Ride safe in Europe

Lt. Col. James Reavis
435th Logistics Readiness Group

It’s hard to tell, but summer is just around the corner. If you’re like me, you can’t wait until you can start riding your motorcycle. Without question, you’re in one of the most beautiful countries in the world to ride a motorcycle. It’s a fantastic way to see Germany and other parts of Europe.  However, riding in Germany and Europe brings with it new challenges that are, well, different from what you may have experienced in the states.

I ride with a good group of friends who have a couple of rules we live by. Probably the most important rule is we never ride faster than the slowest rider in the group. Everyone has to be comfortable with the speed and conditions they are riding in. Besides, it’s just plain courtesy to your buddy. Speed poses the greatest challenge motorcycle riders face in Europe. Speed (rider error) was the key ingredient in the riders losing control of their bikes in past accidents I’m aware of here in Europe. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation program preaches slow, look, press, and roll (on the throttle), and outside-inside-outside path of travel when driving through turns. There are some awesome secondary roads here in Germany that take you through some very beautiful scenery. All of those roads have blind corners and decreasing radius turns. It’s easy to let the scenery distract you from the road.

Another quirk that comes with riding in Germany is weather. If it is sunny at Ramstein, don’t count on the same weather wherever you are riding to.
You can ride in almost any direction and the weather will be different.
Count on it. Last June, on a ride to the Garmisch area, we left in clear, dry condition only to encounter high winds, freezing rain and hail as we got closer to our destination. The point here is to dress in layers. If things warm up, you can peel off some clothes so you remain comfortable. Another little trick is carrying a rainsuit, needed or not. It can double as a layer for warmth.

I’d also like to warn you about riders on pocket rockets. I really like those machines, but some of those guys know only one position on the throttle – wide open. Several times I’ve looked to my left and found one riding right next to me, in my blind spot. Often they would come up on my group so fast that we never saw them in our mirrors. The best thing you can do is to try and maintain a safe distance from them and the other riders in your group. They are usually gone as fast as they arrive.

Last thing I’ll leave you with is the MSF courses. The basic and experienced courses are a great way to sharpen your riding skills. For me, it was the first time I received any formal training from someone who really knew what they were doing. It really helped after a long break in riding. I’ve had several folks who have ridden all their life tell me they learned something in the course. Our volunteer instructors do a great job, so take advantage of either course and enjoy your riding experience in Germany and Europe. Ride to live, live to ride.