10 steps for adventure motorcycling on the cheap

You don’t need big money for big trips. International skinflint Lois Pryce explains how to trot the globe in a discount manner

If an alien landed on Planet Earth tomorrow and decided he fancied seeing this strange new land by motorcycle, he could be forgiven for thinking that he needed to rustle up tens of thousands of our English pounds before he could even swing a Cordura-clad leg over his brand new BMW R1200GS Adventure.

Once the preserve of the rugged (and invariably hirsute) individual, Adventure Motorcycling has finally been hijacked by our consumerist, media-driven society. This isn’t all bad – it has opened up the possibility of motorcycle travel to thousands of people who may never have considered it within their reach, and technological advances have given us some genuinely useful kit. I’m all for the democratisation of adventure riding – it’s fun, easier than you think, and a fabulous way to see the world. But the downside of hitting the zeitgeist is the marketing people jumping on the bandwagon. And before you know it, you’re up to your axles in titanium knife & fork sets, halogen lighting solutions and tyre-pressure monitoring systems - all stuffed into some very expensive aluminium panniers.

Well, fear not folks – there is another way! In this top 10 we’re going old skool, back to basics, make do and mend - whatever you want to call it. Here are some top tips to save money and still have the wild adventure of a lifetime!

Step 10

Step 10: Going Dry

After fuel and food your biggest expense may well be the beers you’re knocking back after a long day in the saddle. If you’re deadly serious about travelling on the cheap you could restrict yourself to visiting only Muslim countries where there is no alcohol to spend your money on. This advice is strictly for the hardcore scrimper and not to be taken lightly. After all, you do have a national stereotype to uphold. Are you staring at my pint? You want some?

Step 09

Step 09: Don't get turned over

Haggling is a terribly un-British activity and there’s nothing worse than seeing a Western tourist bargaining with some poverty-stricken market trader over the equivalent of 10p. However, haggling is standard practice in some countries and you’ll soon get a nose for whether you’re being fleeced. One situation where it’s worth standing your ground is if you’re being asked for a bribe. Either refuse altogether or offer them a ridiculously low sum; they will usually take it.

Step 08

Step 08: Three things you don’t need that will save you lots of money

  • A GPS – indispensable if blazing trails in the desert, unnecessary if you are sticking to established routes. A map is all you need.
  • A water filter – boil water or use iodine tablets instead
  • A petrol stove – cook on a bonfire, it’s more fun and will never break

Step 07

Step 07: Go self-catering

Local street food is cheap and filling (if occasionally a little dicey) but if you’re on a serious budget the cheapest way to eat on the road is to cook your own. You can get rice or pasta and some kind of vegetables pretty much anywhere in the world. Trying to invent new, exciting recipes with your two food groups every night is guaranteed to keep you entertained around the campfire.

Step 06

Step 06: Wild camping is free

Accommodation costs soon rack up if you’re checking into hotels each night. Carry a tent and you have instant free lodging wherever you end up. No need to buy a super-dooper fancy one from a camping shop – you can get a two-man dome tent at Argos for £12.99! It’s rare to find official campsites in the developing world, so once you’re out in the wild you just disappear into a forest or pitch up in a remote corner of the desert and drop off with the sweet feeling that it’s costing you nothing. And no check out rip-offs either.

Step 05

Step 05: Make your own luggage

Before you could buy ready-to-fit aluminium panniers, people used to make their own. Yes, amazing isn’t it? Many a hoary old overlander was to be found in their garage converting pieces of Dexion shelving and scrap metal into something resembling motorcycle luggage with nothing but a blow torch and a rivet gun. Why not give it a go? Or for the less DIY-minded you could do worse than sling a couple of rucksacks over your saddle – instant soft luggage. Be inventive.

Step 04

Step 04: Ship your bike and stuff don't fly it

If you are intent on livin’ la vida loca and want to get your bike to South America, or anywhere else for that matter, investigate the possibility of transporting it by sea, rather than by air. Admittedly, it is more unreliable – you can end up waiting around in some grotty foreign port for days on end, and beware the extra cost of ‘port duties’ but if you are serious about scrimping, this is one way of saving a serious chunk of money.

Step 03

Step 03: Research your route and beware of hidden costs

Although Africa is a continent associated with extreme poverty, it is expensive to travel through, due to the high cost of visas (usually between £50 and £100) which soon adds up if you’re riding through 15 countries. Latin American visas are cheaper but you’ve got to get your bike across the Atlantic first, which will take a chunk of your budget. Asia has a low cost of living and is a straightforward ride from the UK – Delhi is just a 6000 mile stone’s throw from London.

Step 02

Step 02: Everything you need is in your garage/shed

There’s tons of gear advertised under the ubiquitous ‘Adventure’ tag or bearing tantalising names such as Dakar or Tuareg, and it’s easy to think you need to get yourself the whole matching outfit. Some of this kit is great (waterproof socks rock!) but most of it is completely unnecessary. If you are already a motorcyclist you will probably have everything you need for your big trip in your wardrobe or garage. What you want is stuff that will keep you warm and dry – that’s it really.

Step 01

Step 01: Take a small, handy second-hand Bike

No need to splash out on a big fancy new machine. A good quality, low-mileage, used bike will be fine for a long-distance ride if you prepare it well and continue to maintain it on the road. For less than two thousand quid you can get a decent mid-sized trail bike (such as a DR-Z400) that will be more than capable of the job. Fuel costs soon add up on a trans-continental trip so a bike that gets 90mpg will end up saving you big money.