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Shipping your bike to Europe for the adventure of a lifetime

“Did you ship your bike over?”

It’s the first question we’re asked when someone sees the Europe country stickers on Beauty’s windscreen (our 2008 BMW 1200 GS). 

Our answer is always, “Yes.”

If you dream of a European adventure on two wheels, shipping your bike is totally possible … but is it the right option for you? This will very much depend on how long you intend to tour for.

Option 1 – Shipping your bike

If you’re planning a longer tour and riding an unfamiliar motorbike around Europe is unimaginable, consider shipping your bike.

Cost

This is always the second question!

Are you shipping one-way or return? It’s a bit like airline tickets – one-way is usually more expensive per leg than return. This year, we paid AU$2,300 one-way, as we’re intending to leave Beauty with friends in Portugal while we return to Australia for a few months over Christmas. Return would have been ~AU$4,300. We used a dedicated motorcycle shipping company, ie. they ship motorcycles only.

The price will also depend on whether you’re shipping with other bikes in the same container (Full Container Load or “FCL”) or as general cargo, which may mean your bike is in with other goods (Less than Container Load or “LCL”). LCL costs are generally higher per cubic metre than FCL and the container may be packed and unpacked several times in different ports.

Your shipping company will have, or recommend, a local shipping agent in your destination port. The shipping agent will advise you of the paperwork required for passing through customs and any applicable fees. For dedicated motorcycle shippers, this is usually included in your shipping cost.

It’s always a good idea to ask about options that will reduce the price. You might like to crate your bike yourself (if it’s going by LCL), however this usually means you will have to organise a shipping agent at the destination and pay customs fees etc on top of the shipping cost.

Timeframe

Covid and supply chain issues have thrown shipping into turmoil. Beauty’s eight-week journey from Melbourne to London ended up taking 14 weeks. Thankfully, our shipping company had prepared for this and factored in a generous timeframe buffer.

Bridget & Alan

Can you live without your bike for this long? We couldn’t. We have a  ‘back-up bike’ we can ride while Beauty is in transit.

Departure + arrival locations

Different shipping companies ship to and from different cities.

In 2019, we shipped Beauty with Get Routed, which meant we had to ride Beauty from Brisbane to Sydney for her voyage to Barcelona, as this was the only shipping route they offered at that time that fit with our plans. For the return trip, the only option meant we had to get her to Felixstowe in the UK for shipping back to Sydney. We then had to have her trucked from Sydney back to Brisbane.

This year, we shipped with Bikes Abroad which offered more options and she went from Melbourne to London.

Insurance

Marine transit insurance is vital. It covers damage or loss of your bike and equipment whilst on the sea voyage.

You usually have the choice of purchasing this through your shipping company or organising it yourself, which can save you quite a bit.

We were quoted ~AU$350 by both shipping companies, then chose to organise it ourselves through Chubb Insurance Australia and paid ~AU$150.

Paperwork

Your shipping company will give you instructions on what documentation is required and most, if not all, of this can be done online.

Ask them about the requirements for re-importing your bike into your home country. You might need to submit an application for a re-entry permit. For Australia, this is a compulsory requirement. You will not be able to bring your bike back into the country without the re-entry permit.

Prepping your bike

Once your shipping is confirmed, follow the shipping company’s instructions carefully. 

You will need to disconnect your battery prior to shipping and tape the leads. Normal requirement is for the fuel tank to contain less than two litres of fuel.

It’s possible the battery will be flat upon arrival, so consider installing a new battery before departure, to reduce this risk. Carrying a mini jump start battery is also good insurance. 

Also consider packing some of your gear on the bike, so you don’t have to carry it on the plane with you – especially important if your airline doesn’t allow you to embark carrying a helmet. 

Collecting your bike

Your shipping company or your shipping agent in the destination port will advise you of the date and location for you to collect your bike.

Bringing your bike home 

Make it clean! If your country’s customs department decides your bike’s not clean enough, you might receive a hefty charge for them to clean it for you. 

It’s worth chatting to a local vehicle-cleaning business in the port you are shipping from. They’ll know what’s required and have the equipment and expertise. In 2019, we paid £20 to have Beauty professionally cleaned and they did an outstanding job. She breezed through Australia’s strict quarantine process upon her return to Sydney.

Option 2 – Buying a bike in Europe

If all of this seems too time-consuming and expensive, perhaps buying a bike in Europe is a better option for you.

Keep in mind that European countries are tightening up their requirements for purchasing a local vehicle. You will generally need to prove you have a European address, before you can register it and insure it there.

A workaround might be to ask a European friend or family member if they’re happy to purchase and register a motorbike under their name and then add you as a rider on their insurance policy.

Consider:

  • How will you find the right bike in Europe? Will you search online and choose one sight unseen?
  • Will your friend or family member be willing to do this on your behalf?
  • Will you arrive and then go ‘tyre-kicking’ to find your ideal bike? Do you have time to do this?
  • Are you comfortable purchasing privately or do you prefer to go through a dealership?
  • Will you also purchase panniers and a top box? How will you be confident that all your gear will fit?
  • How will you sell it when your Europe adventure is over? Will you have time to sell it?

Option 3 – Renting a bike

Renting is a great option if your adventure is weeks, rather than months. However, it will very quickly become expensive if you decide to extend your tour.

There are plenty of moto touring companies in Europe that rent late model bikes to riders who want to ride their own routes.

BMWs are very popular in Europe, however most touring companies have a wide range of brands and sizes available.

Consider what’s included

Check what is and isn’t included in the daily rental fee:

  • panniers / luggage cases
  • navigation device
  • security devices
  • pickup locations – can you return it to a different location?
  • support services – if the bike becomes faulty or you are involved in an incident or accident
  • insurances
  • local taxes
  • fuel – not included

The best option for your adventure

You will know which option will work best for you and your European adventure.

It will be amazing!

If you have any questions, feel free to message us at Throw Your Leg Over – we’re happy to help.

For a comprehensive guide to riding in Europe, Throw Your Leg Over Europe has 1,000+ pages packed with useful info on prepping for your adventure + 46 countries (we couldn’t resist adding a few extra) + 62 ride routes that we personally tested.

For exclusive new rides in Australia and Europe every month, check out the Throw Your Leg Over Membership.

Bridget
Bridgethttps://www.throwyourlegover.com.au
We are Bridget Hallam and Alan Cox from Throw Your Leg Over. We are motorcycle adventurers from Australia. Together, we have ridden two-up in excess of 130,000 km in Australia and Europe on our 2008 BMW R1200GS named Beauty. In 2019 we shipped Beauty from Sydney to Barcelona and rode 27,000 km over 24 weeks through 26 countries, from Morocco to Norway and from Portugal to the Black Sea, crisscrossing many amazing countries in between. We are currently on our second European tour, this time shipping Beauty from Melbourne to London. We started at the popular Adventure Bike Rider Festival and then rode east through the French, Swiss and Italian Alps and into eastern Europe. We share our passion of exploring on two wheels via our monthly Membership and motorcycle guide books for your self-guided adventures.
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