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  #1  
Old 10 Dec 2010
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Riding a European winter - now!

Hi all,

I have ridden from Australia on a F650GS (the central Asia - Iran route) and I am in Berlin at the moment. I am looking for some advice from locals or those who have ridden here in winter.

I am planning to go from Berlin to Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and finish my trip in London before Christmas. I am concerned about the road surfaces given the weather up to now, and what is predicted. I´m trying to decide whether to continue the ride or put the bike on a train or van and take the easy way to the UK.

What do you think about city or highway riding now and over the next few weeks? Issues I have in mind:

- Road surface!! - Ice on main roads, black ice etc. - will they be cleared sufficient for 2 wheels
- Chains vs studs
- Tire choice - currently Tourance
- Dangers of other drivers

Thoughts please??

Thanks
Rehan
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  #2  
Old 10 Dec 2010
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If you are planning to use motorways only then you'll have no problem, roads up there are very well kept, especially on the french side. Unless you are caught in a snow storm you'll do fine, the worst part will be the cold temperatures.
Try to ride the most you can around midday, so you can take advantage of the warmest part of the day
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  #3  
Old 10 Dec 2010
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Do yourself a favor an take the train or ship the bike otherwise. It's not worth the risk and the effort.

I'm from northern Germany and when I moved to the south (where I live now) I commuted the 700km once or twice a month by bike. All year long. I'm really, really grateful I don't have to do this any more.

Even if you're fine riding along in temperatures around the freezing point take into account the windchill factor and how fast you cool out. If you cool out, you're error prone.

Although one can usually filter through the lanes if traffic comes to a hold, I wouldn't try this on ice-slippery roads. You're in serious trouble if the Autobahn you're on gets closed down and you are forced to stay for the night (that happened this week, again).

Studs (called spikes in Germany) are not allowed in Germany and most other central european counties, I never saw a bike with chains. Other then the one driving the rear wheel, that is.

Depending on your schedule it might even be worth considering to take cheap plane rides to get to the major cities you want to see and come back to Berlin later and reclaim the bike.

Regards,
Hans
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  #4  
Old 10 Dec 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eirinn View Post
If you are planning to use motorways only then you'll have no problem, roads up there are very well kept, especially on the french side. Unless you are caught in a snow storm you'll do fine, the worst part will be the cold temperatures.
Try to ride the most you can around midday, so you can take advantage of the warmest part of the day
I don't entirely agree with Eirinn, given that in the past 2 weeks alone most of Western europe has had 20-50 cm of snow paralysing Paris, Berlin, Geneva, London. Yes a snow storm but the motorways, autoroutes, autobahns were all serverely impacted, not to mention airports!

I ride with tourances but I am very careful to check the weather conditions. If you stick to main roads (avoiding mountains) and the weather is clear and dry you can ride BUT black ice is a problem. If if freezes overnight then best not ride the next morning unless you are prepared with spikes or chains (which as Mandarax say are forbidden in most of mainland Europe!). There are some 'winter' style tyres that are much better than Tourances for snow, but on Ice, you're pretty much up shit creek!

The key is to keep a very close eye on the forecasts and road conditions. You're local news station is your best friend.

You can also check FIA clubs in your country for road conditions and risk or black ice.

Btw where are you staying in Berlin, I'm going to be there this weekend, fancy a ?
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  #5  
Old 10 Dec 2010
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Wink European FIA clubs for road conditions

Current german road conditions from ADAC (only in German):
Aktuelle Verkehrslage

BTW without a word of german I managed to navigate to the page with webcams... pretty handy. Click here for the link. Then enter the Auto route number and tick all the boxes... the map should display webcam spots, click on the symbol in the map to see the latest images.

You can get the full list of FIA clubs in europe here.
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  #6  
Old 10 Dec 2010
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my advice...

hire a van from SIXT as one way rent and do the rest of your journey via motorway.
will cost you some 280,-Euros plus the diesel on a day in the middle of the week, weekends are more expensive.

Or... well try to find a HGV fright company and ask if you are welcome to entertain the driver while your bike is resting on the back and you are in the cap.
Some of them don't mind and are happy to squeeze your bike in for a small tip.
There would be a lot of this companies big and small in Berlin

did the journey on country roads from Berlin to Cologne and back again for a few times in summer and autumn... well that's about 600km and is a ride for about 12 to 14 hours if you know the way... up and down over high ground, which would be full of ice and snow right now.

well yeah on the motorways it's may less time consuming, realistic talking about 7 to 10 hours (about 600km) to ride depending on the traffic from Berlin to Cologne, but watching the news... there is ice, and long HGV congestions jams in Germany, with blockages for hours, wouldn't like to be there at all... even if the authorities are using a lot of salt to cope with it... your bike would not like it anyway.
And if that's not enough... well always remember the German motorways are a battle ground of fast and irrespective drivers compensating there ego and small willy in there high ranking status symbolising cars...

anyway... if you may get near Duesseldorf/Wuppertal along the way (not far away from the A3 and A46), I can offer you for free: a warm bed, a few days rest, workshop, dry place for your bike and of course on the country side... let me know and send me a PM...

you can find the place here = N51.14.887 E7.01.048 about 300km before Amsterdam and about 560km from Berlin, sort of right on you way...

by the way where I live it's about 140m above sea level here in Wuppertal and there is 10 to 20cm snow all around, with 5cm thick ice patches on the roads, only +2 at lunch time... but after daylight is gone... well it's gona be ice and sliding cars on the roads again.
Been down to the post office in the morning on my bike, just riding like it has been raining.. but the salt... well I had to wash my bike right after I came home.

may see you... you are welcome to stay and make further plans from here if you want...
spooky
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Last edited by spooky; 10 Dec 2010 at 14:09.
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  #7  
Old 10 Dec 2010
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Yep, the salt they use to de-ice the roads is really bad for bikes. I once wasted a chain in almost no time, that especially seems to hate salt! But bikes in general do not have the same level of corrosion prevention as cars do, so all visible parts are in danger of at least losing their shine. Would be wise to wash the bike thoroughly after each day.. probably won´t happen during a trip, though!

Once rode down from north Germany to Spain in mid-November, and then came back early February. Both times it was do-able, no snow or ice on low-lying areas (in the daytime at least)... but very, very cold, foggy, and miserable. Looking at the news, I wouldn´t even try that right now, it does look pretty wintry also in Central Europe (though not like in Helsinki, we´ve got around half a meter of the white stuff here!!)

Winter over there doesnt usually last very long, but for the moment, I´d stay somewhere warm, and follow the forecasts. If you absolutely must ride, then try to do that only in the daytime, even though it is a bit short. Darkness & ice on a bike is a very scary combination!
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  #8  
Old 10 Dec 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pecha72 View Post
Yep, the salt they use to de-ice the roads is really bad for bikes.
+1

and that's an understatement!

Quote:
Originally Posted by pecha72 View Post
Darkness & ice on a bike is a very scary combination!
+1 again

and another understatement! With ice, coming off in inevitable on a bike (unless you have a side car attached :-)


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  #9  
Old 11 Dec 2010
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Thanks for the replies guys and the offers of accomodation. Such hospitality takes me back to those "barbaric" countries through which i've travelled.

Regarding tire chains for bikes, see GS Tire chains from Wunderlich - ADVrider

Spooky regarding van hire - I cant find anything around 280 euros - is this figure for a one way, one day rental? It's a serious contender at such a price.

Most of the talk on winter riding seems to be about dedicated off road, minus 10 or below. Prep for that seems to be easily done - knobblies plus studs /spikes, battery heaters, oil viscosity etc. But what I am hearing from you guys it seems the current Euro conditions are pretty much the most unsafe you can get because of the changing conditions and potential for ice on asphalt or black ice, which is basically impossible to prepare for. OTOH Eirinn is confident about the road surface.

Throw in weight of luggage, cold weather mental effects, Christmas deadline... Tough decision.
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  #10  
Old 11 Dec 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rehanw View Post
hospitality takes me back to those "barbaric" countries through which i've travelled
well... put it like that... "you never left this barbaric countries" as yet...
the place where they found the "Neanderthals" is just about 4km away from where I live... some guys admit that some of them are still alive, among us around next town...

Quote:
Spooky regarding van hire - I cant find anything around 280 euros - is this figure for a one way, one day rental? It's a serious contender at such a price.
yes one way one day rent for 24h over the week "Mo-Do" not at weekends "Fr-So" there you have to pay more.
well at least that what I had to pay using a SIXT MB-sprinter-van from Berlin to Duesseldorf to be able to move all my gear plus the bike as a one-way-rent, which was handy for me at the time, the price is actual less but regarding there 400km limit including that lesser price and than add for every additional km makes up a total price around 280,-Euro may can go up to 350,-Euros by now.
I used the SIXT settlement in the centre of Berlin/Prenzlauer berg (don't know the exact address right now but it's not far away from the Alexanderplatz a place where they keep vans and lorries, a bit hidden in a backyard in a smaller domestic side road)
the main thing is that you can return the van any where in the country where they have a office, push your bike out and keep on going riding from there.

Quote:
Throw in weight of luggage, cold weather mental effects, Christmas deadline... Tough decision.
bah humbug.... :: .... and not the world only keeps spinning around...
depending what ever time limit you did set your self and don't have to rush around, well take your time, but keep in mind, Berlin is not exact a cheap place to stay for a longer time.

spooky
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  #11  
Old 11 Dec 2010
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Originally Posted by rehanw View Post
But what I am hearing from you guys it seems the current Euro conditions are pretty much the most unsafe you can get because of the changing conditions and potential for ice on asphalt or black ice, which is basically impossible to prepare for.
just a additional word about this years early snow chaos in Germany (centre of Europe if you so wish)... yeah I know in OZ everything is upside down, so over here but the other way round...

right... usually the real winter time in Europe with all that snow and ice we can see right now normally starting a bit later around mid January to February, for many of the past years we haven't even seen any snow at all around this time of the year, along the area between Berlin/Amsterdam/London east-west-east axial line... in January/2007 I even did a nightly ride from Oxford to Duesseldorf on a 12 hours journey over the motorway without being effected by snow and ice, yes it was bliming cold with almost no traffic on the roads, no chilling wind nor rain but I had to stop at any given rest place to stop and warm my hands on the exhaust can to cope... but I did it, 600km at night... one week later and there wouldn't be a chance to do the same journey again at all regarding heavy snow and bad weather. I just managed to find this gap to do it.. never mind it was low ground all the way below 80m above sea level, the Netherlands are flat and can be prone to high wind on the open landscape.
my conclusion... European weather can be quite unpredictable especial regional differences in higher and lower location along a distance of 500km, weather can change rapidly in temperature and a mix of rain, hail, snow, sun, wind and so on what ever you like or not.

You may find a similar gap watching the weather news very carefully, but take in to account that you have to pass through high ground about 250m above sea level at some stages up's and down's in the landscape before getting further west. Distance wise its about 900km from Berlin to Amsterdam and the weather can change in distances of 10km steps very rapidly, and daylight is from 8:30 to 16:30 only right now the shortest day is just about to approach on the 21.Dec, calculating -10min less light per week before that date and +10min more light per week after that date, just to give you an idea what you are looking at before xmas and the new years time.

well hope that helps you a bit... to get a picture of the current situation to be able to judge and making a good decision that suites you.
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  #12  
Old 11 Dec 2010
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Hey,

I'am from the netherlands and the weather forecast report that its going to freeze next week again. The salt we use to prevent for slippery roads are on ration already !!!!!! Better to catch a train or somethings else as long as they have more then 2 wheels on it.

If you need some help in the Netherlands let me know.

Richard
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  #13  
Old 11 Dec 2010
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Next month there is a rally in Bavaria known as the Elefant. Solo riders from all over Europe (about 3000 in total, of which 2/3 are solo) will head into a place between Regensberg and Passau. The weather will do what the weather does and the last 20 miles will be on snow. To all the doom mongers suggesting the train and van I say you're a bunch of part time riders and wimps to boot

What you need is:

Knobblies, preferably M&S (Studs are off road only, chains are a menace one off the worst ice).
The kit to keep warm. (a rain suit three sizes too big is useful, then just layers).
The sense to stop and wait if it gets properly bad.

Salt is no problem if you use ACF/WD40 spray and hose off the crud ASAP. Battery heaters, fancy oil etc. are for Sweden (-35) not Germany unless you plan to camp in the mountains. Pick hotels with covered car parks or in city centres and the worst overnight temps should be well withing what an F650 will cope with.

Now, that said, I am supposing you've met rain/mud etc. on your previous travels. With ice you are going to have twitchy moments. If you find the idea that you might fall off terrifying and would rather keep the Dyno-Electra-Superwide-Jet Glide in an air conditioned plastic bad until June, that works for people too. Some of those long dark motorway slogs in January are the rides from hell.The trick is to stop when it ceases to be fun.

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Andy
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  #14  
Old 11 Dec 2010
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Originally Posted by Threewheelbonnie View Post
Next month there is a rally in Bavaria known as the Elefant. Solo riders from all over Europe (about 3000 in total, of which 2/3 are solo) will head into a place between Regensberg and Passau. The weather will do what the weather does and the last 20 miles will be on snow. To all the doom mongers suggesting the train and van I say you're a bunch of part time riders and wimps to boot
Andy
yaeh... that's a sort of tales which is not acceptable... sorry...

but if you can prepare for a single event... that's ok and you do it for the pure fun of it, I heard about this "oh man I'm cooler than all others... I'm doing the Elefant meting the xy's time by now... and I'm the one that comes from the fastest distance from Yorkshire.. ahh yeah lock at me all you wimpy Bavarians" I heard that a lot...
solo ? on a bike with side cars and a lot of show effect for what I have seen so far... yaeh I know it's one of the hardcore biker event....

now I don't want to kick around, or pull your statement down... but remember, rehanw is may not prepared and kited out for such a "Elefant event" like I'm a stupid hero, remember he came all the way across Asia with a minimum on kit attached to his bike, now caught up in snow and ice at the wrong time of the year... he may more used to riding deep sand than enjoying ice patches and he may rather want to arrive in safety at his xmas appointment in London in the end, rather than getting wiped of the road in the last few hundreds miles just to proof how cool he may would be... for what ?
stuff it !
did you ever considered that ?
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Last edited by spooky; 11 Dec 2010 at 21:22.
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  #15  
Old 11 Dec 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Threewheelbonnie View Post
Next month there is a rally in Bavaria known as the Elefant. Solo riders from all over Europe (about 3000 in total, of which 2/3 are solo) will head into a place between Regensberg and Passau. The weather will do what the weather does and the last 20 miles will be on snow. To all the doom mongers suggesting the train and van I say you're a bunch of part time riders and wimps to boot

What you need is:

Knobblies, preferably M&S (Studs are off road only, chains are a menace one off the worst ice).
The kit to keep warm. (a rain suit three sizes too big is useful, then just layers).
The sense to stop and wait if it gets properly bad.

Salt is no problem if you use ACF/WD40 spray and hose off the crud ASAP. Battery heaters, fancy oil etc. are for Sweden (-35) not Germany unless you plan to camp in the mountains. Pick hotels with covered car parks or in city centres and the worst overnight temps should be well withing what an F650 will cope with.

Now, that said, I am supposing you've met rain/mud etc. on your previous travels. With ice you are going to have twitchy moments. If you find the idea that you might fall off terrifying and would rather keep the Dyno-Electra-Superwide-Jet Glide in an air conditioned plastic bad until June, that works for people too. Some of those long dark motorway slogs in January are the rides from hell.The trick is to stop when it ceases to be fun.

Pics/ideas etc. here

https://sites.google.com/site/threew...laces/clothing

Andy
Well said Andy, I was wondering when someone was going to mention the 'Elefantreffen' I did it on a solo in the early 80's when it was at the Salzburgring, along with thousands of others, trains,boats.planes or trucks were not even in our thoughts once on mainland Europe.
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