Motorbike in France
July 30, 2012 at 3:38 PM
We don’t rent holiday homes here and we are not a travel agent so let me say right away that there are no ulterior motives for any of the suggestions here. I’ve just put together some suggestions of where I’d go if I was to looking to tour round France on a motorbike.
It’s been years since I first went to France and these are a few of the areas that I keep going back to, mainly for the sheer beauty of the places. On a bike you can see so much more of the true France.
There are dozens of hotels and B&B’s in all these areas so you will have no trouble finding somewhere great to stay.
Some Route Suggestions
The Loire Valley, which is often referred to as the heart of France, is a favourite.
Brittany has a lot to offer and if you like a great beach and small fishing ports it is the place to be.
Normandy, which always brings D-Day to mind, but I always like to visit the awesome Mont St Michel. There are a variety of great routes around Normandy and I suggest that any that includes Mont St Michel can’t be that bad.
If wine is your thing, it’s mine, and then the port of La Rochelle and a ride around Bordeaux's legendary vineyards is a must. If you like pine forests then you probably will not find better than those of southern Aquitaine.
Motorbike Driving Rules
Do remember the drink/drive laws are tougher in France so be very careful on those tasting tours. Carrying breathalysers is now compulsory even for bikers, and also Hi Viz Jackets to be worn from 2013.
They are tightening up generally in France with all the driving laws and in the past where they have been very lenient with motorbike riders they are now looking to rein in some of the excesses.
I have reproduced an article below which appeared on the Telegraph website and although I think Kevin Ash is being a little bit alarmists (well he is a journalist) he does make some relevant points you should bear in mind.
Guide to Motorcycling in France
Riding in France used to be paradise for motorcyclists. Are new laws and harsher fines changing that?
From the seat of a motorcycle, France appears to have changed a lot. It used to be a rider’s playground thanks to a combination of few traffic police, lax regulations, empty roads, great food and wine, fabulous scenery and glorious weather.
A mad blast to the Bol d’Or 24-hour endurance race at Paul Ricard, north of Toulon, used to be a rite of passage for British bikers from the Seventies to the Nineties, some of whom came back with tales of full-throttle autoroute romps and knees down in Provence, while the more mature have enjoyed the rich scenery from a two-wheeled vantage point. It’s always been a favoured destination of British riders, and even when it’s not, it’s still on the route of most foreign biking forays.
However, these days there’s a host of bewildering, bike-specific regulations policed by a force which appears determined to squeeze cash out of riders generally – and pounds out of the British, in particular.
Did you know, for example, that filtering through slow-moving or stationary traffic is illegal in France? In itself, just another law to be aware of, but the French motorcycle federation, the FFMC, has accused the police on Paris’s périphérique ring road of deliberately slowing the traffic with their cars in order to catch motorcycles unwittingly slipping through the “jam”.
There’s plenty more you can be picked up on, too. The drink-driving laws are the same as for car drivers, with a 0.5mg/ml limit, which a single glass of wine or beer could broach, and you could end up with a two-year prison sentence if you do so by a big margin. You must also carry a breathalyser, or rather a pair of them (so even if you use one you still have another working one). These aren’t expensive, at about £6 a pair, and can be found in Halfords, as well as ports and French garages.
There’s been a lot of publicity in the bike world recently about a new French requirement for reflective clothing for motorcyclists (despite a lack of evidence that it has any safety benefits). This is on the way, and naturally there are regulations governing reflectivity, size and so on, but doesn’t come into force until January 2013.
Nor do you need to carry, as car drivers do, a high-visibility jacket in case of breakdown, and you can leave the warning triangle at home too (unless you’re crossing into Spain).
You will, however, need a full set of bulbs, even if you have no idea how to change them – some bikes can be as bad as cars, where bulb changing is a dealer job. There’s no need for replacements for LED lights, however, which many bikes use for tail lights or indicators.
It’s not necessary to mask the headlights on many bikes for driving on the right, as a significant number have a symmetrical dipped beam pattern with a straight horizontal cut-off line, meaning there’s nothing to mask. Z-beam lights don’t need masking either if they’re adjusted not to dazzle, which you do by lowering them. However, you might need to convince the French police that this is really so, in which case the customer service department of the importer or manufacturer might be persuaded to supply a letter stating as much.
The documentation you need is extensive, and you can be fined for each item you’ve left behind. You must have the original logbook and insurance certificate, the MoT where applicable and the UK tax disc must be displayed. You also need your driving licence and passport. If the bike’s not yours, you must have a letter of permission from the registered keeper.
Finding a place for a GB sticker is a legal requirement if you don’t have a GB Euro number plate.
Whatever you do, don’t take a radar detector into France. The penalties are severe, and you’re likely to be banned for a year, which might not sound like too much of a problem until you realise you can’t even ride your bike away from the side of the road. Even satnavs with camera sites marked can get you into trouble – switch this facility off, or use a paper map.
Speeding enforcement is much more strict and far more extensive than it has ever been, and if you can’t pay an on-the-spot fine (which can be several hundred euros), your bike could be confiscated until you come up with the cash. You can pay by credit card (the autoroute toll booths accept these, too, which saves time hunting for cash) but probably not on the spot. More than 50kph (31mph) over the limit is viewed as very serious – a fine might not be enough.
There’s no doubt that, legally speaking, it’s getting tougher to ride in France, and there’s always the worry that the police could be targeting foreign riders. With next year’s compulsory high-viz rules thrown in, too, there’s a danger that bikers could start avoiding the country altogether.
My opinion is that for the most part motorcycle riders are respected by French police. Also the French public like mavericks so you should be fine.
Most French bikers are friendly and it's the norm to stick out a leg in greeting, rather than a hand, and also as a thank you to cars that move over for you.
When my brother-in-law broke down while on his bike in France recently a couple of French bikers stopped to lend a hand which he was very grateful for.
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