I remember the first time I got on the Ducati 600SS and put my arms around my husband’s waist, helmet and gloves in place, and went on my first motorcycle ride, I was scared but thrilled. It was a cool evening in April, barely any wind, and we went all the way from The Terrace to Seatoun, Island Bay, Lyall Bay and back through Newtown. I was finally seeing some parts of the city I had no idea even existed. I enjoyed it way more than I ever thought I would and, although I’m still a bit scared of riding on my own, I have no problems with being a pillion passenger.
So, when my husband suggested a seven day motorcycle camping trip during our end of the year break, I got really excited. Camping is a great way to save money and New Zealand has a lot to offer to campers. We quickly extended our trip to ten days, and there’s lot to talk about the places we visited in regards to accommodation and activities, but this post is all about the ride. Going on a road trip driving a car has many advantages (you’re not exposed to the weather, you can carry more stuff, etc) but motorcycles are just as fun. Here’s everything you need to know before going a motorcycle camping trip:
1. Educate yourself
First things first: know your motorcycle. Familiarise yourself with the sounds of the engine, understand how it works and how to repair minor damages. Make sure all the papers are in order and everything is working as it should. Study the roads you’re taking, get to know the terrain, the distances. A motorcycle’s tank is smaller and you need to fill it more frequently, so we downloaded an app called CamperMate that shows you anywhere in New Zealand the nearest petrol station (as well as public toilets, police station, groceries and wi-fi spots). It allowed us to plan ahead and decide how much longer we could keep going before taking a break. We didn’t carry any petrol with us and we didn’t have to deal with an empty tank either.
2. Pack smart, pack light
We carried two saddlebags, with a sleeping bag in each one, a gym bag with our clothes, a backpack and a tent. We stayed at holiday parks and DOC campsites and the people camping next to us would always comment on how compact our gear was. The less you carry, the faster it is to repack the next day before continuing your trip. Try to avoid any unnecessary luggage. No matter where you travel to, there’s always some place you can stop and do your laundry along the way. It also prevented us from buying useless stuff during the trip as we simply couldn’t carry any more than what we had brought with us.
Most places offer shared kitchen facilities but you need to bring your own pans, plates and utensils, which was disappointing as we could have saved a lot more money if we were able to cook our own meals. So we did the best we could, got creative and improvised. We ate meals that required minimal preparation or had picnics (and we had great meals at cafes and restaurants too). We had to park the Ducati on sand and grass, so we found an used water bottle and repurposed it as a side stand pad, to keep the motorcycle in place. We don’t have intercoms in our helmets, so we developed a way of communicating with each other using gestures and taps. It’s important to use all the knowledge you acquired during the planning stage to adapt, change course or come up with a solution.
4. It’s scary
No matter how hard you plan and research, it’s still scary to actually go on the road and ride. There were a couple of accidents involving dairy trucks during the Christmas period and every time one of those large trucks, loaded with logs or milk tanks, drove by us and threw a gust of wind us, it’d hold a breath for a few seconds and hold tight onto Ivan. The weather was on our side and luckily we escaped most of the rain predicted for the North Island. It’s tiresome and uncomfortable at times. Keep calm and well rested at all times.
5. Enjoy the ride
But don’t let fear get in the way of enjoying it and having a good time. When you’re on a motorcycle, you become part of a community of riders that will always acknowledge you and greet you with a quick nod as they ride past you. It’s a great conversation starter and kids are fascinated by two wheels. You’re more exposed and also more connected to the road. You feel the wind, the cold and the warmth all around you. And all those hours in silence, looking out the road alone with my own thoughts, were great to clear my head. The journey becomes part of the fun, it isn’t just about reaching a destination anymore but making the most out of every step of the way.
Now we’re thinking of doing a similar trip, but around the South Island and with two motorcycles. What about you? Would you ever go on a motorcycle road trip?