Top 6 Tips For Surviving Your First European Ride
In June 2015 Maschine took our first tour group overseas to Europe for a 16 day tour. It wasn’t our first trip riding a motorcycle or scooter in a foreign country but on that trip we certainly learnt a few tips to help ease the stress of understanding life on the road in Europe.
In June 2018 we are heading back to Europe with another motorcycle tour group travelling through Germany, Austria and Italy for our Pinnacle Passes & Sardinia tour. As part of the tour we will participate in the KTM Adventure Rally on the Italian island of Sardinia. We can’t wait!
To help prepare for our Pinnacle Passes & Sardinia tour coming up, we thought it was worth revisiting these top tips for surviving your first European riding experience:
Go with the flow – The traffic can be crazy at times, particularly in Italy. Our number one piece of advice is go with the flow. Italians tend to fill every space that is available in traffic so be prepared to get carved up on a regular basis. Don’t get angry about it, just return the favour!
- Swiss tolls and fines – To travel around Switzerland is hellishly expensive. In particular their road tolls are high. To travel on their motorways you have to buy a “Vignette” which is a sticker that goes on the windscreen of your car or bike. It costs something like CHF 40 (approx. $50 AUD) for an annual day pass. You can’t buy them for any shorter lengths of time. No day passes. No monthly passes. Crazy! The country is beautiful but you don’t feel quite as free as in Italy. With the exorbitant prices for food and accomodation we found we just didn’t fully relax like we did in Italy.
- German autobahns – Love to watch fast cars? Then Germany is your country! Get on an autobahn here with unlimited speed limit and you can have some fun. Porsche’s, BMW’s, Mercs and Audi’s regularly fly past doing 200kph plus. The autobahns are often 3 or 4 lanes wide and if you are in the left hand lane (think middle of the road) you had better be on it and watching your rear view mirrors! The cars typically come up behind you with their lights flashing and the difference in closing rate of speed between 130kph and 200kph is quite a lot! The really cool thing over there is that if there is a traffic jam coming up then drivers put their hazard lights on to warn cars coming behind of slowing traffic. It works so well. If only Australian drivers were as well educated and courteous over here!
- Righty tighty, lefty loosey – Someone told me this little acronym before we went to Europe and I usually associate it with how to tighten nuts and bolts. In the case of where you are riding or driving on the wrong side (right hand side) of the road though it works equally well. So the idea is if you are riding on the right hand side of the road and are turning a right hand corner, stay tight to the kerb. If you are going around a left hand turn then hang loose and wide. Try it, it works!
- Speeding and speed cameras – So coming from Victoria (the nanny state) I found the speed limits in Italy really hard to figure out. We started our trip in Italy and everyone seemed to pay little attention to speed limits on the motorways in particular. Do whatever as they please, almost. We didn’t see any police using radar speed guns like is common in Australia. A couple of things I noticed though:
- They will show a speed limit sign coming into a town but sometimes no speed sign leaving the town to let you know that you can resume a higher speed of say 90kph. All they have is a sign with the town name and a big red line through telling you that you have left the town. It’s your guess then as to what speed you can go back to!
- Speed cameras exist over there but Italians seem quite happy to speed in between them and then slow down for the camera. They usually have signs before the cameras but there are three kinds of cameras to look out for:
- “Auto Veloce” cameras on the overhead gantries on Autostradas have signs on them.
- Orange boxes on the side of roads.
- Grey boxes on the side of roads.
- It’s probably not a good idea to wheelie past a speed camera on mountain passes but if you are going to, then make sure it’s a nice high stand-up wheelie so the number plate is hard to read! I still haven’t received a fine in the mail yet so whilst this tactic is not recommended it may have worked???
- The rental company we used last time showed us an absolute wad of paperwork which were speeding fines from previous customers. I wonder if there will be any warrants for our arrest waiting if we return?
- Mountain passes – Even though our wheels didn’t touch gravel it was still an adventure ride! The mountain passes have hairpins like you wouldn’t believe, the kind where you have to swivel your neck around to see where you are going. Some passes had cows wandering on the road and cobble-stoned surfaces that make your fillings shake. The roads can seem impossibly narrow with massive drops down to the valley floor hundreds of metres below.
- You see some pretty whacky vehicles on the road there too – tricked up quad bikes are a pretty common sight.
If you want to experience for yourself just how amazing the Alpine mountain passes are or how blue the waters of Sardinia are, then express your interest via email about our Pinnacle Passes & Sardinia tour!