I often get asked if we cook our own food, on the road, and what we take with us.
These days we go minimalist. We like to travel light. The more stuff we carry, the more weigh on the bikes and the harder they handle on the trails.
We have perfected, based on many trips, what we really need, which is surprisingly little.
We carry few spare parts, those that would stop us on our track, like clutch cables, puncture repair kit, levers, inner tube, and few maintenance stuff like oil filter and spark plugs. Anything else, we can get on the road. Sure, we won’t be able to find it in the next village but in major towns or, last solution, shipped from Europe.
The camping gear is essential. You never know how long it will take to get from A to B, whether you will make it (hard trails, weather conditions, break down, getting lost…) so being able to camp is important. In Mongolia, we had a long stretch of nothingness where we just used to pitch the tent in the vast emptiness. However, once you leave the western world, accommodation is so cheap that, we usually try to make it to a village or town and get a room.
It is the same thing with food. For long trips we carry a fuel stove. To be fair we only use it for boiling water. Pot noodles, sardines and bread tend to be good options to survive on the wild, with a combination of fruits like apples, and nuts. Chocolate bars tend to melt in the heat. Alistair always carry biscuits and sweets. As for carrying bananas, we made that mistake once only! Anything soft will pretty much disintegrate on corrugation or tough trails. Finding banana everywhere in my top box, with no access to water, was not nice!
However, whenever possible, we eat out. If we stay somewhere, we will always find a place for a coffee, juice, and something to eat for breakfast. Then at lunch, we can graze on nuts and biscuits, on the road. For dinner, we can always find something. Worse come to worse we have been dining sometimes on crisps and bread. Wherever there are people, we will find food. And water.
Usually food is very cheap, so eating for a couple of dollars is fine. You have to be pragmatic and eat whatever you can find. On travels like these, it is not about gourmet food but food as fuel.
I have met many travellers who set off on their trips and camp wild all the time and cook all their food. It can definitely cut costs, if you are on a very tight budget. However, I find this very amusing when said travellers are on a 10 or 15,000$ machine with kit worth another few grands! They certainly look the part, I have to be fair here, with their shiny aluminium panniers and beautiful top of the range suits and helmets and all the survivor kit! Next to them we usually look like cheap tramps!
In Kazakhstan, where the police is famous for stopping travellers to “fine” them, the cops would come to our level, on a long stretched of road, in their car, drive next to us to have a good look and move on. They probably felt sorry for us and did not bother us, on our cheap looking bikes and our mud caked soft panniers.
So we travel on cheap bikes and with little kit, but we don’t really camp all the way unless we have to or the price of accommodation is too expensive.
So, in summary, I carry on my bike a roll bag with the camping gear, and some maps. Then some spare parts and the tools to work on the bikes. Total luggage weigh on my bike is about 12kg. I also have a tank bag for water, maps, nuts, and few bits like toilet paper, camera…
We also always end up carrying a bottle of engine oil. Our bikes have a tough life and, once again, we learnt that lesson the hard way, having had an engine blow up and die in the middle of nowhere is Uzbekistan, back in 2014! Checking oil level and topping up is primordial.
Otherwise this could happen:
And then you need a new engine!
Then, in Alistair’s soft panniers, come the waterproofs and warm layers. We do not travel with Gore-Tex motorcycle suits, as we would die of heat exhaustion in most places. Breathable textile suits with plenty of venting zips are my favourites. In some places (Russia or Patagonia) the weather can go from hot summer day to freezing in a couple of hours. We do carry very little clothes, some cheap and some expensive. The expensive ones include a base layer like Merino wool, a thin but good quality down jacket (it packs tiny), merino wool socks. On the cheap side we found that outdoor trousers and T-shirts from Decathlon are super cheap but super-efficient. Indeed they wash and dry in a nanosecond. They also pack very small and are very light. As we carry few clothes only, we need clothes that can wash and dry overnight! We usually wash our clothes ourselves as we go along, in hotels bathroom sink.
Other than motorcycle boots we have each a pair of trainers and flip flops. Flip flops are really essential in shared bathrooms or campsites.
In term of ‘electronics” we carry a phone and one iPad between the 2 of us. With wifi everywhere these days, they are enough.
Anything else we may need, we can buy on the way. Wherever there are people we can buy stuff. So why overload?
food on the road, Turkey:
Food on the road, Georgia:
Market in Samarkand, Uzbekistan: