Ahoy! fellow riders! This is a quick guide I have carefully put together to guide you through your first motorcycle adventure! Well, it’s not a complete guide, rather some useful tips to help you on your way.
Make a flexible plan
Trying to stick to a schedule can be stressful. Having no plan if you are a beginner can be a risky strategy and over-planning every element of the trip rids you of many surprises and secrets that make the experience more enjoyable. Planning where you will go and how long you will stay for is difficult to decide on when you have no experience of what the place is like. Let’s say you stumble on somewhere amazing but you should keep on riding to reach your target destination, in this situation you must decide if it is worth investigating or not. If you fall in love with your new destination you may decide you want to stay there at least a night for further exploring and to see what the place is about. Having a relatively loose plan means you can account for this change without having to re-plan the rest of your journey and waste valuable adventure time.
Create an Inventory
It sounds old fashioned and yet this step is a lifeline and provides you with peace of mind, organisation, and safety. In a format that suits you, start a list or table of every item that will hit the road with you. Forgetting your toothbrush isn’t a problem, your underwear on the other hand.
I prefer to list the inventory in categories, with a special box for the most crucial items like passport, chargers, documents, wallet, etc. Create a secure place for these items on your person/motorcycle and get into the habit of checking that they are present regularly. Also, ensure that you are not carrying more than you need and that it is secured in a safe way to the bike or your body.
Things to avoid are carrying are large sums of cash and things that can get you arrested, remember not to leave documents in places where they could become water damaged. If your documents are on the motorcycle and you leave the bike alone avoid taking chances and take them with you.
Check the rules for the country you are visiting as it may be necessary to carry documents at all times as a visitor.
Get up to speed
One of the main reasons we embark on these adventures in the first place is the beauty of the unknown. What we all seek to gain from the journey is unique from one explorer to another and the concentrated lust is endless. Sometimes we may even get lost in the moment and accidentally end up in trouble, or worse. Nonetheless, we have to remember that we are now foreigners in an alien place. Many of the customs, laws, and traffic rules are completely different and will carry penalties if observed by police.
For example, when I visited Prague I was terrified to find a tram driving into my lane from the left side while I apparently had right of way, this was just normal for the city. In Zagreb, on the other hand, it is illegal to ride on the tramlines unless instructed by a sign.
Another consideration to keep in mind when riding abroad is the blood alcohol content (BAC) that is permissible by law. Drink driving has been a big problem in some countries and as a result, the police will enforce very severe penalties for even a fraction over the limit.
In Germany on the motorways it is acceptable to filter if the traffic is stationary, however, if traffic is moving, even at the walking pace it is against the law, take it from me I learned the hard way! Also, unmarked police can be found on these motorways usually driving brand new Passat estates with deep dark tint rear screen, concealing the display in the rear of the car.
The fact that you are a tourist sometimes means you are given a pardon and allowed to resume your journey without a fine. In other countries like Italy, unfortunately, you can be seen as a piggybank and could receive fines for actions that are neither illegal nor with bad intentions.
Without a doubt the most important piece of advice you can follow. Failing to follow this rule can end adventures early, it’s important to remember that whether you are experienced or not, these expeditions will test you and your bike to the limit. Staying calm and comfortable on the bike makes it more enjoyable and don’t think that because you find an amazing twisty mountain pass that you have to try and ride it fast.
Take note of the changing road surfaces and air temperature and don’t forget to maintain the tyre pressures, a hot tyre will not always display an accurate psi reading. Try to deter from testing the levels of grip in the tyre when the road is unknown to you and be disciplined with your lanes. Many of the roads you encounter can be enjoyed at a good pace without crossing lines or having to lean off the bike too much.
The locals will most likely drive faster than you are used to, this can be both pleasing and nerve-racking as you will see many road signs and rules ignored.
On a trip of any magnitude apply the same rules and as my mum would say “stay vigilant!”
This one doesn’t need an explanation, reward yourself, learn from others, follow your gut and remember it isn’t an adventure if you never get lost. Cheers