How to get your bike to the south without riding it there!

Every minute we spend behind our computer screen, we tend to indulge in a daydream about riding our motorcycle under a radiant sun.

Especially knowing there is plenty of opportunity to do so in Europe: Spain, Portugal, Southern France, Italy, the Balkans or even Turkey are near perfect motorcycle destinations.

The only thing we don’t take into account is the hours or days of highway we have to devour before arriving in ‘the promised land’... But what if we told you there are other solutions?

 

Costs of travelling, hidden in plain sight

Let’s do a bit of math first. Because riding to the south - there’s al lot more to it than meets the eye. Say we want to make our way from Amsterdam to Malaga and back. That would cost about 4.600 kilometers (shortest way) worth of fuel which would set you back around 350-400 euros, depending on your bikes fuel consumption.

Unless you’re an avid IronButt’er, those 2.300 kilometers (one way) will not be ridden in one time - to be comfortable, we think splitting it into three stages would be what the average motorcyclist will prefer. So you’ll need two hotel nights per way - four in total, we’ve calculated at a tight rate of 50 euros a night (if you’re lucky, including breakfast).

Three stages in which you’ll need to eat and drink as well, let’s say you’d survive on 30 euros a day - with six days of travel for the round trip, that will slip around 180 euros out of your wallet. According to ViaMichelin, toll costs will rise up to 62,7 euros per bike in France and Spain combined, while we suspect your tyres will be half way worn just from riding up there and back (150 to 200 euros worth of rubber).

In total, ‘transport costs’ for the round trip could set you back about 942,7 euros if you decide to ride all the way up there. Not to forget about the four extra days (versus taking a plane) you’ll need to take off work to get there, and the fact that you might be tired upon arrival…

Motorcycle rental

A first solution is the most obvious one: you hop on a plane and rent a motorcycle on your place of arrival. You don’t have to worry about getting your bike travel-ready, nor about any additional costs, just book a cheap flight and find a rental place near the airport.

If you keep an eye open for bargains, you might notice that some budget airlines offer return flights for as little as 20 euros. Mostly only including hand luggage, on less attractive data and destinations which wouldn’t appeal to a lot of people - but you might find some gems amongst those deals.

And don’t we all like a challenge? Put on those motorcycle sneakers, a kevlar jeans and your leather jacket for the flight, while you stuff your gloves and helmet in a backpack. You can always buy a toothbrush, three sets of boxers and a deodorant at the nearest supermarket, right? We’d only advise this way for weekend trips though, for the obvious reasons… More often though, you’ll notice that you spend at least 50 to 150 euros per flight, including one piece of check-in luggage.

Rental prices all over Europe range widely from 50 to over 200 euros a day, depending on the duration of rental, the brand, the condition and age of the bike, and the country in which you rent the bike. Most of them require a deposit (cash or credit card), which can easily be around 1.000 euros.

Apart from the required deposit, there are some other downsides to renting a bike. Before departure, you might’ve already ordered a rental, which will have you know the type of your motorcycle, but you’ll never really know what you’re going to get (mileage, condition,...) until you arrive.

On top of that, you will need to drag your luggage along as you can’t pack it from home, you will have to bring the bike back to a the rental point so your trip will have to be a roundtrip no matter what. On top of that, you’ll always have a chance of high insurance fees or costs if anything breaks. But that’s just me playing the devil’s advocate.

Motorcycle transport by truck

If you rather have your own bike at your destination, there are some options which do not require you riding all the way south. The easiest one is to have your motorcycle picked up at home and transported over by truck, while you make your way over there by airplane, bus or train.

We’ve already covered travelling by plane in the last paragraph, but chasing your motorcycle transport by train is a viable idea as well: take for instance the ‘Global Pass’ of Interrail, which allows you to have five separate trips over fifteen days for 269 euros. So you could start in Amsterdam, spend a day in Paris, move over to Barcelona for two days and then continue to Malaga where you can spend your motorcycle holidays before heading back. Bus companies like Flixbus might get you to one destination from 50 euros onwards, but are a more boring counterpart.

Alright, back to the motorcycle transport. There are dozens of companies around which are glad to take your bike towards your destination - prices range widely from a couple of hundred euros to nearly a thousand euros, depending on where you live, where you want to go, and what sort of bike you have. To give you an idea: if you want your Ducati Monster shipped from The Netherlands to Malaga, you’ll spend around 450-550 euros, whereas a Honda Goldwing will cost around 600-700 euros for the same trip.  

Some of the organisations offer so-called ‘Fly&Bike’-arrangements in which your flights and the first and last hotel night of your trip are included. In that way your bike is delivered at your hotel, so after a good night of sleep, you can immediately go for it. Needless to say, this formula is a tad more expensive than booking your own stay and flights. Also, all-in formulas - flight, transport, hotel and even guided tours - seem to have gained popularity over the last couple of years and are provided by most of the transport companies.

Another formula which caught our eye is uShip, a sort of Uber if you like, for everything you can think of - even motorcycle transport. You just choose a place and time of pick-up and delivery, specify which motorcycle needs to be transported and the website sets up an ‘auction’ in which thousands of (rated) trucking or transporting companies can make you an offer. You just select the one you want, and you’re ready to go.

Motorcycle transport by train

Up until a few years ago, there were plenty of motorails around to carry your motorcycle from one side of Europe to the other and back. Sadly - due to lack of interest on some of the lines - a lot of them were discontinued. At the moment, there are two main starting points left if you’re heading south: Paris in France and Düsseldorf in Germany.

The ‘French connection’ will take you from the majestic French capital towards Marseille, Perpignan, Avignon, Fréjus, Nice and Toulon - depending on which branch you select at the SNCF counter. You just ride your bike to Paris Bercy Station. After a vehicle inspection, you hand over your keys and leave the rest to the SNCF staff. You are now free to take any regular scheduled passenger train you like - unlike other motorail services, the vehicles travel on a separate train whilst passengers use whatever scheduled TGV train they wish.

Next day you make your way to the Auto Train terminal at your destination, present your travel papers and collect the keys to your vehicle. Prices start from 99 euros for one way trips and when you book well in advance (up to six months before departure), but tend to double when booking last-minute and when approaching summer months.Spain and Portugal do not have any motorail services, but the Perpignan station is less than an hour away from the Spanish border.

The German motorail is split over two societies: the Urlaubs-Express which takes you and your motorcycle all the way to Verona in Italy every friday from June to September (from 328 euros one way), or the Austrian motorail which heads on a daily basis for Innsbruck (from 128 euros one way) in Austria. You can ride from Innsbruck to Italy via the scenic Brenner Pass, Innsbruck to Verona is 274 km and takes around three hours by bike - so you might save a bunch of euros and at the same time be treated to almost 300 kilometers of glorious mountain roads. Worth considering, right?


On the other hand, if you wish to travel on from Austria, the Optima Tours motorail will take you and your bike from Villach in Southern Austria to Edirne in Turkey, near the Bulgarian border - Villach being only a four hour ride (289 km) away from Innsbruck. A one way trip to Edirne takes you around 32 hours (two days and a night or two nights and a day) and the round trip will cost you between 650 and 1250 euros (one person and bike, depending on choice of cabin). Not cheap, but you cover some distance while sleeping, reading or watching a movie.

Motorcycle transport by ferry

Some destinations - think about isles or peninsulae - are hard to reach by land or demand to take the long way round, so a ferry might be needed to literally ship you and your beloved bike to the destination of your choice.

Take for instance Greece - a perfect one to combine multiple southbound solutions: just ride up the summer motorail from Dusseldorf to Verona or the daily all-year Düsseldorf-Innsbruck motorail, then ride to Venice, Trieste or Ancona and take a direct cruise ferry from Venice to Igoumenitsa or Patras in Greece, see www.minoan.gr, www.anek.gr or www.bluestarferries.com. From thereon you can book onward ferries from Piraeus (Athens) to Crete and many other Greek islands.

On the other hand, sailing might be an adventurous alternative for flying or a train ride. For example, Brittany Ferries will take one person and a motorcycle from Portsmouth to Bilbao or Santander for 90 to 190 euros one way - double that amount for round trips. One way takes about twenty hours of sailing, so you might want to consider a cabin for some sleeping (from 150 euros).

If you’re coming from the European mainland there are two options to get to Portsmouth harbour. One: you can take your bike on the Eurotunnel train (from 59 euros one way) from Calais to Folkestone, which leaves about 210 kilometers to ride. Or two: you can take the ferry (from 30 euros one way) from Calais/Dunkirk to Dover, which is 220 kilometers from Portsmouth. Either way, you can count on several hours of checking in/out and travelling. Calais is situated in the northwest of France - a two hour ride from Brussels, four and a half hour trip from Amsterdam or three hour jaunt from Paris.

Motorcycle storage abroad

If you have more than one motorcycle or you don’t plan on riding it anywhere else then abroad, you might want to consider renting a place in a motorcycle storage in your preferred holiday country. Most of them offer extensively secured parking places, with insurance and even maintenance for a couple of extra bucks.

In Milan, Italy for example, Mototouring will have your ‘guest’ over for a mere 1,20 euros a day (around 37 euros a month) for short or (very) long stays, offers any kind of maintenance or replacement at fixed prices, will bring your bike to the airport or your hotel if needed, and even has a service to purchase a bike on Italian plates if you want.

IMTBike has four Motorcycle Storage Centers in Spain and Portugal located in Barcelona, Madrid, Malaga and Lisbon - all of them near the airport. Storing your bike there for a year will set you back 60 euros a month, or 720 euros a year. That might not seem cheap, but it’s worth considering if you plan more than one trip a year. Mind you, these are just some of the available options - there are a lot more out there if you’re willing to search.

Illustrations: © Bruno Vackier / Motorrijder Magazine

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