Ride a motorcycle for any significant length of time, and sooner or later, the urge to venture further afield comes calling. So read on, and discover the Best 6 Motorcycle Rides in the World.
If motorcycles are the ultimate freedom machines, then what, for you, would be the ultimate road trip? Within the boundaries of our own countries, it's possible to find great roads and fantastic scenery, but don't forget, there's a whole world to discover.
If the thought appeals to you, but you feel you or your two-wheeled pack mule aren’t quite up to the job, think again. Plenty of people have traveled to the far reaches of the planet on the craziest of machines.
Take, for instance, mad Brit biker, Ed March. Ed has ridden to Thailand, Mongolia, Alaska, Argentina, and even to the North Pole, all astride a Honda C90cc step-thru scooter.
If you thought that was tough, then let me introduce Dave Barr. A former US Marine who, after losing both legs to a landmine, circumnavigated the globe twice on a 1972 Harley Shovelhead. Now tell me you need a cutting edge, computer-aided adventure bike to head for the horizon.
Ride through the Himalayas
The highest mountain in the world has attracted people like a magnet since the first calculation of its height in 1856. Back then, it was merely old ‘Peak XV’ but apart from climbing expeditions heading for the top, motorcycle trips to base camp are on many a biker’s bucket list.
It’s not hard to see why, either. Heading through the Himalayas, at 5600m above sea level, you’re quite literally riding on top of the world on some of the planet’s highest roads.
Obviously, you can ride your own motorcycle. However, this is one corner of the world where hiring a bike is a sound idea.
To begin with, the mountain range of which Mt. Everest is just a tiny part of, spreads across the entire width of Northern India, going as far west as Pakistan and as far east as Bhutan.
Throw in the eight or so countries currently disputing sovereignty in various parts of the mountain range, and you begin to see the picture.
Add to this the minimum need for two visas; one from Tibet and one from China, and it gets even trickier. It's advisable, therefore, to go through Kashmir to the Khardung La (world’s highest road) and the Indus Valley. Here, you will find Buddhist monasteries and be lucky enough to ride through parts of the ancient Silk Road.
If for you though, it’s Everest or bust, then why not find a bike tour of Tibet? Head for Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. It's only a 40-minute flight from Kathmandu to the village of Lukla, the gateway to Mount Everest.
Once there, if you're heading for the Everest base camp, you'll ride through everything from deserted mountaintop desserts to dense forests. Clinging to ribbons of scree-covered tracks cut into the rock to come across hidden cities and temples. If this trip isn’t on your bucket list, you need a new bucket.
Norway, a Biker’s Paradise
Landlocked with Sweden to the east, Norway’s west coast is just stunning. The serrated edge of coastline from the North Cape to the most southerly tip of the country features some breathtaking fjords.
You can choose from several routes, but at a fraction over 700km, the Coastal Route or Fylkesvei 17 ( Fv17) as it’s known locally, is one of the most popular. Running from Steinkjer in Trondelag county in the south, just north of Trondheim, to Bodo in Nordland county in the north.
It's a great ride, as with most of Norway's roads, they are well maintained and gas stations easily within a tank ride. With the opening of the E6 inland highway, the coastal route is quiet, meaning you can enjoy the endless sweeping bends.
As this is lush fjord country, take your time to enjoy the spectacular countryside.
Aside from the jaw-dropping scenery, some cool things to look out for are the Seven Sisters mountain range, Svartisen Glacier and the single span road bridge across the Saltstraumen Maelstrom. Stay away from the edge though, 30m below is the strongest tidal current in the world.
Also, keep a lookout for the Torghatten Mountain. This massive rock formation with a gigantic hole right through the middle of it, is large enough to walk through. In fact, National Geographic puts this highway on their ‘most scenic roads’ list.
If you prefer things a little more adrenalin-laden, then head for the Trollstigen (Trolls Ladder) in Rauma Principality. The 11 hairpins descending the 2700ft mountain will give your tires and brakes a severe workout. Make a note though; it's closed through October to May.
Moorish Spain to Marrakech
Although there’s more than enough in either Spain and Marrakech alone to satisfy your biking fix, this trip for me makes perfect cultural sense.
Beginning in Grenada in Spain’s Andalucía province, the Alhambra is a spectacular Moorish palace built on top of a Roman fortress. It is home to one of the most advanced mathematically technical and stylized tiled interiors ever to grace a building in Europe.
At the very opposite end of the cultural scale, and at the final journey's destination, is Marrakech. Tracing the Moorish invasion back across the straights of Gibraltar, to the raw shambolic city trapped inside a medieval time warp.
Heading out of Grenada, you can either go due south to Motril before hitting the coast road, or head east along the A92. Both routes meet up at Malaga before continuing west to the holiday resort of the rich and famous, Marbella.
Whether you take the faster AP7 or coast-hugging A7 (locally nicknamed the highway of death), depends on how much time you need to allow to catch the ferry at Algeciras.
The latter is undoubtedly more entertaining as you have the glittering Mediterranean for company. Plus, the insanely over-loaded trucks heading for the ferry also prevent the journey from becoming boring.
The short hop across the well-traveled Strait of Gibraltar has been the gateway to North Africa since Phoenician times and riding down the ramp; it certainly hits home that you’re on a different continent.
Heading south out of the city and along the N1, you can choose to stay on the meandering old coast road (N1) or head for the A1. The latter is the state motorway, which is in excellent condition and road signs are in Arabic and English.
The coast-hugging N1 has good and bad riding stretches. However, whichever you choose to take, both will guide you through the capital, Rabat then on to Casablanca. From there, saddle-up and ride due south to Marrakech.
While using Marrakech as your base, head for the laid-back village of Essaouira on the west coast and dine on fish straight from the sea. Alternatively, ride south-west to the Tizi-n-Test Pass or best of all, the Dades Gorge, another hairpin extravaganza like the Trollstigen, but this time with sand.
Ride around Australia
Australia is a vast country, the majority of which is sparsely inhabited. It has some phenomenal riding roads but forget about riding the outback.
The Ozzie’s call these roads, ‘unsealed,' largely because they’re just dirt or gravel and continually changing due to the climate.
If you’re hell-bent on doing it the hard way, take all the usual precautions. Make sure you let people know where you’re heading and get updates of road conditions from everyone, from tourist information centers to the local drinking hole.
Don't be put off though, for as wild and woolly as the outback is; there are curvaceous stretches of blacktop that rival any in the world.
The Great Ocean Road that follows the Victoria coast is a long-standing favorite of Ozzie bikers. Depending on the time of year though, car-crawling tourists tend to get in the way of any serious footpeg scraping.
A better bet is to head for the Oxley Highway in NSW. This stretch of well-kept tarmac is a biking treasure with the best part just over 160km long. This section goes from the little country town of Wauchope, climbing over the Great Divide Mountain Range, to the New England Tablelands to Walcha.
On the climb you’ll travel through rainforests to barren plains, with over 300 bends in between, not to mention one of NSW's most photographed signs. Situated just on the outskirts of Long Flat village, it bears the legend "S bends for the next 45km.''
America, the Big Country
Where do you start in a vast country with six time zones and climates ranging from scorching desert to tundra? You could write a book about the awesome motorcycle rides through the United States, but if I had to pick only one or two, these are the rides I would choose.
Number one is the Pacific Coast Highway. This stretch of road has driven me crazy over the years, having traversed various small sections of it without ever completing the whole route.
Ask ten bikers which is their favorite stretch, and you’ll probably get ten different answers, so let’s go for the stretch that I think is most appealing.
Pick up the PCH at Morro Bay just west of San Luis Obispo and chase it up to Monterey along the California Highway 1.
This route quite literally hugs the cliff edge all the way north and is a two-wheeled sightseer’s paradise. Here, you’ll find everything from the Hearst Castle, Big Sur, giant redwoods, elephant seals, and Bixby Bridge. You can even go whale watching in Monterey.
The route is only 125 miles long, but the best way to ride it is to take three days to allow yourself to get sidetracked by whatever comes your way.
Journey two appears on so many Top 10’s that Tennessee and North Carolina should erect tollbooths. Yup, you’ve guessed it; Highway 129, better known as the Tail of the Dragon at Deal’s Gap.
The 11 mile, tree-lined stretch has over 300 curves bends and hairpins, making it feel like a 6 Flags white-knuckle ride. Get into a rhythm though, and the majority are pretty predictable. However, there are some tricky reverse cambers specifically designed to catch the unwary and those without much ground clearance.
Also be aware of drivers crossing the line, quite literally. There’s a double yellow line along the length of the road, but that doesn’t stop idiots with something to prove from crossing it to overtake.
A fair portion of the road has a steep drop to one side and a ditch on the other, but thankfully there aren’t many side roads for traffic to pull out on you. You can get riders and drivers stopping in the ‘pull-offs’ which means at some point they’ve got to get back in the flow. It's a ride never forgotten, though.
Get on Track at the Isle of Man
This destination doesn’t come up on many people’s lists, but this tiny island in the middle of the Irish Sea is home to quite possibly the most iconic and dangerous race circuit in the world.
So why feature a race circuit? The answer is simple, the 37.73-mile track is a public road, which you can ride all year round or directly after a race.
If you thought the Dragon’s Tail is a workout, the TT is over three times as long. Add a road surface pockmarked with drainage covers, raised lines, curbs, lampposts and flint wall borders, and you begin to see the picture.
This small island is a Celtic gem located halfway between Great Britain and Ireland and attracts over 40,000 visitors to see the TT alone. Held over two weeks (practice and race week), get up at the crack of dawn, and you can follow the tire tracks of some of the world’s top motorcycle racers.
You'll have to observe local speed limits going through built-up areas, but the mountain parts of the circuit are unrestricted, and during race week, traffic is one-way only.
When you complete your lap and experience the course first hand, open your laptop. Take a look at Michael Dunlop’s record-breaking 133.93mph lap captured on POV cam, if it doesn’t induce involuntary bowel movements, it’s time to check your pulse.
Nothing compares to experiencing life on two wheels, especially when your ride encompasses stunning scenery or technically challenging roads. Combining a list that widens your horizons with the Best 6 Motorcycle Roads in the World is a tricky task as everyone has their favorites and list of requirements.
However, if this article merely serves to get you reaching for an atlas, then that's a good thing. There's a big world waiting for you and the best way to experience it is on two wheels, enjoy.
(Photo links courtesy of Royalenfield.com, fjordnorway.com, moroccanworldnews.com, Shannons.com, Canyon-news.com, visitisleofman.com and IoMTT).