5 things to know BE­FORE RID­ING IN... France

Motorcycle Monthly - - Knowledge -

France is bik­ing heaven – fan­tas­tic roads, great scenery, wel­com­ing peo­ple and rel­a­tively few cars to spoil the fun. But there are a few specifics you need to be aware of to make sure your two-wheeled trip goes smoothly…


The gen­eral speed limit is 90kph (55mph) un­less oth­er­wise in­di­cated. 130kph (80mph) is al­lowed on mo­tor­ways (110kph (68mph) if it’s rain­ing and on ur­ban mo­tor­ways). 50kph (30mph) is the rule in towns and vil­lages but there are no signs – the limit be­gins as you pass the vil­lage sign and ends as you pass the crossed-out sign on the other side.

France has been clamp­ing down hard on speed­ing lately and on-thes­pot fines are the norm. If you can’t pay or if you’ve grossly ex­ceeded the limit (around 50kph over the mo­tor­way limit is enough) they can im­pound and even crush or sell your bike. So you’ve been warned. It’s com­mon to find a speed trap hid­den away un­der a bridge just be­fore a ma­jor mo­tor­way ser­vices.

If you’re flashed, a chase car (of­ten a dark blue Subaru or Re­nault Me­gane RS) or bike will pull you into the ser­vices, where you can be frog­marched to a cash­point to pay the fine. Any kind of de­vice that warns you you’re near­ing a speed camera (even if it’s just a sat-nav with lo­ca­tions loaded) is strictly il­le­gal.


Su­per­mar­kets are by far the cheap­est op­tion. Mo­tor­way ser­vices are breath­tak­ingly ex­pen­sive. Don’t as­sume you’ll eas­ily find fuel late at night or on a Sun­day, es­pe­cially in ru­ral ar­eas.

When you do find a 24 hour garage, it will al­most cer­tainly be cards only, and not all UK cards work at French pumps – the time to test it is when there are other op­tions, not late on a Sun­day night. Debit cards are cheaper to use abroad than credit cards but fees vary wildly – check in ad­vance.


These are far cheaper for bikes than cars, but they can still mount up. On some hol­i­day week­ends and all year round at many toll bridges, pas­sage is free for bikes – look out for signs di­rect­ing you to­wards a sep­a­rate lane off to one side.

Doc­u­ments etc.

You must carry your driv­ing li­cence, pass­port, regis­tra­tion doc­u­ment and proof of in­sur­ance and be pre­pared to pro­duce them on de­mand. Fail­ure to do so is pun­ish­able by an im­me­di­ate fine. Your UK pol­icy au­to­mat­i­cally cov­ers you for travel with the EU, but only for the le­gal min­i­mum (in most cases Third Party Only).

Some in­sur­ers of­fer au­to­matic ex­ten­sions of full cover, but you need to check be­fore trav­el­ling. Break­down in­sur­ance is highly rec­om­mended. Read the small print though; many poli­cies in­sist you buy cover for the en­tire jour­ney, so cover must in­clude the day that you leave home and not just be­gin as you land in France, or you may find you have no cover at all.

By law you must carry a dis­pos­able breathal­yser; in prac­tice, there’s no fine for not car­ry­ing one, so it’s up to you if you bother, but they’re only cheap...

Pri­or­ité à Droite – IM­POR­TANT

If you ig­nore every­thing else on this list, please don’t ig­nore this one...

Less com­mon than it used to be, it’s still in force in some towns and ru­ral ar­eas, and gives driv­ers pulling out from the right pri­or­ity over those al­ready on the road. Which wouldn’t be so bad but a lot of driv­ers won’t even look as they pull out. On main roads a junc­tion with pri­or­ité à droite should be sig­nalled by a tri­an­gu­lar sign with a red bor­der and a black cross on a white back­ground. Else­where (and es­pe­cially in towns and vil­lages) you’ll see a di­a­mond­shaped sign with a white bor­der and yel­low cen­tre – this means your road has pri­or­ity. If it has a black di­ag­o­nal line through it, that means your road doesn’t have pri­or­ity.

French traf­fic lights are sim­i­lar to ours, but flash­ing orange means traf­fic join­ing from the right has pri­or­ity, un­less in­di­cated oth­er­wise. You can’t trust the lo­cals to take no­tice of this though... The bot­tom line is it’s the bike that comes off worst, so a healthy para­noia as you’re ap­proach­ing a side road junc­tion is wise.

“The bot­tom line is it’s the bike that comes off worst, so a healthy para­noia as you’re ap­proach­ing a side road junc­tion is wise.”

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