Welcome

Hi and welcome to a blog mostly about motorcycle touring. Motorcycle Paradise started as a simple web page with a few photos in 1994. Back then I was just another "jackass on a motorcycle" (thanks Fuzzy Galore) so some of the content ported over to here might seem as dated as the fluro graphics on the bike I had then. More recent information for Australian roads can be found in my ride reports and suggestions. Lately I am riding in Japan - hope you enjoy visiting this blog.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Adventures in Aichi

Or perhaps I can call this post adventures in GPS navigation in Japan.

To the East of Nagoya lies Toyota City and the prefecture of Aichi. I was not expecting too much in the way of good riding roads however yet again it was excellent.

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Once you leave Nagoya there is mountain after mountain with roads crossing most if not all in some form or another. I am getting used to being able to whisk my way out of the big city on the expressway and be in beautiful countryside about 90 minutes later no matter what direction I ride. These photos are from Chausuyama Skyline in the North East.

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I know not to ride too tired, but I have a couple of times recently and like in the past when I do I make little mistakes and have a slower reaction time which increases risk of an accident. This ride I was both tired and on an empty stomach having also broken another rule of mine to never skip a chance to get fuel or lunch early. I find when I do this the next pump, cafe or town can turn out to be a long time coming and I find myself (and bike) running on empty.

And so add to this mix the brand new Garmin GPS with latest maps trying to route me into car parks, dead end roads or onto a toll road for a 15km round trip to get to the other side rather then use one of the perfectly good underpasses, and I found myself rushing a bit and not paying attention to things and thus ended up dropping the bike when doing a u-turn.

It was just a stationary fall when the weight of the bike got the better of my balance and footing but managed to scratch the pannier and mirror and slight mark to lower part of fairing. It is such a top heavy bike this FJR, once off its balance slightly you cannot hold it. Fortunately a big strong bloke came along in a car and together we managed (just) to stand it up. Glad I was not on too isolated a road.

Well I sulked a bit over lunch but it really is not damaged simply a few scratches, but near new bike and all that. I also think I was moody because I am starting to really think I purchased the wrong bike and perhaps I should I have got another CB1100. Well I need to give it more time. Same as I need to do for other things here in Japan.

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Lovely spot in the shade sitting to have my very late lunch. Odd how pockets of the countryside have escaped the expansion of the convenience food store chains which are a easy source of meals for me given my limited language skills make dining a challenge when there is often no English menu. 

You can make out the new Garmin Zumo 660 mounted on the FJR above. Having so much difficulty with navigation here I decided to get a new GPS with latest 2014 v15 maps. I wanted to get the junction view feature and accurate highway guidance. The countryside roads can be navigated with my old Garmin 760 Nuvi using just open source street maps or the old 2009 Japan map floating around the net, however these won’t get you far on the highways.

Sadly the new Garmin still offers just very rudimentary navigation. It will route me via clogged city streets for 40km rather then a expressway that is 48km simply because the other is a shorter distance. (No I don’t have avoid tollways or shortest distance options ticked) It will route me off a tollway into heavy traffic for a few km then back onto a tollway costing double the fee because the distance is shorter by a couple of km than following the extended curve of the toll road a few km out of your way. The highway junction view feature seems to have data for only about 1 in 10 junctions and the Garmin will just display a simplistic 4 way highway intersection graphic at others with no lane guidance either despite the marketing claims.

An example is below. You arrive at the lower right corner of the below junction and the choices to get through it and continue ‘straight’ on your route are exit left at first red arrow, then exit right at next split, the red arrow in middle of photo to get to Green arrow to proceed. The wrong choice will see you at the yellow arrows locked onto other expressways for the next 10 km before you can exit and try find way back.

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At this and many intersections the Garmin simply says ‘Go Straight’ or ‘Driving on E20’ like below with none of the advertised lane assistance or junction view graphics.

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Tasked to route me across the country to the Yokosuka area I never saw once the advertised highway mode displayed despite riding on the busiest and most used highways in Japan. Initially it again refused to take the expressway, rather trying to route via city roads for 100’s of km so I reverted back to my Go-Go Navi iPhone app which immediately showed the faster route. Once on the expressways the Garmin then routed me that way but only half the distance before trying to take me on suburban streets which I ignored.

Another issue is the Garmin maps lack any road speed information. This is not something I want to display on screen however it affects the destination ETA. The ETA would appear to be just a simplistic calculation of distance remaining at an average speed of 90kph. Running the Garmin in simulation mode it will travel everywhere on the route at 90kph even city streets with 40kph limits. I find the ETA time shown to be wildly inaccurate compared to any other country I have used a GPS in and don’t understand why version 15 of a map still lacks this data.

Sorry to sound so negative but understand the Garmin 660 in Japan retails for nearly $700 yet is grossly inferior to a little app on a phone which has lane guidance with junction pictures for every highway and many secondary road junctions as well as accurate routing. It is yet again another lazy half baked effort by Garmin who are able to get away with it since nobody else makes a GPS that you can upload a route to.

Here is this rides interesting old street light photo.

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OK time to get moving again and do some more mountain roads! A little shower of rain but I road clear of it however I did not stop to take photos due to the sprinkle so I cannot show you the excellent mountain pass on route 101. So here is another from Chausuyama.

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Having looped back south towards Shinshiro I took a look at Mt Horaji parkway which was a very nice road but elusive to capture in a photo so sorry here is yet another of the FJR on said Parkway. I am leaving the ignition on to have the LED running light illuminated in the photos just to jazz it up a bit and because I want my tail light on as cars here are not used to foreign blokes pulling up just everywhere to take photos. The bikes here have a hazard light button. I have not seen this on any bike in Australia or elsewhere in Asia. Not sure why as pretty good safety feature. I am starting to remember it and turn the hazards on when pulling up on roads with more traffic. Also here when a slow car pulls over to let others pass the people flash the hazards to the person as they go past to say thanks. I just wave my hand same as I do in any country to show my appreciation. 

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Heading back to Toyota city I rode via My Hongu Skyline. Once this was another scenic/leisure drive toll road but guess not enough traffic or the lease was up and now it is handed back to government and free. I came up behind a couple of cars that looked like Toyota 86’s but were camouflaged. Turns out they were test/prototype Lexus sports cars out testing. Yes this road which runs over to Toyota city would make a pretty good testing ground. The had V8 power and soon left me behind.

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I had a lovely smooth ride back to Toyota City on route 301 then a few smaller roads which trace along besides the rivers that flow in the valleys from the mountains down towards the very large expanse of dead flat land where Nagoya is situated. Lots of abandoned houses along the way, this one below beside a small stream caught my eye. Looks a nice spot, probably could buy it for next to nothing.

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Small waterfalls are found on nearly every road that runs down from the mountains. If I stopped at every one I’d never get anywhere but this one was extra charming.

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Here is another of Japans own unique road signs. And that brings me to the end of another fine ride. 

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Here is more or less the route I took.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

50 Motorcycle Rides To Do Before You Die

The best motorcycle rides from around the world.

There is simply so many wonderful roads to ride. Perhaps you have a bucket list? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

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1. The Grande Strada delle Dolomiti, Dolomite mountains, Italy. There are many mountain passes and interconnecting riding options in this area so this is merely one of many great roads. The Grande Strada delle Dolomiti links Bolzano and Cortina as a starting point but you will need a week to take it all in. Some more photos and info about riding this area can be found in my European alps tour.

 

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2. Cabot Trail,  Nova Scotia, Canada. Nova Scotia is known for it’s beauty and interesting mix of Canadian, French and Scottish ancestry. The Cabot Trail combines this with curvy roads with wonderful vistas. A popular destination for bikers that offers so much to enjoy.

 

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3. Route 40, Patagonia, Argentina. Many do this as a ride from Osorno, Chile to Punta Arenas Chile (but you spend much of your time in Argentina). First through the seven lakes and then onto route 40 with a side trip back into Chile for the Parque National Torres Del Paine. Spectacular countryside at every turn, a bit of this route remains remote and unsealed but you could also approach from the south on all sealed road.

 

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4. Beartooth highway, Montana and Wyoming, USA. A national scenic byway voted number one ride in the USA by a prominent motorcycle magazine. Offering endless beautiful scenery and curves and you can also enjoy Yellowstone National park. The North West area of USA offers some incredible riding roads. Have a read of my tour there for more riding ideas.

 

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5. Lyse Road, Norway. Lyse road is a 44km mountain road with 27 switchback corners and amazing views. Of course if you have taken the time to get to Norway then you would might also want to ride the Atlantic highway and Trollstigen (trolls ladder) as well. Note there is a very narrow season these roads can be ridden.

 

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6. Ring Road, Iceland. Iceland’s route 1 circles the island covering about 1300km. Besides taking you to many of the countries sights it is a visually impressive ride. Mostly sealed but still a little gravel on the eastern side. Iceland is renown for it’s dramatic landscapes and the Ring Road is the best way to experience them.

 

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7. Cameron Highlands, Malaysia. The Cameron highlands is a mountainous area of Malaysia that with has some of the best riding roads to be found in Asia. The hilltops are lush green with tea plantations and you can base yourself in one of the many hotels up there while exploring the area. More info can be found in my Malaysia tour.

 

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8. Tranfagarasan road, Romania. The Transfagarasan Highway is one of the most photographed passes in Europe featuring in many motorcycle or car tours and made even more famous by those British car show presenters. Built as a strategic military route, the 90 km of twists and turns run north to south across the tallest sections of the Southern Carpathians.

 

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9. Rota Romantica, Brazil. This ‘Romantic Route’ is a 184km scenic road the winds through the Rio Grande do Sul from Sao Leopoldo to Sao Francisco de Pallia. It takes you through wooded hills, vineyards, canyons with waterfalls and scenic bluffs and is one of the best rides in Brazil.

 

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10. Amalfi coast, Italy. The Amalfi Coast is considered one of the finest examples of coastal scenery. A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site with beautiful vistas every which way you look. Strada Statale 163 will take you from Sorrento to Amalfi, and most of the twisting road has been carved directly out of the coastal cliffs.

 

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11. Forgotten world highway, New Zealand. It is very hard to try single out any one road in New Zealand, pick any direction and ride and you will not be disappointed with this most beautiful country. This route is the locals favourite and somewhat remote even by their standards with many changes in scenery. Of course getting there and back from Auckland offers so many riding options. More info about riding New Zealand North island can be found in my NZ tour report. 

 

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12. Bar to Sarajevo, The Balkans. Superb scenery is just the start. The journey from Bar in Montenegro to Sarajevo in Bosnia combines beauty and history – both from old and the recent wars. A beautiful coastline, nice roads many wonderful sights along this route.

 

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13. San Bernardino pass, Switzerland. It goes without saying you would never ride just one Swiss alpine pass, but let me start by suggesting the scenic San Bernardino pass and then the best also include: The Furka Pass (2,436m) which was used as a location in the James Bond film Goldfinger and offers fantastic views onto the surrounding glaciers. The Flüela Pass (2,383m) Ofen Pass (2,149 m) Albula Pass (2,315 m) Grimsel Pass (2,165m) Nufenen Pass (2,478m) Bernina Pass (2,328 m) Simplon Pass (2,005m) Oberalp Pass (2,044m) Susten Pass (2,264 m) and the Great San Bernard Pass are also all great riding. I rode a couple of these on my Euro tour.

 

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14. Bandai Gold line, Japan. In a country full of superb riding roads the Bandai Gold line usually comes up as number one on biker forums. A combination of great curves, lush forests and excellent views. It can get busy on autumn weekends as the area is also well known for it beautiful foliage.  You can find more info about riding Japan elsewhere on my blog.

 

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15. Vietnam North west loop. While the Central highlands have been featured on Top Gear and now have many tours operating to them the most spectacular visuals are the less visited northern mountains bordering China. The very high mountains can be completely enshrouded in clouds and cold in the rain season so plan accordingly.

 

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16. Icefields Parkway, British Columbia, Canada. This is not the most curvy road in the area but it is one of the most visually stunning roads on the planet. It is consistently rated one of the best drives in the world. For riders the great thing is between Vancouver and the Glacier national park you can enjoy some of the best riding roads in British Columbia especially if you ride via the Kokanee lakes region. For some more info on riding in BC see my my tour there.

 

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17. Mae Hong Son loop, Thailand. Northern Thailand is very mountainous and offers some excellent riding options. The Mae Hong Son loop from Chiang Mai has  thousands of corners and is an excellent ride with many sights and great food. The timing is important here, they burn off in March so try going sooner than this. While there I highly recommend the Nan district for further riding. For more info about riding Northern Thailand have a look at my tour there.

 

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18. Garden Route, South Africa. The Garden Route runs along the south east coast of South Africa and is a wonderful ride through parks, mountains and along ocean cliffs. Also in SA the Cape Wine route 62 offering more glorious scenery and the chance to visit some of South Africa’s best vineyards. South African offers a number of excellent riding routes and has been a favourite location for manufacturers to host reporters when launching new motorcycles.

 

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19. Fira to Oia, Santorini. Greece. Not every ride need be on a big bike. This is a ride around the famous caldera by scooter affording stunning views of the Aegean Sea and towns clinging to the walls of this breathtaking natural phenomenon. Not a big ride in it’s length but big in every other sense.

 

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20. Nurburgring, Germany. For the speed or track day junkie a ride in Germany has to be on the list. Not only can you still go as fast as you want on many parts of the Autobarn you could do a lap of the famous Nurburgring. Built in the 1920’s and now used to benchmark car performance by almost every manufacture this is perhaps the most challenging racetrack in the world.

 

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21. The Cat and Fiddle, East Midlands, England. Endless corners in the stunning peak district. It is one of the most popular riding roads in Britain running between Buxton, Derbyshire and Macclesfield, Cheshire, named after The Cat and Fiddle Pub, at its summit.

 

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22. The Grossglockner toll road, Austria. This is a famous riding road to the Grossglockner mountain (3789m) Austria’s highest mountain. Austria like Switzerland has numerous amazing alpine roads, some of the best passes include: Fern Pass (1,212 m) Arlberg pass and The Nockalmstrasse. Also fabulous roads to ride are Trafoss to Birkfield, Sankt Oswald to Lavamund, Koflach to Twimberb, Grossfeistritz to Hirschegg and lastly one of Europe’s best scenic roads Tassenbach to Villach.

 

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23. Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia. Built by returned soldiers as a monument to the fallen soldiers of WW1. The GOR is the worlds largest war memorial. Along it’s  241 km you can enjoy coastal, forest and mountain roads which culminate with the spectacular rugged coast and the 12 apostles. More info about riding the GOR can be found in my tour report.

 

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24. Ring of Kerry, Ireland. The Ring of Kerry is a scenic and historic series of roads that covers a 179 km circular route (N70, N71 and R562) from Killarney. Tour buses must run the loop counter-clockwise so you should ride clockwise. Offering fun curves and undulating roads this is ride to enjoy at a easy pace while soaking up the area’s attractions. Update: I am reliably advised that the Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland is not to be missed so please add this to your Irish ride list.

 

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25. Manali-Leh highway, India. If your going to seek out high mountain passes then why not ride the highest of them all. Kardungh La Pass (5,604 m) is claimed to be the highest road for conventional vehicles in the world. You could fly to Leh to then ride to Ladakh but the traditional approach is overland on the Manali-Leh highway.

 

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26. Sicily, Italy. This part of Italy is a special region that has so many wonderful roads for a rider to enjoy it deserves a side trip there. Mountainous roads to the north east and Mt Etna to the south. Rolling hills with sweeping curvy roads inland with incredible historic sights and preserved ancient towns at every turn. 

 

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27. Blue Ridge Parkway, USA. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a recreational national park road connecting the Great Smokey Mountains and Shenandoah National park that runs for 750km through the states of Virginia and North Carolina. It took 54 years to complete and is known for its scenic beauty in autumn. There are numerous sights along the way as well as the equally excellent riding roads that are nearby in this area. Almost too may riding options.

 

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28. Gorges du Dades, Morocco. Also known as The Road of a Thousand Kasbahs this is a spectacular drive winding through stunning desert landscapes, villages and palm groves through the Dades Valley between the Atlas Mountains. While in the area you could also enjoy the Tizi n Test Road (route S501) which is one of the countries spectacular high mountain passes.

 

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29.Picos de Europa, Spain. Picos de Europa are part of the Cantabrian Mountains in northern Spain. A beautiful less visited area compared to the south of Spain. Amazing rock formations and wonderful views with lots of curves and another side of Spain less seen by visitors. Also Garbo de Gato to Granada in Northern Spain presents you desert, mountains and untouched coastline for a beautiful ride.

 

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30. Route des grande alps, France. From Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean. The 684 km route between Thonon-les-Bains and Menton includes 17 mountain passes that are among the highest in the European alps and often featured in the Tour De France. This is an exceptional route that embraces the entire French alps with spectacular mountain landscapes, pretty valleys with local cultural features and gastronomic specialities. Update: I am advised that Napoleons Route in France is another contender for anyone’s bucket list so please consider adding this road.

 

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31. TT, Isle of Mann. The word extreme gets over used for everything but the TT is the real deal. The original extreme motorcycle sporting event. Riders on public roads at mind bending speeds the TT is an incredible spectacle that draws bikers from every corner of the globe.

 

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32. Stelvio pass (2757m), Italy. Perhaps the most famous mountain pass in the world? Personally I am not a fan of switchback corners so really did not really enjoy the 48 that Stelvio has on it’s northern side however I still enjoyed to just be there and see ‘that view’. Excellent riding roads lie in any direction from here so you will never be disappointed even if hairpins corners photo better than they ride. 

 

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33. Interoceanic highway, Peru. Running from the coast of Peru to the high Andes mountain ranges this is an epic ride. Along the way you have the Nasca desert lines and 600km of endless curves on beautiful mountain roads to bring you eventually to the base of Maccu Picchu.  

 

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34. Vlora to Saranda, Albania. A beautiful ride along craggy cliffs with small villages. The road winds its way along the coast with wonderful views. When you reach Saranda you are a short boat ride from Corfu or the Italian peninsula.

 

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35. San Juan Skyway, Colorado, USA. The San Juan Skyway is a scenic national forest byway offering both superb sweeping curves and well preserved towns descended from the ‘old west’. The loop passes over four mountain ranges and has been called the most beautiful road in the USA. The section from Silverton to Ouray is known as the milion-dollar highway and you can visit many intact historic sights.  

 

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36. Betws-Y-Coed Triangle, Wales. Sweeping roads, rolling hills with the scenic backdrop of Snowdonia. North Wales is a very popular destination for British riders as well as car enthusiasts. There are many great pubs and interesting things along the route to explore if you can take your eyes away from the wonderful views.

 

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37. Barcelona to Andorra, The Pyrenees. There are many riding options in the Pyrenees, both sides of the high mountains in France and Spain. Roads in this area feature every year in the Tour de France and are both scenic, well maintained and usually low in traffic. The road from Barcelona to Andorra is but one route example which also abounds in history from the Napoleonic wars. A wonderful riding area. 

 

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38. Reunion Island. Unknown to many travellers the French island is a unique land of contrasts with tropical beaches and an active volcano. Craggy high mountains form some natural amphitheatres, the three cirques - Salazie, Cilaos, and MafateFor are incredible sights. For riders this means a wonderful place to explore by motorcycle, somewhere really off the beaten track for those who might think they have been everywhere. 

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39. Zhongbu cross island highway, Taiwan. Taiwan is a island with very high mountainous inner that rises steeply from the ocean and has some incredibly scenic mountain roads. It has some amazing riding and the Zhongbu cross island highway also presents you with the rugged and beautiful Taroko Gorge.

 

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40. Livorno to Livigno, Italy. Tuscany is riddled with great riding roads with wonderful views of the rolling hills. You can lose yourself in this region it’s like another world and you may find you cannot get enough of the serenity. The food and wine, the culture and seemingly endless options for motorcycle riding make this a special part of the world.

 

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41. Columbia Highlands. Columbia offers the rider an incredible selection of mountain roads. Mostly unknown and still considered to be dangerous, bikers who have been there are reporting that the people are super friendly and the roads in the Andes mountains are just superb.

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42. Greymouth to Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand. A ride down the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island is by itself one of the best coastal rides you can do. However then you can enjoy Mt Aspiring national park before hugging the cliffs of the fiord like Lake Wanaka before descending into Queenstown via the Crown range. A truly awesome ride. See more photos of this on my New Zealand South Island ride.

 

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43. Ruta de las Flores, El Salvador. Route of the Flowers, is a winding section of route CA-8 in El Salvador's coffee country. This scenic road is known for the beauty of its flowering coffee plants however it also offers mountain views, waterfalls and 5 unique villages with so many colourful and interesting sights. Nearby is the El Impossible natural park.

 

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44. Alpine Route, Germany. Twisty roads for over 450 km from Lindau on Lake Constance to Schönau on Lake Königssee, this route is a magnet for bikers. Lush alpine meadows, soft rolling hills, towering mountain tops, thick green woods, romantic valleys and glistening lakes. This is a magnificent ride through the Bavarian Alps.

 

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45. Shangri La, Yunnan, China. A ride in the Yunnan province of China will let you experience the spectacular Tiger Leaping Gorge. Visit the worlds highest city, historic Litang (4020m) before visiting the mythical Shangri La region via the dizzy 4700m Tuer mountain pass.

 

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46. Riviera Corniches. France. The French Riviera stretches from St.Tropez to Menton. A ride along the upper two of three spectacular coast roads known as corniches allows you to enjoy the natural beauty of the region.The Grand and Middle corniches both offer sensational views down onto beautiful coastline and the villas and luxury yachts. This is a ride suitable for scooters at a leisurely pace.  

 

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47. Venus Line, Nagano, Japan. The countryside of Japan is an amazing place for a motorcycle rider with many stunning roads to ride. The whole country is very mountainous and has excellent infrastructure which results in amazing roads like the Venus line being built to service remote areas with few vehicles. There are endless options for riding curvy roads in Japan. You can read about my riding in Japan and this road elsewhere on my blog.

 

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48. Andalusia, Spain. Riding Andalusia on a motorcycle is an unforgettable experience. Andalusia has a varied terrain of rolling hills with forests which change dramatically to high deserts in the mountains. There are over 60 ‘good motorcycle roads’ listed for the area around Malaga alone. Well surfaced and low traffic roads that twist through the surrounding mountains with superb vistas. Some people come here to ride and decide they cannot leave.

 

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49. El espinazo del diablo (The devils backbone) Durango, Mexico. The Devils Backbone is a scenic twisty mountain pass and favourite bikers road. Recently there has been a new bypass opened, the Durango-Mazatlan highway which while less twisty is still a spectacular ride. Also in Mexico consider riding highway 175 through the coastal Sierra Madre del Sur Mountains which is one of the most scenic drives and Hwy 182 from Fores Magnon to Tuxtepec. 

 

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50. Pacific coast highway, USA. A very popular and famous ride to finish this article with. There are plenty of other wonderful rides in the USA, perhaps route 66 might be on many peoples bucket list but that is much less of a riders road. Highway one is an excellent ride with a superb curvy road along the coast that is a joy to experience. Some photos and info of my ride south from San Francisco can be viewed here.

 

Hope you enjoyed this list and perhaps even get some ideas. I will update the information in it a little more when I get the chance and refresh a couple of the photos. Feel free to suggest your wish list place to ride in the comments.