Riding abroad can be one of the very best things about motorcycling – exploring a foreign destination by bike is hard to beat. However, it pays to think about taking a trip as far in advance as possible to avoid putting yourself in a sticky situation, especially when you might not speak the local lingo.
The Institute of Advanced Motorists have recently published some basic guidelines to help those who might be taking their motorcycle abroad something to think about.
“A continental jaunt is a great way to explore your bike and take in some new roads and scenery, but proper planning is essential to making the trip a success” said Richard Gladman, IAM RoadSmart’s head of driving and riding standards. “Having all of your documentation to hand will assist in coping with any breakdown or incident and the emergency lines will always give you access to English speaking help”
The right documents
It’s worth checking your insurance documentation before going too as some policies won’t include riding abroad or in some instances will only cover you for a limited amount of time. You may also need to inform your insurer of your intention to ride outside the country too. Also, it’s worth finding out the European extension of your insurer as well if they have one, just in case the unfortunate happens. When abroad too, you’ll need to carry your insurance certificate too, and always make sure you carry paper copies of your documents too and keep them separate in case one gets lost accidentally.
Additional to your insurance documentation, you’ll also need to carry your driving licence, any travel documents and a visa if going further afield than Europe and also a vehicle registration V5 certificate and a European Health Insurance card. Finally, a valid passport is something you won’t get too far without.
Service your bike before you go
Your bike will also need to be capable of doing the trip too. If it’s getting near a service limit then get it sorted before going. Adequate breakdown cover will also avoid a very costly recovery bill should the bike not be able to complete the trip – the last thing you want to find yourself is stranded a couple of thousand miles from home with locals who don’t understand you. Tyres also need to be a considered, a big trip can see a lot of wear on your motorcycle’s rubber and while they may be legal at the start of the trip, they might not necessarily be at the end. If in doubt get them changed, you can always save and refit the old tyres if there’s still some life in them after - but it’s far better to be safe than sorry.
Don’t go anywhere without these essentials
Always take emergency essentials. This involves thinking about not only the bike, but yourself too. Don’t go anywhere without at least packing a small first aid kit – you never know when it might be needed. A basic tool kit is also essential, identify any tools that you’ll specifically need to remove panels or that fit common parts to your machine and make sure they’re included in your tool kit.
Duct tape and cable ties can also be the difference between a bike that is going nowhere and being able to continue your journey - don’t go anywhere without them. If you don’t want to take a whole roll of Duct tape then consider wrapping it around the stem of a screwdriver, it’ll save valuable space and still be there should you need it.
Know your route
While a sat-nav unit may well be the saving grace of many motorcyclists travelling abroad, there is always the chance that it could fail, however unlikely that may be. A phone can provide a good emergency backup however, it’s definitely worth checking with your provider before setting off what usage is included in your plan.
Some phone services won’t charge you for using your data in certain countries – some might charge a fortune though. Make sure you know what applies to you before setting off. It’s also worth carrying a paper map too and roughly knowing where you’re going before setting off. Taping some directions to your tank can help massively too – especially if you don’t have a sat-nav.
On the note of electronic devices too – if your bike doesn’t have a 12v socket or charging point then a power bank can keep items such as a phone or even things like a GoPro camera topped up while on the move and they’re relatively inexpensive to buy too. It’s also worth making sure you have the right electrical adapter to fit the country you’ll be travelling to as well – it can be notoriously difficult to find a suitable adapter once you leave the UK.
Check the local laws
It’s worth noting that different countries have different laws regarding riding. For example, in France you need to carry a breathalyser and that speed camera alerts must be turned off on your sat-nav. Or that in Spain, you’re not allowed to take a child under the age of 7 on the back of your bike.
Even knowing the blood alcohol limit is important, many countries in Europe have lower limits than the UK meaning that you could be over the legal limit, even if in the UK you may have been legally able to drive. In some countries such as Hungary and the Czech Republic it’s illegal to have any alcohol in the blood while driving at all. If in doubt, give the bottle a miss the night before.
It’s also beneficial to know if you’ll be travelling somewhere with toll-roads. If you’ll be doing any significant miles through France then it’s highly likely. It can be handy to keep some spare change in your tank bag or your credit card handy to make passage easier.
Good preparation is key to a successful trip. While 9 times out of 10 the trip will go smoothly without any major drama, there’s always that tie that you might find yourself in a bit of a pickle. Having the right documentation, cover and essentials will at the very least allow you to deal with a situation without too much hassle and at the minimum cost should something occur.
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