No other mode of vehicle gives you the exhilarating freedom that a motorbike allows; the raw speed and manoeuvrability is a godsend to speed demons worldwide. So it is perfectly natural for the adventurous biker to want to hit the road in Europe or America, or perhaps even further in the spirit of Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman who famously reached New York and South Africa on two wheels.
Once you’ve chosen your wheels – click here to find out more – then your first step is to pick up an International Driving Permit from the Post Office or AA, which will show your driving entitlements in different languages. You’ll need a registration document (V5C) and other items including insurance and MOT.
A European Health Insurance card is not obligatory but is a good idea, while various insurance forms on the Department of Health website will cover you for motorcycle travel. Remember, the minimum riding age in Europe is 18.
Ensure your bike is up to the task before you leave – a service and tyre pressure check should be mandatory, and remember to take a toolkit and spare key. Spend some time practicing riding with a load before you embark, as handling might be affected depending on the weight. If you’re hiring a vehicle make sure to ask to see the hire company’s safety certificates to check that they comply with the regulations of the country where you are travelling.
If you have an idea of the various countries you plan to visit then check the regulations prior to leaving. Wearing a helmet is mandatory across the world, while many countries insist on reflective clothing for safety in the event of an accident. The UK is one of the few countries in the world when we drive on the left, so concentrate on cornering and take regular breaks from the saddle to avoid tiredness and dangerous lapses. And if you don’t have any idea Roadtrooper may provide you with inspiration
Concentration is key to avoiding law-breaking, especially in countries where the metric speed system is used. The speed limit in France actually depends on weather conditions – in dry weather speeds of 90km/h (rural roads) up to 130km/h (highways) are permitted. These are lowered in wet conditions, and lowered further still to 50km/h in the fog.
New EU legislation was introduced last year which allowed states to exchange data on guilty drivers or riders, although the UK opted out.
Don’t think, however, that riding in a foreign country means you cannot and will not be caught; police are aware of the directive and will demand that guilty parties are made to pay any fines on the spot, even if they have to be taken to a cashpoint. Therefore keep a careful eye on your speedometer, and wherever you travel take plenty of the local currency in the event of a lapse; it is also useful in the event that a petrol station or café may not have a credit card machine.
American laws vary depending on states; a visit to the American Motorcyclist Association website shows that it is impossible to remember them all, especially when there are oddities such as the Public Act 97-743; introduced in Illinois last year which could impose a maximum fine of $100 for wheelies while over the speed limit. The website is comprehensive, covering everything from insurance and turn signals to laws on mufflers and handlebar heights.
Do a little research before crossing state borders, and indeed any country borders, and it should not be too much of an issue – the ride is intended to be a holiday, not a traumatic time of nervously watching over your shoulder for police.