Motorcycling abroad

Posted on December 2nd, 2013 by GEM Motoring Assist

Taking your motorbike abroad?

Taking your motorbike abroad for the first time? Or simply looking for some helpful tips on riding abroad? Our checklist will help with your planning and safety. Don’t regard it as in any way exhaustive, but we hope it will form a useful basis for your European holiday. Have a great ride!

Checking your bike

Don’t expect to leap on to your bike and take it thousands of miles around mainland Europe without some prior planning and preparation.

Do check the tread of your tyres and decide whether it’s enough to see you through your trip – with plenty to spare. Police in Europe are strict about types of tyre and levels of tread, so don’t run the risk of a hefty on-the-spot fine.

Many garages and dealers need a couple of weeks’ notice for a service, so make sure you don’t leave this until the last minute.

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 You’re not going to have a lot of carrying capability, even if your panniers seem vast! If you want to plan really well, then you could post some clothes on to your various scheduled night stops, but few will manage to be quite that organised.

Take some hand-wash detergent with you and choose clothes that will drip-dry.

It’s a fact that the less luggage you carry, the lighter your bike will be. This is good news because a heavy bike will exhaust you quickly.

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Journey planning

 Plan your overnight stops, do your homework and find out about hotel parking facilities for your bike. Will you be able to keep it locked up and under cover?

Consider a ‘bad weather alternative’ route for each day’s riding. A spectacular ride across mountain passes and through breath-taking gorges can lose its appeal if the weather turns bad.

If you use a GPS, try to see it only as a back-up to your own careful planning rather than trusting it to get you to the right place every time. Besides, safety dictates you will want to focus on what’s up ahead, not on a little screen on your dashboard.

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Money matters

 Shop around to find the best deals on getting foreign currency – and you should be able to avoid paying hefty commission rates.

Order in plenty of time, and you can have currency or travellers’ cheques delivered to your door at no extra cost.

If you buy on line, you will generally find commission-free deals. However, check the exchange rate you’re being offered is fair.

If you use cash machines abroad, expect your bank or card company to make charges – taking out £100 will typically cost an extra £4.25 to £4.50.

Take some travellers’ cheques if you’re heading to more remote parts where you may not find many ATMs!

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 Don’t be tempted to cover too much ground in one day. Set strict limits  to your daily mileage (400 maximum, or 300 maximum if you’re carrying a passenger).

Try to take a day off riding every three or four days.

Plan carefully when it comes to finding fuel. Remember that many French fuel stations these days require a French credit card with PIN number – not very useful if your tank is down to its last fumes and it’s the middle of the night.

Watch out for fuel stations near national borders. If you come up against a number of fuel stations on your side of a border crossing , then you’ll probably find fuel will be more expensive in the next country, so fill up before making the crossing.

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Road signs and signals

 The STOP sign is used throughout continental Europe and the world. And STOP is what it means. Your wheels must stop turning when you draw up to a junction with a STOP sign. 

In many areas traffic signals are turned off or flash yellow at night. Usually in such cases signs are in place next to the signals and these then control the situation. Bear in mind that traffic signals, while fully operating, override signs.

Diamond signs indicate priority. Red triangles are warnings. Red circles are restrictions. Blue circles are requirements. Squares and rectangles give guidance.

A train level crossing without barriers is indicated by the three subseqeunt triangle signs on top of a diagonally hashed post. A flashing red beacon and/or continuous bell warns of an approaching train. When the way is clear, the beacon changes to white or amber, and/or the bell ceases.

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 We won’t be able to help you much when you’re out in the sticks, but it’s worth remembering that most signs denoting town centres will be in variation on the ‘centre’ theme: Zentrum, Centre, Centrum, Centro Citta or something similar.

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Organised tours

 There are many organisations offering motorcycle tours. We are listing just a few which specialise in European riding:

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 Most theft in Europe is of the ‘petty’ kind, rarely involving an assault or confrontation.

  • Try not to flaunt your cash and don’t act like a tourist
  • Take note of who’s around you before you start using a cash machine

As suggested above, check with the hotels you’re planning to use about their overnight parking arrangements. Ideally you will be able to lock your bike away at night.


Accidents and breakdowns

  • If you have been involved in an accident, you must stop.
  • Call the police if necessary. The emergency telephone number in EU countries is 112.
  • Exchange details with the other driver(s) or rider(s). Your insurer will have supplied forms for this.
  • Obtain the names and addresses of any witnesses.
  • Make a careful note of the position and circumstances of the incident. Take photographs as well, if possible.
  • Contact your insurance company immediately with details of what happened. They will have supplied you with an emergency contact telephone number. They will also probably need notification in writing.
  • If your bike breaks down you should pull over if possible – for your own safety and in order not to impede other traffic.
  • Call for assistance. On motorways it is important to use an emergency telephone. These are located every 2km and will connect you to an official breakdown operator. On other roads, call the emergency breakdown number provided by your insurer.

The information on this Site is provided on the understanding that GEM Motoring Assist is not rendering legal or other advice. You should consult your own professional advisers as to legal or other advice relevant to any action you wish to take in connection with this website.

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