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That Load

Blog Date 23 May 2019

The Honda CB500X buckling under a huge load of bags, throwovers, boxes and kit
My typical travelling rig.

The load upon the rear of my motorcycle often receives comments. These usually run along the lines of "how long you going for?", "blimey, does it ride OK like that?", "that's a lot of stuff" and "I see you brought everything including the kitchen sink". 

Why yes, it is a LARGE load but all is not quite what it seems. I don't believe I have any more than most camping motorcyclists would have with them. It's just my load is bulky. But why? Bare with me...

In my imagination there is a remote village in China. It is among lush green hills and snow capped peaks. The families live in bamboo houses and a genteel breeze blows blossoms across the peaceful streets. There are no raised voices, only the soft swishes of man made fibres being folded. This village breeds the tent packing people. 

Lush green mountains amidst mist and clouds in Northern Spain
OK, it's Spain not China, just pretend OK.

From as soon as they can toddle children are taught ancient origami techniques passed down through thousands of generations. By the age of 6 children can fit every page of War And Peace into a matchbox. By the age of 12 they can fit all their toys, bedding and clothes into the tip of a thimble. By the age of 21 they are ready for work.

Pack animals arrive bringing vast bales filled with various tents by Vango, they all leave with barely any load at all, for these fold-up shelters have been packed so proficiently they are barely visible to the naked eye.

Here in Blighty we the paying consumer of tents are mightily impressed how such a luxuriously large sleeping shelter can fit into such an efficient and compact size. We say "My word, we'll have loads of room for sleeping and yet plenty of room left on the bike too!" We are soon parted with our pennies.

We unpack our purchase and erect it. The next day we come to repack our tent only to find we are not proficient packing Ninjas at all. We are clumsy, ham fisted, lazy and feckless oafs and there is no way in hell that much material is going back into that tiny teeny little bag.

The more determined among us carefully fold and tuck and roll and press. Given time, patience and sheer luck the tent may once return to where it once came. This may take an hour, perhaps two. The rest of us just bungee the loose folds on the back of the bike as best we can.

This is OK for a weekend when you unpack once then pack once. But on a tour it has been a real source of boring frustration. So I have purchased an 80 litre roll bag. The tent is most unceremoniously rammed into the big bag then sat upon to squeeze out some of the air. This is then lobbed into the big yellow bag along with food, poles, pegs, water carrier and anything else I can't find a proper place for.

The tent being partially stuffed into the bag then the stuffed bag just squashed a bit
Ram it in jam it in roll it up. Sorted.
The big tent bag in another bag with cartons of food and the poles etc
And we're ready to ride.

This explains the big big yellow bag.

Left pannier - clothes and maybe a little more food. Right pannier - sleeping bag and maybe milk. Top box - toiletries, pans, cutlery, stove, puncture kit, pump, sandals and charging wires. Tank bag - valuables ie phone, wallet and tablet. This always stays with me.

The top box on the 500 filled with various camping and comfort items
Nothing out of the ordinary here. 

Admittedly in various pockets there's spares, cable ties, tools, disk lock, smidge, waterproof socks, can opener and chain lube. So tell me, what have I got that most camping motorcyclists wouldn't normally have?

If the tent were in it's original pack I don't think folks would notice. If the tent were in its original pack I'd be in an asylum by now.

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Reader's Comments

Ian Soady said :-
And you wonder why some of us have packed (see what I did there) camping in?
23/5/2019 9:59:09 AM UTC
Upt'North said :-
Ian, saw it, drum roll, symbols......
Ed, when you describe it, it doesn't sound too bad, when I look at your bike.......when I look at that pile of bags with two wheels sticking out of it, it looks horrendous.
Oh, and wash your bike, dirty boy.
23/5/2019 12:53:24 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I'd pack in (sic) camping too if Sharon was rich beyond my wildest dreams. Regrettably she is not and I'm both too tight and too lazy to make my own wealth.

Upt'North. No.
23/5/2019 3:31:07 PM UTC
Borsuk said :-
Many a time in my youth I cursed the Vango tent packing Ninjas as I struggled to pack my Force 10 into its small bag in a Force 8 halfway up a mountain in winter.

I even went to the factory in Greenock and saw them effortlessly packing all sizes of tent into bags smaller than a strippers thong thinking it must be some kind of fabric Tardis.
23/5/2019 11:55:13 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I knew Vango were British but I did not know they are based in Greenock. I know my tent has "made in China" on it so I expect the high end stuff is made in the UK. However my romantic image of a remote Chinese village is rather shattered. Now I picture hardy faced and rugged handed Jocks with wiry firm muscles expertly folding then compressing vast sheets into tiny bags.

There are people I know who can do it. It is just the level of patience and perfection I lack. They fold precisely then roll exactly. They're the sort of people who's CD collection is in alphabetical order. They're the sort of people who clean their motorcycles...
24/5/2019 8:02:12 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
After today's technical hitch I'm just checking the image upload is working.

25/5/2019 9:18:03 PM UTC
Pocketpete said :-
Dont clean it ren. It's all the dirt that's protecting it and holding it together.....

Well keep telling yourself that I'm definatly in the sharon camp. clean it till its shiny and sparkly. Very therapeutic.

Plus when it got wrote off the foolish engineer described it as showroom condition so I got more for it.

Now what would they say about yours....

But the tent bag is defo the way to go
26/5/2019 9:43:34 AM UTC
Borsuk said :-
Originally they were called Blacks of Greenock and Vango was their expedition rated tent range then they changed the company name to Vango.
26/5/2019 11:57:02 AM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Blacks used to be a really good company. I think I still have a Good Companion tent in the loft somewhere...

But of course they have been taken over by venture capitalists who only want the name so they can flog rubbish to people who still think they're made by horny handed weavers in Greenock. Like Karrimor who once made superb rucsacs but are now owned by the odious Mike Ashley of Sports Direct infamy. As are Dunlop, Slazenger and other one-time iconic makes.

Branding is far more important (or at least when it comes to profit) than is quality these days.
26/5/2019 2:49:47 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
By 'eck Ian, I think you and Sharon were cut from the same sheet of cloth. We've just been discussing why Kawasaki build motorcycles for people who buy new bikes and not long lasting bikes for the used market. I'm sure there will be an explanation forthcoming eventually.
26/5/2019 3:11:46 PM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
It's called capitalism and its nasty half-sibling planned obsolescence....
27/5/2019 10:07:40 AM UTC
Bill said :-
Somebody from the Ren school of packing
3/6/2019 1:11:32 PM UTC
Bill said :-
Link maybe easier shows you don't need big bike for big journey
3/6/2019 3:20:24 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Cheers Bill. He's way braver than I am and rides a lot faster too! I was talking with a couple of riders on "L" plates this weekend and they were really shocked to hear Sharon and I had been to The Netherlands on the 125s. I pointed out, the thing to remember is people travel the world on bicycles or even on foot. A 125 is in relation a huge vehicle with which to go touring.

I think I'd have pooped myself when them dogs were gathering around his legs though. "Mummy, I want to come home now".
3/6/2019 4:11:49 PM UTC

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