Rory & Tom's Motorbike Tours

Rory & Tom's Motorbike Tours -

Physical Condition

The bikes are both at the garage being serviced and having new tyres fitted. We left instructions with the garage that they both need to be good for five thousand maintenance free kilometres, on some of the lowest quality roads in Europe west of the Caucasus.

Our own physical state is pretty critical too. Spending several hours per day for two or three weeks sat on the bike on often challenging roads, can be exhausting. Maybe less so for people who already spend a couple of hours everyday on their bike commuting, but I am a mere recreational user these days.

For this reason I consider health and fitness to be an important part of preparation. Without either of these, you might as well just sit on a beach for your holiday.

The usual regime is a 5km run three times a week, and a 1km swim twice a week (when other things don’t get in the way of the schedule, that is).

I would also like to do some weights to build up the upper body, but that would have far too great a risk of aggravating old injuries.

The Results

I have been keeping to this exercise plan for almost 18 months. I have also completely removed caffeine from my diet.

The result is a 20% drop in my resting heart rate (monitored by a Basis band) and much improved sleep. Combined with my acquired ability to easily run 5km in under 25 minutes, this represents a significant improvement.

Like many people, I spend my working life sat at a desk. You cannot simply go from idle to intensive riding without either preparing yourself or suffering the consequences.

Summer Holiday 2015

Itinerary: Ride to Italy, take boat to Greece then ride back to South Germany via Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria.
When: September 2015

We’re doing another Balkan trip. This time we’re doing a different route and visiting a few new countries.

Using our experience from previous trips, we’re making a few changes to our planning.


From our experience, September appears to be one of the best times to undertake a big tour. The weather is still good, if anything it has cooled down from being extremely hot (that can be quite a problem under the biking gear, especially when riding in unfamiliar cities).

Also everywhere is quieter in September. The kids from all over Europe are back at school and their parents back home at work. This means that there is less traffic on the roads and accommodation is easier to find when you turn up in a town or city wanting somewhere to stay that night.

Technical Equipment

Before every big trip we’re always looking at how we can improve our equipment. I have upgraded my SatNav from a TomTom Navigator to a Garmin Zumo 390. The TomTom mount had been vandalised in Dublin and I was not very happy with the device, so I’m trying out the Garmin now.

I have been researching better bike-to-bike intercom systems. The goal is to have a completely wireless solution. Currently we have a two cables coming out of the radio; one goes to a push-to-talk button in the handlebar, the other cable splits in two as a microphone and speaker.

So far everything I have seen on the market uses Bluetooth for all the coms, including the bike-to-bike communication. The reviews have mainly focused on devices capability of streaming music – maybe these are Americans riding hundreds of kilometres on straight roads but I don’t want music when I’m riding, especially when doing a mountain pass.

One or two other words kept coming up in the reviews for all modern bike-to-bike intercom reviews, one in particular was “frustrating”. When it’s over 35°C and you’re stood out in the sun wearing your full gear and helmet, and the Bluetooth is not paired and will not pair (because that will happen), it might be a little frustrating.

For this reason we plan to carry on using our PMR446 push-to-talk (PTT) radios. It’s a simple solution and that’s why I like it – there is less to go wrong. Set the channel, push the button and talk. I am an engineer and believe that the best solution is usually the simpliest solution that achieves the goal.

Clothing and Hydration

I now have a helmet with a sun visor – I thought it was worth an upgrade for that feature. It’s easy to flip up or down while riding.

We both have upgraded our boots. They’re slighly more ruggedised and hopefully a bit more suitable for use on Albanian dirt roads.

I have also put together a hydration system, using a small rucksack and a 2 litre camelback bladder. I used a small rucksack as the products by companies like CamelBak are designed to carry more than just the bladder, whereas I don’t need that but instead require a bag that is a small and light as possible. Riding the bike for several hours per day, I want as little as possible on my back.

Rory doesn’t like the idea of drinking from a tube. He will have to go thirsty on the road.

Where to stay

Previous planning was to read the travel guides and highlight interesting towns and cities on the map. By mid-afternoon we would have a good idea where would be best to head.

We will still do this but I want to take it one step further and find one or two good hotels or hostels in each highlighted city before we leave. These would be our preference for accommodation in each city and we could possibly phone ahead.

At the end of a day spent on the road, it would be quite nice just to be able to ride straight up to the hotel where we’re staying.

However I would not want to be booking anywhere more than 1 day ahead. This would restrict our plans and lock us into a tight schedule. I like being as flexible as possible with our itinerary.


The last time we visited the Balkans back in 2012, lunch was a big problem. In practically every country in the region, it’s very hard to find lunch on the road. This will be an even greater problem now since I have given up caffeine, and can no longer postpone my hunger.

Our plan is to go shopping for a basic lunch first thing every morning. This will most likely be bread rolls and cheese. Maybe some fruit for Rory. Enough to keep us going until dinner.

Warm-up trip

This coming weekend we have a short trip planned, down to South Schwarzwald (Black Forest) here in Germany. We will test out the new gear and see how our new plans work out.

Importing (re-registering) our motorbikes from Ireland to Germany

We have moved and taken our bikes with us. We are now living in Baden-Württemberg, Germany where we are a couple of hours from the Alps and have the Black Forest on our doorstep.

As we are intending to stay in Germany for longer than 6 months, we are obliged to register our bikes in Germany. You may only stay using foreign registration plates if your stay is temporary and under 6 months.

I have found numerous guides on importing motorbikes into Germany, and some of these were contradictory. Therefore I thought it would be helpful to document our experience in November 2014.

The same process should apply to anyone else arriving with a motorbike currently registered in another EU country.

The process:

  1. TÜV inspection
  2. Purchase Insurance
  3. Registration

TÜV Inspection
This was pretty straight forward, and we did not even require an appointment. We arrived at our local TÜV testing station with our documentation:

  • Current (Foreign) Registration Certificate
  • Passport
  • €92.46

They wanted to see a certificate of European conformity, however this proved to be unnecessary. We helped the guy identify our bikes in his database, using the make, model, year and engine number. Provided that the exact same bike is sold in Germany, European conformity is assumed.

The inspection is a standard vehicle inspection and is valid for two years. Good luck.

After passing the TÜV inspection they gave us a printout of technical data (Bestätigung der technischen Daten). You will need to supply the fields 2.1, 2.2 (first part only) and E to your choosen insurance company.

Purchase Insurance

Before you can register the bike, you must first purchase German motorbike insurance. I used HUK and phoned them up.

They required the above fields supplied on the TÜV technical data sheet, and the usual personal data.

They also accepted my no claims bonus from Ireland. However note that in Germany there are two no claims bonus values, a general one and one for Vollkasko (number of NCB years at fully comprehensive).

At the end of the process they gave me a code over the phone. This code can be used immediately as proof of insurance, to complete the registration process.


Visit your local Bürgerbüro with:

  • Original (foreign) registration certificate
  • Physical number plate (yes, you must remove the existing number plate from your bike and take it with you to the Bürgerbüro)
  • TÜV certificate
  • Insurance code (see above)
  • Passport
  • Anmeldung/Anmeldebestätigung (citizen registration)
  • Bank Account IBAN (to pay the road tax)
  • €58.60 (slightly less if you don’t mind a large number plate)

This took me 1 hour of waiting and then ½ hour sat with the council officier as she tapped away on her keyboard. I got the trainee, and it’s probably not everyday that she deals with someone wanting to re-register a motorbike from Ireland.

I was given the option of which number plate I would like, either a regular size plate or a smaller one for a little bit extra. I went for the smaller plate, total cost €58.60

She finally handed me my new registration plate, the process complete.

The registration plate has two stickets attached to it, which look like discs. One is to show that the plate has been officially registered with the city, and the other is the TÜV pass certificate. The TÜV sticker displays the expiry year in the centre, and the month at 12 o’clock is the expiry month.

Rory had a little bit more difficulty at the Bürgerbüro. He presented the TÜV Technical Data sheet which said that the vehicle had not been tested (as the technical data sheet was printed before the inspection). After some persuasion, the guy at the desk phoned the local TÜV office to confirm that the bike had indeed passed testing.