Imagine your locks beautifully flowing in the wind while you ride at the back of a motorbike. As if you are in a L’Oreal shampoo commercial or a movie version of a Nicolas Sparks novel….Now stop, because that makes no damn sense! Photo shoots and movies constantly show us good looking people without helmets who speed through gorgeous sunsets, easy as a summer breeze. The first thing Stef told me before getting on a motorbike was that anyone who is serious about riding must realize that movies show an almost hilarious, highly stylized and completely inaccurate version of what you should (not) do on a motorbike in real life.
It is really an incredible experience to travel on two wheels, but there are quite a few practical details that you might want to know before actually hopping on the motorbike.
After several years and dozens of short and long trips on the back seat, you learn what makes your life easier on the road and what doesn’t. So if you are planning to join a friend or partner on the road, but you aren’t sure about the practical things you should know: here is an inconclusive list which might help you have an easier and more comfortable trip.
So let’s start with some basic preparation: What should I wear? is a very classical question for us girls, and when it comes to comfort and functionality it is actually a quite important one. Apart from the absolute MUSTs (helmet, (leather)jacket and gloves), here are some useful tips:
✓Leggings might be super comfortable for you and the ones which imitate leather pants might look like an amazing motorbike outfit…But they aren’t! Keep in mind that riding on a bike is not just fun: it is also dangerous and you need to wear clothes that provide at least some layer of protection over your skin.
✓Leather is a good and sturdy material, but leather pants can be really suffocating in the summer heat. So a good pair of old school jeans (not jeggings and not that thin-looking-like-jeans-type-of -fabric) are a good choice for longer trips. They are harder to tear compared to many other types of fabric and this is an important factor if (knock on wood!) you fall and get dragged along the road.
✓ Go for several layers of clothing which you can easily take off or put on: in spring and autumn it can be freezing cold in the early morning or quite hot later during the day.
✓I personally prefer longer tops: even if you have a nice body- butt cracks are not a pretty sight for the people who will be travelling behind the bike and trust me: you don’t want to be adjusting your pants with one hand and trying to hold the driver with the other every 5 minutes
✓Unless you are one of those people who are ready to buy full-on professional gear right from the start, you will have to make the best of what is already in your closet.
✓Obviously, open toed shoes, ballerinas and low cut sneakers are out of the question: they might work for short rides in the city, but if you are about to travel for several hours or more you need footwear which at least reaches your ankles.
✓When you travel in high speed, getting hit by flying bugs can be extremely painful: sometimes the acceleration makes it feel like you’ve been punched by a stone so you must make sure you don’t expose any skin.
✓Ankle boots with sturdy soles for the colder seasons and ankle-high sneakers/chucks for the summer are good enough options to keep you both safe and comfortable.
✓Unless you have external luggage bags which can be attached to the motorcycle, you must keep in mind that there is room for only one backpack on a motorbike and that backpack will be on your back!
✓That means you are sharing backpack space: 50/50. Sometimes it is even 40 for you and 60 for the driver because you also need to carry tools, motorcycle chain lube, etc.
✓And no: you cannot get one of those huge backpacks which can fit everything: they are extremely heavy, and the more they protrude over your head – the more they get caught up in the wind current: a dangerous thing which can throw your bike off balance
✓ The longer you carry a backpack and the higher the speed with which you are moving: the more tension it puts on your neck and shoulders. I’ve learned this the hard way and I’ve become an ever more careful packer. “Travelling light” gets a whole new meaning on motorbike trips: especially when your destination is over 400km (250miles) away.
✓So plan wisely and leave the clutter behind: the driver cannot carry your backpack for you so you must choose a tradeoff between the things you need and the things you are willing to carry
✓Get knee pads/knee guards! Knees are especially vulnerable and it is a good idea to have extra protection over them. Remember: no money is wasted if you invest it in safety. If you are still not sure whether you want to travel on a motorbike in the long term: borrow protection gear from friends or use your roller blade knee pads: they are better than no protection at all.
✓Don’t forget your rain gear! Rain protection jackets and ponchos are light and don’t take up so much space. It’s better to have them even if you don’t need them, than to need them when you don’t have them 😉
You never know what surprises that road has in store for you and thunderstorms can suddenly happen even on the warmest summer days. This happened to us a few months ago: we were coming back from Greece on a warm sunny day and then: 80km before Sofia all hell broke loose in one of the worst storms I have ever experienced on the road.
My boyfriend has been using Mac in a Sac this season and he is quite happy with it. As for me: I couldn’t resist my girly self and got this lovely waterproof poncho with a vintage pattern from Reisenthel. Frankly, I am just in love with it.
✓Get a bandana or a scarf with you: the air current brings tons of bugs your way and their impact on the skin ranges between unpleasant and downright painful. If your jacket doesn’t have a high collar: always wear something around your neck. However, make sure the scarf is short and well tied: the last thing you want is a meter of bright fabric wrapped around your helmet and blocking the driver’s view in the rear-view mirror
✓You might want to get your earrings off or at least try the helmet and see how they feel. Longer studs paired with a tighter helmet might start to feel painful after some time
✓Tie your hair! We already mentioned the idealized movie version of pretty women riding on a motorbike with their hair flowing in the wind….Good luck combing this shit later! Seriously, it is painful and damaging for the hair. Any hair longer than shoulder length needs to be tied up: for your own comfort. Pony tails still leave the ends out in the open so go for braids: it is easier to keep your hair intact and much neater.
I hope this list has been useful for those of you who are just starting to experience the lovely world of travelling on a motorbike. Let me know if you have any questions and feel free to share your own tips: I would love to hear from other girls who enjoy this type of trips.