Many motorcycle riders and pillions will load up and head off this summer for quieter roads, in better climates all over Europe . . and beyond. If you are one of them, here is a quick checklist of the essential packing and planning tips . . .
· Ensure that you machine is ready to go the distance; check your brakes, fluid levels, lights, chain condition/tension, bodywork . . . a minor dealer service just before the tour would make sense.
CHECK . . .
· Check tyre condition and adjust tyre pressures if you are taking a bigger load than normal.
· Adjust suspension settings, if necessary.
· Check your headlight is adjusted to allow for a fully laden bike and is bias in the right direction if you will be riding on the right-hand side of the road.
· If you are confident and capable, refer to the manufacturers manual for settings and ‘do it yourself’. If not, visit your trusted dealer and have a coffee while the service team gets the set up just right for you.
· TOP TIP . . . don’t forget to alter your settings back to ‘normal’ when you return home.
PAPERWORK . . .
· Check that your bike insurance covers travel/rescue/recovery in the countries you intend to visit. You can often add European cover to your existing policy, or purchase a single trip policy, or an annual multi trip policy to suit. The important thing is – don’t go without – and bear in mind, the minimum mandatory requirements can vary from one country to another.
· Take your passport (don’t laugh, they do get left behind!) and your driving licence. If you have a newer 2-part licence, take both parts.
· TOP TIP . . . take a photocopy of your passport and drivers licence with you and keep them separate from the originals; just in case of loss, theft or damage (i.e. river crossings, beach excursions!!!)
· The E111 has been replaced by the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) and this covers you (both) for state-provided medical care in the event of accident and illness whilst travelling through the European Economic Area. You can buy it online http://www.ehic.org.uk (it will take up to 8 working days to issue), OR by telephone (10 working days to issue), OR by visiting a Post Office (21 working days to issue). Buy it and take it with you.
PACKING . . .
· Distribute weight evenly between the panniers – to maintain the bikes balance.
· Make sure that additional ‘strapped-on’ luggage cannot move around when you are on the road – this would affect the bikes handling. More importantly, something that looks secure at a standstill can shift or even fall off because of the buffeting wind and the normal vibrations when travelling. Be sure it is secure.
· Place heavier items lower down – to keep your centre of gravity as low as possible.
· TOP TIP . . . If you still need more packing space, consider using a tank bag rather than a rucksack; why carry the weight yourself and spend hundreds of miles listening to the wind whistle around a rucksack?
CROSSING THE CHANNEL . . .
· Take a small, soft towel to protect your tank from the strapping that secures your bike to the deck.
· It would definitely be worth investing in your own pack of straps/hooks/ratchets as well; the kit they use on the ferry can be grubby, gritty and well worn. Visit your dealer.
· Watch them as they secure YOUR bike – it is YOU that has to be happy with it.
NAVIGATION . . .
· Check your Sat. Nav. recognises your destination and the areas you will travel through, if not, update the system. . . OR . . .
· Buy the right road maps. Even if you know the route, a map gives you the options to take the road less travelled, change your mind . . . come home a different way . . . as you wish.
LONG WAY ROUND?
· Don’t put yourself under pressure to cover huge distances; it’s your holiday. If you are travelling two-up, remember it’s a holiday for you both. Plan for less miles and you can actually do more . . . take pictures, go back over that brilliant stretch of tarmac again, take a rest day, change your plans, stop and talk to like-minded tourers . . .
CLOTHING . . .
· Assess all of the weather and the temperatures that you are likely to encounter, take everything you need and no more. Wear motorcycle clothing with vents for cooling, a removable quilted liner for warmth and a removable waterproof liner.
· TOP TIP . . . Always wear a back protector.
· Don’t be tempted to ‘dress-down’ because you are on holiday. Always wear the right kit.
· THE REALLY USEFUL “BAG OF BITS” . . . Tyre pressure gauge, a few cable ties, roll of electrical tape, (spare bulbs?), set of Allen keys, utility tool (e.g. Leatherman), visor cleaner & cloths, energy bars, painkillers, emergency cash and a spare credit/debit card.
Enjoy !!! And when you get back home, visit the RideSafe BackSafe Forum and share your holiday tips, experiences and pictures with others.