Start with a trip philosophy
Packing for a motorcycle trip starts with defining your trip philosophy. There’s a reason you’re taking a motorcycle and not a car, and that reason is definitely not convenience and it’s not comfort.
It’s about this, about being unconfined, with as little between you and the elements as possible. You don’t want to be weighed down, metaphorically or practically. It’s not a material experience.
There’s this show with a well known actor going around the globe with a friend on two enormous BMW GS’s. They each have a back case and two side cases- tons of space for vacationers. But it’s not a lot of space if you need to be prepared for any eventuality, like camping in enormous stretches of barren plains in Mongolia, or needing to bring fuel because your tank’s capacity won’t carry you to the next gas station because it’s so far away.
If you’re staying in hotels, like we were, and travelling on busy roads, you need nothing like that much space.
Then look at your cases
We already have a 48 liter hard case, and a small bagster- capacity about 12 liters. That’s 60 liters for two, plus the needs of the bike itself- chains, oil, etc. It’s an urban trip- from city to city- and we’ll always be staying in hotels. It tunred out to be more than enough space.
Weather protection is necessary in any season
August in Greece, Southern Italy, the Italian Riviera, and the Cote d’Azure has to be fine weather you’d think. Not necessarily- heavy rainstorms give relief to humid afternoons, and roads climb through mountain passes with a hugely refreshing drops in temperature. Light weight raingear especially for bikers is cut large enough to fit over outerwear. This was a perfect and low cost solution. Over a softer inner layer like a sweatshirt, they also serve as a shield from cold winds. Pants might have been a good idea but we didn’t bother. In winter, I would.
The sun is brutal on the Autostrada, and there’s little shade. The breeze cools the skin a little, but maybe just enough so that you don’t realize you’re burning. We found being completely covered with lightweight clothing the most comfortable option by far- including lightweight gloves.
Closed shoes are a necessity for safety and comfort. I wore Superga, which i usually love. They have supportive sole for walking around cities and look better than running shoes. But the footrest on a motorcycle is not wide- a hard soled shoe like a hiking boot would have been a much better choice, and will be my choice from now on. I brought some light weight summer shoes for cities. It was nice to change.
Fashion and variety
Rome, The Italian Rivera, and the Cote d’Azure are places where a lot of people want to dress up. That’s not an option. Carrying a helmet and looking a little dusty from the road, you’re out of place nowhere, including ueberchic St. Tropez and Cannes.
I brought 2 light sundresses. One would have been enough. Which brings us to variety. The changing landscape provides endless variety. Nothing about the trip will feel monotonous, even if you wear the same t-shirt every day, which is what you’ll probably end up doing. You can wash it out in the hotel sink every couple of days. That also goes for changes of socks and underthings. Dark jeans show little dirt.
If you have 2 days’ worth of clothing, then you have 8 days’ worth of clothing. What I thought was the bare minimum, wasn’t. That went for us both. A little empty space in the case will also make it much easier to find what you need.
Sunscreen- even if you wear long sleeves and pants, you’ll want to protect your wrists, ankles, and especially the back of your neck. Cruising around in cities you may be wearing short sleeves and pants, so you’ll need even more.
Toiletries- We stayed in hotels that almost always had toiletries. But toothpaste is rarely included. So bring some, and also small bottles of shampoo, shower gel. Lotion too, because the constant wind dries out your skin fast.
Lip balm- Your lips get very dry in the breeze on the bike, too.
Wet wipes are really useful all the time.
What we brought home:
We asked ourselves “Why did I bother bringing this?” a lot. Not once did we say “I wish I brought ….”, even when we our legs were soaked (no rain pants). Having experiences over things transfers well to life at home.