Planning for the summer in Europe

With the way the weather is at the moment it’s almost as if summer is already here isn’t it. I wonder if it’s got you thinking about planning your summer rides.

There are two ways to get ready for trips aren’t there? As a mate of mine says, ‘Just go! Don’t plan! Map? Check. Clean underwear? Check. Bike still on the drive? Ready! Go!’

That’s not for me though; I’m too lazy. If I have a plan and I’ve done my research, then I’m ready to roll through all the unexpected adventures that the road is going to throw at me. Life on the road doesn’t need to be a hassle battle. Things that go wrong are the adventures just as much as finding yourself looking out over one of the most amazing views you’ve ever seen.

I don’t know about you, but for me at least a third of the buzz of a trip through Europe comes from getting ready for the off. I love the planning, dreaming and drooling stage; the time when the seed of an idea grows into an adventure. And I think that this buzz is pretty much the same whether you are heading off for two weeks, a month, or even longer still. It’s all about the escape on two wheels.

Gone Riding

Gone Riding

If you’ve travelled before, or never been outside the UK, the prep stage ought to follow the same lines. It’s one of the things that make us motorcyclists able to ride side by side. The rules are simple and some are bloomin’ obvious, but there are others that it’s too easy to forget. So, to help ease away wintery mental rust, here are a few thoughts for you.
First, decide which countries you want to ride through, and at what time of year – that can be a critical issue. For example, some parts of Europe can be an overcrowded zoo in July and August and you may not fancy riding in the snow, or in 40 degrees.

If you are going to be riding with someone else or as part of a group, before you do anything else at all, you ought to find out what each of you really want out of the trip. What do I mean? Are you riding out because you all want to be on the bikes covering as many miles as possible every day? Or is it about discovering quaint off the road places, or taking the time to stop and enjoy the views. Is one of you into photography and wanting to stop for shots all the time? Do you want posh hotels or budget motels, or are you all happy to camp? Sort this lot and you have a recipe for success.

We always camp as it allows us to make things up as we go along, but staying in hotels if the weather socks in or we breakdown? Not a problem. Who needs to be a purist? But let’s assume you are going to be camping – either because you enjoy the freedom, or because it’s a sign of thinner wallet times, or… And let’s also assume that you’ll be staying on the asphalt or decent gravel.

Admin
Maps – snag large scale maps so you know where the back roads are as well as the main roads.
GPS – yes ok, one of those, with EU maps loaded! But don’t put your blinkers on when you plug yours in.
Phone App – We are using Co-Pilot for navigation (when we have it turned on that is) and it works really well.
Your driving licence.
MOT – up to date of course.
Registration docs – V5 .
EU motorcycle insurance – most won’t cover you once you get into the far east of Europe. Buy insurance at the border if that’s the case – it’s an adventure and not hard.
Travel Insurance – make sure yours covers whatever cc your bike is and includes repatriation.
E111 medical card. (for now)
Credit and Debit cards.
Some Euro cash – at least enough for 4 days of living on your budget.
And your passports of course!
Photocopy of all your paperwork. 2 sets; one to leave at home, and one to carry with you in a safe, waterproof place.
Guide books – physical or downloads to your phone or kindle.
Rules of the road for each country?

Clothing
Waterproof protective bike gear.
Comfortable bike boots.
Thin layers so you can adapt to temperature changes.
A heated waistcoat, even in the summer – there’s cold in then there hills.
2 T-shirts (merino wool stays odour free for days at a time), a fleece, 3 undies, 3 pairs socks, hat with a brim, lightweight trousers, flip flops and a multi-purpose sarong!
A sarong is always handy to have. You can use it for a multitude of things including a sheet, a dash to the loo in the middle of the night, they are great for laying on the beach and if you do the bung-everything-in-the-launderette gig, you’ll feel less of a burke in one than you would in a black bin liner!

Kit
If there are 2 of you, take a 3 person tent; one that you can sit up in.
A good sleeping mat, 3-4 season sleeping bag, and a cotton sleeping bag liner.
A petrol stove.
Water bottles – carry at least 3 ltr
A mug, a pot, a plate/bowl, a spoon and a knife per person; forget a fork!
Wash kit and camping towel – leave Terry at home!
You’ll always find a collapsible brolly handy to have too. Mine has over 150,000 miles on it now and besides my bike is probably the most useful bit of travel kit I have.
Camera and plenty of memory cards.
As an optimist – Sun tan lotion – factor 30 at least.

Bike Spares
Give your bike a full service at least a month before you go – no nasty last-minute surprises then. Do a final oil and tyre check before you set off.
Duct tape, cable ties and a spare bulb kit.
Puncture repair kit inc tyre levers and a pump.
Small selection of nuts and bolts.
It’s also worth finding out where the dealers for your bike are in the countries you’ll be travelling though.

That’s that lot sorted then. Just remember that you really don’t need much kit and if you do need something along the way, buy yourself a souvenir! Oh, and do pay attention to how you pack your kit. Vibrations can quickly wear holes in things – watch what you pack next to what. Pack the heavy stuff at the bottom of your panniers, and to the front of them. Weight down low and between your wheels helps your balance on and off road.

So, anything else? List the top ten things you want to do, and learn about them. Doesn’t matter if you make it to them all or not, your list will give you a very useful flavour of the countries you’ll be riding.

Language? Learn how to say “Hello”, “Please”, “Which way to…” and “Thank you”, in the language of every country you’ll ride. It’s fun getting your tongue around some of ‘em! What an amazing difference that can make to the way people treat you. The combination of your bike and your willingness to say hello goes a very long way. There are great people out there.