Advice on surviving rain, heat, and starvation while riding around the world.
When Hagai Yardeny’s childhood friends from Israel asked if he wanted to take a motorcycle trip through Bulgaria in 2009, a simple “yeah” was his reply. The soft-spoken but physically imposing Yardeny couldn’t have known that it would kick-start not just an obsession, but a business: Early in 2017, he launched Moto Spirits, making a take on Vietnamese rice wine and Croatian jabuka right next to a Bushwick, Brooklyn motorcycle shop. Both were inspired by local customs he enjoyed on trips through the countries, during experiences made possible by the situations that only befall you on a bike: breaking down in the rain in Vietnam, for example, or almost freezing off your hands in the Alps.
If you’ve ever wanted to go on your own two-wheel adventure, we talked to the distiller for advice on how to make it happen and the best lessons he’s learned from his luck (both good and bad).
Find a trustworthy rental company.
You don’t just check a motorcycle with your suitcase (I asked). Many U.S.-based rental companies can recommend an international source, then go for the best available. According to Yardeny, that can range from an old 125cc bike (for beginners) to a brand-new BMW 1200cc. “The most difficult place to rent was in New Delhi,” Yardeny notes, “where we got swindled by a company that came up first in Google search results”—so you’ll want to check everything out very thoroughly.
Be reasonable about what you pack.
Yes, you’re probably going to be traveling quite light. “You cannot air travel with a hard suitcase when traveling to a motorcycle trip unless you have a place to store it, as it won’t fit on the bike,” he says. “The bike has two side cases (approximately 29 or 30 liters), as well as a top case (30 liters).”
Plan for the weather as best you can—but prepare for surprises.
“An all-weather riding suit is really too hot for summer, and summer gear is miserable when you ride in rain,” he notes. “The first trip to Vietnam had a portion in the north and a portion in the south. The south is hot, humid and flat; the north has dramatic mountains with high elevation. We were more prepared for the south, so when it started raining in the mountains, I ended up driving with puddles inside my shoes, wearing a summer mesh jacket that rain just went through,” he says. And because of his particular stature, there was no relief: “I was shivering cold and it was impossible to get even a simple rain poncho that would fit me, let alone over the armor.”
“When I did a trip to the Alps, one day it was nice and comfortable at the base of the mountain, but as we drove up it started raining and then turned to snow,” he recalls. “I had leather armored gloves. They got wet in the rain and damn near froze in the snow. The next day we found a motorcycle shop, purchased new waterproof armored gloves, and the rest of the trip was sunny.” The lesson here? Pack a poncho that fits you, which won’t take up too much space, and make sure you’re well-versed in how climates can change even within the same country.
Know how you’re going to feed yourself.
Either you’ll be able to stop, or there won’t be a bite available for miles. “In Vietnam, there are little eateries in the villages, so you just stop for coffee and a bite when you want,” he says. “In the Alps, it was more like going to a supermarket in the morning and packing lunch. You can always bungee some food and water on top of the case.”
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