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biking in europe


With regular ferries and the Channel Tunnel making travel to the continent quick and easy, it’s never been simpler to pack up your panniers and head over to Europe for a weekend away on the motorbike.


Despite EU regulations making travel across borders a largely seamless operation, individual countries still have their own subtly different rules that have to be adhered to if you want to stay legal while motorcycling abroad.


When riding in mainland Europe, the key thing to remember is to ride on the right. Less than one third of the countries in the world drive on the left hand side of the road and of those 75 nations, only the United Kingdom, Cyprus, Malta and Ireland are in Europe. This also affects the headlights on your motorcycle, as the pattern of light they emit will have been set for riding on the left.


It’s a legal requirement to change this in most European countries, as you’ll risk dazzling oncoming traffic when riding at night if you don’t. Depending on the bike you ride, your dealer may be able to adjust the headlights for you, otherwise you can purchase beam converters to mask the offending part of the beam. You can pick these up from most motorbike dealerships or car accessory stores like Halfords.


It’s also a requirement to display a GB sticker when riding abroad. Many vehicles already have an EU spec number plate, displaying the EU circle of stars and country code on the left hand side of the number plate, and although these plates have been compulsory since late 1998 in most EU nations, they have only ever been optional in the UK. If you do have one of these plates, you don’t need to do anything else. If you don’t, you’ll need to display a GB sign on the back of your bike. If you don’t, you’ll risk picking up a fine in many countries.


When travelling, it’s always worth reading up on the individual rules for each individual countries. It goes without saying that having a zero tolerance approach to drinking and riding is always the best policy but always make sure that you know the alcohol limits in each individual country you visit, as they can differ and are often less than those in the UK.


While we in the UK generally have a more laid back approach to carrying documentation, it’s compulsory to do so in most other countries. Driving licence, vehicle registration and insurance certificates should be kept with you as a matter of course, as well as your passport. Being unable to produce is at best a minor inconvenience and at worst can see your bike impounded or you detained by the police.


The Foreign Office travel advice website offers some useful information for travellers to all countries, including specifics about driving, and is well worth checking out. In the meantime, here are a few fast facts that are well worth considering:


In France, motorists are required to carry a breathalyser and spare bulbs with you. You and your passenger also need to carry a hi-vis vest, to be worn at the side of the road, should you have an accident or breakdown. France is hotter than most when it comes to rules and they also insist on riders wearing reflective helmets. Most British riders touring Europe will travel through France at some stage, and the police around the Calais area are known frequently stop motorcycles in the area so beware. If it sounds like riding in France is a bit of a nightmare, it’s not. It’s also home to some of the best roads in Europe while the French government has at least lightened up on one thing, as filtering through traffic on a motorbike was finally legalised just last year!


Carrying hi-viz is also compulsory in several other EU countries, including Spain, so we would strongly recommend any tourists put together an emergency kit that also includes spare bulbs and copies of all documentation.


Finally, always check you are legal to ride in the country you are travelling through. Young riders should check that they meet that country’s age limits and all riders should ensure that their motorcycle insurance is valid. At Carole Nash we offer EU cover for up to 90 days, and our other benefits include travel insurance designed specifically for bikers.


Although not compulsory, breakdown cover and travel insurance are both advisable. If you don’t have medical insurance, a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is available free of charge and gives you the right to receive an NHS level of healthcare while in another EU country or Switzerland, while Britain remains part of the European Union.


It’s also worth remembering that the United Kingdom is scheduled to leave its membership of the European Union in early 2019 and once ‘Brexit’ has been completed these guidelines may change quite significantly, so do check for the latest information before travelling.



Did you know that Carole Nash Motorbike Insurance also has 90 days breakdown cover in Europe?

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