Where Would you like to ride?
Some insights into our readers’ aspirations!
A while back, in issue #60, July/August 2010, I asked you where you would really like to go on a bike trip — the dream destination that gets you hot. For obvious reasons this is something I keep a close eye on and I regularly compile lists.
This time, though, I was after a bit of detail, not just the name of a country or a region. I certainly got interesting responses, although not all were especially detailed …
Take Harry Strasser, who kept it short and sweet.
“Dear Bear,” he wrote, “In response to your travel question, ‘Which country interests you most as a motorcycle touring destination? Which road or what area interests you most, in any country?’ you have possibly covered this in some past issue but my answer is still the same: Canada and travelling through the Rocky Mountains. That’s got to be at least a week, hasn’t it?
“I like your magazine very much so keep up the good work. (Travelling by bike is a tough life for you, yes?)”
Yes, it is, Harry — how thoughtful of you to notice — and Canada is high on my wish list too.
The far north of North America is on Geoff Taylor’s list, as well. He was inspired by my recent travel plans.
“Ridin’ in Norway, hey …” he writes. “Maybe the next trip could be ridin’ shotgun for Ice-Road Truckers, findin’ where the holes are on the ice-ways … but ya gonna have to that one in winter.
“Well, anyway, here’s your chance for a retort: how about sussin’ out a ride from Vancouver to Alaska (Gnome [sic], Anchorage, Fairbanks — you choose the destination)? Now I went to do that about 10 years ago while I had a couple of days free in Vancouver. Even hired a BM (ditched the idea of the Buell; it was too ugly to look at for so long). Nevertheless, due to both time and financial constraints, I never made it. Locals were not too encouraging about the roads either, but that’s the adventure.
“When you think about it, there are so many polar bears that cruise that coast, sniffing the frosty air, so instead of engaging sea-sickness and enjoying cabin fever floating on a boat, why not bike all ya like? (Hmm, did Charlie Boorman do that run ‘downhill’? Can’t remember.)
“If you could selflessly do this trip for me and write it up with the usual aplomb, at least I could have a vicarious Vancouver-to-Alaska run. After Oz, Canada is my fave OS location: wide-open spaces, pristine forests, towering firs and insignificant squirrels. Enjoy the pure air for me. (I’ll just choke in Sydney a bit longer.)”
Well, you do make it sound very attractive, Geoff …
Danny Brownleigh prefers to focus a little further south, but on the same continent.
“Couldn’t agree more about touring the west of the US,” he writes. “I have done a couple of trips on a rental bike out of Los Angeles since first reading about the area in Road Rider and am now planning to head further east to Colorado and New Mexico with a couple of mates. We’re in the transport biz, so we’ll be flying our bikes to LA or maybe straight to Denver and riding from there.
“Any information about rides out of the Mile High City will be welcome. I especially want to see Cripple Creek.”
Cripple Creek is a tourist trap, Danny, but the roads around there are pretty special.
A trip to the south-western US is on the agenda for Carrie from Camperdown, in Sydney, as well.
“I don’t have a bike at the moment,” she writes. “Don’t ask why but beware of Sydney taxis. The insurance company will buy me a new bike in due course, but in the meantime I’m dreaming about my first trip to California. While the bones knit I’m making plans to explore the Pacific coast, maybe all the way up to the Canadian border. I’ll probably rent in San Francisco. Depending on what I get next I might even ship the bike.”
Martin (Martin.W.McNaught@team.telstra.com) is nothing if not specific.
“It would have to be any of the European Alps but especially those around southern France. After watching so many Tour de France races on the tube over many, many years, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to ride a motorbike over them.
“Some of the specific roads in Europe I’ve got on my list but would love to know more firsthand from someone who has actually ridden them would include:
* Buttertubs Pass, Yorkshire UK (54°22’7.31″N 2°11’15.81″W)
* Col de la Bonette in France (44°21’33.26″N 6°47’0.41″E)
* The roads of the Targa Florio in Sicily
* Transfagarasan Highway in Romania, aka Ceausescu’s Folly (45°36’11.96″N 24°36’49.41″E).”
Well, can anyone help him? I haven’t ridden any of them, not even the Col de la Bonette (which is, however, on my Bucket List).
Keith “KAT” Tomlin agrees with the general sentiment. He came up with a very simple answer, but like most simple answers it left something to be desired.
“France,” he wrote. “Or perhaps Italy.” So I wrote back and asked for a little more detail.
“Well,” he replied, “I’ve had the good fortune to see Paris; a thoroughly interesting town where there’s lotsa bikes, but frankly I just can’t think of a quicker (or dryer) way to get around than the underground.
“I’ve also had the very good fortune to see Lyon — not to be missed! I reckon the go is to take the fast train (an experience in itself) from Paris to Lyon, and then spend a couple of days in the centre of that marvellous town … while you scout out a place to hire a bike!
“You see, I’ve also had the extraordinary good fortune to do a day trip from Lyon to Geneva. Now, while that trip was in a car (a Volvo; there had to be a downside!) and mostly on major roads, when we did leave the main roads the little villages were just spectacular. We had afternoon tea in a cafe that had been a constantly running business for something like six hundred years! And the scenery is stunning. And (in my meagre experience) the Swiss roads are just what you’d expect.
“That is just one of the things I’d like to do on a bike, and if you care to scout it out for me, all the better. In fact, if you want a travelling companion and can give me a few months’ notice …”
“From my reading,” writes Colin Cavanagh, who’s done his research, “the border between Italy and France would have to have more excellent bike roads than anywhere else in the world. Not as high as some of the main alpine passes but just brilliant roads one after the other. I want to stay somewhere like Cuneo in Italy or Briancon in France and just go riding every day. Bear, I’m surprised that you haven’t tackled this already. You’re in the north of Italy every year, aren’t you?”
Yes, I am, Colin, and I’ve thought about it. The problem is that I’m always there rather late in the year and it seems that some of the passes close quite early. Worth another look, though. Not this year, for reasons you’ll see below, but maybe soon …
Simon Furniss, aka The Pom, from Phillip Island (how come he gets to live on The Island?) hears the lure of Spain.
“I have always wanted to ride across the northern region of Spain,” he writes. “Following, perhaps in reverse, the Camino de Santiago from Santiago in Galicia across and through the Picos de Europa finishing in the Pyrenees and the south of France. Two mountain ranges to traverse, plenty of history and slow food (Spanish style — is there any slower?). The whole region just fascinates me.
“Get to Northern Spain, or maybe I’ll go and write about it for you!”
Interesting you should say that — I’m off to Barcelona shortly for the Triumph Tiger launch and I’ll have a couple of days free to go for a ride. Unfortunately, that’s not enough time to do your ride, Simon (see map).
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Rusty, from just up the road in Carrum, Victoria, is happy to stay closer to home but he knows exactly where he wants to go, too.
“I would love to do a trip to NZ and ride those twisty roads that I keep reading about in ARR,” he writes. “NZ is a long, narrow country except for the centre part of the North Island which stretches from New Plymouth on the west coast to Te Araroa, a small township on the east coast.
“I think a round trip here would be interesting as it would incorporate mainly country and country towns with no real big cities which, when you have been to one, you have been to them all. One would have to land in Auckland and pick up a motorcycle then head straight to New Plymouth. After setting your course you’d head for them thar hills and enjoy the ride, the views and the locals …”
Joel Heenan thinks “it’s a crying shame you are largely ignoring Asia for ride reports (it’s a large continent!). I have personally ridden in Thailand and Vietnam and can say they are fantastic places to ride. I suspect Cambodia, Laos, Nepal, India, China all have great rides, also. Malaysia has some big mountains!”
Joel included three trip reports from Thailand “to whet your appetite” and I must say he made his point. To be fair, though, we have had ride reports from Borneo and mainland Malaysia.
Neil Werner from Newcastle is surprised so few people said Asia. “Asia is on top of my list of places to go,” he says. “I have already been to Sabah, sending 11 days riding with Terry and Brian of Borneo Biking Adventures. Excellent!
“I would like to suggest Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The people, food and the countries would make for a top motor cycle adventure. I will be in Malaysia in October for the GP and doing some riding. Looking forward to the next edition of ARR with your ride story in.
“As for Australia, that’s a hard question! Like it all and like reading other people’s perspective on places and roads I’ve been to or ridden on or places and roads I’d like to experience.
“I ride a 2002 Triumph Bonneville and a DR650, so I like road and dirt with a good meal and cold beer at the end of the day. A nice bottle or two of wine in the bag to take home is also good.”
That sounds more than reasonable to me — and I’m glad you enjoyed Borneo, Neil. As you know, we are very fond of the crew at Borneo Biking Adventures.
Keith Erskine prefers the Dark Continent.
“The countries that most interest me for motorcycle touring are South Africa, Namibia and Botswana,” he writes. “Generally good roads, magnificent scenery and an interesting cultural experience. For some unbelievable roads, it’s hard to go past the area around Cape Town: Chapmans Peak, Gordons Bay et al.
“The cost of food, grog and accommodation is very reasonable from an Australian perspective, due to the favourable exchange rate between the Rand and Oz dollar. South Africa produces some extremely high-quality wines.
“I have just returned from a 10,000km tour of southern Africa and I am intending to return in 2012. Morocco isn’t too bad, either — did that in 2007.”
Yes, we liked Morocco very much indeed, despite the severe shortage (where we were most of the time, in Essouira) of drinkable wine.
Gary Vandersluis agrees with the choice of southern, and particularly South, Africa.
“My trip there in 1999 on a Honda Varadero covered the Garden Route from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth via Mossel Bay and Knysna, Addo Elephant Park and then back via the Mountain Route and Oudtshoorn and Hermanus from where it is possible to take a boat trip out to sea and pat a white pointer on the snout if you are really stupid,” he writes. But how would you work the bike’s throttle with your right hand missing, Gary?
“The scenery in this part of South Africa is absolutely spectacular and the roads are a biker’s dream, generally wide and in excellent condition, traffic tends to be light away from the city and riding the mountain passes full bore is something every motorcyclist should do at least once.
“Despite the dire predictions that I would be shot or hacked to death it didn’t happen and provided that you use a small amount of common sense, SA is no more dangerous a location than any other for a ride. There is also a very good network of Ulysses clubs in SA.” (Gary is an ex-president of the club in Australia.)
Graeme Fitzpatrick and partner Caroline aren’t just dreaming — they’re living the dream.
“Bear,” Graeme writes, “in response to your Furball article I thought I would share with you our planned bike trip in September this year.
“I have returned to riding after a break of number of years and, when I suggested an overseas trip, my partner Caroline was keen to learn to ride, so over the last 18 months she has been learning to ride, first on a 250 and then a few months ago, after she completed her open licence, on a CB600 in preparation for our trip. Big thanks to the team at AMA Nerang for all the training.
“We will be touring through Belgium, northern France, Luxembourg and parts of Germany but predominantly we will be in Belgium and Luxembourg. After looking at a number of locations in Europe and USA we chose Belgium for a variety of reasons.
“These included, firstly, the bike BMW 650 GS: as Caroline is vertically challenged we needed to find a hire bike that wasn’t a heavy cruiser but had a low seat height. Mainly, however, it was the riding. Belgium offered us a mix of riding conditions including hills and sweeping valley roads or high mountain roads if we wanted.
“Plus a country that is famous for beer, chips and chocolate can’t be all bad, right? Anyway, I hope to take some notes and pictures and share my reader’s ride with you once we get back.”
And don’t forget that the Australian Ambassador to Belgium (and Luxembourg, and the European Community) is a friend of yours, Graeme: his Excellency Dr Brendan Nelson is a regular contributor to this magazine.
Thank you, all of you, for writing in — and if anyone else is inspired, please feel free to write as well. We’re always pleased to hear about your hopes and dreams — well, as they relate to motorcycling, anyway!