Tag Archives: Motorcycling

Himalayan Motorcycling Planning

We’ve carried out several expeditions to the Indian Himalyan region over the years and here’s some of the top tips for trip planning and preparation.

Long distance riding at high altitude

Time to go

The Himalayas are a high altitude destination affected by the monsoon seasons. A great time to visit is in the mid summer period around July – August as the snows in the mountain passes will have melted, there’s enough warmth in the day for comfortable riding and the rainfall is at a minimum. Outside of these time prepare for a somewhat colder experience! Local Indian riders are an incredibly hardy bunch and will ride in conditions that are daunting for many western travellers; consider what you’re capable of rather than what others round you are planning in terms of daily distance and average moving times.

Overall Kit and Equipment

Motorcycle touring packing

Travelling light is alway right. Whilst you instinctively know that, doing without the creature comforts and travel luxuries you’re used to can be a wrench. It’s definitely possible to carry too much. As a rule of thumb if the gear doesn’t fulfil a really vital role; for safety and recovery, warmth and weather proofing or navigation then it needs to be put in the ‘luxury’ bracket and considered an extra weight. As a rule of thumb plan on using everything you’ve brought along and the only items you bring but don’t touch should be in your trauma med pack, your engine/tyre repair kit and survival/bivvy gear.

Riding Gear

Lightweight Riding Gear

Because you’re likely to have to fly and travel into the Himalayas off your bike, bringing the full set of latest Gore tex riding gear will be a hassle. We’ve found that a lightweight and semi-casual set of riding kit suits most situations. There’s a lot of bike jeans on the market, teamed with a layering approach for the top half with cotton t-shirts, flannel shirts and a guernsey pullover you can keep the wind out and still not have to double up on your clothing. But resist the temptation to ditch the key safety clothing you need, as a minimum helmet gloves, boots and an armoured casual jacket and trousers will prevent the majority of injuries.

Daily Riding Planning

GPS – Moving Average

It’s all about the moving average you’re capable of sustaining over the long term. There’s always a chai stop or a sleeping platform (carry a good compressible sleeping bag!) along the road so you don’t have to stick to towns that are just too far away for comfort. If you know what your best speed over the ground is then you’re well set to plan ahead. Your moving average covers the stops you’ll take, how long they generally are, your average riding speed, and if you’re in a group then it’s based on the pace of the slowest.  Leave a safety margin for road closures, accidents and unforeseen events and aim to be in your overnight location at least 45 mins before last light. Riding at night massively increases the objective danger on the roads and should be avoided as much as possible!

The Psychology of Motorcycling, or; Risk and Reward

“There is a common
misunderstanding among the
human beings who have ever been
born on earth that the best way to
live is to try to avoid pain and just
try to get comfortable.  A
much more interesting, kind and
joyful approach to life is to begin to
develop our curiosity, not caring
whether the object of our curiosity
is bitter or sweet. To lead to a life
that goes beyond pettiness and
prejudice and always wanting to
make sure that everything turns out
on our own terms, to lead a more
passionate, full, and delightful life
than that, we must realize that we
can endure a lot of pain and
pleasure for the sake of finding out
who we are and what this world is,
how we tick and how our world
ticks, how the whole thing just is.
If we are committed to comfort at
any cost, as soon as we come up
against the least edge of pain, we’re
going to run; we’ll never know
what’s beyond that particular
barrier or wall or fearful thing.”

~Pema Chödrön~

Pema’s words stayed with me today. I’ve been thinking on the emotions that run deep in the motorcycling world. Why we enjoy the increased vulnerability and it’s physical hardships and odd constraints of using a bike for routine events; take commuting for example. I rode from south west London to north west London and back, every working day for 18 months.  The route involved crossing the Thames, negotiating between arterial motorways and A roads hunting the urban short cuts and rat runs. The planning of each day’s route was a strategic business; what the traffic was doing, where were the roadworks, what was likely to happen. Then on the road it was an intense experience. There’s basically two ways to ride in London: 1. Pretend you’re a car. Stay in lane, be predictable, don’t deviate. Filter at junctions and traffic lights at slow speed and under control. 2. Ride like a courier. Make progress at every opportunity, make the opportunity when it doesn’t exist, get ahead (and clear) of cars and buses as quickly as possible.  Stay ahead of the law and watch out for the ubiquitous cameras. Ride feral essentially. I, ahem, did a bit of both.  I learned a lot about the craft of urban motorcycling and importantly I learned a lot about the peace of mind that comes from regular bike riding. Every evening I was more relaxed and able to make sense of the daily grind in a more holistic way. To be fair I was also pretty tired and now definitely look my age!

Flash back to your motorcycling experiences, the times when it got tough; maybe caught in the rain, or a freezing ride to get somewhere at night, perhaps lost in an unfamiliar place. You know the time… My point is that we gain lots from those experiences as well as the easy ones. Those are the ones you tell your mates about or lodge on that familiar ‘shelf’ of motorcycling memories that define you and your interest in riding.

Photo (and sentiment) copied from a fellow blogger at http://groundupcaferacer.wordpress.com/page/2/
Photo (and sentiment) copied from a fellow blogger at http://groundupcaferacer.wordpress.com/page/2/

So I’m exploring the concept that motorcycling offers a twenty first century short cut into the human psyche, a two wheeled screwdriver across the battery terminals of life; enhancing a base drive to explore your own limits. The challenges are real, the risk is always very high (even if the probability of an ‘off’ is low, the impact of coming off is always massive) but crucially, the rewards are equally high. You know a little more about what you’re capable of when it gets tough and that makes you a fully paid up member of the human club.  Nice one.

[This is one of what is turning into a series of posts on ‘The Psychology of Motorcycling’.]

Man and Machine; who are we becoming?

There are very few of us who think of motorcycling as a means of transport alone.

untitledAt it’s basest form the motorcycle gets us from A to B, fairly efficiently and reliably. However, for the greater majority of the bike riding community it becomes a sport, a release, a means to pass the time and indeed, comment, or an escape from the routine.

Yesterday’s post on here was about types of bikers in broad groupings. This morning my thoughts strayed to how people see and relate to themselves and each other – in a motorcycling context and as individuals.

I reckoned that very few people can actually say they ride as a means to an end. Very many are influenced to some degree by the trends and cults that bikes inspire.

But why do bikes in particular create these scenes in the human brain? Again, I think it comes back to the needs of the individual; to have a sense of self and identity. Biking rewards our dopamine sensors with pure synaptic transmissions; the inputs come thick and fast; speed, danger, wind, exposure, knowledge and skill, muscular motor balance and luck. Being on two wheels is so vastly different from four wheels that riding actually stimulates a broader number of brain areas. Not sure about this? Read about Japanese scientist Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, author of “Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training: How Old Is Your Brain?” looking at the relationship between motorcycle riding and the human mind.

BrainKawashima’s experiments involved regular riders (average age 45) and  former riders who once rode regularly but had not taken a ride for at least 10 years. Kawashima asked participants to ride on courses in different conditions while he recorded their brain activities. He found the current riders and former riders used their brains in different ways, and the current riders had a higher level of concentration because specific segments of their brains (the right hemisphere of the prefrontal lobe) was activated. He also tested how making a habit of riding  affects the brain. The test subjects had not ridden for 10 years or more. Over the course of a couple of months, those riders used a motorcycle for their daily commute and in other everyday situations.

The result? The use of motorcycles in everyday life improved cognitive faculties, particularly those that relate to memory and spatial reasoning capacity. An added benefit, according to the study? Participants said their stress levels had been reduced and their mental state changed for the better. This is also written up in an article on the BIC forum here.

1921_man_machineEssentially ‘scientists believe that the extra concentration needed to successfully operate a motorcycle can contribute to higher general levels of brain function, and it’s that increase in activity that’s surely a contributing factor to the appeal of the motorcycles as transportation. It’s the way a ride on a bike turns the simplest journey into a challenge to the senses that sets the motorcyclist apart from the everyday commuter. While the typical car-owning motorist is just transporting him or her self from point A to point B, the motorcyclist is actually transported into an entirely different state of consciousness .’

Riding a motorcycle is all about discovering a state of mind where the journey actually is the destination. I get this; in fact I like this!



Sunday Ride: Reeth, Yorkshire Dales National Park

The heat wave is still ongoing in the North of England so I took the opportunity to go for a ride to Reeth. We followed the River Swale and headed west from Richmond, stopped briefly for a chat in the village square and then found a little road over the moor out to the south.

The R1150 GS with top box only in the village square at Reeth. That’s the view of the Dales to the south, looking over the River Swale and up at the moor top.

Kate, my pillion for the day. She’s been on her Dad’s bike before so was absolutely fine with the sweeping corners on the fast bits. So fine in fact she leaned enthusiastically into a corner at one point, tipping us in a little more than I expected. All good on the big BMW though, rock steady and lots of lean in reserve. I was riding pretty sensibly as well.

We met James in Reeth as well. James is a local photographer (duophoto.co.uk) who knows the area pretty well and recommended some more far flung destinations. I’ll follow those up later on.

Also seen in Reeth; great touring posse of Royal Enfields.

Me with the new Shark Evoline helmet. It’s a great bit of kit so far. Series 3 has learned from the first versions of this flip up.


The USA’s 10 best motorcycle roads – Road trips – Lonely Planet

imageA great road is a great road, but if you’re riding a motorcycle, you’re looking for something special: twisties, vistas, turnouts, that perfect stretch of smooth tarmac, and biker-friendly stops that make getting there most of the fun. Here are 10 of the best roads across America for an unforgettable motorcycle journey:

via The USA’s 10 best motorcycle roads – Road trips – Lonely Planet.