for a shared experience.

The journey becomes more important than the destination. Even with adverse weather as long as you've got the right gear you'll be alright, and ultimately it's all part of the trip. At least on a properly set-up touring bike you can pack some clobber. Staying in hotels gives ample opportunity for eating and drinking out so it's good to have something reasonable to dress in and spare under-crackers (though if you're going with a girl, expect her to have the lion's share of the space).

So if you've never been on a biking holiday then make 2005 the first year you do. I promise it won't be the last.

The expert: Phil Roberts

Phil and Angie Roberts cover a lot of ground on their Honda Pan European

"In 1992 I decided motorcycle touring had to be fun. My local dealer had a six-month old Pan at a good price so I bought it. I ran the ST1100 for four years until Honda brought out the linked model with ABS in 1996, so I bought that and ran it until 2002 when I got the new 1300.

I tour with different people on different bikes and the truth is you can tour on anything. But bikes like the Pan are make life on the road easier. The Pan does everything it's supposed to. It's well built, reliable, it's got shaft drive for low maintenance, it's reasonably economical with hard, good-capacity luggage and a very useful electric screen. It will do between 40-50mpg and the huge tank means you can do serious distance without refuelling. And when the fuel light finally forces you to stop after 240-250 miles you still feel reasonably human, and so does your pillion.

I always have the wife on the back for the shared experience. Angie loves touring and is a great pillion, which means no dancing around on the back and being able to sit on the bike for an hour or two without stopping.

We started with the organised tours. When you're not used to it there's a lot to be said for somebody else organising hotels and routes while you just turn up and have fun, plus you get to share the experience with other like-minded riders so you get the social side of things too. But with experience I started to organise my own tours. I use a mixture of Michelin maps, Microsoft Autoroute and Lonely Planet and Rough Guides. I always plan my main stopovers on the way out - the web is a brilliant place for this - and sometimes wing it on the way back. But if there are particular places we want to go to then it's stupid not to be able to get to them because you can't find accommodation.

Good weather protection on the Pan makes life for your clothing easier. Over the years I tried various makes but found that the BMW two-piece Gore-Tex suit - while it's probably among the most expensive - works extremely well, which makes touring all the more pleasant. Even if you're heading far south you'll be starting off in England where it's probably going to be cold and wet, so clothing must be versatile. I learned through experience to buy a good quality suit with a removable liner, and bring heated clothing. With an electric vest you can get away with wearing a long sleeve T-shirt under your jacket right down to temperatures of four to five degrees, and they pack up very small. The alternative is to wear a load of layers but you end up looking like a Michelin man and you can't move. I carry waterproof winter weight gloves as well as a lightweight summer pair, and gloves and boots are always Gore-Tex lined. There's nothing more miserable than wet hands and feet.

Angie and I wear earplugs called Geocom from Headset Services ( that can be used in conjunction with an Autocom intercom. If you're touring as a couple you need an intercom and it's useful bike-to-bike too. I also connect it to a walkman or radio for the boring motorway stretches. And there's no point in taking a raft of tools with you - a mobile phone and breakdown card are your best bet. I use AA five-star Europe, and E111 forms along with personal travel insurance are vital.

We tend to do one three-week trip a year throughout Europe and several long weekends. Even for weekends we go to France: the UK is cramped with too many speed cameras and idiots who don't like bikes, and accommodation is expensive. I live in the middle of the country but it's quicker and easier for me to get to northern France than to Scotland. It's a no-brainer.

I like to get to a destination by 6pm so that by the time you've unloaded the bike and had a shower, you've still got enough light to look around. There's nothing like that first beer after a long ride. I like late nights so we don't get going until 9.30-10 am. I keep stops short and get big distances done before lunch as it becomes harder as the day goes on. If there are a lot of miles to do I will start early. My longest day ride was 700 miles, with a 7am start and 7pm finish. And I knew I'd done it.

3 ADVENTURE TOURING - Go-anywhere adventurer, Alex Hearn

The world's a big place. And not all the roads are paved

And if you really fancy an adventure, then strapping a tent and the bare minimum of life support to a bike (the right bike, obviously) and heading for the hills is a must at some point in life. Possibly, lurking deep in everybody reading this, is one big trip; Africa, South America, India, these places are all out there, waiting to be ridden through, discovered by somebody new.

Where to go is easy - where do you want to go? Me, I want to ride from my little house in the south of France down to South Africa. I'll take about three months, wind my way through the length of Africa (which way depends on the prevailing political situations) and get under the skin of a continent that captivates me. I've even pencilled a time in my life to do it: mid-40s (I'm 36). Step out of my regular life and hit the road, south. The wife's even agreed to let me go. I think she's looking forward to the quiet...

I've got the bike to do it on - I've had my BMW GS Adventure from new. It's three years old, has 25,000 miles on and is nicely run in and ready to go. Sure, it's a big old bus, but tough as old boots, surprisingly capable off-road (and on) and comfortable. I'll travel as light as I can, kip out rough and keep it simple. A pannier for spares, one for clothes, the top box for food and utensils, with the tent/sleeping bag/roll mat on top and a tank bag for everything else.

There's a good mate of mine who may come, but if he can't make it, so be it. I'm still going. It's quite a selfish thing. There are a hundred reasons not to do it but only one to do it: because you really want to. I do - and I will.

And as for my inspiration, a journalist called Ted Simon rode around the world in the early 70s on a Triumph. He wrote a fantastic book called Jupiter's Travels, which I read every year. Read it. If there is a big trip in you, this book will lead you to it and, just like me, you'll start planning yours.

The expert: Clive Greenhough

Clive rode round the world on a Suzuki DR350 in 400 days

My friends and I used to tour round Europe on motorcycles. But one day we decided to do something more radical. It was 1993 and Russia had just opened up officially, so we thought it'd be fantastic to ride across it. But we had a few more beers and the plan got carried away. We decided to go round the world doing the longest possible route in the shortest possible time. So it ended up being 40,000 miles, 42 countries in 400 days.

The choice of bike was crucial. Road riding was a big part but in Siberia, the terrain would be mainly forests, dirt tracks and swamps, and we'd be pulling off-road to camp. Suzuki's DR350 was getting rave reviews for its off- and on-road capabilities, so we bought second-hand DR350s that had up to 8000 miles on the clock already.

We were regular guys - a mixture of teachers, accountants and journalists - wanting to do something special. We had no money so it was a low-budget camping lifestyle - out of 400 nights we probably spent 20 days under a roof. We had no tents, we just used these army ponchos doubled up as waterproof jackets for shelter.

We rode with leather jeans and jacket and regular army boots. We couldn't afford any of that Cordura stuff. Our leather jeans soon became our outfit for going out so people wondered about our sexuality.

We did get very wet in the swamps, but you kind of got on with it. I lost my waterproof trousers because I didn't strap them onto my bike properly, so I had to pull my poncho jacket over my knees. It made the boys laugh.

The list of things we took when we left was ridiculous. We brought loads of unnecessary clothes, a folding spade that we never used, a fire extinguisher and even a Teddy bear! We learned the lesson in Siberia where we kept falling over in the swamps and the bikes got bogged down. It was really hard work, so as we went along we threw things away and by the time we were on the last 10,000 miles we had nothing left. The only must-haves are cable ties, jubilee clips and duct tape as you can repair anything with those three things. We also had these excellent MSR stoves that ran on all sorts of fuel.Siberia has a small summer window so we planned to leave in April to get across by July/August. Turkey was very cold, and we managed to time Central America perfectly with the rainy season - it pissed down every day. But generally the States and Canada were a breeze, pure fun. The best part of the trip was arriving in Alaska after travelling across Russia for 100 days, which were spent sleeping out with no proper food - cucumbers and cabbage. Anchorage is a sophisticated American city and we gorged ourselves on food till we felt sick. We met these guys who took us out on the piss and hosted us big time.

It was seven of us at the start of the trip but just three of us completed it. I was one of them, but only just. We had lots of accidents but the biggest was mine. Four of us were riding a dirt track along the Blue Nile Gorge in Ethiopia, 33,000 out of 40,000 miles into the trip, and I was leading. It was boiling hot so I unzipped my leather jacket and I had nothing underneath, just bare flesh. The roads are so bad over there people drive on the good bits rather than sticking to their side, and suddenly a huge pick-up truck came flying round the corner on my side of the road. To my left was a massive drop down the gorge, so I turned right but so did the truck. I braked hard on the dirt and lost it, and the truck drove over the bike and me. I just lay there thinking I was dying. We'd brought an amazing medical kit with us, so my mate injected morphine into my arm - he'd only ever practised on an orange. The guys in the truck put me and my bike in the back of their pick-up and drove me two hours to the nearest clinic where they took an X-ray with an old Russian machine. They said I was fine, I'd just broken a few ribs. So we stayed for five days in a mud hut with no power and a lady massaging me every day before getting back on the road. The bike was a bit awkward to ride with half-broken levers and a caved-in tank, but at least it still went. In Africa they simply don't get new stuff so they repair anything and everything. The locals had just bashed and welded it all back together.

I want to encourage everyone to experience adventure touring. I've proved you don't need much money, and it's not just about the riding - it's about the people you meet. We'd never have made it round the world without all the people who helped us out of naked human generosity. The world isn't such a bad place.

TOURING TECH - Don't get lost. Get GPS

The world's a big place. And there's plenty of scope for getting lost

A GPS - Global Positioning System - device uses satellites to pinpoint where you are and, by using its in-built mapping, tells you preciseley where you are and exactly how to get where you want to go. It's great. You probably have one in your car. Life definitely changes when GPS comes into it. No more messy maps, getting lost or that horrible sinking feeling when you know you've gone wrong but can't work out why. Or where.

For bike use, there isn't the same choice you've got for cars, and there are a few problems involved with buying aftermarket kit. Some manufacturers like BMW, Triumph and Ducati do sell factory-fit systems (usually Garmin based) ready to plug into their bikes. The downside is cost: you can be looking at the thick end of £1200 or more.

There is a cheaper option that will adapt to pretty much any bike. The Garmin Quest is a small, waterproof GPS unit with a full colour display, street level mapping of the UK and parts of Europe, and a world base map. And it's around £350. Usefully, for when the road runs out, it tracks where you've been and, should you want to retrace your steps, will point you back (with a big arrow in a compass setting) to where you started or to various waypoints you've marked along the way.

Unlike many dedicated car systems it has a battery that's good for short trips (and makes it handy for mountain bike use too). Actually, the only drawback with using the Quest on two wheels is power supply - at the moment you have to butcher its car lighter feed and hook it up (with a resistor) to the bike's battery. RAM UK - who make a universal mounting kit for the Quest, and others - are working on a solution that either uses plug-in connectors (BMW style) or simply hook-ups to the battery terminals. The Garmin Quest is a top little unit, and great value for money.


Whatever you ride, whichever continent takes your fancy, however much time you have on your hands, we hope these pages have inspired you to get out there and tour.

Okay, so it could prove difficult to convince the boss (at home or in the workplace) to give you a month or two off to blast round the world. And if you do then you may want to avoid Ethiopian pick-up trucks. But while going to far-flung places may sound like the most exciting option, don't forget we have the most exhilarating roads and best weather to explore them with right on our doorstep - Europe. Spend them well with careful forward planning, and just a few days can provide you with the riding adventure of your life.

Before you go, check out our supplement that accompanies this month's issue of TWO. As well as information on everything you can think of to do on two wheels, we've included a whole section on touring abroad with information on what you need, details of various countries to explore and a selection of routes for you to try out.

If it's your first time touring and you want to follow Phil Roberts' advice on starting out with an organised tour, then you'll also find a whole selection of companies to choose from that explore places as far flung as Alaska and South America, or simply Europe if that's what you prefer.

Just let us know how you get on.