The Essentials for the Long Haul
Traveling with a motorcycle in Europe is not quite the same as Traveling with a car. Usually who travels by car has by main objective to get where he/she is going. Traveling by bike is different - usually getting there is more then ½ the fun. That is why while many automobile travelers prefer the highway most bikers will prefer twisty scenery loaded roads of the country-side. Biking style is Italy ( Europe ) is very different from the American Biking style.
I have seen people loading the bike on a trailer behind their car to reach the meeting place where the only biking was around hot-dogs beer and a rock party style. - ok it might be fun but the philosophy in Italy is completely different. Italy though not covering a large surface offers an endless diversity in scenery. Medieval towns, castles, mountains, lakes all without forgetting to look for that last characteristic place to eat - looking for a trattoria with a view on the hills - on a lake or facing the seaside with a great food and an inexpensive bill is always a great treat when you find it.
Accessories you will need to bring:
- Helmets ( Probably whoever rents the bike will rent helmets as well -but do not expect the top of the line )
- Tank Bag ( With a large window for a map ) -
- GPS could be useful but you will need to add the Europe map. * If you opt for a guided tour you will not need a GPS. There are many sited now where you can dowload beautiful routes.
- Saddle Bag : Here of course you will only be able to adapt soft saddle bags to a rented bike ( Some Bike are rented with side bags )
- Rain suit / Weather proof Jacket pants : Yes in sunny Italy it rains too so be prepared - an alternative is : look at the weather report and then forget it - In Italy it is not like in the US maybe is because of a strange geographical position maybe other factor but the only prediction they are accurate on is yesterday's weather. I remember once I was in the north near Modena and the weather prediction were rain / thunderstorm - That day I couldn't see a cloud on the horizon anywhere and I asked my friend Mario what was the explanations: He said " what do you expect - to do weather predictions here they do not ever bother looking out the window "… So don't count too much on the weather report and be prepared.
- Boots: my ( like many motorcycle ) riding boots are rain proof -
- Gloves : always a good idea - rain proof or summer gloves
- Money: that will buy you whatever you forgot - there are plenty of motorcycle garments and accessories stores in Italy ( not cheap but very high quality since most Italians do ride all year around ) so don't worry too much
Italy is a small country, it covers an area of 116000 square miles, half of France and Germany, slightly larger than Arizona, and only very few square miles are flat.
The weather divides Italy in 2 areas: the Continental and the Peninsular, the first one, the North part, has a good climate for riding from April to September, the second area, from Tuscany south, is perfect almost all year round, excluding December, January and February. Actually, Sicily in February, some years, is already perfect ( minimum temp. around 15/17°C or 60/64°F and max around 20/25°C or 70/80°F).
Alps are perfects in June, July and August but in September, at the end, you may find snow, already, over the high passes like Stelvio or Gavia. Appennini, the central Range, the back bone, are great, not so high like the Alps but more enjoyable, more open with great roads from Tuscany to Calabria, far south, and not very well know with less tourists too. And of course Italy does not need presentation for the cuisine and for places like Venezia, Firenze, Roma, Napoli, Capri, Ischia, Amalfi !!!
RENTERS: If you drop your bike you are responsible for its repair or replacement. It must be returned at the end in the same mechanical and cosmetic condition as when you picked it up, or you could lose your damage deposit.
MOTORCYCLE SAFETY RULES:
This is, first of all, is a vacation adventure, not a race. There is time to stop to take a lot of photos. Drive cautiously! Please remember that you are a guest in a foreign country. Have your passport and driving license with you at all times. You are 100% responsible for your motorcycle; check your bike each day, especially your signal light, brake lights and headlights. Things that, your riding group, depends on for safe riding.
If you are used to riding in a group in Maryland, or any US state, then driving in the country roads in Italy will not be very different ( Driving in major cities however will be a different story however).
Ideally, riding groups should be limited to 4 / 6 motorcycles at a time. This is the safest way to travel so that the last person is not driving over his/her head to follow-the-leader.
Please signal for every lane change and every change of direction, it is a good habit that tells your fellow riders what your intentions are. It will also tells to the oncoming traffic what you are about to do. In many situations, the Europeans will move to the shoulder to allow you to pass. Do not pass on the right! European use only the left lane for passing. Do not assume that traffic at a stop sign will actually stop! A stop sign in Italy is considered only a slow down suggestion. People facing the stop sign will give the other side precedence but that is all.
Pass at speed so the rider behind you can pass safely, too. Don't make any sudden change in your riding. Pace yourself and maintain "space cushions" between you and the rider in front of and behind you. You have plenty of time to get to your destination.
If you have a problem - accident, mechanical breakdown or just get lost and miss the hotel call either the tour guide's cell phone or that night hotel and advise the desk that you are with the LIFEINITALY motorcycle group and tell them where you are and what the problem is. We will take action as quickly as possible to assist you.
Riding in the rain anywhere poises special problems. Visibility is diminished and your helmet visor may and glasses may get foggy. Defoggers have marginal usefulness in those circumstances. Slowing down or stopping work well. Painted pedestrian and traffic lines are especially slippery when wet. Get in a new habit of never riding on the painted lines, rain or shine.
Keep a copy or the itinerary, guide's cell phone, hotels' phone list and your passport in a safe place. Do not go anywhere without them, if you get "lost" or separated from the group you will know what to do and where to go
SAFETY HELMET: Required by law in all European countries, including Italy
MOTORCYCLE DRIVER'S LICENSE: Required by law. If your motorcycle driver's license allows you to drive the model of bike you are using is fully accepted.
EYE PROTECTION: Suggested, not required by law.
DAYTIME USE OF HEADLIGHT: Suggested but not mandatory except on freeways where it is required by law.
MIRRORS: Required by law, left and right.
TRAFFIC SIGNALS: Strictly enforced, individuals must stop at traffic signals and stop signs; regardless of the size of the group. Forget the hand signals that we use in the US.
Generally speaking, laws and regulations are observed quite strictly in northern Italy, while disregarded from Rome down to the southern tip of the country.
SPEED LIMITS: In Italy, tin the past he posted speed limits were only considered "suggestions" by the population but during the last few years many villages and towns are installing speed traps in order to raise money, be careful specially crossing the villages on state roads with 50 or 70 kms as speed limits, marked on signals.
Fines are from 100 to 250 Euros and the payment may be requested by mail with the details of the number plate up to 6 months after the day of the infraction.
The speed limits in Italy are: 130 km/hour (80 mph) on toll roads (Autostrada), 90 (55 mph) on state roads and 50 (32 mph)in town.
On the Autostrada you will see many cars/bikes going over 130, up to 150/160 km/hr, speed not permitted by the law but considered quite normal.
LANE SPLITTNG / PASSING : Practiced throughout Italy on all roads by all vehicles but allowed by law only when no continuous centre white line is present. However practicing lane splitting only in slow-moving traffic is strongly advised. Passing is only permitted on the left lane, passing on the right lane is forbidden by the law but is sometimes practiced in heavy traffic by the motorcycles. It is very dangerous and is strongly recommended to avoid.