Successful Motorcycle Touring

One of the many joys of motorcycling is the freedom of the road, exploring new places and adventuring - but expeditions like this can go wrong, with unforeseen problems. Here is a guide to help you avoid pitfalls and to minimise the dangers and problems, and to help you plan and carry out a successful bike touring holiday.

Rob Davis, Telford, Shropshire UK

(BMW F800GT and Honda NT650 Deauville)

My 1981 CX500A (now sold) taking a short rest whilst crossing the Pyrenees in May 2008, the location was 42.491239 / 0.520401.

I very much encourage feedback and suggestions for this web site! Was it useful to you? Would you like to see more information, do you have any comments or ideas of your own?

You must manually remove the extra 'z' from the email address and be sure to put Deauville into either the subject line or message body, to bypass my spam filters.

Paste any of the GPS co-ordinates into Google Earth to see the locations in detail or in Street View.


The 2018 Motorcycle Adventure has some tentative plans but no decisions will be made until November. The 2017 event was a great success, the fourth year for me at the Luarca cottage (see further down the page) and magnificent riding to Lugo and the Asturias region of Northern Spain.


Return to the Deauville Web Resource. Here is another excellent site on motorcycle touring - don't be put off by the name!

There are some Youtube videos of previous touring holidays, see my account robdavistelford and the detailed notes at the foot of this web page.

The Ride - Getting There

The ride is what these trips are all about. We all want to get to places, but an easy mistake is to plan a trip which is too many miles. This puts pressure on you to complete the journey, and can force you to ride faster for longer than you should.

Looking at the proposed route, Tom says: "Fine, that's just down the road." Dick says : "OK, that's a good day's ride." Harry says : "Blimey, that's a three day adventure, with two overnight stops."

I advise that for those new to European touring and the greater distances involved, an average of 100 or 150 miles a day is a sensible figure and even this can be beyond reach if you want to dawdle at any given location.

On an eight or nine day tour, anything more than a total of 2,000 miles means long hours in the saddle and a great deal of highly dull and featureless motorway work. In the past we have done as much as 2,700 miles in nine days, but we saw far too much tarmac and not enough of our boots through the bottom of a beer glass.

This is the Gorge road (42.489692 / 0.462411) between El Run and Seira, Spain, twelve miles of stunning riding. It took longer than you might think because the scenery was so amazing that we kept having to stop and take photographs!

May 2008; the bike is my 1981 CX500 (now sold)

Riding the Pyrenees in May 2013

European roads are wide, scenic and empty, with picturesque villages and countryside where - believe me - cruising along at 55 mph in top gear with the engine running at a gentle purr gives you time to relax in the saddle, enjoy the scenery, and is a sheer delight.

Almost every community will have a bar / café, invariably a friendly place where locals meet up to pass the time. By all means blast along toll motorways at 85 mph "just to get there" but do a lot of dawdling as well. It's worth it.

Riding through France in May 2013

What mileage you plan to clock up depends on your personal preferences. You definitely do not want to wake up on Thursday morning - in Andorra - with the realisation that you have to catch a ferry - at Calais - that same evening. This doesn't happen to us because we plan a great deal before we go, but it's an easy mistake to make.

Left the Millau Viaduct, France (44.078878 / 3.022105) , the most astonishing man-made object I have ever seen (May 2008 and May 2013).

Riding the Viaduct in May 2013

Opposite the Kehlsteinhaus or "Eagle's Nest" (47.611426 / 13.042159) at Obersalzburg, Bavaria, Germany (May 2010).

Certainly the more experienced riders who are used to the greater distances of European roads can easily cover an average mileage well in excess of 150 a day. It's up to you and what kind of bike holiday you want to structure.

As a beginner to European touring, don't underestimate the distances compared to UK roads. It can really take you by surprise. Plan your trip (see later down the page).

The longest leg I have completed in a day was 481 miles in completely filthy weather (Saumur to Argelès-sur-Mer, France). On arrival I was riding raggedly and feeling completely knackered.

If you want a tarmac holiday, I won't argue with you but take it from me you will see places where you will say afterwards - "I wish we'd stayed a while at St-Wherever-Sur-Mer 'cos it looked like a nice place to stop over."

Plan a rest day into your timetable, and be prepared to sacrifice one or more of your destinations if time goes against you. A puncture can swallow half a day.

Left Neuschwanstein Castle (47.557499 / 10.749626) near Füssen in Bavaria, Germany (May 2012). This castle was the inspiration for Walt Disney's fairy-tale castle logo.

You can see Julia Bradbury explore this area on the 'German Wanderlust' series on Youtube, here and here. It was this programme which inspired our visit.

Where riding is concerned, especially in European hot summers, it's very easy to become personally dehydrated. This problem creeps up on you and then strikes with back and kidney-area pain, dizziness and general malaise.

If you are feeling thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Never skip the chance to drink, even if you are not noticeably thirsty.

We prompt each other to drink liquids and we always drink at fuel stops - not fizzy drinks - we've found that bottled chilled tea is the best, being widely available at fuel stops. Always use the toilet at fuel stops, even if you don't think that you need to go.

Mike Hedger adds : "Keep small change to hand and expect to pay to use European motorway service toilets. The cost is around a Euro and is usually recoverable against subsequent purchases in the adjacent shop/restaurant. Always useful to keep a minipack of tissues with you also - just in case the facilities aren't as fully equipped as you'd hoped (if you take my drift)."

If you have to put on foul weather kit, be aware that emerging from a rain storm into European summer sun will make you physically overheat inside your wet weather gear in less than fifteen minutes; this has happened to me. We'd covered thirty or forty miles in the rain and then hit bright sunshine. I was suddenly aware that I was hot, then very hot, then the greyness came creeping in at the corners of my vision.

This all happened in ten minutes. I managed to dive down a side road and just got the stand down before I more or less collapsed and managed to get my bike clothes off just in time, but it was a close call and I almost fainted. It was the best part of an hour before I had cooled down enough to continue riding.

Preparing yourself - Costing your Holiday

For the last few years I've been doing this on a spreadsheet, which has proved to be remarkably accurate. Once you have agreed your dates and general timetable, set up a spreadsheet document like this:-

You can see that every day's actual or anticipated mileage is noted, with provision for calculating costs based on your particular bike's fuel consumption, plus any extra costs you need to include. By completing the necessary sections such as €-to-£ exchange rate, ferry/tunnel tickets and personal pocket money, you can budget for your trip.

Please email me (remove the extra 'z' in the address) if you would like a copy of the current spreadsheet, which you can then edit for your own costings.

NOTE that many retail outlets in the Eurozone will not accept Euro notes over €100 - and some are reluctant to accept €50 notes. If you are getting your Euros from your local Bank or Post Office, insist on notes no greater than €20.

This restriction has come about because many criminals are using high-denomination notes for drug trafficking, money-laundering and other illegal purposes. There are also fake high-value notes in circulation. If you are compelled to tender high-value banknotes, ascertain in advance that the cashier will accept them, and be tolerant if the notes have to be electronically validated; this is a very common procedure with all Euro banknotes at tills and cashier stations.

Preparing your motorcycle

Engine Size

You can tour successfully on any powered two wheeler which is legal in the countries through which you intend to travel, but the distances you can cover are really governed by the engine size of your bike. I am sure than there are those who have made their way from the UK down to southern Spain on a moped, taking a fortnight to get there, but in real terms anything less than a 250 is going to be uncomfortable for the necessary long hours in the saddle; a 125cc bike on long rides is going to be very hard work. Also consider the amount of kit you need to take, and how you will carry it.

In practical terms I'd say that the minimum engine size needed for anything more than a long weekend would be a 400, with a 500 or 650 far better for holding up on long European motorways. More importantly, are you ready and able to tackle such long trips? Is your bike capable of carrying a top box, tank bag, hard or soft panniers, a pillion-seat strap-on ditty bag? You'll need all or at least some of these accessories to make your trip feasible.

Tank Bags

Tank bags are excellent and a very useful accessory, well worth buying. They're very handy places to put kit that you want readily to hand - paperwork (maps, ferry tickets, copies of insurance etc), ready cash for road or bridge tolls, camera, visor cleaner, phone and satnav etc. Most tank bags have padded 'ears' containing magnets, which hang down against the tank's side. With a safety or retaining strap around the bike's headstock they are quite secure. Their topmost section is usually a clear-view sleeve for maps or satnav. When removed from the bike, a tank bag can double as a backpack.

However one disadvantage of using the standard magnetic-pad tank bags is that it's very easy to scratch the paintwork of your bike whist removing the bag, typically for refuelling, especially if the magnets happen to pick up any metal fragments - or even your keys! (Don't ask! I once spent hours looking for my lost keys, only to find them attached to the tank bag's magnets.) If you use the magnetic-type tank bag, I advise laying a thin cotton shaped piece between the bag's underside and the tank, to protect the paintwork.

Click the link here to see tank bags on eBay.

For 2012 I bought myself a 'Bagster' leather colour-matched and shaped petrol tank cover for my Deauville. There are versions of the Bagster for just about every bike. Apart from looking neat and protecting the tank's paintwork, the Bagster's tank bag doesn't have magnetic pads - it fixes to the tank cover with two snap connectors at the rear and two quick-release rings at the front. Thus it is easily hinged clear to refuel, and the tank cover has a shaped cutaway for the filler cap. This was an expensive purchase but a one-off one, and I'll probably leave the tank cover on permanently. The bag also doubles as a backpack.

Bagster tank cover - and with the tank bag in 'low' mode. The white rings are just cable ties I added to made unzipping the bag easier. The black straps are where the tank cover attaches to the tank's edges, hidden behind the Deauville's bodywork. Another strap at the front of the bag can - if you wish - be looped around the headstock or the front frame.

Front and rear attachment points. For refuelling the rear clips are released and the bag hinges forward.

Bag in fully extended "high" mode, and the rider's eye view with the fully extended bag. Plenty of room here to see the clocks, or the satnav on its mid-handlebar mounting bracket.


Panniers

My Honda NT650 Deauville has integral lockable panniers (as does the newer 700 Deauville) and it's possible to buy the larger "fat" lids to give improved carrying capacity. Many other bikes - like Pan Europeans and BMWs - come with integral attachment points for their own detachable panniers. For some bikes you can buy bolt-on rails and "hard" or lockable and detachable panniers to give extra carrying space and security.

If your bike is not equipped for "hard" panniers, you are advised to invest in a pair of "soft" or "throwover" panniers - rather like old-fashioned saddlebags - which sit either side of the pillion area, although they don't interfere with carrying a passenger. This type of pannier will generally be the zip-expandable sort with detachable waterproof covers. They are retained in place by their own straps, often passed under the saddle and assisted by standard bungee straps to make semi-permanent luggage. They could be bundled together on the pillion seat, as a simple backrest.

Whether fixed "hard", or throwover "soft", any kind of panniers are a great help in managing your luggage.. Click the link here to view eBay throwover panniers.

You can buy waterproof 'ditty bags' which strap to your pillion seat if you don't like the idea of soft panniers, or just need extra carrying capacity.

Legalities

Insurance is of course compulsory everywhere you go. But note that it is mandatory in many European countries to ride with the bike headlight on all the time. Personally I think that this is a daft idea, because all drivers can see then is a blazing headlight with little idea about how far away it is, and I've wired an off switch into my low beam circuit, relying more on the white LED chin lights (see my main Deauville page for photos) to make myself more visible. High visibility waistcoats, or riding jackets with built-in hi-vis panels, are starting to become mandatory in Europe, although legislation (and how rigidly such is enforced!) differs between countries.

Pierre Grogan says "It is mandatory in France for a motorcyclist to ride with his main lights on. So much so that all French sold bikes have the headlamps hardwired into the start, it is impossible for me to turn them off short of cutting the wires. This then brings me to the next point for bikers in France. It is mandatory for the helmets to have a reflective patch front, back and both sides, this patch to be about the size of the first thumb joint of a man. This latter gets 3 points on the licence if caught without , this is European legislation but only France has implemented it fully!!"

He goes on to say (May 2012) "Just a quick update on some law changes for vehicles. GPs units may not now show fixed camera positions, they can only show zones of danger (most GPs companies have made the change for France). Also the local authorities are removing the camera signs (if they feel like it) and replacing them sometimes with a forward electronic speed readout which tells you how fast you are going and then a camera may be seen within a couple of kilometres. However be aware these electronic forward signs are not always accurate and some 15% under read by about 20khp on 110 so just because a machine gives you a speed double check it against your speedo. Not all cameras however have forward signs and they have now introduced 2 more shapes. There is one new one in Limoges on the A20 southbound which is just a tall round column about 4 metres tall and which has no warning whatsoever!! The others are smaller versions of the old big square dustbins."

With effect from 1 July 2012 all motorists in France must carry a breathalyser (blow in the bag type) including motorcyclists, they are cheaper in France being 1€ each in the supermarkets. Phil Russell says "Yes you are supposed to carry two of them, but there's no penalty if you are stopped and you don't have them. A typical French compromise!"

Regarding the wearing of reflective clothing, a correspondent living in France says "There never was a 'plan to force motorcyclists to wear Hi-Viz vests'. That was hysterical and inaccurate reporting by the UK bike press. The proposed rule was for a minimum of 150 cm2 of reflective (not fluoro) material between waist and shoulderline. Sounds a lot, but it's about the same as one side of a CD case, and it could be made up of lots of small elements. Most motorcycle textile clothing sold today already incorporates that much reflective material.".

He goes on to comment on French speed traps "Also worth adding that on French motorways you need to be doubly careful when approaching large motorway services. Cunning Gendarmes hide away under bridges (rather like trolls), clock you with their radar, then pull you over into the services where they know you'll be able to get cash from the hole in the wall to pay the on the spot fine. That way they have less paperwork to do!"

I asked at a motorcycle shop in Abbeville if this reflective sticker law was generally enforced. They said "Only to pass the driving test." The correspondent living in France added "Reflective helmet stickers are indeed compulsory. But I've never heard of anyone being stopped for not having them. I've been living in France on and off for 20 years and have been stopped many times, but they've never mentioned helmet stickers."

Preventative Maintenance

Take every possible precaution to prevent mechanical breakdowns. First of all ensure that you have recovery insurance cover so that you can summon help if needs be. This may simply be a breakdown van which can get a punctured tyre to a bike dealer, or it may be a complete trailer recovery to where you live or are staying.

Many insurers provide this cover with their normal policy but it's worth double checking that the cover extends to whichever countries you intend to visit or pass through. You can buy add-on insurance if your policy doesn't cover Europe, or doesn't cover breakdown at all. If you set out without breakdown / recovery insurance you must be completely bonkers.

However, check your policy's small print as most insurers will not repatriate your bike if its market value is less than the cost of repatriation. In such a case you are entirely on your own.

Treat your bike to a full and complete service a week or so before departure; lubricants, filters, brake/disc pads check and so on. Whether you do this yourself or have it done at a dealer's is up to you, but many DiY servicing tasks are covered by my Deauville Web Resource.

Phil (12-Feb-2015) comments : "I would suggest doing the servicing at least a couple of weeks before departure. In case of mistakes while fitting something or servicing cock ups."

As a precaution against punctures we carry the 'wiggly worm' repair kits. These consist of : a round file to ream out the hole caused by the nail etc; adhesive, rubber inserts, insertion tool, CO2 gas cartridges and their valve attachment.

The kit comes in a handy zip-folder and is about the size of a couple of packs of cigarettes. We also carry a small electric air pump.

Try your local bike dealer, or paste "motorcycle puncture repair kit" into eBay.

These shouldn't cost any more than £10 to £15 so are a good idea to carry with you.

Take particular note of your tyre tread depth because this should still be legal when you arrive home. Wear rates depend enormously on so many factors, but for a rear tyre, if you allow 1mm of wear for every 1,000 miles of your planned journey you can't go much wrong.

Let's say that you have 4mm tread before departure and you plan a 2,000 miles tour, you'll still be OK when you get back. But if you have just 2mm of tread before you leave then you may well to have to replace that tyre half way round your trip. This aspect of preparation is easy to overlook.

If you plan a seriously long trip you may even have to make an oil and oil filter change - are you going to carry a spare filter? You can almost certainly get the oil at a service station but are you going to do a roadside change, or find a dealer and put the bike in, with the associated delay to your itinerary?

Have you the tools necessary to do a roadside repair or maintenance job?

A fellow rider's CX500 (left) wept coolant from the radiator during our 2008 touring holiday, and he spent a considerable amount of time underneath it, trying to stop the leak.

In terms of spare parts I would carry anything which constitutes a roadside repair. Anything more than this is either a workshop or recovery job. I normally carry the following, so here is a check list for you:-

new clutch cable [.....]

new throttle cables [.....]

front brake lever [.....]

clutch lever [.....]

a full set of all electric bulbs [.....]

fuses [.....]

electric insulating tape [.....]

puncture repair kit or tyre sealant aerosol [.....]

long tie wraps [.....]

a box of assorted nuts, bolts, and washers [.....]

First Aid kit [.....]

visor cleaning spray (maybe a spare helmet visor) [.....]

Plus a toolkit comprehensive enough to fix anything that isn't a workshop job

Crossing the Channel (Dover/Folkestone - Calais) - Ferry or Tunnel?

If you are in a hurry and you don't mind the extra expense, use the Tunnel; the UK end's post code is CT18 8XX. A more bland way to travel has yet to be invented, but it's logistically easy and once the train begins the journey, it's quick - about 40 minutes. We've never had any seasickness on a Channel Ferry crossing, but the Tunnel is the only alternative. Like all such journeys they are booked most economically well in advance.

If you've had a long ride to Dover and board the train straight away, the transit time of a Tunnel crossing doesn't give you the opportunity to have a meal or a good rest before continuing into France. You can pause your journey on arrival, and use the restaurant facilities at the terminals themselves. We found in May 2012 and August 2016 that the general booking-in and departure/arrival is painless. Once within the Tunnel compound, follow the signs for "FRANCE" at the UK end or "GRANDE-BRETAGNE" at the French end.

UK Tunnel terminal is 51.095701 / 1.121776, the French end is 50.930300 / 1.823268.

Motorcycles travelling via the Tunnel are loaded at the end of each of the dozen or so carriages, taking up 'dead space' that isn't enough to accommodate a car. Be prepared for the staff to ask you to wait until they prompt you to board, and don't be put off by a possibly long ride down the length of the train carriage interior. See the Youtube video of me passing through the Tunnel concourse at the French end (Coquelles) on my Deauville, August 2016. It shows me working my way through the various security, marshalling and boarding areas. 'Waiting' time is edited out.

Once on board the train, there is nowhere to sit and nothing to see; it can get very hot aboard but there are air vents by the windows and toilets located on the upper sections of the two-level carriages, by the staircases. There is another YouTube sequence here of our bikes descending the ramp and entering the train carriage. Note that flash photography isn't allowed once inside the carriage.

You can book Tunnel journeys here - remember the prices are EACH WAY not RETURN.

Using the Tunnel is worth losing the 'rest time' of the ferry crossing, bearing in mind that these are about every three or four hours, and depending on how early you arrive at the ferry terminal, I would say that the total 'ferry crossing time' is at least three hours, allowing for marshalling, getting on and getting off at the other end.

The Channel Tunnel trains run every 15 or 20 minutes and if your timing is right, an hour after booking in you could be in France. A time saving of at least two hours. Although prebooking is always best, on a motorcycle you should have no trouble just turning up on spec or earlier/later than booked. Having used the tunnel we were able to penetrate deeper into France on the outbound trip before stopping overnight, thus knocking more miles off the next day's run, and have more time in hand on the way back. The prices between the Tunnel and Ferry are getting close together.

Such costs vary a lot but for looking at the prices scheduled for May 2016, for a bike and rider it's £90 for the Tunnel and £65 for the ferry, this is for a 10 day return. I have heard rumours that you can turn up on a bike on spec and get on a ferry crossing for a tenner or less - if you can substantiate this, let me know! We prefer to book our crossings to ensure that our timetable isn't disrupted.

If you must travel 'on spec', you are far more likely to be able to quickly get across to France via the Tunnel crossing than on the Ferry.


Here's a very handy tip if you are crossing by ferry, and cabins or reclining-seats are compulsory, not so much on Dover-Calais but more likely on longer overnight crossings such as Plymouth-Santander. If you are travelling in a group, the booking web sites don't make it very clear that most of the cabins are the four-berth (2+2) type. It's extremely easy to book four passages and then finding when you are aboard ship that you have in fact booked and paid for four cabins!

Suppose that you are leading a party of four riders. You book four passages, but just one with a cabin, and share the extra cost of that one cabin between you. The other three riders have just been allocated reclining seats to sleep in, but these seats will never be used. You can therefore all leave your helmets and bike clothes safely locked up in the cabin and change into comfortable clothes for the crossing. Believe me, you won't want to spend the night in the reclining-seats area, along with the Lost Legion of the Damned, with nowhere safe to leave your riding kit.

Portsmouth or Plymouth to Santander is about 20 hours' transit time. On arrival at the ferry terminal, the traveller with the cabin booked will be given one swipe card for the cabin's door, but you can get extra swipe cards at the reception / information counter, once you are aboard the ship.

< Two/Four Berth Cabin on the Plymouth-Santander ferry

The "four-berth" compartments usually don't have the two upper bunks showing when you first go into the compartment. In the photo here, the two lower bunks are seen and the two upper ones are behind the panels directly above each lower bunk.

The upper two bunks are released by a strong catch, and then descend and extend - it's a clever design - to make the two upper berths. They all have a mattress, pillow and sheets.

Whilst the lower two bunks are easy to use, the upper two, once lowered into the 'sleeping' position, could be difficult to climb into for anyone with limited movement, although a stepladder is provided.

The top two bunks have a safety bar to stop you falling out.

Despite being small, the cabins are air-conditioned and have power and storage space for helmets, leathers etc. The ensuite is small but has a shower, toilet and washbasin, quite adequate for an overnight transit. You can see the door to the ensuite in the mirror.

It's a close fit for four people, but you are not likely to spend much time in there apart from when you are asleep, and you'll find them perfectly fine for a 20 or 24-hour crossing. They are really just a safe and secure place to leave your bike kit, whilst you change into more comfortable clothes. The onboard food and drink has plenty of variety and choice, and is not expensive. They accept both Sterling and Euros at the tills as well as credit and some debit cards.

If you or your travelling companions would find an 'inside' windowless cabin unpleasant, you can always pay the extra and book an 'outside' cabin, which has a window. However this is a considerable extra expense, and there are a limited number available. If you need an outside cabin, book it well in advance. Our 2017 cabin had a large round window looking out over the sea, but I don't think it was worth the extra expense.

A Dover-Calais ferry crossing takes 90 minutes plus embarkation and disembarkation. In practice, the total transit time is between 2½ and 3 hours. Bikes are generally directed to the front of the boarding queue lanes and loaded first, being marshalled either into side bays or to the extreme front or rear section of the vessel. The ferry crew don't usually strap your bike down for you, although they do provide kit and advise you on how to use it.

The Dover ferry terminal's post code is CT16 1JA and the GPs location is 51.126468 / 1.329309, Calais is 50.966492 / 1.862193.

The securing kit is a strong adjustable strap with hooks at each end which engage in deck loops. In the middle of the strap's length is a thick rubber cushion. You park on the centre stand with the legs of your stand just forward of the line between two deck loops and with the cushion directly on the saddle, fasten the strap, pulling the click-action lever to thoroughly tighten the strap so that it holds your bike hard onto the rear wheel, with the front wheel off the deck.

So mounted, it can't roll forwards and topple off the stand. We've never seen a bike fall off its stand but we haven't been across in anything more than a gentle swell. If your bike falls over it's your responsibility, not the crew's.

Remove your tank bag and all non-secured luggage and carry these with you into the passenger area as you won't be allowed onto the vehicle decks during the voyage. You have at least 90 minutes for the Dover-Calais crossing so there is no need to rush to join the long meal queues. First grab a comfortable seat, and then rest while the mad herd of those who can't wait get their food; the toilets will be quiet now and busy later.

On the 20-hour Plymouth/Portsmouth to Santander ferry crossing, bikes are usually directed down a non-slip ramp to the very bottom deck of the vessel; photo (left, May 2016) illustrates the area.

Plymouth's ferry port terminal is 50.367439 / -4.155596, the post code is PL1 3EW. Santander's terminal is 43.456721 / -3.809661.

During popular transit periods this area can get very crowded and hot. Bikes are always parked on their sidestands and are secured by the ferry crew, using the abovementioned click-stop strap and cushion.

However the strap end hooks go over a very long running steel cable, which is retained at frequent intervals on the steel deck by passing through low profile metal domes. Manoeuvring your bike in possibly cramped conditions over these domes and across the cable runs can be a very "slippery" experience.

We've seen several bikes go over doing this and a house-of-cards situation, especially when disembarking at the end of the crossing, would be all too easy to happen. I recommend that you have a fellow rider to assist you when riding or pushing your bike to and from its anchoring point, the conditions can be hot, sweaty and surprisingly slippery. The descent and exit ramps themselves are OK, being covered in a non-slip surface.

Should you be travelling eastwards after arrival in France, use Norfolk Lines Dover-Dunkirk rather than P&O's Dover-Calais. Be warned that you will probably incur a surcharge if you travel earlier or later than booked. P&O once said to us on arriving five hours early, "The ferry is full but if you pay £30 each we can fit you on." On other occasions they have said nothing and let us on. Pot luck.

This is a good ferry booking site (thank you Rita for outstanding service!) for ALL UK-Europe destinations.

Personally I take the view that in the event of a major incident or disaster I stand more chance of surviving a ferry sinking than a tunnel fire or rail crash. But more importantly we feel that a ferry crossing is a psychological start and finish to our adventure, rather than a soulless Tunnel trip.

You pays your money and you takes your choice!

In 2013 we used the Poole-Cherbourg ferry and found this 4-hour trip very easy; here is the bike cam footage of us boarding the ferry.

Riding / driving in Europe

This can feel scary - don't worry, that's a normal reaction. Abroad, in a right-hand-drive car your vision and general awareness of other traffic is substantially reduced, and that's why it's a good idea to have an experienced pair of eyes in the left hand seat, to help you slot in at junctions and slip roads.

On a motorcycle, you'll find that being on 'the wrong side of the road' comes very much more naturally. In general terms you follow the bloke in front and do what he does - believe me you'll soon lose that scared feeling. But, there are three dangerous situations I should warn you about.

Throughout Europe the signage and traffic conventions have become progressively more standardised. The old and completely barmy French rule about having to give way to vehicles entering a main road from a side road ("priorité à droit") is almost completely dropped, and if not, is clearly signed. Good thing too, as it's a killer idea which must have cost many lives.

In a group situation, riders new to foreign roads should at first be following the more experienced types - let the veterans show you how it's done.

Above riding the Pyrenean Mountains in May 2013

OK, the reasonably easy one first. Roundabouts. I've seen UK cars approach the urban motorway exit to the shopping centre at Calais - this is a dual carriageway slip road descent to a roundabout - in the left hand lane, indicating left, and then do a left turn clockwise round the island, with French cars scattering like confetti to avoid a head-on collision. Now that's scary. But you'll find that this sort of mistake is actually hard to do, even on autopilot, as the roads physically merge in such a way that going the wrong way requires a major effort.

In fact if you think about it - our junctions are designed to achieve the same effect. So you have to do things in what appears to be a mirror of normal. I have never met a roundabout in France, Spain, Germany or Andorra where a driver actually on the island has to give way to anyone wanting to enter it, as used to be the rule in many countries; nowadays the priorities work like ours.

I'll assume a dual-carriageway approach. For a first exit - right turn - approach in the right hand lane, indicating right, stay anticlockwise in the right hand lane, and exit. Very easy. For 2nd exit - straight on - approach in the right hand lane, anticlockwise, and indicate right after the previous exit. Another easy one.

The third exit - left turn - is where the 'mirror effect' happens. It's rare to find lane markings on the island itself, so mentally divide the island into lanes. Approach in the left hand lane, indicating left and go anticlockwise around the innermost lane of the island. Indicate right after the exit previous to yours, do your lifesaver and then exit. This can shake you the first few times but where traffic is present you can just follow the vehicle in front, doing what he does. If there is no traffic you have to think a bit harder about it. I suggest that you mentally practice this before you have to do it for real. If you are still flustered, park up by a busy island and watch the locals to get the flavour of how it works.

The second danger area is one which will catch you out several times until you get used to it. In France particularly, traffic-light controlled junctions often do not have repeater lights on the far side of the junction. Also, the lights on your side are often on an overhead gantry, with a set of small repeater lights on the pole at about head height. Consequently if you stop on a motorcycle with your front wheel right on the stop line, you won't be able to see the lights at all! You'll only know they've changed when you hear impatient hooting from local cars behind you, or another rider behind you in your group tells you over the inter-bike radio.

So, at red lights, come to a halt half a bike length before the stop line, or otherwise in such a position where you can clearly see the lights.

The third one is the most dangerous, it's so very easy to make, and can be fatal.

In the UK you are used to making a left turn without any conflicting traffic; you just indicate left and complete the turn. In Europe this can kill you in the blink of an eye, because you have to cross the other stream of traffic to make the turn, and there are likely to be be other vehicles coming towards you. It's dreadfully easy to go on autopilot and swing round into a left turn, and then get hit from the right hand side. You will appreciate that such a collision will have serious consequences for you.

I'm afraid there isn't an easy answer to this one, so you just have to concentrate that much extra. Switch off the autopilot and think about these left turns. Whilst you are still in the UK, in the weeks before you leave, train yourself to make that right hand check before turning left. Stick a prominent Post-It note on your windscreen. You can also ask other riders in the group to shout a warning over the radio if they see you shaping up for a left turn and you're not giving that obvious helmet movement to the right, showing that you've checked for oncoming traffic.

I guarantee that as a newcomer to European roads, you'll make this mistake at least once. Hopefully you'll either realise in time and be able to stop, or there won't be any oncoming traffic. If not, I hope you took out travel and medical insurance.

One of our party always puts a red stick-on stripe over his right mirror, to constantly prompt him that he is on European roads.

Toll Motorways

We have used the toll ("péage") motorways in France "just to get there" and found them convenient for fast transiting, prices for bikes are not excessive and they do have very regular rest areas and service stations. Keep a supply of coins and low denomination notes handy in your tank bag pocket. If you don't understand the money, let the cashier take the correct amount from a handful of coins or notes. Bikes MUST pass the barriers one at a time ("un par UN"), even if one person pays for several bikes. But all motorways are boring, and no way to see the countryside. Charges on toll motorways depend on how far you have travelled.

Whilst European motorway speed limits are a higher than those in the UK - although lowered during rainy weather - I have heard stories that if you have been consistently speeding, the Police can use the arrival and departure times on your toll ticket to nab you for speeding. I don't know if this is really true or not; be aware that it's a possibility.

Some toll motorways don't have manned ticket or pay booths, and you might have to fork out for a standard 'car' ticket. Pot luck.


On unrestricted German autobahns even a 650 can be well out of its depth as many cars will be travelling at over 100mph and it's not unusual to have German drivers passing at 140mph; we had one pass at what we estimated was 180mph, coming as close at it gets to killing one of us - it actually took the paint off his pannier. An approaching car which at first glance is nothing more than a dot in your mirror can be right on your number plate in three or four seconds. That can be intimidating and such roads are no place for anything less than a 500cc bike, as at less than 90 mph you'll simply be in the way of the predominantly faster traffic. I'm told that's an offence to run out of fuel on a German autobahn. These do have sections where trucks are not allowed to overtake, and I've found that German drivers are tolerant of having to wait behind a slower vehicle.

In France most shops, cafes, restaurants and suchlike are usually closed on Mondays. Rural petrol stations will also probably be closed but mainstream and motorway petrol stations will be open, even if they are the unmanned credit-card type.

Also in France the quality of road surface can be dreadful. Motorways and main trunk roads will generally be fine. However whilst transiting through small villages and communities, and on urban and suburban roads you will find the surfaces riddled with potholes, cracks, rifts and very badly repaired sections. These can be so bad that tyre damage results - this happened to one of the group in June 2012 when a deep pothole caused severe damage to a front tyre, which had to be replaced; luckily we were able to find a motorcycle dealer (many thanks to Moto-Land of Abbeville, who pulled mechanics off another job in order to get us back on the road with minimal delay) without too much trouble. I've also had my satnav unit jarred off its mounts by extremely poor road surfaces, so a safety lead is imperative for such devices.

Whilst riding in Spain during May/June 2014 onwards we noticed that drivers don't stop for pedestrians who are waiting to cross as 'zebra type' uncontrolled crossings. If you adopt the UK practice of stopping for people at the kerb who are waiting to cross the road, you are likely to get impatient hooting from Spanish drivers behind you, or even be shunted by a local driver who did not expect you to slow down or stop.

Phil Russell comments "In France, it's now law that you are supposed to stop if you see anyone waiting to cross the road at a zebra crossing."

Stick to the lesser roads and you'll have better riding, as well as seeing more places where you will want to dawdle over coffee and croissants.

Carlos the Jackal adds "On Spanish motorways drivers will not flash if you indicate to move into the fast lane to overtake. From my own experience they do expect you to pull out and will slow down if a slower moving vehicle does pull out, without any horn blowing or other unpleasantness that we often see in the UK. Accommodation wise Spain is excellent. The guide books will tell you that the term Hostel, Pension and Hotel are used to denote the standard of accommodation. From what I've seen they are pretty much interchangeable. If you're approaching a big city on the autovia or any other main route some services have tourist information offices. Most of the staff speak good English (They'll have a union Jack or Stars and stripes on their name badge). They can book you a hotel room, if you need one and help with specific requirements like garaging. Both France and Spain are fantastic, bike friendly places to visit on a bike. Local bikers will always chat and keep you right if need be."

DaveS comments that "Here in Southern Spain in the Costa del Sol area there such roundabouts, where once on the roundabout you have to give way to traffic exiting from a more major road. There will be a solid white line across the road but watch out as it may well have faded a lot. I also find in my area that Spanish drivers do not know how to use a roundabout that is two lanes wide. Many of them go round it all the way on the outside so if you are on the inside and wish to take an exit, watch you don't get cut up by the guy on the outside." This problem is starting to be widely experienced on UK roads, too, as ignorant or impatient drivers make "the Telford Turn" by going all the way round the outer lane of an island to turn right.

Mike Hedger adds : "In France, don't make the mistake of entering the wrong lanes of the péage as some are designated for vehicles carrying a pass (something like an onboard radio sender unit, I guess) and are unable to accept a cash payment to lift the barrier. Very embarrassing and the easiest way to upset a whole bunch of following drivers when you try to get them to back up, to let you out the narrow page gates."

Phil Russell adds : "There are two types of road junction signs in France: one is a thick vertical pointed line with a thin horizontal line through it, and the other looks like an X. The former means there is a junction ahead and you have priority, and the other means give way to traffic joining from your right."

Pierre Grogan adds "I have a couple of comments as a Brit living in France and having worked in Paris, you should note that the priority from the right rules in France still apply on all roundabouts in Paris ie those coming onto a roundabout have priority. And in many of the towns and some rural areas. Essentially, if the road on the right does not have any white line marking then it is priority from the right or should be treated as such (especially in the deep France vineyards etc where the local farmers will have been driving like that for years). If the road you are on has a yellow diamond then there is no priority from the right even in towns and villages."

Refuelling

 

It's very easy to overlook the fact that distances between locations in Europe are substantially greater than in the crowded UK. You must be familiar with your bike's mpg and range on a single tank. In a group situation, all riders should always fill their tanks at the same time, regardless of their possibly different fuel states. If you don't adopt this strategy, you'll be "leapfrog stopping" as Tom who didn't bother to tank when Dick and Harry did, runs low on fuel on the next leg of the trip.

 

It's a mistake to be arriving at a destination - which you might have to hunt around to find - late, flustered, tired, possibly in darkness, and low on fuel, so leave a generous margin in your tank for emergencies. For example if your intended stopover is not available, you may have to go on to the next town. Being low on fuel at this point is a worry you can do without. Likewise if you want an early start the filling stations may not be open. We like to fill the tanks 50 or so miles before our intended destination, which eliminates both problems.

 

Many non-motorway filling and petrol stations (especially the smaller ones) in France and Belgium are likely to be CLOSED on SUNDAYS and many will also be closed on MONDAYS, which is when France goes to sleep! Phil Russell adds "As well as Mondays, a lot of French petrol stations (such as supermarkets) will also probably be closed somewhere between 12:00 and 14:00 or later during the rest of the week."

 

You probably know your way round the UK map-wise but European distances are much greater. Calais to Paris is about the same as Birmingham to London, and Paris is just 1/4 of the way down France. John O'Groats to Land's End is about the same as Calais to the bottom left hand corner of France. Then about the same again to southern Spain.

 

Here are some sample road distances, in miles, using the fastest route and assuming crossing at Dover-Calais where necessary:-

 

From/To
Edinb'h
London
Dover/Calais
Paris
Mar'lle
San'der
Andorra
Berlin
Zurich
Prague
Dresden
Rome
Am'dam
Hamburg
Vienna
Munich
Co'hgn
Go'burg
Edinburgh
397
467
649
1133
1277
1179
1044
980
1168
1094
1491
698
940
1279
1080
1129
1322
London
397
78
261
748
890
792
657
587
781
707
1103
310
553
892
693
741
935
Dover/Calais
467
78
182
669
810
713
578
513
701
627
1024
231
473
813
613
662
855
Paris
649
261
182
479
630
534
650
412
656
656
877
313
558
768
517
747
940
Marseilles
1133
748
669
479
582
303
957
467
880
879
559
768
927
845
628
1116
1309
Santander
1277
890
810
630
582
403
1278
893
1281
1280
1112
942
1187
1392
1081
1375
1569
Andorra
1179
792
713
534
303
403
1148
846
1071
1071
833
846
1091
1114
846
1280
1473
Berlin
1044
657
578
650
957
1278
1148
519
218
120
936
407
181
420
363
241
435
Zurich
980
587
513
412
467
893
846
519
443
442
541
505
543
459
191
732
925
Prague
1168
781
701
656
880
1281
1071
218
443
93
816
539
392
202
244
469
663
Dresden
1094
707
627
656
879
1280
1071
120
442
93
853
456
309
295
286
371
564
Rome
1491
1103
1024
877
559
1112
833
936
541
816
853
1029
1055
692
571
1152
1345
Amsterdam
698
310
231
313
768
942
846
407
505
539
456
1029
291
713
514
479
673
Hamburg
940
553
473
558
927
1187
1091
181
543
392
309
1055
291
682
482
195
388
Vienna
1279
892
813
768
845
1392
1114
420
459
202
295
692
713
682
270
770
964
Munich
1080
693
613
517
628
1081
846
363
191
244
286
571
514
482
270
579
773
Cop'hagen
1129
741
662
747
1116
1375
1280
241
732
469
371
1152
479
195
770
579
196
Goth'burg
1322
935
855
940
1309
1569
1473
435
925
663
564
1345
673
388
964
773
196

 

Throughout France, Belgium, Spain, Germany, Andorra, Poland and the Czech Republic we've had no problems at all with finding petrol and using the refuelling facilities; the quality of fuel was perfectly OK.  The self-serve petrol stations work exactly like ours and on main routes they mostly have mini-markets for snacks and consumables.  You may find some which accept banknotes at the pump, but usually you fill up and pay by cash or credit card at the till, just as you would in the UK.

Always remove your helmet before entering a pay kiosk or shop.  If language skills are not up to speaking the pump numbers, smile and hold up so-many fingers.  Should you be uncertain of the coin denominations, tender banknote(s).  Coins are handy to have, as some service station toilets are payable, and you'll need a coin to give the attendant or feed into the automatic barrier.  In

France it is not uncommon to have a female attendant for the male toilets, don't let this faze you – they've seen it all before!

 

We've found that paying for fuel, oil and so on at services using a credit card is the simplest way, and again these work like the PIN terminals at home.  Using a credit card saves finding and carrying a lot of ready cash.  Your UK debit card may not work to buy fuel and so on, in Europe. The ATMs also work like ours but they mostly have a language selection on the introductory screen and you can choose the Union Jack icon to get English.  Many self-fill pumps with credit card slots also have this feature.


Pierre Grogan amplifies this : "Virtually all of the supermarkets and motorways now accept UK MasterCard and Visa debit cards for petrol and tolls, however don’t forget that there may be a currency charge, so the use of cash is normally best, it now possible to open a UK offshore account and get a euro currency visa card where you can load the account with Euros and use it as a debit card, mine is with Lloyds TSB and I load it when the exchange rate is best for me and I use it successfully all over France."

That sounds like a good plan to me, and also if you are a UK citizen you can apply for a Post Office credit card, or pre-paid debit card. This has the advantage that there is no commission on purchases made in alternative currencies.

 

At an attended filling station, ask for:-

 

In France, "le plein de sans-plomb" [le plan de sanns plom]

In Spain, "completo gasolina sin plomo" [comm-play-to gasso-leena sin plo-mo]

 

= "fill up with unleaded."  Perhaps a linguist would kindly let me know the equivalent in other languages?

Mike Hedger adds : "There are fewer fuel stops on the motorway network in Europe compared to UK, so you may find it worthwhile dropping onto the non-motorway roads when you're within 30 or so miles from a necessary top-up. Cheaper fuel and more chance of finding interesting scenery too."

Romo adds "With regard to fuel in France. Some garages are unmanned and have pumps which take credit cards only they seem to refuse British credit cards, at least they wouldn't take mine. Also, one Sunday last June, somewhere in rural France, I was desperate for petrol. I eventually found a garage, but it was one of the unmanned variety and it would not take my cards.

Luckily, after half an hour another motorist arrived and I managed to persuade him to use his card to buy my petrol. As he claimed to have no change he profited very nicely on the deal. As for me, I was very grateful to him as rural France can be dead on a Sunday evening and overnighting on a garage forecourt, is something I would prefer not to do. Be warned."

Carlos the Jackal amplifies this by saying "I has a similar experience to Romo with the card operated pumps in rural France, where they took only French cards.

This was confirmed by my uncle who was at the time a French resident as he'd had to apply for a French credit card specifically to get round this problem. A 40 minute wait for a local to arrive followed by the international mime for "My credit card doesn't work, please can you buy me some petrol Madame?" solved the problem for me. Although caution is advised if you approach a middle aged farmers wife waving a 20 euro note."

Planning is all part of the adventure

an hour of planning saves a day of heartbreak

Some people can throw a few items of spare kit and a tent into panniers and head off into the wild blue yonder with nothing more than a vague plan and a credit card. It's a fine strategy for those with a bottomless credit card which can dig them out of any problems, but it doesn't work for me. Whether you are the type to fix a rock solid itinerary or have nothing more definite than a start and finish place, advance research and planning will pay off in spades once your holiday is launched.

It's a sensible precaution to advise your 'daily travel plan' to a trusted friend back home, with information on where you are and where you expect to be, just in case of emergencies. This especially applies if you are travelling alone.

Stu comments : "Good site, loads of good stuff, just a couple a things I could add, because when it comes to planning I'm with you. Good planning makes for a good trip, I don't care what others say about just heading somewhere and finding places on the way. I tried that a good few years back now and 7 of us ended up on the hard shoulder of a motorway asleep and spooning for body warmth, not a good site and not good if you're caught by the police."


Navigation

Successful navigation over long distances is 100% about preparation. Whilst GPs devices are a massive aid - if only for telling you where you are - you cannot hope to manage on unknown roads without printed maps. Buy a road atlas, and either scan and print the parts you need, or just cut them out - road maps are cheap enough. Use a highlighter or black permanent marker pen to show your routes and then double-side and laminate the pages so it won't matter if they get wet. Finally trim or cut them to a size which easily fits into the clear panel of your tank bag, which is usually considerably less than A4 size. Where satnavs and road signs conflict, trust the road signs.

I've had my satnav jarred off its mount by potholes, so ensure that your device has a safety strap attached to it and some nearby part of the bike. The power lead alone is not good enough for this purpose.

If you have a smartphone or tablet with GPS, a "maps" application is extremely useful, you can download or update the required country files. There is also an application called "I am Here Now" or suchlike, which sends the user's GPS co-ordinates to another person via text message or email. This is also useful for post-holiday identification of where you have been. Many satnav units will also continuously record their positions, and the file can be subsequently loaded into Google Earth.

Stu adds : "If you use a satnav, planning becomes easier by 1 million percent if you download and subscribe too a site called http://www.tyretotravel.com. The guy who runs it called Jan Boers , a Dutch fella, I've known him and the site since the start. It's reliable and cheap, download it then it allows you to plot very accurately a route going exactly where you want, once you're done you can upload it all to your Tomtom or Garmin, its really good."

Phil Russell adds; "There is also a free-to-use site at www.viamichelin.com for route planning. It may not be as full-featured as Autoroute and can be a bit quirky, but I've used it quite a bit and found it OK."

I have found it useful to draw a highly simplified skeleton map showing towns, cities or waypoints as black blobs joined by a line marked with the road numbers, with one page of this for each leg of the journey. This is much quicker to refer to than your laminated map.

This skeleton map isn't meant to be either to scale or geographically accurate. It just shows the primary navigation points in a bold, at-a-glance way. You can also add the junction numbers for motorway changes.

Google Earth is a wonderful resource for planning routes, stopover sites and visits. Use the Street View feature to familiarise yourself with your destinations, and you can also print and laminate the high-definition screens to give you additional maps.

Insurance

Don't even think about a trip of this sort without taking out travel insurance to cover you for loss of kit, accident or medical emergency. On our 2009 'Adventure' one of our party was hospitalised in St Malo with a very severe bout of gastro bug. We had to leave him behind and without travel insurance, his hospital and 'extras' bill would have been steep. And ensure that your driving licence, insurance, breakdown cover and other documentation is valid for the countries you plan to visit or pass through. For EU countries you need the NHS 'EHIC' health reciprocal coverage card, available free online from the NHS Direct web site. Whilst touring I wear a military type metal 'dog tag' on a neck chain, showing name, address, blood group and next of kin contact numbers. Just in case I am involved in an accident and can't account for myself.

Note that some travel insurance "small-print" specifically excludes claiming for injuries sustained whilst motorcycling, or limits the engine size to 125cc.

If language skills are low or non-existent, take photos on your mobile phone of useful locations like petrol station, cash dispenser, toilet, chemist, police, ambulance etc. Or, have a linguistic friend write down useful phrases for you.

If you don't have an internet data connection available whilst abroad, it can be extremely handy to be able to 'phone a friend' who is at home and who has access to Internet resources, and can look up things you need to know, on the fly as you need them, book accommodation, etc. Your most useful non-Internet source of information is always the local Tourist Information Office, slap bang in the middle of any town or city centre. The staff there will usually speak enough English to help you and they will have a wealth of data on camp sites, B&Bs, local places of interest, parking, buses and taxis etc. So head straight for the TIO and capitalise on their local knowledge.

If you are carrying a passenger then your logistics options are limited. You can do the camping scene but due to the amount of kit you need to carry (ie two sleeping bags) you are best advised to B&B. Yes, camping can be done two-up on a week away, but you'll need to buy new clothes every couple of days as your personal luggage will each be restricted to what would fit in a Tesco plastic shopping bag. Not easy.

Inter-Bike Radio (PMR or Private/Personal Mobile Radio)

If you are travelling in a group, inter-bike radio is a must. We use inexpensive Cobra personal mobile radio (PMR) handsets with Intaride helmet headsets. Don't buy the cheap Maplins headsets as they are not very robust. Any headset and radio handset you use must have compatible plugs. You will all need to agree a common radio channel ... and for Heaven's sake turn off the roger bleeps! Here is an eBay link to PMR handsets. I recommend the type which uses AA or AAA batteries rather than those requiring a hot shoe or mains charger.

Note that if you do use the Cobra radios, the wiring to the headset is slightly different to standard, so prompt Intaride or alternative supplier when you order the headsets. Intaride are used to this. Test the headsets before installing the speakers and so on inside your helmet.

PMR sets are licence-free in the UK and we've had no trouble using them across Europe. If it happens that there are others using the same channels as you, put up with this - if you're riding, you'll soon be out of range.

We've all found that it's easy to hit the horn instead of the transmit, and vice versa, especially in a panic! Don't use the voice operated (vox) microphones or transmit devices, as there will be enough wind noise even inside a helmet to keep the transmit on all the time, much to the annoyance of your fellow riders.

There are different versions of headsets, earphones and stick-on or boom microphones to suit every helmet type, full-face, open, flip etc. Most modern helmets have recesses for the necessary ultra-slim speakers, but do ensure than the speakers are positioned EXACTLY over your ears, and test reception / transmission before setting off on your journey, as some PMR handsets will require the subchannel (between 1 and 39) as well as the main channel (between 1 and 8) to be adjusted, to ensure full two-way communication between riders. Once you have found the huge benefits of bike-to-bike radio you'll wonder how you ever managed without! (There is further info on common channels at the bottom of this page.)

If you think you'll need to use the audio satnav and the PMR at the same time, nip along to Maplin's and buy a splitter, which takes two inputs and delivers one output. Some of the clever modern helmets have onboard Bluetooth, which most satnavs and mobile phones also use. I suspect that Bluetooth as an inter-bike radio would be rather too short-range, but if anyone finds differently please let me know.

Inter-bike radio is a lifesaver in unfamiliar traffic zones, especially if one of the group becomes separated by red lights or other reason. Also it hugely simplifies navigation at junctions, as everyone can be informed as to which exit to take. Also anyone with a problem can easily let the others know.

We've found the range in open country to be a couple of miles, and in urban areas about half a mile. This is fine for bike-to-bike or even on foot whilst you park up and go off exploring - it saves making possibly expensive mobile phone calls or sending texts. So even if you don't use PMRs for bike-to-bike they are useful to have in your kit. Battery life is excellent as our Cobras go into sleep mode when not active.

Logistics - what to take with you

Travelling alone, you have to be self-sufficient. In a group, you don't and there is no need to double up on kit, especially if people share a tent. You can share devices like phone chargers and if there are several bikes of the same type you need not all carry essential spare parts. I will work on the basis that you have a top box, fixed hard or removable 'soft' panniers and a tank bag. Anything that won't go in here will need to go in a waterproof 'ditty bag' strapped to the pillion seat. Link here to eBay throwover panniers and here to tank bags.

One school of thought argues that if in a group, every rider is totally self-sufficient, anyone can drop out via illness or mechanical problems, without affecting the 'sharing' situation. There is some merit in this argument but I still believe that intelligent co-operation between members of the group can make the trip - especially if camping - more comfortable.

Bear in mind that when visiting somewhere like a city centre you will have to leave your bikes unattended unless you take it in turns to stand guard, so you don't want to leave anything nickable on it. You'll have to carry your tank bag as well as normal bike kit and believe me it's no fun trudging round a city centre in a heat wave, wearing leathers, bike boots and riding kit and carrying helmet and tank bag. (Somewhere like a Museum will almost certainly let you leave tank bag and helmet behind the reception counter.) Be prepared to have anything stolen which is being carried externally and unsecured, especially in the backwaters of poor countries. But opportunist thieves haunt busy tourist spots as well, where the pickings are easier.

I strongly advise against wearing a rucksack or backpack whilst you are riding. This not only puts an unnecessary strain on your back and upper body but more importantly can cause severe spinal damage in the event of a spill, as your neck/head and lower body may well get forcibly bent around the backpack's hump. If you have to hit the deck in a crash, your body needs to be flat, not wrapped around an artificial curved shape.

In the aforementioned tank bag goes all your documentation - passport, insurance / MoT / V5 and travel insurance; maps; camera, satnav and its leads; PMR radio kit; sunglasses; visor cleaner and cloth; a little ready cash for any road or bridge tolls; spare glasses.

When using it as a backpack ensure that the zip fastener is either secured closed, or faces upwards so that items can't fall out.

Use opaque clip-top sandwich or takeaway meal boxes in the tank bag to secure phones, leads etc against damp or just to keep things tidy and manageable.

I put my phone and its bits in one and satnav and its bits in another. Very handy things those boxes, ideally sized for tank bags but you can use them everywhere to keep your kit in order.

If your camera uses disposable batteries, such are easily bought at fuel stops. But if the camera is the built-in battery type, it's easy to overlook the fact that you'll need the charger and mains adapter.

If you're in Spain and wear glasses, you are required by law to carry a spare pair - a sensible rule no matter where you are. I always take a bike cover because I love my bike and I don't like to leave it parked, especially overnight, in the rain; and enough elastic bungees or spider cargo nets to secure externally carried items, and a couple of spare bungees as well, plus a security cable lock.

For security, the long flexible cable lock scores high in the touring situation, because it can be threaded through helmets, arms of bike jackets and so on and still secure at least one bike as well. It doesn't have to be super-heavy, just nylon-covered and flexible. When leaving helmets unattended, always leave them secured in some way and - important - the right way up. If left upside down, rain or unmentionable animal deposits can easily get in. <Shudder>

Personal kit has to be kept at a minimum. In 2009 we adopted the policy of taking old clothes and throwing them away after two or three days' use. This didn't save much space, but it did save trouble in managing used dirty clothes and keeping them separate from clean ones. We'll do it this way again. You do need your toilet bag with whatever toiletries you require. Fully charged razor, or disposables. I manage with one medium sized towel and keep it in a Tesco bag. Drying it after use is always a problem but given decent weather you can peg it up over your bike and let the ambient temperature or engine heat dry it. Any medication you expect to use, including painkillers, sun cream, Band-Aids, Immodium, mosquito repellent or one of those handy battery operated buzzers - yes they do work. You can restock non-prescription medication at any chemist. I take shower gel and use that as shampoo, to save space.

Take a pair of comfortable soft shoes so you can park and then change out of bike boots. To keep your feet dry on the bike and off it, use supermarket bags inside your bike boots or soft shoes. At night in a tent I change into tracksuit bottoms, an old shirt and a fleece if necessary, and sleep on a camp bed which dismantles into short metal pieces and is better I think than a roll-up or inflatable mattress. This bed and a small tripod camp stool are the only items I have to carry externally on the Deauville, not counting the tank bag. A sun hat is essential, as is a telescopic briefcase-sized umbrella.

You'll each need a mobile phone which works in the destination country, make sure everyone has shared all the mobile phone numbers with yourselves and anyone back home. Text messages are ideal for exchanging information. Don't forget the charger, whether accessory-socket or mains type. Turn the phone off whilst riding and this will massively extend battery life.

Remember that on many tariffs, incoming calls from home are expensive for you to receive. There are ways around this - try the 0044 service, I use this with a spare mobile phone handset, and it works very well, with free incoming calls and good rates for outgoing calls and texts.

Camping kit : tent, sleeping bag, inflatable pillow and a bed of some sort - collapsible, inflatable, foam, it's up to you. Inflatable beds are a pain to deal with night and morning, but you can take an electric pump, and a group of riders could share one. Lots of supermarket bags to put clothes and wet things in and keep everything easily carried about from bike to tent. Clothes pegs to hang up wet clothes or towel. Mallet to drive in tent pegs. Wind-up torch and a head lamp type LED torch, very useful for finding the ablutions at night or for general illumination. Most phones these days can get a 'torch' type app which uses the camera flash as a lamp. Take-away meal or clip-top sandwich boxes to keep small items waterproof and organised.

Riders should each give a fellow in the group a spare set of keys for their bike, especially if yours has the high-security chipped key. If you lose yours, get taken ill or suffer an accident, the spare set will be invaluable. We use lanyards to secure keys when they are not in use. If you mislay your keys, look first on the magnets of your tank bag. Don't ask me how I know this.

Scan your vital documents (passport, driving licence, log book, MoT, bike and travel insurances) before departure and email them to yourself (or a trusted friend), so in an emergency, they are still available.

Camping

If you are new to camping, a weekend away with a new or borrowed tent will pay dividends before you set out on a serious journey. First of all you'll find out if you like, or can tolerate, camping and you'll also find out whether or not your tent is (a) waterproof; (b) easily erected and dismantled; (c) big enough for you and your kit.

The "two man" bubble type tent in motorcycle terms is really only big enough for you and all your bike kit. It certainly isn't big enough for two people with full bike gear, especially if you have soft panniers which need to be brought into the tent at night. Whilst the two man tent will fold down to a very small size, if you are taller than 5'8" you are going to have to sleep with your knees bent unless you buy a bigger tent. Here is an eBay link to two man tents.

Above is pictured a special "motorcycle and rider tent" called the Nomad.

The photo here was taken at Rennes campsite in May 2009. Left to right : 3 man tent, 2 man tent (my red Deauville), then two small one-man tents.

Tents are always a trade-off between weight, the size when it's packed down and the size when it's erected. Many bubble tents pack down small enough to easily fit in a top box or pannier. If you plan to carry your tent strapped on externally or in a ditty bag, be aware that it's easy to steal whilst you leave the bike unattended. Two people sharing a tent really need the "4 man" size to be anything resembling comfortable. Link to eBay 4 man tents.

My Deauville parked alongside a 2-man bubble tent illustrates its size. You can see that whilst it's fine for me and all my associated bike kit, it'd be very cramped for two people.

With a new tent, practice erecting and dismantling it on your lawn at home, and after the first time you successfully erect it, use coloured insulating tape to colour-code the places where the elastic-linked tent rod ends mesh with the tent's base. This will save much frustration later.

Before your holiday spend at least one night in your new tent, even if this is on the lawn in your back garden! And, leave it erected during a rainstorm to test its proofing and general usefulness. Any tent you buy should have a small "lobby" at the entrance, so you can put bike boots and wet bike waterproofs outside the main tent body but still under cover.

Don't even consider one without a built in groundsheet, and the type which has a detachable inner lining is better than the single-skin ones because condensation will soak the inner face of the outer skin, and run down the fabric. Touch this and you're wet.

The inner lining helps prevent - but does not completely solve - this problem. However these are bulkier than single-skin tents and can be more trouble to erect. Once fitted, the inner lining is best left attached to the tent outer. Modern tents are, however, waterproof.

The tent in the above photo when packed into its carry-bag with all its poles, pegs etc measures just 23" x 8" x 8" and so easily fits into my top-box or wide-lid panniers. Packing it all away into its carry-bag is quite a challenge, but practice makes perfect!

It's a bad idea to economise on a sleeping-bag. A hot day can turn cold at night, making sleep difficult or fitful, and if you are too hot you can just unzip the bag and use it as a duvet.

All clothes and sleeping-bag are best stored in roll-up vacuum bags, which reduce the size of their contents by between 50 and 75 percent.

These bags are excellent for campers as they also keep your kit dry. Link here to see eBay sleeping bags. Bear in mind that sleeping bags are bulky and take up a lot of cargo space - so they are ideal candidates for being kept in vacuum bags.

Finding and choosing your campsite

If you are camping there is usually no problem in finding accommodation. Our policy is to start looking about 16:00. In France, Spain and Germany, camp sites are extremely frequent and we've had no problem at all in finding one we liked, without pre-booking. Exit at any main road junction near civilisation and look for CAMPING signs stuck on the verges. If you don't like the look of the first one, there are always lots more and many places have municipal sites which are basic in terms of facilities - toilets, showers and washing - but clean and cheap.

On arrival at reception, take off your helmet and be friendly, shake hands and introduce yourself. Ask if there is available space. We haven't met any anti-bike prejudice at any campsites. Ask for the pitch rate per tent per night - does this include hot showers? Is there food and drink available on site? If not, where can you get a meal and something to drink, how far is it? Some site managers will want to see ID such as a driving licence or passport, and may photocopy them.

If the site manager indicates a tent area and invites you to help yourselves, never settle for the first pitch you see. Take a walk round and choose the pitch that suits you most. Do you want to be away from a family, with maybe noisy children? Do you need to be near the shower / toilet block, will human traffic to and from there pass by your pitch and disturb you? Which way is the prevailing wind, do you need a sheltered pitch? Is there hardstanding for bikes, is the ground hard enough for safe parking, and does the site look tidy, clean, peaceful and problem-free?

Never park your bike where the stand might sink into soft ground - the bike could fall over and hit an adjacent tent or other obstruction.

As a guide to suitability, inspect the ablutions - the toilets and shower block. These should be clean and well lit, with hot showers included in the pitch rate. It's best to carry your own kitchen roll, to double as both general mop-up and toilet paper.

Most sites will have perfectly normal pedestal toilets as well as the old-fashioned squat type, but particularly in France, the male urinals may be in a semi-public area, poorly screened from others using the ablutions block. Some sites have key or keypad entry to the ablutions. Sneaking your female companion into your male shower stall won't raise any eyebrows as long as you are both discreet (and quick) about it.

Most showers work on a timed button basis but you can press the button as often as you want. Shaver points should be present but you'll need the European mains plug adapter. After a ride in foul weather, sleep in dry clothes and put your damp ones on the next day, because drying a sleeping bag is very difficult once it gets wet.

Bear in mind that finding a suitable campsite, registering, choosing a pitch and erecting tent and so on can disappear a substantial part of the evening, and again in reverse in the morning. If you work on a two hour margin for finding and setting camp, and an hour for striking, you won't go far wrong. But we found that to get away before 9 am in the morning means having to hustle, which some in your party won't want or be able to do. 10 am departure is more realistic. If you're camping, every meal is in a cafe or bar so don't underestimate the spending level on food - at 2016 prices, at least £40 a day.

You can take as much cooking and mess kit as you like; we've done this in the past and never used it! In a group what I suggest is that whilst you each have unbreakable plate, cup, knife and fork etc, just one of you carries a stove capable of boiling water or soup, even if this is a chuck-it-all-in hash as a scratch meal. Any more comprehensive kit than this is difficult to manage. An all-fuel stove which can run on petrol is a good idea as you can draw off a cupful of fuel from anyone's tank. Certainly a hot drink after a long wet ride is extremely welcome. Carry sachets of coffee, soup, sugar etc in your opaque containers.

Remember that the managers are well used to foreigners with poor language skills , but it would be sensible to have learned enough of the local language to be able to ask for a pitch, and how much it is. And afterwards to say thank you and goodbye.

B&B / Guest Housing

Camping has its fun aspects but in bad weather you can't beat a warm, comfortable bed that you haven't had to erect yourself. Do you want to ride in the rain, put up a tent in the rain, try and sleep through a rainstorm, strike camp and then ride in the rain? No, I thought not. What I recommend is camping where the weather is reasonable or good and B&B-ing when it's foul.

The Formule-1 / Accor network of accommodation in France - like Travelodge in the UK - provides no-frills, phone or Internet booking and is good value for money. You can also arrive late in the evening and book in unattended using a credit card at the hole-in-the-wall type terminal, and continental breakfast is usually available.

They are clean and simple, with smoking and no-smoking rooms but remember that they are very much a case of "get what you pay for". They are tolerable, each room has power, TV, clean bed(s), small towels and a washbasin, with toilets and showers in separate cubicles on each floor. But don't expect any frills and eateries may not be close by, although the manager should be able to either direct you to the nearest cafe or bar, or call a taxi for you.

A typical Formule-1 room is either twin bed (photo, right, with the washbasin obscured by the open window and the privacy panel) double bed or double bed with bunk-bed above.

On booking-in you will be given (or printed out by the wall terminal) a chit with the entrance code for the front door and another code for your room. These expire every day and don't lose the chit or you won't be able to get into the building or into your room. It's a good idea to make a note of the code, or to text it to yourself.

Formule-1s are good places to chat with fellow travellers, who are a real spectrum of nationalities and languages!

Conventional guest house type B&Bs are generally found just off the town or city centre and within the outer and inner ring road zones, near main roads and motorway feeder roads to and from the city centre. Language skills permitting, you can ask any police officer to direct you. But the most useful source is the good old Tourist Information Office.

As with a campsite, does the B&B look clean and tidy? Can you park your bike in a safe location? Does the room have an ensuite? If you are sharing a room, is it twin or double bed? Can you get a meal, if not, can the manager recommend the nearest hostelry, how far is it?

Managers will want to see ID (driving licence, passport) and will either photocopy them or keep them until you book out. Don't expect a cooked breakfast in Europe as mainly you'll get a serve-yourself cereal, bread, cold meat and juice / tea / coffee arrangement. It's bad form to sneak some of this into your pocket for later. Site managers are well used to foreigners with poor language skills , but it would be sensible to have learned enough of the local language to be able to ask for a room, and how much it is. And afterwards to say thank you and goodbye.

The "Base Camp" holiday

Another strategy is to choose a destination which has enough places of interest within easy riding distance, which can fill your time. Let's say that you decide on a location which is 500 road miles from Calais - that's a two day ride with a B&B in between, each way. But you travel very light, without camping gear and have reserved a cottage, house, chalet or caravan at the destination. Now you have a warm, dry centre of operations. You mount day trips hither and yon, but return to the base afterwards. Given that the base has simple cooking facilities and you find a local supermarket, this will save you a fortune on meals.

There are two other major benefits. Firstly, if the weather is really foul you don't have to go anywhere at all, and a well chosen site will have local places of interest to pass the time - much better than lying in a tent all day waiting for the rain to stop. Secondly, when you go on a day trip, you can carry comfortable clothes in otherwise empty panniers and change out of heavy bike kit on arrival, leaving your leathers and helmet securely locked away whilst you wander off in soft shoes, shorts and a T-shirt.

The disadvantage is that the location and nature of the base camp is of paramount importance, far more so than with a full-blown touring holiday.

In 2010, 2011 and 2012 our party of four rented a thoroughly excellent cottage (picture, right) at Unering, 35 miles SW of Munich. The GPs location is 48.027994 / 11.250790.

The cottage is in an extremely quiet location and easily sleeps 5; there is one bedroom with three single beds with ensuite, and another twin bedded room (and could manage 7, using the living-room sofa plus the Z-bed in the basement). It was always spotlessly clean and very well equipped, even having a garage for two bikes and space to park two more alongside the house. For details see the 'Recommended' section at the end of this site.

We overnighted twice on the way out; Ypres (50.851423 / 2.887072) and Biberach (48.338590 / 8.028342) and twice on the way back; Nancy (48.639310 / 6.183664) and with a friend at Verneuil-en-Halatte, France.

We used the cottage as a base for expeditions to the concentration camp museum at Dachau (48.270345 / 11.468330) , the "Eagle's Nest" at Berchtesgaden / Obersalzburg (47.611451 / 13.042102), the "Where Eagles Dare" castle at Werfen, Austria (47.482941 / 13.188695) and the Bavaria Film Studios at Munich (48.066021 / 11.551354).

This plan was so successful that we returned there in May 2011, visiting the BMW-World and Museum (48.176601 / 11.559116) at Munich, Hohenschwangau Castles, Oberammergau, Augsburg, Munich, Durnbach War Cemetery (47.779039 / 11.733232) and Siracourt V1 assembly bunker (50.374407 / 2.268348).

We stayed here three times in all and visited places like Kloster Andechs (47.974541 / 11.182570) , the BMW M3 production line tour and the Hofbrauhaus in Munich (48.137865 / 11.580130) as well as finding some stunning mountain riding down towards Innsbruck. This cottage really is a marvellous place and an excellent "base camp" location.

For 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 we rented a cottage at Luarca, Asturias, Spain, 55 miles west of Gijon or 165 miles west of Santander. This was an excellent location for exploring the north coast of Spain.

Each year we had eight days of magnificent riding on the well kept mountain roads to the immediate south, plus exploring along the 'old coast roads' west towards Foz or east towards Gijon; turn off the motorways on your satnav to explore these marvellous very bendy and hilly rides.

Luarca is an old-fashioned fishing village with a working and leisure harbour at its mouth with steep terraces to east and west. We liked it very much and the pedestrian areas around the river and 'town hall square' are delightful. Easy access from the A8 motorway from either the southern or eastern exits.

The cottage (left) is excellent, fully equipped and sleeps six; twin beds in the fourth floor loft conversion, double room and bunk bed room + bathroom on the third floor, living room and terrace exit on the second floor and kitchen/diner with wet room on the ground floor. Adults need a hard hat in the attic area as the roof is low, but kids will love it.

Parking is against the wall immediately outside the cottage. The photo (left) shows the lower three stories; to the upper left of the scene is the raised terrace with a garden table and chairs and a washing line. This commands a delightful view over the town, I've added Panoramio photos.

The address is 51 Calle la Peña, Luarca, Asturias, Spain. There is a pedestrian zig-zag walkway straight down to the town centre, where many bars and restaurants provide outstandingly good food at astonishingly low prices. Try the exquisite cakes at the Ancomar, (43.542969 / -6.534748) and take evening meals out at the nearby Don Angel (43.543760 / -6.535136) restaurant.

Mobile phone signal is strong and for free WiFi, use the 'Cromwell' pub - and try the local cider. Take an evening walk around both the eastern and western valley heights before descending to the harbour. You can email the owner, Frances Sutton for more information.

To get a flavour of the location, you can see Bikecam footage to the cottage from Luarca centre, stopping outside the front door and then ascending to the hill top road which leads to the motorway. For a different view, paste 43.542547 / -6.536670 into Google Earth, zoom right in and then switch to Street View. The images were taken in July 2014, about a month after we were first there.

Below : Luarca town and harbour from the western clifftop walk (43.545295 / -6.536496)

Group Dynamics

Whilst you can quite successfully complete a solo trip on a long weekend's excursion, for serious touring taking longer than that there is a great deal of truth in the old saying "safety in numbers". Being in a group of like-minded bikers is simply more fun than being alone. In pure and simple terms, problems such as sudden illness and mechanical failure are far more easily dealt with in a group situation. Also it's pleasant to sit over a beer of an evening and talk over the day and the expedition.

However - and this is important - the very fact that a group exists creates problems of its own. Can you share tents, or B&B accommodation? Who smokes and who doesn't? Who snores? Who can spend a half day examining a famous cathedral, and who prefers exploring semi-derelict wartime bunkers? Who just wants to ride somewhere and sit in a bar or camping site poolside, drinking beer? Who wants to blast down endless motorways, and then sit and wait whilst more staid riders arrive an hour later? Who's a good leader, unflustered on foreign roads, able to shepherd the group through a busy city centre?

Languages : who speaks French / German / Spanish / Dutch / Polish / Czech ? (I strongly recommend the 'Elisabeth Smith' series!)

In a group situation your most important aspect is SIMILARITY - of interest, of bike, of mind. Why are you going where you are going? What are the key points of interest? Is there something for everyone, and are you prepared to visit (and pay to enter) a site that you aren't really interested in, and wouldn't normally go to, just because someone else in the group wants to go? Are you prepared to ride faster - or more slowly - than you normally do, to preserve the group cohesion? The difficulty of preserving group harmony is exponential to the number involved.

A tour like this is best done in groups of two or three good friends. You can do it with four or more, but the more people involved, the more difficult it is to find a route and places to go which will suit everyone. All the members need to have a completely equal say in not only the various destinations and what you all want to do when you get there, but the routing and general logistics.

Consider also different bike performance criteria, varying levels of riding skills and general motorcycling experience. We had a situation on one trip where a member of the group was found to be an unskilled rider who could not cope with motorway traffic or the twists and turns of mountain riding. He was on a very powerful bike which was way beyond his level of competence. His progress on the daily rides was so slow that the rest of us were compelled to constantly stop and wait for him. This caused frustration and friction. When evaluating riders for possible inclusion in a group holiday, remember that skill levels, confidence and experience can differ.

Command Decisions

We have had in the past a situation where one member of the team, a newcomer who was not well known to us, displayed distinct anti-social behaviour which caused embarrassment and concern to the others. This caused considerable friction and resulted in him being ordered to leave the Adventure mid-term and return home. I very strongly recommend that organisers and existing team members who receive enquiries from newcomers to spend as much time together as possible before the journey starts. This gives the opportunity to raise reservations or objections prior to the enquirer being formally invited to join the team. On a relaxed holiday like this, road rage, aggressive and argumentative behaviour and constant attempts to chat up / attract any nearby female is not a formula for success.

In the light of the above paragraph I should also add that on rare occasions, usually - although not exclusively - when having to deal with officialdom, it is sometimes necessary for the Adventure Organiser to formally make Command Decisions. In such cases, what he says goes. Such instances are rare but experience has taught me that they can happen.

Whoever is leading is always right - even when he's wrong

All members of the group should take it in turns to take the ride lead, because it's much easier to follow than lead and it's unfair to expect the same person to always be the leader. Heading up a group of riders in unfamiliar road layouts and having to navigate, watch a satnav screen, traffic and others of the group can be a very stressful experience.

The last thing you need at such a time is backseat driving and arguments over the inter-bike radio about which way to go. Dick or Harry may know or see a short cut but if Tom is leading, everyone follows Tom. If he cocks up, it doesn't matter - the satnavs will always get you there in the end, even if they take you all round the houses in the process. Remember that different models of satnav will probably calculate different routes between the same points.

So - the golden rule of navigation is - whoever is leading is always right, even when he's wrong. Always follow the leader, and keep quiet unless he asks for help. Tomorrow it might be your turn in the hot seat, and when it is, it's no shame to pull into a layby or side road and get a fix on where you are, and to check your route - or simply as a breathing space after a while of fighting the pressures.

For the benefit of those unfamiliar with group riding : you agree a riding order as each leg of the journey starts and you NEVER overtake the rider in front - maintain your line of sight to both the rider in front and the one behind. If the one behind is not there, you slow down, or stop - and so on up the chain. The Tail End Charlie, if he can't see the leader, should briefly announce himself when he's clear of a junction, roundabout or other traffic situation, so that the leader knows that all is well behind.

When leading a group of riders:-

1) Think for everyone. Don't take off alone at junctions leaving the rest behind - if everyone can't emerge together, wait until they can.

2) When cruising, keep a totally consistent speed. It's very hard work to stay with a leader who is constantly up and down the speed range.

3) Also be consistent in how you ride and handle traffic. If you always do everything the same way it is easy for those following to anticipate your moves.

4) 70 mph at the front of the group is 85 or 90 mph at the back as they try and keep up. A bike less powerful than yours at the rear of the group may not be able to catch up.

5) Watch the trip mileage and be aware of when refuelling is necessary - leave a safe margin for emergencies.

A good leader will live with one eye in the mirror to ensure that everyone is there. And it's handy if the Tail End Charlie wears something very conspicuous, so that he's easily seen. Leading is not easy - as you will find out!

The following are recommended:-

Country

Name

Location

Visited By

Comments

Austria
Werfen 47.479556 / 13.186108
Author
May 2010. Excellent Inn immediately on the right as you come off the bypass to the north of the village. Very hospitable with huge garages for bikes, outstanding service and ideally placed to visit the "Where Eagles Dare" Castle Hohenwerfen just a mile or so up the road. Very highly recommended.

Belgium

 Kasteelhof t'Hooge

50.846642 / 2.946086

Ypres

Author (5 times)

Most recently in May 2010. Friendly and comfortable hotel three miles east of Ypres along the Menin road. Has its own private Trench and Bunker system to explore, with good food and drinks available. Take a taxi into Ypres to watch the Last Post ceremony. Other WW1 sites are close by. Very highly recommended.

 50.846636 / 2.897619

Author

May 2009. Very good site just off the south-east of the ring road, within walking distance of the town centre. Good facilities. (In May 2010 this site was being redeveloped)

Czech Republic

Camp Drusus

50.044150 / 14.284212

Trebonice, 15 miles west of Prague, just inside outer ring road

Author

May 2007. Simple clean site with bar/restaurant and very helpful owner, but watch out for tent thieves visiting whilst you are away, and during the night. Very good local bus and then Metro service into Prague.

France

Camping Robinson

Bourges 47.073394 / 2.394519

Author

May 2008. Friendly family site on the south side of the city, with good facilities and easy to find.

 

Arras 50.304643 / 2.928343

Author

May 2009. Situated at Plouvain about 7 miles east of Arras. No-frills site with basic facilities.

 

Formigny (near Omaha Beach)

49.340876 / -0.896295

Author

May 2009. AVOID! Major rip-off! Cider Farm site to the north of the village. Mangy facilities.

I was informed in June 2014 that this site has changed ownership, and conditions have much improved.

 

Aren / Saucede 43.266440 / -0.684461.

Good food at Geus, 43.250389 / -0.705532

Author

May 2008. Riverside no-frills camp in very quiet location; nip into the centre of adjacent village of Geus and find the old coaching inn for your meal.

 

Chartres 48.435861 / 1.498975

Author

May 2009. Large camp to the south of the city, very spacious and with good facilities.

 

Rennes 48.135237 / -1.643421

Author

May 2009. Spacious camp to the north-east of the city, noted for the many grazing rabbits. Pleasant location, good facilities.

La Ville Huchet

St Malo 48.615361 / -1.988365

Author

May 2009. Outstandingly good site about 6 miles south of the town, bar/restaurant, pool and play area, owner most hospitable. Very highly recommended.

La Vignogue

Chanac 44.464752 / 3.347623

Author

May 2008. Very quiet spot nestling in hillside village. BBQ places, walk up to the village for food.

Camping Piscine

Bourg d'Oisans

Steve Adcock

July 2008. Bottom of Alpe d'Huez, so crazy if the Tour de France is coming through.

Metz Plage

Metz

Steve Adcock

July 2008. Magnificent setting beside Moselle, and 5 minutes from the Cathedral

Val Joly

Watten

Steve Adcock

June 2009. Convenient for Calais / Dunkerque. Very quiet. Chip van in centre at weekends.

23 miles south of Paris
Comfortable, decent showers, laundry facilities, WiFi, a bar (but no food), Restaurants nearby (10-15 minute walk), BBQs (just charcoal and food required) and 20 minutes by RER from Paris. Very busy during the busy periods - Easter, European Summer holidays so it is recommended you book. It's not cheap but great as a base to explore Paris.

Le Beau Village, 1 Voie des Prés,, 91700 Villiers sur Orge
Tel : +33 (0) 160 161 786 http://www.beau-village.com/

 

Le Bez 43.608123 / 2.471074

Author

May 2008. Largeish secluded site rather off the beaten track, no frills but clean and respectable. Google Earth

Germany

 

Eder Lake (Edersee) 51.168043 / 9.080210

Author

May 2007. Fine site well to the east of the lake, bar/restaurant, good facilities and quiet.

Waldbad

Colditz 51.130697 / 12.832972

Author

May 2007. Tidy forested camp with simple facilities wel placed to visit the famous Castle at 51.131164 / 12.807319

am See

Lindau

Steve Adcock

 

Biberach 48.338636 / 8.028310
Author
May 2010 and 2011. English owner - very accommodating with excellent facilities and food, inside secure parking for bikes. Very highly recommended.
Unering cottage 48.028000 / 11.250702
Between Seefeld and Starnberg, 35 miles SW of Munich. Owned by Dr Karl Neppel
Author
May 2010, 2011 and 2012. Quite excellent! Extremely quiet location, cellar play/bed room with laundry area; living room, kitchen and shower/WC; and three single beds + ensuite, plus another twin room. Would easily sleep 5. Very highly recommended.

City Camp

Frankfurt 50.164487 / 8.650059

Author

May 2007. Excellent, large bar/restaurant and facilities. Riverside, close to rail line but quiet.

Spain

Fishermans Cottage
51 Calle de la Pena, Luarca, Asturias, Spain 43.542549 / -6.536655
Author
Delightful cottage perched on the hillside overlooking the town and distant railway viaducts, fully equipped and sleeps 6 (twin attic beds, double room, bunk beds) and well placed to ride the mountains a short distance to the south. 60 miles west of the port of Gijon and about 165 west from Santander. (May 2014/15/16/17) Very highly recommended. Email the owner, Frances Sutton

Collegats

La Pobla de Segur 42.259625 / 0.986146

Author

May 2008. Excellent riverside site in an olive grove, accommodating owner, pool, bar/restaurant. Stunning scenery and perfect for the Pyrenean mountain roads.

Luxembourg

Op dem Deich

Vianden

Steve Adcock

June 2008. Beautiful setting.

  There are some YouTube videos of the 2013 and 2014 trips, these are usually 'BikeCam' sequences set to music : Riding The Mountains / Boarding the Poole-Cherbourg Ferry / Crossing the Millau Viaduct / Sunny Days in France / Pyrenean Bends / Riding the mountain road in Asturias, Spain 1 and 2.

To email me you must manually remove the extra 'z' from the email address and be sure to put either Deauville or zooble into the subject line or message body, to bypass my energetic spam filters.

I hope seeing details of our 'Adventures' motivates and encourages you to plan and make a 'Motorcycle Adventure' of your own.


Some PMR handsets, notably the Kenwood range, don't use the same subchannels as others and you may well need to tinker with the settings. I hope this chart provides some guidance!

Channel on Kenwood PMR
Channel on 'normal' PMR
CTCSS or subchannel on 'normal' PMR
1
1
10
2
8
8
3
3
13
4
6
5
5
4
17
6
2
18
7
7
19
8
5
7
9
1
14
10
8
15
11
3
16
12
6
6