Riding your motorbike to Spain – What UK & Ireland riders need to know

The bits that catch out new riders

Let’s get the obvious out of the way

In Spain, they drive on the right hand side of the road. This isn’t a problem if you’ve already come through France as you’ll be used to it and also being on a motorbike, it won’t affect you to the same degree as a driver of a car or lorry who will be unable to overtake without huge risk being that their driver seat is on the wrong side for viewing oncoming traffic.

Whilst you may think this blindingly obvious, it’s all too easy to find yourself in the oncoming lane on a quiet road once your old muscle memory takes over after a few hours riding in the heat. Likewise, though the approach onto them makes it easier to realise, you ride around a roundabout anti clockwise.

Dress appropriately for the region

For your first biking holiday you might be tempted by the sun of Spain and book it during ‘school’ holiday time of July / August, I wouldn’t recommend that personally but if you insist on visiting Spain during the highs of the summer, definitely bring mesh / air gear.

It’s deeply uncomfortable getting caught out in the high 30’s / low 40’s celsius in full armour and I wouldn’t recommend squibbing it ( though many locals do just that ). July and August are the warmest times of the year typically, May and September are probably the best times for a reasonable riding temperature in your usual gear and many of the tourist hot spots are a bit quieter also

Costa Brava is generally much warmer than the North Coast

Here’s a protip you probably don’t know, there is a considerable temperature difference between even neighbouring regions like the basque country and La Rioja as you climb upwards up off the coast, sometimes even up to 10 degrees difference in the same day.

As such, you may get off your motorbike in Santander expecting to be straight into the air mesh jacket and be somewhat chilly, only to find yourself toastier than roast chicken still in the oven a few hours down the road, just be wary of it.

Roundabouts: MUST READ

Spain has a strange unique approach to roundabouts that will almost certainly cause a near miss for any new driver coming from the UK.

In Spain, the inside lane of a roundabout, is for overtaking only.

“When there is more than one lane on a roundabout, you will normally travel around the roundabout in the right hand lane – the outside of the roundabout.”

Spanish Highway code

“Under no circumstances should a driver cut the source of other vehicles using the roundabout in order to exit from it.” 

Spanish Highway code

When it comes to priority, standard roundabout logic applies, those already on the roundabout have priority.

The conventional method of approaching the inside lane to take the 3rd exit does not apply, nor does indicating that you’re taking the last exit. You should stick to the outside lane, the entire way around and indicate only when you are ready to exit.

For Spanish readers interested in how the rest of Europe works ( and the world to my knowledge), you only use the outside lane if you’re taking the 1st exit or going straight ahead.

Priority

Unless signs indicate otherwise, the person on the right always has priority. This is important to remember not only at junctions but also on roundabouts.

Overtaking Lorries

The common courtesy rule for lorries and other slow moving / long vehicles is they’ll indicate right if it is safe to pass. Just make sure they’re not actually turning right before trying to do so.

Motorway or main road?

The road infrastructure in Spain is some of the best in Europe and it’s almost constantly being improved upon and expanded, potholes for myself personally have been a pretty rare occurrence .

It’s well worth your time using an web / mobile app like viamichelin to plan your route ahead of time. Especially so for avoiding toll roads, as in most parts of Spain, the main road is just as good as the motorway for getting around. From Barcelona to Vic for example, the motorway will save you 3 minutes, hardly a deal breaker for a journey that is over an hour.

Petrol

Petrol is called Gasolina in Spain, it’s pretty cheap compared to UK and France, if you are travelling back to either, make sure to top up before getting on the ferry / crossing the border.

Legal and Avoiding Fines

Intercoms and Headsets

Intercoms and headsets that are attached to receiving devices are permitted in Spain as long as they are not inserted into the ear

Parking

This varies by region and city but generally you will get fined if you park outside of a motorbike spot if it’s within 2 metres of a building.

For parking spots and their meanings colour wise

White striped – free

Blue – paid – find the nearest pay station, some of these may require you to enter your vehicle registration number

Green – residents – paid

Documentation

You need to carry the following

  • Valid driving licence
  • ITV/MOT Certificate – Inspección técnica de vehículos
  • Logbook – Permiso de Circulación
  • Insurance Policy
  • European Accident Agreement Form

You should also carry a High Visibility jacket with you in the event of a breakdown.

Motorcycle Speed Limits

The speed limit for motorcycles and mopeds on Spanish roads are as follows.

  • Urban Roads (No Hard Shoulder) – Max 90 Kph for motorcycles, 45 Kph for mopeds, tricycles and light quads.
  • Non-Urban Roads (With Hard Shoulder) – 100 Kph for motorcycles, 45 Kph for mopeds, tricycles and light quads.
  • Motorways – Max 120 Kph motorcycles. Mopeds, tricycles and quads are not permitted. Note this is down 10Kph from Frances 130Kph so pay close attention when crossing the border.

Speed Traps

If you’re travelling from the UK, you’ll likely be happy to know the mobile camera van isn’t quite as common place in Spain, in the northern regions of Spain like Santander and the basque country. Fixed speed cameras are pretty much everywhere, although speed traps are thankfully not as common place as in France for example which can make for a nervous riding experience on any Bike without cruise control.

General Advice

Spains Regions

Spain is built up of 17 autonomous regions / communities and these all have their own unique cultures, food delicacies and rules. Even the simple task of ordering a pint can vary greatly between regions.

As I alluded to in the above post, some of the northern regions can be very speedtrap heavy, whera’s regions like La Rioja, also known as wine country for example are fairly lax and offer some fantastic motorbike routes.

*Note that I’m not encouraging speeding.

Catalonia and Barcelona

Catalonia with its capital of Barcelona is a must see at least once, with it’s vast forests and stunning coasts, it’s a motorbike paradise. The roads near Tossa De Mar and Lloret de Mar in particular stand out for twists and turns.

Also, you might have heard of that independence referendum from a few years back.

It’s still kind of a sore point for many on both sides. One thing you should be aware of is most of the road signs and local signs in general will be in Catalan, which is kind of a mixture between Spanish and French. The locals outside Barcelona will also generally speak this as their first language but often speak English or French well and will change to Spanish if required. It’s seemingly fairly common to be trilingual here!

Protip: The best way to experience Barcelona is by motorbike / scooter, it doesn’t quite have the same level of theft as some other cities like London for example either but still ensure you put at least basic protection on your bike.

Every single street is packed with bikes, the density of motorbike to people ratio is like Portrush during the NW200 or the Isle of man during the TT.

About cwavedave 44 Articles
Always learning & travelling. I help small to medium-sized businesses grow online with web design & connect with their customers with SEO Strategy at my business Creative Wavelength. I also play Cornerback for the Donegal Derry Vipers American Football team.

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