Calling all Newbs


Short time only

You asked for packing secrets for a day or a weekend ride and your wish is our command

“It’s easy,” said Collins. “It could not be easier. For a weekend away you take a duffel bag – one of the army or navy ones with the shoulder strap, they cost bugger all – and you throw everything into it and then you sling it over your shoulder. Then you get on your bike and you ride. Easy as.”
“You are a moron,” said PC kindly. “You’ll pack too much, the stuff will get wet, it’ll be a hassle to find anything and the duffel will move around and what about space for your pillion? Then again, who’d go pillion with you anyway?”

“Me?” said Collins. “Me have trouble getting a pillion? What about you? Last time any of us saw you with a more or less female pillion it was that weightlifter from Byelorussia, what was her – its – name?”

This exchange looked like going on for some time without much useful output, so we switch attention to an old copy of the Hema Motorcycle Atlas, which had packing recommendations in it. It should be easy enough to adapt that story to answer a recent request on the Ulysses website for just such an explanation.

Get set up
Even if you have a “proper” touring bike, the panniers (hard or throwovers), Gearsack, Ventura bag/s, seat bag and whatever other bike luggage should be reserved for “real” trips. A short jaunt in the country simply doesn’t require that sort of space.

All you need is a tank bag and this (or possibly a seat bag if you don’t ride with a pillion) should come along on the shortest trips.

The job of the tank bag is to make life easier and more comfortable for you on the road and to eliminate or at least reduce the “d’oh!” factor.

Derived from Homer Simpson, the “d’oh!” factor is the realisation that you are going to miss out on something (or suffer) because you weren’t better prepared. A photo of a sight worth seeing; a note of a telephone number worth remembering; a call home to let them know you’ll be late. A dry arrival at your overnight stop. All of that and more.

To do that job the tank bag must hold some things but it must also not hold too many more things. If it does, it becomes too heavy and unwieldy. You end up not taking it along, or leaving it on the bike and having it stolen (or worrying about it). One possibility here is a PacSafe tank bag, which locks shut and locks onto the bike. You can see one at under “secure luggage”. They are not cheap but they are excellent quality and as close to totally secure as you’ll get.

If you put too much into your tank bag you may also lose track of its contents and therefore find that the thing you really need isn’t there. D’oh!

Let’s start at the bottom. Unless you have rainproof riding gear, the first thing is a lightweight, one-piece rain suit. You can buy these from bike shops all over the place and just about every accessory importer and distributor offers one. They cost $110 or so.

A lightweight suit is well worth having. Wet hands and even wet feet are manageable but it is nice if your body stays dry in that unexpected downpour.

On top of this suit in a ziploc plastic bag, you can carry your mobile phone; the Hema Road Atlas (so you don’t miss anything along the way); a small notebook with a pen; a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman; a pair of sunglasses; and a pair of earplugs. The ziploc bag ensures that you don’t have to worry about this stuff getting wet, even in a tropical storm. Add a small tyre repair kit for either tubed or tubeless tyres, or both.

Some riders I know set up their phone so they can answer calls while they’re riding; it’s your call (so to speak) but I prefer peace and quiet, most of the time. Sometimes there’s no option, of course. Mobile phone coverage is getting better all the time, so as long as you’re on a reasonably major road you’ll rarely find yourself out of contact.

The atlas means that I’m never quite as lost as I could be. Naturally I also carry a good, large-scale detailed map of the area I’m visiting if that seems necessary – if, for example, I’m touring the Flinders Ranges I’ll have a map that shows the tracks and landforms.

The notebook is pretty much self-explanatory. It is amazing just how often I used to promise myself that I would remember something – a pub, a lookout, a side road – only to forget some vital detail about it. This way I can make notes as I go.

Actually, I usually keep the book and pen as handy as possible, say in an outside pocket of the tank bag, unless it looks like rain. I try to remember to take a spare pen as well. Fact of nature and an example of Murphy’s Law – they always run out when you’re somewhere where you can’t replace them.

My Swiss Army knife is one of the middle-sized ones, with the tiny tweezers (very useful), a couple of screwdrivers (good for getting at the fuses without unpacking the tool kit) and, of course, the most vital tool of all – the corkscrew! But I got a Leatherman for my birthday recently and that’s got some great tools on it, too.

Now, on the subject of earplugs – if you don’t have any, get some. Proper earplugs are moulded to the shape of your ears. I spent many years riding without them and I’m paying for it now. I get Earmold to make them for me,

Another item you might like to consider for the ziploc bag is a light digital camera. They are cheap and easy and yet with the potential to capture some wonderful moments and sights. Get one with a built-in flash and the light (or lack thereof) will not matter.

Loose in the tank bag or in a side pocket I also carry a bag or stick of barley sugars. It doesn’t actually matter what kind of lollies you carry but do carry some – they are an excellent source of instant energy hits that are invaluable when you’re falling asleep in the afternoon of a long day’s ride or if you have missed a meal. Don’t rely on this too much – if you’re tired you should really stop. Also loose is a roll-on container of sunscreen. My nose is quite red enough from port attacks without hitting it with sunburn as well.

If your tools don’t include a tyre repair kit, carry one of those. There are several on the market and we find that the Tyrepliers kit contains everything we need.

In an external pocket, if there is one, I carry a small handful of change. That’s useful for tolls, a replacement packet of barley sugars, a cold drink or whatever – and I don’t have to drag my wallet out. This can be extra useful if I’m wearing my rain suit! If there’s no outside pocket in the tank bag I put the change into another small ziploc bag.

And that’s it. You can just about pre-pack the bag and have it ready for whenever you go anywhere. Oh, and if your bike requires a tool of some kind to get to the fuses or the tool kit: carry that tool! It’s usually just an allen key.

What bag?
Unless you’re investing in a PacSafe tank bag, the best bag for the kind of use I’ve been describing is a small, easily detachable one with a shoulder strap and possibly with a base that stays on the bike.

That way you can just unclip it when you leave the bike to go into the pub, café or museum and you don’t have to worry about it. A magnetic bag can be useful for this as well but beware of scratching the tank and possible problems with memory cards in cameras.

The bag doesn’t need many pockets, although a small one accessible from the outside is handy for toll money and a “stick” of sunscreen. If you pack it properly, the single inside pocket is all that’s required. It’s a bonus if the bag is an expanding one because then you can compress it to hold everything firmly.

Okay? These are all just suggestions but chances are that one day you’ll be glad you followed them.

lightweight rain suit
mobile phone
Motorcycle Atlas
small notebook with a pen
Swiss Army knife/Leatherman
lightweight digital camera
lightweight tyre repair kit
barley sugars
roll-on container of sunscreen

“Olga, that was her name. And,” said Collins, “and – if you decide to buy some fruit or vegetables while you’re out in the country, you can get them home in the duffel, see!”

“If you’re thinking about buying fruit and vegetables you should probably take a ute,” replied PC. “No, what you need . . . what’s that? The story’s done? Great. See how helpful we are?”