France By Hyperstrada

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France By Hyperstrada

I’ve just finished a two-week blast around France aboard a bright red Ducati Hyperstrada, and let me tell you, riding in France is way better than riding in the U.S. But it’s worse, too. Here’s what I found after 2000km on the big red twin.

Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe

The very first thing you notice while riding in France is the roundabouts. From the Arc de Triomphe to the little white circles painted in the center of so many rural intersections, they’re everywhere. Traffic flows smoothly, and it’s possible to string together a tank-long blast through the countryside without having to stop. It’s as if there were a France-wide cheat code for red lights: lean right, lean left, lean right. The end result of the system is that you can choose a more interesting rural route without losing time sitting brainwashed and stationary in front of a traffic light.

Speed camera
Speed camera

After a few miles of painless intersections and gentle crests, I developed a rhythm over the smooth pavement, and thought to myself “I could get used to this.” The excitement quickly wears off when you realize that though there are relatively few traffic lights, Europe is full of another type of electronic waggy finger, the speed camera. More on those later.

The mountains
The mountains

The roads through the mountains are different than those in the U.S., and big black streaks decorate the exit of alpine hairpins. If you come upon a dawdling driver, it won’t be a problem, since there aren’t endless miles of double yellows in France. The vast majority of the country is an overtaking zone. A spread-out dashed white line means it’s safe to overtake, while closer spacing means you should exercise more caution when overtaking. There are some no-passing zones, of course, but they are rare. People understand that if you’re on a motorcycle, you’re going to be able to get somewhere faster than they can.

Lane splitting
Lane splitting

Drivers seem to love being overtaken, too. Catch fast-moving traffic on the highway and cars will actually move to the edges of their lanes to let you past. I’ve had it happen to me between the two leftmost lanes at 70 mph. Another time, I found myself on a long, one-lane exit ramp that crossed a highway to get to a toll-booth. The grumbling semi-truck in front noticed me behind him and hugged the right side of the ramp so I could squeeze by the five-foot wide space between him and the barrier on the left. Lane splitting is commonplace, but when confronted with a lot of traffic, riders cross to the other side of the road and ride against traffic until they’re at the front of the queue. It all works wonderfully well and keeps blood pressure low. A few years ago, the Transport Ministry tried to ban it, there was a giant protest, where all the motorcyclists rode on the highway and took up the space of one car each, bringing traffic to a standstill. The French are experts at protesting.

Parking motorcycles
Parking motorcycles

Nearly as good as the roads and overtaking is received, is the French attitude toward parking motorcycles. It’s laissez-faire and makes parking both worry-free and convenient. Strings of motorcycles line the sidewalks. They sit outside cafes. They’re everywhere. They only place you won’t find them is on the grass. It used to be the same way with cars, but now there are bollards on every sidewalk and cars must do more work to find a place to park.

Fuel station
Fuel station

There are negatives, however—the cameras, the fuel costs, and the wacky rules. Speed cameras use radar, but in France, radar detectors are illegal, and getting caught with one — even if you aren’t using it — carries steep penalties. Up to 1500 EUR and confiscation of your vehicle. The law was expanded in 2012 to cover GPS units that show where fixed cameras are, so now your options are to keep your eyes peeled or to put a GPS camera app on your phone. Connect the app to your in-helmet audio, and keep it a secret if you get pulled over. Fortunately, policemen here seem like a tolerant bunch, so the best bet seems to fight the unsympathetic speed cameras with an app and then maybe try your luck with les gendarmes.

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  • nick2ny

    Video is actually a perfect example of the attitude toward overtaking in france. All those corners are overtaking zones…

  • Ben

    What are those things laying atop the tanks and down the sides, they look like chaps for your bike……

    • nick2ny

      The skirts? They keep people warm.

      • Ben

        I’ve never seen those before. Pretty neat, especially if it means not having to buy separate winter riding pants….

  • Scott Otte

    Very cool, though I was hoping to hear more about what you thought of the Hyperstrada, it seems to polarize opinion.

    • nick2ny

      The good: It’s a European’s dream bike. Wonky Italian styling, pretty single-sided swingarm, wind protection and a big, tall, riding position. Lots of torque for blasting out of the corners. Fuel economy from 4.5-6 l / 100 kph. Big wheelies in sport mode. People nowadays seem to love electronic stuff. Anti-stoppie comes with ABS (I think). So you gotta turn off all the electronics to make it back into a real motorcycle (would be nice to have ABS on the front only, easily-toggleable traction control, and no anti-wheelie or anti-stoppie. I think that’s possible with the Hypermotard. The traction control works really well in the wet.

      The bad: I’m not fond of the bags. they seem like they’d break after a while. I don’t use powerlet connectors. the bike doesn’t have adjustable forks. The hump in the seat gets uncomfortable after 3 hours. Anti-wheelie comes on with DTC…

      I think I’d get a hypermotard and slap a giant windscreen and plastic topcase on it.

      • Scott Otte

        Thanks!
        Since it’s on my short list I’m super curious about what people think. One more question if you don’t mind. Any problems or issues with the center stand? Scraping early? or in the way of your natural foot position like on the Multistrada?
        I’ve been thinking that the base Hypermotard would fit my needs better than the Hyperstrada also, but nice to hear I’m not alone in this opinion.

        • nick2ny

          I didn’t have any issues with centerstand placement. I didn’t scrape it, but I never rode the same section of road twice.

      • ReligionOfPeace

        You can turn off anti-stoppie by manually setting ABS to setting 1 – setting 2 is anti-stoppie and keeps the rear from locking up. 1 is front only.
        Anti-wheelie is a bit of a bitch, but DTC 1-2 allow power wheelies…turning it off completely allows for some clutch wheelies in 1st gear, but only at lower RPMS.

        • nick2ny

          I think that Hyperstrada ABS settings are different from Hypermotard ABS, and that the Strada doesn’t enjoy the “supermoto” setup of front ABS combined with lockable rear.

          Are you sure that when DTC is “turned off,” it really isn’t turned off?

          • ReligionOfPeace

            On my SP even when DTC & ABS are OFF – the bike will allow clutch wheelies as long as you initiate it before ~ 4-5k RPM…trying anytime after that, the big red DTC light goes nuts and the bike wont let the wheel off the ground, again even with DTC off.
            And from what i’ve heard (I havent riden a hyperstrada) they share them same DTC/ABS, the only difference being the “presets” or “defaults” are different, but again you can reprogram them… My “RACE” mode for instance has DTC off and ABS at 1, Engine High. “Sport ” at DTC 2 and ABS 2, Engine High and wet DTC 5, ABS 3, Engine Low

            • nick2ny

              Sorry to hear about that DTC arrangement. My real question is whether the Hyperstrada ABS mode 1 is the same as the ‘motard ABS mode 1.

        • nick2ny

          This discussion of the difference between Mode 1 on the Hyper and the Strada is what got me thinking.

  • akrokdesign

    “Monkeybikes” that just made my day. i used to ride one. :-D

  • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

    Yeah, i have a big crush on france. They’re all joie de verve, and we’re all boring puritans. I’d love to see a sanctioned road race in california… har har har.

    • tobykeller

      You mean like the Long Beach Grand Prix?

      • Guest
      • Guest

        edit.

        • roma258

          Those sidecar rigs always put a smile on my face.

          • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

            The sidecar world is a crazy interesting one. You think about it, nobody MAKES a sidecar. You’ve gotta know somebody who knows somebody…

  • http://moppedfahren.wordpress.com/ moppedfahren

    GPS units with exact speed cam positions are illegal since 2012, that’s true, but it wouldn’t be France, if there wasn’t a compromise and a cheat around that: instead of showing exact locations, your satnav may show something called Alertes de zones de danger, where accidents frequently occur. As the official reason to put up a speed camera is to reduce the amount of accidents caused by speeding, these danger zones basically cover all cam locations, just not exactly, but something like 500m to 2km around the cam. The zones also include areas, where the gendarmerie likes to hang out with LIDAR devices and streets along schools etc. You can buy this data from Garmin, TomTom and the like as an add-on or aquire it from sites like scdb.info (and convert it to your device’s data format), which is also pretty accurate in my experience, though maybe a bit overeager (meaning you’ll probably be on your breaks more often than you need to :-/).

  • Lourens Smak

    France est fantastique!

  • Hans

    Most of Europe have speedcameras, both fixed an mobile. However as most of these take the picture from the front motorcyles get of since we have no plate there. Additionally most countries require drivers to be identifiable, which is difficult to do in a full face helmet. Ant that ridicilous 100 bhp rule is all french. :-)

  • Vincent Lehmann

    The 100bhp rule has been struck down by the european union 5 times already, the government finally decided they were tired of spending public money to pay the fines we were subject to… and we are putting it in the trash were it belongs in 2016 ( long long fight for motorcycle associations. A fight that begun years ago. ).

    But the speed cameras are popping everywhere like crazy and several laws are trying to reduce the speed limit 130 to 120 km/h on highways, 110 to 100 and 90 to 80…
    We are in countries were governments LOOOOVE the money they get from this and where Safety Nazis have won the public opinion.
    THIS, plus gaz price totally sucks.

    Glad you enjoyed your stay in france.

  • http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=858688 fred g

    The French nanny state is slowly closing in. But if you stay on the “D” departmental roads you can have an absolute blast. The video has some extremely relevant to euro road skill tips. Serge & Lolo are famous for their various exploits. Lolo made some great video’s that hooked me into riding the the DDMT, which is an almost indescribable week-long rally adventure on every kind of French road. I did my second one on a Hypermotard SP which is a great bike for those conditions https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/–aJOEErOjXM/UnsP2xRfsCI/AAAAAAAAJ1w/Qpe8BMYHIzc/s640/untitled-18.jpg There a full report here http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=933137&page=2 where you can watch me make all the mistakes that Serge demonstrates in the video! Oh, and on the subject of speed cameras, the funny thing is, they very often post subtle signs that there’s one coming up.

    • Lourens Smak

      Do you have a link to more information on the DDMT? thanks!
      It looks very interesting… I had never heard of this event before.

      • nick2ny
        • Lourens Smak

          Thanks; I had found that one too by now… actually there seems to be a lot of info on the DDMT on the web, time to practice my French!

  • OOG

    My wife and I spent 3 weeks in France last Summer. We rode a BMW R1200GS from West of Paris to Spain and back. It was a blast! Yes France still has the 100 HP rule but it will expire in 2016. Paris had a lot of older Vespas and France seems to have taken a liking to the Grom as well. Living in Texas where riding a motorcycle is quite dangerous, I thought the roads in France were very biker friendly. France has great accommodations and, of course, great food. Take a bike through Europe. It will change your life.

  • atomicalex

    2600kms in the Eastern Alps last fall, and two years over general riding in Germany and the Niederlanden. We are technically not supposed to split, but the cops are lenient and so long as you are not a jerk they don’t care. Cars always move out of the way on the 1/2 line, and traffic jams are no problem. I am going to miss riding in the EU bitterly as I am moving to Michigan in a week! German speed cameras usually do not grab the back of bikes, just have to keep the eyes open. There is only a radar detector prohibition here, navi boxes with camera locations are legal. OEM nav units often have cam locations in them, too. The goal here is not to make money but to have everyone obey the rules, so it is just a different mindset (a good one!).

    Have to say, on my beater old F650GS single, gas prices are really not an issue. At least, not one I worry about. In the Alps, it was like riding for free, even with Swiss prices part of the time.

  • roma258

    Did you get a chance to ride the Rue de Napoleon? Might be my favorite road of all time.

  • DirtyDeedsDoneDirtCheap

    hm, start off with the rear then switch to the front, using the rear only in the turn.

    Have to think about that one.

  • Afonso Mata

    “Nearly as good as the roads and overtaking is received, is the French attitude toward parking motorcycles. It’s laissez-faire and makes parking both worry-free and convenient. Strings of motorcycles line the sidewalks.”
    On this subjects, since I’m from Portugal, Europe, I can add this photo of my bike and my coworker’s bikes on the sidewalk across the street from our office.
    Can’t you guys do this in the USA?

    • Vincent Gurle

      Nope. Parking anywhere that isn’t explicitly labeled as motorcycle parking or car parking earns you a ticket. The lack of motorcycle parking means you end up parking your motorcycle in a car space, if you can find one.

  • nobody24

    Ridden in Europe, the Alps, Germany, Austria, Switzerland. It is great. Lots of traffic though. New Zealand is, however, beyond words, if there is a heaven for motorcycle riding, it is NZ. I have done two trips, the first for two months, one month on each island. I shipped my Harley Sportster 1200 there from Canada. It was amazing. Unbelievable roads, no traffic Trip number two was for a month on the South Island, on a rented Honda VFR800. Even more amazing on a sportier bike. I plan to go again

  • nobody24

    Oh forgot to mention, NZ has super friendly people, great beer and wine, and Southern Ocean seafood