Update. Well since I wrote this I have set out to ride the world and have a different view on things now so please have a look at my new article "50 rides to do before you die" which is the definitive list of best motorcycle roads in the world.
Have you ever thought about all the great places that exist to ride a motorcycle around the world.
I do, quite often. Most of my international travel has not involved a motorcycle however I have noted when travelling many places with excellent roads. TV travel shows to a limited degree give ideas on what great riding might exist in a area, certainly The Tour de France each year whets my appetite with the amazing footage of the roads the riders travel over.
The places I really let my thoughts run wild is the ride reports posted on some of the superior touring forums such as Sport Touring USA forum and Pashnit motorcycle forum. I can while away a few hours every now and again just looking at the photos let alone reading the many varied stories of peoples rides around the world.
I have put together a top 10 list of places I want to ride in the world, actually I have had this list for a while now however this is the first time I am publishing it. I do so as the first step to actually riding the list. They say if you think about something enough then it can happen and I can reveal that I am planning a ride from my list for later this year and shall write more when I have something concrete.The top motorcycle rides I want to do in my life then are as follows:
1. Europe. The classic European alpine countries. First place goes to what is one of the most popular riding areas for motorcycle tours, the many varied loops from Germany via Switzerland, Italian Dolomites and Austria. I drove an old camper van over some of these roads when I was much younger and there is some amazing scenery and superb roads. The switchback mountain passes that feature in many photos are not my cup of tea really as I prefer flowing roads to hairpin corners however some of that action would be fine to get to those views and there is still every other kind of corner on offer in this part of the world. There are many many tours available in this area and afterwards I would take the time to see a bit more of Germany which I have wanted to do since I was last briefly there.
2. North America. The Rocky Mountains. The ride I have in mind stretches from the Canadian British Columbia down through Montana, Wyoming to Colorado, or visa-versa. I have driven around British Columbia, down the Icefields Parkway and was amazed at the scenery and roads. I have to admit to previously not really knowing much about the incredible riding and scenery on offer in the USA Rocky mountains. If you talk to people here about riding USA they mostly will mention Route 66 and Sturgis and maybe the Tail of the Dragon but not much else and I used to be the same. Some reading in recent years has totally changed my view and I started to plan a ride similar to the above mentioned route for this year however have shelved it for now due to my holidays being at the wrong time of the year. It would be tempting to try and do more whilst there but I think that ride would be big enough so perhaps I would hire a American V8 and drive back to the west coast via the deserts and perhaps take in Vegas and the Canyon before flying home.
3. Japan. A place still largely unexplored by riders from other countries yet boasting alps as big as Europe with no expense spared perfect roads and amazing scenery. I just got the April edition of BikeJin Japanese rider magazine with the top Japanese motorcycle roads as voted by their readers. Here is a countdown for your information:13. (tie) Zaou Ecoline
13. (tie) Mikata Goko Rainbow Line
13. (tie) Tatsudomari Line
13. (tie) Hachimantai Aspite Line
12. Choukai Blue Line
11. Tsunoshima Big Bridge
10. Chirihama Nagisa Driveway
9. Aso Panorama Line
8. Kouya Ryuujin Skyline
8. (tie) Shimanami-kaido
6. Shiretoko Oudan Road
5. Izu Skyline
4. Shiga Kusatsu Road
3. Yamanami Highway
2. Venus Line
1. Bandai Azuma Skyline
I will be back in Japan sooner or later and will again hire a motorbike for a few days. I rode No 2 and No 4 last time (my blog header picture is from The Venus Line) and I will definitely ride the Izu Skyline next time and when I work out where the rest are I will see what others I can get to. A map of some here.
4. Europe. The Pyrenees, France and Spain. Back to Europe because the alps cover too much ground to try and ride in one tour unless you have a lot of time. The French and Spanish alps are said to be less touristy and better to ride than the traditional alpine areas. I think if you ride the other off season then that argument may be void. However watching Le Tour each year I nearly drool looking at the roads in this area and have been known to talk out loud to myself while viewing Le Tour saying something like “goddam I must ride that road” – usually after a few glasses of wine. The roads over the border in Spain also look fantastic and many riders claim these offer the best riding in the whole of Europe with beautiful surveying and great surfaces with little to no cars or enforcement.
5. New Zealand. The Southern Alps. Again another place I have checked out via 4 wheels and firmly want to return and ride. I actually have a ride for NZ worked out based on places I drove and what I have researched. I also have the NZ top 100 motorcycle road atlas, the sister publication to the excellent Australian top 100 motorcycle road atlas which I based some of my driving holiday on and will use to further refine my ride when I go. At this stage I am looking at March 2011, probably just for a week as that is plenty to cover the flights the route I have in mind and still have a rest day, its not a big place. Flights to New Zealand from Australia are cheap as is accommodation there. The only costly item is motorcycle hire which of course is much more expensive than car hire like it is anywhere, that's why one week will make it a very affordable tour. Above photo from an amazing photographer who toured NZ.
6. North America. North Carolina to Nova Scotia. I have never been to the East coast and have long thought about doing a holiday there, especially in Autumn however now I am going make it a riding holiday when it happens. Riding vs car or rail means I will do so by myself (or perhaps with a group tour) but not with a friend or a partner as they do not want to travel on the back of a bike. Alas so be it. Time won’t stop to let me do it all to suit other and myself and life is not a dress rehearsal. I have not worked on this ride much but at first glance am thinking i would get a motorbike in Boston and ride up to Nova Scotia then back via the Green mountains area before dropping in to the Smoky mountains area to ride down to the Tail of the Dragon and then fly out from the nearest Eagle rider bike rental depot. This is a big ride but since its a one way tour I think it is doable.
7. Scandinavia. Norway. I have held a long interest in the culture and landscapes of the Scandinavian countries dating back to when I had a penfriend in Norway when I was younger. I drove around there a long time ago in a camper van on what was my Aussie camping type road trip around Europe. There are some famous roads in Norway, the Eagle road and the Trolls road to mention a couple, these are consistently rated amongst the most scenic roads in the world. When I was there I got to the bottom of both but a longer then normal winter that year meant they were still closed to traffic. The great thing about Norway is the best riding is all within easy striking distance of Bergen so there are a couple of tour operators that have a base there which would be a good way to tackle it I think. Afterwards perhaps hire a car or take the train back down through Sweden and Denmark to take in those places before returning home.
8. Mediterranean islands. Corsica, Sardinia & Sicily. These 3 islands hold some incredible roads that like Spain have riders consistently rating as some of the best riding to be found anywhere. I wanted to visit Sicily long before finding out it was a good ride. I missed out on getting there previously due to Best Flights travel company stuffing up my travel arrangements the first and last time I tried them. This year I again was looking to go there however I changed my mind due to not being able to find what I wanted at the time of year I have my holidays. It would be good to try and combine some riding in the Italian mainland or perhaps the south of France with this tour and indeed some organized tours seem to offer this sort of route.
9. Australia. Tasmania via East coast. Now I am not saying the above countries are better than the riding here because each is special in its own way and Australia too has it’s own amazing riding – you may have noticed a post or two by me about it! This however is such a long ride for me that I put it later in my list as I may not achieve it for some time. I estimate the riding would easily exceed 10,000km, plus the ferry crossing and about 4 weeks on the road makes this a huge journey. Ideally I would like to do this ride with no timetable, that means maybe needing 6 weeks and really having the time to examine much more along the way. Naturally I would revisit the many roads I have listed on this blog as well as try find some more to report to you either side of Tassie. On the apple isle there are no shortage of great roads to ride and I would base the tour on what I already know to be the best from other ride reports and the trusty top 100 rides atlas.
10. South Africa. Capetown to Jo’burg. I first got the idea of riding South Africa from reading new motorcycle launch reviews that seemed to happen there quite often. The roads look very scenic along the ocean with great curves. Certainly the test riders never wrote a bad thing about the riding except to say watch out for the odd monkey. I have not explored all the riding on offer there and more or less would want to do a organized tour due to safety concerns however the route along the coast of the Western and Eastern Cape looks great. Then the tour I have looked at goes over some mountains and includes a wildlife tour at the Kruger National Park which I think would be an amazing experience. It’s a long way to South Africa from East Coast of Australia so I would want to break up the journey somehow but I really have not planned more on this trip thus far.