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France Is Slowing Down, So Are We.

Blog Date - 23 July 2018

It appears the French have introduced a new 80kph (49.7mph or 50mph to most people) on all their countryside single carriageway roads. This is supposed to be a 2 year experiment to prove or disprove whether or not the reduced limit will save lives. 


My understanding is - this applies to countryside or rural roads that do not have a central reservation, barrier or other physical delimiter. So roads that were in the past 90kmh are now 80kmh EVEN IF THE SIGNS SHOW 90 KMH!! 

Please note I'm not a French lawyer or in touch with the authorities so be sure to double check this information. The point of this missive is to contemplate my thoughts on this. 

Here in North West England I have noticed many of the major and quite a few of the minor roads that were once "national speed limit" (60mph) are now 50mph. Year in year out as I ride around I find 60s are becoming 50s, 50s becoming 40s and many of you will see 30s becoming 20s.

A sign showing a speed limit of 20 miles per hour
20 is the new 30 doncha know.

What is the point!! Eh? No no no, I'm not asking what is the point of lowering the speed limits. Depending on your point of view lowering speed limits is about saving lives or it's about the governments of the world being fun hating killjoys. "They" don't want to save you and your children's lives, "they" want to control and suppress you by making you ride everywhere at 5mph and make your life hell. Pick a side.

No, what is the point having a big powerful motorcycle? Unless you have access to a racetrack or you really don't give a toss about the law, your licence, your insurance or being thrown in prison then having sufficient power enough to achieve 180mph seems pointless.

Ducatie 1199 SuperLeggera. A very fast sportsbike

My 500 can (allegedly) struggle it's way up to 110mph, 40mph faster than the maximum permissible on any UK road and sufficient to see me on the very wrong side of a ban and a hefty fine. As the number of roads in my area where I can legally travel at 60mph tumbles I often find the 500 feels stifled, excessive, frustrating and bloated. The 125 has little trouble reaching 50mph and at least the engine is breathing and working rather than barely ticking over.

I know I know I know I know... Big powerful motorcycles accelerate very quickly. That sense of acceleration is the thrill not necessarily the actual speed achieved. We might only legally be allowed to travel at 70mph on a motorway but it sure is fun getting up to 70mph in under 6 seconds on a vehicle that costs less than the cheapest cars available. Another few grand will see you doing that in under 3 seconds.

Another advantage of big powerful motorcycles is the ability to travel the motorways at legal speeds with the engine barely running let alone breaking a sweat. My long suffering CBF125 does a lot of motorway work and it manages it fine. Even so I have to admit the engine is working very hard and a strong headwind will reduce my speed to a level that leaves me vulnerable to other road users travelling considerably faster.

Considering this what would be the ultimate solution for a rider such as I? 

I'm imagining a 250-300cc engine. The first 5 gears are short with 5th being geared to be right on the max power revs at 50mph (about 8,000 revs probably). 6th gear is an overdrive, intentionally tall to provide motorway cruising with good economy and without the engine screaming. 

With the lower gearing acceleration could be sharp and rapid, the sensation of riding the bike and using the gears could be retained. All this would be thrilling and yet still within the legal limits. The tall 6th gear would prevent motorways from being a screaming engine nightmare. 

Of course the smarty pants among you will poke holes in my cunning and devious plan. It's all of no consequence anyhow because we'll all be electric soon enough. When we're all electric and self-driving/riding the computers will prevent the notion of speeding. 

Problem solved. Urgh.

We're always looking for interesting and well written articles to add to Bikes And Travels. Contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

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Reader's Comments

Rod said :-
I guess us brits will have to slow down a bit when travelling in France. The French, well I guess the French will ignore the 80kph limit the same way they ignore the 90kph limit.
23/07/2018 16:55:18 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Yeah it's one thing to have a speed limit, it's quite another to believe people will actually obey it.
23/07/2018 20:23:43 UTC
Stuart said :-
Lower speed limits mean more revenue from speeding tickets!
24/07/2018 06:15:40 UTC
Henrik said :-
Its a money-machine, a "hidden" tax, nothing else, the rich can afford, the poor is who is paying
24/07/2018 20:05:36 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Oh 'eck it's getting political now!
25/07/2018 07:29:04 UTC
Tom McQ said :-
It's probably a mix of things including saving lives and cutting down on spending. After all, there's a LOT of money goes into repairing and rebuilding a broken biker/driver. It's not just the ambulances, helicopters and hospitals, it's the police, fire brigade and highways department (replacing damaged roads and street furniture).

On top of that, the Police reckon it costs between 1.5 and 2 million quid to fully investigate a fatal road accident!! Jeez, I wanna be an investigator!
02/08/2018 07:58:36 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
You as an accident investigator would not receive the full 1.5 million pounds Tom. The accident investigation after my little bump was carried out by a trained police officer as such the typical accident investigator will be on an police officer's wage.
02/08/2018 11:18:16 UTC
Doug said :-
Not sure where I heard/read it, but I understand that roads that are NSL have to be maintained to a certain standard. Dropping the speed limit on these roads allows the councils to get away with not having to maintain said standard (yes, I'm looking at you, Northamptonshire County Council, you incompetent bunch of trough gobblers - where's our £1.4bn?) So many roads in my area are a 50 instead of the previous 60. then again, they don't need to lower the speed limit to get people to drive slower, the potholes do that job.
02/08/2018 11:20:39 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
Yes, I'd heard that too Doug. I heard that if the speed limit is over 50 then the road has to be resurfaced properly with tarmac and then rolled, whereas if it's 50 or under they can do the scrape, spray, and gravel scater thing which is of course much cheaper. This may just be an urban myth, but it has the ring of truth as far as I'm concerned.
02/08/2018 15:24:40 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
So what you're saying is the 60 to 50 epidemic is councils trying to save money? I would be interested if anyone can provide any certainty to this - it's not that I don't believe your sincerity, I'd just like to be sure either way. It certainly sounds feasible with the way council budgets are.
02/08/2018 22:21:34 UTC
Chris Bell said :-
I wonder why it is we only have increments of 10mph not 5mph?, ie 35mph, 45mph,etc.
12/08/2018 18:09:33 UTC

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