If you haven’t ridden overseas before, there are many questions you will have in mind before choosing your motorcycle tour destination, and about how best to package your trip. As a tour operator, we are frequently asked lots of questions which we hope can prepare you for your motorcycle tour in Ireland or elsewhere.
Ireland as a motorcycle touring destination
The destination of your motorcycle tour is normally the first port of call when preparing for a tour abroad. Ireland’s roads, scenery and people are just a few reasons why motorcycling in Ireland is a fantastic option. Moreover, according to European statistics, Ireland has the second safest driving statistics after Sweden, which has to be a significant reason to choose Ireland. Drivers are courteous to bikers and welcomed by the locals.
Per square mile, Ireland has a huge density of roads almost twice that of the European average, with 20km (13 miles) per 1,000 population. This means that there are a myriad of ways to get from one destination to the next. You can find more major routes to get from one city to the next, but to our mind this defeats the purpose of riding here. The roadways were designed originally to avoid geological obstructions, so instead of straight tunnels or high bridges, roads twist and turn gracefully around scenic views. A biker’s delight!
Furthermore, Lonely Planet, the leading world travel guide company, have included two Irish roads in their top 50 ‘Epic Drives of the World’. The Wild Atlantic Way, and the Causeway Coastal Route, have both been included in this highly acclaimed list, and once you visit you’ll understand why.
Many riders come here for the riding but leave filled with memories of meeting genuinely welcoming friendly people. In Irish, the translation for Welcome is “Cead Mile Failte” – which literally translates into “A hundred thousand welcomes!”
The best time of year to visit Ireland
Planning your motorcycle tour around the weather in Ireland will keep you occupied for some time! The riding season in Ireland is typically March to October and many ride all year round. However, the favourite months are April through to September, with June being the very busiest. See our full detailed article on what to expect with Irish weather.
Riding in Ireland
Irish roads can be demanding and deserve your utmost attention. The biggest mistake we see are riders looking at the map and thinking Ireland is small, and that they can get around the whole island in a week.
It’s possible, but the distances can be misleading and many of the more interesting sights are on coastal routes, which will take a more roundabout route. For example, a 400km (250 mile) riding day will be as taxing as three times that distance on highways. The roads demand your attention and are very enjoyable to ride, but forget about cruise control.
Some of the more scenic parts of Ireland require you to ride on very small roads, which are perfectly safe to ride, but just require you to slow right down and concentrate.
Road formation for groups
Whenever you are riding in a group in Ireland, we recommend single file riding with plenty of distance between each bike. Irish roads are curvy and many roads do not allow visibility around the corners due to roadside hedges. Proper road positioning is important for maximum safety and riding enjoyment. That means we rarely use formation riding, except when coming through towns and villages.
Riding on the left hand side of the road
In Ireland and the UK we ride on the left hand side of the road. Unlike cars, the bike controls are exactly the same. This makes the initial acclimatisation a lot simpler than in a car.
We have compiled some pointers for you to take into consideration when riding on the left hand side of the road.
- On your transfer from the airport to our location, pay attention to your chauffeur and how they drive. This will begin the acclimatisation process.
- Look right before entering a junction – in fact, look in both directions!
- Pay special attention when you exit car parks and fuel stations after a stop, as this is when you can find yourself falling back into your normal routine.
- If you have a passenger riding with you, ask them to be vigilant and double check with you when joining a road. They need to be your second pair of eyes and your co-pilot.
- If you are normally a fast rider, this is a good time to slow down and don’t make aggressive overtakes.
- Finally, our bikes are equipped with markings to remind you which side of the road to ride on, just in case!
Choosing your motorcycle
Finding the right motorcycle for you
An important part of preparing for your motorcycle tour is choosing the right bike for you. If you’re not used to riding a variety of motorcycles, this might be a little challenging. In this case, a good tip is to go to your local dealer and trial the bike you’re interested in riding on your tour.
Remember, the roads that you will be riding will impact the bike that you should be riding. For example in Ireland, a more manoeuvrable and nimble bike is preferable to a cruiser when you’re riding switchbacks in the countryside.
Choosing the right tour for you
Tours versus Rentals
Renting a motorcycle and seeing where the road takes you is one way to discover a country. It’s easy to find major routes to get from one place to another, but you will probably miss out on the more interesting places to visit. Often we come across visiting bikers on roads that we wouldn’t dream of riding. Or we find them visiting towns, which on a map might look like a sensible destination, but in reality there is a more charming destination just 10 miles away.
Our tours are specially designed, well researched (and tested!). We do this so you get to witness the best biking roads in the more remote parts of Ireland. You will see Ireland as it should be seen, away from commuting traffic, tourist buses and major highway monotony. At the end of the day, you’ll arrive in a friendly town to enjoy the local restaurants and lively bars.
Generally, we avoid cities, as these are best explored on foot. In fact, if you are coming on one of our tours and want to visit Dublin City (highly recommended), then we strongly suggest arriving earlier and booking a hotel in the city centre. You’ll need a day or two to explore Dublin, and by which time, you will have acclimatised to the timezone and be ready for your motorcycle tour.
Guided or Self-Guided Tours
Another part of preparing for a motorcycle tour is choosing between guided or self guided tours. Ask yourself; do you prefer to ride with people, or alone? Are you travelling with a group of your own friends, or would you like to make some new ones?
Guided tours make for a sociable trip and are probably most familiar to people. You will choose from a calendar of pre-set dates, and will ride with a guide and anywhere from 6 to 12 participants.
At Lemonrock Bike Tours, while we lead each tour group, we do not insist that riders ride in a procession. We understand that some riders like to take more time stopping off than others, and that everyone has their own pace with which they are comfortable. Because of this, each bike is equipped with a detailed road book and GPS route on the Sat Nav, making it possible to follow the route in your own time. You can meet up with the group along the way for lunch and of course at the end of the day in your hotel.
The self-guided tour offers you the flexibility to choose your own start date, to ride by yourself, or bring a group of friends with you. Once again, the routes are carefully planned and pre-programmed into your Sat Nav and road book. You will witness the best of biking each day, completely stress-free. As a tour operator, we will also make recommendations for bike-friendly stop-offs along the route. For example; coffee stops, points of interest, and restaurants for lunch and dinner.
Another important consideration when preparing for a motorcycle tour is to decide the frequency with which you change accommodation. For example, do you want to ride to a new destination each day? Or build in two nights at various destinations?
Often a mix of both is the best plan, but we find by day 4 most visitors are ready to take a break. It does, however, extend the trip duration if you want to see all the places we recommend visiting. But as our customers attest, taking rest days adds to the overall enjoyment of the vacation.
Travelling solo or with a pillion passenger does give you the option of staying in some of the smaller guesthouses. For groups, we mostly choose hotels which can more comfortably accommodate the group’s preferences. Ireland is blessed with a huge variety of hotels, many of which are family owned with a long tradition. We stay away from chain hotels so you don’t feel you are on a business trip!
Packing for your Motorcycle Tour
All our bikes are equipped for touring with side panniers with removable linings and a top box. You can leave any excess baggage at our location when you arrive, so that you don’t have to take all your belongings with you.
We always know the seasoned bikers when they arrive – with one small backpack. Others bring so much gear, they’d need a tow truck to pack everything. Here is our two cents on the subject.
One common mistake, in our view, is packing too many electronic gadgets. Drones, Go Pros, laptops for editing the videos, (yes really!). Here’s the thing: you are on your vacation. Hundreds of people have documented the trip before on YouTube and elsewhere. So trying to digitally capture every moment means you are probably going to miss out on some of the best of the experiences. Like chatting to a local farmer as you gaze over a scenic view!
By all means bring your camera. But make sure you don’t bring so much wizardry that you end up stressing each day about recharging and wondering why something doesn’t connect to the other.
If you are preparing for a longer motorcycle tour, clothing becomes a question. How do you pack for each day? Some riders simply bring old t-shirts and dump them when they are done (not the most sustainable approach!). Others bring base layers with a poly fabric which can be washed in the shower and dry by the following morning. Don’t forget, you can always stop off at any major towns and renew any item you may have forgotten.
We don’t use heated vests normally when riding in Ireland. So unless you are a particularly cold blooded person, you will manage fine with a textile jacket and pants. Most of the bikes have heated grips and some heated seats, which is normally more than enough to keep you comfortable on your trip. Leather jackets are not ideal in Ireland. You can expect to encounter a rain shower and a waterproof textile jacket is more versatile in this situation.
Helmets are mandatory in Ireland. Technically, your helmet should also be European Approved. In our experience, we have never had a rider questioned about whether the helmet is from outside Europe or not. If you bring your own, make sure it is correctly rated in your own country and is not some sort of novelty helmet. You can read an interesting article on helmet safety ratings here: https://www.revzilla.com/common-tread/helmet-safety-ratings-101.
Most tour operators, like us, will have a range of textile clothing and helmets in various sizes to rent. Let us know in advance if you have a particularly large or small fitment, so we can be sure to have the right size in stock.
Boots are also available for rent, but if you are on a longer trip, it is advisable to bring your own. You will be spending many hours in them and nothing compares to the comfort of your own “run in” boots!
While we can’t recommend any specific company, we do recommend that you take out travel insurance for your motorcycle trip. Our bikes include insurance, but this does not cover your own personal health in respect of illness or accident.
There are some good online services which will search the insurance market for you. If you are coming from USA or Canada, you could try this service Travel Insurance Quotes – Compare Every Major Provider
Documentation and Visas
If you are riding in Ireland, you must carry your motorcycle license. Our insurers require riders to have specific licences from a limited list of countries. You can find this list on our website. (See Section 2. 8 Terms & Conditions). If your country is not on this list, and you’re hoping to ride in Ireland with us, please get in touch with us as exceptions can be made.
Some visitors will require a travel visa and all will require passports. If you are coming from an EU country, UK, USA or Canada, you will not need a visa for a tourism visit of up to 90 days. You can check whether you require a visa on the Irish Government website:- http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/check-irish-visa
Prepare for the motorcycle tour of a lifetime!
So there you have it! You will be the most prepared person ever to go on a motorcycle tour in Ireland. All you need to do now is enjoy the beautiful scenery, roads, bike and people in Ireland. Whatever the weather, we’re sure it will be the trip of a lifetime.