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Saturday, 30 August 2014

MC TOURISM INBOUND & IN FRANCE

Motorcycle Tours in bound from Europe
From Bill Kaylock, an Australian motorcyclist living in France.
Europeans are a diverse group; those from Germany, Holland and Great   Britain will travel. The French and Italians and Spanish are not such big travellers. 

I live in France so I can speak more of the French. The French tend to take riding holidays within French borders. They consider a long ride is about 400km. 

The majority of big bore touring bikes come from the three I mentioned, Germany, Holland and Great Britain. The Distances tourists expect to travel is important. Those that have big bore dual sport (BMW GS models and similar) will have longer distance in mind than others on smaller bikes. Also from talking with riders they want see it all in one trip. 

I believe we need to segment, perhaps just use states. I suggest in marketing that Victoria has a diverse range of landscapes so a trip around Victoria will give a good example of all Australia has to offer. Example, the Great Ocean road, Halls Gap, the Mallee, along the Murray, The Great Alpine Road and then the Gippsland coast back to Melbourne. With detours and side trips a month would easily be filled seeing some of the most spectacular country in Australia.

Money and exchange rates will be an important factor in attracting motorcycle tourists. As Great Britain still has their own currency then at times they will be in a better position than other EU countries.

Which brings us to the cost of travel. Including, motorcycles paying on toll roads, access to parking (Sydney) fuel, food, accommodation
Motorcycle hires. It is expensive and I believe unnecessarily so. There is no real competition. An official attempt to change this would be good. (Insurance and Motorcycle providers)

Compared to Europe Australia is easy to navigate around (expand here). Instead of tour operators a network of destinations could be established.

Police harassment, it happens in Australia, is detrimental to growing motorcycle touring in this country. It is a turn off for foreigners. Don’t try to make excuses, it happens and it is wrong. 

The politicians that want more tourism need to speak with the politicians that spruike law and order. This must be addressed. Australia is regarded as a police state by well-travelled motorcyclists. I can give examples of my own experiences and anecdotally of others.

In my own experience, after four years and around 40,000km on a bike in Europe. Not once stopped by police. Only 2 speed camera fines, one of which was on a motorway near Paris, no excuses, it was announced with a huge sign, however I continued at the pace of the traffic and ended up with a fine. (I am sure that every vehicle in the same proximity as me would have been fined too). 

More importantly, I have overtaken Police cars in traffic and they have given me space. In France the Gendarmes set-up at cross roads for vehicle checks and random breath tests and I have always been waved past on a motorcycle. 

Parking is generally accepted as wherever your bike fits. Only in Florence was I asked to move my bike away from a square. (It was empty when I stopped, on my return half an hour later it was packed with a market).


I have also attached an article I wrote for the DOCV magazine “Desmoto”. It includes some more information on riding in France.

A MOTORCYCLISTS GUIDE TO FRENCH ROADS

The two basic rules of riding in France are:

- its not close unless you hit
- its only too fast if you crash.

Courtesy is paramount. The horn is used to warn others of your presence (not to abuse anyone) and the bird (the finger, the digit etc) is only waved at Polish Truck Drivers who can't see through the pom pom (or soccer dolls) curtain surrounding their windscreen.

Roads are of varying width and at times vehicles must give way, and motorcycles almost always are given priority. On normal two lane (one each way) roads most cars and trucks will move as far right as they can to allow you to pass, even on double lines , and this includes the occasional Gendarme. Oncoming cars will also move away from the centre line allowing you room.

There are fixed speed cameras and they have huge signs letting you know. On unfamiliar roads its best to stick behind someone doing a comfortable pace, they are probably local and know the camera sites.

Random breath tests are random and never include motorcycles. I have always been waved through as I approach.

Riding a Motorcycle is a right of passage for everyone. At 14 you can ride a 49.9cc bike or scooter. The range is huge, Motards (as we call them in Aus) are popular with the boys and scooters with the girls . (the French aren't sexist, boys are boys and girls are girls , they are different and they like it that way).

When you buy a new bike you get your rego papers, for life. The only time you need to visit the equivalent of the Rego Office is when you sell or trade. The only annual cost is insurance and it starts at around 120 euro for basic cover (even for the Bandit 1200). There are no annual inspections , (its your bike and your life so look after it).

The French Motard (motorcyclists) wave as they pass. With the left hand for approaching bikes and the right foot if they overtake you. 

If there is a downside it is the horsepower restrictions. Bikes like Fireblades and R1s aren't sold in France as their power to weight is too high. The Manufacturers have overcome this by producing 800cc sportsbikes . Naked bikes and dual sports are preferred , the bigger dual sports like Multis are very popular. 

Back to the roads. Jen and I recently rode to Barcelona for the Motogp. We took two days and covered 1300km. we were only on a divided road for about 20km and then the last 40km in to the city. Both days were about 10hrs riding and only occasionally did I get in to top gear. The road surface was always excellent, there is rarely a pothole in France and the Spanish roads are good too.

Yes , I am enjoying living in France

Bill

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