Probably one of the most frustrating aspects of modern travel.
This will be our 4th motorcycle tour in Europe and the biggest challenge we have found is getting all of your motorcycle gear, plus everything else you need into 2 international compliant cases. As of this writing that means a case with combined (LxWxD) dimensions of no more than 62″ or 158 cm. Total weight can not exceed 23 kg or 50 lb. Oversized and overweight charges can be outrageous, so these are absolute targets for us.
After much experimentation, we’ve found a method that works for us. One large duffle style case is used for all of the motorcycle gear and a second case of varying size, depending on the trip, used for personal clothing, shoes and “stuff”. This post addresses the motorcycle packing only.
Some people recommend splitting the more expensive motorcycle gear between the two checked bags and your carry on to minimize the risk of having it all get lost before your trip. While this is good advice, we tend to have a week or more of general holiday in the vicinity of the tour start location. This gives us the time to recover lost luggage and get our local legs under us without having to disturb the M/C gear every time we unpack for the day.
Into 1 Eagle Creek bag measuring 95% of allowed size we pack:
- Two full face helmets fitted with SENA 20s packages.
- Shoei Neotech
- Nolan N100
- Spare visors
- Two jacket/pant combination riding suits with liners where needed.
- BMW GS Dry jacket and Pants for me.
- Joe Rocket convertible Jacket and First Gear pants for Carol
- Two pair of mid calf height motorcycle boots.
- 4 to 6 pair of gloves, warm weather and cold weather/waterproof.
- Hearing protection.
- A small First aid kit.
- Batteries (GoPro) and M/C gear specific chargers. (SENA and GoPro).
- A small selection of tools.
- GPS mounting options (if needed).
- M/C specific socks and base layers.
- Basic GoPro mounts.
Step one is to completely remove all armour from the jackets and pants. It’s much easier to fit individual pieces into cavities than it is to twist an unruly armoured jacket arm into a space. Leave the gear out in the sun for 30 minutes or so to make the armour more pliable or use a hairdryer. Once the gear is warm, turn it fully inside out, remove the pads and leave the gear inside out to pack. This makes re-inserting the armour pieces easier. Using a sharpie to mark the piece and it’s corresponding pocket, left elbow, right knee etc. helps get the reinstallation right the first time.
Once the armour pieces are removed, the pants can be tightly folded, or rolled and inserted into the helmet cavity. In Carol’s case there’s even enough room for her gloves and a piece of armour that functions as a “base”, slightly padding the bottom of the helmet. Back pads are used to protect the top or sides of the helmets, depending on how you decide to fit yours in. Socks and base layers can be stuffed into the toes of boots or wrapped around small tools and mount pieces, inserted into the boot upper of the smallest pair.
The smaller boot is then compressed as much as possible and inserted into the upper of one larger boot. Repeat for the other two.
It will take much experimentation to find the perfect method, but it can be done.
A couple of things we’ve learned over the years. On most modern cases, the reinforcing spines and/or the tubes that the retractable handle slide in, create three slight depressions in the back of the case. Utilize as much of this space as you can with rolled base layer, gloves, armour pieces, liners or anything else that can fill that small void larger items like helmets can’t. I use old socks as a sleeve for the spare helmet visors and store them tucked under the zip out liner against the edge of the case. Once you find a method that works for you, photograph each step as you remove the items during your practice run. Study the photos and see it you can spot any areas of improvement. I use an app on my phone called “Packing” to document what and where things go in each case. Memory can be a bit trickey at my age. 😉 Modify, repack and evaluate. Once you have a system, photograph each step as you pack, ideally with a phone or on the camera you will have with you. After a week or so on tour, on the last night before an early flight the next morning, you will not remember all of the tricks you used to get that unruly mess of gear into that one bag. Trust me.
Our package comes in at 47 pounds, well under the 51 pounds allowed for international flights. If you have the room, pack non motorcycle stuff in this bag to get it as close to the maximum weight as you are comfortable with, a good luggage scale that allows you to hang the bag to measure is a must. This way, all of your extra weight and space is in your personal case.