Where I come from the air is free

I went out for a ride today and as it turned out it got me thinking and reflecting on the differences between countries when it comes to riding and gearing up, traffic and traffic behaviour.

To begin with, I passed by the petrol station to fill up. Then I thought I might as well check the air pressure. I was amazed to have to pay for this service, something I just assumed was included in the services the petrol station provides. But coming to think of it, even though I have travelled in about 15 countries I have only filled up with air in Sweden and New Zealand, none of these countries charged for it. Things might have changed though.

50 centimos to fill up with air
50 centimos to fill up with air

While getting on to the motorway, I was thinking of my riding gear and the safety of my jacket. I was wearing my summer jacket which has a built-in back protection. But it is rather short compared to my loose back protection that I use under my winter jacket. Pondering this, I got passed by two boys in t-shirts and the wind turbulence blew their t-shirts upwards exposing their whole naked back. The sight of this made me hope that they at least had the brains to put on sunblock, not to damage the skin in case of no accident.

I’ve been raised as a biker in an environment with very high safety awareness. In the local club, Lo Cats MC in Karlstad, where I spent my first riding years the general opinion was that when you get out to ride you gear up, and if you don’t use back protection you’re an idiot. Still, today I have a hard time not telling people that they are idiots when they don’t gear up properly for the ride 🙂

In Germany, Britain and other colder countries riders do gear up quite well, I guess this has to do with the double function of the gear, both safety and warmth. But I have noticed that a lot of touring riders wear laced hiking like boots for riding, which indeed are both comfy and waterproof but don’t provide much protection for the ankles. Personally, I prefer to ride in race boots, since I love hiking and running and therefore want to wear the best possible protection in case of an accident.

Reflecting on this I was riding here, between Miraflores de la Sierra and Tres Cantos
Reflecting on this I was riding here, between Miraflores de la Sierra and Tres Cantos

While riding in Spain I have seen people wear next to nothing riding their bike. The general idea is that it is a convenient way to commute and then you wear whatever you want to wear when you get to your destination. Which could be suit and tie, jeans and jacket or shorts and t-shirt, depending on where you’re going. Since I’m Swedish and know what I know and have seen what I have seen, I gear up even for riding to work, witch makes me have to answer a lot of questions, all the time. I guess it is just a different way of thinking about life. I can’t stand up and say how Spanish people think and why they do as they do, but to me it seems like it is more about living every day in as comfortable and nice way while Swedish people tend to plan for the future. Having said this, I’m aware that there are lots of serious bikers out there in Spain, geared up in leather, taking security seriously just as there are Swedish people not using back protection. This is my opinion and I love to hear your comments on it.

When it comes to traffic and the behaviour in traffic, Swedish and Spanish riders and drivers behaves very differently. I love the way I’m allowed to surf the queue, drivers actually make room for riders to pass. In Sweden, there is some kind of envy that prevents drivers from letting riders pass this easily. Like it would be bad to use a benefit when you can. Swedish people generally drive very much according to the rules and we plan our riding/driving. In Spain, the traffic acts a bit more creatively and I have, to an extent, got used to things happening suddenly. For example, a car can exit the roundabout from the inner lane by just using the horn and turning right. Traffic in Spain is generally very loud. It seems that there are many different reasons for using the horn, not only to make someone move or signal that you are coming, but also to show annoyance with the traffic jam. In Sweden, generally, we use the horn only to salute someone we know. And second if someone is in your immediate way. In England, Anelli and I often got passed silently by cars getting impatient because we hesitated a few seconds before getting into the roundabout. This annoyed me because I thought it was dangerous just to slip past like that not making themselves noticed. But from what I have heard British drivers don’t generally use the horn. But I have to say I prefer the Spanish way –  even though if I get beeped at a lot I might get stressed.

The best view of Madrid is from far far away
The best view of Madrid is from far far away

Now, when I’ve got started thinking on gear and traffic, next is to reflect on roads and scenery and biking in general during the Grand Tour. But that is not for today, now I have to get ready for bed, vacation is long gone and daily life has taken over my life again.

Published by

Avatar photo


I'm a passionate biker from Sweden. I love to travel, preferably on my motorcycle. Please let me know what you think of my blog! Post a comment or send an e-mail: asa@forza.greynorth.net

10 thoughts on “Where I come from the air is free”

  1. Hey! Great to read you again.

    It´s no common in spain to be charged for the air. The most petrol station has this service for free. When I find one where I have to pay, I ride to the next one 😉

    It´s true that lots of riders don´t wear a proper clothes. I think it´s because of the weather, but I prefer to sweat than to bleed so I always use my jacket and back protection. It´s true that my leather jacket protects me more than the light jacket that I use in summer, but I think that the dainese summer jacket I use it´s enough for short rides in the city. When I plan a long ride I always use leather even in the hot summer.

    About the behaviour of the drivers in Spain… I don´t agree with you. Nobody give me pass in mi bike…
    Madrid is very caotic and dangerous. Very stressfull and complicated for a Ducati. I have two accidents in my bike lasta winter and both where in the city…

    1. Thank you Yors! Nice to hear a Spanish biker’s opinion on the traffic. Mind you, I don’t live in Madrid so I might change my mind when it so happens. I live and work outside the city. Describing the traffic as creative is a polite way for me as a foreigner to describe the chaotic Spanish traffic 😉

      I’m glad to hear that you rather sweat than bleed (and I’ll save that phrase for later use). People who are involved in racing generally gear up safer than other bikers… and most people riding Ducatis have at least set one foot in the world of racing.

        1. Wow, it seems like an awesome event. For me, I don’t do track days. I have lost interest in going fast and prefer to go slow, and really far 😉

          My next objective though is to finally attend one of the desmocañas with the Ducatistas in Madrid

          1. It isn´t a track day only. There are stunts show, SBK pilot, test Ducati bikes, drag race with a Diavel, secure road riding courses, music, shops, big dinner and party at night…
            It´s a small WDW. It´s the first year and if it works well there´ll be more editions in the future.

            About desmocanas, probably next week will be a big ones with lots of people. Look for us at Ducatistas.

            See you!

  2. 🙂 You’re making a good job advertising the Ducati Day Yors! Unfortunately I can’t posibly attend this year… so lets hope it comes around next year and that I can get a day off work outside holidays… then, I’ll come!

  3. it is fine to read your thoughts.im living Turkey.now im 22 years old.l plan to buy a ducayi 696 dark or red .in our country there is a few person who have ducati but all of them know each other and help each other because of that ii think if there is a few anything it is good 🙂 …

    1. That sounds great!!! I hope you’ll find the Monster all that you expected and more!!! And in many countries the friendship between ducati owners i strong… all kinds of things comes with eat… pasta dinners, wine evenings etc…

  4. Hi Asa!!!!

    I just found your blog in the Ducatistas.com forum and I must say CONGRATULATIONS for both, the trip and the blog, there are admirable.

    Regarding of be charged for the air I’m with Yors, it’s not common at all, if fact is the first time ever that I heard that!!! But you know the solution…. ride to the next gas station…

    And it’s true that there is a lot of people riding without the proper gear, I feel myself ashamed every time I see this, during the past years seems that more people are changing their behaviour so, I hope that in this matter we are heading in the good direction little by little.

    In my case I couldn’t think to ride without my leathers in summer or my cordura in winter always with the back protector and race boots (and the suitable gloves of course), other-ways is like being naked.

    About the traffic behaviour you can find almost all the possible ones, depends a lot of the city or part of the country you ride, I think that I enjoyed/suffer all the different possibilities during the past 10 years.

    Was a pleasure to read about your history this summer, I hope to crash you somewhere in the north of Madrid and share roads and ducati brotherhood.

    See you.

    Oscar, El Escorial, Madrid.

    1. Welcome to my blog Oscar! And thank you for your nice words! And it is indeed interesting to hear another spanish opinon on the topic of safety gear.