Travel tips for venturing abroad with your GoldWing by Marian Reynolds
Towing a trailer
Every time you repack the trailer you learn a little more about how best to pack. If you're forgetful (like me), you could keep a note of where everything goes. It saves a lot of guess work when the riding / camping season starts again.
A Wing towing a trailer is more noticeable to other road users judging by the number of waves, thumbs up, etc. received from motorists. The downside when traveling on motorways is that many drivers don't expect a motorcycle to be towing a trailer. A driver traveling on the inside lane and gaining on traffic may look into his rear-view mirror, see a motorcycle behind him in the second lane and prepare to pull out into that lane after the motorcycle (expecting the bike to move out into the third lane). The driver of the car (or worse, the truck) won't see the trailer behind the bike and doesn't realise the bike should not move into the third lane. Equally, a car almost hit our trailer as they changed lanes in fast moving congested traffic. The driver went for the gap he expected to be behind the Wing only to discover our trailer filling his perceived space.
Many people have asked about the speed bikes can travel while towing a trailer in Germany. The motorway speed limit of a bike towing a trailer is 60 KPH (20 KPH slower than trucks) because, according to German legislation, motorcycles weren't designed to tow trailers. Most wings with trailers travel at 100 KPM and, as long as they don't annoy the truckers or hold up other road users, this seems to me to be ok. I am not recommending any riders break the rules, each rider must make his own decisions.
Speed and riding in groups
Speed is relative, they say. The vehicle, road, traffic, weather conditions and rider fatigue all impact your journey and the speed you travel. At all times, ride within your capabilities, do not try to keep up with the group or reach your destination by a certain time. Slow down, stop and rest if you need to. It's better to arrive late and well than not to arrive at all. If you are planning an overseas trip with a group, you should have a few local runs first to understand how each rider travels and how you ride together.
Keep an eye on what you are being charged at toll booths. In Italy, for example, they sometimes try to charge a wing and trailer as three axels but it's worth insisting that they are wrong and you should only be charged for the bike. If the country you’re visiting has a Vignette / Toll Pass system, we would always recommend that you obey the rules and buy one. Many people end up paying a large fine while trying to save the relatively small cost of the Vignette.
Most people plan ahead and book their accommodation in advance. While this gives you the peace of mind of having a bed for the evening, make sure you’re not over-stretching yourself. If the weather, road conditions, etc. are bad, you shouldn't put yourself under pressure to reach your destination. Where possible, it's better to book a room with a good cancellation policy. If, on the other hand, you leave it until late in the evening to start looking for accommodation, you might end up traveling long into the night before you find a room. Before heading for bed, don't forget to lock your bike and I highly recommend that you cover it. Would-be thieves can't see what's under the cover (alarms and/or locks on the bike) and will hopefully leave it alone.
General travel tips
Travelling on Sundays means you can enjoy a truck-free, less stressful day. Putting in some time researching your trip and your planned route can be very rewarding. Is there an alternative route that avoids long stretches of road works or busy ring roads at rush hour? Knowing the price of petrol in the countries you are visiting lets you know which side of the border you should fill up.
Road surfaces in Europe can be very bad, for example, over-banding and long strips of repaired tarmac can be very slippy when wet or melting from the heat. Sometimes, there are potholes and long 'ravines' between lanes where the surface is breaking up. Either bike wheel is liable to get caught by them. The groves worn into the motorway from the trucks effect bikes towing trailers and three wheelers more than solos but can make for uncomfortable riding.
Anyone travelling through Calais will be very aware that the problems there are getting worse and you should be careful especially at night or in the early morning. It's not unknown, for example, for all traffic to be directed off the approaching motorways for security checks, so, please allow extra travel time. It's better to arrive early than miss the boat.
Stena have the same policy on all of their ferry services, i.e. a trike, sidecar or solo bike with or without a trailer will be charged as a solo bike.
Please let your insurance company know when you're taking your bike abroad. Don't forget that you need your original paperwork with you. It is also a good idea to tell your debit and credit card companies that you’re going abroad. If you lose your cards, do you have contact details with you to report them missing / stolen? Is there someone at home who knows your route and timetable? Do you have an up-to-date I.C.E. (In Case of Emergency) contact phone number? This is someone who (should the need arise) has access to your health information, etc.
Make sure you have good medical, travel and breakdown insurance and their contact details with you. If you take medication, please take enough to last for the holiday plus a few extra days. Some people carry copies of their prescriptions. If you wear glasses or use contact lenses, please pack a spare pair of glasses. If you are traveling with a pillion, they should carry the spare bike and lock keys rather than hiding the keys somewhere on the bike.
European countries have different requirements about what equipment you should carry. Please check before traveling and check the speed limits while you are at it. For your own safety, you should carry a hi-vis vest for you and your pillion, a warning (breakdown) triangle, a can of emergency tyre sealer / inflator, fuses, spare bulbs, etc. Before you set off on your travels, please make sure both you and your motorcycle are fit for the adventure. Riding on the 'wrong' side of the road with unfamiliar signage and perhaps heavy / fast traffic and hot weather can be draining. Is the bike due a service? Are the tyres, brake-pads, etc. good for the journey or will you have to replace them on route? Don't forget to check the trailer's tyres if you're taking one. During your journey please do a regular t-clock check.
The T-Clock Checklist
T: Tyres & Wheels
Tyres: Check tread depth, wear and air pressure.
Wheels: Are they bent or cracked? See if they turn freely but are not loose on the axle.
C: Control Levers
Inspect levers, verify they are not bent or broken and move easily.
Check cables for fraying and lubricate them.
Check hoses for cracks, leaks, bulges and chaffed areas.
Make sure the throttle moves freely, closes easily. Lube if required.
L: Lights & Battery
Check that the battery terminals are clean and tight and that the electrolyte level is correct. Make sure the vent tube is hooked to the vent outlet and not kinked.
Check the turn signals and brake lights for proper operation. Make sure the lenses are not cracked or broken.
Check the headlights for proper operation and alignment.
O: Oil & Fluid Levels
Check engine oil level.
Check transmission and primary drive fluid levels.
Steering Head: Move handlebars back and forth to check for tight spots or binding. Hold the front brake and rock the bike front to back to check for any free play in the neck bearings.
Suspension: Check the front forks and the rear shocks for smooth travel and right air pressure.
Fasteners (if equipped): Check for any loose nuts or bolts and tighten if required.
Check for ease of operation and spring action.
A list of European Honda dealers may be found here.