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Germany on a motorbike: what is important to know for an Italian motorcyclist

20/06/2024
Christina Chiofalo
Pubblicato in: ,

How many of you go for a motorcycling tour along Lake Garda or in Trentino-Alto Adige in the Dolomites during the motorcycling season and punctually find a motorcyclist who drives correctly, respects the speed limits and has a Deutschland D plate? Have you ever wondered why Germans always act as a ‘stopper’ in traffic on the roads? I often travel in Germany, and every time I focus on their driving I notice attitudes that for us Italian motorcyclists are almost out of the ordinary. At a red light, for example, the German motorcyclist will never tend to overtake a car to get in front. The same applies on the motorway; you will hardly see him zigzagging between cars. Is it forbidden or are we Italians simply transgressive?

The motorbike control group of the Bavarian police

In order to find a definite answer, I contacted the Bavarian Ministry of the Interior (Bayerisches Staatsministerium des Innern), which exclusively granted me an interview for MissBiker with the Commissioner and Head of the Bavarian police motorbike control group, Florian Dennl.

The motorbike control group is a two-wheeled police team whose main task is to control motorbikes and motorcyclists. They carry out fixed checkpoints and mobile checks, driving sometimes in uniform and service motorbikes, as well as other times in plain clothes(!) with their own private motorbikes but equipped with dashcams. In this way they are able to monitor that the traffic regulations are being complied with.

“In recent years, the number of (often fatal) motorbike accidents has increased, and we therefore want to prevent this from continuing.”

Rules and prohibitions: what is important to know for an Italian motorcyclist travelling in Germany?

Commissioner Dennl: ‘At a checkpoint we ask for a licence, registration and a document. First we make the motorcyclist take off his helmet and check that the licence matches the right person. Then we drive around the motorbike, make sure that the lights are working, i.e. high beam, indicators and stop light. We check that the tyres are in good condition and use a measuring instrument to check the tread depth (by law at least 1.6mm). We also take a look at the number plate; it must not be too inclined (60 degrees to the ground) and its reflector is mandatory. You risk a fine of around 100€.”
There is no obligation to carry a first aid kit, reflective waistcoat and warning triangle, but it is recommended to have them with you.

Beware of aftermarket products, some are banned in Germany

In addition to the classic ‘licence and registration’ check, all aftermarket accessories are also inspected. For example, indicators, mirrors, exhaust and anything else that can be modified on the motorbike. They must, of course, be type-approved, and it is advisable to have the type-approval certificate of each accessory that has been replaced with you. This is because sometimes products bought cheaply have no markings or no serial number engraved on them, and if in doubt they have to check this by doing some time-consuming testing and research during the inspection.

Commissioner Dennl: “There are some mirror models for which we have an instrument that allows us to check their diameter, which by law must be at least 8 cm. Below this parameter they would not be homologated mirrors. The same goes for the brake and clutch levers, especially the coloured ones, which are often not up to standard, and in that case we have them dismantled on the spot, and if you haven’t brought the original ones with you as replacements, we have to confiscate the vehicle.

I am quite shocked by the method applied (also because who brings the various original parts with them to go and replace them with aftermarket ones in case?), but they explain that it is a safety issue. Cheap products have the risk of breaking and putting yourself and others at risk. “Just imagine if a lever broke while you were braking!” he tells me.

Exhausts

Among the various accessories that motorcyclists like to replace, we obviously don’t forget the exhaust. If they find that you have modified it or that you have not fitted a dB killer, there are fines of €90 (if you have removed the dB killer but have it with you) or €180 if you do not have it. If, on the other hand, you have fitted a racing exhaust, such as other unmarked silencers that are not approved for road use, the vehicle may be confiscated. If there is any suspicion that modifications have been made to the silencer, which the motorcyclist does not admit to, an inspection by a team of experts and mechanics is required. This can cost up to EUR 2,000. (As they have experience in the field, they are familiar with the tricks and excuses of motorcyclists, so it is always advisable to be truthful from the outset and to report any modifications, so that the cost of penalties can perhaps be avoided or reduced).

Other prohibited accessories

Another accessory that is banned in Germany, and which results in the vehicle being immobilised, is the clutch cover with transparent capsule. It is fitted, for example, on Ducati Multistrada or PanigaleV4 models, and although they sometimes come as standard, they cannot be driven on German territory. There is a fine of around €190 for the grilles, faceplates and headlamp cover stickers. These are often seen in Italy fitted to BMW GS models (they are those black grilles with a partial yellow headlight cover), and are banned for safety reasons because the headlight accessories change the beam and type of light. So take care: no dragon eyes on the bike! (You know the stickers you often see on the headlights of sports bikes and some naked bikes?).

Luggage

No limits on luggage. You just have to be careful that they don’t cover the indicators and number plate. And of course they must be well secured and stable, without exaggerating in width and height.

Traffic law and speed limits in Germany

As in Italy, there are fixed speed controls (the ‘velox’) and mobile speed traps. There is no shortage of speed limit signs in Germany and it is therefore difficult to make mistakes, but in general it is 50km/h in urban areas and 30km/h within a built-up area. Roads outside urban areas mostly allow a limit of 100km/h, sometimes 70km/h.
No speed limit (unless indicated) and tolls on motorways. Fines vary depending on the speed exceeded, and above 31km/h in urban centres and 41km/h in suburban areas, there is an additional licence suspension for residents and a one-month nationwide ban for tourists.

Emergency lanes

It is also absolutely forbidden to drive in the emergency lane, which in Germany is not fixed to the right-hand edge of the carriageway, but a lane is created between stopped cars in case of need. Riding in it, or rather ‘exploiting’ it on a motorbike, carries a fine of around €300.

Illegal racing is also obviously prohibited. Racing and competing on the road with others as with oneself, to test one’s own limit is among the most costly punishments.

And to my key question, namely why motorcyclists in Germany do not overtake cars at traffic lights but stay behind and wait, the answer was simple: they obey the highway code. It is forbidden to overtake on the right and over the continuous white line.
Commissioner Dennl: ‘Most of the time you do not have enough space to overtake without encroaching on the other lane, so it is correct to wait behind the car, keeping a safe distance. I would like to make it clear that we do not want to be party poopers, and we always assess situations before reacting to certain inflations, but we must make sure that we prevent bad situations. We place a lot of emphasis on safety and we always tell people to wear protection and, above all, signal colours, whether it’s a helmet or clothing. Since motorcyclists do not wear flashy clothing, they are usually difficult for motorists to recognise (or are recognised too late), which is why serious accidents often occur. We also suggest taking riding lessons, and getting back into the saddle with short tours, in order to regain confidence with the vehicle and train fitness. It is essential at the beginning of the season to keep in mind that other road users are not used to the fact that two-wheelers are back on the road, and one must always be alert and prepared for the mistakes of others.”

Our chat continues in a general way about the motorbike models that are mostly seen on the road, fewer and fewer fairing bikes and mostly sport-touring models. We talk about women on motorbikes, which in Germany are also increasing in number.
Commissioner Dennl: ‘We notice a steady increase in the number of women motorcyclists, and for us it is a pleasure to see this, also because men ride more safely thanks to women. In pairs you are usually more careful.”

With a slight smile under our moustaches we end the interview. We both hope that this article will be useful to the next motorcyclists visiting Germany and its beautiful places such as the famous Black Forest, the Romantische Strasse or the curves of the Bavarian Forest.

Three pieces of advice from policeman to motorcyclist, Commissioner Dennl wanted to give: be honest when checking, pay attention to each other, but above all have fun.

Because motorcycling, besides being passion, is fun!

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