Planning & PrepBike & ClothingEquipment & Docs

Touring Protective Clothing and Protective Gear

Itís all about layering and you friendly hiking specialty store has all the information and products to help you.

You have to be prepared for extremes i.e. hot and cold, wet and dry, calm and windy conditions. Over and above this, the motorcycle limits you to fabrics that can fit into a very confined packing space. Your only trump card is your riding jacket which if it is water proof and has a zip-out lining, automatically makes it multi-purpose (thus leather jackets are not the best choice for touring) It is a good idea to shop at your local hiking store for warm, windproof, lightweight garments. If you are near Johannesburg try "Snow Scapes" in Fourways. This alpine snow sking shop has state of the art protective clothing that is both warm, light and dries quickly.

Characteristics that you should be looking for when it comes to fabrics and garment construction are as follows

1) Efficient wicking away of moisture from the skin.
2) Insulation. Achieved by many thin under-layers
3) Windproof
4) Light and small for packing.
5) Easy to wash and quick drying
6) Hard, rough fabric against your skin will drive you nuts
7) Draught-free, leak-proof construction incl. pockets

Draughts and leaks are big problems and can cause you to become cold and wet very quickly. Outer garments must be double layered around the main zip - thus cruiser-type leather jackets with exposed, decorative outer zips will leak. Other critical areas are the cuffs, collar and ankles which should be well elasticised to form a tight seal.

Bikers Cordura jackets are also an option being almost totally waterproof. As much as I love my leather jackets I have to concede that Cordura biking jackets are better for touring than leather as they are lighter and usually have a thermal-type, zip-out inner lining.

An unlined rain suit is an essential item. This suit should allow body moisture to escape. This can be achieved by large, built-in, mesh-covered, flap protected vents under the arms and across the back. Alternatively, and a lot more expensive, are the breathable waterproof fabrics e.g. Gortex. They should be suitably elasticised to prevent it inflating with air at speed and letting water in.

Huge fluctuations in temperature and limited packing space is the challenge when motorcycle touring. For this reason long pants where the bottom half zips off to form shorts can save valuable space.

Bikers should take care when travelling in extremely hot, dry windy conditions. All skin should be covered by light windproof clothing as the hot air rushing over the skin can cause dehydration in less than an hour. It is a good idea to tie a bandana around your neck as it prevents sun burn in this exposed and dangerous area and it is easy to wash at the end of a tiring day.

Longer tours mean washing your clothes and thus a strong plastic container with cold water washing powder is needed. Personally I prefer a bar of pure soap as it cannot soil the rest of your kit (green Sunlight soap bar in SA). It is also suitable for washing dishes.

A small sewing kit has many uses and should be part of your touring equipment.

Take one smarter outfit that you do not tour in. Store it in a strong ziplock plastic bag. That way it stays clean and can facilitate you being able to do or go somewhere special on your trip without feeling like a slob.

Do not forget your hat for when you arrived at your destination!

A final word on clothing. Equipment to keep you and your bike healthy and moving is far more important than extra shirts, shorts, pants etc On a long tour you can always buy and dispose of general clothing . . . this is not true of a clutch cable for example.

A neck tube is a marvellous item. Small and warm they go a long way to keeping the cold out in the important neck area.

Your Motorcycle

You need to take the íkití approach here.
1) Bike repair kit
2) Luggage repair kit
3) Puncture repair kit
4) Cleaning kit

1) Bike repair kit

Your bikeís tool bag . . . maybe?! Sometimes the quality of the provided tools is so poor that you may need to replace them with decent ones. Ensure that the plug spanner does actually fit your particular bike with its own access limitations. Also that you have a full set of torx and Allen keys to fit every size found on your bike. If your bike uses size 8 and 10 nuts, ensure that you have one flat and one plug spanner of each size.

2) General repair kit

Broken plastic panniers etc can be a major problem but with a small repair kit can be easily repaired even on the road.

Cracks or breaks in plastic can be ísewní together with thin wire. Make the holes for the wire with a red hot steel needle. Heat the needle with a gas cigarette lighter.

A selection of large safety pins, a tube of contact glue, a reel of thin fishing line, a roll of duct tape, 4m of thin nylon (parachute) cord, 60cm of thick wire, 2m of thin wire (bailing wire if you can get it), 30 plastic cable (zip) ties (3 sizes), duct tape, sewing needles (large and small) and a spare plastic click-buckle completes this kit.

A putty type glue that can be used to plug holes in radiators, cracked tappet covers and damaged aluminum panniers. Leaking petrol tanks can be temporarily repaired using a piece of hand soap. Once the tank is empty than a more permanent repair can by made with putty glue

The items above have seen some strange uses over the years of hiking, camping and touring.

3) Puncture repair kit

Two tyre levers, a puncture repair kit for your type of tyre (with fresh glue), an extra tube of high quality rubber cement, a high pressure, push-pull, bicycle pump (also for maintaining tyre pressure in remote areas) and an aerosol can of tyre repair foam. A 6 inch square patch cut from an old tyre tube for larger and side-wall punctures. Also a small pencil tyre pressure gauge (Petrol stations tyre gauges of often inaccurate). You can also buy a CO2 cartridge system for inflating flat tyres - one cartridge gives one bar (if you fit it quickly enough!). You should also take a spare front tyre tube. In an emergency this can also be used for the rear wheel as well. Also useful if your tubeless tyre gets a large side-wall puncture that is impossible to repair properly. If you will be travelling off road, fit heavy duty tubes as they can often shrug off potential punctures from thorns etc

4) Cleaning kit

One cloth for dirty jobs e.g. chain lubrication and a cloth for clean jobs e.g. the plastics. A small container of hand cleaner.

Leather boot treatment. Even one day of harsh conditions and your riding boots will take a pounding. Look after them! with a product that maintains your bootís waterproof qualities. You also need a small soft brush that can be used on your boots as well as on the bike.

A product that you use to clean your visor which has a lingering de-misting property should you have to ride in the rain. In South Africa the product íMr Miní is highly recommended although the can is very large.