Top touring tips
Be safe and legal
1Long arm of the law
To keep legal as a road user in Europe you must travel with various safety related items, for example a first aid kit (mandatory in Austria, France and Germany), high-visibility vest (one for rider and pillion), and a breathalyser (compulsory in France). The RAC website (www.rac.co.uk) has a full breakdown of required items, so cross reference it when planning your route.
2Don’t get deflated
Check whether your bike has tubeless tyres or uses inner tubes then buy a suitable puncture repair kit. Even if you have tubeless tyres, packing a spare inner tube is a good idea as it can be used as a temporary repair for punctures that are too big to plug. For around £20 it’s money well spent, but you must go straight to a garage for a replacement tyre or professional repair.
Away from main roads you may discover that smaller cafés and filling stations only accept cash, so it’s wise to take a few Euros. When it comes to using debit and credit cards you should make a preference to use your credit card most of the time. The reason being is that in the event of card fraud you have more protection from the card company as opposed to a debit type.
4Show me your papers
Most of the European borders are open and have no passport control. The exception in Western Europe is Switzerland where you will be required to stop on entry and also purchase a sticker in order to use the motorways. For medical cover UK citizens can use an EHIC card, this is free and can be applied for at www.nhs.uk/ehic before travel.
6Is your rubber up to it?
Make sure there is plenty of tread and the tyre is in good condition with no cuts or cracks. The choice of tyres these days is excellent with all genres of riding covered, so if you’re planning a 4000mile round trip it would be foolish to expect a tyre designed for trackdays to last the distance without squaring off.
8A question of navigation
For some the idea of using a satnav takes away the independence and free-spirited nature of touring, if this is you then have a stash of compact maps and enjoy the challenge of traditional travel. If you are relying on a satnav to show you the way, always use a standalone device and not your smartphone. Not only will you be charged for data while abroad, but what happens when there is no signal?
5You need the bike’s docs too
Proof of insurance cover and the vehicle’s logbook plus your driving licence are all required for EU travel. If you don’t own the bike, a letter from the registered owner is acceptable. These documents are usually not required unless asked for by customs or police. If you’re going through Switzerland it’s likely you will be asked to produce them.
7Is your bike trip-fit?
Get your bike serviced before you leave if it’s close to an interval. If you’re in-between intervals you should get the oil and filter done, check the chain and sprockets and brake pads. That oil leak that needs wiping once a week will only get worse on a big trip; an engine that burns a lot of oil never gets any better either.
9Keep it secure
Just as it is at home, security is a must when travelling. Don’t give anywhere the benefit of the doubt, and always lock your bike away in a garage or to something. If you’re travelling with other bikes then lock them all together. Although they’re heavy and cumbersome to pack, a chain and lock is always better than a U-type shackle or disc lock. Some hotels offer secure bike parking.