Motorcycle Touring Advice
• Have a small removable document wallet / holder or bag attached to the bike so that you can quickly store tickets / motorway tolls / loose change etc without having to get off the bike.
• Carry spare set of bike keys - but don't leave them on the bike or locked in the luggage!
• Map of country attached to either tank bag or a simple Touratech handlebar wallet is perfect for quick route referencing.
• Always keep your helmet visor down or semi open when riding in Europe as the European flies (especially the well trained German ones) are far fitter than an English fly - and bigger!
• Always wear fully approved and protective motorcycle clothing - you won't be planning on someone deciding to give you a knock. Generally lighter touring clothing, with approved protectors and ideally some water proofing. Often worth carrying additional light weight waterproofs for wearing over riding clothing - in heavy storm conditions.
• RIDING ON THE RIGHT * Get into the habit of always reminding yourself 'ride on right' every time you do anything on the bike! When you start off or any manoeuvre maybe run through your mind 'RIGHT - ON THE RIGHT'. The biggest reason for accidentally crossing sides is if you decide to cross lanes and park on the left side for any reason. It's then all too easy to go into auto pilot when you next set off! So, if you do have to cross lanes and stop on the left for any reason - THINK about what you've just done and pay special attention when you set off again!
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• Driving licence + an international one can be useful, but is not essential for Europe as any member EU state should recognise the full UK licence.
• Bike insurance. You may need to inform your insurance company, but again insurances should cover all member EU states nowadays. Just make sure you are in a member state if you need to claim.
• Vehicle V5 registration document and MOT certificate. Legal requirement that you carry them and they are occasionally asked for at borders, especially Switzerland!
• Bike breakdown insurance. Compulsory for touring and should cover the whole of Europe and eastern Europe. Most good policies will provide a wide range of useful benefits and is essential for saving you undue stresses in the event of an incident whilst travelling overseas. (see section on breakdowns for more information). BMW includes quite a good level of cover for the first two years with their current new motorcycles. AA or RAC cover also looks quite comprehensive but I've never had cause to use any of their services.
• Photocopies of all documents can be useful in case you lose originals.
• Contact telephone numbers for any organisations / banks / insurances which you are using throughout your tour. Ie, note the numbers of all credit cards along with the overseas phone numbers for notifying losses.
• Personal & medical insurance, again essential for touring. Always check the latest up to date policy wording & make sure there's no motorcycling exclussions!
• All tour riders should carry a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to receive necessary healthcare during a visit to a European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland. The E111 form is no longer valid. It's quick, easy and free to get one online. Just Google "EHIC" for the current web page.
• Ferry bookings; most tour operators use ticketless bookings and in this modern age tickets are not required. The ferry company will have a note of your motorcycle registration number along with a booking reference, which will be all you require. It's advisable to have these to hand along with your passport as you proceed through the check in and border controls at both departure and arrival points.
If you are going on a bike tour then be sure you have the right cover, visit "Motorcycle Insurers" to see a full range of policies with online instant quotes.
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Always try to keep a mental note of where you are and on what road. Not always easy when you're doing 180 km/h but a lot easier if you've got sat nav.
If you do break down, first get yourself to safety and away from any blind spots, then make the bike safe and visible - use warning triangle and hazard lights.
Make a note of the bike faults and any symptoms prior to breakdown - this may help diagnosis and could also be useful for reference when you come to reclaiming any repair / recovery costs.
Keep a log book of everything that you have told the breakdown agents along with their responses. Invaluable if things don't go to plan! Note names of who you speak to, time and date of calls and action agreed.
Ideally, always stay with your bike - possession is 9/10 'ths of the law! You can then oversee the collection and diagnosis of faults. Some recovery agents will offer lots of additional benefits if they can't get you going again within x time of inspection or arrival at a garage. Ie BMW offer onward travel / hire car / hotel costs (with limitations - so read their policy! & it is a policy - you don't get a man from BMW in Germany come out to you with a swanky Mercedes full of BMW parts!) BMW's current deal is; repair within 4 hours of arrival at the dealer or they'll move you another way! If you're there with the bike you can keep the pressure on or quickly get moving if things look terminal. If you've gone to a hotel or worse still accepted a hire car, you'll have no idea whatsoever what's happening - or when - to your bike!
Leading on to replacement bikes in the event of breakdown. In most agent's eyes these will come with 4 wheels and a steering wheel. I would initially advise against taking a hire car because; a). It's another responsibility for you - you'll have insurance excesses to pay and possible hassles having to return the vehicle at the end of the hire which might be 200 miles away from where your bike's been dispatched to! b). After riding a bike in the European sunshine you'll hate being stuck in a car! c). Without a car, your repair agent will have more responsibility to get you and/or your bike either mobile again or back to your home, with potentially more onward travel benefits which will ultimately be less stressful for you.
If you want to get things moving fast - do it yourself! Ie arrange a hotel when and where suits you. Arrange your own taxis to get where you want to go ie back to a hotel if your bike cannot be repaired.
Keep all receipts for all expenses incurred as a direct result of the incident.
Advise someone back at home what's happening and set up a facility to communicate by email if possible. This will save a fortune in overseas phone charges. Otherwise, maybe look at getting a local mobile sim card.
THE BIG ONE - Take photographs of everything following any incident, along with names of witnesses / contact names / numbers for anyone who handles your bike or who witnesses any incident. PLUS - Photograph the bike and anything left with the bike, i.e. luggage. FINALLY - make a note of the Speedo reading and ensure that this is included on the proof of collection certificate that you get from the recovery agency.
I once had a difficult situation when a BMW garage had stated that they had road tested a faulty machine, when in fact they had somehow managed to do this without the Speedo hardly moving - even though they insisted they had tested the bike for over 100 KM's at 180 KM's/h. Luckily I had recorded the mileage in and out of the dealer and documented it, which proved useful when it was discovered that the GS left the dealer with a broken rocker adjuster!