Take the ferry and you could be riding some of the world’s most stunning roads
There’s a world of incredible riding just a short hop over the channel, yet many bikers still haven’t discovered Spain’s Ronda road (the most popular press launch venue), France’s Verdon Gorge (Europe’s Grand Canyon), or of course Italy’s Stelvio pass (and all of its 75 hairpins).
It doesn’t matter what bike you ride, or how far you want to travel – tour Europe on a BMW R1200GS or visit the Normandy beaches on a Yamaha MT-07 – ferries offer the gateway to some great new riding experiences.
Discover Ferries and the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) has compiled some useful advice for anyone who wants to explore beyond their own backyard…
• Most ferry companies take motorbike bookings as they would for cars or lorries; just specify the type of vehicle while booking, input the model and registration number, and check-in as normal., to make sure you get a space – they can fill up around big events. For the TT, you need to be booking the year before!
• Check how you’ll strap the bike down when on-board – most ferries use a padded strap that goes over the seat to tie it down securely, and this works best with the bike on the sidestand as you can compress the suspension a little.
• Make sure you read our advice articles to brush up on the laws of the country your riding – you’ll find some in the related articles below.
• Make sure your bike is in good running order, and that it complies with the regulations of the country you’re travelling to.
• Pack a basic toolkit and first aid kit. For the 18 things you must pack for any motorcycle adventure, click here.
• Plan your trip to get the most out of it – for advice, advice on how to plan your perfect biking holiday, click here.
• While you’re unlikely to need it if you’re not going far, check if you should buy an International Driving Permit (IDP) by clicking here. You can get one from the Post Office or the AA for £5.50.
The Steam Packet Company takes tens of thousands of riders to the Isle of Man. Photo by Dave Kneed, Pacemaker press
• Check in is generally very simple – you’ll queue at the ferry terminal, then show your passport when you ride up to a booth. After that you’ll be in a holding area – like a large car park. Some terminals have a café or rest area, but if in doubt, take some water a snack to keep on the bike. And have waterproofs, just in case it’s raining while you wait.
• Don’t forget to keep your passport and tickets easily accessible when you check-in, as having to dig them out from the bottom of your tank bag causes unnecessary delays.
• When boarding the ferry, watch out for slippery surfaces like the ramps.
• Ferries are loaded according to vehicles’ size and type, so be patient as you might find other vehicles moving ahead of you to ensure all can fit, though other times bikes might be the first ones on.
• Some operators will help you secure your bike, while others will leave you to it, but it’s simple enough. All ferry companies will provide you with straps though you are of course free to bring your own: just place your bike in first gear, park it on the side-stand, then pass the strap over the seat from a hook point on one side to the other. You might want to tie down via the frame to several points, but make sure they’re solid; the crew will check all vehicles are secure before the ship departs, and will be on-hand to provide support and assistance, so don’t panic!
For Tommy Hill’s six simple steps to securing a bike, click here.
• Turn off your bike alarm, or put it into transport mode. Equally, if you have a tracker, make sure you notify the monitoring company – usually through the app.
• You can’t get to your bike once you set sail, so take anything you’ll need up with you. Plan your bike’s packing so you can pop off the luggage you need and carry it with you.
• Once checked in, your bike is pretty safe, but be aware that thieves know to expect a huge influx of bikes in connecting ports during big race events – Merseyside police for instance sees a large uplift in thefts while bikers stay overnight in Liverpool for the TT crossing. They’re fighting back though – for more information on their recent success, click here.
Brittany Ferries takes motorcycles on all its routes to France and Spain, with up to two passengers (including driver) allowed per vehicle. Bikes are stored on the car deck, and the crew are trained to help safely secure them. I’ve used them several times and been very impressed.
Caledonian MacBrayne takes bikes on all its routes in the West Coast of Scotland, with up to two passengers (including driver) allowed per vehicle. Motorcycles can only be positioned and secured on the car deck under CalMac staff supervision.
Condor Ferries takes motorbikes all its routes to the Channel Islands and France, with up to two passengers (including driver) allowed per vehicle. They’re stored on the car deck and the crew are trained to help safely secure them.
DFDS takes motorbikes on its routes to France and Amsterdam, with up to two passengers (including driver) allowed per vehicle. Bikes are stored on the car deck and the crew are trained to help safely secure them.
Irish Ferries takes bikes on all its routes, with up to two passengers (including driver) allowed per vehicle. On its cruise vessels – MV Ulysses, MV Isle of Inishmore, MV Epsilon and MV Oscar Wilde – securing equipment is provided to bikers. Due to the high speed nature of the HSC Dublin Swift, members of the deck crew will secure motorbikes on board themselves.
P&O Ferries accepts bikes on all its routes to Calais, Dublin, Larne Rotterdam, and Zeebrugge, with up to two passengers (including driver) allowed per vehicle. Motorbikes are stored on the car deck and the crew are trained to help safely secure them.
Red Funnel accepts motorcycles on its vehicle ferry service from Southampton to East Cowes, with up to two passengers (including driver) allowed per motorbike. Motorbikes are stored on the vehicle deck and the crew are trained to help safely secure them. Note that the Red Jet route between Southampton and West Cowes is for foot passengers only.
Stena Line accepts motorbikes on all its services to Ireland and Holland, with up to two passengers (including driver) allowed per vehicle. Bikes are stored on the car deck and the crew are trained to help safely secure them.
Wightlink accepts motorbikes between Portsmouth and Fishbourne, and Lymington and Yarmouth, with up to two passengers (including driver) allowed per vehicle. Note that the route between Portsmouth and Ryde is for foot passengers only.
The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company welcomes motorbike bookings as standard on all its routes to the Isle of Man, with up to two passengers (including driver) allowed per vehicle. Note that during the racing, this service is incredibly busy. Book AT LEAST a year in advance to ensure you get on board. The same goes for accommodation.
Ferries from the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group are for pedestrian use only; however, motorbikes can be carried as freight and so must be booked in advance over the phone for an additional charge at 01736 334249.
MBNA Thames Clippers does not accept motorbikes on its fleet as it offers a foot passenger -only service along the Thames.
Discover Ferries’ 12 members operate more than 80 routes – for more details, visit https://www.discoverferries.com/
Just like any holiday, a trip on a motorcycle – be it in the UK, Europe or beyond – can be ruined by delays, lost documents, illness and more. There are plenty of travel insurance options, but you need to make sure you get a policy that includes riding motorcycles, and if it does, that it's for bikes of the engine size you'll be riding (many only cover up to 250cc). At its most basic, you should look for insurance that provides cover for the following:
In addition though, if you’re taking a motorcycle (or you're renting one while you’re away) be sure that your insurer will cover you for any medical expenses, should you have an accident. You must also think about where you’re riding – some policies won’t cover you if you’re trail or enduro riding, or if you’re on a race track. Remember – this isn’t about your bike being covered, it’s about your medical expenses, should the worst happen.
If you're only going away once, a single-trip policy will likely be all you need, but also consider an annual policy, which could extend to cover your family holidays too (a good insurer should also be able to offer cover for your whole family).
BikeSocial’s parent company, Bennetts, has a motorcycle-specific travel insurance policy – find out if it suits your needs by clicking here.