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Backcountry Discovery Routes: Two Buddies on Yamaha Ténéré 700s in Utah and Arizona

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Yamaha Ténéré 700 Colorado River
Taking a rehydration break along the Colorado River while our Yamaha Ténéré 700s waited patiently.

During the long, dark winter in Minnesota, when the ground is covered in snow and ice and our motorcycles are mothballed for months, dreaming about riding in a warm, dry place gives us hope. That’s when my friend Craig and I started planning an adventure ride out West. We sketched out a route that included a mix of backroads, parts of the Arizona and Utah Backcountry Discovery Routes, other off-road tracks, and interesting sights along the way.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

In May, we flew into Phoenix and headed to EagleRider in nearby Mesa, where we were greeted by a friendly guy named Bob. After a quick paperwork checkout procedure, we packed our gear on two rented Yamaha Ténéré 700s and headed north on Interstate 17.

With temperatures in the triple digits, the frigid days of winter seemed like a distant memory, so we busted north to gain some elevation.

Related: 2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 | Long-Term Ride Review

Even in full riding gear, we started to cool off as we rode farther north. Our bikes were unfamiliar to us, and they were stuffed to the gunwales with camping gear and other essentials. We soon grew accustomed to their added weight as we passed over the “Carefree Highway,” a 30-mile stretch of road made famous by Canadian singer Gordon Lightfoot that runs between I-17 and U.S. Route 60.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Yamaha Ténéré 700

I have a lot of street miles under my belt, but this was my first adventure bike trip, so I wasn’t entirely prepared for the primitive roads where the gravel feels like marbles under your wheels. However, it didn’t take long for the combination of my ancient dirtbike experience and a few unplanned rear-wheel kickouts to provide a quick education on keeping the Ténéré upright. Enthusiasm tempered with caution was the order of the day.

We took County Road 59/Bumble Bee Road off I-17 to check out the Cleator Bar and Yacht Club. The name of this welcoming 4×4 oasis run by Tina Barnhart is a bit tongue-in-cheek, as it is located hundreds of miles from open water. Barnhart is also in the vehicle delivery business to such faraway places as Africa and is active in the Global Rescue Project based in Scottsdale, Arizona, which works to end child slavery and reunite children with their families.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Cleator Bar and Yacht Club
Boats in the Yacht Club’s “marina.”

The Cleator Bar is a must-stop location, complete with boats in the “marina” out back and a stage for live music. Interestingly, the entire town of Cleator, comprising 40 acres, a bar, a general store, a few other structures, and mineral rights, was put on the market by descendants of James P. Cleator in 2020 for $1.25 million, and it was sold at the bargain price of $956,000.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Cleator Bar and Yacht Club
Hanging out with Tina Barnhart while we cooled off at the Cleator Bar and Yacht Club.

Related: Backcountry Discovery Routes: First BDR-X Route and YouTube BDR Film Library

Our next stop was Crown King, located another 13 miles along CR 59 at an elevation of 5,771 feet. A high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended on the deteriorated roads. The Ténérés managed well, and we soon found ourselves taking a load off in the Crown King Saloon & Eatery, one of the oldest continuously operated saloons in the state. We enjoyed a cold drink and a hearty lunch, and the $5 bottle of scotch we bought there (on sale courtesy of Mother’s Day) served us well during the rest of the trip.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Bradshaw Mountains
We were surprised to see so much green in the Bradshaw Mountains.

Like a lot of small towns in the Bradshaw Mountains of Arizona, Crown King used to be a thriving mining community. In 1904, a railroad was built to help mining operations, but due to a lack of water and high transportation costs to process the ore, it was abandoned in 1926. The old railroad bed is still used today as the main access road to Crown King. 

While there, we met Chuck Hall, who is a great ambassador for the area – and a talented guitar picker to boot. He told us he’d lived there for over 30 years and recommended we check out the Senator Highway, on which he’d lost many an exhaust pipe from his old Dodge Neon. A former stagecoach route, the rutted road snakes 37 miles from Crown King to Prescott with many blind switchbacks, eroded surfaces, several water crossings, and spectacular scenery.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Yamaha Ténéré 700
Craig takes a breather on part of the Utah Backcountry Discovery Route.

Hall recommended we visit Palace Station, a stage stop built in 1878 midway between Crown King and Prescott. Back in the day, the station had a bar and was a social meeting center for the miners who worked in the area.

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.

We targeted the town of Jerome for the night. This old copper mining town earned its nickname, “Wickedest Town in the West,” during its heyday in the early 20th century. After the mining bust, the town descended into desperation, greed, and crime. It was revived in the 1960s as a tourist destination, and many of its historic buildings are now filled with restaurants, shops, and hotels. Jerome is said to be a hotbed of paranormal activity, and we stayed at the Connor Hotel, which is reportedly haunted by the “Lady in Red.” We didn’t see any ghosts, so maybe she had the night off. 

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Yamaha Ténéré 700 Jerome Arizona
Downtown Jerome, the “Wickedest Town in the West.”

Related: Backcountry Discovery Routes: Ep. 33 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

With a long day of off-roading ahead, we left Jerome and headed north toward the Grand Canyon on a series of unpaved national forest roads. We wound our way around the contours of Woodchute Mountain, crossed the Verde River, and ascended to the Colorado Plateau at more than 6,000 feet. We could see the volcanic San Francisco Peaks rising above the plateau to the east.

We crossed Interstate 40 near Williams, and after a few miles on State Route 64, we turned onto a national forest road to take an unpaved “back door” route into Grand Canyon National Park. We hooked up with Route 64 again where it’s known as East Rim Drive and enjoyed scenic views from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona South Rim Grand Canyon
Craig (on left) and me at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon – a million miles away from our home in Minnesota.

After leaving the park, we connected with U.S. Route 89 and refueled at Cameron, where the highway crosses the Little Colorado River. At Bitter Springs, U.S. 89 splits to the east toward Page, but we continued north on U.S. Route 89A, crossing the Colorado River at Marble Canyon via the Navajo Bridge and following 89A west into an area known as the Arizona Strip. We rode with the majestic Vermilion Cliffs to our right, crossed House Rock Valley, and then climbed out of the desert and into the evergreens of the Kaibab Plateau.  

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Navajo Bridge
The Navajo Bridge crosses the Colorado River at Marble Canyon, and in the background is Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.

We stopped at Jacob Lake, a small crossroads that sits at 7,925 feet, and it was noticeably cooler at the higher elevation. Known as the gateway to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Jacob Lake has a gas station and a hotel with a restaurant and gift shop. The town was named after Jacob Hamblin, an early Mormon pioneer who was shown the location in the mid-1800s by the Kaibab band of Southern Paiutes. And according to the hotel staff, the lake is more of a pond.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Jacob Lake
Jacob Lake, Arizona, is near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

We continued west through Fredonia and crossed into Utah near Kanab, known locally as “Little Hollywood” because of its rich history in filmmaking – most notably Westerns, with more than 100 movies and television shows being filmed there.

Thus far we had stayed at motels, so we weren’t exactly roughing it. We decided we needed to get some use out of the camping gear we’d been lugging around. After riding through Zion National Park, where we were blown away by the majesty of the cliff faces and rock formations, we traversed the Dixie National Forest through Duck Creek Village to Hatch, where we found suitable dispersed camping.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Zion National Park
Utah State Route 9 winds through incomparable scenery in Zion National Park.

It had been about 20 years since my last camping experience. I narrowly avoided putting an eye out with the tent poles, and after the camp was set and the fire built, it felt good to relax with that $5 bottle of scotch. It was a clear night, and the 7,000-foot elevation yielded cool temperatures. With the fire all but gone, it was time to turn in for the night. I live in Minnesota and am no stranger to the cold, but I clocked 19 degrees overnight in that campsite and don’t think I have ever been so happy to see the sun start to rise. Note to self: Next time bring a sleeping bag rated below 30 degrees.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona
Around the campfire, we sampled the $5 bottle of scotch we bought at the Crown King Saloon. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the coldest night I ever spent camping was during May in Utah.

Once packed up, we put Hatch in the rear view and were soon heading east on Utah’s stunning State Route 12, known as one of the most scenic highways in the nation. We visited Bryce Canyon National Park and its many rock spires and hoodoos and rode through the vastness of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

At Boulder, we left the pavement and took the Burr Trail, a well-known backcountry route that passes through Capitol Reef National Park on its way to the Bullfrog Basin in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The trail was named for John Burr, a cattle rancher who developed the route to move his cattle between winter and summer ranges. The country was nearly impassable then and continues to be challenging to this day, with RVs and trailers “not recommended.” Southern Utah is one amazing vista after another, and this stretch featured outstanding scenery as well as many switchbacks on loose gravel that kept us on our toes.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Burr Trail
Switchbacks and elevation changes as far as the eye can see on the Burr Trail in Utah.

Throughout the trip, we’d been battered by winds that were contributing to fire restrictions in Arizona and Utah. At this point, the wind was howling, with 50-mph gusts giving us a good sand blasting. After a quick stop in Bullfrog, we headed north on State Route 276 and then south on State Route 95 to Hite Crossing over the Colorado River.

We had violated our “never pass gas” top-off policy in Bullfrog, expecting to find a place to refuel in Fry Canyon. Given the time of year and possibly other reasons unknown, the gas pumps were closed in Fry, so we pushed on through some gorgeous country that might’ve been easier to appreciate if we weren’t worried about our dwindling fuel.

At one point, we pulled over to assess the situation. Craig had been smart enough to fill his reserve bottle, which he poured into his tank. My bike was still showing a couple bars of fuel left. I tip my cap to the Yamaha Ténéré 700. Even though my fuel gauge was blinking “empty” and both of us were expecting the pullover of shame, we made it all the way to Blanding. The Arch Canyon Inn was a welcome stop, but being informed that it’s a dry town put the “bland” in Blanding.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Yamaha Ténéré 700
Travelers in a strange land. Parts of Utah felt like being on another planet.

Leaving Blanding and getting on the Utah BDR was like visiting another planet. The Butler and Comb washes, the Moki Dugway, and Valley of the Gods were some of our favorite parts of this trip. With all the distinct rock formations, it was a challenge to stay focused on the trail and not get distracted by the scenery. In most cases, one blown turn can mean disaster, but the rewards are more than worth the risks. Again, caution saved the day.

The southern terminus of the Utah BDR is in the town of Mexican Hat, which I assumed was named after a mountain resembling a sombrero. Turns out, it is a distinctive disc-shaped rock about 60 feet in diameter that’s perched atop a smaller base at the top of a mesa. I’ll always remember it as the site of my first involuntary dismount from the Yamaha during a charge up a softer-than-expected mound of sand.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Yamaha Ténéré 700 Mexican Hat
At the southern terminus of the Utah BDR in Mexican Hat. Behind me is the town’s namesake rock and below me is softer-than-expected sand.

Related: (Mis)Adventures on the Utah Backcountry Discovery Route (BDR)

The area around Mexican Hat borders the northern section of the Navajo Nation into Monument Valley. This area is considered the sacred heart of Navajo country, and you can’t help but marvel at how iconic the straight-line stretch of road is as it leads into the horizon, framed with towering sandstone rock formations. Hiking in the park is highly restricted, with only one path that can be hiked without a guide. Monument Valley Trail Park had been previously closed after a movie crew was caught filming without a permit. It is now reopened at a reduced occupancy limit, but no motorcycles are permitted on the 17-mile loop due to deep sand dunes in the area.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Yamaha Ténéré 700
Dispersed camping near Hatch, Utah.

Back in Arizona, we cruised paved highways to Flagstaff and then down into Sedona. Determined to camp at a lower (read: warmer) elevation, we found the Lo Lo Mai Springs Outdoor Resort. Lo lo mai is a Hopi Indian word that represents a greeting with many meanings, similar to the Hawaiian aloha. It also means “beautiful,” which the owners of Lo Lo Mai Springs say is where the resort’s name originated. The area borders spring-fed Oak Creek, which is a valuable and rare natural water source in this part of Arizona. The campground had some welcome amenities and was a lot warmer than the prior camping stop.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Yamaha Ténéré 700 Monument Valley
Monument Valley.

We spent our last day exploring some of the Arizona BDR tracks in the Coconino National Forest near Sedona and Flagstaff. With time running out, we finally hopped on State Route 87 and burned the final miles to Scottsdale, where the town was alive with nightlife.

Returning the bikes was bittersweet. Bob welcomed us back, relieved that the Ténérés had only a layer of dust and a bit less rubber on their tires after 1,591 on- and off-road miles. As we grabbed an Uber to the airport, I could not help but realize the vast additional riding world that adventure motorcycling opens up. Soon after getting home, I put one of my streetbikes up for sale, and an adventure bike could be in my future.

The post Backcountry Discovery Routes: Two Buddies on Yamaha Ténéré 700s in Utah and Arizona first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Winter Motorcycle Riding: Finding Big Warmth on a Small Bike

If you refuse to be deterred by the weather when it comes to winter motorcycle riding (but are perhaps stymied by the tech – or lack thereof – on your small bike), check out this Exhaust Note feature from “Moto Mouth” Moshe K. Levy that originally appeared in Rider‘s February issue.

Winter Motorcycle Riding Honda Trail 125
Winter doesn’t stop the author from getting out on his 2021 Honda Trail 125.

Sales of small motorcycles have been booming in the U.S. Their low prices, excellent fuel economy, playful aesthetics, and sheer riding pleasure make minibikes irresistible. My 2021 Honda Trail 125 is so addictive that I find myself hopping aboard its spartan solo saddle not just for local chores but for longer weekend trips as well.

Related: 2021 Honda Trail 125 ABS | First Ride Review

However, all that fun eventually collides against the limitations Mother Nature imposes on those of us who suffer cold winters. Normally, on my big bikes, I just plug in my 12-volt electric jacket liner and gloves and keep on going. But on small bikes like the Trail, there simply isn’t enough electrical capacity to run a full suite of heated gear.

Since parking the bike for the season is never a serious consideration for me, I developed a solution that is relatively low cost, readily available, functionally effective, and applicable for virtually any motorcycle with a marginal electrical output.

First, you need some battery-powered heated gear, which is abundant in today’s marketplace. I’ve had excellent luck with Warm & Safe’s Long Sleeve Heat Layer Shirt, which is powered by a 7.4V, 7.8Ah lithium-ion battery. For gloves, I like Klim’s battery-powered Hardanger HTDs, which operate on 7.4V, 2Ah lithium-polymer batteries. Both products feature multiple heat levels that allow the rider to adjust temperature as necessary, and they have held up well over multiple seasons of abuse.

See all of Rider’s new and reviewed gear here.

Indeed, heated gear is the only thing permitting your faithful, winter-hating Mediterranean columnist to survive arctic riding – at least until the batteries deplete! And therein lies the rub: To stay out all day in the cold, we need continuous power. Here’s how to get it.

First, we need spare batteries for all the heated gear we use. Manufacturers generally offer spares, as does Amazon. Always try to get at least as high an Ah (amp-hour) rating as the original battery – preferably higher. The higher the Ah rating, all else equal, the more run time you will get.

Next, we need to keep these spares continuously charging so they can be swapped in when the original batteries run down. We can accomplish this with a basic square-wave DC-AC inverter and a wiring harness to connect the inverter to the bike’s battery.

My typical setup inside my Trail’s top box is shown in the photo below:

Winter Motorcycle Riding

1. Sinloon waterproof cigarette lighter harness, available on Amazon for $9.99, which connects directly to the motorcycle’s battery

2. BMK 200W square-wave DC-AC inverter, available on Amazon for $25.99, which plugs into the Sinloon harness and converts the 12V DC from the bike’s battery to 120V AC

3. AC-DC battery chargers, included with the heated gear and plugged directly into the inverter, which convert the 120V AC output back to 8.4V DC to charge the spares

4. Spare lithium-ion battery for my W&S Heat Layer Shirt

5. Spare lithium-polymer batteries used in my Klim heated gloves

Both the harness and inverter are generic, and it really doesn’t matter which brands you use. (Some riders might already have the wiring harness in place, e.g., for a Battery Tender.)

Everything is secured in my Trail’s top case so things don’t shake around too much. All I need to do is flip the inverter to “on” to continuously charge the spare batteries while riding. Yes, it’s inefficient to convert power from the bike’s 12V DC to 120V AC and then back to heated gear’s 8.4V DC charging voltage, but this setup gets the job done with common, inexpensive components and requires no fancy wiring. 

Total draw on this setup is only about 32 watts, including inverter losses. That’s only about one-third of the draw of my 12V DC Warm & Safe jacket liner, so minibikes and even many older bikes with limited electrical capacity should be able to handle this load with ease. Mission accomplished!

Depending on the ambient temperatures and settings of the heated gear, I typically pull over every one to four hours to swap the dead batteries for freshly charged ones, allowing me to stay out all day in the cold – long after most other riders have parked for the season. For a true addict, there is no other choice!

To see a video about this setup, check out the Moto Mouth Moshe YouTube channel.

The post Winter Motorcycle Riding: Finding Big Warmth on a Small Bike first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Perry Steed | Ep. 52 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

Ep52 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast Perry Steed

Our guest on Episode 52 of the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast is former Army paratrooper Perry Steed. He was interviewed by Rider’s associate editor, Paul Dail, who wrote a feature about Steed titled “Riding for Light” for the October 2022 issue of Rider. On April 24, 2012, Steed’s good friend, Sgt. Kristopher Cool, took his own life. In May of last year, Steed departed North Carolina on his BMW R 1200 GS on a 48-state trip covering more than 15,000 miles to pick up Cool’s ashes and take them to Fort Bragg to spread on Sicily Drop Zone as a “rally cry for support” for the epidemic of veteran suicide. In this episode, Steed talks about how he got into motorcycles, his “Ride for Light” mission, and the nonprofit he created to support fellow veterans, Operation: Purpose. We owe a debt of gratitude to all veterans for their service, and we owe it to them to support veteran causes.

If you or someone you know is in danger because of suicidal thoughts or actions, seek help immediately by calling 911 for an emergency or 988 for the nationwide suicide hotline, which has counselors available 24/7.

LINKS: OperationPurpose.net“Riding for Light” feature about Perry Steed

You can listen to Episode 52 on iTunesSpotify, and SoundCloud, or via the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast webpage. Please subscribe, leave us a 5-star rating, and tell your friends! Scroll down for a list of previous episodes.

Visit the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast webpage to check out previous episodes:

The post Perry Steed | Ep. 52 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Perry Steed | Ep. 52 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

Ep52 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast Perry Steed

Our guest on Episode 52 of the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast is former Army paratrooper Perry Steed. He was interviewed by Rider’s associate editor, Paul Dail, who wrote a feature about Steed titled “Riding for Light” for the October 2022 issue of Rider. On April 24, 2012, Steed’s good friend, Sgt. Kristopher Cool, took his own life. In May of last year, Steed departed North Carolina on his BMW R 1200 GS on a 48-state trip covering more than 15,000 miles to pick up Cool’s ashes and take them to Fort Bragg to spread on Sicily Drop Zone as a “rally cry for support” for the epidemic of veteran suicide. In this episode, Steed talks about how he got into motorcycles, his “Ride for Light” mission, and the nonprofit he created to support fellow veterans, Operation: Purpose. We owe a debt of gratitude to all veterans for their service, and we owe it to them to support veteran causes.

If you or someone you know is in danger because of suicidal thoughts or actions, seek help immediately by calling 911 for an emergency or 988 for the nationwide suicide hotline, which has counselors available 24/7.

LINKS: OperationPurpose.net“Riding for Light” feature about Perry Steed

You can listen to Episode 52 on iTunesSpotify, and SoundCloud, or via the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast webpage. Please subscribe, leave us a 5-star rating, and tell your friends! Scroll down for a list of previous episodes.

Visit the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast webpage to check out previous episodes:

The post Perry Steed | Ep. 52 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

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

A Girl and Her Honda Rebel

Allison Parker Honda Rebel 250
The author and her 2014 Honda Rebel 250

When I tell people I have a motorcycle, I get one of three responses. The first is that motorcycles are dangerous and not worth the risk. The second is that a Honda Rebel 250 isn’t a “real” motorcycle. The third response – and my favorite by far – is delivered in the form of a story about someone’s trusty first bike that they’ll never forget.

See all of Rider‘s Honda coverage here.

I’ve heard the horror stories of life-changing accidents. These stories I can respect. They come from a place of caring, sometimes a place of loss. They’re not fun stories, but they are stories that deserve to be heard.

As to the second response, I have lost patience with those who say the Rebel isn’t a real motorcycle. The Rebel 250 is small, that’s true. You won’t find it on a list of the top 10 most powerful motorcycles. You won’t find it on anyone’s list of dream bikes. But if people who tell me the Rebel 250 isn’t a real motorcycle could hear some of the third type of responses, they might have a different perspective.

The third response is my favorite because it is the one that most aligns with my own experience. It comes from riders who have owned a Rebel 250, usually as a first bike. When I tell these people what motorcycle I have, they light up. They tell me about how they learned to ride on a Rebel. Or how they left work in a trail of dust on a Rebel when their spouse was going into labor or taught their sons and daughters to ride on a Rebel. I can relate to these stories because they are fueled by that first joy of sitting on a bike.

When I decided I wanted a motorcycle, I searched everywhere. I printed off Craigslist postings and asked my friends and family what they thought of them. I took pictures of motorcycles with “For Sale” signs on the side of the road. I didn’t really know what I was looking for until I saw a posting for a 2014 Honda Rebel 250.

I took my dad with me to look at it the very next week. It was the least intimidating motorcycle I had seen so far. It was gorgeous, with shiny black paint and a stylish “Rebel” sticker on the gas tank. I admit, my enthusiasm about finally finding a motorcycle that was affordable, small enough for me to sit on comfortably, and in great condition might have clouded my judgment, but I still think it’s a beautiful bike. 

Some things are beautiful not because of their complexity but because of their simplicity. The Rebel wasn’t trying to be anything it wasn’t. Likewise, I wasn’t trying to impress anyone with a thundering loud exhaust or state-of-the-art technology. I just wanted to be what I was: a new rider comfortable and happy on her first motorcycle.

Before I ever sat on a motorcycle, I rode horses. My horse is named Chief. I still have him, although now he spends his days grazing through retirement. He is a gentle giant, calm and steady. He stuck with me through thorn briars and winding wooded trails. We even have the same hair color. One thing I learned from Chief was how to trust what carries you. I developed a similar trust with the Rebel.

My Rebel has been my loyal mount for six years. It has carried me from Dover, Tennessee, up to Grand Rivers, Kentucky, a town of about 400 people nestled between the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers with a fantastic restaurant called Patti’s. To get there, I go up the Trace through Land Between the Lakes. I stop for a break in front of the old iron furnace. I ride by the elk and bison range. I swing by the planetarium and watch a Beatles laser show. Before long, I’m dining at Patti’s, chowing down on bread baked in a clay flowerpot and a 2-inch-thick pork chop.

My Rebel has also carried me to Aurora, Kentucky, home of the Hot August Blues Festival and Belew’s Dairy Bar. The memory of a Belew’s double cheeseburger with the patty edges crispy with grill flavor still makes my mouth water. At the Hot August Blues Festival, folks from all walks of life stretch out on the riverbank and catch up while bands get down with it. You never meet a stranger in Aurora, even if you’ve never seen a single person there before. Through all these experiences, my Rebel was with me.

I’m not trying to convince you to go buy yourself a Rebel 250. If you’re new to motorcycles and want one that is easy to ride, dependable, and not very expensive, then a Rebel is a good choice. It’s not flashy or impressive, but it has a character of its own. Nor am I trying to convince myself that I made the right choice. If I could do it over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. All I want is for new riders to cherish their time with their first bike and for experienced riders to take a moment and remember what that felt like.

Allison Parker joined the Rider staff as assistant editor in August 2022. This is her first story for the magazine, and it appeared in the December 2022 issue. –Ed.

The post A Girl and Her Honda Rebel first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Retrospective: BMW /5 Series – 1970-1973

1972 BMW R 75/5 slash five toaster
1972 BMW R 75/5 “Toaster” owned by Arden White in Snohomish, Washington. (Photos by Arden White and Moshe K. Levy)

The year 1969 was a tumultuous time in the motorcycle industry, marked by the rise of the Japanese and the beginning of the end for the British. Amidst this backdrop of rapidly evolving consumer sentiment, BMW introduced its /5 (“slash five”) Series for the 1970 model year. In its three years of production, the /5 family of motorcycles reinvigorated the brand with its contemporary design and ushered in BMW’s fabled “Airhead” Type 247 Boxer Twin engine, variations of which would continue to propel the marque’s R-Series motorcycles for the next 25 years.

See more of Rider‘s Retrospective motorcycle stories here.

The /5 Series, built at BMW’s newest facility in Spandau, Berlin, was available in three variants. The R 50/5 (500cc) was the most affordable, the R 60/5 (600cc) was the midrange, and the R 75/5 (750cc) was the top of the line.

Compared to its predecessor, the BMW /2 Series, the /5 Series was a thoroughly modernized ground-up redesign. It boasted up-to-date 12-volt DC electrics complete with a 180-watt alternator, an electric starter, more powerful drum brakes, and a slew of other noteworthy upgrades. The frame was of tubular steel construction with a double downward cradle for the engine, similar to the benchmark Norton Featherbed. A rear subframe was bolted onto the mainframe and served as the upper mount for the twin rear shocks. Up front, the former /2’s Earles fork was replaced with a telescopic fork on the /5, signaling a functional change of focus from utilitarian sidecar duty to improved handling as a solo motorcycle.

BMW 247 Airhead flat-Twin R 75/5
The 247 Airhead’s flat-Twin configuration means easy access to most serviceable components.

See all of Rider‘s BMW coverage here.

Of course, no discussion of the BMW /5 would be complete without an examination of the Type 247 “Airhead” flat-Twin engine. Special care was taken by the company to design a simple, reliable motor that addressed previous concerns about the /2 mill. To this end, the 247’s chain-driven camshaft runs below the crankshaft, allowing gravity assist of oil delivery to the camshaft and eliminating the periodic complete teardowns required to maintain the former /2 design’s “oil slingers.” Two valves in each hemispherical cylinder head are actuated by the camshaft through followers, pushrods, and rocker arms. A stroke of 70.6mm is constant within the /5 line, with bores of 67mm, 73.5mm, and 82mm determining the displacement of the R 50/5, R 60/5, and R 75/5 respectively.

The R 50/5 and R 60/5 models are equipped with 26mm Bing slide carburetors, while the R 75/5 features 32mm Bing CV units. On all models, the engine power is transmitted via a single-disc dry clutch to a stout 4-speed gearbox and then to the swingarm-mounted final drive via shaft.

1971 BMW R 60/5 slash five
The author’s wife on her first bike, a 1971 R 60/5 with standard 6.3-gal. tank. Now with almost 100,000 miles, it’s still going strong.

For late 1973 models, BMW lengthened the rear swingarm by approximately 2 inches, resulting in the so-called “Long Wheelbase” /5. The tell-tale signs of a Long Wheelbase model are the weld marks on the final-drive side of the swingarm where the extension was added by the factory. The extra room allowed a larger battery to be located behind the engine and gave riders some additional clearance between their shins and the carburetors. To this day, /5 enthusiasts viciously argue over whether the sharper handling merits of the original short-wheelbase models trump the high-speed stability of the long-wheelbase versions.

Either way, at barely over 460 lb, the R 75/5 was one of the lightest 750cc bikes of the era, and with a top speed of 109 mph, it was one of the fastest as well.

1970 BMW R 60/5 slash five
Fred Tausch’s 1970 R 60/5, circa 2004. Today it resides at Bob’s BMW Museum in Jessup, Maryland.

Complementing these functional upgrades to its new motorcycle line, the /5’s aesthetics were also a spicy departure from the more somber BMWs of yore. Although initially available only in the white, black, or silver colors for 1970-71, the 1972-73 models were available in seven hues, including Monza Blue and Granada Red. Further shocking traditionalists, 1972 saw the introduction of the 4-gallon “Toaster” gas tank, which featured prominent chrome accent panels on each side. Though excessive chrome on a BMW was heresy at the time, today the Toaster-tank /5 is considered valuable to collectors, as it was only produced for the 1972-73 model years.

Contrary to the initial worries from BMW traditionalists that the company had strayed too far from its function-over-form roots, the /5 motorcycle family has earned a sterling reputation for anvil-like reliability. Being classic European motorcycles, the /5s naturally have certain idiosyncrasies, but overall, the design and construction are robust. In a testament to their supreme quality, these motorcycles are still often used as daily runners 50-plus years after their initial production.

Experienced owners claim that with timely maintenance, these bikes are nearly indestructible. In fact, properly running /5s with well over 100,000 miles on them are commonplace at BMW rallies worldwide. I met an owner of one, the late Fred Tausch, at a rally in 2004. Tausch’s 1970 R 60/5 had more than 600,000 miles on its clock and was still running when its owner passed away. Details are sketchy, but supposedly the engine was only overhauled twice during this remarkable service run.

The classic BMW motorcycle community is an active one, with abundant technical support and a well-organized network of enthusiasts (aka “Airheads”) who gather regularly to celebrate their favorite machines. Parts are still plentiful, though they’re getting more expensive as time goes on.

Ultimately, the /5 Series represented an initially dramatic but ultimately triumphant gamble for BMW. These motorcycles were not the cautious evolutions of the existing /2 designs that the brand’s faithful fans had expected. The /5’s newfound emphasis on performance and style, combined with significant price increases over the /2 Series it replaced, could have easily spelled marketplace doom. Luckily, that was not the case, and the /5s became a mild hit.

To hear more from Moshe K. Levy, the author of this article, check out Rider Magazine Insider Podcast episode 44

The post Retrospective: BMW /5 Series – 1970-1973 first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

A Very ‘Statie’ Motorcycle Christmas Tale

In this motorcycle Christmas tale, originally published in the December 2021 issue of Rider, contributor Scott A. Williams relates the story of being cut off my a Massachusetts State Trooper and getting a surprising gift in return.

It was one of those Christmases where family was in far-flung locations. With just my wife, daughter, and me at home, important holiday obligations were addressed by early afternoon. The sun burned in an azure sky as the temperature rose into the 50s – rare for late December in Massachusetts – and your humble scribe was getting antsy.

“Go take a ride,” my wife insisted. “We’re going to bake cookies and you’ll be in the way. Get out of here.” 

Making a plan as I rode along, I headed west over the Connecticut River toward the hill towns for fun roads, blissfully free of traffic. I calculated that I’d have time to reach Huntington before turning north for a ways, and then back east to make it home before dark.

Riding on U.S. Route 20 through the outskirts of Westfield, I spied a statie stopped at an intersection on the left, just ahead. (“Statie” is what Massachusetts natives call our state troopers.) Ideally, he’d be turning right, back toward the city, but without warning the cruiser cut in front of me. I hit the brakes – hard – and delivered a bwaaaa! from my bike’s air horn. Hey, hey, hey, I’m riding here! Inside my helmet I uttered words I do not recommend saying to a police officer in person.

If I had cut off an officer in such a manner, I’d be producing my license and registration. It was clear to me that the officer didn’t look before abruptly pulling out. Had he looked, he’d have seen me approaching, wearing high-viz gear and a white helmet, burning four accessory light arrays in addition to the OEM headlight, and riding the speed limit on an empty road with no obstructions on a clear day. I was there. If a careless civilian had cut me off, I may have dropped a gear and zipped by, but it was a statie.

Scott A Williams Motorcycle Christmas
Contributor Scott A. Williams, fortunately not in cuffs after his Christmas motorcycle joy ride with a Massachusetts statie.

Now, though, he was pulling away at a good clip. No lights or siren, just noticeably above the limit. I decided to keep up. Perhaps this wasn’t the wisest decision, but I stayed back at what I concluded was a respectful distance – and I started to make really good time. This section of U.S. 20 is the Jacob’s Ladder Scenic Byway, and from here out to Becket it’s my favorite stretch of 20 in the state. The road parallels the Westfield River to Huntington, then gains elevation in Chester up to Becket through a succession of S-curves. I know this road well, but I had never ridden it quite so briskly.

There’s a state police barracks in Russell, and I started thinking that this cruiser with the distinctive blue and gray paint scheme would turn in, but it did not. Approaching the village of Huntington, the statie slowed the pace. I followed suit. Was he preparing to turn north onto State Route 112? That’s another great winding road in western Mass that earned a state-issued scenic byway designation. It’s where I was planning to go, but given these unusual circumstances I felt I should be open to alternatives. One was presented when the statie continued west on 20.

The rapid rate resumed through Blandford State Forest to the town of Chester, where again the statie eased off a bit going through the village. But when those S-curves came into view, the Ford Police Interceptor sped up for that familiar, winding, uphill run.

By now this unexpected and exhilarating ride was taking me a good 40 miles out of my way, and I knew I had to start heading back east at some point. The day’s unusual warmth was melting snow, and with clear skies, the temperature would plummet once the sun went down, so black ice would be a threat. But with little traffic other than a lead-footed statie, I wanted this ride to last.

In Becket, the cruiser turned right onto Route 8 north. Recalculating … I could head north through Becket and Washington up to Hinsdale, then start a return trip east on Route 143 through Peru, Chesterfield, and Williamsburg. From the standpoint of entertainment on a motorcycle, this was all good. When I reached Northampton, I could hop on Interstate 91 and then the Mass Pike to straighten out the last leg home.

I stuck with the statie and turned north on Route 8. The snaking tar hugged the landscape past forests and farms, but I realized it couldn’t last much longer. As the center of Hinsdale approached, I made my move, signaling my intent to turn right on 143. The statie flashed his light bar twice and continued straight.

I interpreted those flashes to mean, “Sorry I cut you off back there, hope you enjoyed the ride.” Yes, officer, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Forty extra miles flew by in not as many minutes, leaving me with a wide grin and a great Christmas memory. No hard feelings, sir, but please watch for motorcycles.

For other stories from Scott A. Williams, click here.

The post A Very ‘Statie’ Motorcycle Christmas Tale first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

25 Years of ‘The Perfect Vehicle’ by Melissa Holbrook Pierson

Melissa Holbrook Pierson, author of “The Perfect Vehicle” and other books.
Melissa Holbrook Pierson, author of “The Perfect Vehicle” and other books.

In 1997, Melissa Holbrook Pierson published The Perfect Vehicle: What It Is About Motorcycles, a delightful book that chronicles her love affair with motorcycles as well as the unique cultural and historical landscape of the two-wheeled world. In 1998, while struggling my way through graduate school in Philadelphia, I bought a motorcycle and learned to ride.

Within the first year of my own love affair with motorcycling, I read – no, I devoured – The Perfect Vehicle. Not only did Pierson artfully articulate the full spectrum of emotions, sensations, and experiences that are familiar to any motorcyclist and evoke the “ride to live, live to ride” credo, she educated me about the exciting new world I had come to inhabit.

When I read Pierson’s account of buying a Moto Guzzi Lario from a small European bike shop called The Spare Parts Company tucked away on a narrow street in the Old City section of Philadelphia, an area I explored regularly on late-night pub crawls and weekend wanderings, I felt an even stronger connection to her book. I had been to the shop before, and my then-girlfriend was friends with the proprietor.

On the 25th anniversary of The Perfect Vehicle, considered one of the best books ever written about motorcycles, we reprinted a review published in the August 1997 issue of Rider and which can be found on our website here. We also reprinted Pierson’s introduction to the Spanish edition of the book, which was published in 2021 by La Mala Suerte Ediciones, the first and only publisher devoted to motorcycle books in Spanish.

Scroll down for that introduction, and visit MelissaHolbrookPierson.com to order her books.

Greg Drevenstedt, Editor-in-Chief

Rider August 1997 Melissa Holbrook Pierson The Perfect Vehicle
Flashback to August 1997, the issue that featured our review of Melissa Holbrook Pierson’s “The Perfect Vehicle”

Introduction to ‘The Perfect Vehicle’ Spanish Edition

By Melissa Holbrook Pierson

Twenty-five years have elapsed between the time I began writing The Perfect Vehicle and the moment you are reading these words. The impetus for writing was, quite simply, unbridled joy. Why had no one ever told me motorcycles were so transporting? Why didn’t everyone know how affecting they were, how they enriched and condensed experience? How they were a powerful force for personal good?

So I attempted to say in my book every last thing I could think of to say about these machines that both capture and express the human imagination. But no amount one can say about something that’s essentially infinite can comprise “everything.” Even I would go on to find more things, and more things, to say. I wrote articles and poems and another book about bikes. I’m not finished yet. The meaning of the ride is never-ending, which is why we ride: to taste immortality in the form of the resounding now.

Related: Melissa Holbrook Pierson: Ep. 9 of the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

A quarter of a century is a long time. Time enough for everything to change – governments to rise and fall, species disappear, cities spread, new technologies revolutionize daily life and rewire our brains. In that long span, I can now report, much has changed about motorcycling. And very little. There have been technical advances in the bikes we ride – fuel injection, ABS, “ride by wire” (explained to me half a dozen times to no effect), things once visibly mechanical now directed in the dark by computer chips. No longer for me long garage bullshit sessions among friends, where I would marvel at the ingenious arrangement of parts mirrored in the minds of people who are to me equal marvels of nature: they manage to comprehend the way complex systems, the motorcycle’s biomes, flow together and apart.

I always knew my bike had a heart, but now it has a separate brain. In its advanced evolutionary state it may only be attended to at the office of the appropriate neurologist, I mean, dealer with the codes. This has put an unhappy distance between the soul of the machine and its rider, but the tradeoff is performance well beyond the imagination of the last century.

There are concurrent changes in the types of people who ride. The so-called adventure bike has become hugely popular, along with global journeys on it that once were rare but are at this moment being undertaken by astonishing numbers of people of every age, nationality, and gender. The percentage of riders who are female has more than doubled since I started riding, and these women are often pursuing it in cultures that openly disapprove. They don’t care; they do it anyway. That’s how powerful the allure is: we risk death to do it.

Related: Writers and Riders: Meeting Melissa Holbrook Pierson and John Ryan

Much verbal handwringing has materialized, in the United States at least, about the “graying” of the motorcyclist, and the sport’s diminishing hold on youth who are reputed to care more about virtual life than the real thing with its weather and difficulties and the 360-degree view onto a disappearing but still gorgeous planet. Economic factors are often discussed. But that is in the small corner from which I write. Shift the scope to India, which has emerged as the world’s biggest motorcycle market, and see (as I recently did for myself) throngs of young people enthralled by riding and the places it takes you. I’m not worried about the demise of the motorcycle. The planet itself will be destroyed long before the peculiar happiness riding confers.

I, too, have come closer to my end. Going toward it on my bike is the only reasonable mode of travel through these years. 

Motorcycles amplify all that is glorious about living. It is not an adjunct to waking up in the morning, or an occasional occupation. It explains everything, gives a purpose to being alive, and a place in both community and history, which still and forever unreels, like the road itself. I have lost dear friends, who happened to die doing the thing they loved most. But that was happenstance, not cause. Motorcycling has brought me the deepest friendships I’ll ever know, acceptance into a worldwide brotherhood, and the ultimate knowledge that love is real – love for an inimitable collection of parts that mysteriously opens a window onto the most vital of experiences, as well as love between two people brought together by what I can only consider a magical agent. Yes, motorcycles are even matchmakers for the lovelorn.

So much has changed in the years between then and now. So much has stayed the same. I still feel boundless anticipation and hope and desire and a fleck of worry every time I engage first gear. The world becomes new on every ride. But now I know a deeper secret, one I have both lived and witnessed, again and again. Motorcycles save lives.

The post 25 Years of ‘The Perfect Vehicle’ by Melissa Holbrook Pierson first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com