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Iberian Escape | IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour Review

IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour
On Day 1, riding the “Goat Road” (A-4050) through Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama Natural Park on our way to Granada.

Every international motorcycle tour is special, but none is as memorable as your first one. For my wife, Carrie, and me, our first international tour was in 2010 – a two-week tour of Spain and Portugal with IMTBike, a motorcycle tour and rental company based in Spain with office locations in Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Málaga, and Lisbon, Portugal.

Carrie and I have had the good fortune to go on many international motorcycle tours together. Riding two-up, mostly on a big BMW GS, we’ve explored a dozen countries in Europe, as well as Canada and Ecuador. We got engaged at the top of Stelvio Pass in the Alps and spent our honeymoon on a tour in Norway. But for that first tour, our guides were Scott Moreno, IMTBike’s founder and CEO, and “Super” Chano Lorenzo, IMTBike’s longest serving guide, who’s been with the company since 1998.

Related: Scott Moreno: Ep. 30 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

Like old friends, Scott and Chano shared their unabashed love and deep knowledge of Spain and Portugal with everyone in our group, treating each one of us as special and taking time to get to know us so they could tailor the tour experience to our particular needs or desires.

IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour
Chano is part toro.

Wake-Up Call

Of all the tours Carrie and I have been on, our most embarrassing moment happened on Day 1 of that first tour in 2010 – before we had even gotten on the bike. While enjoying ourselves at the festive welcome dinner the night before, we imbibed a bit too much vino tinto. When we got back to the hotel, feeling the effects of jetlag and the wine, we decided to wake up early to pack and get ready for the tour. I set my alarm, and we went to bed.

With the curtains drawn to block out the city lights of Madrid, I was jolted awake by the phone. It was Chano. “Buenos dias, Greg! It’s nine o’ clock, and everyone is on the bus, waiting to go. Are you ready?”

Mierda! I had gotten the a.m./p.m. mixed up on my phone’s alarm.

“I’m soooooo sorry! We overslept!”

“Don’t worry, that means you were relaxed! Scott will head over on the bus with the others and start the bike handover. I’m downstairs with everyone’s luggage in the van. I’ll wait for you.”

Hungover with throbbing headaches, our pulses racing, we threw everything into our luggage and suited up in our riding gear as fast as we could. Carrie and I are both fastidious Type A people, and we hate being late. We did the walk of shame out to the van, only to find Chano with a big smile on his face as he reassured us, “Is no problem!”

And it wasn’t. As embarrassed as we were, Chano and Scott just rolled with the situation. Our blunder was the source of playful ribbing throughout the tour, an inside joke we still share to this day. And we learned our lesson – in nearly 100 days we’ve spent on overseas motorcycle tours since that first morning, we have not been late once, and we’re often the first people on the bikes in the morning, ready to go.

A Very Good Year

IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour
The rolling hills in the Andalusia region are covered with millions of olive trees. (Photo by Carrie Drevenstedt)

Like all motorcycle tour companies, the pandemic was a gut punch to IMTBike. Covid restrictions meant the company couldn’t run tours for more than a year, but Moreno kept his team on the payroll, and they used the downtime to refresh, refine, and expand their tour offerings. IMTBike specializes in tours of the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal), but it also offers tours in France, Italy, the Alps, and Morocco, as well as MotoGP tours (Catalunya, Jerez, and Valencia) and tours in Turkey, Thailand, Japan, and New Zealand.

IMTBike resumed its tours in 2021, the same year it earned a coveted Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice Best of the Best award. In 2022, IMTBike celebrated its 25th anniversary, and Scott personally invited Carrie and me to join him and Chano on the Southern Spain Andalusia tour.

Related: Perfect Pyrenees Tour with IMTBike

Amazing Andalusia via IMTBike

As much as we were looking forward to getting the band back together for a reunion tour, a family emergency precluded Scott from joining us. Chano served as head guide, and our consolation prize was Paolo Pezzoli, a young, energetic Italian who was new to the IMTBike team.

The Southern Spain Andalusia tour hits the sweet spot – not too short or too long, not too easy or too challenging, and just right in terms of daily mileage, choice of roads, scenery, sightseeing, and accommodations. The tour is nine days, with six riding days, one rest day, and travel days on each end. It starts and ends in Málaga, a city on Spain’s Mediterranean Costa Del Sol (Sun Coast), and includes stops in Granada, Córdoba, Seville (rest day), Arcos de la Frontera, and Ronda.

IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour

Carrie and I arrived a day early to shake off our jetlag and spend a day exploring Málaga, which was founded in 770 B.C. and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. IMTBike booked a modern, stylish hotel that’s a short walk to the heart of the city. We visited the 19th-century Atarazanas Market, the 14th-century Cathedral of Málaga, and the 11th-century Alcazaba, a Moorish palatial fortress perched on a hill overlooking the city and coast.

IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour
The Renaissance-style Cathedral of Málaga was built between 1528 and 1782 but is technically unfinished since the tower on the right is incomplete.

After our walking tour – which included a stop at a busy sidewalk cafe for tapas, sangria, and people-watching – we met the tour group in the hotel’s bar. Over beers and wine, we met Lonny and Linda, a couple from Idaho; Kobus and Magda, a couple from South Africa; Bernard, a solo rider from Canada; and Oliver, a solo rider from Dominican Republic. Each of us took turns telling the group a little about ourselves, and Chano gave us an overview of the tour and rules of the road in Spain.

To keep us connected, IMTBike set up a group on WhatsApp so we could send text messages, live locations, photos, and more via Wi-Fi. We also received links to the tour’s daily routes on Google Maps and to a Google Drive folder so we could upload and share our photos.

Following the briefing, we walked to dinner. Spain is known for its afternoon siestas and late-night dinners, and in the evenings, the streets of cities we visited were bustling with locals and tourists, young and old and everything in between. Our tour was in October, with mild days and cool nights – ideal for strolling on cobblestoned and tiled sidewalks that are hundreds of years old, their surfaces worn smooth by millions of footsteps. Our welcome dinner was at a restaurant handpicked by IMTBike, and Chano got us started by ordering Iberian ham, cheese, and wine for the table. Everyone was in good spirits as we broke bread and got to know each other.

Up, Up, and Away

IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour
Our crew (plus Paolo behind the lens) enjoying a short break overlooking Arcos de la Frontera. We stayed in a historic Parador situated on the edge of the cliff in the background. (Photo by Paolo Pezzoli)

Carrie and I woke up early, enjoyed a decadent breakfast at the hotel, brought our luggage down, and walked outside to find two R 1250 RTs, three R 1250 GSs, and an F 850 GS lined up on the sidewalk. IMTBike is an official partner of BMW Motorrad, and it owns the world’s largest fleet of BMW motorcycles (more than 200 at last count). Bikes available to rent range from the G 310 R to the K 1600 GT, and all are outfitted with a top case and side cases; a GPS unit is optional. Our group was followed by a support van that carried luggage and a spare bike.

IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour
Grazalema is one of the many Pueblos Blancos (White Towns) tucked into the mountains of Andalusia.

On our first tour in 2010, Carrie and I described Spain as “California with castles.” The coastal areas of Southern Spain and Southern California have mild Mediterranean climates as well as rugged mountains that rise dramatically from the sea. Within minutes of leaving Málaga, we climbed up, up, up into the mountains on a tight, steep, endlessly curving road that kept us on our toes. After a midmorning coffee stop, we rode back down to the coast to have delicious paella right next to the beach. We ascended into the mountains again on a narrow lane carved into the rock known as the “Goat Road,” arriving in Granada in time to explore the city’s old quarter before meeting up for a gourmet dinner at one of the best restaurants in the city.

IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour
Paella, made with rice, saffron, seafood, and chicken, is one of Spain’s most emblematic dishes.

From Granada, we got full use of our tires and leaned deeply through the curves of a shaded canyon before popping out into the high plains, where we got a bird’s eye view of the village of La Peza from an overlook. We rode through endless olive groves and visited the Núñez de Prado organic olive oil factory in Baena, where the olives are crushed by enormous stone mills to extract the “flower” and first cold pressing of extra virgin olive oil.

IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour
Large cone-shaped stones are used to crush olives at the Núñez de Prado olive oil factory in Baena.

After lunch in the Baena town square, we rode to Córdoba, home to more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other city. It was a hot afternoon, so we cooled off in the rooftop pool overlooking the Guadalquivir River and the city. We explored the narrow, cobblestoned streets and visited the stunning Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba. At an outdoor cafe, Carrie and I joined Lonny and Linda for sangria, and then we enjoyed a family-style dinner with the group at a local restaurant.

IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour
Inside the incomparable Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that blends Moorish and Renaissance architectural styles.

On our third day, we rode from Córdoba to Seville on a series of backroads that seemed tailor-made for motorcyclists. Spain is a motorcycle-mad country, and you can’t help but think that civil engineers said to themselves, “Let’s make these curves flow with a nice rhythm. We’ll give them a consistent radius, good banking, and smooth pavement. Riders will love it!”

After winding through farmland with rolling hills filled with oak and cork trees, herds of sheep, and black Iberian pigs (the source of highly prized jamón pata negra), we rode over the Sierra Morena mountains and back down into the Guadalquivir River valley and the magnificent city of Seville.

IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour
Plaza de España in Seville.

We arrived with a few hours to unwind, relax, and explore before dinner. We walked from the hotel to an old restaurant decorated with bullfighting memorabilia, and we enjoyed vino tinto and plates of jamón, queso, ensalada mixta, and other delicacies, all topped off with a variety of diet-busting sweets and little glasses of house-made liqueur.

Caves, Coffee, and Cava … IMTBike Style

After a rest day exploring the wonderful city of Seville and a mesmerizing flamenco show, we continued our meandering lap around Andalusia. We rode through rolling hills of olive trees and passed several of the region’s iconic Pueblos Blancos (White Towns), where all the houses and buildings have whitewashed walls and terra cotta tile roofs. We stopped for lunch in Setenil de las Bodegas, a town built along a small canyon with houses and shops built into the hollowed out limestone caves on both sides of the river.

IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour
Houses and shops in Setenil de las Bodegas are built into limestone caves along the river.

Next up was the most impressive road of the trip, an Alps-like climb from the valley to 4,452-foot Palomas Pass. We descended an equally winding and scenic road and made our way to Arcos de la Frontera, an old town built high on a limestone promontory. De la Frontera means “on the frontier,” so named because Arcos was on the frontlines of Spain’s 13th-century battle with the Moors. Perched on the edge of the cliff overlooking the Guadalete River, our hotel was a Parador, one of roughly 100 hotels managed by Spain that are in buildings of historical, artistic, or cultural interest.

IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour
The winding road up to Palomas Pass reminded us of the Alps.

Leaving Arcos de la Frontera, we rode under the flying buttresses of the cathedral and descended steep, narrow cobblestone streets made damp by overnight rains. We continued our ride along La Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos (Route of the White Towns) where whitewashed villages on the mountainsides stand out like large polka dots on the green landscape. We rode into Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park and wound our way up to El Boyar Pass on our way to our morning coffee stop in a bustling town square.

IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour
In Arcos de la Frontera, we stayed in a Parador across from the 15th-century Basílica de Santa María de la Asunción. Its flying buttresses tower over the narrow road that leads into the town’s old quarter.

Every day, we rode up and down on small mountain roads and through idyllic agricultural plains. Traffic was minimal, and the rugged, old-world scenery was enchanting. On our fifth riding day, we enjoyed more fast and fun roads in the afternoon as we made our way to Ronda, a city perched high on both sides of the Tajo gorge carved by the Guadelevin River. We stayed in a Parador on the edge of a cliff overlooking the “new” 300-year-old bridge over the gorge (the old bridge was built during the Roman Empire).

IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour
Our second clifftop Parador of the tour was in Ronda, overlooking the “new” bridge and the Tajo gorge.

We started our last day of the tour with a beautiful sunrise over Ronda. We rode east into the rugged granite mountains of Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park, winding our way through canyons and over passes toward El Burgo.

IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour
Sunrise over Ronda.

It was Saturday, and we stopped for coffee at a popular meet-up spot for motorcyclists, its tables abuzz with riders and its parking lot full of bikes. The final highlight of the tour was a ride up to El Torcal de Antequera, a mountain ridge covered in unusual karst rock formations that reminded us of Joshua Tree National Park seen through the eyes of surrealist painter Salvador Dalí.

IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour
Having fun during a coffee stop.

We descended more narrow, twisty roads back to Málaga, where we turned in our BMWs at IMTBike’s warehouse and toasted a celebratory glass of cava. After drinks and laughs on the hotel’s patio, we enjoyed a festive farewell dinner at another wonderful restaurant.

IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour
Admiring the view from El Boyar Pass in Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park. The Mediterranean Sea is visible on a clear day.

The week went by fast, a sure sign of how much fun we had. Chano and Paolo were a constant source of charm and good humor, and they did a lot of work behind the scenes to keep everything running smoothly. Our small group bonded quickly, and even months after the tour, we still send messages via WhatsApp to stay in touch.

IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour
Lonny and Linda, a delightful couple from Idaho, enjoy a scenic ride through Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park.

If you love good roads, good food and wine, and nice accommodations, as well as history, architecture, and rugged mountain scenery, this tour is for you. Just try not to oversleep.

IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour
On the last day of the tour, we rode through El Torcal de Antequera, a natural reserve that protects a mountaintop covered in unusual rock formations.

The 2023 Southern Spain Andalusia tours run March 11-19, April 15-23, and Oct. 14-22. Visit the IMTBike website for more info.

The post Iberian Escape | IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour Review first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Endless Curves | Adriatic Moto Tours Sardinia and Corsica Tour Review

Adriatic Moto Tours Sardinia and Corsica Riders' Heaven Guided Motorcycle Tour
This winding road hugs the sides of colorful peaks rising from the sea at Calanques de Piana, Corsica.

The Sardinia & Corsica – Riders’ Heaven tour was my first guided motorcycle tour. It won’t be my last. For nine days in mid-October, I rode with 10 experienced riders from six countries on intensely winding roads through spectacular scenery. We toured the Mediterranean islands of Sardinia (an autonomous region of Italy) and Corsica (an autonomous region of France). Adriatic Moto Tours made it easy: Just show up with your gear and ride.

Related: European Motorcycle Touring: What to Know Before You Go

Adriatic Moto Tours Riders’ Heaven Day 1: Olbia, Sardinia

Adriatic Moto Tours Sardinia and Corsica Riders' Heaven Guided Motorcycle Tour

After exploring Olbia’s old town on foot, I returned to the hotel to find 10 motorcycles lined up like soldiers awaiting inspection. I recognized a smiling face from the Adriatic Moto Tours website and said hello to Anže Colja, our guide for the Sardinia & Corsica – Riders’ Heaven tour. Six riders in our group had taken an AMT tour before, and one was taking his fifth.

Later, at the introductory briefing, Anže offered insights about riding these Mediterranean islands. “The roads are fantastic,” he said, “the best in Europe. Every day we will ride narrow, twisty, technical roads, but you’re not on a racetrack, you’re on vacation. Can you see far enough to pass? Wait until it’s safe, then commit and go! Take care of each other, and have fun.” 

Adriatic Moto Tours Sardinia and Corsica Riders' Heaven Guided Motorcycle Tour
Each morning, Anže briefed us on the day’s ride.

Born and raised in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, Anže is an economist by training and an affable soul by nature. He speaks Slovenian, English, German, and Croatian, plus enough Italian and French to help us order meals in restaurants that cater to locals rather than tourists. And, as we discovered, he’s one talented rider.

Anže explained that our group would stay united, though not always together, using the system of Static Corner Marking. Anže would always lead, one rider would bring up the rear, and riders in between would alternate “marking” where the route turns by remaining at the junction until the next rider arrives. Each rider also had a GPS with daily routes pre-programmed, so it was hard to get lost. And if we wanted to go on our own, we simply let Anže know.

Adriatic Moto Tours Sardinia and Corsica Riders' Heaven Guided Motorcycle Tour
The coasts of the Mediterranean islands of Sardinia and Corsica are dotted with small ports and harbors full of fishing boats, sailboats, and yachts.

We also met Peter Cvelbar, who drove the support van and managed tour logistics. Peter is a staff sergeant in the Slovenian Army, and he used a portion of his leave to work this tour. Each morning, we found our bikes wiped down and positioned for a smooth departure, but he did much more. Our luggage was waiting for us in each new hotel room. Bike or equipment issues were quickly addressed. We were given information regarding travel, food, and culture. Both disciplined and easygoing, Peter worked his magic behind the scenes so all we needed to do was ride.

Adriatic Moto Tours Sardinia and Corsica Riders' Heaven Guided Motorcycle Tour

After being assigned bike keys, registration papers, and GPS units, we checked out our machines. I chose a BMW F 900 XR for its torquey twin-cylinder engine, flickable handling, and strong brakes. Its Galvanic Gold colorway certainly stood out too.

When we gathered for dinner, a guide’s principal value – local knowledge – was revealed. In Olbia’s old town, Anže led us off the main pedestrian way and along a succession of narrow cobblestone alleys, past a sign declaring “NO PIZZA,” and downstairs to an intimate restaurant. Staff were expecting us, and our table was waiting. After dessert, we returned to the hotel and traded stories on the portico, eagerly anticipating the next day’s ride. (Breakfast and dinner are included on this tour. Riders pay for their lunch, alcoholic drinks, and fuel.)

Adriatic Moto Tours Riders’ Heaven Day 2: Olbia – Ajaccio

Adriatic Moto Tours Sardinia and Corsica Riders' Heaven Guided Motorcycle Tour

Our first day riding took us north along the famous Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast) and past the granite and basalt rock formations that form the two islands. The route was scenic and curvy, but Anže said we hadn’t seen anything yet.

In Santa Teresa, we caught a ferry to Bonifacio, Corsica, a historic city on a cliff, and then rode north toward Ajaccio, birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte and the capital of Corsica. The roads to Ajaccio became tight and technical, with curves that just kept coming.

Along the coastal road in Coti-Chiavari, I spied an unpaved lay-by with a stellar view, so I pulled over. While shooting photos, I walked up to the highest rocky point. A man was sitting there, seemingly alone with his thoughts, but he gestured for me to join him. “Parlez-vous anglaise?” I asked, hoping he spoke English. He shook his head. “Non.” So instead of talking, we shared the dramatic vista in silence. After a while I said, “Au revoir,” and we shook hands genuinely, cementing a friendship of coincidence. 

At dinner in Ajaccio, Anže asked the group which of the next day’s two route options we preferred. I was leaning toward the longer option (more riding), but he suggested the shorter option through the sparsely populated interior. “Less traffic,” Anže assured me. “And twistier.” Local knowledge proved its worth once again.

Adriatic Moto Tours Sardinia and Corsica Riders' Heaven Guided Motorcycle Tour
In Coti-Chiavari, Corsica, I shared a spectacular view of the Mediterranean with this coincidental friend.

Adriatic Moto Tours Riders’ Heaven Day 3: Ajaccio – Corte

Corsica has more mountains and rivers than any Mediterranean island, and the roads hug the constantly changing landscape. After a mid-morning break for coffee, we rode to the Calanques de Piana, spiky granite formations that rise from the sea in shades of red, brown, and orange. The road is carved into their sides. Places to stop and safely enjoy the view are few, but Anže knew just the spot. I set up a group photo against a red rock backdrop; that one’s going in a frame.

Adriatic Moto Tours Sardinia and Corsica Riders' Heaven Guided Motorcycle Tour
Stone peaks in shades of red, brown, and orange jut from the sea at Calanques de Piana, Corsica. The island is an autonomous region of France.

Next, we turned inland for the mountain route. Flat land is rare on Corsica, so it’s common to see cows grazing along the road. They seemed accustomed to motorcycles passing by, but we slowed down and gave them space. I had to wait as two cows crossed a one-lane bridge at a leisurely cow pace. We also encountered large pigs foraging in the road on fallen chestnuts. Later, Anže explained that Napoleon had planted chestnut trees along roads in lands he controlled to provide his troops with shade and a source of food. The pigs appreciated that too.

Adriatic Moto Tours Sardinia and Corsica Riders' Heaven Guided Motorcycle Tour
Happy riders from six countries mug for the camera at Calanques de Piana, Corsica.

We continued curving and gaining elevation. Our hotel in Corte overlooked the rugged landscape we rode through. The view from my room was stunning. For dinner, I chose local pork (chestnut fed?) roasted for six hours and served with cannellini beans. It was succulent – definitely not your mom’s pork-and-beans.

See all of Rider‘s International Touring stories here

Adriatic Moto Tours Riders’ Heaven Day 4: Corte – Bonifacio

Adriatic Moto Tours Sardinia and Corsica Riders' Heaven Guided Motorcycle Tour

Anže mentioned at our first rider briefing that he’s an instructor at a high performance riding school. I rode behind him as we ascended mountains through one hairpin turn after another. I noticed he was looking back at me in his mirrors – always the instructor.

We built a fair distance between us and the next rider, so Anže pulled into a lay-by to regroup. While we waited, I asked how I was doing through the hairpins and what I could do better. He suggested looking even deeper into corners and modulating speed in turns using the rear brake instead of rolling off. On these roads, I practiced this technique over and over. When our group stopped in Cozzano, Anže and I continued the lesson over coffee.

That evening, we caught a dazzling sunset from the limestone cliffs at Bouches de Bonifacio, a nature reserve. After some free time exploring the narrow, cobbled alleys of Bonifacio’s old town, Anže led us to a small restaurant that caters to Corsicans.

Adriatic Moto Tours Sardinia and Corsica Riders' Heaven Guided Motorcycle Tour
Views from the cliffs at Bonifacio, Corsica, did not disappoint.

Adriatic Moto Tours Riders’ Heaven Day 5: Bonifacio – Alghero

As we boarded the ferry that brought us there three days ago, we left behind the most intense, continuous twisties I’ve ever ridden. Anže assured me there would be more in Sardinia. Along the route in Località Multeddu, we visited Elephant Rock, which lives up to its name. Farther on, we stopped at the coastal town of Castelsardo, known for colorful homes built into the mountainside above the sea.

Adriatic Moto Tours Sardinia and Corsica Riders' Heaven Guided Motorcycle Tour
In Località Multeddu, Sardinia, Elephant Rock lives up to its name.

We savored more twisties and sparse traffic until we approached our destination of Alghero. In this historic and congested city, Static Corner Marking kept the group united. We all arrived safely at our hotel as the sun was setting over Rada di Alghero.

The Carlo V Hotel and Spa is rated five stars. It’s the fanciest hotel I’ve ever visited while riding a motorcycle. Throughout this tour, our accommodations exceeded my expectations. The dinners were impressive as well. Each evening, Anže ably selected starters for the table, then we all ordered a la carte from the menu.

Adriatic Moto Tours Sardinia and Corsica Riders' Heaven Guided Motorcycle Tour
At Castelsardo, Sardinia, colorful homes are built into the rocky hillside.

Adriatic Moto Tours Riders’ Heaven Day 6: Rest Day in Alghero

A day away from continuous, intense twisties afforded my mind and body a well-earned break. Fueled by a growing Italian vocabulary, a willingness to wander, and two scoops of mid-morning gelato, I explored the sprawling old town. After lunch, four of us enjoyed afternoon cocktails and a swim in the hotel pool, which wasn’t heated – brrrr!

Adriatic Moto Tours Sardinia and Corsica Riders' Heaven Guided Motorcycle Tour
We spent our rest day in Alghero on Sardinia’s western coast.

When my stomach signaled it was ready for dinner, I searched for cucina tipica Sarda (typical Sardinian cuisine) and chose pescata de giorno (catch of the day). The server took me to select the specific fish the chef would prepare for me. “You like grilled with patatas and pomodori, signore?” Sì, grazie. The chef served my dish tableside, and everything was delicious. A lemony concoction arrived for dessert, then I ordered a dram of 16-year-old scotch to complete the experience. Walking back to our hotel, I ran into tour members dining al fresco on the seaside promenade. We all had a good day off.

Adriatic Moto Tours Riders’ Heaven Day 7: Alghero – Cala Gonone

Refreshed and ready, we followed Anže along the winding coastal road south to Bosa. As we rolled through town, a smiling old woman stood on her stoop and waved to us. I blew her a kiss in return, and by the look of her reaction, I suspected it made her day.

Adriatic Moto Tours Sardinia and Corsica Riders' Heaven Guided Motorcycle Tour
Everyone enjoyed riding at their own pace, and we’d regroup at stops.

We kept twisting east on roads less traveled through Macomer and on to our first stop, the Nuraghe Losa of Abbasanta. It’s one of thousands of cyclopean stone monuments unique to Sardinia and built by a Bronze Age people called the Nuraghi between 1,600 BCE and 1,200 BCE. Anže arranged a private tour, and a delightful woman named Pina helped us appreciate the monuments and the people who built them.

Over lunch, Anže reminded us to embrace Sardinia’s offering to riders: roads with practically perfect grip and corners that seem to continue forever. AMT schedules the Riders’ Heaven tour twice a year: in spring (before tourist season begins) and in fall (after it’s over). That’s why these roads were largely ours.

Adriatic Moto Tours Sardinia and Corsica Riders' Heaven Guided Motorcycle Tour
Near Siniscola, Sardinia, this road curves along below the ridgeline.

For afternoon coffee, we stopped in Orgosolo, which has murals painted on buildings throughout the town. Most feature themes of social resistance, and many seem informed by the style of Picasso’s Guernica. 

Next, we carved curves down the mountains to Cala Gonone. Our hotel was across the street from the Mediterranean Sea, and several of us enjoyed a swim before dinner. Thankfully, the water was warmer than the hotel pool in Alghero. After dinner and more conversation, I retired for the night to the sound of waves crashing ashore outside my window.

Adriatic Moto Tours Sardinia and Corsica Riders' Heaven Guided Motorcycle Tour
Rocky scenery surrounded us, such as here in Zérubia, Corsica.

Adriatic Moto Tours Riders’ Heaven Day 8: Cala Gonone – Olbia

After following closely behind Anže for several days, I volunteered to bring up the rear, which presented opportunities to enjoy scenery that wasn’t whooshing past in a blur. Beyond Lula, we gained elevation along a meandering road chiseled into the mountainside. Up to the east were bald peaks reaching skyward. Off to the west was a rolling valley of green forest interrupted occasionally by terraced farmland. A road was carved into the next distant mountain too, leading to a village perched on a rocky hillside. Farther west were multiple rows of rock-topped mountains fading into the horizon.

From Nuoro to Bitti, the roads zigged and zagged through cork plantations and over mountains. Eventually we reached Olbia and concluded this incredible journey at the same hotel where it started. Peter welcomed us with champagne, and we raised our glasses in celebration. What a trip it had been!

Adriatic Moto Tours Sardinia and Corsica Riders' Heaven Guided Motorcycle Tour
Bark has been harvested from this cork oak. The bark will grow back, making it a sustainable resource.

At our final dinner, Anže told me that Sardinia and Corsica are his favorite places to ride, without question. “Not for the sights or food, which are still good, but for the roads, which are insanely good. The grip is great, the curves have positive camber, and you just keep twisting through mountains, forests, and coastlines. And off-season, when the crowds are gone, you can just go.”

AMT’s Riders’ Heaven tour was a fantastic experience for me at every level: bike, roads, routes, scenery, sights, cities, towns, people, food, accommodations, leadership, logistics – the whole package. And leveraging a guide’s local knowledge brings it all together.

Adriatic Moto Tours Sardinia and Corsica Riders' Heaven Guided Motorcycle Tour
A champagne toast marks the end of the Riders’ Heaven tour. Salute!

In 2023, the Sardinia & Corsica – Riders’ Heaven tour runs May 13-21 and Oct. 14-22. Visit the Adriatic Moto Tours website for more information.

The post Endless Curves | Adriatic Moto Tours Sardinia and Corsica Tour Review first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Tackling the Trans Euro Trail on a BMW Airhead

Albania Trans Euro Trail TET
Albania via the TET exceeded all my expectations; it’s truly an ADV riders’ paradise.

The seeds for my journey on the Trans Euro Trail were planted in 2015, when I toured Europe on my BMW R 100 CS. I had the briefest sample of Albania, an afternoon riding the most dramatic mountainous landscape on a pristine ribbon of tarmac. Smooth riding perfection soon turned into a perilous off-road trail that put my bike and me well out of our comfort zone. As snow fell and my extended sump rebounded off rocks, I made a rare sensible decision and turned back to Montenegro, vowing to return better prepared one day.

Albania Trans Euro Trail TET
The author modified his 1982 BMW R 80 ST with late-’80s GS parts such as the tank, seat, fairing, bash plate, front wheel, and rear shock.

This time around I took my 1982 BMW R 80 ST. It’s not a true off-road bike, but modified with a wide handlebar, a 21-inch front wheel, a longer rear shock, and a bash plate, it’s more than capable of taking on tricky terrain. With countless days on Wales’ toughest greenlanes, plus an enduro race under my belt, I was ready to take on Albania properly.

Read all of Rider‘s BMW coverage here

Albania Trans Euro Trail TET
Throwover panniers have more than one use.

Choosing a route was easy. The Trans Euro Trail is an incredible resource. With nearly 32,000 miles of off-road trails mapped across Europe, it’s a lifetime’s worth of riding. The Albania section covers 500 miles, which could be a day’s riding on tarmac but is a lot longer off-road. Free GPS routes are available at TransEuroTrail.org, and there’s even a TET app for Android phones that allows you to download all the routes.

Related Stories:

Getting There and Sampling the Trans Euro Trail

Albania Trans Euro Trail TET
The Trans Euro Trail is 500 miles of Albania’s toughest trails, stretching from beautiful beach resorts of the south to snowy mountains in the north.

Albania is inconveniently located nearly 2,000 road miles away from my home in Wales. No doubt there’s some spectacular riding on the direct route, but I’ve traveled its roads plenty of times before, and there are too many motorway miles that crush spirit and wear out knobby tires. Instead, I took the ferry to Santander, Spain, with further ferries taking me to Sardinia, Sicily, mainland Italy, and finally to Albania. It’s a great alternative route with fewer motorway miles, beautiful landscapes along the way, and overnight ferries costing not much more than a hotel room – and you can sleep while the boat does the work for you.

The route also gave me a chance to sample other sections of the TET and get a feel for what to expect from it.

When the ferry landed in sunny Santander, I headed south to join the TET at the nearest jumping-on point. As soon as my wheels left the tarmac, I hit thick, wet clay, and within 800 yards, I was on the ground and struggling to pick up the heavily loaded bike as my boots slipped in the slick clay. For a moment I just stood there, staring at my once-pristine bike wedged in the mud on its side. Maybe I wasn’t as ready for this as I thought.

Albania Trans Euro Trail TET
Rain on the plain in Spain led to muddy sections of the TET.

Eventually I got the bike upright, and the next 10 miles was an arduous crawl through deeply rutted clay across unremarkable farmland. The Michelin Anakee Wilds, usually a very capable 50/50 tire, failed to get any real grip as the clay filled the tread, and I had to paddle my feet just to stay upright. The bike was caked in clay, filling every gap between wheels and frame and baking itself solid against the hot engine. I was dirty, hot, exhausted, and soaked with sweat.

Is this what the TET is about? I can fall off my bike in muddy fields back in Wales anytime I want.

As I made my way to Barcelona via the Pyrenees, I hopped on and off the TET at convenient points, using paved roads to make up some miles in between. Thankfully the riding improved in both trail quality and scenery, although I was occasionally hindered by deep snow in the higher ground. 

Albania Trans Euro Trail TET
Forty years on, the BMW Airhead is still many riders’ go-to machine for long distance adventures.

I rode a short section of the TET in Sardinia, fast gravelly trails over beautiful hills, and for the first time I could see the wheel tracks of other bikes.

In Sicily, I enjoyed a few easy days of touring and sightseeing before making a beeline for Brindisi on the southeast coast of Italy, where I boarded the overnight ferry to Vlorë in Albania.

My Welcome to Albania

On arrival in Albania, I realized my first mistake: I had my passport, motorcycle insurance, Covid pass, and international driving permit but no vehicle registration documents, which turned out to be vital for crossing borders in this part of the world. In the early hours of the morning, I woke my fiancée back home to email a PDF copy. The border guards were not overly impressed, but it was enough to get me through.

Albania Trans Euro Trail TET
Albania’s troubled history lays in plain sight throughout the country, everything from huge monolithic war monuments to thousands of bunkers built during the 44-year reign of communist leader Enver Hoxha.

To join the TET, I took the most direct route, which seemed like a major road when looking at Google Maps. On arrival, that road turned out to be a stone military road built by the Italians during World War II – and barely maintained since. The frugal suspension travel on the stock ST fork made for a bumpy ride as I tried to pick the best line across the stones. As spectacular as the views were, it was tough going.

If this is just the road to the TET, how hard is the actual TET?!

When I joined the TET to make my way to the most southerly point of the route, I was surprised to find a smooth tarmac road that winded up in the hills past some spectacular monolithic war monuments before turning to dirt as it dropped down to the warm sunny coast. A spectacular ride, not too challenging, and I finished the day with a pannier-cooled beer on the beach watching the sun go down. A trail rider’s dream!

Albania Trans Euro Trail TET
The grueling trails aren’t without reward.

The next day, I began making my way back north and inland, using tarmac roads to skip the section of the TET I’d already done. When I rejoined the dirt trails, they once again wound into the hills, passing tiny villages of makeshift homes, friendly farmers herding livestock, and rivers cutting their way through gorges and flowing under precarious bridges. One thing the TET has done is bring commerce to these faraway places that otherwise see very few tourists. Groups of trail-weary bikers buy drinks and food and camp in the fields – or in my case, take refuge in the basic B&Bs that cost next to nothing to stay in.

The Trans Euro Trail to Some; the Daily Commute to Others

It was my third day in Albania, but I’d already been away from home for 15 days. The trails had been spectacular, but I’d heard they were tough, and so far I hadn’t experienced too much of a challenge. That was about to change.

After an early-morning meal of a banana, cheese triangles, peanuts, and some unidentified tinned fish purchased at a small corner shop, I dropped down the mountain into the town of Gjebes where I saw a battered old Kawasaki 200 trail bike. Its owner soon appeared and introduced himself with well-spoken English. His name was Djem.

When I checked the GPS that morning, I noticed the TET offers two options: a straight(ish) 10-mile section or an alternative 40-mile detour into the hills labeled as “wet option.” The shorter section follows the river, so I asked Djem if it could be ridden this time of year.

Albania Trans Euro Trail TET
A solitary donkey, hauling hay through a remote village … just another day in the Albanian hills.

“Sure, I’m going that way to work this morning. You can follow me, but I’m running late.”

Djem set off at a pace down the mountain trail, ably carving the best line at speed, which I tried to follow while taking liberties with the ST to keep up. So far on this trip, I’d ridden with a “this bike has to get me home” attitude, but that was thrown out the window.

Albania Trans Euro Trail TET
During drier spells, the route along the river bed can save a major detour into the hills.

As advertised, we left the road and dropped onto the vast rocky riverbed. Djem weaved a line from bank to bank, bouncing over the stones and occasionally plowing through the river. As exciting as chasing Djem was, after five minutes, I thanked him and said farewell. He left me with one bit of advice: “When you see the second village, make an exit. After that the water is too deep.”

Realizing our last river crossing was rather photogenic, I decided to take the opportunity to take a much-needed rest and shoot a picture. I made the crossing several times until I was happy with the shot and continued on my journey – only to completely misjudge the climb up the riverbank that I’d just done five times over and topple into the river.

Albania Trans Euro Trail TET
It only takes one moment like this to feel a long way from home.

My bike was upside down, and my phone mount fell off and went floating down the stream with the phone inside. Petrol was pouring out of both carbs, so I immediately shut off the taps. With the bike at an awkward angle on the riverbank, I couldn’t get it fully upright with the weight of all the luggage. I was forced to drag the bike to a more favorable position, which meant the whole bike was now in the river. After a lot of swearing and my new deadlift personal best, I got it back upright. Thankfully the bike suffered no damage, and I came out with just a nice lump on my shin as a prize. I managed to rescue my phone from farther down the river, but it was fully drowned and lifeless. 

Albania Trans Euro Trail TET
Fir of Hotova National Park.

After draining the carbs and a few nervous cranks of the starter motor, the ST spluttered back to life, belching a plume of damp, oily fumes as it cleared its left cylinder. With a dead phone and no GPS to follow, there was just the small matter of navigation. I could see where other vehicles had traveled for the most part, but in sections the pathway seemed to disappear into rocks, leaving me aimlessly bumping around the riverbed searching for a passable route.

Every now and then the reappearance of Djem’s wheel tracks reassured me I was on the right track, only to disappear into water, nowhere to be found on the other side. I plunged in and out of the river, one time beaching the sump on a hidden rock and losing all traction. After that, I began walking the river crossings first to assess a safe route, my boots filling with water as the crossings got deeper. I started wondering if, while focusing on my riding, I’d accidentally gone too far. After nearly two hours, I was relieved to see the second village, and I rode back into relative civilization. Finally, a chance for a drink in a modest Albanian refuge and to empty the water out of my boots.

This was my big adventure for the day, but to Djem it was just another commute.

The Climb to Theth

In stark contrast to the slog across the riverbed, the next day involved fast, open, well-graded trails. For the first time, my speed stayed consistently above 30 mph, and I made good progress, leaving only 75 miles of the TET remaining by the time I reached my accommodation. It was a smart-looking hotel from the outside, but inside it was barely decorated and revealed some dubious building standards, such as a 230-volt socket in a wet room within splashing distance from the shower head and a polished public balcony with no railing.

Albania Trans Euro Trail TET
Albania’s many gravel roads are slowly being replaced by tarmac.

After surviving an overnight stay in the hotel, I was ready to take on the final section, a jaunt into the Albanian Alps arriving at Theth, one of the country’s top tourist draws. The trail started as tarmac but soon degraded into tough, rocky, technical riding on a path not much wider than a small car and a plunge to certain death as the reward for lost concentration.

Albania Trans Euro Trail TET
The back road to Theth is a tough trail with very little margin for error.

By midday I felt like I’d been climbing forever, but I’d only covered 12 miles of the road. The ST was already losing a significant amount of power due to the altitude. It wasn’t until late afternoon that I finally reached Theth, but the effort had been worth it. The harsh, desolate landscape gave way to an oasis of color and beauty in the hills. Charming little houses dotted a towering, snow-tipped landscape, with a blue crystal-clear river running through a deeply cut gorge.

Albania Trans Euro Trail TET
During the winter months, the main road into Theth is impassable due to the snow, cutting off the village from the outside world.

Mercifully, the ride back out of the hills was a smooth tarmac road, albeit with 6-foot walls of snow towering on either side, razor sharp hairpins, and a dizzying descent down the mountain. Despite the evening drawing in, the air warmed as I got closer to the sea, the roads opened up, and the ST regained power as it breathed more oxygen. Not only did the 40-year-old BMW complete the Albanian TET, but it had excelled as a riding companion.

When it comes to an adventure bike, less is certainly more. Traction control, ride modes, adjustable windscreens, and TFT displays are all just distractions around what you really need: a solid, dependable machine that’s easy to live with day to day and can be fixed with basic tools on the road. The ST is light for an adventure bike, coming in at just over 440 lb with fluids compared to a whopping 550 lb on the latest R 1250 GS. In fact, with most of Albania’s vehicles being around 30-40 years old, the ST fit right in!

I don’t like describing my bike as a “classic.” The word suggests a machine kept for its history and novelty, but Airhead BMWs aren’t there yet. To me, they still cut it amongst the best, and their work is not yet done. With the Albanian TET under my belt, I’m now looking toward the next adventure on the ST.

The post Tackling the Trans Euro Trail on a BMW Airhead first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

The Long Way Across Ontario on the Trans Canada Adventure Trail

Trans Canada Adventure Trail
Snowmobile trails become motorcycle trails during the summer. (Photos by the author)

After months of planning and a morning of pavement riding, we arrived at a section of the Trans Canada Adventure Trail near Huntsville, Ontario. Our plan was to ride about 900 miles of the TCAT, which stretches 9,000 mostly off-road miles from Newfoundland in the east to British Columbia in the west (see sidebar “TCAT 101” at end of the story).

Our group was a fairly diverse threesome of riders. Dan, who had some dirt-riding experience, was concerned with how his Yamaha Super Ténéré would handle some of the tighter, more technical parts of the trail. Greg’s KTM 790 Adventure was probably the most off-road capable bike on this trip, but with almost zero dirt-riding experience, he didn’t know how he would handle the rigors of the trail.

I had the most dirt-riding experience, and with my new-to-me, BBQ-black enamel painted Kawasaki KLR650 – easily the ugliest bike on the trip – I was probably the least concerned with dropping my bike.

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Dirt Naps and Wet Boots

Trans Canada Adventure Trail
Dropping a bike in soft sand is a rite of passage.

Within minutes of getting on the TCAT, we were faced with a fairly steep hill to climb with good-sized rocks and ruts. I made it to the top, but Greg lost momentum and fell, breaking his left side mirror. A broken mirror only five minutes into the off-road portion of the ride was not a great start. After the required photo, we righted his bike, Dan made the hill, and we carried on. 

A few miles up the trail was the first deep, long water crossing with a pond on both sides. Greg again stumbled and got caught in a rut. In one scary moment, Greg fell, getting his bike twisted around and aimed directly into the pond we were crossing. One inadvertent twist of the grip and his bike would still be in that pond today. Getting it out ensured that both his and my boots were soaked, as waterproof boots are only effective when the water is not up to your knees. 

Trans Canada Adventure Trail
Greg heading the wrong way through a pond.

After Greg had another fall in some deep sand, we decided we should start looking for a spot to camp. Our plan for this ride was to camp on public Crown land (see sidebar) as often as possible to add to the adventure and reduce our costs. There promised to be a lot of Crown land up north, but we knew it might be harder to find where we were at that point. 

While looking for a camping spot, Dan led us through a puddle that looked on the surface like every other one we had recently splashed through. But this one was different. As Dan rode into it, his front wheel disappeared into the water, followed by the rest of his bike nearly up to the seat. He quickly hit the kill switch to avoid sucking water into the airbox and was stuck deep in the muck. After the requisite laughter and photos for posterity, Greg and I pulled him out backwards using a tow strap we had brought for such occasions. Now Dan was a member of Team Water-Soaked Boots.

Trans Canada Adventure Trail
Dan’s Super Ténéré deep in the muck. It took two of us, a tow rope, and water-filled boots to pull him out.

Related Story: A Solo Journey on the TransAmerica Trail

Trans Canada Adventure Trail? Or Zombieland?

Exhausted and fearful of future bike-sucking puddles, we left the trail and camped in an area with several abandoned RV trailers and a bus, left to rot away in what appeared to be an unofficial RV graveyard. 

Trans Canada Adventure Trail
Camping at an unofficial RV graveyard the first night fueled our zombie dreams. Photo by Dan McPhee.

After a night filled with zombie RV nightmares, we found the TCAT again. The trail turned from an abandoned, pulled-up rail line to a narrow one-lane “road,” to a two-lane logging road, followed by a highway near North Bay, then back to an old rail line again. The variations of the route ensured that we remained focused, monitoring the terrain for rocks, potholes, and water. After what seemed like forever along an old rail line, heading west directly into the setting sun, we camped in my aunt and uncle’s backyard, which is a bit off the trail on a beautiful lake near Sudbury.

Trans Canada Adventure Trail
Crossing a bridge along an old rail trail between North Bay and Sudbury.

In the morning, we continued along the TCAT to an old rail bridge that we were not brave – or stupid – enough to cross. It seemed about 450 feet long and at least 100 feet high with no side rails. Many rail ties were missing, broken, or burned. There was evidence of snowmobile tracks on the bridge, but we agreed that trying to ride our bikes across was a terrible idea, so we backtracked and got on the highway toward Sudbury.

Trans Canada Adventure Trail
We crossed many bridges on the Trans Canada Adventure Trail, but we deemed this one too risky. Photo by Greg Fabris.

Once back on the TCAT north of Sudbury, we were totally alone. The road turned into a single lane with trees on each side. If two cars were to meet here, they would have to negotiate a path to allow each other to get by. We didn’t see any cars though – or anyone else. A stop near a river gave us a chance to enjoy the natural beauty and sounds of a seemingly endless supply of rushing water. The isolation was a rarity for us, and the peace of shutting our bikes off in the middle of the trail and hearing nothing but the gentle breeze through the trees never got old. 

The TCAT offers some alternate technical sections that roughly parallel the main track. One section we took follows a power line cut through the woods and offers up some decent challenges, including rocky ascents and descents. Several water crossings gave us some difficulties and wet boots, but we eventually made it through.

Trans Canada Adventure Trail
Having friends along for the ride means blunders are well-documented and help is available when you need it.

‘It’s log, log! It’s big, it’s heavy, it’s wood!’

Once off the technical section, the track had us on a road where the only traffic was logging trucks. There were three tire tracks in the gravel, and we tried to stay on the farthest right one, especially around corners, because the trucks use up the two left tracks and then some.

Trans Canada Adventure Trail
The lead dog stays dust-free on a logging road south of Shining Tree.

We almost choked in the dust thrown up by the trucks. One time, after two trucks went by in a row, I could hardly see the road in front of me and had to slow down for fear of going off the side. 

We found a nice camping spot just off the road with an outhouse, which, at this point in this isolated part of the province, was a luxury for us. 

Trans Canada Adventure Trail
Our campsite near a logging road. Dust hangs in the air from the trucks roaring by a few yards away.

After making it to Shining Tree the next morning, we bypassed the 60 or so miles of logging road the TCAT follows that would’ve taken us to Timmins and instead got on Highway 560 toward Watershed. The track again took us on a logging road toward Chapleau, where we stocked up on groceries, knowing that the next stretch would keep us away from civilization for more than 24 hours along some snowmobile trails toward Wawa.

Trans Canada Adventure Trail
Some bridges on the old rail trail have been updated and are easily passable for vehicular traffic.

Leaving Chapleau, we rode on gravel roads for a while, and we started searching for a camping spot. Our goal was to find a spot that was roomy with plenty of space for a fire, as well as water nearby for swimming and collecting our drinking water. In this part of the province, there is a ton of Crown land, but our standards meant that we had some trouble finding a good spot that day. We finally found a seldom-used boat launch where we set up our tents as the sun was setting. We had a great fire on a beautiful sandy beach, listening to the calls of the loons on the otherwise deserted lake under the glow of the nearly full moon.

Trans Canada Adventure Trail
A beach campfire by an isolated lake makes for a great ending to a great day.

The next day our gravel road turned into a snowmobile trail, wide enough for a truck but with a lot of rocks, sand, and hills. Trails that are smooth and easy in the winter on a snowmobile can be treacherous in the summer on a motorcycle. 

Hello? Anyone Out There?

Isolation was our constant companion. We had seen only a couple of people since the previous afternoon in Chapleau. As we were riding along, a black bear suddenly darted out about 20 feet ahead. He quickly vanished into the bushes, but the shock of it stayed with me for a while, so I slowed my pace. Hitting a bear was not something I was keen to do. 

Trans Canada Adventure Trail
Another well-maintained bridge on the trail to Wawa.

Shortly after the bear sighting, we came across a clearing by a lake where someone in a truck camper had set up. Needing our morning coffee, we stopped and asked if he minded if we made our coffee by the water. Dan had a swim while I made the coffee, and we had a chat with the man, who said he loves the area and comes up every summer from Michigan with his canoe and ATV. He gave us a few pointers about the type of route we had ahead of us.

Trans Canada Adventure Trail
We had coffee with a fellow from Michigan who visits Northern Ontario every year.

We arrived at Halfway Haven Lodge, which coincidentally is located about halfway between Wawa and Chapleau on the trail. It’s mainly a hunting camp and snowmobile lodge and was closed for our summertime visit. In the winter months, it has fuel and a few cabins for rent. A neat place in the middle of the Northern Ontario wilderness.

Trans Canada Adventure Trail
Halfway Haven Lodge, along the snowmobile trail between Chapleau and Wawa. Photo by Dan McPhee.

We continued on the sometimes rocky and challenging trail, which again followed a power line. It is safe to say that the power line portions of the northern Ontario TCAT are some of the most challenging sections. They are also the most interesting and offer some of the nicest views. Eventually the track turned back into a small road. It was another hot day, so we took advantage of a great swim spot on the side of a gloriously refreshing river. 

Trans Canada Adventure Trail
Riding along a power line north of Sudbury.

As we approached Wawa and the end of the TCAT portion of our trip, we came across a small box in the road with a handwritten note on it saying there was a washout ahead and the road was not passable. A man in a truck confirmed that the washout indeed made it impossible for us to get through. We considered going to check it out for ourselves, but Greg had reached his limit for gravel and trail riding, so we declared the end of our TCAT journey and made our way back to the pavement of Highway 11 and eventually home.

Trans Canada Adventure Trail
The sign that signaled an end to our TCAT travels – at least for now.

The section of the TCAT from Huntsville to Wawa was everything we had hoped it would be. If you crave isolation and remoteness without being more than a few hours from civilization and challenging adventure riding, the Ontario portion of the TCAT will reward you. We’ve already begun planning our next TCAT journey.

Trans Canada Adventure Trail Sidebar: TCAT 101

Trans Canada Adventure Trail

The Trans Canada Adventure Trail is a 9,000-mile route across Canada from the east coast of Newfoundland to the west coast of Vancouver Island. It started out as a concept in 2007, took five years to map out, and was put together with the help of many volunteers. Most of the route is gravel or dirt, with some pavement sections where necessary. If a rider is looking for more of a challenge, there are some alternate sections that are more technical than the standard route. Visit GravelTravel.ca for more information and to purchase the GPS tracks of the TCAT for $25.

Much of the TCAT in northern Ontario goes through Crown land (what Canadians call public land), and it’s important to obey rules about what you can and cannot do. Camping by Ontario residents is free for up to 21 days at any one site per year. Nonresidents must pay a fee of approximately $10 per night, and permits can be purchased online. For more information, click here.

The post The Long Way Across Ontario on the Trans Canada Adventure Trail first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Edelweiss Bike Travel Releases 2023/24 Tour Brochure

Edelweiss Bike Travel

The Edelweiss Bike Travel tour brochure is back with nearly 180 pages worth of tour information. With over 40 years of experience offering an extensive range of motorcycle tours, Edelweiss has added new tours this year on top of beloved classics.

Related Story: Edelweiss Bike Travel Best of Greece Tour Review

Tours take place on six continents and range in difficulty, length, and type of riding, all of which is detailed in the new brochure. Tours also vary in ride time vs. sightseeing time, allowing riders a chance to dive into the cultural experiences of the countries and lands they ride through.

Riders can choose to ride their own bikes or rent bikes or gear from Edelweiss, with over 35 motorcycles to choose from. Edelweiss also offers custom tours in which you can customize your tour to fit the needs of your group along with world tours and self-guided tours.

Related Story: Edelweiss Southern France Tour Review

In 2023 for the first time, Edelweiss is offering the Adventure Saudi Arabia and Jordan tour, a two-week excursion through the desert ending close to the Dead Sea. Also debuting in 2023 is the Adventure Country Tracks Tour in the Pyrenees.

Edelweiss Bike Travel

The Edelweiss Bike Travel tours brochure is available for free either by mail or to download online. Riders can also get $250 off their tour if they book now until Oct. 31 using code EBB2023. For more information and to see available tours, dates, and pricing, visit EdelweissBike.com.

The post Edelweiss Bike Travel Releases 2023/24 Tour Brochure first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Himalayan Cliffhanger | Riding India’s Death Road

Himalayan Cliffhanger Riding India's Death Road
A first glimpse at the Cliffhanger, with the majestic pine tree forests of Kishtwar, Jammu, and Kashmir, towering above.

They call it the Cliffhanger. As one of India’s most dangerous and deadly roads, it is a real treat for the experienced motorbike rider. The unpaved route, which is part of National Highway 26, connects two states, joining the towering forests of Kishtwar in the state of Jammu and Kashmir to Killar in the pristine Pangi Valley in Himachal Pradesh. Due to the difficulty and risks involved, this is one of the lesser traveled routes in the Himalayas.

The hazardous, narrow, and spine-chilling road snakes nearly 150 miles around the edge of a steep-walled gorge, much of it hacked out of a stone cliff face, hence its nickname. Through a series of harrowing switchbacks and slopes, the Cliffhanger climbs from 5,374 feet in Kishtwar to 8,091 feet in Killar. A sheer drop on one side could plunge a rider 2,000 feet down into the mighty Chenab River should they make even the smallest of errors. It’s not for the faint of heart.

The gorge carved out by the Chenab River, which churns 2,000 feet below the precarious road.

I had already ventured across uniquely difficult roads in Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Himachal Pradesh aboard my 2009 Royal Enfield Machismo 350. Purchased secondhand from a small shop in Goa, I named her Ullu, after Goddess Lakshmi’s steed in Indian mythology, a white owl that she rides into battle.

Ullu and I had been on many journeys together around India and experienced our fair share of breakdowns. She boasted a twice-welded frame, a starter with a mind of its own, and a fondness for breaking tappet rods. A lack of motorcycle mechanics in the backcountry meant a bit of risk, but I was undeterred.

Several of the roads Ullu and I had ridden were touted as the highest passes in not just India but in the entire world, so claimed by bikers in immaculate road gear with selfie-sticks attached to their full-face helmets and stickers affixed to their bikes listing the names of their latest conquests. In my waterproof jacket and Wellington boots, open-face helmet and face scarf, torn jeans and strap-on knee pads, I stood in stark contrast to the other bikers.

Himalayan Cliffhanger Riding India's Death Road
Hairpin bends and switchbacks add to the challenge – and the fun!

Riders I passed on these roads wore leather-clad and armored bike gear that makes them look 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide but when removed, revealed either a tiny, skinny Indian or someone who was, in fact, 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide. In a land of plentiful chapati bread, either is possible.

Though I had done minimal research, I had an idea of what I was about to face. Whispered-about routes discussed over a plate of dal in roadside dhabas are not to be sniffed at. If you follow the breadcrumbs, there are rare rewards to reap.

Interesting hazards presented challenges on my previous trips in northern India, such as metal hooks and nails protruding from the road surface, and thin, silky sand which often whipped up into one’s eyes and robbed tires of grip, snaking across the darkening roads like a subtle cobra, making riders wobble and flounder on steep corners. The lipped edges of most Indian roads I had encountered were uneven and hid all manner of surprises, from barbed wire to broken whiskey bottles, even downed electrical wires.

Himalayan Cliffhanger Riding India's Death Road
Sections with fine, powdery sand make the Cliffhanger feel even more loose and uncertain. The margin for error is razor thin!

What unexpected tricks would the Cliffhanger have up its sleeve?

It was the day after my 33rd birthday, and I could think of no better gift to myself than this trip. There is no greater thrill than risking your life on high ledges, of pushing yourself to exhaustion, of handling a heavy machine and guiding her up the dodgiest of inclines, your whole life on your luggage rack, knowing that at any moment a brief loss of focus or a sweaty-gripped mistake could cost you everything.

Given Ullu’s penchant for breakdowns, I promised a bar full of bikers that I would not attempt the Cliffhanger alone. Joining me was my partner, John Gaisford, on his 2012 Royal Enfield Electra, named Pushkarini after the gorgeous stone baths at the edges of many Indian temples.

Himalayan Cliffhanger Riding India's Death Road
The author aboard a heavily laden Ullu, her 2009 Royal Enfield Bullet Machismo. On the left is John Gaisford’s 2013 Bullet Electra, nicknamed Pushkarini.

Having heard so much about this road, I was expecting a little more from the entrance than an idle earthmover and a nondescript road marker. But it turned out that the road, post-monsoon, was under serious construction and cordoned off. Passage was restricted to only one hour, twice a day.

We waited in a dhaba that would, at the end of the road, rob me of two days of riding thanks to some sketchy tap water. We met two other bikers there who fit my earlier description. Their bikes – KTM RC 200 and Yamaha FZ250 sportbikes – were loaded with the latest technology and gear, but it soon became apparent that they had no idea what they were about to attempt.

Himalayan Cliffhanger Riding India's Death Road
The author at the starting line, with the Enfields (Ullu and Pushkarini), a Yamaha FZ250, and a KTM RC 200.

I suspected that the sports nature of their bikes and street-biased tires made for speed on good roads could cost them dearly on those slippery corners should that famous sand appear. I had seen similar bikes stuck in precarious situations on my journeys through India, usually in the mud. The Machismo, heavy and dependable, had seen me across many a difficult road surface. Though, what its new grippy back tire giveth, the heavily loaded luggage rack taketh away.

John and I rode back to the checkpoint to line up behind a fraying rope with the pristine-looking bikers, who must have thought us quite alien with our well-worn bikes covered in road grit and dust. Someone finally let down the rope, and we cheered. I was the first out of the gate, grinning widely. Being a woman in the lead on the oldest bike in the group is about as empowering as it gets, and I believe it sets an example that women belong on motorcycles.

With the other Himalayan high-pass roads I had ridden, it took time to reach sections that filled me with a sense of impending doom, the catch-your-breath sections, the parts for which I wish I had one of those idiotic head cameras after all, to capture those moments in all their glory. But not the Cliffhanger. It was a lump-in-my-throat challenge right away as my front tire rolled over crumbling rock. A video would never do this road justice.

Himalayan Cliffhanger Riding India's Death Road
The author and Ullu teetering on the outer edge.

After five minutes, I was laughing maniacally, calling out to no one that could hear me that I was going to die, my wheels nonsensically guided by shaking hands and a fast-beating heart, which pumped like my Enfield’s engine, loud and roaring. In my mirrors I caught sight of the KTM sliding haphazardly, as predicted, from side to side along the terrain, and I quickly refocused my attention on the broken road.

The drops were something else. You know how when someone tells you that they have been on a high road, and it was steep? When someone says they scaled a sheer cliff face, it is usually exaggerated – or in fact true, but with at least a guardrail or signs around the edges or a lay-by to pull over and take photographs, usually named something romantic like Sunset Point. The Cliffhanger offered no signs, no railings, and no relief.

Himalayan Cliffhanger Riding India's Death Road
The author and Ullu navigate a section of the Cliffhanger covered in slippery sand. The edges are crumbly, ready to fall away.

Whilst trying to get a photo of the cliff, I sat at the edge for a second and knocked a rock with my boot. Seconds later, part of the cliff fell off where my foot had been, and I scrambled back, praying no one had seen me be so foolish. After experiencing this incredible road, falling accidentally off the edge because I could not get the correct angle for a photograph did not seem quite as glorious as plunging to my death atop my Enfield.

The cliff I had been so keen to capture was one of many stunning examples, overhanging, cavernous, and beautifully shaped, with sharp angles and grotesque claw-like edges. Riding through and under these felt like being in a fantasy movie like Labyrinth or Lord of the Rings. Living it was something else entirely.

Himalayan Cliffhanger Riding India's Death Road
Due to the high altitude, some vehicles needed a push after stopping for photos.

There was nowhere to stop for a water break, no chadar tents for food. The track was about the width of one 4×4, with few places where it felt reasonably safe to enjoy the mesmerizing view. The temperature was chilly in the shadows, but the sun when overhead burned down on us. We pressed on, doing our best to enjoy the terrain, sometimes hearing the odd scream of frustration or achievement of the other in front or behind.

It was a long day. Eventually the desert-stone rocky paths of the gorge gave way to the lush green pine trees of the valley. As darkness fell, Ullu’s weak headlight did little to illuminate whatever hazards lay ahead.

Himalayan Cliffhanger Riding India's Death Road
The author squeezes underneath the overhanging cliffs while giving way to a local man and his cow.

As the road smoothed out, I stopped alone to switch off the engine and experience the silence all around me. I felt, as is often the case when in the heart of the Himalayas, that I was completely and utterly alone. In our busy world where we long for tranquility, there is no feeling like it.

The road ended as unremarkably as it had begun. The KTM and Yamaha had made it too, and they finally passed us, speeding off into the blackness, with John and me exchanging knowing smiles. Royal Enfield likes to say its bikes are “built like a gun,” and ours had certainly set the standard. I gave Ullu a once-over. Her cracked fork had held out, but the front mudguard had not; the next morning, it would be wrenched off entirely by a surly bunch of local mechanics.

The Cliffhanger had been a test of both rider and bike. I remembered with a smile all the bikers I had met on the way whose suspensions had given out on roads nowhere near as treacherous, making a mental note to treat Ullu to an oil change when we got home, grateful as I was for her. Together, we had beaten the odds.

The Cliffhanger, taxing in effort and mesmerizing in beauty, was a journey by which I will measure every other motorcycle expedition. It was like a roller coaster with just the right amount of thrill but not so much it makes you nauseous. The Cliffhanger left me wanting to do it all over again.

Himalayan Cliffhanger Riding India's Death Road
The author with her feet up on Ullu after both conquered the Cliffhanger.

Ellie Cooper is passionate about inspiring other women to ride motorcycles. She taught herself to ride in India, and she has explored the country on her secondhand Royal Enfield. Cooper is the author of Waiting for Mango Season, available now, and she writes for various online publications about travel, adventure, and relationships. You can connect with her on Twitter (@Ellydevicooper) or visit her website EllieCooperBooks.com.

The post Himalayan Cliffhanger | Riding India’s Death Road first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Edelweiss Bike Travel Best of Greece Tour Review

Edelweiss Bike Travel's Best of Greece Tour
One of the many scenic views along the winding coast of Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula. Photos by the author and Carrie Drevenstedt.

Having never been to Greece before, my mental postcards of the country consisted of the crumbling Parthenon in Athens and a cluster of white-washed, blue-roofed houses overlooking a turquoise sea.

The Parthenon, which my wife Carrie and I visited the day before the Edelweiss Bike Travel Best of Greece tour began, looked like I thought it would. Well, except for the scaffolding. The temple at the Acropolis is nearly 2,500 years old and was partially destroyed by the Venetians in 1687, so a little sprucing up is in order.

Edelweiss Bike Travel's Best of Greece Tour
The Parthenon rises high above Athens at the Acropolis.

Those white-washed houses are on Santorini, an island out in the Aegean Sea. We didn’t go there, and that’s a good thing. Places like Santorini are where huge cruise ships disgorge hordes of waddling tourists. The Edelweiss tour avoids crowds and takes the roads less traveled.

Edelweiss Bike Travel's Best of Greece Tour

From Athens to the Oracle

Our tour began with meeting the guides, who gave us a safety briefing and an overview of the tour. Booklets, a hotel list, and a map of Greece were mailed to us in advance, but if I’m honest, I barely looked at them. The experts at Edelweiss have been running motorcycle tours since 1980, and they know what they’re doing. Since they take care of the preparation and planning, I enjoy letting the tour unfold from one day to the next.

Edelweiss Bike Travel Best of Greece Tour
Our tight-knit group of Americans enjoyed the roads, sights, and culture of Greece for two full weeks.

Our group was small, just eight participants, all Americans. Three couples rode two-up – Bob and Ronnie from Virginia, Ken and Evelyn from Georgia, and Carrie and me. Two guys rode solo – Yoram from California and Dave from Virginia. (Check out Dave’s travel tips on European motorcycle travel.) Our guides Paul (from Minnesota) and William (from the U.K.) alternated days riding the lead bike and driving the support van.

Edelweiss Bike Travel's Best of Greece Tour
Smiles for miles. After a full day of riding challenging roads, we enjoyed a well-deserved “boot” beer at our hotel overlooking Lake Plastiras.

The first day of any overseas tour is a little stressful. Some folks are still jet-lagged, others are getting used to an unfamiliar bike on unfamiliar roads, and everyone is adapting to a new routine. Even so, our small group and common language made it easy for us to gel and get along.

Athens is a big capital city that’s home to nearly 4 million people – more than a third of Greece’s population. It’s great for sightseeing before or after the tour, but our objective was to escape the city as quickly as possible. After battling some Monday morning traffic, we did just that, climbing high into mountains on a narrow, winding road, giving us a taste of what was to come.

Edelweiss Bike Travel Best of Greece Tour
One of the curvy roads we rode on the first day of the tour.

Rainer Buck, managing director of Edelweiss, ranks Greece as one of his top three riding destinations because “it’s like a mountain range was dropped into the sea.” Greece is tied with Slovenia as the third most mountainous country in Europe after Norway and Switzerland. Nearly 80% of the country’s land area is covered by sloped terrain that motorcyclists long for.

Listen to our interview with Rainer Buck on Episode 8 of the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

Edelweiss Bike Travel's Best of Greece Tour
Riding in Greece’s mountains was like being in the Alps but with less traffic.

Located at the southern tip of the Balkans, Greece has a peninsular mainland bordered to the north by Albania, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Turkey, and is surrounded on three sides by the Aegean, Myrtoan, and Ionian seas. The Peloponnese region is a large peninsula that resembles a fat, four-fingered hand, separated from the mainland by a narrow canal through the Isthmus of Corinth. Scattered around these land masses are thousands of islands. Our 1,500-mile tour followed a counterclockwise route around part of the mainland and much of the Peloponnese.

Edelweiss Bike Travel's Best of Greece Tour
The Kipina monastery is built into the side of a cliff.

Not only is Greece a great place to ride, its significance in terms of human culture runs deep. Located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa, it has been inhabited since at least 270,000 B.C. Pick your historical era – Stone Age, Bronze Age, Dark Ages, Middle Ages – and Greece was the place to be. It’s the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy and literature, theater, the Olympic Games, and a lot of the math and science we learned in high school. Heavy hitters like Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Hippocrates, Homer, and Euclid were all Greek.

Built in the 10th century, the Monastery of Hosios Loukas is one of fives sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List we visited on the tour.

Greece is lousy with brown signs pointing down empty roads toward historic sites. Temples, monasteries, necropolises, theaters, you name it – there are more than can be visited in a lifetime. This tour visits major or unique sites, including five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We visited two – the 10th century Monastery of Hosios Loukas and Delphi – on our first day. Established in the 8th century B.C., Delphi was where one would go to receive an oracle from the priestess of Apollo. It was also considered the center of the world, being the place where two eagles released by Zeus, one to the east and one to the west, came back together.

Edelweiss Bike Travel's Best of Greece Tour
Delphi, one of several sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List we visited, was built in the 8th century B.C. It sits between two towers of rock in the Parnassus Mountains.

Bagging two UNESCO sites and getting our fill of switchbacks up and down steep coastal mountains, expansive views of the Gulf of Corinth, narrow roads winding through endless olive groves, and a high pass through a vibrant evergreen forest made for a full first day. The day’s heat was cooled by an afternoon thunderstorm and a post-ride “boot” beer – enjoyed while still wearing our riding boots.

For Your Eyes Only

By Day 2, we were finding our groove. Up early for breakfast, bring luggage down at 8:15, ride briefing at 8:30, and kickstands up at 9. From our mountainside hotel in Arachova, we summited a pass, cruised through a lush alpine valley full of ski chalets, wound our way up through evergreens to a ski slope, and then plunged down an endless series of hairpins to a hot, dry valley.

Edelweiss Bike Travel Best of Greece Tour
“It’s all Greek to me!” Reading road signs in Greece can be challenging. In the background is one of the ubiquitous kandylakia, small roadside shrines.

Early on, this tour taught us to expect the unexpected and be ready for anything. Like listening to enormous storks clacking their beaks in a nest above us while we ate lunch at a small outdoor cafe. Or passing by countless kandylakia, which are small roadside shrines erected to honor lost loved ones or saints for good fortune. We visited a monastery built into the side of a cliff, another built inside a tree, and others perched atop towers of stone.

Edelweiss Bike Travel's Best of Greece Tour
The Panagia Plataniotissa church occupies the hollow of a tree.

On Day 3, after a picnic lunch overlooking a broad agricultural plain, we visited Meteora, a sprawling rock formation where dozens of monasteries were built atop sandstone pillars in the 14th century. Access to the monasteries was intentionally difficult, not only as protection from invaders but to test the faith of pilgrims, who had to ascend hundreds of feet by climbing ladders or being hoisted up in nets. Only six of the monasteries remain, hardy structures that have survived attacks by the Turks, bombing raids during WWII, a magnitude-7 earthquake in 1954, and the filming of a James Bond movie in 1981.

Edelweiss Bike Travel's Best of Greece Tour
Meteora, which means “lofty,” is a complex of monasteries perched atop sandstone pillars more than 1,000 feet high. Built hundreds of years ago, they were once accessible only by ladders and ropes.
Edelweiss Bike Travel Best of Greece Tour
One of the monasteries at Meteora.

Day after day, we were surprised by the ruggedness of the scenery and tested by the trickiness of the roads. Edelweiss stitched together a challenging, convoluted route, so much so that it occasionally gave the tour guides’ GPS units fits. The width, pitch, and condition of the roads changed constantly, from smooth, wide highways to steep, narrow paths riddled with potholes, cracks, and dips. Although the route was almost entirely paved, we were kept on our toes by sand, gravel, mud, cow manure, fallen rocks, rain, fog, and even patches of snow.

Edelweiss Bike Travel's Best of Greece Tour
Dodging snowbanks on Baros Pass.

Above all, we had to be on the lookout for animals. Traveling off the beaten path, we shared the road with cows, horses, goats (often in large, road-blocking herds), sheep (ditto), dogs (often lying on the road), cats, snakes, and turtles. What we rarely dealt with, however, were other vehicles. Outside of the few cities we visited, there were hardly any cars, trucks, or buses on the road. It was like having Greece to ourselves.

Edelweiss Bike Travel's Best of Greece Tour
Rush-hour traffic.

From the Mountains to the Sea

Our first few days were spent riding through mountains that seemed like they could have been in the Alps. On the fourth day, we rested. Some took advantage of the downtime to explore the mountain town of Metsovo, while others rode north into the Pindus Mountains near the Albanian border to visit Vikos Gorge, a cleft in the earth up to 4,400 feet deep and the world’s deepest gorge relative to its width.

Edelweiss Bike Travel Best of Greece Tour
Vikos Gorge

From Metsovo we turned south, climbing up and over mountain pass after mountain pass, including one that was mostly covered by a snowbank and had opened just days before. After a full day of challenging roads, we crossed a small floating bridge to the island of Lefkada. As happened at the end of most riding days, we enjoyed a celebratory boot beer and then gathered for a group dinner. We sat outdoors at the Crystal Waters resort, savoring the salty breeze and local fare as we recapped the day’s adventures, topping it all with glasses of ouzo.

Edelweiss Bike Travel's Best of Greece Tour
Coffee stop in the village of Kalarites, near Baros Pass.

On Day 6, we rode along the southern coast of the mainland, the sea’s color ranging from topaz in the shallows to dark cobalt in the depths. We stopped for a morning coffee at a cafe on the edge of a small harbor, where a fishing boat pulled up and sold its catch directly to locals.

Edelweiss Bike Travel's Best of Greece Tour
We enjoyed a morning coffee stop in Mytikas, a small fishing village where the day’s catch was sold to locals right from the boat.

We left the mainland by way of the Rion-Antiron Bridge, crossing a narrow section of the Gulf of Corinth to the Peloponnese peninsula. We wasted no time climbing back up into the mountains on roads full of twist and shout. Late in the afternoon on the way to Vytina, we hit rush-hour traffic – herd after herd of goats and sheep being led down the road by shepherds and dogs.

Edelweiss Bike Travel's Best of Greece Tour
The Rion-Antiron Bridge, the world’s longest fully suspended multi-span cable-stayed bridge, connects the mainland to the Peloponnese peninsula.

On the second rest day, our entire group rode to the ruins of Olympia, the ancient center of worship of Zeus and the site of the Olympic Games from 776 B.C. to 394 A.D. The temples and sports structures were mostly destroyed in 426 A.D. by an angry emperor and further damaged over the years by earthquakes and floods. Since the Olympic Games resumed in 1894, the Olympic flame has been lit at what remains of the Temple of Hera and transported by a torch to the host cities.

Edelweiss Bike Travel's Best of Greece Tour
Built in 590 B.C., the Temple of Hera is the oldest sanctuary in Olympia. The Olympic flame is lit here and then transported to the sites of the Olympic Games.

Prepare for Glory, and Olives

On Day 8, we sliced south through the heart of the Peloponnese, from Vytina in the mountains to Megalopolis in the valley. We made time on the motorway to reach Sparta, which, despite its legendary reputation as the home of courageous, self-disciplined warriors, is now just an ordinary city that’s well past its prime. A statue of mighty King Leonidas, who had the brass to take on the entire Persian army with 300 brave soldiers, overlooks an abandoned building.

Edelweiss Bike Travel's Best of Greece Tour
Riding through the Langada Gorge near Sparta.

Rising out of Sparta is a winding road that burrows its way into the Taygetos Mountains via the Langada Gorge. After ascending a few switchbacks, the road cuts into the side of the gorge through a series of tunnels and overhangs on its way up to a 5,000-foot pass. We wound our way down to the coastal city of Kalamata, known for its namesake black olives, and had lunch on the beach. It was a hot afternoon of riding along the coast, and after a boot beer in Areopoli, several of us cooled off with a swim in the Ionian Sea.

Edelweiss Bike Travel's Best of Greece Tour
The village of Limeni, where we swam in the Ionian Sea.

Our final rest day was in Monemvasia. We stayed in a beautiful resort hotel with two infinity pools, a gourmet restaurant, and views of vineyards and the sea – the perfect reward after logging so many challenging miles. It was also where Carrie and I celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary. Paul and William had a special treat sent to our room, and the next morning we found our GS decorated with tissue paper, empty beer cans strung together with duct tape, and a “just married” sign.

Edelweiss Bike Travel Best of Greece Tour
Our hotel near Monemvasia, where we enjoyed a rest day.

Over our final two days, we made our way back to Athens, riding north along the Peloponnese coast, where we enjoyed coffee and lunch stops overlooking the sea and visited the theater at Epidaurus, built in the 4th century B.C. and renowned for its exceptional acoustics.

Edelweiss Bike Travel's Best of Greece Tour
The 2,500-year-old theater at Epidaurus can hold 14,000 spectators.

Our Bucket Overfloweth

Greece seems to be on everyone’s bucket list. If they’ve never been, they want to go; if they’ve visited before, they want to go back. It’s a magical, mysterious, romantic place that looms large in our imaginations and is rich in history, culture, cuisine, scenery, and so much more.

Edelweiss Bike Travel's Best of Greece Tour
We ate well in Greece and ordered Greek salad with fresh tomatoes and local feta every day.

It is difficult to fathom the depth of history in Greece’s mountains and along its shorelines. Living in a nation barely two and a half centuries old on a continent “discovered” five centuries ago, seeing the remnants of kingdoms and empires that stretch back several millennia boggles the mind, like trying to comprehend the far reaches of outer space. Is this real? Did actual humans carve this stone and erect these temples, till this soil and fish these waters, worship gods and contemplate ideas of self-determination?

Edelweiss Bike Travel Best of Greece Tour
Riding along the Peloponnese coast.

Spending two weeks in Greece engaged our senses, dispelled our preconceived notions, and tested our mettle. This tour is not a walk in the park. It is challenging and at times quite intense, with long riding days on technical roads with variable weather and conditions. Every night we collapsed into bed, dead tired but deeply satisfied.

Edelweiss Bike Travel Best of Greece Tour
Riding in the mountains on Greece’s mainland.

Edelweiss Bike Travel’s next Best of Greece tour is scheduled for October 8-21, 2022. The tour will run twice in 2023: May 1-15 and September 29-October 12. For pricing, details, and information about Edelweiss’ full schedule of tours, visit EdelweissBike.com.

The post Edelweiss Bike Travel Best of Greece Tour Review first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

European Motorcycle Touring: What to Know Before You Go

European Motorcycle Touring

After reading this issue’s article about Edelweiss Bike Travel’s Best of Greece tour, you’re probably already thinking about your next vacation. European motorcycle touring with Edelweiss is as easy as travel gets. The most difficult part is deciding which tour to book because they all look so good. (Visit EdelweissBike.com to see the full list of tours around the world.)

European travel, especially by motorcycle, is an incredibly exciting and rewarding experience. But before you book your tour, keep the following in mind to maximize your enjoyment.

First, acknowledge your level of riding skill. Edelweiss rates its tours for difficulty on a scale of 1 (easiest) to 5 (most difficult); most are rated 3 or 4. Read Edelweiss’ guide for how it rates tours, take it seriously, and then honestly assess your ability. Want to up your game? Sign up for Edelweiss’ One-Day Alps Prep Course or its seven-day Alps Riding Academy tour.

Second, choose the right bike for the tour. The easiest thing to do is select the same bike you already own. If you ride a BMW GS at home, then you’ll feel comfortable on one in Europe. Or you could take the opportunity for an extended test ride on something different. But before you dive in headfirst, go to your dealer and sit on the bike to get a feel for it. Consider the bike’s seat height, weight, and power, especially if you plan to ride with a passenger. On switchbacks in the Alps, a smaller, lighter bike is always easier to manage.

To prepare for your trip, I recommend buying Rick Steves’ book Europe Through the Back Door. Steves has been writing about European travel for more than 40 years, and his books are full of valuable advice. He also has a website, an online forum, a YouTube channel, and many free podcasts and audio tours. Steves covers most of the basics but not travel by motorcycle. We face a few challenges other tourists don’t.

These days, commercial air travel can be chaotic. Airports are crowded, lines are long, flights can be delayed or canceled, and those that take off are full. Once you’ve booked your motorcycle tour, book your flights as soon as possible so you’ll have the most options at the best prices. Book flights with long enough layovers for your checked baggage to make your connections and to allow breathing room for delays.

When luggage doesn’t arrive at a destination, it’s an inconvenience for most tourists. For motorcyclists, it can have serious consequences. Without gear, you can’t ride, and replacing a helmet or jacket at the last minute can be time consuming and expensive. Riding gear is heavy, so a lightweight gear bag will help you stay within the 50-lb weight limit. Carry your helmet onto the plane as your personal item to keep it safe.

Know the travel rules regarding passports and Covid. Check your passport’s expiration date and ensure it is valid for at least six months after you return home. Covid guidance is constantly changing, so stay up to date. Before we went to press, the U.S. lifted its requirement to show a negative Covid test taken the day before a return flight. Be prepared before you go and have a backup plan.

Try to arrive at your tour’s departure hotel at least one day prior to the tour briefing. Flights can be delayed, connections missed, and luggage lost, so give yourself some margin for error. Jet lag is also a consideration, so I suggest planning a few days of sightseeing prior to the tour. It’s more enjoyable to get acclimated to the new time zone in a Munich biergarten than on a steep alpine pass.

As for riding gear, plan for the worst and hope for the best. Weather can be unpredictable. Expect it to be hot and dry one day and cold and rainy the next. Bringing two riding suits is impractical but bringing two pairs of gloves isn’t. It’s a lot easier to control a bike with warm, dry hands. Your bike will have side cases, a top case, and a tankbag, so you’ll have plenty of room for gear. (Except for Ride4Fun tours, your luggage will be transported from hotel to hotel in a support van.)

Wear moisture-wicking, fast-drying clothing made of synthetic materials under your riding gear. Bring a layer for warmth, and pack dedicated raingear, even if your gear promises to be waterproof. (Pro tip: Stash two plastic grocery bags with your raingear; slipping them on over your boots makes it much easier to pull on rain pants.) Also, don’t overpack clothing. Bring travel packets of detergent, and do laundry in your hotel bathtub or sink. It will dry overnight. Casual attire is acceptable almost everywhere.

Use your smartphone or a point-and-shoot camera for photos. Dealing with an expensive DSLR camera and lenses is an unnecessary hassle unless you are a pro shooter. And remember to bring two or three Europe-compatible electrical outlet adapters to charge your devices.

Finally, be prepared to have an awesome trip. Riding in Europe is amazing. The scenery is breathtaking, the food is excellent, and the people are friendly. European drivers also have an awareness of and respect for motorcyclists that U.S. drivers often lack. About 60% of Edelweiss tour participants are repeat clients. What you thought would be a once-in-a-lifetime, bucket-list vacation could very well become an annual event.

The post European Motorcycle Touring: What to Know Before You Go first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Join Rider on Adriatic Moto Tours’ Sardinia and Corsica Tour, Oct 15-23

Sardinia and Corsica Tour Adriatic Moto Tours
Want day after day of challenging twisties and amazing scenery? Here’s your chance!

Join long-time Rider contributor Scott “Bones” Williams on the Adriatic Moto Tours Sardinia and Corsica – Riders’ Heaven tour, scheduled for October 15-23, 2022. Read on for tour details, or click here to visit the tour page.

The mountainous, rugged islands of Sardinia and Corsica, situated in the Mediterranean Sea west of Italy, have some of the best roads, best scenery, and most unique culture in all of Europe.

Sardinia and Corsica Tour Adriatic Moto Tours

Hilly and curvy, with a very jagged coastline and craggy rock formations, Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean (after Sicily) and is an autonomous region of Italy. It offers thrilling views while riding perfect bends of never-ending seaside cliff roads. Its rugged landscape is dotted with thousands of nuraghi – mysterious Bronze Age stone ruins shaped like beehives. Not to mention a scattering of Roman ruins, Pisan churches, and Spanish Baroque architecture.

A ferry crossing reaches French Corsica, serving up more twists and turns as the roads wind their way through pine-forested hills and small villages.

Sardinia and Corsica Tour Adriatic Moto Tours

This nine-day tour includes six riding days (covering a total of 850 miles) and one rest day (in Alghero, Sardinia) bookended by travel days. Here’s a day-by-day itinerary:

Day 1: Welcome to Sardinia!
Day 2: Olbia – Ajaccio
Day 3: Ajaccio – Corte
Day 4: Corte – Bonifacio
Day 5: Bonifacio – Alghero
Day 6: Rest day in Alghero
Day 7: Alghero – Cala Gonone
Day 8: Cala Gonone – Olbia
Day 9: Flight home from Olbia

Pricing starts at 3,580 euros (approx. $3,640) for a rider on a rental motorcycle sharing a double room – or 2,990 euros (approx. $3,040) if riding your own motorcycle. Single-room occupancy, higher-spec motorcycles, a passenger, and other upgrades are extra. See tour page for full details and pricing.

Sardinia and Corsica Tour Adriatic Moto Tours

The price includes:

  • Late model motorcycle with lockable hard luggage and tankbags, plus third-party liability insurance and comprehensive vehicle insurance
  • Experienced guide on a motorcycle
  • Support van for luggage, souvenirs, and one or two passengers
  • Eight nights accommodation in quality (mostly 4-star) hotels
  • Eight breakfasts in the hotel
  • Seven dinners, mostly in traditional local restaurants
  • All (two) ferry rides and tolls
  • Airport transfers up to five days prior to the tour start, on the last day of the tour, and one day after the tour
  • Entrance fees to museums (according to tour program)
  • All maps with marked routes for the region being toured
  • Extensive tour booklet
  • GPS with all the daily routes uploaded
Sardinia and Corsica Tour Adriatic Moto Tours

Not included in the price:

  • Air ticket, dinners on rest days, most lunches, drinks, gasoline, personal spending, tips.

If you’re ready for a unique motorcycle adventure, sign up now! Click here for more info and to book the tour.

The post Join Rider on Adriatic Moto Tours’ Sardinia and Corsica Tour, Oct 15-23 first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Join Rider on the IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour, October 15-23

IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour
Join us on the IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour, October 15-23, 2022, for fantastic riding, delicious food and wine, and luxurious accommodations.

Scott Moreno, the American-born owner of IMTBike, the motorcycle tour and rental company based in Spain, has one of the most infectious personalities of the many people I’ve met over the years in the motorcycle industry.

Born in New York City and raised in northern New Jersey, Moreno studied abroad in Spain. After getting his MBA, he made a good living as a currency trader, but he was miserable. When a friend asked him what he loved to do, he said “ride motorcycles and have adventures.” So, in 1997, Scott bought eight BMW motorcycles and started Iberian Moto Tours (IMTBike’s former name) from his apartment in Madrid.

IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour
All smiles on the IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour. Scott Moreno is second from left in the front row.

Click here to listen to our podcast interview with Scott Moreno

This year, IMTBike is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Through the hard work of Moreno and his team, the company has grown to include more than two dozen staff members, office locations in Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Málaga, and Lisbon, and the world’s largest fleet of BMW motorcycles – 200 at last count (IMTBike is an Official Partner of BMW Motorrad). In 2021, IMTBike earned a coveted TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice “Best of the Best” award.

IMTBike specializes in tours of the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal), but it also offers tours in France, Italy, the Alps, and Morocco, as well as MotoGP tours (Catalunya, Jerez, and Valencia) and tours in Turkey, Thailand, Japan, and New Zealand.

To help IMTBike celebrate its “25 Years of Magic,” Rider’s Editor-in-Chief Greg Drevenstedt and his wife Carrie will be joining Moreno on the Southern Spain Andalusia Tour this fall, October 15-23. The tour starts and ends in Málaga, on Spain’s famous Costa del Sol (“Sun Coast”) on the Mediterranean Sea.

IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour
Route for the IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour

The 9-day tour includes seven riding days, one rest day (in Seville), and travel days on either end. Here’s the itinerary:

  • Day 1: Arrival in Málaga
  • Day 2: Málaga – Costa del Sol – Sierra Nevada – Granada
  • Day 3: Granada – Córdoba
  • Day 4: Córdoba – Seville
  • Day 5: Seville – rest day
  • Day 6: Seville – White Towns
  • Day 7: White Towns – Ronda
  • Day 8: Ronda – Serranía de Ronda – Málaga
  • Day 9: Flight home

We recommend arriving a couple of days early to get acclimated to the time zone and explore Málaga, one of the oldest cities in Europe, which is full of history, culture, and vitality. Walk the city streets and tour the Alcazaba, a Moorish palatial fortress built in the 11th century.

IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour
The tour route includes some of Spain’s best motorcycling roads in the Grazalema and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges.

The region of Andalusia is home to some of Spain’s most famous cities, including Seville, Córdoba, and Granada, all three of which contain UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Stay in Spain’s famous Paradors – castles, monasteries, fortresses, and other historic buildings converted into luxury hotels. The Parador in Ronda stands on the edge of a cliff and is next to the Plaza de Toros (bullfighting ring), and the town is surrounded by the Sierra de las Nieves National Park.

On this tour you’ll visit Spain’s iconic “White Towns,” villages full of white-washed houses, and you’ll enjoy Andalusian cuisine, famous for its jamón Ibérico pata negra (black-footed Iberian ham) and delicious tapas. You’ll also get your fill of curves and twisties in the Grazalema and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges.

IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour
Andalusia’s “White Towns”
IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour
Jamón Ibérico pata negra (black-footed Iberian ham)

You don’t want to miss this tour. Pricing starts at just 3,225 euros (about $3,450), and includes transfer to/from the airport, motorcycle rental (BMW G 310 R), lodging, eight breakfasts, and seven dinners. Choosing a larger motorcycle, adding a passenger, and a single-occupancy room adds to the price.

Click HERE for more details and to book the tour. Sign up soon because this tour will fill up fast!

The post Join Rider on the IMTBike Southern Spain Andalusia Tour, October 15-23 first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com