The First In An Entertaining Series By Our Veteran Motojournalist

Does it sometimes feel like a foreclosure sign has been hung on your head?  Everyone seems in a funk, and just too poor to spare any fun. Or maybe just the fiscal fear of fun is enough to keep you home, where there’s free TV and a nice, cushy couch to nap away your troubles.

Like everybody else, motorcyclists have been suffering through this plague and sputtering economy. But this does not mean we have to cry like a bunch of babies, stay home, and mumble about the days we could afford food and gas. We just need to be a little more creative, tighten our chains and use our brains. There are ways, my broke friend, to stretch nothing into something.

Wily veterans have long used sneaky, well-kept secrets and crafty tricks to get the most out of what’s left of their last oily, tattered dollar. Riding relieves stress and puts miles between you and the revenuers and bill collectors. The plan is so simple you’ll wonder why you’ve been moping around like a sissy who lost his lollipop.

The wily old veteran has road secrets to reveal.

After 40-something years of biking and bumming, piling up a wealth of valuable experience at being broke, I am bona fide and mentally certified to deliver free advice. Truth is, we blow bucks on a lot of unneeded stuff.

Topping the list is dining out, which is the bane of modern motorcyclists and the focus of this first installment of The Budget Biker, an ongoing series aimed at keeping you on the road and out of the poor house. It is one of the prime differences between old school and new school, frugality and frivolity. New school throws down the cash at the first inkling of appetite; old school can’t waste time pulling over to satisfy a hunger pang or two when home cooking is only two or three hundred miles away.

When I was a boy, the notion of eating out meant gathering roots and berries, or starving until we made it back. This, my dad would proudly say, toughened you up, built character, made you appreciate the value of a dollar. I would have traded all that in for a burger, but the stingy coot was right.

Difficult times call for creative solutions. As in, “I could stuff a few PB&Js in the bags,…”

Even though we have become a nation of softies, there is an economical compromise: pack your saddlebag with a picnic. Include cold beverages, hearty sandwiches, maybe a piece of fruit for once. Pick a spot along one of your favorite scenic roads, pull over at some piney place, relax, enjoy, save money.

Bring a date and you’ve got the makings for romance. Variations of the saddlebag picnic include the backpack breakfast and the Tour-Pak dinner. Drain a little motor oil into a tin can, light it, and you have instant ambience.

Low blood sugar can be dangerous, make you lose focus and do dumb things. On one long lost ride, at the first gas station we had seen in 133 miles, a hunger-dazed buddy accidentally filled his tank with diesel fuel. Cheap, non-perishable snacks like protein and granola bars, trail mix, dried fruits and jerky can be left in a saddlebag almost indefinitely.

Pack your bags, and set out in search of your own private dining.

Alternatives to dining out or bagging it include buying food and drink directly from supermarkets. This can be as good as bringing a pre-made meal, but fresher. Supermarkets sell chilled and room temperature drinks (cheaper). Both get the job done. Deli counters offer sandwiches and salads, or you can just buy some cheese, bread and a fine bottle of non-alcoholic wine (always check the discount bins for best vintages), make your own and have a damn romantic lunch somewhere, probably someplace beyond the parking lot.

In more fussy places and polite company, it may be thought buying raw meat to go is a recipe for disaster. Not so. With a little resourcefulness, aluminum foil, and a couple of hose clamps you can make ingenious use of the portable oven between your legs.

Portable outdoor grill, if you know how to utilize it.

Carefully wrap your raw thing in two overlapping layers of heavy-duty foil, fold over twice at both ends to seal and then clamp to your exhaust pipe. The higher up the pipe toward the motor the more done the dish, which by the way, is where the term, “piping hot” comes from. Cooking times, of course, vary and take a bit of trial and error, finding the sweet spots for rare to well done, but soon you’ll be enjoying many a hot, sumptuous mobile meal.

The old exhaust pipe barbecue trick has been around since the first burp of carbon monoxide, although few bikers these days have the daring and ingenuity to master it. Then there is the meal on the go, or otherwise known as road kill. As an old, grizzled biker once told me, “Nothing wrong with it, long as it’s still pretty fresh.”

Stay tuned for the next edition of The Budget Biker, where we will discuss cheap alternatives to clothes.


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    I have never succumbed to “Road Kill”… but I HAVE carried edibles on almost every ride. If I am doing more that “running errands” I throw on a Tank Bag that has a small roll-up tool kit, some “Snacks” [breakfast bars and such] and a canned drink and water. I am “pre-diabetic” and DO have to control sugar levels… and I have physical ‘issues’ if sugar gets too low. I also carry several pieces of gum. The “Mental” effect of Chewing can actually help reduce hunger.

  2. Marco

    I love this series. I also love moto-picnics: I can stop wherever the scenery is the prettiest and when my appetite calls. Well done.

  3. Phil

    I love being on a ride, seeing a great spot, stopping to have some lunch picnic style. Costco was selling some fold-up chairs that fit in the side bags (<22") for $39. Told a few friends and they bought them, too. Beat the hell out of REI's $100 chairs! Chairs and a small cooler filled with a sandwich and drink. Last picnic, we stopped on the side of the road on CA-33 overlooking over 40-miles of mountain/valley road from 3,500' West to the top of the cloud covered Pacific ocean. It was a pretty awesome view.

  4. Ayan kumar

    What a refreshing piece .

  5. Brian Graves

    Sometimes is not hunger but being thirsty. Always bring a small bottle of water (refill).

    • Rob Brooks

      True. Hydration is so important.


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