Service Your bike should be serviced and thoroughly checked over several weeks before travel, so that you have enough time to repair anything that needs looking at. Time spent in a workshop is time saved at the side of the road!
Obviously anything that looks worn or likely to fail should be replaced beforehand. At the very least make sure you have a basic toolkit, especially if the bike is chain driven as this may need to be adjusted en route. While modern bikes are very reliable some basic spares are always handy like levers just in case the bike gets dropped, or bulbs to deal with failures, but do not get carried away and load yourself up unnecessarily. Tape and cable ties are also useful for dealing with emergencies and do not take up much space. A small canister of chain lube and water repellent spray are also useful additions, as is small sachet of hand cleaner.
Tyres One area to be particularly careful of are the tyres. Make sure there is sufficient wear left to do the entire journey and get you home again without the tyre becoming illegal. Adjust the pressures to deal with the extra weight in accordance with manufacturers recommendations. A tyre repair kit is a good idea and they don’t cost much or take up too much space.
Suspension Should also be adjusted in-line with the manufacturers recommendations to take account the extra weight of the luggage and or pillion.
Tips A spare ignition key is always worth taking. If using a ‘naked’ machine consider fitting a screen for long journeys. Unless your number plate incorporates a GB identifier you will need to attach a GB sticker to the rear and a headlight converter at the front to dip to the right
Gear Riding gear will always be a personal thing but you need to plan for all types of weather. Being too hot is just as dangerous as being too cold and if you are wet through, it can lead to loss of concentration. It’s now easy to find base layers that breathe and deal with temperature variations and are easy to wash and dry overnight.
If leather is your choice, you will need a good over-suit and spare gloves are a useful addition, preferably of a different grade (warmer –cooler) to the ones you will be using. Most people find modern GoreTex fabric suits with built-in armour are best so as not to have to carry over-suits, or having to stop every time they encounter a shower
If you are touring, a pair of trousers and or shorts and a fleece and a pair of trainers will deal with most evening activities and cut down on the amount of luggage you need to take. Thin fleeces can always be used to bulk up riding gear if the temperature drops dramatically!
For general touring a ‘Flipfront’ helmet provides the best compromise as it does not have to be removed every time you want to speak to someone, of just get an extra deep breath of mountain air when stopping to take photographs. If you are using a helmet with a tinted visor a clear spare is a must. Likewise a pair of sunglasses if using a clear visor unless your helmet has a built in sun visor. A cleaning kit is also useful to maintain it in a clean safe condition. (See our ‘Shop’ for these)
Intercom systems are great for speaking with your pillion or other riders whilst on the move. Alternatively it can be used to get verbal directions from any Sat Nav in use.
Whatever you choice of riding kit may be, the golden rule is never take any new, untried piece of kit with you. Any item of clothing should be well worn in and comfortable as there is nothing worse than new boots rubbing, or finding a new helmet is far too tight when the temperature rises!
Luggage Falls into two basic categories, hard luggage which is fitted to the bike, or soft luggage attached temporarily to the machine. Nowadays there is plenty of choice available both types and your choice will probably be made by the type of machine you are using. The advantages of hard luggage is of course it tends to be more waterproof and secure and can often be quickly detached and carried into an hotel like a suitcase. You can also get insert bags which are often easier and a cleaner option to take in rather than detaching the whole box.
Soft luggage is far more flexible and of course cheaper, but will need to have any items carried in waterproof bags inside in case it leaks, even those with waterproof covers! It is very important though when strapping this type of luggage onto the bike, either by its own straps and or ‘bungees’ that it is secure and will not move.
Always read any manufacturer’s instructions and try and put it low down so as not to affect the centre of gravity and thus the machines handling. Use netting, sticky plastic film or similar, to avoid damaging any paintwork, or seats.
A small magnetic tank bag or small rucksack is always useful for storing documentation and important items that can be easily removed from the bike when you leave it parked for greater security. It will also be useful when on the ferry to carry a change of clothes up to the cabin for use when on board to make the journey more comfortable. However, avoid carrying all your luggage in a back pack as it is tiring and leads to rider fatigue and you have to take it with you at all times, even when having a quick coffee!
Lastly the golden rule here is to make sure that having loaded your machine, whether it be hard or soft luggage that you undertake a short journey to make sure things are tight and the load has not upset the bikes balance before you finally set off.
France General speed limits are: 130kph on motorways which reduces to 110kph in the event of rain, 110kph on express highways and 90kph on the majority of secondary rural roads. 50kph is the general rule for towns although it drops to 20-30kph in certain areas and at times can be lower for two-wheeled vehicles.
While in the UK we are used to large signs at the start of every speed restriction such as when entering towns or villages, the reduction is often not indicated in France apart from the town or village name being displayed at the start of the restriction and it ends when the same town name has line through it at the end of the town boundary.
You cannot legally ride in France until you are 18 and hold a full Category A motorcycle licence. A lower speed limit also applies of 100kph on dual carriageways and 110kph on a motorway. Speeding is quite rigorously enforced with static and mobile speed cameras as well as unmarked police vehicles. Anybody caught in excess of 40kph above the speed limit is likely to have their licence confiscated, which could make onward travel difficult Fines are payable on the spot and they will expect you to get money from a cash machine if you have insufficient funds on you to pay the fine! Apart from speeding the French are very strict with their drink-drive laws so be sensible.
If you need to wear spectacles for riding you will need to carry a spare pair with you, or face a fine.