‘Tis the season when the adventurous start dreaming of distant horizons. Tierra del Feugo. The Gobi Desert. Or, if you’re one sixty-something Motorcycle Mojo writer, the Stelvio Pass.
Having farkled my DL1000 XT exactly as I wanted, I needed to ship the big Stromtrooper to the continent rather than borrowing or renting. But how to do it? Who’s freighting bikes these days? What would I need to do to get the Suzook prepared for the long flight over? And, more importantly, what manner of customs hell awaited me on the other side? I barely have the patience — or charm — to get through an Ontario license renewal.
If this describes you as well, fear not: I have a simple solution. Surprisingly cheap, too. And, though I have only done it once, it seems to be dead nuts reliable. Here then is the answer to all your trepidations, concerns and even if you love your bike as much as I do, the fears. If you want to ship your bike — to Europe at least — all you need to do is…
Phone Carrie Drazek. Her phone number is (516) 682-9220.
That’s it. Really. Nothing trickier than that. Just make the call and then do every single thing exactly as she tells you to.
I realize that, depending on where you stand on the optimist/pessimist divide, that sounds either too simple or too good to be true. But the fact is that Carrie Drazek runs Motorcycle Express — having taken over from the entirely inestimable Mike Mandell, who, sadly, passed after 40 years of shipping motorcycles hither and yon — and if she can’t get you there, there can’t be got
The walk through the paperwork — some 14 pages of bureaucratese when I sent the XT over — can be daunting. But, she will walk you through all of it. Really, despite my absolute fear of paperwork — especially when it comes to governmental dictums — the hardest thing was getting an actual all-up weight for the XT. Having added bags and a top case, the official curb weight no longer applied. And since the airlines charge by the pound, she wants a pretty exacting figure.
There’s also a few preparations required (and don’t worry that you might forget anything: Carrie provides a checklist). For one thing you need to have less than four liters in the gas tank. I just rode the bike around till it was almost empty. The battery must also be completely disconnected and the terminals taped. It’s important to note that having a helper here is a good idea. The shippers will not let you do any work inside the warehouse, which means you need to do it in the parking lot and then push the bike up the loading ramp. A helper is, as I said, desirable. It’s also worth noting that some transporters require that the saddlebags be empty. Others don’t, and even those that don’t often check. And most shippers prefer that you deliver the bike a day before it’s supposed to jet off.
That said, it was pretty much ride ‘er in and load her up. And, because I know you have more trepidation about how safely your bike will be shipped, the Air Transat folks did a comprehensive job of securing the Strom to the huge palette . What they lacked in privateer-racer-loading-TZ-on-the-back-of-a-beat-up-Econoline expertise, they made up with enthusiasm. My bike got no less than eight straps. The big airline jobs, too, not the weedy little things we use. The bike wasn’t moving.
As for collecting your steed on the other side, that might require a bit of patience. First, you need to get to the freight handler’s warehouse. They are typically about 10 to 15 minutes away from the passenger terminal, so you’ll need a taxi. Once there, you’ll have to find their main offices which, frankly, was the most frustrating part of my experience.
Present your waybill and you’ll be directed to the customs office (which is usually close by). Once you pay the various duties and get the sign off from your local government official, you head back to the main office. Then, once you’ve paid the “port fee” — cash only, cards or checks not accepted — you’re done with paperwork. Head to the warehouse proper and after a suitable delay — I flew to Paris, and French warehouses are union shops — the bike is yours.
As for your exact destination, Dublin, Heathrow, Frankfurt, Paris and even Rome are possible destinations and Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Toronto are all potential departure points. The exact routing will depend on the carrier used: Air Transat, West Jet or Air Canada. Air Canada probably has the most routes, but is also, at least at this point in time, the most expensive. Air Transat is the cheapest, but offers fewer destinations and departure points. That said, I used the latter and the service was impeccable. I’d definitely use Air Transat again if need be.
One last — very important! — thing. Getting your bike released is also contingent on proving that you have insurance valid for Europe. For a foreign-registered vehicle, you need something called a Green Card which provides liability insurance pretty much anywhere in the EU proper. No card, no bike. You might be able to fudge some of the other paperwork, but without a Green Card, your bike is not leaving the building.
Now, you could access some supplier in Germany or France, but you need to have the original document; printouts won’t do. You could, I suppose, wait for snail mail to deliver it. Or you could just call Carrie because you guessed it, she’s also licensed to issue Green Card insurance.