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I'm a third year uni student, who has ridden a Varadero 125 for 3 months. Will be doing my DAS at the end of April and between moving to central London in July and the end of my exams in May - am planning to do a tour of Europe on a bike. Currently planning on doing it on a new 600.
So I've stuck a massive map of Europe on my wall and look at it longingly whilst revising for what seems like 25 hours a day!
What I what from you is general advice. I'm sure a lot of its already been mentioned; but maybe you wouldn't mind giving some extra tips etc.
throwing it wide open: Where should I go, where are the best biking roads? I will not be doing any motorways and intend to stay at youth hostels.
How far can I get in two weeks? I want to be taking seriously long breaks at cities etc, as this is a proper R+R session for me - will be working in an Investment Bank come July!
Am I being ridiculously stupid? 3 months experience, none of which is on a bike bigger than a 125!
What do I need to sort out now? I.E what do I need to do to be able to ride in Europe without the law after me?!
What accessories should I get for my Hornet 600? Panniers- what types? Heated grips - Do I need them in the summer? TomTom Rider - Where can I get one of these cheap?
I'm not really sorry for writing such a long post - just hoping somebody will reply to make all this effort worthwhile!
Try and ride the 600 as much as you can before you leave - foreign cities can be tough enough, without learning to ride at the same time....
Forget heated grips - unneccessary except in the depths of winter. Any Sat Nav designed for a bike is very expensive - use a map, or a cheap car sat nav for occasional checks. Soft luggage is probably best for a Hornet on a 2 week trip - you shouldn't need much. Do take a good lock.
On an unfaired bike, avoiding motorways and looking for decent roads, and with only 2 weeks to spare - I would suggest you stick to France for your first trip and take it easy.... The police aren't a big problem in Western Europe unless you ride like a pillock
I can understand the title of your post/question because you are new to bikes and riding them in Europe: it can appear a bit daunting, so the first thing to do is to relax!
It really is easy enough in Western Europe and there is more than enough there for you to do in two weeks.
Carry your V5c to show that you own the bike + your insurance (which somewhere in the cover note or policy will spell out which countries are covered for riding).
Breakdown cover as well if you feel that way about things.
Get an E111 card for European reciprocal cover for emergency medical treatment. Consider travel insurance that includes for riding a bike - all depends on your attitude to risk.
Passport + driving licence.
Put in some miles in the UK, to know your bike better and get the first service done.
None of the above is difficult and you will be finding out about your bike and anticipating your trip, which is nearly as good as the travelling itself.
Learn a few words of French, German whatever/wherever you aim to go.
Two weeks is not a lot of time, as per the last post. Ride more or less in one direction for 7 days then turn around and come back via a varied route. Whatever suits you basically - no one knows what your interests are, what you want to do etc etc.
Youth hostels are good - you will meet others. Check the web and find some that you want to visit. They don't have to be in cities of course.
There's a start.
Read into the threads in here, and you will have more ideas (and questions).
Any Sat Nav designed for a bike is very expensive - use a map, or a cheap car sat nav for occasional checks.
You don't NEED a SatNav. I did manage to ride around Europe, South Africa and the US without one for the last 34 years with just maps and sheets of paper with notes in my tankbag. But....a Sat Nav is very helpful navigating through foreign cities and keeping your attention to traffic instead of a map. Also it helps with avoiding motorways. A Tomtom Rider 2 it cheaper then most other bike Sat Nav systems. I think it makes riding in foreign countries safer because you can keep your attention to the road.
If you buy (or borrow) a cheap car unit, you can put it in your tankbag but you need to have a cigaretlighter on your bike for power or have a unit with long lasting batteries.
That does work. I have a Tomtom Rider 2 but my wife uses the Tomtom one from her car in her tankbag when we ride together. (and funny enough, sometimes the one Tomtom sends you to the right and the other top the left......... Maybe different versions of the maps)
Agree with the others ... forget a sat nav. Buy a A4 size road atlas of Europe for about 5 quid. The Michelin atlases are great cause they have scenic roads (usually good biking roads) highlighted in green.
If you really want to save weight, scan and colour print the pages you might need (and a page either side for potential detours) and just take about 20-30 pages rather than the 200 odd page road atlas.
I dont think a 600 is too much for a first tour - in fact anything smaller could be miserable.
For a two week tour I would take the chunnel, ride back roads thru France towards Besancon, then ride north along the Route des Grandes Alpes towards Evian on Lake Geneva. Then head across Switzerland and northern Italy to the Dolomites around Cortina d'Ampezzo (do yourself a favour and base yourself somewhere round here for a couple of days. Every road in the Dolomites is a winner). Then head to Ljubljana, across Hungary to central Slovakia, then head back via Czech republic (maybe southern Poland), Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium. The large section of this route between Besancon and Ljubljana is fantastic for biking, though I generally love biking thru all of rural France and Germany too.
Take a peek at the Europe section of my website (in the sig line) for indicative photos of what to expect.
one more point ... as time is limited, avoid big cities such as Paris. Big cities chew up valuable time at an alarming rate. Also as a new rider, you will be fine with pedestrian rural drivers. Aggressive foreign drivers, such as you will find in the big cities though, can take a while to get used to. So for a number of reasons, skip the likes of Paris, Lyon, Milan, Munich, Brussels.
On the Sat Nav point. Whilst I'm an experienced mountaineer and have absolutley no problem with map reading an navigation, I have found that whilst on my bike I am far more concerened about looking at the road ahead rather than checking the map for which left to take. This ends up with me getting rather lost! So I think a TomTom will make sense, more for the saftey aspect than anything else. Plus it will be very handy when I move to central London.
I could stretch the trip out to 3 weeks - the thing constraining the trip is that I have to get back for end of uni parties. A hard life, I know!
Looking at the map I had to vague plans sketched. Either go to Spain and back, or Italy and back. Seeing as I have already hitchiked through Spain to Morocco, Italy seems like a much more intersting prospect especially after Colebatch's plan!
I like the idea of heading into Eastern Europe. Would you say something along the lines of Colebatch's plan is doable in two weeks (three at a push)?
I did basically that trip 2 years ago in 2 weeks ... plus was tied up in Germany for 2.5 days and also went down to Bosnia - skipping that out would add another 2 days to the plan. I did a fair bit of riding ... often 9am to 6pm ... but I also loved the dolomites so much I stayed there for 3 days ... all in the 2 week trip
If you actually have the freedom to stretch it out to 3 weeks if necessary, then its definately no problem, you will get to see more than just Italy or Spain, you will see most of Europe. And you will ride some great roads.
If you decide to go that route ... also consider buying a map published by Motorrad magazine for the Sud Tirol (Dolomites) area. Its a special map for motorcylists, put out by a bike magazine, and specifically points out good biking roads, not just scenic roads.
<<On the Sat Nav point. Whilst I'm an experienced mountaineer and have absolutley no problem with map reading an navigation, I have found that whilst on my bike I am far more concerened about looking at the road ahead rather than checking the map for which left to take. This ends up with me getting rather lost! So I think a TomTom will make sense, more for the saftey aspect than anything else. Plus it will be very handy when I move to central London.>>QUOTE]
By all means buy a sat nav if a) you can afford it at the moment and b) you really want one but it's not really necessary, it will cost a fair few vouchers and may be a bit of a mill-stone in that you may worry about it getting nicked and thus end up carrying it around. You'll also either have to plumb it into the bike or carry some means of charging the battery.
Out of cities I tend to favour maps. As has already been said, buy suitable maps (both large and small scale) and then strip out or copy what you will need and take that with you. You may be able to scan the remainder to a memory stick or one of those internet on-line storage things for retrieval at an internet cafe should you need it.
I'd avoid trying to read a map on the bike - it's a recepie for disaster as it takes a fair bit of brain power and time which you can't afford when moving.
Do any route planning at your accommodation or lunch stops - it's easier than on the bike.
I carry a journalist's pad and pen (very useful) in my tank bag with simple route notes written in it in bigish letters. Most of western europe is reasonably well sign posted so road number, destination and possibly junction diagram or distance to next junction are generally enough and only revert to map reading (whilst stopped) when you really have to.
If you really have to get somewhere quickly stick to the big, quick boring roads which will usually be well signed and simple. If you're not in a hurry, it doesn't matter too much if you get a bit lost - something nice may happen.
I like the idea of heading into Eastern Europe. Would you say something along the lines of Colebatch's plan is doable in two weeks (three at a push)?
I'd be relatively clear as to what you want to achieve from a trip like this as if you set a distant target destination you can spend the entire time riding (which is fun, granted, but also tiring) and burn a great deal of fuel, tyre rubber and other consumables trying to fit it in without seeing very much of the places you're visiting.
If you want to put down some miles - fine but you may get more out of limiting the overall range and taking your time in interesting places chatting to locals.
On the subject of sat-nav, I use a Nokia N73 mobile phone with a cheap bluetooth GPS receiver bought on eBay. Worth considering if your phone is due for an upgrade before you go. Check before you sign up but I'm 99% sure that any phone running a Symbian operating system will run TomTom Navigator and some even have built in GPS. I put my phone in my tankbag so it's not on display and never bother looking at the screen. I just go off spoken directions only using the earpieces that came with the phone. Phones running Windows Mobile will do the same job but aren't as stable. You can also plan your route on Google Earth then export it using TYRE.
If you don't want to mess around trying to get it working on a phone, buy a cheaper car one but make sure it has a headphone socket as many of them don't. And definitely get a power socket on the bike too and also take maps and a compass just in case.
I remember trying to find the youth hostel in Bergamo late at night, about a year before I got round to putting TomTom on the o2 Mini Xda I had at the time. That one trip alone convinced me that sat-nav is worth having, just for the stress it saves you from. As you're an inexperienced rider travelling alone, it has to be a good idea.
Best way to look at sat nav is that it allows you to deliberately get yourself lost down any interesting looking roads and be 100% confident that you'll never have any problems finding your way to wherever you need to be.
As others have said, the Dolomites have some great roads. I'm heading down there via the HU meeting in Germany, the Black Forest, the German Alpinestrasse, Berchtesgaden, possibly heading towards Lake Balaton in Hungary back over via Slovenia, etc.
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