If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Misano Trip - appendix

Following on from the trip to the races at Misano and an epic road trip back to Blighty, Endemoniada_88 had a few observations about various matters connected to the trip, and to touring in general, which didn't fit well with the diary format of the report, so he has collected them here.

Appendix: Everyday Occurrences

In no particular order – some things simply go on all the time, not really noteworthy enough to warrant an anecdote of their own, but nevertheless part of the ambience of touring. These are some of the most constant.

Riding Etiquette
It's all different on the continent, not least in occupying the wrong side of the road. It's a lot easier to adapt to that on a bike, I find – it has the twin advantages of central positioning and less spatial confinement than any other vehicle. Being on the right actually makes more sense, too: I prefer it, on balance, with the exception of roundabouts, which are always cambered the wrong way. The traditional acknowledgements for others are easier, too: for vehicles behind, it's a lift of the right leg, for those ahead, a wave with the left hand. That doesn't work in the UK: reversing the wave means letting go of the throttle. There's plenty of opportunity for such greetings too: even the Harley and BMW pilots seem keen to acknowledge fellow riders. Other vehicles don't hold bikes in the same contempt, either: many will happily drive almost into the gutter to make space for a motorcycle to pass. We do our best to thank them all for their courtesy.

Group Discipline
We agree up front what the riding order will be, with the understanding that can be broken on fun roads as long as everyone waits up at the next turning off. It's simple but effective. In town, we close up to prevent anyone getting between us, on the open road, we watch out for the next person in front and behind. If separated, we've got a satnav at front and back of the line. It suits me being at the back: I tend to mess around a bit with things like the onboard video, with food and drink on the move and – as the only smoker – with cigarettes on the go. All of that means I don't usually hold constant speed on the open road, preferring to drop back and make up at my own pace: something that would be rather disruptive in the middle of the pack.

Personal Comfort
I take my cues from the pro cyclists, who are perfectly capable of doing everything they need to while still in motion. I draw the line at taking breaks of nature while riding, however, but given a decent flip-front helmet and some physical coordination, it's quite possible to keep provisioned in flight. Smoking's quite possible up to about 80mph, given pre-rolled cigarettes stowed in a tank bag pocket. I haven't yet found a lighter that works while moving, so it's a case of taking opportunities when they arise - traffic lights, for example, are great for sparking up. It's better than interrupting everyone's day each time I feel the need for a smoke, anyway. Music is the other thing I like: I have an external neoprene sleeve to hold my MP3 player, connected to helmet speakers and all easily accessible to pause or switch off if I need to hear the outside world. It's on random shuffle and it's a source of great pleasure how often that seems to produce a really appropriate soundtrack for the circumstances.

Off The Beaten Track
We like the riding as much as, if not more than, the arriving. Given the choice, we'll almost always be picking the narrowest lines on the map. It almost always leads to an overambitious itinerary and a longer than intended day – all we really try to do is manage that inevitable slippage and, if necessary, find a big road when it starts to get dark. Up until then, it's far more enjoyable to pull up at a local cafe or bar in a tiny village than it is to visit a motorway service station. Not to mention cheaper. Just keep an eye on the fuel situation.

Meeting Locals
Our experience is that, however rubbish one may be with languages, it's worth making the effort to learn a few relevant words. Especially when out in the sticks, being able to string together a half-comprehensible sentence earns you good points for politeness and respect. It never hurts to try and learn a bit more from the locals as you go, either. Try and remember which language you're supposed to be mangling at any given time, though, particularly when crossing a lot of borders.

General Riding
Although most of the trip highlights involve pouring on the coals somewhat, a lot of the time that isn't the case. We pick a speed that isn't out of place with the other traffic – up to about a ton on the big A and N roads – for most riding and observe the posted limits in urban areas, just as we would in the UK. There aren't many speed cameras, at least in the places where we've been, but they are in unexpected places and harder to spot. The trip wasn't entirely flash-free for some: it remains to be seen whether that will yield any consequences! Other than that, we simply bear in mind that we're guests in someone else's country and try to cause as little disruption as possible.

Tried And Tested
Most useful and recommended kit, apart from the bike and hard luggage, of course. (See photos - click for bigger.)


  1. Another great posting.

    ".......given a decent flip-front helmet and some physical coordination, it's quite possible to keep provisioned in flight. Smoking's quite possible....."

    Barry Sheene managed to continue his nicotine fixes by drilling a small hole in his helmet, and poking the fag through that.

  2. That was in the days when a Bell Star was pretty much a plastic shell and nowt else! One hole more or less couldn't have mattered much. With a flip-front, if you had a fag on and pressed the button, who knows where it would end up?

    It's an interesting thought.

  3. Jeremy Clarkson made a machine for smoking whilst scuba diving. Matches must get a bit soggy?

    I wonder what a mainland Eurpoean biker would write up about Great Britain and its thoughtful and courteous Polish lorry drivers, white van men and Aunty Flos out for a Sunday drive (on a Wednesday)? I wonder...

  4. @Joe
    Thanks - assuming you mean the content, and not just the excellent formatting and editorial work!

    Thanks - for all the excellent formatting and editorial work! Really appreciate the extensive guest publication spot, and I hope it's been of some interest to your readership.

    Nothing quite so flattering, I rather suspect. The UK, in general, does not convey the same feeling of welcome for and enthusiasm about bikers...

    PS: Combining flip-fronts and smoking - it's mostly about remembering not to close the lid...otherwise you get a very clear idea of where all the hot bits of the fag end up!

  5. @Nikos - I suspect a forriner's view of British motorists wouldn't be half as complimentary. (Have to say I didn't get the leg-wave thing for a long time. I used to think that French bikers were gesturing what they would like to do with my door panels.)

    @Endo - it was a pleasure to work with you on this, and I am glad you are pleased with the results. Your comments on the flip-front are doing nothing to persuade me to come back to Lady Nicotine, however!


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