Holiday Riding Tips 2 - The (drive on the) Right Stuff

If you are venturing to Europe for the first time, you'll probably be a little worried about how difficult riding is. It's actually much simpler than most riders realise so long as you understand different laws (e.g. filtering is illegal in Germany) and driving habits. Don't try riding the same way you do at home.

On the boat watch out for the metal deck - it's slippery! Only descend a ramp when there's a flat space to stop. Your passenger can walk. Take a tie-down – bikes are usually secured well, but if many bikes are aboard, they can run out. Use your gloves to protect panels and wrap a thick rubber band on the front brake to stop the bike rolling off the stand.

Driving on the right is easy enough but take care pulling away especially in the morning – it's easy to ride off on the wrong side. At T junctions, don't rush or you'll look the wrong way.

On roundabouts the French and Belgians turn 270 degrees left with NO signal, and use the right hand lane to go all the way round the outside – don't try to pass UK style on the island.

Particularly in Germany slip roads can be tight, less than 20mph sometimes - if you fly into them at UK speeds you will be in trouble!

Traffic lights in France and Belgium are difficult to see in daylight, go straight from red to green and drivers stop on amber. In Italy there's a green/amber combination, and drivers often turn right on a red. In Germany this is legal if other signs allow.

In France at a junction, a flashing amber light means no priority and a flashing pedestrian sign means pedestrians are crossing. Cars won't stop at pedestrian crossings, so if you stop, the car behind might not. Watch out when turning across cycle lanes - cycles and mopeds often have right of way.

Speed limits apply in France anywhere where you pass into a village with a red bordered sign - just assume 50kph. Other countries use conventional signs.

Road surfaces are generally good, but watch out for:

    white paint - often slippery in the dry and like glass in the wet
    gravel - particularly in the mountains - icy roads in winter are often dressed with gravel
    beveled kerbs - round traffic islands and very difficult to spot at night

Priorite a droit (priority to the right) - operates in France. On the open road it is fairly easy to understand - look for a yellow/black diamond sign - you are on a priority road. When it is cancelled with a diagonal stripe, you will have to give way ahead. In town centres it's rather more difficult - look at the road to your right - if it has either a Give Way (Cedez le Passage) triangular sign or double dashed lines across the end, then the road YOU are on has priority. If there are NO markings, you don't and vehicles may emerge and you must give way.

Have fun!