Experience riding as fast as you want on a German autobahn
With sixth gear engaged and the throttle open to the stop, the three-lane-wide autobahn funnels ever narrower into a tiny apex in the distance.
Accented orange by the rising sun on the horizon, every part of the Suzuki Hayabusa beneath me is functioning at the very zenith of its design brief; the engine, aerodynamics, chassis and tyres all being tested like never before. As a rider, I am too.
Even knowing what I know after 25 years of performance testing bikes, this is new territory. When speed testing at MCN’s test track there’s only a mile and a half of runway to max a bike out, at best five seconds of flat-out experience - and to be fair this is usually enough.
Hyperbike reviews from MCN
- Suzuki Hayabusa review
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- Honda Blackbird review
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Now, here in the middle of Germany, I’m rushing for mile after mile – 3.1 of them every minute, to be precise – on an open public road and it’s like nothing I’ve ever done before.
The thrill of riding at these speeds for this length of time overloads your senses, the rush supercharges your normal attributes so you feel almost super-human; strength, vision and concentration amplified by a factor of 1000.
I focus on the road and nothing but the road. Everything else is cancelled out. Humanity is almost stripped back to the point where your body becomes a bag of reactions responding to the stimulus bombarding your eyes.
I focus only as far as I can see, half a mile or so, which at this speed is just nine seconds into the future, then ease the bike gently from one side as the mighty road changes direction.
This particular trip was with a bunch of mates on the way to Salzburg, which saw us travel through Germany on the A8 heading south towards Munich. We left our motel on the outskirts of Augsberg at dawn and pitched up at a service area just after junction 75 to fuel up ahead of our high-speed assault.
This section of autobahn was of course unrestricted (around 70% of Germany’s motorway network has no speed limit, the rest is either 80mph or variable) but added to that it was also three lanes which gives us plenty of room.
These parts of the autobahn are prime for exploring what your bike can do because at off-peak times there’s plenty of room for slower traffic to keep well out of the way.
For me, part of the thrill is witnessing the unbelievable closing speeds as you approach slower vehicles, and the subsequent blink-of-an-eye overtakes as you pass them on the left.
But when riding on the autobahn, don’t assume that just because you’re on a bike that you’ll automatically be the fastest thing around.
On the way down to Munich we encountered many cars in the 180mph speed range, and even more of them cruising at 150mph, which is terrifying but true. So keep your eyes and ears open to the sights and sounds of those German straight-six and V8 super saloons.
BMW M3s and top-spec Mercedes E and C class will loom large in your mirrors, left-hand indicator flashing orange as a signal for you to pull out of their way.
Whereas only a handful of exotic and modified cars are able to achieve such huge speeds, the list of bikes that are up to the task is long and distinguished.
Simply pick any 1000cc sportsbike or hyperbike from the last 15 years. But putting high-speed hijinks aside for one moment, even if you’ve no desire to max your bike out, there’s still something very appealing about riding unrestricted sections of autobahn.
For me, it’s the liberation that comes from being allowed to decide exactly how fast you want to ride, based on the facts available to you at the time.
If the road ahead is clear, the weather fine and visibility good, why not make some progress rather than being legally enforced to sit at a predetermined speed limit... which here in the UK seems to be reducing all the time. And it seems to be a similar case in Germany too, with more unrestricted sections of autobahn being slapped with limits as each year goes by.
One final thing to remember, though, is keeping an eye on your fuel. Germany’s service stations are plentiful, but when you’re doing top speeds for sustained periods, it’s easy to get caught out as your bike guzzles the gas.
From a full tank to fuel light took just 54 miles whilst riding the Hayabusa during my A8 blast, so be prepared to shatter your mpg and savour a riding experience that you’ll never forget.
Germany’s first high-speed road... The Avus
Germany’s first stretch of high-speed dual carriageway was commissioned in 1913 and was used as a both a toll road and race circuit. Called Avus, the road on the Berlin outskirts included two six-mile dual carriageways linked by high-speed banked (43°!) hairpins.
The track held its first race in 1921 then was opened to the public for a fee of 10 Marks. It held the 1926 and 1959 German Formula One Grand Prix.
The track was finally decommissioned in 1999 following safety concerns and the straights now form part of the Bundesautobahn 115. The old control tower (which up until recently was used as a motel and restaurant) and also the wooden grandstand still remain.
Be fast but safe down the Autobahn
- Make sure your bike is in top condition: It’s more vital than ever that your chain and tyres are perfectly adjusted and in good working order. Give everything a proper once over and make sure that nothing is loose.
- Pick a time of day that is not likely to be busy: Even though Germany’s road network is well maintained and efficient, don’t rule out getting stuck in traffic at peak times. Very early summer mornings are the best time to do this.
- Be honest with yourself: Are you up to it? Are you experienced enough? Have you had enough sleep? Is there any alcohol in your system from the night before? If you have any doubts, don’t do it.
- It’s legal, but... Although there is no speed limit on unrestricted sections, it is recommended you do not exceed 130kph. If you exceed this and you are involved in an accident, there have been precedents where you are deemed to carry more blame.
How to do it: Your next step
There are a few websites that give some good advice and guidance on seeking out the best locations – autobahnspeedhunter.com features a map of all the unrestricted sections, however you should always double check on arrival that speed limits haven’t been imposed.
The nearest sections to us in the UK are across the Belgian border just east of Aachen, across the Dutch border at Venlo and east of Nijmegen, and from France at Strasbourg.