6 Pack: On the Road with Kuda


Burly sissy and a willy-pete bag

4) Packing your shit

The idea of bringing enough clean clothes for a whole trip is easier than you’d think. Truth is, whatever you put on first thing in the morning is gonna be nasty within hours. Especially when you’re riding in the heat. So there’s no real point when you’re on the road for multiple days to wear clean clothes each morning. Gross, but true. So always pack road clothes and street clothes. Road clothes are tougher (don’t come apart in the wind), darker (to hide grease and dirt stains), and tighter (to avoid that annoying “beating the crap out of yourself” feeling from flapping in the wind.) Save the clean street clothes for when you get where you’re going, just in case there’s someone there you might wanna impress--hey, not every member of the opposite sex is into oily, smelly, grungy biker types. Always pack a few large garbage bags in your pack, compactor bags if you can find them. They don’t take up much room and they have all kinds of great uses, i.e. emergency pack covers/rain gear, boot liners, ditch tents, something to lay on when you’re fixing broken stuff in a nasty parking lot, etc. As for what to pack your shit in, there are as many options as you have imagination, but I’ve never found anything that beats the waterproof duffle bags made for kayaking. Ortlieb drybags are probably the best, but less expensive versions are everywhere. They’re just duffle bags made out of thick nylon/PVC with a roll-top seal. Totally bomb-proof and will keep your stuff dry, plus they can make a handy backrest if you set your bike up right.  Get a big enough one and toss your tent, bag, and everything else in it and hit the road knowing your shit will be dry at the end of the day.


Old school analog GPS and a cig lighter for keeping smokes lit and the phone charged

5)  What to bring
Here’s where it all goes to hell. Everyone has different needs on the road. I’ve been known to bring only my tool bag, the clothes on my back and a couple trash bags for raingear/sleeping bag/tent. I’ve slept behind dumpsters at truck stops, in ditches, empty barns, wherever. But if I have a choice, I’d rather have a nice dry tent to sleep in. The truth is, when you’re young and dumb you can sleep anywhere, anytime. For a while. But if you’re doin’ it day after day it gets pretty damn old and it starts to get a whole lot less fun. It can even make you start to think things like “why exactly did I decide to do a long ride on an old rigid bike? What the hell was I thinking?!” Dangerous thoughts, those. If we started really thinking about ridin’ old iron long distances where the hell would we end up?! So to me, I take what I think of as an “informed minimalist” view of packing.  In other words, only stuff I absolutely need, or absolutely might need. Here’s an example of my last packing list for a nine-day 5,000-mile trip:

Wear: (what I hit the road wearing): Nasty old jeans, thick wool travel socks (good for all weather and help keep my feet from vibrating asleep), tank top, t-shirt, long sleeve T-shirt, and my nasty old steel-toed boots. That way I can strip off layers as it warms up and not have to dig around in my pack to find clothes. Anything that comes off gets bungeed to the pack on the sissy bar.

Pack: leather jacket, small tent, sleeping bag/pad, long johns, spare tank top and T-shirt, spare jeans (nicer ones), a hoodie sweat shirt, socks (one pair for each day: that’s important, or you’ll end up with foot rot that’ll kill any chance for romantic encounters and make your friends hate you), gloves, rain gear (in my case ultra light boot covers, rain pants, jacket, and glove covers, more on that stuff in the Links section), a spare bandana, spray-on sunscreen, a Dopp kit (all the usual toiletries, plus a small PacTowel, tiny bug spray, pharmaceuticals, etc.), an atlas, phone charger (I use a car charger with a 120v adapter, works anywhere), a flask of good single malt Scotch (life really is too short), shorts/bathing suit, pair of flip-flops (the only other foot gear I bring), pair of spare sunglasses/clears, small combo flashlight (road and tent light, also makes a spare headlight in an emergency), a PacTowel, a personal mini-shower (folds up to a little over the size of a pack of cigarettes and doubles as a waterproof stuff-sac), and a mini-stove (Jetboil) for making coffee in the morning and heating a can of stew at night.  This last one is invaluable: no worries about where to get that first cup in the morning, and not having to go hunting around strange areas at night to find something to eat is pretty handy, too.  Just call me a ditch-side gourmet. 

Now I know what you’re thinking: what kind of trailer do I pull behind the panchop to carry this shit in? Actually, everything above fits in an old pair of throw-over saddlebags and one medium waterproof duffle bag, with plenty of room to spare (plus the little tool pouch, of course.) Sounds like a lot, and it is, but I’m ready for just about anything and I’ve only ever been caught out once, when the tappet block screws stripped/backed out and lifted the tappet block out of the case (thanks again to Midnight Mike for snatchin’ me off the road, welding the broken tappet block and helicoiling the screw holes!) Plus I can’t even tell ya how many other folks I’ve helped with the crap I usually bring, so it’s worth some karma points too, I guess.


Proof that form and function can coexist

6) Function vs. Form
When you’re building/fixing your bike, keep an eye out for what you can do to make it more reliable/practical.  I’m not talking about welding a bottle opener on there either: while it IS practical, it won’t do much to keep you going down the road (maybe the opposite?). I’m talking about things like sissy bars for strapping your stuff on, removable fender racks, grease fittings on movable parts (like brake and foot clutch levers), that sort of thing.  There’s an inherent coolness to something that’s built to actually WORK, not just look cool. Couple things I’ve seen/done to that end: installed zerks on every pivot point on the bike.  Installed a quick-change oil fitting on the oil tank--oil changes are no-mess and three minutes tops in the service bay of a kind garage owner. Always run a real headlight, one that’ll actually light the road ahead of you when you’re blasting down that dark road.  Run rubber grips.  Metal grips might look cool to some, but they don’t do dick for cutting vibrations that’ll numb your greasy paws after a few hundred miles. Look at your wiring: make sure it’s well insulated and routed so it’s not  rubbing against something that’ll leave you on fire somewhere. And remember, fuses/breakers are your friend.  Those laydown broom handle bars and extended forward controls?  Sure, some folks think they look cool. But personally, I like to be able to walk upright after riding 600-700 miles a day. I’m just sayin’ it’s possible to make a bike work and run like it should and still look good. For a given value of good, of course.

There you have it--my Six Pack of useless drivel. If even one person finds my tips the slightest bit useful, if even one less person is not left sitting by the side of the road, if even one person is motivated to pack their shit and hit the long road, then I guess it was all worth it. See you out on the road.

’49 panchop


Links:  Some of the coolest stuff you can buy for bikes. It’s geared towards the BMW crowd, but there’s tons of stuff in there for us too. You can get your waterproof bags, cool tools, emergency rain gear (I use their ultralight pants, boot covers, and glove covers: all three fit in the palm of your hand). And it’s a damn funny read, too. For those who haven’t assembled their own portable tool set, this is a great kit to kickstart it with. I got one as a gift and I’ve just added and subtracted to it over the last ten years as needed. Best wrist rest made, period. Snap it on before a long trip and say goodbye to hand cramps, plus it’s like cheap cruise control. Made so it can be moved left or right so you don’t wear a hole in your hand plus you can flick it out of the way if you come up on traffic suddenly. Well made, works great.

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Commented on 8-19-2009 At 10:32 pm

Awsome!! I can't waite to go on a long ride.

Commented on 8-19-2009 At 11:02 pm

Great article. I pick up a few tricks with every trip,and it's nice to see what others are doing through their own experiences.

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 12:11 am

good stuff, makes me long for the road.

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 12:38 am

could not have said it better , thats about what I take on the long ones.

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 01:17 am

cool kuda - see you in NY. no fingertight bike this year, but that means no fun in tunnels with police - sorry

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 04:49 am

kuda - one of the few real 'riders' in our world. lookin forward to puttin in some more miles with you soon man.

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 06:39 am

Great article. I think I'll end up taking your advice on the PVC duffel. I always use an old military A.L.I.C.E. pack with plastic bags inside. Another thing I've found that works are those plastic travel bags that seal at the top and have an air valve at the bottom to squeeze out excess air. Not the kind that require a vacuum, but the manual kind. They roll up tight and keep out the water, plus I've found 'em at WalMart.

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 08:08 am

Good list. I don't usually camp when I'm out on a long ride, but having the other stuff is essential, especially for those of us who choose to ride older bikes.

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 08:54 am

Good info to have, and use.

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 08:58 am

Thanks man. I will definitely be using the packing list before my next trip.

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 09:58 am

invaluable experience to pass on, thanks bro.

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 11:46 am

Great list.

Totally agree on #2 - as I like to quote: "let's hit the fukin' road" - I find once I get into stopping too long, it turns into a pattern. If I just fill and go and fill and go then next thing I know it's hours later and I'm almost there.

Another tip on the dry-bag (I got one that's also a backpack for luggin around) - throw in a dryer sheet or two. Those bags don't breath so if you make the mistake of putting something smelly in there everything gets it. The dryer sheets help out a little. Plus chicks dig that fresh scent (don't they?)

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 12:12 pm

good shit.... the marine corps has taught me a thing or two about having everything you need on a long hump, but none the less.... this article really helped. thanks for taking the time out and giving back.

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 12:52 pm

thanks! great ideas, now all i want to do is start packing!

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 02:24 pm

Makes me regret I am stuck on an island.

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 02:46 pm

Great write up! I really like that wrist rest.

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 04:33 pm

Great article! I've never seen anyone write about this important topic. Makes me want to gas up the bike and dip out! Timely man timely!

Commented on 8-20-2009 At 07:16 pm

+1 on Aerostich. They carry lots of cool useful shit that will make your life easier.

Commented on 8-21-2009 At 08:25 am

Makes ya think. I really need to get my shit together!

Commented on 8-21-2009 At 09:10 am

Really nice writeup, thanks for taking the time to do it

Commented on 8-21-2009 At 05:20 pm

this is a cool ride up
the last long ride I did was Sacramento to New York a few years ago
the weirdest thing that would happen to me? After I left the inside of the gas station and I was some miles down the road I was able to sing lyrics/melodies to songs I had never even heard before.

Fuckin engine drone is brutal and soothing to the inside mind.

Commented on 8-22-2009 At 09:03 am

just to add a little something about tools. I've learned to try to use as many of the same size fasteners as possible all over the bike, that way you won't need 12 different combo wrenches and it makes finding/borrowing nuts and bolts that much easier. and every truck stop/gas station and whorehouse has at least a crescent wrench you could borrow. Those chrome 12 point bolts and fancy torx bolts look cool, but ol' man Jenkins ain't gonna have one of them in his barn for you to scrounge.

Commented on 8-22-2009 At 10:51 am

Sounds like you got everything covered.

Commented on 8-24-2009 At 05:45 pm

I have to disagree on the stopping part, but I guess it's just personal preference. I like to stop and really take in my surroundings when I ride. The way I see it, if you just ride non-stop you end up missing out on a lot of great places and people. Slow down and just enjoy the world, you know?

I also have to point out that wearing loose clothing might flap around a little, but it sure does keep you a hell of a lot cooler in the summer.

Just my .02

Commented on 8-25-2009 At 06:32 am

Great ideas, thanks alot.

Commented on 8-25-2009 At 12:27 pm

this article is great I need to set up a trip and fast.

Commented on 8-26-2009 At 10:25 am

Thanks for the info... very useful

Commented on 9-2-2009 At 04:26 pm

Awesome article Bill! Just got back from a trip and everytime I go I think how I'm gonna pack next time. This is exactly what I'm talking about! Sure hotels are nice, but who can pay for that on a two week ride? If you haven't laid out a blanket on the side of the road and slept under the stars with your bike you're missing out. Those are the nights I remember most. Shiftace has some great points too. Great article!

Commented on 9-3-2009 At 07:18 pm

Awesome article! Makes me wanna give the finger to my responsibilities and just head west. (I'm near DC - hey, doesn't Kuda live out this way? Can some one set up a play date, please?)

Commented on 9-18-2009 At 05:41 am

Hey wrench monkeys!!! I can tell you the God's honest truth that Kuda is no bullshit!!! This past June I had the honor of riding 1300 miles with him from northern Virginia to Houston Texas, two days 700 miles a day 14 hours in the saddle. The dude can ride as some of you can contest to that!!!! He told us all this stuff before we left and it saved our asses. It was 103 down across the delta and he kept us going. Through the rain, through the heat, through the times you didn't think you could ride anymore. Even through the times when the pan broke a gas tank mount, lost the screw out of his timing cover(which he found several hundred miles later) and even through the broken solid gas line that cracked cause the tank mount broke!!!! He's about has hardcore as they come in my book and it was an honor to make that trip with him...........even if did ride my ass into the ground. LOL You da man Kuda!!!

Commented on 9-21-2009 At 07:06 pm

the cig lighter helped me sooooo much when i did a loop around the country. i also wired in a little ac inverter very handy. yeah you kinda look like a dork but trust me when your in the middle of the texas desert and your harness fries a soldering iron is gods gift.

Commented on 10-27-2009 At 11:05 pm

thanks for the info..changes the way i get ready for trips..

Commented on 2-13-2010 At 05:21 pm

It was a good reading...and a nice ride as well!

Commented on 6-15-2010 At 04:07 pm

wow, great read! lots of great tips in there!

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