That was a pretty common reaction when I first started taking long rides on a motorcycle. People have gotten a bit more used to my wanderings but it still comes up for both me and Ennie.

I’ll add camping to the mix as well just for fun. ;-)

So, why a motorcycle? Why not a car? Why camping? They all relate to one another. It’s the same as why do people go backpacking/camping. Can’t you just drive to where you’re going? Why walk?

The little things are what makes travel on a bike different from a car. The subtle temperature differences as you go up and down rolling hills gets you connected to the environment around you. The sometimes unpleasant weather (not a problem if you’re geared up for it BTW) that makes the good times all the better. The 360-degree view of the world. The leaning into turns. Riding along looking over your windshield feels like you are flying over the road. On top of all that the very nature of a motorcycle forces you to be in the moment – it requires more attention to what you’re doing to make sure you stay safe. You don’t generally think of the random day-to-day issues while riding.

People always wonder about safety too. If you wear the right equipment then you’re a few steps ahead of the folks that ride around with shorts and a T-shirt. A good helmet is obviously a must. The rest of the gear is important too: armored riding suit, gloves and boots will go a long way of keeping you safe if the worst happens. Besides, it’s more comfortable riding when you’re not worried it might rain; a lot of the suits are waterproof as well!

The camping combined with the motorcycle forces you to figure out what you really need to take with you. It’s easy to camp with a Winnebago, you just cram all of your stuff in and hitch it up. On a bike (like backpacking) you need to limit yourself to what you need. On my bike I have roughly 120 liters of storage volume between the panniers, tank bag and other bags strapped to the bike. It sounds like a lot up until you think that even a relatively small car like a Honda Civic has easily twice that in trunk space (12 ft^3 = 340 l). And that’s not counting any of the space in the passenger compartment (think of food, purses, drinks, anything) which adds over 2500 liters more space. When you need to jettison items and luxuries you can figure out what you need.

An interesting difference between motorcycle camping and backpacking is what’s the limiting factor. When you’re camping, every gram counts since you’re carrying it the whole way. On a bike the thing that always gets me is size. While small thing tend to be light, some of the biggest things I need are also light. A tent is only three pounds, but it takes up a lot of space. Same with sleeping bags. Those things would cause any problem when you’re backpacking, but on a bike they’re harder to fit on for some reason.

Camping: It adds a lot of extra gear that you need to carry with you. The tent, sleeping bags, stove and other various items. Sure, it’s more work, but then there’s waking up in a tent in the woods to the sunrise and brewing a cup of coffee and just taking in the world around you. It’s things like that that makes it all worth while.