While doing research for the Morocco trip we did in 2014, we came across something called the TransPortugal trail. This is a, mostly off road, route that goes all the way from the north of Portugal to the south. There are a few different routes taken by other people that did the trip, the one we picked to do was done by another person from the UK. It starts in Bragança in the north of Portugal and ends in Sagres in the south. The majority of the route follows unpaved roads down the east side of Portugal, near the border with Spain, and then in the last quarter cuts across to the west coast to continue down to Sagres. The route is varied and, for the most part, moderately challenging. We were two people doing the route, we loaded the bikes in the back of my van, took the Eurotunnel early on a Saturday morning and tag team drove to Bragança in one go, a total of 24 hours (though we lost 2 hours being delayed at the Eurotunnel.)
My friend, Jacko, injured his wrist early on and wasn't able to ride off road where standing up was needed for the rest of the trip. He decided to go back and get the van and then followed me down on road each day. This meant that most of my luggage could go in the van, I only carried tools and other essentials. Each evening he would arrive where we decided to stay and find a place for us to eat and sleep. This meant I could ride at my own pace, went a bit faster as I didn't have to keep track of where he was, and made the logistics much easier. Even so, I'd rather that he didn't injure himself so he could enjoy it with me, I prefer to have a friend along than travelling alone.
5 miles before I reached Sagres I had a hard fall, the bike got some damage and so did I. I had a light concussion, bruises and scrapes, had muscles hurting all over and had sand everywhere. I picked myself back up and, after making sure I haven't broken anything, rode the last 5 miles to Sagres where he was already waiting. The next morning I was very sore and developed labyrinthitis (inner ear infection) that made me lose my balance entirely. I had made it just in time. We stayed in Sagres a couple of days while I recovered and then returned home.
The bikes we went on were both enduro bikes. I was on a Yamaha TT-R250 and he was on a Suzuki DR-Z400S. My TTR had an Acerbis fuel tank on that I borrowed from a friend, it could hold 21 litres of fuel compared to the stock tank's 10 litres. We'd both fitted a new set of Michelin AC-10 knobbly tires beforehand.
That gives you the background of the trip. As you might've realised, this isn't a ride report as one would usually expect. Before the trip started I decided that I won't write a ride report in the usual style. I wanted to write about how we went about preparing for the trip, what we decided to take along, what we left at home, what we carried all the way unnecessarily and what were the most valuable things we took along. I'll also write about what we learned, how we would do it differently next time, what worked well, what didn't work at all and where past experience helped. We had a lot of questions and we needed answers that weren't always easy to come by, hopefully this article will help someone like us to get the answers they need to plan their next trip.
Are you going?
The first thing to decide about on a trip like this is whether you're going or not. This is what I like to call a Yes/No decision, there isn't an in between answer. A Yes means commitment all the way, that you are going to do the research needed, that you will pick a date and go ahead with the plans and that people that will go with you can rely on you to not chicken out the nearer it gets to leaving day. A No means you fall in with the rest of the people who think that this is too dangerous, too far away, too expensive, too much trouble, too inconvenient for your family, too ambitious or that you're too old for it. You have to be a little selfish, you get out of bed each day, you work hard, you earn money, you forego some luxuries to save some of your money so you can go on trips like this. You have to allow yourself to dream about a trip like this and you have to make it happen before you really are too old (or too dead) to do it. Don't keep putting it off, you don't want to be in the final years of your life thinking "I should've done that epic bike trip I wanted to do". You want to lie on your deathbed with a big fat grin your face while you remember how good it felt when you were sliding sideways around a bend on a dirt road in a forest on a gloriously sunny day in some foreign country where the beer tasted great every evening. You might even grin at how stupid you were and how much it hurt when you fell sometimes, but you'll have all those memories instead of ones about how comfortable the couch in front of your TV was. Yes, there will be life changing circumstances that mean you can't go sometimes, but that doesn't mean you abandon the trip, that means you move the date, that's all. By life changing I mean serious stuff, a friend of mine's wife developed cancer, that's serious! He had to pull out of this trip, but family is important and they depend on you to be there when they need you as much as you depend on them to understand that you need to live your dreams while you still can.
Next you decide where you're going. That's normally easy, you read trip reports or articles like this, you talk to people that have done trips like the one you want to, you find somewhere you fancy and you're sorted. Right after this you decide whether you're going alone or whether you're taking friends. For me this is a no brainer, I want to go with friends every time. It's great to sit around every evening after a ride/weeks later/months afterwards reminiscing about the good and bad of it all. Talking about what you'll do a little different next time is great and, most importantly, laughing about that time when you/one of the others fell off in some spectacular way. Experiences are, in my mind, always better when they are shared with good friends. I can't give you much advice on travelling entirely by yourself, to me this seems dreary and pointless, but if that's your thing then I sincerely hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy travelling with others.
You might think it's important to pick a date next, but this isn't the case. You can plan a whole trip and then decide when you're going when you're ready to go. This trip started as "look, I found this nice off road trail in Portugal" and we did a whole other trip first before we came back to this idea. All we knew is that we were going to do this some time in the future. As you do your research for any trip you will find out how long it will take you, roughly, what time of the year is likely best to be going at and other bits of info which you use to decide when you will go. Your own circumstances and those of the friends that will go with you will also play a part. For this trip we decided about 6 months in advance what the real dates would be and then we had all that time to look forward to it. That said, you could have everything planned and then it just so works out that 2 weeks from now suits everyone the best, just go with what works at the time.
This is is an easy one. Like me, you might have more than one motorcycle to choose from. I have a road bike and an enduro (aka trail) bike. If I want to go somewhere that I will be riding on tarred roads I will obviously take the road bike and if I want to do an off road riding trip then I take the enduro bike. You don't need a stonking big Be-em Wobble You, in fact, smaller and lighter with less power has all the benefits. You never quite realise how heavy a bike is until you have to muscle it over rough terrain all day long. Even the difference in weight between the TT-R and the DR-Z is very noticeable. This article is for preparation for trips where you will ride an enduro bike on unpaved roads. If you're going on a trip with road bikes then you'll leave some of the stuff I have on the lists off. For example, you might not pack all the tools, the inner tubes, the tube patch kit and so on because you have roadside assistance you can call on if something goes wrong.
Wherever you're going, you should decide which roads you want to take. What things you want to see and, if any, what other activities you want to do. This doesn't mean you set everything in stone. On the Morocco trip we mapped out lots of different roads we wanted to do ahead of time and planned our route down through Spain. Once we got into Morocco we sat down with a drink each night and planned which of those routes we wanted to do the next day and what the general direction is that we were going to go in. The kind of freedom you get from "winging it" like this is great. For the most part we didn't book hotels ahead of time so we had no set places to be at set times. Having to be somewhere at a specific time like that adds pressure to get there and takes some of the enjoyment out of the day's riding. In the same way we didn't book anything except the first night in Portugal ahead of time. Once we set out from Bragança we mostly decided in the afternoon where we want to stop each day and always found somewhere to sleep when we got there. We simply stopped at a bar/cafe/restaurant in any town, had something to eat and drink, made the locals laugh at our poor grasp of their language so that they are friendly with us and then started asking where we can find a good place to sleep. This worked without fail in Portugal, but in Morocco we had some satnav waypoints for places to sleep at as things are more remote. Even so, the best place we stayed at was not on my satnav list, we found it when some locals showed us there.
I am a lists person, mostly because I am a forgetful person. I make lists because I can't then forget anything that's already on a list. Consequently I start making lists months ahead of a trip and I add to them as I go along. I also strike stuff off the lists if I've thought things through and decided I don't need something particular or if I put something else on the list that has a multi use covering a previous item. We made 3 lists, one each for our own packing lists and another one for shared stuff. Shared stuff are things that you only need one of in the group, for example, most tools are shared items. I recommend that you always make your own lists, it takes some of the "what if I forget something" worry out of planning a trip. You can also reuse your lists for each further trip, saving you a lot of time and thinking that you can better use to eat, sleep, ride or drink beer/bourbon/whatever your favourite tipple is.
Just so you're aware, the plan on this trip was that we buy some supplies when we go through a town in the afternoon so that we could cook dinner, wild camp, dig a hole to poo in, "shower" by using baby wipes or washing in a river, do our own laundry once or twice and generally avoid luxuries for the sake of the adventure (but mostly for the sake of saving money, Jacko is a frugal creature!)
Without further ado then, here are the actual lists that we used for our TransPortugal trip. There are multiple lists, my packing list (Juvecu), the friend that went with me's list (Jacko), my To do list, our shared items list and a sub shared items list for tools. Items that are strike through are items we did not take and items with a name behind them is there to note which person will get/take the item. The name behind an item does not necessarily mean that that person carried the item, we distributed shared items so that we could share the weight.
Juv's packing list:
Vaper and e-liquid
Small "2" man tent
Inflatable Air Bed
MX goggles (with orange lens)
Clear spare lens for goggles (to be used if we have to ride in dark/really bad light)
Leather summer gloves
Silk glove liners
2x sets of short base layers
Body armour (with all armour inserted)
Summer textile jacket (armour removed)
MX textile trousers
Tech3 MX boots
3x technical T-shirts
3x pairs of pants
Lightweight walking trousers with zip off legs to make them knee length
3x pairs of bamboo socks
Pair of short trainer socks
Lightweight neoprene beach shoes
Cheap plastic sunglasses
Goretex Rain over trousers
Camelbak (3 litres)
Garmin Montana (and the security torx lock driver)
12V mini USB charger (to charge phones and powerbank)
Mini to Micro USB adapter
USB OTG cable (for transfering stuff from mobile phone/flashdrive to Montana)
1x tube Zero Electrolyte tablets (20 tabs) (Pink Grapefruit flavour!)
1x Tea Tree body wash (200ml Fruit Shoot bottle)
Wet wipes (for "dry" showering)
Dental bite plate(?)
Antiperspirant roll on
Spare key (swap keys with other person or hide on bike)
Cooking pot & pan (without lid)
Pocket knife (Swizz army knife with bottle and can opener)
Rooibos tea bags
Small pot of Renapur (lips, hands, boots, insect bites, etc.)
1x Sealskinz socks
"Rugged" flashdrive with docs and backup of route files, Garmin map and TTR & DR-Z service manuals
Spare fuses: 2x 15A standard blade, 2x 2A mini blade
1x set long base layers
1x bamboo t-shirt (maybe)
2x pairs long bamboo socks
Lightweight trainers (or other lightweight closed shoe)
Lightweight foam type flip flops (maybe)
Xero Sandals (I sent them back, they're shit)
SJCAM (+ chest mount + waterproof case + spare batteries + battery charger + micro USB cable + 128gb card) (maybe?)
Copy of Bike V5C
Copy of MOT certificate
UK & EU insurance certificate
EU breakdown certificate
DeFogIt + cloth
Floppy cloth sun hat (not needed if buff is used?)
Portable speaker (maybe)
Penlight hand torch(?)
Juv's To Do list:
Sort out satnav routes
Fit van seat covers (if they arrive in time)
Mount rear luggage bags
Mount front luggage bags
Mark dry bag locations (Front Left, Front Right, Rear Right, etc.)
Put docs on flashdrive
Put Bluetooth FM transmitter thingymabob in van
Put old bicycle inner tube on Rok straps as anti-chafe protection
Zip tie all click together straps
Clean inside of van windscreen
Oil & oil filter change
Insure van with Jacko as additional driver
Sort out satnav maps
Fit satnav powered mount
Fit 12V mini USB charging point
Fit new tubes and tyres
Get Ptarmigan's fuel tank
Mount Ptarmy's fuel tank
Replace rear brake pads
Travel insurance (each get his own)
Euro breakdown cover (van & bike)
Fix 12V socket in van
Place to sleep on first night (10th) near Braganca where we can leave van (Jacko is looking into this)
Place to sleep on last night (24th) near Calais so that we're close to the chunnel
Get triangle for van (and put it in the van!)
Put Hi-vis jacket in van
Check van spare wheel, jack & tyre lever
Get more € (200 or so)
Shared Items Packing List:
Bicycle hand pump (Juv)
Mini digital tyre pressure gauge (Juv)
Valve removal tool (my valve caps already have that) (Juv)
Spare front tube (Jacko)
Spare rear tube (Juv)
Tube patch kit (Jacko)
Tow rope (lightweight, nylon, can be used for other purposes too) (Jacko)
Gas Camping stove (Juv)
Camping stove gas canister, medium x1 (Juv)
Petrol stove (Jacko)
Bamboo wooden cooking spoon (Juv)
Non-scratch washing up sponge (Jacko)
Shit shovel (MSR Blizzard Tent Stake) (Juv)
Bug repellent spray (I have some, same that we used in Morocco) (Juv)
Avon Skin so Soft oil (effective against the Scottish midge so I'm taking some) (Jacko)
Sunscreen spray (for face & neck) (Juv)
Basic first aid kit (Jacko)
Large cable ties (Jacko)
Some vinyl gloves (Juv)
2x 100ml WD40 cans (Juv)
Duct tape (Juv)
Spare spark plug (CR8E, fits both bikes) (Jacko)
1x roll of Juv's special toilet paper (but you can use it too!) (Juv)
Paper map (Jacko)
1x PTLube chain oil in 200ml Fruit Shoot bottle (Juv)
A few rags for chain cleaning (Juv)
Spare bolts and nuts?
Metal epoxy (Juv)
1x Persil liquid (200ml Fruit Shoot bottle) (Juv)
1x Fairy liquid (200ml Fruit Shoot bottle) (Jacko)
Jacko's GB sticker (Juv)
Silicone Manual wash board thingy (for dry bag washing machine, perhaps cut in half?) (Juv)
Wooden cooking spoon, short handle (Juv)
Folding saw (Juv)
Shared Tools List:
17/24mm double ended ring spanner for axles (Juv)
2x spoon type tyre levers (Juv)
10mm spanner to remove petrol tank on TTR (Juv)
Spark plug socket (16mm, fits both bikes) (Jacko)
Pointy pliers (Jacko)
Small adjustable wrench (Jacko)
1/4" sliding T-bar (Juv)
1/4" 6" extension bar (Juv)
6, 8, 10, 12 & 13mm 1/4" drive sockets (Juv)
Screwdriver bits (#1 & #2 of slot, PH & PZ) (Jacko)
Allen key bits (4, 5 & 6mm) (Jacko)
3mm L shape Allen key (Juv, for his carb bowl bolts)
Leatherman Wingman (mainly for knife and long nose pliers) (Jacko)
10mm spanner to undo TTR front axle clamp (Juv)
12mm spanner to undo valve and rim lock nuts (Juv)
Set of 1/4" deep sockets (Juv)
Medium Philips (stumpy?) screwdriver to remove carb on TTR (Juv)
Jacko's Packing List:
Riding gear holdall
Gloves and spare pair
Jacket and trousers
Premium handmade phone shock case
Spare bulb pack for van
200ml Fruit Shoot bottles
Old bicycle inner tube for Juv's Rok straps
Let's go through the items on the list, one by one. I will talk about each item: why we took it, if it was worth it, why we decided not to take some items and if we would take something again on similar future trips.
Juv's packing list:
Euros: It's cheaper to change money before you leave than to do it when you get there or to take it from an ATM with your debit card. We took about €400 each. I normally use the Post Office for this.
Wallet: You got money, you put it in a wallet :) Though it seems a bit obvious that you need to take something like this I still put it on a list so you can't forget it.
Vaper and e-liquid: I vape and I wanted to take enough e-liquid along to last the trip. This was a good decision as we never really went through any place where we could find e-liquid and you never know if it's going to be any good or what they put in it. If you vape the top priority here is that the tank and the e-liquid bottle you take shouldn't leak. You also need a way to charge your battery, mine could charge off the bike.
Bike keys: On the list because forgetting them is a disaster. We can hotwire the bikes easily enough, but it's a lot of hassle saved if we just remember the keys.
Small "2" man tent: We each took a small 2 man tent that packs up small and weighs little. You can take something smaller, but if it's raining you want enough space to put your boots and bike clothes in the dry. You're also carrying other stuff along and anything you want with you in the tent takes up some space. Taking tents turned out to be a stupid idea. The first night we slept in a B&B, the 2nd night when we were asking people in a bar where the nearest place is that we can camp they hooked us up in a hostel with a hot shower for €10 each and they let us put the bikes inside the foyer. Hot shower vs setting up tent in the dark, no brainer. The next day Jacko injured himself so we decided to hotel it again that night. After this we realised that hostel and hotels are stupid cheap. In fact, the camp sites we stayed at cost us as much as a cheap hostel/hotel do. All in we camped 2 nights because we at least wanted to use the tents. We both decided that we'll never take tents again if we're in a country where we can easily hotel/hostel it for cheap. You're not just carrying a tent extra when you're camping, you also need a sleeping bag, an inflatable air bed, an inflatable pillow, a camp chair, your pots & pans, a stove, stove gas, cooking utensils, etc., you get the idea. All these take up space and adds weight, both of these are a problem on a bike, particularly a small enduro bike.
Sleeping bag, Inflatable Air Bed, Inflatable Pillow, Camp chair: See above.
MX helmet: It has to be an MX helmet, dual sport 'wannabe everything' helmets are heavier, don't often have view ports big enough to wear goggles comfortably, don't have enough ventilation and are much more expensive. If you fall and damage an MX helmet you're not going to feel too sorry for it. I gave mine to the owner of the last hotel we stayed in to give to a local who needed one so I could force myself to get a new one (I've fallen on that one too many times.) It might sound like I gave away a death trap to a local, but many of them have no helmet or wear something from the 80s that's so battered up that it would shatter at the next fall. Needless to say, you should always take a helmet.
MX goggles (with orange lens): This goes hand in hand with the MX helmet. Goggles serve multiple purposes. Firstly they are there to protect your eyes from bugs, stones, dirty water (from puddles and rivers) and dust. If you wear a normal helmet with a visor you're going to get all that dust in your eyes, dry eyes are problems if you have them like that for a whole trip. Undoubtedly you'll have your visor cracked open so you can breathe easier, no need for that if you wear goggles! With your visor open you get more dust in, you risk getting dirty water in, you even risk stones getting in if you're really unlucky. Visors trap your breath in and make you hotter than you need to be, this leads to faster dehydration. Not everyone is keen on coloured lenses. I have light blue eyes and I'm light sensitive because of it. An orange lens combined with having a peak on a helmet is enough protection from the sun to not have my eyes hurting and watery in bright sunlight. The orange lens filters out most of the blue light, this is what makes you squint in bright light because blue light refracts most. You need to see where you're going all the time when riding off road. An orange lens will also improve the contrast of what you're seeing, this makes it easier to pick out holes in the road or stones in your way. Once you've worn an orange lens for a few minutes you get used to it and you don't perceive colours any different to what you normally would (until you take the orange lens off, then everything looks a bit dull.) Jacko wasn't too keen on an orange lens to start with, but he bought one and gave it a go, he's a believer now. Try one, you'll be telling other people to use one soon enough yourself. I'll always take this.
Clear spare lens for goggles: I only take a clear lens along to be used if we have to ride in dark or we have really bad light. By really bad light I mean it's after sunset. It's also a good thing to have if something happens to your orange lens. I'll always take this, even if I just need them once, it hardly takes up any extra space.
Enduro gloves: Enduro gloves are mainly there to provide you with abrasion resistance. Wearing heavy protective gloves off road isn't a good idea. No matter how good those heavy gloves are, they impair the feeling you get from the bike. When you're standing up off road a lot of the feedback comes through the front bars, through your fingers, you need to get tuned in to that and thinner gloves is what you want. You need good clutch and brake feel when you use them, the surface is often loose and you can't afford to brake too hard, and if you do, you need to feel that it's too much so you can react to it before it's too late. I have some
Alpinestars Dual gloves that I love. These are made of a combo of textile and light leather for great abrasion resistance, have flexible rubber padding for impact resistance and under wrist fastening (which I prefer and it's more secure.) They've served me very well on this trip, I've used them on a previous Morocco trip and I use them every time I ride off road. I even use them in the winter when riding off road, I just wear some silk inner gloves to help with warmth. When they get wet they dry out quickly and when they are dirty I chuck them in the washing machine. I've yet to find a better pair of off road gloves and would definitely take them again.
Leather summer gloves: Because sometimes you have to ride on road and it's good to have the extra protection. That said, I never wore them, even when riding on road, I'd just use my enduro gloves. Still, I think it's worthwhile packing them. They are short cuff, take up little space and if something happens to your enduro gloves (whether you fall and damage them or lose them) you have a spare pair of gloves. Also, if it's been raining like crazy and your enduro gloves are soaked you can put on your road gloves while you dry out your enduro gloves (after the rain has stopped...) They will go along next time if there's a decent amount of road riding involved, otherwise a 2nd pair of enduro/MX gloves will do.
Silk glove liners: Seems like a bit of an odd thing to pack, but it turned out they were very needed. Riding off road day after day is punishment on your whole body. Your hands easily blister up and you get calluses everywhere. I had calluses on my palms and the first two joins of all my fingers. You can tape up your hands each day to help with the chafing or, as I found out, you can wear silk inner gloves. The first few days I was riding with just gloves on, I took the silk gloves only for cold days. Then I had to tape my hands up (Elastoplast fabric plaster), but when you put your hands in your gloves the tape rolls up and causes trouble. I tried wearing my silk inner gloves and then never needed tape on my hands to stop blisters. Instead, I got calluses which aren't painful and look manly too boot :) I'd definitely take silk inner gloves again, not only do they help with the chaffing, but even when they are wet they help to keep your hands warm. Try to keep them away from the Velcro fastening on your gloves and other gear else they will fur up and eventually get holes. Not an absolute necessity, but I'd definitely pack them each time, even if I don't end up using them.
2x sets of short base layers: We both used technical compression base layers, I have some cheap "SUB" branded ones that I got off Amazon and they've been holding up well. I used short sleeved tops and above knee length bottoms. You should wear these against your skin, don't wear underwear, especially not cotton underwear. Cotton underwear just sucks up your sweat and you're wet all day long. With the right base layers you "stay dry", they wick the sweat away. Their other important function is anti chaffing and the compression effect helps against muscle fatigue while providing some support (though this is minor.) They are also supposed to help with body temperature regulation and I'd say they did. Jacko used the same base layers, but he likes full length ones, take what you prefer or mix and match, e.g. short top with long bottoms. These base layers are easy to rinse out at night and they dry quickly, even if they are still a little damp the next morning you can put them on and they will dry out quickly. They also pack up quite small and weight little, even so taking just one set is an option, they shouldn't damage in a fall and a hole here or there isn't going to matter much. Later in the trip I wore the same pair of base layers for successive days without washing/rinsing. Though they didn't stink as synthetic materials tend to do, even after multiple days, who really cares if you smell a little, an hour into the day and you've probably already sweated enough to soak them if they were clean. Definitely something I always take, at least one set.
Body armour (with all armour inserted): Don't skimp on this, but consider that Portugal is hot and that ones that use mesh might be cooler. I wore a well used SuperShield suit, this has chest, shoulder, elbow, rib and back protection with a build in kidney/back support belt. These built in belts are worth it, they help you keep good posture when you get tired and also add some compression across your stomach so you look more fit :D Jacko wore a ForceField suit, though his didn't have mesh, the material it was made from was much cooler. I wore his armour suit for a day to try it out and it made me realise how hot my suit was. My suit is intended more to be used under road bike leathers rather than MX gear. If I replace my suit I will buy something that will be cooler to wear. Definitely something I always take.
Summer textile jacket (armour removed):
I have a summer textile jacket that I use in warm weather. I also use it for off road riding, I just take the armour in the jacket out. The armour suit I wear doesn't have abrasion resistance and the textile jacket is there to provide it. It does make you somewhat hotter in really warm weather, but it's essential protection. Every time I have neglected to wear the summer textile jacket and fallen I've had very painful scrapes, times when I wear it I've come off lightly. You can use any textile jacket here, in warmer climates something with ventilation would be a bonus. My jacket is short, like a T-shirt would be, you can get longer jackets, Jacko wore one like that. If you have an old textile jacket that you no longer use for road riding you can butcher it a bit to fit your purpose for off road riding. You can remove any heavy warmth liners, waterproof liners and so on to make it work in warm weather. I doubt it makes a big difference whether it's a long or short jacket, I find the shorter type works better for me. Longer jackets normally have big pockets, but avoid putting anything other than something soft in those, when you go down on it you don't want something sticking a hole in you or worse. Definitely something I always take.
The MX shirt I'm talking about is the light, thin synthetic ones. It's there to keep mud and dust off your other gear. It's cheap, easy to wash/rinse out, weighs next to nothing and you'll be surprised at how clean your other gear stays beneath it. If you're doing a week or two's riding you can't be washing your armour and textile jacket ever few nights and if you didn't have an MX shirt those would get really dirty. I'll always take this.
We both wore Knox Flex Lite knee armour. This is a kind of knee tube that you pull on and then there's a stretch Velcro band that you fasten to keep them in place. So far they are most comfy thing we could find and they are well priced. They aren't as long as some MX knee armour you get and they are "only" a rubber pad, but that's never bothered me. Long knee armour gets in the way when you wear high boots, these are just right. They're always in the right place which is better than armour inside a knee pocket on your trousers. 5 mins after you put these on you've already forgotten you're wearing them, they don't restrict movement at all. I'll always take them.
MX textile trousers:
I guess you could take normal textile trousers, Jacko did, but I prefer MX ones. They usually have a mesh liner which helps with keeping cool. The ones I like are also meant to go inside your boots rather than over the top, they are a tad shorter than your ankles and have ribbing around the bottom. All this means they are comfy to wear with MX boots. Definitely something I'd always take.
Tech3 MX boots:
I get on well with Alpinestars boots, they fit the shape of my feet well and the sizing is very consistent. My road boots are Alpinestars ones too (Scout) and the quality is always great. Road boots are not good enough for off road riding, they allow too much movement. Off road boots are sturdy, they take some getting used to when you first start, but once you're used to them these Tech3 boots are practically slippers. They are reinforced in all the right areas, give excellent toe and heel protection, stops your ankles from getting twisted and protects your shins from everything including foot pegs in a fall. I frequently say how people should never skimp on boots and gloves. If you go down in a fall your boots are the thing that saves your lower legs, if they save you from burning yourself on an exhaust or embedding a foot peg in your shin bone only once then they've paid for themselves. Don't think you won't feel that foot peg trying to dig a hole in your shin bone, you will, but it will be a big blue bruise rather than flesh, bone and blood. Definitely something I don't ever ride without.
3x technical T-shirts:
We bought technical shirts from Go Outdoors, their Hi Gear brand is well priced and if you pay attention then you'll find them on sale every now and then. They are less than a tenner and some colours are cheaper than others so be sure to check. As with base layers they are light, pack up small, rinse out easily and help with body temperature regulation. On the first few days I wore one of these between my base layers and my armour suit, but soon decided it wasn't needed, base layers by themselves are fine. In a colder climate I would still wear them though. Not only are they great while riding, they are great afterwards. When you get off your bike and you get out of your off road gear, these are the perfect shirt to wear in a hot climate. I will definitely take at least 1 of these along on future trips, perhaps 2, but I now think 3 isn't needed.
3x pairs of pants:
Marks & Spencer's cotton hipsters: comfortable, durable, not so thick as to be too warm, packs up small and weighs little. Wear once, turn them inside out the next day, swap with your friend the next day and wash them the day after (OK, not really, wear them once or twice if you don't have a problem with that sort of thing.) 3 pairs seems about the right amount, else you're washing underwear too often. They don't dry out very quickly so wash them first so they can get hung out to dry right away. I only wore these off the bike in the evenings and to sleep in (I only sleep in my under pants.)
Lightweight walking trousers with zip off legs to make them knee length:
Again, these are from Go Outdoors, they are the cheap brand ones and on sale at times. If you tear them or stain them you're not going to cry about them. Take ones with zip off legs, this was great to have in Portugal, we could have knee length trousers when it was hot and full length when it was a bit chilly. You only need 1 pair and they dry out easily after a wash (I don't think we washed them once in the whole two weeks.) As with the other technical stuff, they are light and pack up small. On that note, don't take your heavy leather belt, take the nylon strap belt with the plastic buckle that often comes with these. It's light and packs up small.
The thin fleece tops are light, pack up small and dry out quick (we never washed ours.) They give good warmth, but not so much that it's a problem in warmer climates. You can wear it under your summer textile jacket on a chilly day and at night when it's cooler. They are also good at keeping that nippy evening wind off your chest. I got mine from Go Outdoors on sale for about a tenner. It's Craghoppers branded and the zip only goes down to my chest, I like that, but if you like a full length zip then get one like that. Definitely something to pack each time.
3x pairs of bamboo socks:
There's been a bit of joking about me and my bamboo socks, but I've converted Jacko to them. The ones I have are cheapies from TK Maxx. They are only normal mid shin height socks like you might use for your work shoes. They are very durable, stay warm when they're wet, decently thin and, most importantly, very good at keeping your feet warm when it's cold or cool when it's warm. I've tried a lot of different socks before and these win hands down. I wear them to work, when I go hiking and when I ride on and off road. Come to think of it, I've only worn these socks for months, I must have 9 pairs of them and I never touch any other socks unless I go running. Give them a try, you'll love them. They don't dry out super fast like other types of socks might, but even if they are wet you can still wear them. They are an item I'd definitely take and 3 pairs is about the sweet spot, otherwise you're washing clothes too often. You can wear them two consecutive days if you're OK with that.
Pair of short trainer socks:
These aren't a required item at all, I took them as a sort of backup, they are really small and light to pack. I probably won't bother taking them in the future.
There is only one real Buff and they are much better than all the others. You can wear a Buff in many different ways, check out the great video they have on their web site to see how. With short cropped hair a buff is good to have in the evenings if it gets cold or windy. I like to cover my ears as I easily get inner ear infection. When it's cold you can wear it around your neck and/or head for some extra warmth. When it's very dusty you can use it as a breathing shield so that you don't breath in too much dust. Definitely take at least 1 'original' Buff. This is definitely something I will take every time, if I'm going to a colder climate I'll also pack my Merino wool buff.
Lightweight neoprene beach shoes:
One problem we had when we tried to save weight was how heavy ordinary shoes are. I like walking bare foot, but to protect your feet outside you need at least a thin sole. After extensive searching I eventually settled on lightweight neoprene beach shoes. They are lighter than almost anything else I could find, they are flexible so they are easy to pack and they are cheap. Personally, I find them quite comfy, I wear them at home now. I'll take these along on future trips.
Cheap plastic sunglasses:
Cheap because there is a good chance you might damage or lose them. Plastic because that's light and durable. I'm blue eyed and light sensitive and I strongly believe in taking care of your eyes. Sunglasses should protect your eyes against UV and they are a must have in a sunny country. Make sure they are polarised, this reduces the glare. Even in a colder climate glare can be a big problem. Also consider bronze lenses, as with the orange goggle lenses they cut out the blue light best (got mine for ~£18 from Decathlon.) Unless it's dark outside, I never go anywhere without sunglasses.
My rain jacket isn't a bike specific one, it's a £5 one from an army surplus store. It's waterproof, no fancy Goretex or anything. It packs up small and it has a hood that can stow away. I can wear it on the bike when it's raining hard or I can wear it in the evenings when it's raining or just to stop wind and as an extra layer for warmth. It packs up decently small and weighs little. If you're on a faster bike then a better rain jacket might be needed. If I wear my jacket going fast (55mph and upwards) then the wind presses the water through the jacket. The head rating of material that the jacket is made of is the thing that makes the difference here, higher rating will handle more outside pressure. Definitely something I'll take again.
Goretex Rain trousers:
Another army surplus store item. They sell for around £20. It's not so much the Goretex that makes them great, it's that they have full length two way waterproof zips down the outside of the leg. Getting rain trousers on over bike boots is a royal PITA, these make it a breeze. They also hold up quite well to the stresses of motorcycle riding. The only downside is that they are camo patterned, but you can't have it all. Be careful of buying these online, sizes seem to vary wildly and there is a version of them without the side zips. Buy at least one size larger than you normally wear to make sure they will fit over your bike boots and gear. Even better, go to an army surplus shop that sells them and try them on in your riding gear. They pack up decently small, don't weight much. Even though I didn't need them in Portugal, I'll still pack them next time.
Or whichever water bladder in a bag that you carry on your back you prefer. I have a 3 litre one, most other people that ride with me have 2 litre ones. I drink a lot of water so the extra litre is good to have. I'd rather carry an extra litre on my back than having it in a bottle strapped on the bike. The Camelbak is insulated well enough that the water doesn't go warm. Make sure you can drink from your water bladder with ease while you have your helmet on. I fitted a 90 degree bite valve to be able to do this. Also, something that not every Camelbak has, is the insulated drink hose. In a hot country the fluid in the hose heats up quickly and your first few mouthfuls each time is hot water. This is not nice at all, you want water that's cool or cold when you're already sweating buckets.
Take an old one if you're worried that your new one will get damaged. Make sure it's fast enough to browse the internet with ease and that it can install modern apps. We used Booking.com extensively, it made finding a place to sleep very easy. You need a way to charge your phone, I could charge mine from the bike and Jacko had a charger we used when we stayed in a hostel/hotel. Lots of phones you can buy now can take dual SIM cards that make it easy putting a local SIM in along with your own SIM. Definitely an item you can't be without.
I have an Anker 5000mAh battery power bank. This can charge my phone and my vape battery with ease. It's a nice thing to have along, but not a necessity if you can charge off your bike. If you can't charge off the bike then it might be an even better reason to take one along. You can charge it where you stay at night (hostel/hotel/etc.) and use it during the day if you need to. I will take mine along on the next trip, too handy not to have.
Garmin Montana (and the security torx lock driver):
I'm not going to go into why the Montana is the best choice, do your own research and you'll probably come to that conclusion yourself. Without a good satnav you're stuck with navigating by map. You're bound to get lost and that costs you time. In Portugal forks in the road or roads turning off the one you're on were a very frequent occurrence. Because we downloaded the track we wanted to follow to the Montana we could easily see which way we were supposed to go while we were on the move. We could also easily see that we've missed a turn off and could quickly turn around. Without the Montana it would easily take 2-5 times longer to navigate, it's a no brainer. Don't be a stubborn old "maps are good enough" person, they simply aren't. Most of the roads I were on weren't even on the satnav, no chance they are all going to be on your already outdated map. Make sure you're familiar with your satnav and that you have a reliable way to keep it powered. This is a "can't go without it" item.
12V mini USB charger (to charge phones and powerbank):
I wired in a 12V to mini USB charger on the bike. The cable is routed so it could charge things in my handlebar bag. I used a mini to micro USB adapter so it would fit the charging ports on my mobile phone, my vape battery and my Anker battery powerbank. Out of caution I never charged the phone or the vape battery while riding, instead I charged the Anker powerbank and then used that to charge the other stuff. For the most part, because we stayed in hostels/hotels this wasn't strictly needed because we could just use a phone charger to charge stuff from a wall socket. I'd still keep this setup for future trips though, you never know when you might need to charge your phone or, more likely, the vape battery. Make sure you use a good one, you don't want it overheating and failing when you most need it. I used a Garmin satnav power supply that I got with my Garmin Zumo (hence the mini USB output.)
Mini to Micro USB adapter: See above.
USB OTG cable (for transferring stuff from mobile phone/flashdrive to Montana):
OTG means "On The Go" and even knowing that it's still a daft name for it. Your phone needs to support USB OTG for a start, then you can plug in a USB OTG cable which will allow you to connect low power stuff like USB drives and memory card readers to the phone. Using your phone you can then copy files around. The main reason I had this along was for the possible case of wanting to download alternative routes or maps to the Garmin Montana. I figured that if my Montana's SD card failed and took the maps and routes with it, I could copy it all back onto a new SD card and stick that into the Montana again. Though I never used it on this trip, I will still carry it along for future trips. I did use it in Morocco to transfer a route from my Garmin Zumo to someone else's Garmin that we met there. It's only a small cable so it doesn't take up much space.
This is a no brainer. Unless you have some medical condition that prevents you from wearing ear plugs or you use in ear earphones that do the same job you should always be wearing ear plugs. The first function is obviously cutting out all the wind, road and engine noise to protect your ears. The other thing that many people might not even realise is that when you do cut out all the extra noise you don't get tired as easily. This is a big plus if you're riding all day and you need to keep your concentration all the way. I have tinnitus, constant high pitched ringing in my ears, wearing earplugs means this doesn't get worse. If you don't have tinnitus, wear those plugs, because you will eventually get it and it can't be healed. I can't even remember what absolute silence sounds like anymore.
I suffer from hay fever and a multitude of general food allergies that requires that I take anti-histamines every day. It's something I never travel without. Make sure you take whichever daily meds you might need and make sure you have enough that if some of them are lost/damaged that you still have enough left.
1x tube Zero Electrolyte tablets (20 tabs) (Pink Grapefruit flavour!):
When you're out riding off road you get hot, you drink a lot of water and too much water can be detrimental to your health as it flushes electrolytes from your body each time you take a pee. These electrolyte tablets make sure that doesn't happen and helps with hydration. An added bonus is that they come in different flavours. I only take one flavour, my favourite. I put two tabs in my 3 litre Camelbak the first time I fill it in the day before setting off. If I fill it later in the day I don't bother. You often hear people saying not to put anything other than water in your Camelbak because the taste lingers, but that doesn't happen with these Zero tablets. BTW, they are called Zero because they have 0 calories, not that it would bother me if they had any. If you're going on longer trips you need to take more or you need to know you can buy some along the way. For me this is a must take item, I get bored from drinking plain water all day and this has benefits as well.
1x Tea Tree body wash (200ml Fruit Shoot bottle):
Or whatever you use when you take a shower/bath. I just happen to love this particular one made by Australian Bodycare. We did a bit of research ahead of time and figured 200ml Fruit Shoot bottles were tough and had a well sealing pull out cap. We wanted something that won't pop open or leak in a fall. Consequently Jacko bought a 4 pack of Fruit Shoot and fed it to his granddaughter and we kept the empty bottles. This is an item that will always get packed and, unless we find better bottles, I'll use a Fruit Shoot bottle again.
The washcloth I use is made of nylon and dries out faster than the fluffy ones people often uses for showering. I put it in a Ziplock type bag even if it's still a little damp. Definitely something I take on each trip.
Wet wipes (for "dry" showering):
We figured we'd use these for cleaning ourselves if we wild camped and didn't have access to a shower/river/dam. In reality we used them to wipe our hands once or twice. Not something I would pack again unless I was sure we're camping and we won't have wash facilities.
Dental bite plate(?):
I clench my teeth when I sleep so I wear a custom made hard plastic bite plate to protect my teeth. This goes along on each trip, it doesn't take up much space and it means I don't wake up with a sore mouth and jaw muscles. Somehow just having this in my mouth makes me keep my jaw unclenched, most of the time. If you have anything like this that you need to take for medical reasons, make sure it's on your list.
In conjunction with the bite plate I take muscle relaxants as medication when I sleep. A nice side effect is that I sleep much better than otherwise (I usually don't sleep well) and it seems to help a bit with sore muscles as well.
Because brushing your teeth is important. Take travel size tooth paste and take more than one tube if you go on a long trip. Bin them as you empty them.
At home I use an electric tooth brush, on a trip they are just a hassle. A normal tooth brush takes up a lot less space and if you lost it then it's only a few quid to replace it.
I usually chew some gum after lunch when I can't be bothered to brush my teeth.
Antiperspirant roll on:
Roll on because you don't want a pressurised can in your luggage and because it's just better at keeping you from stinking.
Normal towels take too much space and take too long to dry. A microfibre towel is the way to go. You won't always be given towels if you stay in a hostel so it's good to have your own along. In the event that you want to take a swim somewhere during the day you also have something to dry off with. I'll take one even if we plan on staying in hotels all the way.
Obviously. Make sure it's not going to expire within a few months of the end of your trip. Some countries want at least a 3 month longer duration on your passport than the end of your trip. Make sure the photo is accurate too.
European Health Insurance Card, it's free and you never know when you might need it. No need to pack it if you're not in the EU. We always take travel insurance too.
Spare key (swap keys with other person or hide on bike):
Take your spare keys and swap spare keys with your friend or zip tie/duct tape them in a hidden place on your bike that you can get them from without needing tools. Jacko zip tied a spare bike key inside his airbox.
With camping in mind you need something to eat with. It doesn't need to be titanium, the plastic ones are great too. I won't take this again unless we are definitely making our own food while camping. I didn't use it at all, even when we did camp, we just ate at a restaurant.
Cooking pot & pan (without lid):
This is with camping in mind, if you don't need a lid then don't bother taking it. Any weight and space saved adds up. I won't take this again unless we plan on camping and making our own food.
Pocket knife (Swizz army knife with bottle and can opener):
Gibbs' Rule number 9: Never go anywhere without a knife. There will always be a situation where you need a knife. I have a small Victorinox Swiss Army knife that includes a bottle opener, the screw type, a beer cap opener and a can opener. If you're camping and making food then tinned food is easy to get hold of and to prepare. You need a way to open them safely. Opening beer and wine without hassle is handy too. Definitely something I will take along each trip. Can be changed for a Leatherman or similar that has the functions you need.
Because glass ones break and plastic ones are weird to drink from. I just had an enamelled mug, Jacko took a titanium alloy one that was very light weight and durable looking. I might get myself one like his for the next trip.
Rooibos tea bags:
I am South African and grew up drinking Rooibos tea (translation: Redbush) I'm not a fan of Indian/English style tea. I have my Rooibos tea without sugar or milk so I don't have to carry those either. It doesn't have any caffeine so I can drink it at night an still sleep well and it doesn't dehydrate me. I put the bags in a Ziplock type plastic bag and press on it to get the air out before sealing it. Also good for an upset stomach. I'll take these even if I don't touch them at all during the whole trip.
In South Africa we have coffee bags, similar to tea bags, that have a mixture of coffee and chicory in them. I prefer these when I travel to taking ground coffee or instant coffee powder. Like with my Rooibos tea, I don't take any sugar or milk with this, I pack them in the same way and I take them whether I know I will use them or not.
Small pot of Renapur (lips, hands, boots, insect bites, etc.):
Renapur is the wax stuff that is made to treat horse saddles and tackle made of leather. I use it on my motorcycle gloves and boots. It's also good for dry hands and lips. Additionally I've found that it soothes insect bites and burns. I always take a small pot along with a small sponge inside (I reused a Doc Martin's shoe balm pot).
I have a Petzl headtorch, I think they are ace. A headtorch is great in that you don't have to hold it, both hands are free. Great for when you have to fix something on the bike when it's getting dark or for using around camp if you're camping.
I probably won't take these again, I can use the bottoms of my short, knee length base layers. They didn't take up much space and I used them once when all my underwear was dirty.
1x Sealskinz socks:
My off road riding boots are not waterproof. I took a pair of Sealskinz in case it rained and I wanted dry feet. I also thought that I would use them if I crossed a river and my boots got soaked. That did happen, my boots got soaked crossing small rivers or going through large puddles, but with the bamboo socks on it didn't bother me at all. I never used the Sealskinz on this trip, but I would still take them on future trips, particularly to places where it's more likely to rain.
"Rugged" flashdrive with docs and backup of route files, Garmin map and TTR & DR-Z service manuals:
It wasn't exactly a proper rugged flashdrive, it was just a small aluminium cased one that would be less likely to damage. It had all the stuff on that I might need while I was away. This included scans of the bike V5C, insurance papers, travel insurance papers, satnav route files, the map we used on the satnav for Portugal and service manuals for both bikes. I had some of this stuff on my phone too as another backup.
Spare fuses: 2x 15A standard blade, 2x 2A mini blade:
Spare fuses for stuff used on the bike and any accessories you have wired in extra. Take at least 2 of each that you need, adapt to your own bike. This is something I always take.
You never know when you need to replace a guy rope on your tent or when you need to tie some luggage down. There's lots of other uses for paracord and it doesn't take up much space. Pack 5 or 10 metres of the stuff. Cable tie it to your bike frame so it's always on the bike if you like or stick it in your tools bag.
The next few things are what were on the list, but ended up not being taken. I will explain why.
1x set long base layers:
I figured that it will be hot all the time. I prefer to wear short base layers when it's hot. I only have two sets of short base layers so initially the long ones were put on to cover a 3rd day without needing to do laundry. In the end I decided that a quick rinse of one of the short pairs wasn't much trouble and that they'd be dry by the next day.
1x bamboo t-shirt (maybe):
I like bamboo clothes, it's nice and soft and comfortable in hot weather. This extra t-shirt would be for wearing at night. I decided that the technical t-shirts I'm taking are good enough to not need another bamboo one as well.
2x pairs long bamboo socks:
I was going to buy longer bamboo socks for use with my riding boots. I considered this long before the trip, but I used medium length ones since and they were fine so I decided not to buy or take long ones.
Lightweight trainers (or other lightweight closed shoe):
This was what I wanted to take before I settled on the neoprene beach shoes. Trainers take up a lot of space and there's also no point in taking another pair of shoes that do the same thing.
Lightweight foam type flip flops (maybe):
I thought these would be light and take up little space, but then decided that only taking open shoes for a whole trip was a dumb idea. When I came across the neoprene beach shoes they made more sense so I went with those.
Xero Sandals (I sent them back, they're shit):
I like being barefoot so I thought if I could get some "barefoot" sandals then I can only take these and wear them with Sealskinz if it was cold or raining. I ordered some Xero brand sandals and I wasn't impressed with them at all so I promptly sent them back.
SJCAM (+ chest mount + waterproof case + spare batteries + battery charger + micro USB cable + 128gb card) (maybe?):
I considered taking my HD action video camera along. The thought of having to change batteries and charge batteries all the time put me off. I'd also need to faff with downloading the video off the card some nights when the SD card filled up. In addition I'd then have to spend ages editing out the boring bits when I got back off the trip. I decided that all this was too much hassle and that the camera bits would take up space I didn't really have. I mostly use the camera as a dash cam for my van now.
Before I had the wired in 12v to mini USB power I considered getting a solar charger. I'd take a wired in power source over the faff of a solar charger any day.
This was the alternative to taking the nylon wash cloth I mentioned earlier so it was replaced by something better, never to be taken on another trip again.
I figured brushing is enough and that not using mouth wash for 2 weeks wasn't going to cause any problems.
Copy of Bike V5C:
I took digital copies on my phone so I couldn't see the use in a printed copy for this trip. If we were going to a country where we needed to temporarily import the bikes then I'd take colour paper copies (like we did for the Morocco trip.)
Copy of MOT certificate: See above. UK & EU insurance certificate: See above. EU breakdown certificate: See above. DeFogIt + cloth:
This stuff is a liquid used for anti-fog on glasses, visors and goggle lenses. I decided that it's unlikely that it will be cold enough in Portugal to need it (and I was right.)
Floppy cloth sun hat (not needed if buff is used?):
I have a floppy cloth sun hat that I like wearing to prevent sunburn, but I decided that just using a Buff on my head was good enough.
Portable speaker (maybe):
I have a little portable speaker that can charge from a mini USB connection and then you use it to plug into your phone to play music through. We took this on the Morocco trip, but, even though it's small, I didn't want to take it along on the Portugal trip. My phone's speaker was good enough for a bit of music at night with a few beers or port.
Penlight hand torch(?):
Decided that it's was a redundant item as I would be taking my head torch anyway.
Juv's To Do list:
Now we move on to the To Do list. This is here to give an indication of some of (definitely not all) the stuff that I needed to remember to do before we left.
Sort out satnav routes:
I had to make sure that the sat nav routes we used matched well with the maps I had on the Garmin and that the routing logic the Garmin uses didn't mess with them. It took a while to figure out which settings were needed to get things to work. Definitely something that you want to play around with before you go.
Fit van seat covers (if they arrive in time):
As we'd be in the van for the there and back of the trip and we'd be eating while a passenger and snacking and so on I thought it a good idea to put seat covers on. They did arrive in time and I'm glad I got them, the van was a mess when we got back.
Mount rear luggage bags:
We got some 8 litre "rocket" pouches from an army surplus store to use as luggage. They had to be mounted somehow on the bikes.
Mount Front luggage bags: See above.
Mark dry bag locations (Front Left, Front Right, Rear Right, etc.):
I used small dry bags made out of some thin material to pack everything into. These packed dry bags would then get put into the the pouches that were mounted on the bike. This would mean that we could just pull the dry bags out of the mounted pouches when we needed to get at stuff. It also meant that the stuff in the pouches would not get wet and dust would be kept out. I packed more fragile stuff in one bag that went on the back mudguard and other stuff to go into side bags mounted rear and front. I marked the dry bags with marker so I knew what would go where easily.
Put docs on flashdrive:
Scans for bike V5C, MOT, insurance, backup of routes files and Garmin maps, etc.
Put Bluetooth FM transmitter thingymabob in van:
My van does not have Bluetooth so I bought a cheap thingymabob off Amazon that plugs into the cigarette 12V socket. It connects to a mobile phone via Bluetooth and broadcasts it on an FM frequency. We used it any time we used the van to have music going while we drive.
Put old bicycle inner tube on Rok straps:
I cut some old road bicycle inner tube to make sheathes for where my Rok luggage straps made contact with the bike frame and plastics. The idea was that this would stop the straps from rubbing, getting damaged and getting loose. It worked well enough that I would do it again for future trips. On the subject of Rok straps: they are great, I use them on all my bikes now and I wouldn't use another normal bungee unless it was the only option.
Zip tie all click together straps:
A lot of the mountings for my luggage pouches were done with straps that had those click in plastic type connectors. Because I was riding off road I was worried that they might unclip under all the shaking and stress they will get put through. I used cable ties to tie them in place.
Clean inside of van windscreen:
I vape and the vapour, over many months, makes a very thin film on the inside of the windscreen. This can make car headlights distort a bit at night so I wanted to clean it before we left.
Oil & oil filter change:
For the bike. I always change the oil and filter before a trip like this.
This was added to the list when I still didn't have a van. I was going to buy a Vauxhall Vivaro/Renault Trafic/Nissan Primastar (all the same van), but one to my liking didn't come along. I ended up buying a Peugeot Expert 2.0 HDI as a temporary solution and liked it so much that I still have it.
Insure van with Jacko as additional driver:
Because we would both be driving I needed to make sure the van insurance had Jacko on as an additional driver. It cost us about £65 extra to get him added.
Sort out satnav maps:
I had various maps of Portugal so I had to figure out which one was best to use. In the end we used an OpenStreetMap based map that had a topographic layer.
Fit satnav powered mount:
The Garmin Montana 600 has it's own specific mount so I needed to mount that on the handle bars and wire it in so it's powered from the battery. On the enduro bike I don't bother with having a relay setup, I power everything straight from the battery.
Fit 12V mini USB charging point:
I fitted a 12V to mini USB charger to the bike for charging my phone, vape battery and battery bank.
Fit new tubes and tyres:
Always a good idea before a long trip. I use Michelin AC-10 tyres, my favourite for small offroad bikes and extra heavy duty tubes (though next time I will only use heavy duty tubes.)
Because my number plate on the bike wasn't the EU type one.
Get Ptarmigan's fuel tank:
I borrowed a friend's Acerbis 21 litre fuel tank for the trip. 21 litres is a bit of an overkill, in hindsight, 15 litres would've been fine for Portugal. 21 might still be good to have when going to other places. I want to get a larger tank of my own for future trips.
Mount Ptarmy's fuel tank: See above. Replace grips:
My grips were worn out and I wanted to replace them with better ones. I like the "Progrip 714" grips. They help with vibrations and they are comfortable.
Replace rear brake pads:
My rear break pads wouldn't last the trip so I had to replace those. I like EBC TT brake pads and I've been using them for years on my small off road bikes and SMs.
Cleaned the chain and made sure it was adjusted properly and oiled.
We decided to go by tunnel because it was quickest.
Travel insurance (each get his own):
I got my travel insurance from the Post Office, I've used them before and they don't have a problem with bike trips (last time I checked...)
Euro breakdown cover (van & bike):
Just in case.
Fix 12V socket in van:
The van's 12v socket was giving problems so I had to sort that out before we left.
Place to sleep on first night (10th) near Braganca where we can leave van (Jacko is looking into this):
Jacko found us a posh B&B that would allow us to leave the van there for our whole trip.
Place to sleep on last night (24th) near Calais so that we're close to the chunnel:
Jacko knew of a place that he'd stayed at before so arranged that for us on the way back up. We wanted to be close to the tunnel on the night before we left so that we wouldn't have problems getting there on time to get back home.
Get triangle for van (and put it in the van!):
Bought a foldable one and put it in the van to take along. Still there.
Put Hi-vis jacket in van:
Bought a cheap hi-viz jacket and put it in the van. Still there.
Check van spare wheel, jack & tyre lever:
Another "just in case" thing. As the van was new to me I needed to make sure that I had a good spare and the tools and jack to change it in case it was needed.
My van did not have a bulkhead, just a metal frame behind the driver's seat. I managed to find a bulkhead for cheap and drove hours to go collect it. Then I had to order the special captive nuts from Peugeot to be able to fit it. I never imagined it would be that much quieter driving a van with a bulk head. The other reason why I fitted a bulkhead was to make it safer with the bikes in the back. If we got rear ended we didn't want to end up with two bikes trying to go through the windscreen (even though they were tied down very well.)
Get more € (200 or so):
Thought I'd get more € after having a better idea of how much the trip might cost. IIRC we each took €400 and used our debit/credit cards for the rest.
Shared Items Packing List:
Bicycle hand pump (Juv):
I bought a Lezyne Alloy Drive HV pump (not the Mini version.) One of the things I wanted in a pump was that it was relatively small and light, durable and that it had a hose connection between the pump and the valve. I settled on this particular one because it is a good brand and met the criteria. I didn't go for the Mini because I think that would take much too long to pump up a motorcycle tyre, they are after all designed for mountain bikes. Jacko also bought himself a pump later on, he went for the Lezyne Sport Drive HV, similar to mine, but with a plastic handle instead. I wouldn't go on a trip without it.
Mini digital tyre pressure gauge (Juv):
I bought a small digital pressure gauge for use on the bike. I keep it in my handlebar bag. While you can go without it, it's better to have and it takes up very little space.
Valve removal tool (my valve caps already have that) (Juv):
I was going to take a valve core removal tool, but in the end I fitted metal valve caps that had these integrated. Definitely a needed item if you want to change a tube at the road side.
Spare front tube (Jacko):
In case we had a tube damaged so badly that we couldn't patch it. Tubes are heavy and bulky, next time I will take a normal/thin tube instead of a heavy duty one. You could put a front tube on a rear wheel in a pinch, but we decided to take one of each.
Spare rear tube (Juv): See above.
Tube patch kit (Jacko):
Even though we carried spare tubes, it's sometimes easier to pull the tube out of the rim, patch it and then stuff it back in and inflate it as opposed to changing the whole tube. Even if you decide to change the whole tube you still need a patch kit so you can patch the one with the hole in so that your spare is good to go for the rest of the trip. I always keep a patch kit on the bike.
Tow rope (lightweight, nylon, can be used for other purposes too) (Jacko):
If a bike died out on the trails we needed a way to tow it to the nearest road or a good place to fix it at the least. We never needed it, but if we didn't take and we needed it we'd be kicking ourselves.
Gas Camping stove (Juv):
For making food and boiling water on. This was taken with the view that we'd be camping often, but we ended up camping very little.
Camping stove gas canister, medium x1 (Juv):
I only took 1 full canister. My stove was going to be a backup more than the main stove. See below.
Petrol stove (Jacko):
Jacko has Coleman Feather stove that runs on unleaded fuel (amongst others.) This would be our main stove for camping. We'd have access to fuel anywhere and it doesn't use much at all. It's quicker to boil water than my gas stove is and the benefits trumped the drawback of the stove being slightly heavy and bulky to pack.
Bamboo wooden cooking spoon (Juv):
I found a cheap bamboo cooking spoon that was nearly flat. It's feather light, disposable if it breaks and won't scratch the pots and pans.
Non-scratch washing up sponge (Jacko):
For washing the food preparation stuff.
For when we wanted a real fire and for lighting the Coleman Feather.
Shit shovel (MSR Blizzard Tent Stake) (Juv):
We figured that, since we'd be wild camping, we'd be wild crapping. We don't want to leave little smelly mounds around so I did a bit of research and decided to by a big tent peg meant for sandy ground. It's lightweight, strong and takes up a lot less space than a "backpackers" trowel. Also, in a pinch it might be useful as a brace for repairing a broken subframe or something.
Bug repellent spray (I have some, same that we used in Morocco) (Juv):
So the bugs don't bother. I don't like DEET so I use something called Incognito Anti-Mosquito insect repellent. It smells nice, it's non-greasy and it's not pressurised so you can decant it into a smaller spray bottle if you wanted to.
Avon Skin so Soft oil (effective against the Scottish midge so I'm taking some) (Jacko):
Jacko's favourite bug repellent. At first I didn't believe in it, but a recent trip to Scotland has me recommending it to everyone. Next time I might just take some of this instead. This is an oil pray so you can also decant into a smaller spray bottle so you don't have to take the big bottle along.
Sunscreen spray (for face & neck) (Juv):
P20 SPF30, because getting sunburnt ain't fun. I mostly use this on my face and neck. Decant into a smaller spray bottle so you don't have to take the whole big bottle along.
Basic first aid kit (Jacko):
Because accidents happen. We strapped this to his front mudguard. I used some of the fabric plaster tape to wrap around my hands for blisters and a few plasters when I cut myself. Definitely not something you travel without.
Good for gluing cuts when a plaster won't do (like on your hands when you wear gloves) and for keeping a cut closed. Make sure to get a superglue that doesn't have anything fancy added, just Cyanoacrylate. I always take some on any long trip.
Because bad stomachs are common in foreign places and you don't want it to spoil all your fun. I always take some on any long trip.
Large cable ties (Jacko):
If it moves and it shouldn't then cable tie it. For emergency luggage repairs and the like. I even used some as a temporary bashplate mount repair.
Some vinyl gloves (Juv):
For when you need to oil your chain or do any dirty bike work (like changing tyres.) If you have vinyl gloves you won't need to wash your hands afterwards and you don't have to worry about getting your bike gloves dirty inside.
2x 100ml WD40 cans (Juv):
If doesn't move and it should, WD40 it. In addition it is great for cleaning the old oil off your chain before you put fresh oil on it. This is the only thing we took in a pressurised can.
Duct tape (Juv):
For emergency repairs of all kinds. I wrap some around the middle of spanners and the shafts of my tyre levers so that I don't have to carry a big roll of it.
Spare spark plug (CR8E, fits both bikes) (Jacko):
Just in case something happens. In the case of the TT-R and DR-Z we could take 1 plug that would work on both bikes. You might take out the plug to drain water from a drowned bike and damage it somehow. A spare is small and light to carry and saves an awful lot of hassle if you need it.
1x roll of Juv's special toilet paper (but you can use it too!) (Juv):
I'm full of shit (pun intended) and I prefer a specific type of toilet paper so I take my own along.
Paper map (Jacko):
Because 2 mobile phones and a satnav is not enough :) On a more serious note, take one if you can, it's much easier looking at a paper map at night than faffing with a satnav. Also much easier for locals to give you directions if you have a paper map to hand for them to point at.
1x PTLube chain oil in 200ml Fruit Shoot bottle (Juv):
I use this oil in my PDOiler chain oiler on my road bikes and it's easy to clean off if it gets flung somewhere. Engine oil is too runny, chain wax is too messy and you don't really want to carry a pressurised can of WD40 chain lube (one of the best IMHO.) PTLube is similar to chainsaw oil. Lubing the chain once a day in dirty dusty riding is barely enough. In the future I might opt to fit a PDOiler Mini to the dirt bike for longer trips. Again, we used a Fruit Shoot bottle for the same reasons mentioned as for bodywash.
A few rags for chain cleaning (Juv):
Few clean rags stuffed into a plastic Ziplock style bag for use in chain cleaning. Clean both bikes' chains as the same time then bin the rag.
Spare bolts and nuts?:
We took a small selection of common bolts that we might need along the way. Make some effort finding out what your bike uses and only take bits that you will actually be able to use.
Metal epoxy (Juv):
Two part metal epoxy for the unfortunate situation where you bin the bike and you end up with a hole in the engine casing. It's a trip saver that I always carry, but hope to never use.
1x Persil liquid (200ml Fruit Shoot bottle) (Juv):
Non bio, because almost anything else gives me skin irritation. This was enough for both of us to wash our clothes the whole trip and still have some left. Again, in a Fruit Shoot bottle, they worked a charm.
1x Fairy liquid (200ml Fruit Shoot bottle) (Jacko):
We never used the Fairy liquid because we never used our camping cooking gear to make food. If you are camping then it's good to have this along for cleaning.
Jacko's GB sticker (Juv):
I bought the GB stickers for our bike number plates so I had to remember to take Jacko's. I already stuck mine on the bike.
Silicone Manual wash board thingy (for dry bag washing machine, perhaps cut in half?) (Juv):
Because the idea was to wild camp we also figured we needed a way to wash our laundry. I bought a silicone baking tray off eBay, it had lots of little pyramids on it. If you stick it in a dry bag with your laundry, some detergent and some hot water it's does a good job of washing stuff. All you do is to roll the dry bag closed with very little air left in it, then work it with your hands so that silicone thing scrubs the dirt off everything. I had a few test runs with this to make sure it works and it went well, but I wasn't sure if the silicone thing was needed in the process. In the end we decided that we'll not carry it.
Wooden cooking spoon, short handle (Juv):
I bought a better spoon, larger, flatter and lighter.
Folding saw (Juv):
For firewood when wild camping. I soon decided that it wasn't needed.
Shared Tools List:
We made this separate shared tools list to keep track of which exact tools we needed. Both of us kept a list of tools we used as we prepared the bikes and had a good look over them to take note of what we need to take.
17/24mm double ended ring spanner for axles (Juv):
I bought this from the Totally TT-Rs Shop. It's slightly longer handled than ones you might see on eBay and it's flat.
2x spoon type tyre levers (Juv):
In case I get a flat tyre (and I did), these are the levers I find easiest to use. I considered taking 3, I usually use 3 when I change tyres at home, but 2 is enough to get by with.
10mm spanner to remove petrol tank on TTR (Juv):
The space for the front brackets for the bigger Acerbis tank was limited so that I wouldn't be able to get a socket in there to get it undone. I had to take a spanner specifically for this, but it's handy having a 10mm spanner along anyway.
Spark plug socket (16mm, fits both bikes) (Jacko):
The TT-R and the DR-Z use the same spark plug spanner size so we only needed to take one.
Pointy pliers (Jacko):
Because there's always something you need to bend or tweak or reach or that you didn't take the right spanner for. Pliers are useful, take a separate set or take a Leatherman (or similar) that has a good set built in.
Small adjustable wrench (Jacko):
To cover any spanner sizes that we didn't take.
1/4" sliding T-bar (Juv):
1/4" drive sockets are good enough for almost anything on a bike. With a sliding T bar and a 6" extension bar you have a T drive for all your sockets and bits. You don't need to take a ratchet, they are heavier and they take up space. Also the sliding T bar means you can slide it to get more/less leverage and it's not so long that you would easily overtighten stuff.
1/4" 6" extension bar (Juv): See above.
6, 8, 10, 12 & 13mm 1/4" drive sockets (Juv):
The most common needed sizes of sockets for our bikes. Make sure you cover the range, but don't take anything you'll never use. When last have you used a 7mm or a 9mm? If your bike is Japanese you've probably never used them so no point in taking them.
Screwdriver bits (#1 & #2 of slot, PH & PZ) (Jacko):
Screwdriver bits to cover all types of common screw heads. We had an adapter that would fit the 1/4" drive extension/sliding T-bar so that we don't carry big screw drivers along, just the right bits.
Allen key bits (4, 5 & 6mm) (Jacko): Same as above, bits to cover what we need and to fit the adapter we had.
3mm L shape Allen key (Juv, for his carb bowl bolts):
I replaced the cheese Philips float bowl bolts on my carb with stainless Allen capped ones. I need a 3mm L shape Allen key to get in there to undo them.
Leatherman Wingman (mainly for knife and long nose pliers) (Jacko):
I took the Victorinox and Jacko took his Leatherman. Never hurts to have an extra knife along either and it saved us having to pack separate long nose pliers.
10mm spanner to undo TTR front axle clamp (Juv):
The axle clamp on the TT-R's front wheel has one of the 4 nuts positioned so you can't get a socket over it, but an open ended spanner works. As I already has a 10mm spanner on the list for undoing the tank mount this was a redundant list item as a 2nd reminder of why we took a 10 spanner.
12mm spanner to undo valve and rim lock nuts (Juv):
We didn't pack this because we figured we can easily undo the valve and rim lock bolts with some pointy pliers. When I had a puncture in the rear Jacko wasn't with me so I couldn't use his Leatherman, but I got by with using a 13mm socket and holding it at an angle to get some purchase. I now have my own Leatherman with pointy pliers so I'm sorted for next time.
Set of 1/4" deep sockets (Juv):
I thought deep sockets would be good to take at first, but later bought some normal ones. It's only a small weight saving, but it all adds up in the end and I figured I will leave the normal ones I bought on the bike permanently. If I had a deep 12mm socket though I wouldn't have the trouble getting the valve nut and rim lock loosened.
Medium Philips (stumpy?) screwdriver to remove carb on TTR (Juv):
We decided not to take a separate screwdriver, but to just use the bits we already took.
Initially put on the list to cover all bases, but later on we realised we don't have any torx screws on the bike anywhere that we could reach doing roadside repairs.
Jacko's Packing List:
Most of the items on Jacko's list match items on my list and we're already explained. I'll explain the ones that are different.
Phone: Previously explained.
Wallet: Previously explained.
Jacko brought his bike over in his van the night before we set off. We loaded it into my van along with the TT-R. He slept over the night before so that we could set off early for the Eurotunnel.
Keys: Previously explained.
Jacko also had some of the 8 litre "rocket" pouches from the army surplus store.
Riding gear holdall:
Instead of having some 8 litre bags on the back of the bike, he used a 40 litre dry bag.
Boots: Previously explained.
Buffs: Previously explained.
Jacko had a Forcefield armoured vest with elbow, shoulder, back and chest armour. His vest was a lot cooler to wear than mine and made me consider getting a better vest for future riding.
MX shirt: Previously explained.
Jacko also took a MX helmet, it's the way to go on these kind of trips.
Goggles: Previously explained.
Spare lens: Previously explained.
He has a cheap one he wears for stuff like this and one of us has to be bothered with the time :)
Gloves and spare pair: Previously explained.
Jacket and trousers:
Jacko wore some normal riding textiles. His jacket was longer than mine and he didn't have MX trousers. I previously explained my reasons for taking the gear I do, he took what he had and always used.
Waterproofs: Previously explained.
Sealskinz socks: Previously explained.
Camelbak: Previously explained.
Earplugs: Previously explained.
Zero tabs: Previously explained.
Knee pads: Previously explained.
Powerpack: Previously explained.
Sunglasses: Previously explained.
Tech cables for charging phones and the like.
His iPhone was his old phone and he brought it as a backup for us.
Premium handmade phone shock case:
This is a bit of a joke. Jacko is thrifty guy, he doesn't spend money unless he has a good reason to do so. Instead of buying a neoprene bag like I did he made his own protective case for his phone out of some foam and a plastic sandwich bag (and it worked well too!) Comedy gold, you can't make this stuff up! :)
Spare bulb pack for van:
Because I didn't have one an we needed one.
Jacko bought our Bluetooth thingymabobs (explained earlier) so he had to remember to bring my one along else we'd not be able to play music from our phones on the way there and back.
200ml Fruit Shoot bottles:
For chain oil, Fairy liquid, body wash and laundry detergent.
Old bicycle inner tube for Juv's Rok straps: Previously explained.
The last 4 items on Jacko's list were all things he had to remember to bring along for me. For most of the trip's planning he only had 4 items on his list (prior to me adding another 4):
I don't think he's quite got this list thing down and left to his own devices he'd probably pack the way I pack for trips that only last for a few days. This is done by thinking his way through it and packing as you goes. You think your way through your whole day, for example: you think that you will get up and brush your teeth so you will need a toothbrush and some toothpaste so you pack that. You get dressed to ride so you will put on some base layers, socks, your MX armour, your textile trousers, your textile jacket, your MX boots, your gloves, earplugs, helmet and goggles; you pack all that. You work your way through a complete day until you have it all packed and also multiply some items for the number of days: underwear, socks, earplugs and so on. In the end he did make a list (I get that people do stuff differently) and since I had extensive lists that covered other scenarios by then, he only had to pack for himself and check the shared list for the stuff that he had to take. He'd also read through my packing lists to check if I have stuff on there he might've forgotten he should be taking and I did the same with his lists.
One of the biggest lessons we learnt on the trip was to figure out ahead of time if you're really going to camp or not. If you can get by with cheap hostels/hotels then go with that as you can leave a lot of gear at home. Otherwise make an effort to take only the essentials and the lightest possible versions of those things you can afford.
I hope that reading about the way others prepared and seeing the actual lists and reasons for taking or not taking stuff helps you out with planning your own trip. I really can't stress it enough that weight is a big factor when riding off road. Make that extra effort to save weight everywhere you can and you'll get the benefits of riding a lighter bike.
We're already planning to go back to Portugal for either an on or off road trip.
Where will you go riding next? Start planning, make it happen!