Tips for your first ride in Europe

Make your first riding trip abroad safer

Tips for your first ride in Europe

By Alan Dowds

WE might be leaving the EU, but we’ll still be part of Europe, as fervent Brexit fans are wont to say. And unless things go badly wrong, we’ll still be leaping on our bikes for a continental blast every now and again. If you’ve not ridden in mainland Europe before, it can be a bit of a worry. But here’s a few tips for your first jaunt abroad on the bike…

1. Get it right

The big thing, of course, is riding on the 'wrong' side of the road. This is much, much easier than you think it will be actually, and most folk get over it really quickly. Obviously, bikes don't have the problems a car has, of the operating then sitting on the wrong side of the vehicle for observing the road ahead. So you're able to simply flip your normal road position rules over, and have all the same forward vision and junction positioning you have at home.

Tip: remember, turning left out of T-junction now requires checking for oncoming traffic from both directions. That’s if you want to live to the end of your trip.

2. Beware tiredness

It’s when you’re tired or distracted that your brain can revert to what it’s used to.

The classic time is when you pull in for fuel and a coffee late in the day. You relax, your mind drifts a bit, and before you know it, your helmet is back on, you're pulling out of the Total station and you have a French HGV bearing down on you because you're on the wrong side of the road.

Remind yourself each morning, because first venture onto the road of the day can also go hand-in-hand with forgetfulness, especially if there is little traffic around to point the way.

Some folk put signs on their tank, bits of duct tape on the top yoke, arrows, ribbons on the right hand mirror, all sorts of aides-memoir. It looks daft but so does riding on the wrong side of the road.

3. The miles do not go quicker out here…

The other big thing is kilometre signs instead of miles. You do get a bit of a buzz from seeing '130' on a speed limit sign, and the distance signs to your destination also click down faster! But seeing 'Paris 1057' is a bit of a frightener at first.

Remember: a kilometre to a mile is like 62p to the pound.

4. Don’t think you can’t lose your licence

It's tempting to think you can ride how you like abroad, with your tourist’s cloak of invisibility. Sadly, that’s becoming a thing of the past: many Euro countries have struck deals with the UK feds to transfer any road traffic offences to your home country. So speeding in France and the Low Countries, which used to be just a financial risk, now means you might get points on your licence too. Our advice? Power on (at a steady rate) to Germany and seek out some unrestricted Autobahn for your speedy kicks.

And remember, French traffic law includes a lot of requirements that don't apply over here, including a high-vis for you and any pillion (stored in case of breakdown), four relflective stickers on your helmet (one on the front, one at the back and one on each side) and two breathalysers.

Maybe just get the ferry to Spain or Holland, eh. 

Find more riding advice articles here.