Nightstop Thoughts – by Ian Biggar and Sue Stanley
Ian & Sue's Blog offers some good reading

Ian & Sue’s Blog offers some good reading

Editor’s Note:  This article was submitted as a comment on a previous article on this subject but it runs to 1,500 words and is very well written, so I thought it deserved a bit more accessiblity than it would have posted as a Comment.  Ian and Sue are experienced motorhomers and they write their own Travel Blog, which you can visit by clicking HERE.  It contains some very good reading.

I see you are pursuing a topic close to our hearts.

Although members of the Caravan Club for many years, we haven’t been following the forums on CC for the very reason that you felt driven to set up another venue for discussion of this topic! So here is our five-pennyworth on the subject…

The establishment of plentiful aires/overnight stopovers for motorhomers around this country is a dream close to our hearts and we have followed the progress of various UK campaigns, but their dedicated efforts seem dwarfed by the enormity of the project to catch up with our continental neighbours.

Most local authority’s departments that have an input to this are ignorant of what motorhomes are and what motorhomers do, and show indifference to the revenue motorhoming can bring to tourism in their area. They seem unable to swiftly remove itinerants on public land, yet are up to their eyes with over-restrictive by-laws, planning rules and regulations, which they hasten to embellish and over-use to restrict even daytime parking for motorhomes, let alone overnight stops!

An important distinction, regularly re-iterated in Europe, is the difference between “parking” and “camping” – as soon as the chairs, table or awning come out you are Camping and the authorities will take a stern view. We as motorhomers need to remember that and act accordingly if we are not to damage our own interests. We mustn’t act like itinerants of the infamous kind, or give the impression we want to park up for months, raise our kids, pester the populace and despoil the area! All we are asking for is the right to park.

So, the various motorhome groups are all doing their bit, but who has influence with the real power brokers in government, tourism and local authorities?

Lets look at the situation in France, Germany and Italy. All are countries with strong and continues………

UK Nightstops – Discussion Summary
Some motorway service areas have quiet corners

Some motorway service areas have quiet corners

As I mentioned, I originated a Thread on the Caravan Club forum to explore ideas for nightstops for motorhomes in UK, and to include provisions for other camping units, notably caravans.  I’m hoping the Caravan Club would get involved in providing them, to bring a bit of experience and weight to the scene, to set a better standard for UK than the variable one found abroad and, for the benefit of CC and its members, to broaden the scope of CC’s commercial activities.

Clearly any caravan site, including CLs, is capable of providing one night accommodation for motorhomes (and caravans and trailer tents) but they are primarily holiday locations and they are geared to advanced booking, relatively early arrivals and longer stays.  In contrast nightstops cater for casual arrivals, parking rather setting out a pitch and a shorter stay pattern.  The busier arrivals and departure pattern which shorter stays and later arrivals would bring to a Club Site would probably be unwelcome to many holidaymaker caravanners, wanting a bit of peace and quiet.

Caravan Sites and CLs are regulated according to the provisions of the Caravan Site and Control of Development Act 1960 together with model standards for things like pitch spacing and the provision of camping facilities.  This might lead you to assume that all overnight stops for camping vehicles and trailers would come under the same regulation – but no, because in UK there is already provision for overnight parking which operates simply as permitted parking.  Overnight stops on motorway service areas are one example and there are some local authority car parks (not that many at present) where overnight parking of camping vehicles is permitted. Some private car parks also permit overnight stays, for example motorhome dealerships. continues………

UK Nightstops for Motorhomes – The Practicalities

NightstopA discussion on this subject has been running on the Caravan Club’s Forum, Club Together, for a couple of weeks but  an attempt to concentrate on the practical design aspects has run into difficulties, with too many off-topic and otherwise unhelpful posts.  So I thought I would offer a more sheltered opportunity to progress the discussion on this Blog.

The proposition is that Nightstops for motorhomes (and potentially caravans) have developed along ad hoc and sometimes messy lines on the Continent, so could the Caravan Club, a big player in the UK recreational market, do better for UK by developing a more planned and coordinated set of nightstops to complement their existing and extensive network of large touring camp sites and smaller, five van, certificated locations?

Small ones?

Small ones?

Nightstops provide overnight parking and they might also have facilities for taking on water and dumping tanks, but they are not campsites.  They don’t provide the facilities of campsites, like shower and toilet blocks or resident staff.  They are for short stays, either as rest stops in transit or sleeping locations while touring an area, rather than for any sort of residence.  At their simplest they are simply car parks where motorhomes are permitted to stop overnight.

Parking rather than camping rules will therefore apply and the units will usually be closer together (i.e. parked side by side) rather than spaced out as on campsites, with room for awnings and tables and chairs.  They are therefore more like lorry parks, where drivers can park together, sleep for a few hours, maybe do some local shopping or visiting and then move on.

Big ones?

Big ones?

Along transit routes, nightstops on the Continent (called Aires and Stelplatz) are often large parking areas and they get very busy but nightstops are also found in rural villages and those may accommodate only a small handful and rareful be full.  Parking may be restricted to motorhomes but is often shared with other vehicles, including lorries, although caravans are often prohibited.

Piecemeal development is taking place in UK using a mixture of exiting locations like pub and other car parks and some local authorities in tourist areas are recognising the value of providing for motorhomes rather than shunning them, but it’s patchy and slow.  There are hopes for a positive impact on local tourism and businesses and concerns about an adverse impact on campsites and about Travellers and others abusing them.

There is an article on the All the Aires Website which condenses ideas from continental experience and suggests way to construct a good nightstop – and this is worth everyone who is interested in this topic reading as background information.  The message is that they can be successful (and lucrative) but money should be taken for parking charges rather than services like water, which it is expedient and more practical to provide free of charge instead.

Service points can be simple

Service points can be simple

Could a big player like the Caravan Club usefully get involved and start to develop a network of Nightstops, big, small or a mixture, to compliment its camping locations?  And if so what types should they be and where?

The Motorcaravan Club is actively engaged but is trying to provide nightstops as small camping locations, which brings them under camping regulations.  The Caravan Club is already planning to give Nightstops consideration and is being encouraged to think outside that box – and the discussion on their Forum has already developed into the nuts and bolts of the idea: the types and sizes and locations and practical design aspects.

But it is getting clogged up with a lot of off-topic stuff, hence this invitation to discuss.  Anyone may contribute but please note that comments which aren’t about the nuts & bolts of nightstop development and design will not be accepted.

How do you think nightstops can best be developed in UK?   Over to you  ……………………………………………

Wrong Fuel? Try the Fuel Doctor
Quick and efficient

Quick and efficient

I’ve managed to put the wrong fuel in a vehicle twice so far and hopefully it won’t happen again.  Recently I had to help my daughter recover from doing so and I ended up using a service I hadn’t come across before called Fuel Doctor.  They were very good and information  about them is worth passing on.

My daughter had put some petrol into her diesel car, which is the commonest way wrong fuel happens these days because the petrol nozzle at the pumps is the smaller of the two so will go into a diesel filler pipe.  Modern petrol cars make it difficult to put diesel in at the pumps because their petrol hole is smaller than a diesel nozzle.

Not true of GoldWings of course, which can be fuelled with diesel if you pick the wrong nozzle.  I know at least one Winger who put diesel in his tank by mistake.  I know another Winger who would like to put diesel in too (he’s convinced a diesel engine would be ideal for a GoldWing) but that’s another story.

My own first wrong-fuelling episode happened when we took our brand new diesel motorhome to France for the first time a few years ago when, the very first time I had fuelled abroad, I put petrol in by mistake.  I realised the mistake as I was doing so (or to be truthful my wife did) but nearly 20 litres of petrol had gone into the tank by then.  It’s all too easily done.  Maybe the colour of the nozzle was different as they are sometimes abroad, I can’t now remember.

I was mortified.  You read these stories about people ruining engines doing this and about the engine probably needing elaborate attention, to rescue it from internal self-destruction.   I’d just spent a fortune on this motorhome.  At least I hadn’t started the engine, which from the little I knew of the consequences of wrong-fuelling, seemed to be a bit of a mercy.  Petrol can ruin a diesel engine’s high precision injector pump, you have to go to enormous lengths to flush through and replace components – this was real nightmare territory.  I was towing a big box trailer with my GL1800 inside too, so this was not a nice situation to find myself in.  Abroad too – how would I cope with French breakdown services and garages?


Doing it the Old Fashioned Way
One bike, one tent - and some plastic sheeting

One bike, one tent – and some plastic sheeting

We saw a couple of Wings arriving back into UK at Dover with their trailers, as we were heading into the eastern Docks to board our outbound ferry.  They were presumably on their way back from a camping holiday or a Treffen and their trailers probably contained a few bottles as well as their camping gear – which will have been a modern tent with a decent set of cooking gear and other home comforts.   There’s probably a fridge or cooler in there somewhere.

You can get surprisingly comfortable with what you can load into and on to a GoldWing, especially if you add a luggage trailer.  My wife and I, with our dog Poppy, were even better equipped to be comfortable on tour, as we set off  in our motorhome.  Camping holidays these days are by no means an ordeal.

But it was a pleasant surprise when I pulled into our campsite, a day’s drive south from Calais, to see someone doing it the old fashioned way, with just a bike, a simple tent and a sheet of plastic.  He presumably had a sleeping bag but there was no sign of an inflatable bed or cooking gear at all.  The bike was clearly a British classic, the black number plate and an old fashioned GB plate being something of a giveaway.  As I go close to it I could see that it was a twin cylinder Vincent.  Naturally, as soon as the owner showed himself I approached for a chat.

My preconceptions about the Vincent Owners Club were that it would be wealthy folk who kept their bikes mostly for show purposes and finding one parked next to a small, old-fashioned one man tent was the last thing I expected.  No other only vehicle around so what I saw (the bike and the small tent) was the full touring outfit.  There was a sizeable piece of plastic sheeting folded and draped over the back of the bike which I guessed would be used to cover the bike while parked if it started raining.  No danger of that today as the sun beat down on us and the temperature rose to more than thirty.

The plastic sheeting was merely a roughly cut rectangle of heavy duty plastic sheeting such as a builder might use continues………

Motorcycling in China – by Ian Duxbury


Party Time!

Party Time!

Editor’s Note:  Ian Duxbury rides a GL1500 in UK and used to be a driving instructor – but when travelling in China in the course of his day job, he has so far avoided trying any driving himself, let alone riding a motorcycle.  His description of the Chinese approach to motorcycling equipment and skills explains.

Following a suggestion that Blog readers might be interested in how motorcycling is different over here in China, I found myself wondering where to start, or indeed just what to write about. This dilemma was compounded by the fact that there seem to be very few bikes in China of any significant size.

I’m led to believe by my Chinese friends that this is due to a very restrictive and expensive licencing system, coupled with high import taxes on any vehicles not produced here. The result of these factors is that Chinese motorcycling is dominated by vast numbers of electric bikes, with the odd low-capacity petrol powered one thrown in at random.

Squeeze 'em in tightly!

Squeeze ‘em in tightly!

These electric bikes have a number of advantages, insomuch as they are small, cheap (the equivalent of £139 for a basic bike, which takes many forms from that of almost a bicycle with added battery and motor, right up to the top of the range scooter-like version for £440), and plentiful. Some of the scooter versions, it must be said, are surprisingly well finished and certainly of far better quality that we might once have expected from vehicles made in China. Couple this with the fact that no licence, insurance or vehicle registration is needed and anyone can ride one legally, and you begin to understand the reason for their popularity.

The downside though, is that, without registration, if your scoot gets stolen, you have absolutely no chance of its being found and returned, so the makers of ‘U’ locks do rather well over here. continues………

Taking your GoldWing Abroad – Part 3
With a big enough sidecar ....

With a big enough sidecar you can ….

This concluding article of the series on taking our GoldWing abroad looks at preparing the bike and packing it for the trip – what to check, what to take and so on.

There are going to be variations in the best approach to these issues because of course European trips can vary enormously in their aim and duration, and the starting point for preparing the bike will also vary considerably, depending on the model, age and how well it’s been serviced in the past.

A GoldWing will live with neglect for an amazingly long time when it gets used lightly in UK, but the higher ambient temperatures and the hard work of climbing the bigger hills and mountain passes in Europe will soon put such a bike under too much pressure and a breakdown could easily then occur.  Don’t risk it.  The cost and disruption of repairs as a breakdown victim in Europe will be much higher than reducing the risks of breakdown by getting the bike serviced properly before you set off.

Older models are going to need a thorough check-over before a long tour too, even if they have been in regularly use and regularly serviced.   Old bikes can develop additional problems; I got caught out with a fuel blockage last year because of stirred up fuel tank sludge on an unaccustomed long trip; I should have checked the inside of the fuel tank instead of taking it for granted because the bike was running OK at the time.

Older bikes might need some extra spares taking along too, like a clutch cable for a GL1000, continues………

Taking your GoldWing Abroad – Part 2 Travel and Breakdown Cover
Wide choice, many of which won't suit

Wide choice, many of which won’t suit

Travel insurance and breakdown cover for bikers is a minefield for GoldWing riders, so it is necessary to pay very careful attention when you buy.  You need both and you can very easily buy the wrong product for either.

Generally speaking travel insurance covers things which go wrong with you and breakdown insurance covers things which go wrong with your bike. They are two different policies, each with specific provisions and exclusions and neither provides anything like “all risks” cover.

The insurance companies offer attractively cheap (and from their viewpoint reliably profitable) cover for the mass travel market, especially young healthy people doing package holidays which don’t involve hazardous activities like winter sports and bungee jumping.

Middle aged people riding big motorcycles across Europe are in a different insurance ball park – riskier and requiring more effort to assess, so inevitably more expensive to cover. It’s easier for many companies to simply duck that part of the market by applying exclusions to their policies and stick to the easier mass market so many do exactly that.

This also applies to the “free travel cover” travel policies which come with bank accounts, which are also often (but not always) aimed at the low risk mass travel market and quietly exclude or charge a lot extra for people like Wingers.

Likewise breakdown cover isn’t designed primarily for Wingers, so special care is needed to check before you buy that it actually everything you need.

Try as you might there will inevitably be holes in your cover.  For example neither breakdown nor travel insurance will cover bringing your undamaged bike home for you if you sprain your ankle in a non-biking incident and can’t ride it yourself.  If you want cover for that you may have to take out a specially tailored (and expensive) personal policy.

Wingers therefore have to take great care when buying travel and breakdown cover to avoid buying a policy which doesn’t actually cover them at all and to settle for what is necessary and available in the way of cover, accepting some risk themselves.

That’s the bad news, but there is some good too.  If you search through what is on offer on the market carefully you should still be able to find adequate cover at reasonable cost for a European bike tour – and maybe even get it free of charge from your bank. continues………

Taking your GoldWing Abroad – Part 1
Lots of people do it!

Lots of people do it!

Going abroad for the first time can be daunting and even experienced foreign tourers can forget things or miss a trick, so here are some tips which might help.

If you haven’t been abroad before don’t be frightened of trying it.  They do ride on the wrong side of the road over there, there’s a language barrier and their armed police can be scary sometimes but it’s nevertheless eminently achievable to go there – and mainland Europe has zillions of miles of wonderful biking roads and scenery, a much lower traffic density that UK and literally thousands of biker-friendly places to stay and camp.

Mainland Europe is a motorcyclist’s paradise, so make the effort and go before you get too old.  GoldWings are extremely reliable bikes which were designed to be comfortable as long distance tourers, so they provide an ideal mount for a European excursion.

The age of your GoldWing is no obstacle to touring in Europe either, as long as it’s properly serviceable.  GL1000 GoldWings might not be the perfect mount for a European touring holiday in 2013, especially without fairing and panniers, but GL1100s are often still found touring adventurously across Europe so don’t be inhibited because you don’t have a GL1800.  There’s no need to have the very latest model at all.

This is a checklist of things you need to consider, upon which this series of articles will expand as it develops: continues………

Reflective stickers needed on your Helmet in France
Four stickers are required, front rear and each side

Four stickers are required, front rear and each side

French police have been reported taking aggressive steps to enforce a law which requires four reflective stickers on riding helmets and UK riders heading for France should bear this in mind.

A new law requiring riders to wear reflective clothing a while ago got some publicity but that’s been repealed – but there was apparently an older law, not previously enforced, requiring these stickers.  A policeman can impose an on-the-spot fine of €135 (they march you to a cash machine if necessary) and, under new international arrangements with DVLA, put three points on your UK licence.

It’s not unknown for French policemen to target foreigners as easy meat and it’s been suggested that they might have a separate receipt book in their pocket for the purpose, to record the fines they collect separately, as it were.

There have been no reports of an UK riders being booked so far but police are said to have been very active with this law recently, especially near Paris.  This law gives a French policeman the opportunity to be awkward if he wants to, so if you do get stopped (for any reason) and haven’t got the stickers on your helmet, it makes even less sense than usual to be cocky.  Arguing that you are riding in daylight so the stickers wouldn’t show anyway probably won’t wash!

Making sure you have the right sort of stickers if you decide to apply some will not be straightforward and realistically you would have to visit a French bike shop to get some proper ones.  There have to be four (front, rear and both sides) so how you are supposed to manage to put one on the front of an open face helmet, which a lot of Wingers prefer, is not clear.

The stickers have to meet size requirements (which are a bit complicated, see below) and they must also be incapable of removal without damaging the helmet once applied (!) so you can’t just put some on while in France and take them off again afterwards.  Quite how a policeman could safely check at the roadside whether the stickers can be pulled off without damaging the helmet is a mystery, so maybe you could get away with some temporary stickers as long as they look the part.

There is a campaign being mounted in France to get this law repealed and the latest information, in English, is likely to be available on the website, which is where I got the information and the photo, and where you can find out the sizes of the stickers you need if you want to try to make some up.

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