Spain By Wing
Charting a European Riding Excursion.
America’s 2.5 million miles of wide, paved roads are built for comfortable cruising, but are also confined by two coasts. Not surprisingly, this can leave many adventure-seeking motorcyclists yearning for thrills beyond our borders, with Europe’s winding, romantic roadways providing a tempting destination to do so.
But more often than not, careening through Europe on a Gold Wing is a bucket list “to do” quickly thwarted by financial concerns and time constraints.
Although money and time limitations should be weighted factors when deciding to travel internationally, they often conceal the biggest mental blockade of all: fear of the unknown. Though riding a Gold Wing in Europe is challenging, it’s also invigorating, brimming with uniquely exciting experiences and not nearly as difficult to plan as you think.
Here are ways to ensure your international riding excursion stays seamless, scenic and, most importantly, packed with memories to last a lifetime.
Selecting a Location and Date
According to Traian Zaionciuc — owner and founder of 2 Wheels Deluxe, which specializes in touring motorcycles and rental accommodations for riders in America and Europe — picking a time frame and location are the vital first steps to planning a riding trip.
“The most important step of planning a riding trip to Europe is deciding where to go,” he explains. “Although travel publications help you decide, they won’t always answer all your questions.”
Talk to individuals who have already traveled Europe on a Gold Wing. Contacting your local GWRRA Chapter and inquiring among Members or scouring discussion boards are also good ways to start. You can also try the Gold Book to find Members in the area where you want to go.
Zaionciuc suggests southern Spain’s temperate climate and wide roads for first-time riders. More advanced motorcyclists might consider a tour through Tuscany’s tight, twisting streets. “Establish a time frame and budget. Decide if you’re going by yourself, as a couple or with a group, and for how long.
Try to avoid the heavy tourism season between July and August,” he says.
Opting for an All-Inclusive Experience
A first-time international rider’s safest and simplest means of traveling Europe is to utilize a rental service. Touring and bike rental companies are plentiful overseas, and most offer easy-to-navigate, English websites with clear price listings. However, not all services offer Gold Wings for rent, which puts 2 Wheels Deluxe in a unique situation. “Our motorcycle tours and rentals are carefully customized to meet the rider’s preferences, skills, time and budget,” Zaionciuc explains.
Zaionciuc’s bikes come equipped with a multi-language GPS, highway foot pegs, backrest, rear rack and saddlebags, and are delivered to the rider’s hotel and picked up at the final destination point. Riders are also equipped with insurance to ride in Europe.
His company doesn’t just divvy out bikes — it also combines years of European riding experience to customize a self-guided or guided trip that is rich in cultural history and scenic riding. The touring company also partners with Your Vacation Home, a service that offers villa, apartment, cottage and car reservations for travelers. “It’s definitely not all about the speed or twisty roads — it’s about enjoying the (view) on two wheels.”
Shipping Your Personal Wheels to Europe
Although a rental service is the safest, cheapest and most convenient means of touring Europe, transporting your Gold Wing overseas is accomplishable if you’re willing to invest time, energy and cash to get it there.
Vehicle transportation occurs two ways: ocean and air freight. Ocean freight is usually cheaper than air, but bikes can arrive up to eight weeks after shipment, and harsh climate conditions can potentially damage your wheels — and most ocean lines won’t cover that.
Sending your Gold Wing by plane is a costly but far more efficient route. Bikes arrive between one and three days after shipment, and are easier to get off planes and through customs. Your possessions are also typically insured by the airline.
Online services such as Shiply and Ship My Bike allow riders to submit their shipping request specifications to a pool of companies and vendors who vie for a chance to win your bid. Prepare to pay some steep fees. If you’re shipping by ocean freight, plan for roughly $800–$950 in pickup fees, $1,000-$2,500 in shipping fees and €450–€600 (about $600-$800) in European customs fees.
If you want to ship the bike straight to your hotel from the port, plan to fork over an additional €400 ($550). Vendors can also scoop up fees for bikes without the gas drained, the battery disconnected or the saddlebags unlocked.
Fees for air freight dwarf these figures. Your best bet for cost efficiency? Plan months ahead and ship by seas. Willing to pay extra for a quick transport and full insurance coverage? Opt for air.
These prices are based on shipment of a sample 2004 Honda GL1800 SE Gold Wing with ABS from Phoenix to Barcelona from a compilation of vendors. Meticulously scan vendor websites, paying close attention to any privacy policies and shipping specifications. And unless you plan on a permanent stay, plan to pay these fees again for your return shipment back to the States.
Ensure You’re Legal to Cruise
Rental and touring services such as 2 Wheels Deluxe typically provide insurance coverage for riders, but when pioneering alone, the minimum insurance requirement is the Green Card. It allows visitors basic operating coverage while meeting foreign regulatory laws.
However, the Green Card is the bare minimum. You’ll need to purchase a joint insurance policy that covers theft, vandalism, collision, bodily injury and medical payments. No two insurance policies provide the same amount of coverage.
Always weigh the cost, coverage and duration of your trip before settling on one company.
Also plan to obtain a current passport and visa, as well as an international driver’s license from AAA.
Keep an Open Mind
While Zaionciuc acknowledges that American riders will stand out on congested city streets, that shouldn’t be a deterrent from trying them. “All you need to show is confidence and know the roads,” he explains. “Ride within the speed limits, do not ignore traffic signs for restricted traffic and be familiar with roundabouts.” He recommends three forms of guidance: a tour guide, a GPS system and a smartphone with the Google Maps app.
Although it’s common to be nervous about riding in a different country, according to Zaionciuc, embracing chaos and keeping an open mind is crucial. “Don’t expect things to be the way you’re used to in the States,” he says. “Think positive and be willing to explore something new.”
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