Being self-contained and carrying everything you need on you, is awesome. But with that, come choices and compromises in what to take with you. I have become a strong believer in travelling light, for more than the weight savings alone. There are some awesome benefits from lightweight adventure riding that I did not expect. And though they may sound philosophical, the benefits are very real. Not just when adventure riding, but on any trip, with or without a motorcycle.

What “Lightweight Adventure Riding” is (not)

Of course, the term is associated with weight. And although weight is an important factor, it is not:

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Look who’s talking! About 10 years ago I would take a tank bag, soft panniers, luggage roll, topcase and backpack. Not exactly lightweight.
  • an exact number of pounds of kilograms to stay under
  • a ratio to the weight of the bike or its rider
  • a minimalist, barebones, hardcore setup

To me what this is (besides the weight reduction) is a mindset to thoroughly think about what you are taking with you on a trip. Take what you need, and leave what you don’t. Whether you are on a motorcycle or not. Sounds simple, right?

Weight reduction

The most obvious benefit from “going light” is of course, weight reduction. The fewer lbs’s or kg’s your are strapping to your bike, the easier it is to control the bike (tip: practice bike control with luggage on it!). Sure, you can compensate for some of that by adapting the suspension, but we all know most of us don’t do that, or do not know how to effectively compensate for the additional weight.

Taking less with you means you can go adventure riding in places you would not consider going otherwise.

Mental weight reduction (don’t click away yet!)

Wait, please don’t click away now, hear me out!

The fewer things you have with you, the easier it is to find what you need. It also means fewer things to break or loose or otherwise worry about. I do not consider myself to be a minimalist, but I do experience the very real mental benefit from taking only what you need. Wether I am on a bike or not.

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It Is All About The Preparation

The third and final benefit, comes from the preparation. Spending a little bit of time to think through what you need and what situations to prepare for, you will make conscious decisions on what to pack. As a consequence, you know exactly what you are prepared for and thus what you carry with you.

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Nowadays, both Bigfoot Bike, my KTM 690 Enduro, and the luggage on it have shed a lot of weight.

It creates the mindset that you think ahead about what can happen on your trip and what to prepare for. The type of trip matters as well, of course. Lyndon Poskitt strapped a lot more to Basil Bike on his round the world trip, then Greg Villalobos did on his recent week on the UK TET. And not just the emergencies, but also those perfect riding days. Some questions to consider:

  • What (non-riding) clothing to bring?
    I used to pack way too much clothing, just in case. Even non-riding clothes when I knew I would be spending (almost) all the time riding.
  • How will you sleep; hotel, tent, hammock, under the stars?
  • How/Where will you eat?
    Will you eat out and support local businesses, eat a granola bar, or cook something yourself at a campsite? And when cooking yourself, do you need to bring it all with you from day 1 or can you get some groceries at local stores at the end of the day?
  • What is in your toolkit?
    Ready made toolkits look awesome, but do you need all the bits in it? Do you know how to use all those tools? What maintenance jobs do you reasonably need to be able to do on your own?
  • Whats in your first aid kit?
    You can get a lot done with a gauges, a sling, a space blanket and a few other bits and bobs. But, if you are going to a very remote area, you want to prepare differently as help may not be able to reach you quickly, or at all.

Only now will the grams and ounces count

Then, when you have deliberately decided what to take with you, you can start thinking about actual weight. Reducing the grams and ounces in your luggage. Not taking an item beats taking a lightweight item that you won’t use. That’s what lightweight adventure riding is all about.

Finding lightweight travel stuff is a whole different rabbit hole to go down into. You can spend vast amounts of money to reduce a little bit of weight. I have a very limited budget to spend on these things, so my choices are more pragmatic. Also, I probably save a lot more weight if I keep my hand out of the cookie jar for once.

With this in mind, every ride becomes a bit of an experiment so that you become aware of what works and what doesn’t. But the knowledge and feeling that I am prepared while still taking as little as I can, makes my rides easier. Both mentally and physically.

How do you select the gear you take with you on rides?