The law in Europe regarding combos

Hi all, does anybody know where I might find the law relating to a combination being driven in Europe or more specifically, France, Belgium, Holland and Italy?


I have ridden an outfit (LH chair) in France and Holland without problem. Never thought to check if any particular laws apply. Is there anything specific you are worried or uncertain about? If you do a google search, you will almost certainly find the answer. fen tractor2014-08-06 21:57:08

Hi, thanks for the interest. No nothing specific, I’ve had a troll through the web and there’s loads of info on cars and motorcycles but nothing on motorcycle and sidecars? It all tends to be rather car centric…you must carry this in France, and that in Italy but not in the Nederlands…etc. Here is just one example of the confusion that can arise; it is my understanding that it is compulsory to wear a suitable jacket,trousers and boots…these must cover your ankles…whilst ‘riding’ a ‘motorcycle’ in the Nederlands.
Now a couple of issues occurred to me;Firstly, I ‘drive’ my combo I don’t ‘ride’ it. I am on a motorcycle yes but my ‘life partner’…oh, ok, the missus…is certainly not, she is sat in a sidecar. That is why in the UK she does not have to wear a helmet, because she’s not on a motorcycle as defined by law. But what’s that got to do with the wearing of compulsory clothing in the Nederlands? Well my miss’s idea of body armour is an extra swipe with the roll-on. No way will she wear trousers and boots…a small cotton slip-over and a pair of sling-backs will do very nicely thank you. By now your getting the picture. The question is this; do the Dutch authorities define a motorcycle and sidecar separately as in the UK? Thus, exempting my missus from its nanny state stupidity…sorry; rant over…or do they have some other definition that requires me to force my missus into a full set of leathers complete with back hump and a fetching pair of Altbergs? I’ve got a few other thoughts on a similar vain but I’d only bore you, if I haven’t already? . On a more serious note I’d like to locate the various chapter and verse legal definitions of what constitutes a ‘motorcycle’ in the different countries of Europe. There must be a portal or portals some where, any legal types reading this can steer me in the right direction, please?


My wife wears a helmet in the sidecar in this country, so that wasn’t an issue, and we didn’t atract any “legal” attention, so apart from taking usual touring precautions, I treat abroad pretty much the same as here.

Have you tried contacting the Federation of Sidecar Clubs? I would have thought they would be able to help if anyone can.

Thanks ‘fen tractor’ I wish I could be as laid back as you but Murphy’s Law has dominated my life for as long as I can remember. Have you seen how much the on-the-spot fines can be? If you ain’t got the cash there and then…bearing in mind that some fines can run into the 1000’s and 100’s of Euros is common…they’ll seize your bike; it then becomes the property of the Government until you cough-up plus storage and towing . Sidecar Federation is a good idea unfortunately they will not let you on their Forum unless you splash the cash and become a member, shame. I’m going to have a gander at the benefits of joining then I might let a few moths out of the wallet.


I do not recall any laws regarding motorcycle clothing apart from a helmet in Europe.If there are any (which I doubt) then they are ignored.If there was a law requiring a sidecar passenger to wear a helmet we would have it here as well.Just go and enjoy yourself, and don’t get caught speeding in France.

Er no, I have heard that you can be escorted to a cash point to get the money but they are generally more civilised over there than here.I guess I have been travelling on the continent since the '70’s so all the scare stories are old hat.Try and go there long enough to get aclimatised and then look back at England with continental eyes.You will be shocked. As i assume it is your first time there is one very important thing to remember, they ride on the other side of the road.This is easy to remember 99% of the time but there will come a time when you stop in a small village for a coffee and when you set off there is no traffic about.That is when you are likely to ride off on the wrong side.Apart from that enjoy.
iandunmore2014-08-08 09:12:28

I am obviously much younger than Ian, so have only been touring the continent since the early 80’s (first by bike, then car, sidecar only in the last 3 years). I have never been stopped by the police abroad, but generally do my best to ride sensibly and fit in. By that I mean GB stickers, masked headlights, sensible clothing, sensible speeds (I use local driving/riding habits as a guide: some acceptable speeds abroad would not be here).

Like Ian, my advice would be to relax and enjoy yourself, but if you are still concerned, I believe the club is affiliated to the BMF, and they have a strong legal presence, which should cover sidecars. I am sure they must have been asked similar questions before, so an email to them may reassure.

Have fun! John

This is how I got done speeding in Melton Mowbray last year.   Wasn't coffee, but petrol.    As a result totally forgot I was now in a 30 zone.    As the sight of the back of a bright yellow speed camera housing began to stimulate brain cell 'B', I thought "er, hang on a minute ....."    (Actually no it was "oh feck" ... )
Luv that.     I am reminded of the demise of the scooter in Italy being caused by the introduction of compulsory helmet law.    Wearing a helmet on a scooter, 'speshly in an Italian piazza or similar situ, is "not cool".  

Mike H2014-08-08 13:31:51

I do appreciate your calming words, but below is an extract from the Foreign Office site that provides advice to motorists travelling abroad:


Many countries now collect fines ‘on-the-spot’ and in some cases either a deposit or the whole fine is collected, in cash, by the officer at the roadside. Ensure that you carry sufficient cash to pay a fine otherwise you may find that your licence is confiscated or your car is impounded. Insist on a receipt for any monies paid over on-the-spot.

If you check out the individual European countries many implement these ‘on-the-spot’ fines along with the supporting licence seizure, impounding of vehicle if you can’t or will not pay. I agree some will escort you to a cash point, but they do not have to. Then just pray your card works and your account balance is VERY healthy as some of these fines run into 1000’s of Euros. See below for just one example concerning Belgium, again from the Foreign Office site.

On-the-spot fines are issued. Ensure an official receipt is issued by the officer collecting the fine. As a foreign motorist you could refuse to pay the fine, but if you do you must offer a surety or run the risk of having your vehicle impounded.

On 1 March 2004, the Belgian Government introduced a new law to improve road safety. Speed traps, cameras and unmarked vehicles are operational throughout the country. Fines have increased dramatically (eg up to € 2,750/£ 1,830 for exceeding the speed limit by 40 kph). Visitors to Belgium will have to pay on-the-spot. Vehicles may be impounded if they are unable to pay.

I don’t wish to sound arrogant but I have driven in Europe on numerous occasions but always in a car never by motorcycle. And yes I too have never been troubled by the authorities. I am also very aware of our continental brethren’s relaxed approach to authority and life in general. But as the army would have it; P.P.P.P.P.P. I’ll dig out the reference concerning the Dutch insistence on wearing certain minimum clothing on motorcycles and get back to you. I’m pretty sure I got it from the AA but I’ll have to check. Bye for now.



Your comment about the Dutch law on clothing to be worn on a bike rings a bell with me, but I have in my mind that it doesn’t have to be CE approved or anything like that, merely cover the arms and legs (could be completely wrong, so don’t take as gospel). We have a Ural, so the sidecar is very open, and my wife wears bike gear in that (not always boots, mind you) mainly to keep warm!

Riding a Ural also means that my chance of breaking the speed limit is pretty negligible, certainly not by 40kph. I will be interested to hear what you find, so at least I know what risks I might be taking!

Johnfen tractor2014-08-09 08:05:57

We need a savvy continental person to chip in…

Thanks everyone for your interest so far. Firstly, I owe you all an apology as I got the country wrong for the compulsory wearing of clothing it is not the Netherlands but next door in Belgium. See the link below right at the bottom of the page one, also note the 3000 Euro fine for crossing a red light on a level crossing…assuming you survive to pay it…otherwise it’s rather academic! And finally in reply to Ian it doesn’t follow that if a European country has one rule then every other member country will have the same rule also. Members are permitted to make their own local traffic regulations and rules etc. without recourse to the EU governing authorities: hence the compulsory requirement in Italy to carry two reflective jackets in vehicles with more than three wheels…this would seem to include combo’s then…but no requirement in the UK.


Hello again. I found the following tucked away in the small print of the Travel Insurance I have recently purchased concerning the riding of motorcycles abroad; yes, I apologise, as I am the ‘anus’ who reads the small print .

‘any involvement in these activities is subject to your compliance with local laws and regulations and the use of recommended safety equipment(such as a helmet, harness, knee and/or elbow pads’

This little ditty could have some very serious ramifications if the insurance company is faced with a bill of several million Euros because my missus has gone down the road in her sling backs on a Belgium motorway. The authorities then discover that my comfy Hush Puppies do not cover my ankles, I receive an on-the-spot fine and this fact is included in the police report. Back at insurance H/Q a group of share holders immediately identify the policy holders infringement of local law and cancel the cheques thus securing their dividend for another year! I will, you’ll be pleased to hear, be clarifying…please read getting right-up the Customer Service Colleagues nose…the situation with the insurer.


Ian: A WARNING! I’ve dug a trench, assembled a team and the Vickers is on it’s tripod, may I suggest you wait until it gets very dark .

Anyone for football or should that be Fußball?

Regarding my last message; I have spoken with a very helpful lady who does for my travel insurer. It appears to be all down to what the insurer would define as a deliberate act by the insured person. For instance; an accident might occur as a result of me failing to give priority to traffic on the right. As long as my omission was not deliberate then the resultant collision is deemed an accident and the insurer would pay-out. And I quote, ‘these do happen from time to time’. I’m still not convinced by this soothing duplicitous whispering . So I’m in the process of emailing ‘Customer Services’ with one of my more convoluted examples of what might happen to an Anglais abroad. If nothing else it might brighten up a rather dull day at insurance H/Q