Tag Archives: Touring

A West Texas Motorcycle Ride Through Hill Country, Big Bend, and Oil Wells

West Texas Motorcycle Ride Big Bend National Park
Bending though curves in Big Bend.

The seeds of this West Texas motorcycle ride were planted in December 2019 when my buddy Reed and I joined the EagleRider Club. Members pay monthly subscription fees for credits toward motorcycle rentals, which roll over month to month and offer significant discounts versus standalone rentals.

In addition to the discounts, being club members allows us to fly into a new area and rent motorcycles that are different from what we ride back home. We live in Connecticut, so flying into Dallas saved us a 3,200-mile roundtrip that would have taken several days on each end. Instead of grinding out miles just to get to Texas and back home, we spent that time leisurely exploring roads and sights.

West Texas Motorcycle Ride

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

To beat the heat of the Texas summer, we planned our trip for mid-April. Reed and I are BMW riders, but for this trip we rented two late-model Harley-Davidsons: a Street Glide for me and a Heritage Softail Classic for him. There’s something special about riding the open road on a big American V-Twin. We’re older guys who were decked out in textile riding gear and modular helmets, so we’re hardly Easy Rider rebels. When we saw a BMW GS in a hotel parking lot with “Adventure Before Dementure” on one of its panniers, we could relate.

West Texas Motorcycle Ride
Words to live by.

See all of Rider‘s Harley-Davidson coverage here.

We did a clockwise loop of roughly 2,300 miles over nine days. From Dallas, we headed south to Texas’ funky state capital, Austin. The Harleys were stable and comfortable, the torque was intoxicating, and the horns were good and loud, but the transmissions were a bit clunky. After visiting the Texas Capitol, we rode east to Round Top, a small tourist town known for antiques. We were disappointed to find the antique markets closed when we got there, but I managed to get a photo with a roadrunner as tall as I am – things really are bigger in Texas!

West Texas Motorcycle Ride Harley-Davidson Street Glide Heritage Softail Classic
West Texas is wide open.

The riding improved west of Austin when we entered the legendary Texas Hill Country, an area well-known among motorcyclists. Endless hills turn the many rural FM (Farm-to-Market) and RM (Ranch-to-Market) roads into paved rollercoasters. We enjoyed nice twisties, light traffic, and pretty views along the shore of Lake Travis and through Inks Lake State Park. After riding through Llano, we dropped the sidestands and stretched our legs at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. In Fredericksburg, a charming historic town surrounded by vineyards, we ate sausages and enjoyed live music during a courtyard dinner at a German restaurant. 

Less than an hour from Fredericksburg and west of Medina, we rode the renowned Twisted Sisters. The three RM roads (335, 336, and 337) are full of fun curves and whoop-de-doos and are worthy of their reputation. The Twisted Sisters are so popular among motorcyclists that there are two-wheeled tourist stops in the area, like the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum in Vanderpool and the Frio Canyon Motorcycle Stop and The Hog Pen in Leakey. We passed many ranches; two of my favorite names were Big Bucks Ranch and Middle Age Spread.

West Texas Motorcycle Ride Hill Country Twisted Sisters
Enjoying rolling curves through Texas Hill Country, home of the famous Twisted Sisters.

After a night in Del Rio, we followed U.S. Route 90 west along the southwestern border of the Texas Pecos Trail region and within a stone’s throw of the Rio Grande. Although our bikes had the same 107 engines, the Softail’s tank holds 5 gallons while the Street Glide’s holds 6 gallons. That 1-gallon difference became evident when we hit an 86-mile stretch with no services thinking we had enough gas. We were wrong.

West Texas Motorcycle Ride Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic
Reed enjoyed riding his rented Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic.

Reducing speed and tucking in behind the windshield for the last 20 miles did the trick, but headwinds meant the Softail was running on fumes when we pulled into Sanderson. At the gas station, a lady with a ’50s-style bouffant told us that pickle juice is good for combating dehydration. We were intrigued, but we wondered if she was having fun at the expense of us Yankees.

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.

At Marathon, we turned south toward our next destination: Big Bend National Park. Situated in a pocket of West Texas where the Rio Grande’s southeasterly course makes a sharp bend to the north, Big Bend is enormous, covering more than 801,163 acres (1,252 square miles), making it the seventh largest national park outside of Alaska. In 1976, Big Bend was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It contains the largest intact portion of the Chihuahuan Desert, one of the most biologically rich and diverse desert ecosystems in the world.

West Texas Motorcycle Ride Big Bend National Park
Located in West Texas where the Rio Grande turns sharply to the north, Big Bend National Park protects part of the Chihuahuan Desert.

Because Big Bend is far from major cities and the 118 miles of the Rio Grande along its southern boundary serves as the border between the U.S. and Mexico, it receives relatively few visitors compared to other national parks. That makes it the perfect destination for those who love wide-open spaces and don’t care for crowds.

West Texas Motorcycle Ride
Wildflowers were blooming during our April ride.

That afternoon we enjoyed Big Bend in all its glory. Mountain peaks topping 7,000 feet competed with colorful desert blooms for beautiful scenery. In Rio Grande Village, we learned of a tramway system that transported lead and silver from Mexico across the Rio Grande to eventually connect with the railroad in Marathon. For migrants, crossing the Rio Grande would have been a matter of simply wading the low waters, but passing the Border Patrol checkpoint some miles inland (in open desert) is another story.

West Texas Motorcycle Ride
The U.S.-Mexico border.

Highlights of Big Bend National Park include the winding road up to Chisos Basin, the Rio Grande Overlook, and Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, which passes through Tuff Canyon on its way to Santa Elena Canyon Overlook. Of the 304 miles of roads in the park, 123 miles are paved, 45 miles are unpaved but improved, and 136 miles are unpaved and primitive, so there are plenty of miles to explore regardless of your preferred surface – or bike. That said, at our hotel in Alpine, located about 80 miles north of the park via State Route 118, another guest recounted how two Honda Africa Twins struggled in Big Bend’s sandy unpaved tracks, going down so often they gave up and had their bikes towed out.

West Texas Motorcycle Ride Rio Grande Santa Elena Canyon
The Rio Grande’s Santa Elena Canyon.

After spending the morning at Fort Davis, a national historic site north of Alpine with a well-preserved complex of buildings and visitor center, we embarked on our most challenging ride of the trip. We headed south on State Route 17 to Marfa and then took U.S. Route 67 to Presidio. From there, we rode east on FM 170, known as River Road. The 64 miles to Study Butte-Terlingua wind along the Rio Grande through Big Bend Ranch State Park. Except for the low water crossings, the road surface is generally good – and the views are fantastic – but riders need to stay frosty because there are sudden elevation changes, decreasing radius and off-camber blind curves, and sometimes wildlife on the road.

West Texas Motorcycle Ride Fort Davis
Fort Davis was a frontier military post from 1854-1891.

After getting our fill of mountains, canyons, rivers, and memorable Rio Grande scenery, we headed north through empty high desert to Fort Stockton, Odessa, Midland, and Lubbock, an area of Texas notable for the Permian Basin, an 86,000-square-mile area that’s home to some of the nation’s largest oil reserves. We rode for hours with oil wells scattered across the landscape in every direction. To our surprise, we also saw dozens of large wind turbines towering above some of the oil rigs, so some Texans are clearly hedging their bets. 

Just south of Amarillo, we visited Palo Duro Canyon State Park, where we took in expansive views of America’s second largest canyon, which is 120 miles long, an average of 6 miles wide, and up to 1,000 feet deep. The sprawling canyon was the subject of paintings by Georgia O’Keefe, who lived nearby, and the site of a battle between Texas Rangers and Chief Kicking Wolf in Larry McMurtry’s novel Comanche Moon.

West Texas Motorcycle Ride Palo Duro Canyon
Located near Amarillo, Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in America.

Having completed much of our loop, we headed southeast toward Dallas. We took secondary roads through towns such as Turkey and Matador, the latter being the home of Bob’s Oil Well, a vestige of the days when bold roadside architecture attracted customers – in this case a wooden oil derrick towering above a gas station.

West Texas Motorcycle Ride
Everything is bigger in Texas. Words to live by.

The skies darkened as we rode east, and in Crowell, a lady pulled over to tell us there were tornados touching down near our next waypoint in Vernon. When an EMT reiterated the warning, we stayed put until the coast was clear. When we finally hit the road again that evening, it was a wet ride, but there was so much lightning arcing across the clouds in the distance that we had plenty of light to guide us. When we checked into our hotel in Wichita Falls, we learned they’d had heavy rain, wind, and golf ball-sized hail – one guest had a broken windshield to prove it.

West Texas Motorcycle Ride Big Bend Ranch State Park
FM 170, known as River Road, winds its way along the northern side of the Rio Grande between Presidio and Terlingua and forms the southern boundary of Big Bend Ranch State Park.

On our last day, we blasted along state highways to Dallas, and for long stretches, we enjoyed explosions of color from roadside wildflowers. Bluebonnet and Indian paintbrush were abundant, and mid-April was the perfect time to see them. We know better than to mess with Texas, but we sure do appreciate all the wonderful roads, sights, and beauty we experienced in the Lone Star State. And thanks, EagleRider, for renting us the Harleys – they were the perfect steeds for our journey.

The post A West Texas Motorcycle Ride Through Hill Country, Big Bend, and Oil Wells 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

Valley of Fire and Lake Mead in Nevada | Favorite Ride

Valley of Fire State Park Nevada
The roads in Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park cut through some of the world’s most stunning red rock formations.

Johnny Cash sang about fire, murder, heartbreak, and sin, and I think he would have appreciated the symbolism of this ride, given its route. Northeast of Las Vegas is one of the most visually stunning state parks in the Southwest. The added bonus for motorcyclists is that the park’s roads trace through the crimson landscape like slithering black mambas. A ride through Valley of Fire State Park and Lake Mead National Recreation Area makes for a fantastic motorized respite from the neon bustle of Vegas. 

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

The Las Vegas Strip, with its massive themed casinos, sidewalk solicitations, and congestion, is not my cup of tea. That’s why my staging point for this ride was Fremont Street. While still over-the-top, this area has the feel of an older, more genuine version of Vegas.

The night before my ride, I watched a cover band play classic rock tunes under the lights and video canopy that spans Fremont and enjoyed a variety of street performers. The next day, I put a couple bottles of water and lunch in the saddlebags of my BMW R 1200 GS and mounted up. 

Read all of Rider’s BMW coverage here

Fremont Street is well north of the traffic and congestion of the Strip, so getting out of the city was much more convenient than it would have been if I had opted for lodging at one of the mega-casinos. On my way out of town, I rode past the Mob Museum and the Neon Museum – Vegas-themed tributes that were added to my post-ride entertainment schedule. 

Lake Mead National Recreation Area Nevada
The Las Vegas Wash runs as a tributary to Lake Mead, adding yet another unique visual element to this great ride.

The cruise northeast on the Las Vegas Freeway (Interstate 15) was a nice warm-up to this loop ride. The muted hues and desert views were expansive as I climbed out of the neon valley. There were a few floating cotton balls in the otherwise intense blue of the mid-morning Nevada sky. The line where the horizon meets the sky was as crisp and sharp as I have ever seen. 

After 30 miles of motoring on the freeway, I diverted the GS eastward onto the Valley of Fire Highway. The two-lane tarmac starts as a gently curving and undulating climb into the gray stone mountains that were part of the striking delineation I enjoyed just miles before. However, the monochromatic gray soon gives way to vibrant blotches of crimson. Contemplating the name of the Valley of Fire State Park, I couldn’t help but imagine those red spots as flare-ups caused by the wind-carried embers of an approaching wildfire. 

Valley of Fire State Park Nevada
The various hues of the desert landscape in the Valley of Fire make for a ride with an almost cinematic feel.

My first stop in the park was at the aptly named Beehives. There is little doubt what all the buzz is about. Cringe-worthy puns aside, the Beehives are a spectacular object lesson on the artistic creativity of erosion. The hives are stratified tributes to the power of wind, water, and time.

Valley of Fire State Park Nevada Beehives
The Beehives are whimsical sentinels that add to the region’s other-worldly feel.

By the time I got to the turnoff for the park’s visitor center, I was fully engulfed in the figurative flames of the Valley of Fire. I live near Sedona, Arizona, and I have ridden extensively through the red rocks of southern Utah, so I have a solid base of reference for the hue of red sandstone. Valley of Fire is something different. The terrain carries a deeper, more blood-like patina in this region. It is stunning. 

Valley of Fire State Park Nevada
The smooth and well-maintained winding roads through the Valley of Fire are tailor-made for motorcycling.

I bought a $10 park pass at a self-serve kiosk and rode up Mouse’s Tank Road. The endgame of this beautiful ride was a short hike on The White Domes Trail, where I enjoyed a drink of water and a snack and took in the majesty.

I am not usually a fan of out-and-back routes; however, this ride, carving through the curvaceous rock formations of the park, is fantastic in both directions. It’s only about 6 miles from the visitor center to the end of Mouse’s Tank Road, so the ride through the heart of the park is short but very scenic.  

See all of Rider‘s touring stories by region/state here

Valley of Fire State Park Nevada
The mix of elevation changes and a smorgasbord of turns makes the ride through the Valley of Fire very entertaining.

Back on the Valley of Fire Highway, I was awed at the beauty around me. The road follows the undulations and sinews of the red rocks. I made a final stop at Elephant Rock and meandered up the trail in my Sidi boots. It was well worth the wear on the soles of those expensive kicks. Elephant Rock is yet another of the park’s formations that is stunningly indicative of nature’s wonders. 

If this were a full daytrip rather than a through-ride, I would have stopped and hiked several more of the park’s features, like Arch Rock and Atlatl Rock with its Native American petroglyphs. The park is deserving of more exploration than I was able to give it. 

Lake Mead National Recreation Area Nevada
A fellow biker gives the universal salute as he rolls through Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Back on the BMW, I made my way to the end of the park’s highway at its intersection with North Shore Road (State Route 167). The referenced shore is the bank of Lake Mead. The “shore road” moniker is a bit of a misnomer. The Southwest’s unprecedented drought has drawn the reservoir down to a record low, so I was quite some distance from the lake. While not a waterside trek, the ride in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area is entertaining and beautiful. I was back in that fringe environment where red outcroppings dot the gray landscape. The fire was to my back this time. 

Lake Mead National Recreation Area Nevada
The terrain within Lake Mead National Recreation Area is stark, barren, and beautiful.

Farther west on my return toward Vegas, the flatter, muted desert landscape returned. Cactus, desert brush, and the occasional dwarf palm dotted the horizon, and the final leg was relaxing as I traveled back from the Valley of Fire to the valley of neon. With proper gear choices, this is a ride that can be made virtually year-round, and I will certainly be back. From the City of Sin to the Valley of Fire, it’s a heavenly ride indeed. The Man in Black would approve.

The post Valley of Fire and Lake Mead in Nevada | Favorite Ride first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride: Rolling Through the Rockies

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride
Rugged mountains, evergreen spires, historic towns, and fantastic curves highlight this loop ride through western Colorado.

As I sat in the grassy courtyard of the Retro Motel in Cortez, Colorado, the quaint motel’s name struck a chord. It dawned on me that “retro” may be the theme of this western Colorado motorcycle ride. Merriam-Webster defines “retro” as something “fashionably nostalgic.” That seemed fitting as I contemplated a loop ride that would take me deep into the Rocky Mountains and through some of western Colorado’s iconic towns. The most famous of these towns are deeply rooted in frontier history but have since taken on the upscale air of ski-chic and Western high fashion.

After a slug of coffee and a nibble of the motel’s grab-n-go breakfast, I headed north out of Cortez on State Route 145. In no time, I was rolling through the tiny town of Dolores. From there, I began a beautiful ride that follows the Dolores River for a long stretch and gains elevation. The route is a pleasant mix of short straights and sweeping corners. 

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride

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

As I parted ways with the clear waters of the Dolores, the corners tightened and the air cooled. After a spirited ride, I motored into the historic silver mining town of Rico, which was settled in 1879 and still boasts impressive historic structures for such a tiny place. I dropped a kickstand at the town hall and the community church, both of which were constructed in the early 1890s and are remarkably well-preserved. 

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride
The whitewashed Rico Community Church was built in 1891 and restored in 1993.

I had gained almost 3,000 feet in elevation in the 50-mile ride from Cortez, and the mid-September leaves were changing on the winding road out of Rico. The road coiled even more as I rolled through the vibrant greens of the western Rockies. 

See all of Rider‘s touring stories by region/state here

Rockin’ in the Rockies

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride
Overlooks in the Rockies often reveal the great tarmac that is to come.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been in this area, and memories occupied my thoughts as I made the short jaunt into Telluride. The Victorian silver mining town, which sits in an impressive box canyon, was founded around the same time as Rico. The area’s economy has shifted from mining to skiing and tourism. Telluride is now distinctively upscale while retaining its Victorian charm. I rode past high-end boutiques peddling their pricey wares from within historic brick facades. 

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride Telluride
A painter practices his art on the outskirts of Telluride.

My reminiscing hit full tilt as I made it to Telluride Town Park, where my wife and I attended the Ride Music Festival a couple of years back. The setting is amazing, with a precipitous tree-covered mountain face as a backdrop behind the permanent concert stage. All the town’s festivals are held in this must-attend venue for music lovers. One of my favorite festival memories was listening to Pearl Jam fill the box canyon with their soaring melodic riffs. On my most recent visit, Frisbees and softballs filled the air, but I could almost hear Eddie Vedder still echoing in the evergreens. 

I climbed out of Telluride to the northwest. It was good to be out of the congestion and back on the curvaceous tarmac of western Colorado. The traffic picked back up as I approached the city of Delta. After making it though the slow-and-go, I headed northeast toward Aspen. 

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride
Snow-laced mountain passes are ubiquitous in the Rockies of Colorado.

This stretch is mountain motorcycling at its best. Tight curves and relaxed sweepers are the rule here, and the Rockies, which were snow-laced at the time, make the perfect backdrop. The road’s condition was remarkably good considering the weather extremes in this area. I had to slalom around the occasional pothole, but that is about it. 

It was on this leg that I happened upon one of those “happy surprises” on a motorcycle tour.  From a distance, I saw what looked like rows of mud nests made by cliff swallows – except much bigger. As I got closer, it was clear the structures were man-made and much more uniform. It turns out I was riding alongside the historic Redstone coke ovens. These brick-lined ovens were built in 1899 and were used to burn the impurities out of coal to produce “coke” for use in steel production. Fascinating stuff.

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride coke ovens
The Redstone coke ovens are a fascinating roadside attraction. Built in 1899, the brick-lined ovens were used to burn the impurities out of coal to produce “coke” for use in steel production.

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride? Or High Plains Drifting?

I gassed up in Carbondale, which is the northernmost point on this loop ride, and then headed southeast on State Route 82. The road here was not what I had expected. Most of this stretch heading to Aspen opens up into what you might expect on the high plains of Wyoming. There are amazing views, as much of the area is wide open or lined with only intermittent lower vegetation. It was a relaxed and entertaining stretch on this last portion of the day’s riding. 

As I rolled into Aspen, I couldn’t help but think of that ridiculous scene from the movie Dumb and Dumber when Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels are nearly frozen solid when they ride into town. Thankfully, I was not on a minibike, and my gear was much more appropriate. 

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride
Local wildfires had cast a hazy pall over the otherwise idyllic landscape.

Aspen is a ski, shopping, and outdoor recreation mecca in the Rockies. Ski slopes lead from the surrounding mountains and seemingly terminate directly on the town’s main street, which is lined with stately buildings dating back to the 1800s that are impressive in both their size and architecture. After a short ride crisscrossing the roads of Aspen’s historic district, I unpacked the panniers at my lodging for the night. The Aspen Mountain Lodge was clean and comfortable, and its bubbling hot tub was just the thing to shed the day’s miles from my lower back. 

My September evening walk through Aspen was an interesting mix of history, excess, and mountain charm. I strolled past families frolicking in the town’s park, women wearing outfits that likely cost more than my motorcycle, and the delightfully eclectic mix of structures throughout the town. After a couple of slices of gourmet pizza and a local brew, I settled back into my room for the night.

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride Aspen
A boutique in Aspen exemplifies the town’s eclectic nature.

The Ride to Independence 

I awoke the next day with a smile because I would get to ride one of the most thrilling roads in the Southwest, which culminates in the thin air and sweeping vistas of Independence Pass. With bags packed and fuel topped off, I headed southeast deeper into the Rockies. 

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride Twin Lakes
Historic log structures dot the landscape in western Colorado.

Almost immediately after leaving Aspen’s city limits, the road coils into a narrow black ribbon of entertainment. The climb is steep, and the traffic is refreshingly sparse. At times, the road narrows to a single paved lane. The skeletal remains of the area’s mining heyday rise from the undulating grasslands. Spire-like evergreens reach stoically skyward, and snow traces the gray rock peaks like the marbled fat on a good steak. 

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride
The bones of historic mining structures add visual texture to this ride.

Before I knew it, I was there. The road cresting the tundra above the tree line led me to signage indicating I had reached Independence Pass. At an elevation of 12,095 feet, the summit is the highest paved pass in Colorado (but not the highest paved road; that honor belongs to Mount Evans at 14,130 feet, located about 70 miles to the northeast). I was happy that I was on a fuel-injected BMW GS, as this elevation would be rough on a carbureted bike.

See all of Rider’s BMW coverage here

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride Independence Pass Continental Divide
Independence Pass is a thin-aired highlight of this western Colorado tour.

After the requisite photos and a moment to breathe in what little oxygen this elevation provided, I came down from the pass. 

The other side of the summit was every bit as thrilling as the climb. Hairpins nearly as tight as those you’d find on a bathroom vanity abound. It’s a 1st-gear descent for the first few miles past Independence Pass, and the views are spectacular. 

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride
The visual definition of a “hairpin” curve on the southern descent of Independence Pass.

Eventually, the turns relaxed until I reached one of the few straight stretches on the loop. After that, I headed southwest on U.S. Route 160. This ultimately leads to Wolf Creek Pass. Yes, that’s the one in the 1970s song by C.W. McCall. I rode down from the nearly 11,000-foot pass amid numerous warning signs about the precipitous grade and what it can do to truck brakes. There were two runaway truck ramps on the descent that spoke to the danger.

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride Wolf Creek Pass Great Divide
The famed Wolf Creek Pass is a shining star of the Great Divide.

I threw down the kickstand at the viewpoint to enjoy one of the most impressive vistas on the trip. The view serves as a topographical foreshadowing of a descent through jagged rocks and vivid conifers into a grassy valley. The few miles between here and my final stopover did not disappoint.

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride
The view south on U.S. Route 160 is stunning and expansive.

Soaking in the Last Stop of the Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride

I entered Pagosa Springs road-weary but satisfied. This is another town rich in history but with the added draw of the steaming waters of the Mother Spring aquifer. I made my way to The Springs Resort and Spa, an upscale and visually stunning property that boasts two dozen soaking pools fed by the aquifer.

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride Pagosa Springs
The natural hot pools at The Springs Resort and Spa in Pagosa Springs are perfect for soaking away the stiffness of the road.

The pools range in temperature from 88-112 degrees, and all offer amazing views of the San Juan River and surrounding mountains. After sampling several of the hot pools, I retired to my comfortable suite and drifted off with visions of the day’s amazing ride dancing in my head.

All that was left of my western Colorado loop tour was a relaxing ride due west back to my starting point in Cortez. There was, however, one more iconic town left on the docket. After about 50 miles of gently curving highway, I came upon Durango.

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride Durango
Durango’s Strater Hotel is one of many stately, historic structures on this ride.

This southern Colorado town is situated on the banks of the Animas River and, like all the others I have visited, has a rich history and well-preserved downtown area. I picked up a to-go sandwich and sat by the whitewater park to watch kayakers navigate the rapids. I put up the kickstand for the last time on the trip on the short jaunt back to Cortez. 

Obviously, this is a summer ride. The extreme elevations make for an early winter and late-arriving summer. Some stretches on this route are permanently closed in the winter. Pack with the expectation of large swings in temperature and precipitation. Plan well and enjoy!

The post Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride: Rolling Through the Rockies first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Chasing My Heritage on a Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip

Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff Going to the Sun Road Glacier National Park Suzuki V-Strom 650XT
Going-to-the-Sun Road in Montana’s Glacier National Park should be on every motorcyclist’s must-ride list. (Photos by the author)

As motorcyclists, we feel drawn to the open road. As Americans, we want to take in as much of what our country has to offer as we can. And as human beings – especially if we’re of a certain age – we want to see our family and friends face-to-face, to hug them and shake their hands and hear and tell stories new and old. Phone calls and texts help us stay in touch, but they are a poor substitute for the real deal. I decided to check all the boxes with a cross-country motorcycle trip.

I live in Southern California, and I have family and friends all over this great nation, from sea to shining sea. I’ve ridden cross-country many times before, but I was overdue for a special lap around America, one where I could see the sights and visit the important people in my life without a strict agenda or schedule. When I opened a Dove chocolate and saw the advice “Live every day with no regrets, it’ll be worth it” inside the wrapper, it felt like a calling. I packed my gear and headed east.

Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff
Visiting loved ones like my Uncle Bud in New York was the highlight of the trip.

Family Roots

Back in 1940, my grandparents loaded up their ’37 Packard with all their belongings, including my 10-year-old father, Mark, and his 7-year-old younger brother, Bernard (where I got my middle name) and headed west. Leaving Youngstown, Ohio, they made their way to Route 66 and followed it to Burbank, California, where Grandpa Seth got a welding and fabricating job for Lockheed Aircraft.

Before long, my grandparents purchased a Texaco station that became the family business. Our family still owns the building, which now houses an auto body shop. My grandparents died just before I was born, but I believe I inherited my love and innate abilities for fabricating and restoring motorcycles from my Grandpa Seth. I still use his old Wilton bench vise, hand tools, and other equipment.

Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff
Leaving on Memorial Day, my first stop was my grandparents’ gravesite at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Burbank, California. I asked them to watch over me.

Time was of the essence with my own cross-country journey, some 82 years later. My dad was approaching his 95th birthday, and ol’ Uncle “Bud” (Bernard’s nickname) was pushing 92. They don’t travel anymore, and they hadn’t seen each other in over a decade. I decided to keep the trip a secret from Dad. My plan was to ride to New York and do a surprise video call between the aging brothers.

I left my house in Thousand Oaks, California, on Memorial Day and returned home in time to celebrate the 4th of July. Over a month and more than 10,000 miles, I passed through 33 states, visited and stayed with dozens of people who were already near and dear to my heart, and enjoyed meeting many new friends as well.

Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff Mount Rushmore
Reuniting with my old friend Carter Kirk in the shadow of Mount Rushmore.

To get ready for my journey, Alpinestars and Shoei/Helmet House provided me with gear, Nelson-Rigg set me up with a waterproof duffel, and my friends at Suzuki were kind enough to loan me a 2022 V-Strom 650XT with an accessory tankbag and panniers. The V-Strom 650 is one of the best bang-for-the-buck adventure bikes out there. It fits me like a glove, has a really comfortable seat, likes to go off-road here and there, and only asked for gas in the tank and PJ1 on the chain every now and again. 

Related: 2018 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT vs V-Strom 1000XT | Comparison Review

Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff New Mexico
High plains drifting in New Mexico. It’s fun to imagine what’s beyond the horizon.
Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff Zion National Park Suzuki V-Strom 650XT
On the second day of the trip I was tempted to do some off-road exploring near Zion National Park in Utah, but I had a long journey ahead of me, so I thought better of it.

With the bike packed, I said my goodbyes and my prayers, pulled in the clutch, dropped into 1st gear, and rolled away from home. It was a surreal feeling starting a ride of this magnitude, wondering what might be in store for me. 

A Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip: Eastbound and Down

Before departing on this ride, I traced a big outline of the U.S. and each of the lower 48 states on a large sheet of heavy-duty paper, and at the top I wrote “2022 Friends & Family Ride!” I kept it rolled up in a cardboard tube and used it to document my route. Along the way, I had family, friends, and other folks write notes and messages on the map.

Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff
My homemade route map signed by friends, family, and others along the way is a special keepsake from my journey.

After riding across the Mojave Desert to Las Vegas, I continued northeast and rode through Zion National Park in Utah. I meandered east to Four Corners, got off my bike, and managed to be in all four states at once with my feet in Arizona and New Mexico and my hands in Utah and Colorado. In New Mexico, I visited friends in Farmington and Tucumcari. As the trip unfolded, I found that most of the time there was another friend or family member with whom I could stay within a day’s ride.

Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff Four Corners
Spreading out over four states at once at Four Corners (Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona).

I blazed across the Texas Panhandle on my way to “McDonald Land,” the nickname for where Norm and Lucy McDonald live near Tulsa, Oklahoma. Norm is the “N” in K&N filters, which nearly everyone has run in their bikes or cars at some point. I used to pitstop there in the early ’80s when traveling around the country during my AMA roadracing days. I met the McDonalds through their son, Sam, when we were both novices in 1980. Through K&N Yamaha, Norm and Lucy sponsored countless racers over the years, with Malcolm Smith being one of the most notable. They are wonderful people whose friendship is precious to me. Staying with them again like in the good ol’ days was very special.

Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff Korner Shop Cafe West Virginia
It didn’t take long to become friends with Susie at The Korner Shop Cafe in West Virginia.
Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff Cadillac Ranch Amarillo Texas
Taking a selfie at the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas.

After visiting other friends in Memphis, Tennessee, I skipped across the tops of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia and made my way up into the Appalachians and onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. Rider magazine readers have seen plenty of great ride stories from this area, and now I got to do the riding!

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.

Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff Suzuki V-Strom 650XT Maggie Valley Overlook
The views are endless at the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Maggie Valley Overlook.

The weather was perfect, the scenery was beautiful, and I took some side trips on the 650XT down small roads and trails. In Maggie Valley, North Carolina, I stopped at the Wheels Through Time Museum. I love old bikes and old American stuff, so this place is like heaven to me. Dale Walksler has passed, but his son Matt has taken over and is doing an awesome job keeping the museum going.

Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff Matt Walksler Wheels Through Time Museum
With Matt Walksler at the Wheels Through Time museum.

Heading North

I rode up Skyline Drive and into Virginia, where I spent a couple nights at Brian and Betty Richardson’s 19th-century sheep farm. Rider’s former editor-in-chief, Mark Tuttle, connected me with the Richardsons back in 2009, and I raced Brian’s homebuilt Moto-Electra electric bike in the TTXGP series for a few years. In 2013, we set the coast-to-coast world record for electric vehicles on the same bike by crossing the U.S. in 84.5 hours. Brian and I became good friends, and for years I’ve been telling him I would ride up to his farm one day. I finally did, and we spent a day riding together on awesome backroads.

Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff Green Briar Hotel
With my buddy Brian Richardson at the Green Briar Hotel in West Virginia. Beneath us was the U.S. Congress’ secret nuclear fallout shelter.
Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff
Spending some time relaxing at Brian and Betty Richardson’s sheep farm in Virginia.

I left the farm in the morning and was soon greeted by a dramatic change in scenery. By midday, I was taking a selfie in front of the Capitol in D.C. I wished I could help straighten things out there, but I decided I’d rather ride my motorcycle. I hightailed it out of D.C. and crossed the Delaware Bay on a ferry from Lewes, Delaware, to Cape May, New Jersey, which is the oldest resort town in America and a neat place to stay.

Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff Suzuki V-Strom 650XT
Cows sure are big in Pennsylvania!

Another special thing about New Jersey is one of its residents: Gloria Struck, the first lady of motorcycling, who is 97 years young. I wrote a story for Rider (March 2013 issue) about Gloria and the Motor Maids, and we have been close friends for a long time. We first met years ago at Daytona Bike Week, where I noticed her Harley had Clorox bottles cut in half and strapped to the handlebar as wind deflectors. I had done that before myself, but when I found out it was Gloria’s bike and that she had ridden from New Jersey, where she had to shovel snow to get out of her driveway, I immediately developed a deep fondness and respect for this woman.

Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff Gloria Struck
Those boots were made for riding, and that’s just what they did on Gloria Struck’s feet.

Spending a couple nights with Gloria, reminiscing and listening to her talk about riding her motorcycle, or the trike she’s going to get when she turns 100, was absolutely priceless. I highly recommend buying her book, Gloria – A Lifetime Motorcyclist: 75 Years on Two Wheels and Still Riding, which was published in 2018.

Gloria did her first solo ride to Daytona in 1951 to watch the beach races. Dick Klamfoth won that year (and also in 1949 and 1952), and as fate would have it, Dick and I became friends, and I helped him build the Daytona 200 monument, which took several years. He and his wife, Bev, are gone now, but later in my ride, I would carry on our memories by visiting their daughter, Christy, in Ohio.

Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff Suzuki V-Strom 650XT Washington D.C.
Washington D.C. was a change of scenery. I didn’t stay long.

The Big Apple

From Clifton, New Jersey, I passed under the Hudson River through the Lincoln Tunnel and popped out in midtown Manhattan. Riding around the Big Apple in the rain was quite an adventure. After taking the Queensboro Bridge over the East River to Long Island City, I finally arrived at the easternmost point of my journey and visited Uncle Bud. It had been hard to keep the secret, but when we surprised my dad with a FaceTime call from his brother and son, it was a very special family moment.

Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff
I hope I’ve inherited good ol’ Uncle Bud’s genes. Hard to believe he’s 92.

Saying goodbye to good ol’ Uncle Bud and wondering if it would be the last time we’d see each other face-to-face was emotional, but I laughed as always when he said, “See ya later, alligator!”

Crossing Manhattan again, I was officially on my way home. It felt good to make it out of the big city and know the rest of the ride would be mostly rural countrysides and small towns.

Westward Ho!

In our family’s hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, I stayed with my cousin John. We had never met and had fun getting to know one another. Using Bud’s recently sketched picture of the family home, we found the now-abandoned dwelling where they once lived. It was like searching for hidden treasure with a map Bud drew from his memory of a place he left at the age of 7! John showed me around, and I imagined my family living there in the old steel town’s heyday. I thought about them in the old Packard driving away from the house on Worthington Street for the last time, looking back at what was being left behind and then looking forward, wondering what life would be like in California.

Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff
With Uncle Bud’s hand-drawn map, my cousin John and I found our family’s old home in Youngstown, Ohio.
Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff Suzuki V-Strom 650XT Great Smoky Mountains
The V-Strom 650XT and I had fun two-tracking through the Great Smoky Mountains.

From Youngstown, I rode southwest to Columbus, where I visited the AMA Hall of Fame Museum and then popped in on Bruce Linsday. Bruce is a top guy in the antique motorcycle world with an unbelievable collection of early American motorcycles. Years ago, when we were in Death Valley riding our old Harleys, he invited me to stop by his place so I could ride a particular old Harley dating back to 1905. The factory in Milwaukee has one in its museum, and Bruce has the other one. These two bikes are the oldest Harleys in existence. The factory’s bike is under glass and will never be ridden, so I was fortunate enough to be able to ride the oldest running Harley there is! Quite an experience. 

Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff World's Oldest Harley-Davidson
Riding the world’s oldest running Harley was quite an experience for me.

After a stop in Des Moines, Iowa, I continued west to South Dakota. In 2009, I attended the V-Strom Rally in Rapid City on assignment for Rider (April 2010 issue) and made friends with resident V-Strom rider Carter Kirk. He let me borrow his bike for the rally, and I had a wonderful time exploring the Black Hills. Since I was traveling on a new V-Strom 650XT on my family-and-friends tour, I had to visit Carter.

With him on his old V-Strom and me on my new one, we spent a day riding and sightseeing. We stood at the base of Mount Rushmore and took in the majesty of one of this country’s most patriotic treasures. After dinner in Sturgis, we capped off an awesome day with a night ride home through pouring rain and an unbelievable lightning show. When we made it home, I had a good laugh when Carter asked me if I was worried during the ride. I tried to act like I wasn’t.

Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff
I visited Christie Klamfoth and her partner Al in Ohio. Her parents, Dick and Bev, opened up the heavens to let their love shine down on us.
Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff Suzuki V-Strom 650XT Great Plains Rocky Mountains
After crossing the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains invited me to explore the high country. America the beautiful!

See all of Rider‘s Suzuki coverage here.

After visiting Devils Tower in Wyoming, I continued northwest into Montana. I love this part of the country, and after riding through some more open grassland, I was finally rewarded with a view of the snowcapped Rocky Mountains. I rode the incomparable Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, then made my way into Idaho, where I visited my nephew, Robert, and his wife, Tracy, in the little community of Harrison. They recently moved there from our hometown in Southern California to a little house overlooking a lake.

Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff Suzuki V-Strom 650XT Mount Hood Oregon
This was about as far as I could go trying to scale Mount Hood in Oregon.

Farther west, I enjoyed riding the Cascade loop in Washington with all the forest roads and the surprising views of white-topped volcanic mountains that appear out of nowhere. After a stop to visit my sister-in-law Jill in Bend, Oregon, I finally saw what I was waiting for: the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean. I punched my fist into the air and hollered “Yahoo!” inside my helmet. I love riding along the western edge of our country.

The Homestretch of My Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip

Back in California, my next stop was Eureka, a nice little coastal town where I stayed with my Uncle Jim and Aunt Jan and visited my cousin Bill. At this point in the trip, I had seen all my living relatives and felt I had accomplished what I set out to do.

Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff Trees of Mystery California
I stopped to say hello to Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox at Trees of Mystery in Klamath, California.

But there were more miles to cover, such as riding among the majestic coastal redwoods before heading inland to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park in northeastern California. Zigzagging my way through the gold country of the Sierra Nevada, around Lake Tahoe, and past Mammoth Mountain. And then finally crossing the Mojave Desert again to get home.

What a feeling to turn the corner and know this journey had come to an end. There in the driveway was my wife, Jody, and my daughter, Kelly, waiting for me with open arms. I hadn’t even gotten off the bike before the tear-filled hugs began. Wow, what a feeling!

Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip Thad Wolff
The best part about coming home was seeing my wife, Jody, and my daughter, Kelly.

I arrived home in time for my dad’s 95th birthday, and he ended up passing away peacefully two short weeks later. The timing for this trip was perfect, and I’m glad I was able to make it happen rather than make excuses. In the end, our faith, family, friends, and the memories we’ve made (many with handlebars in hand) are all we have. Nothing else matters.

Don’t wait. Just go.

The post Chasing My Heritage on a Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Cruising the Pennsylvania Wilds on U.S. Route 6

Pennsylvania Wilds Route 6
Scenic U.S. Route 6 near Coudersport, Pennsylvania.

When I hear the first whispers of the siren’s call to hit the road, my desire to rumble off on a multiday trip slowly rises to a crescendo until I have no other choice but to pack my Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic LT and ride toward the horizon. On a motorcycle tour such as the one I recently took into the Pennsylvania Wilds on U.S. Route 6, the journey is as important as the destination, so I take time to explore along the way.

Pennsylvania Wilds Route 6

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

Regardless of the destination, the trip itself must satisfy my need for the pastoral – wild land, scenic roads, and the peaceful simplicity of small towns. Cruising U.S. Route 6 deep into the hinterlands of Pennsylvania fulfills all those criteria, making for a deeply enjoyable excursion. 

Riding west on Pennsylvania’s famous Route 6, a designated scenic byway, takes you through the Endless Mountains region to the north-central part of the state, known as the Pennsylvania Wilds. This region is devoid of urban/suburban sprawl and comprises over 2 million acres of public land, 29 state parks, eight state forests, ample farmland, and hundreds of miles of rural roadways to ride.

For road trip itineraries and other info the about the PA Route 6 corridor, visit PARoute6.com

Pennsylvania Wilds Route 6
A covered bridge highlights the greenery that graces PA Route 706.

Route 6 provides a diverse and scenic ride through Pennsylvania, but it also traverses the entire country from Provincetown, Massachusetts, to Bishop, California. Construction began in 1926, and it is now the second longest road in the country at 3,227 miles. Route 6 through Pennsylvania is like a wilderness path leading modern-day explorers on steel steeds deep into the Keystone State’s hinterlands, home to bear, deer, coyote, rattlesnake, fox, bald eagle, and elk.

I began my journey by crossing into Pennsylvania from New Jersey on the Milford Bridge over the majestic Delaware River. From Milford, Route 6 begins a rolling, curving climb from the river to the highlands. Throttling on the power, I flew through forests and past ponds until reaching the big enchilada – or locally, the “Big Lake” – Lake Wallenpaupack. Thirteen miles in length, with 52 miles of shoreline and 5,700 acres of surface area, it is the second largest lake within Pennsylvania’s borders. There are six public recreations areas and a wide array of accommodations, outdoor activities, dining, and shopping.

Pennsylvania Wilds Route 6
The clear waters of Lake Wallenpaupack.

Wanting to savor this moment – and location – I turned south at PA Route 507 into a parking area and stretched my legs by walking along the shoreline of Lake Wallenpaupack and atop the dam. Route 6 passes the base of the dam as it continues to Hawley, one of the typical turn-of-the-century small towns along this route. 

Mostly a two-lane rural highway, Route 6 does have a few congested areas along the way, such as in Honesdale, but Honesdale to Waymart is smooth sailing – or riding. The mountains around Waymart are capped with humongous wind turbines, which are an impressive sight, but I prefer my mountains au naturale.

Pennsylvania Wilds Route 6
Scottish Belted Galloway cows are as tough as their native Scotland. They didn’t smile for the camera.

Past Mayfield, I left Route 6 and took PA Route 107 to avoid the major congestion around Clark Summit, reconnecting with Route 6 at Factoryville. From there I cruised through the countryside to Wyalusing, where my Vulcan climbed into the mountains with confidence. 

At the summit, both Wyalusing Rocks and Marie Antoinette overlooks are must-stops. Wyalusing Rocks, located 500 feet above the Susquehanna River, was once used as a signaling point for the Iroquois Indians. The Marie Antoinette Overlook is named after the former Queen of France of “Let them eat cake” fame; supposedly she once planned to immigrate to this area.

Pennsylvania Wilds Route 6
The view from Marie Antoinette Overlook on Route 6.

The river, farmland, and hills unfolded before my eyes, embracing the blue horizon and making me think of Jimi Hendrix’s lyric “Excuse me while I kiss the sky.”

Check out Rider‘s other Northeast U.S. touring stories here.

From Wyalusing Rocks, I weaved west with the sweet sound of the Vulcan pulsating in my ears and the cool, crisp air enveloping me. Mount Pisgah State Park is just 2 miles north of Route 6 at West Burlington. This 1,302-acre park has a lake, picnic area, swimming pool, and a scenic overlook of the Endless Mountains region. The park provides a nice stop for rest and a walkabout.

Continuing west on my asphalt “river of dreams” through small villages and the countryside, I eventually cruised into Wellsboro and the rider-friendly Sherwood Motel – my base for exploring more of the Wilds.

Pennsylvania Wilds Route 6
A lush farm along PA Route 706.

Wellsboro is a gateway to this rural region and a popular destination for riders exploring the area. It epitomizes small-town 19th-century America so much so that its streetlamps are still lit by gas. Settled in 1806, it was named in honor of Mary Wells, one of the original settlers. Restaurants, stores, and parks are within walking distance of motels. The first night, I had a tasty dinner at the Steak House Restaurant. Initially, I was a bit anxious about dining solo, but the staff was friendly and welcoming, which is typical of most hinterland Pennsylvanians.

The morning greeted me with a cool but sunny day – perfect riding weather. Firing up my Vulcan, I rolled south on PA Route 287 to PA Route 414 west. Route 414 is one of the prettiest rides in the entire state. This section through part of the Pine Creek Gorge area is rustic, with a few small communities and scattered homes.

Pennsylvania Wilds Route 6
The Lakeview Store near Sinnemahoning State Park on PA Route 872 makes for a perfect snack stop.

Over thousands of years, Pine Creek carved the 47-mile gorge also known as the PA Grand Canyon. The 62-mile Pine Creek Rail Trail is used for hiking, river travel, bicycling, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing. Outside of the wilderness protected area, riders can cruise Route 414 as it slides along for miles next to Pine Creek.

Pennsylvania Wilds Route 6
Route 414 through Pine Creek Gorge crosses a one-lane steel-truss bridge.

Parking areas with comfort stations offer river and rail trail access. At the Blackwell Access area, I met a young couple from Maryland who were going to backpack into the surrounding wilderness. We talked a bit, and then I wished them luck and warned them to watch out for the timber rattlesnakes that live in the area. Each June there is an annual rattlesnake roundup festival throughout the region.

Pennsylvania Wilds Route 6
Riders stop at the Blockhouse Cafe.

Continuing my ride, I passed the quaint village of Cedar Run and weaved back and forth on bridges crossing Pine Creek. The roadway crawled up a mountainside presenting a great view. At the intersection with PA Route 44, I roared into the mountains of Tiadaghton State Forest. About 5 miles north of Haneyville, I turned west on Hyner Mountain Road heading toward Hyner Run and Hyner View state parks. With the sun on my face and the sweet mountain air filling my lungs, I was in rider heaven.

Related: Kawasaki Announces More 2023 Returning Models

The narrow, winding road to the summit of Hyner View can be challenging, but the views are spectacular. Forested mountains roll toward the sky like a vast green sea, and below, PA Route 120 winds through the valley alongside the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.

Pennsylvania Wilds Route 6
Hyner View State Park overlooks the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.

I connected with Route 120 and continued west toward Renovo, once a thriving railroad company town of more than 4,000 people that has dwindled to a population of 1,228. Entering Renovo on Route 120, I stopped at a moving memorial for the soldiers who gave their lives protecting our country. A green battle tank that matches the lush grass and surrounding forest guards the memorial.

Pennsylvania Wilds Route 6
A Sherman tank guards Memorial Park off PA Route 120 in Renovo.

Route 120 heads west alongside the Susquehanna River and the railroad tracks enveloped by thousands of acres of state forests. This route west to Sinnemahoning is beautiful and one of most desolate areas I traveled through. I rode for miles without seeing another soul. It was the first time on the trip that I felt completely alone.

Pennsylvania Wilds Route 6
Wyalusing Rocks Overlook on U.S. Route 6 provides expansive views of the Susquehanna River.

People ask if I get lonely or nervous on solo trips, but I actually don’t. Whenever I pulled over for a photo or route check, people often stopped and asked me if I needed help. Sometimes they offered advice on the road conditions or suggested a scenic stop. It reminded me of Blanche Dubois’s line in A Streetcar Named Desire: “I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers.”

At PA Route 872, I blasted north through Elk State Forest and stopped at George B. Stevenson Dam and Sinnemahong State Park’s wildlife viewing area. Unfortunately, I did not spot any elk. From there, I cruised north out of the mountainous area into lush hills and returned to Route 6 again at Lymansville.

Pennsylvania Wilds Route 6
Tubers enjoy the pristine waters of the Delaware River, one of the few major U.S. rivers with no dams.

Turning west, I followed Route 6 to Smethport, PA Route 59 west to Ormsby, and then south to Kinzua Bridge State Park, home to the Kinzua Sky Walk. The park’s namesake bridge was once known as the Viaduct, a railroad structure that spanned 2,053 feet across – and 301 feet above – the Kinzua Gorge. Partially destroyed by a tornado in 2003, what remained of the bridge was converted into a pedestrian walkway.

Visitors can now walk 600 feet out on the remaining support towers to enjoy sweeping views of the gorge and surrounding mountains, as well as a glass platform at the end of the walkway for breathtaking views down below. The Kinzua Sky Walk is an especially impressive place to enjoy fall colors.

Pennsylvania Wilds Route 6
The 600-foot-long Kinzua Sky Walk at Kinzua Bridge State Park is a popular destination for riders. Alas, motorcycle parking on the bridge is not allowed.

Cruising along Route 6, I made my way back to Wellsboro. There are three recommended stops along the way: Larry’s Sport Center in Galeton, which sells Harley-Davidson, Kawasaki, Yamaha, and Suzuki motorcycles, and the Colton and Leonard Harrison state parks, both of which have impressive views of Pine Creek Canyon.

Back at the Sherwood Motel, I enjoyed a relaxing soak in the warm water of the pool. Afterwards, I had dinner in the lounge of the historic Penn-Wells Hotel, originally built in 1869. Conversing with the bartender and locals, I felt as comfortable as a regular.

The next day, I began my journey home heading south on Route 287 to Morris, but this time I went east on Route 414. And what a great ride it was – weaving and rolling through the countryside, passing farms and surrounded by the green hills on the horizon.

Pennsylvania Wilds Route 6
Riders leaving the summit of Hyner View State Park.

Rejoining Route 6 for a spell at Towanda, my Vulcan climbed back up the mountain by the Wyalusing Rocks Overlook, and then I rode PA Routes 409 and 706 through the Endless Mountains region to New Milford.

Somewhere along Route 706, I stopped on a downward sloped shoulder for a photo. As I dismounted, over the bike went. Within minutes, people stopped to help. We righted the bike, I thanked them, and then I continued my ride. I had once again relied on “the kindness of strangers,” and I will pay that kindness forward.

At New Milford, I took a series of pleasantly undulating state routes to Damascus, where I rested and watched Pennsylvanians enjoying the Delaware River. Crossing the bridge into New York, I rolled south on the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway (NY Route 97) toward Port Jervis, which offers expansive views of Pennsylvania and New York.

Pennsylvania Wilds Route 6
Along PA Route 872, the author’s Kawasaki Vulcan basks in the beauty of Mother Nature.

As I rumbled back home through New Jersey, I could not help but relive this great Route 6 ride through the Pennsylvania Wilds. I knew the region, its roads, and many other delights would soon be calling me back.

The post Cruising the Pennsylvania Wilds on U.S. Route 6 first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Motorcycle Camping on a Honda CB500X and Husqvarna Norden 901

The following motorcycle camping trip story was part of Rider‘s adventure-themed November 2022 issue, which also included stories on the TransAmerica Trail, Trans Canada Adventure Trail, and the Trans Euro Trail.


Motorcycle camping trip
Rider’s editor-in-chief Greg Drevenstedt (left) and American Rider’s editor-in-chief Kevin Duke share a fireside toast. (Photos by Kevin Wing)

Buried deep in my iPhone is a text message I sent to my riding buddies on Feb. 29, 2008 (lucky leap day, as it turns out):

I got the job!! I’m Rider’s new Road Test Editor! Woohoo!

I had just returned from my second interview with Mark Tuttle, Rider’s former editor-in-chief. We had met up for a motorcycle ride, and during lunch at a beachside cafe, he offered me the job.

Working full-time at a motorcycle magazine really has been a dream come true. It’s been an honor and a privilege to ride hundreds of new motorcycles and travel all over the world. But one of the most rewarding parts of my job has been getting to know fellow motorcycle enthusiasts who work in the industry – passionate, intelligent, talented individuals who have become not only trusted colleagues but true friends.

The Wingman

One of those friends is Kevin Wing. He’s one of the best motorcycle photographers in the business, and his work has been featured in Rider, Motorcyclist, Sport Rider, Cycle World, and other leading publications since the ’90s. Wing is responsible for countless inspiring covers and vivid images that bring this magazine to life, and he deserves way more credit for his contributions than we could ever give him. 

Motorcycle camping trip
Like many photographers, Kevin Wing avoids the limelight. I managed to capture a selfie with him (right) and Duke during a lunch stop.

Wing was the photographer on my first Rider photoshoot. A month into my new job, Tuttle asked me to photo model on the Buell XB12XT for the June 2008 cover feature. Wing was patient with my inexperience, coaching me on how to ride 2 feet off the back bumper of a minivan for tracking shots. 

Wing is also a perfectionist. He’ll call for as many photo passes as it takes – sometimes dozens of them in a single corner – to get the lighting, focus, angle, and other details just right. On the Buell shoot, I struggled to do repeated U-turns on a steep, narrow road for the cover shot. When I blew it one time and ended up in the weeds, he snagged a few embarrassing frames of me trying to extricate myself.

Motorcycle camping trip Husqvarna Norden 901 Honda CB500X
Enjoying fresh pavement on Lockwood Valley Road aboard the Husqvarna Norden 901 and Honda CB500X.

If I’m honest, I’ve never felt like the “talent.” I’m a rider with middling skills who is always trying to compensate for a lifelong habit of cocking my head to the left, inspiring a few riding buddies to nickname me “iLean.” The real talent is the guy behind the camera.

The Dukester

Another industry veteran I’m proud to call my friend is Kevin Duke. He started out at Motorcyclist in the late ’90s and was an editor at Roadracing World and Motorcycle Consumer News before taking the helm as editor-in-chief at Motorcycle-USA.com and then Motorcycle.com. When the EIC position opened up at our sibling publication, Thunder Press (which became American Rider last May), I was stoked when Duke landed the job.

Motorcycle camping trip
The Honda CB500X is more at home on the pavement, despite its adventure styling and 19-inch front wheel.

Over the years, I’ve attended dozens of press launches around the world with Duke. He was at my first press launch in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, in the spring of 2008, one that will forever live in infamy after one guy crashed (me), nearly every other journalist got a ticket, and one unlucky soul was hauled off in handcuffs. But that’s a longer story best told over a couple of beers…

In January 2013, Duke and I attended the global launch of the BMW R 1200 GS “water” Boxer in South Africa, an event that got cut short on the first day after a British motojournalist crashed and ultimately succumbed to his injuries.

Following the fatal incident, the mood at the launch was somber. We had a free day before our flight home, and Duke and I decided we needed to do something life-affirming. So we borrowed a BMW X1 and drove to Bloukrans Bridge, which, at 700 feet above the Bloukrans River, is the site of the world’s highest commercial bungee jump.

Motorcycle camping trip
Can you tell which one of us had completed the Bloukrans Bridge bungee jump and which one was awaiting his fate?

I was nervous during the entire two-hour drive there, hoping Duke would chicken out so I could do the same. But he never did, and we went through with it. The jump was two seconds of sheer terror followed by one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.

The Motorcycle Camping Plan

Duke and I oversee a small editorial team as we work collaboratively on Rider and American Rider. Duke is a former racer and can wheelie anything on two wheels, but now that he runs an American V-Twin publication, his opportunities to ride bikes not made by Harley or Indian are limited.

“Hey Duke, we’re working on this adventure issue for Rider. How about you take the train up here to Ventura, and we’ll go for a ride? Bring your tent and sleeping bag.”

Motorcycle camping trip
As a full-sized adventure bike with long-travel suspension, the Husqvarna Norden 901 is well-suited for stand-up riding off-road.

We both spend way too much time riding a desk chair, so he didn’t hesitate to accept my invitation. We had a pair of adventure bikes – a Honda CB500X and a Husqvarna Norden 901 – in the Rider garage, and we’d be joined by Wing on our Yamaha Tracer 9 GT long-termer.

Related Stories:

You know what they say about the best-laid plans. Duke missed his 6 a.m. train, pushing our departure back by two hours. Deadlines, a bum knee, and aftereffects of a Covid booster slowed down my last-minute packing, so by the time we hit the road it was noon.

Motorcycle camping trip
Introduced last year, the Norden 901 is Husqvarna’s first foray into the adventure/travel segment. Husky is owned by KTM, and the Norden is built on the same platform as the KTM 890 Adventure. It’s powered by an 889cc parallel-Twin that makes a claimed 105 hp at the crank, and it has throttle-by-wire, a 6-axis IMU, and a full suite of electronic rider aids. MSRP is $13,999, and the touring cases with carriers add $1,030.

First, the Ride

From my house, I can hit California Route 33 with a rock. It peels off U.S. Route 101 near the beach, and after winding through small hamlets like Casitas Springs and Oak View, Route 33 passes a biker hangout called the Deer Lodge and becomes one of the best motorcycling roads in Southern California, entering the wide-open spaces of Los Padres National Forest. I even wrote about the 33 in my cover letter when I applied to Rider back in 2008:

A motorcycling treasure sits in Rider’s backyard. The triple-crown of the Jacinto Reyes Scenic Byway (Route 33), Lockwood Valley Road, and Cerro Noroeste Road has it all: breathtaking vistas, peg-scraping switchbacks, fast sweepers, and top-gear straights.

Motorcycle camping trip
In Honda’s lineup since 2013, the CB500X has grown into its role as a light, affordable adventure bike. Built around a 471cc parallel-Twin, in 2019 it got a larger front wheel, more suspension travel, and other upgrades. Updates for 2022 include a lighter front wheel, a lighter swingarm, a new inverted Showa SFF-BP fork, and dual front disc brakes. MSRP is $7,199, and Honda’s accessory tankbag, light bar, and panniers bring the as-tested price to $8,517.

Even better, these roads have minimal traffic, especially on a Tuesday. “The Kevins” and I have ridden together many times, and we enjoy a brisk pace. We pushed our bikes hard and gnawed the chicken strips down to gristle. And then, out of nowhere, we received an unexpected gift.

Covering about 25 desolate miles from its junction with Route 33 to the small community of Lake of the Woods, Lockwood Valley Road has suffered a long history of neglect. It was in rough shape when I first rode it 15 years ago, and over the years, it has only deteriorated further. One tricky section is a tangled knot of first-gear corners that go through narrow desert canyons and washes. On one of my first test rides through Lockwood Valley, I dumped a $20,000 BMW R 1200 HP2 Megamoto in a patch of sand that caught me off-guard, cracking one of the magnesium cylinder heads and nearly putting my dream job at risk.

As the Kevins and I turned onto Lockwood Valley Road, we saw that the top layer of pavement had been scraped off. A few miles later, we came upon the paving crew. And then … nirvana!

Motorcycle camping trip
The recently repaved Lockwood Valley Road was a delight.

All the twists and turns that were such a challenge when the pavement was cracked, patched, potholed, and strewn with sand and rock-slide debris became a jet black, eerily smooth roller coaster like those plastic Hot Wheels tracks you could twist into acrobatic shapes and loops. We were gobsmacked.

The Actual Motorcycle Camping

An army marches on its stomach, and so does a crew on a photoshoot ride. We’re all remote workers these days, so rides like these give us a chance to see each other face-to-face and have some laughs. While we sat around a picnic table and scarfed down an XL combination pie at Mike’s Pizza, Duke revealed that Wing had also been the photographer on his first shoot – 25 years ago to the month. We commiserated about the recent heat wave, inquired about Duke’s and Wing’s kids, and discussed the length of my beard. By December, I should be eligible for a part-time gig as Santa.

Motorcycle camping trip
As California Route 33 follows the winding path of the Ventura River through Wheeler Gorge, it passes through a pair of tunnels built in 1931.

We waddled out to the bikes rubbing our distended bellies, saddled up, and made our way through the alpine community of Pine Mountain Club before spiraling our way up Cerro Noroeste Road to the top of its namesake mountain. Cerro Noroeste is surrounded by the Chumash Wilderness, and sprawled across its 8,300-foot summit under the shade of enormous Jeffrey pines is Campo Alto Campground.

Motorcycle camping trip

When my brother and I first camped at Campo Alto back in ’06, we had embraced our Tennessee heritage, bringing little more than a box of fried chicken, a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, and bed rolls tossed in the bed of my F-150. We’ve taken Rider staff camping trips to Campo Alto, so it seemed a fitting location for our most recent escape. A week after Labor Day on a Tuesday, it was deserted.

Motorcycle camping trip
Shaded by enormous Jeffrey pines, Campo Alto Campground is perched atop Cerro Noroeste at 8,300 feet in Los Padres National Forest.

As the Kevins set up camp, I rode down to the general store in Pine Mountain Club and stocked up on beer, chips, sandwich fixin’s, and firewood. We soon had a toasty blaze going and cold cans of IPA in our hands. Heavy rains had spun off from Cyclone Kay and soaked the mountains only a day or two before, and the petrichor mixed with the smell of pine and wood smoke.

“Hard to believe we’re so close to home,” Wing said. “Feels like we’re a million miles away.”

We had ridden less than 100 miles since leaving Ventura, and it was probably half that to the campground as the crow flies. But we were on the top of a mountain surrounded by wilderness, and there was no one around but us.

Motorcycle camping trip
“Trust me, Duke, if we just bomb down this hill, go over the river, and through the woods, we’ll get home an hour earlier.”

After the sun went down, it dropped into the 40s, so we huddled close to the fire, sipped some 10-year-old Henry McKenna bourbon, and told war stories about press launches, photoshoots, close calls, and embarrassing moments. (Yes, I told the Gatlinburg story.)

Motorcycle camping trip

Ours was an adventure with a little “a.” We didn’t do much preparation or planning, nothing went wrong, and we were back home in less than 36 hours. But we slept in tents under the stars, had fun, and asked, “Why don’t we do this more often?” Even a brief escape with good friends does wonders for the soul.

The post Motorcycle Camping on a Honda CB500X and Husqvarna Norden 901 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

White Rim Trail on KTM 690 Enduros | Favorite Ride

White Rim Trail
Taking a break at Hurrah Pass during our warm-up ride on Chicken Corners Trail.

White Rim Trail – or White Rim Road in national park parlance – is a 100-mile unpaved route that loops around the Island in the Sky mesa in Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah. It’s on the bucket list of many dual-sport and adventure riders, and rightfully so. The scenery is spectacular, and the trail is ridable by anyone with a modicum of off-road experience.

White Rim Trail

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

White Rim Trail, named after the layer of White Rim Sandstone that it runs on top of, was built in the 1950s by the Atomic Energy Commission to access uranium deposits. The mines didn’t produce much ore and were abandoned, and the road became part of Canyonlands after it was established in 1964.

Although White Rim Trail is a rough and rugged route, only street-legal (plated) motorcycles and high-clearance, four-wheel drive vehicles are permitted. Off-road-only dirtbikes, ATVs, and side-by-sides that are common on many trails around Moab are prohibited, which helps keep noise and traffic down. There’s also a daily limit of 50 day-use permits.

Since the trail is within Canyonlands, a national parks pass or entrance fee ($25 per motorcycle, good for seven days) is required. Day-use permits are free at visitor centers, but a $6 fee is required for permits purchased online at Recreation.gov. There are several campgrounds along the trail that require overnight permits for an additional fee. In the spring and fall, reservations are strongly encouraged.

White Rim Trail
White Rim Trail runs atop a layer of White Rim Sandstone below the Island in the Sky mesa.

The plan was for four of us – Bruce Gillies, Vic Anderson, Kevin Rose, and me – to ride the entire White Rim Trail in one day. We would be traveling light, with all of us riding KTM 690 Enduro Rs. As enjoyable as camping would be in such a beautiful place, it requires gear that would’ve weighed us down, and whatever was in our saddlebags or panniers would be subjected to paint-shaker conditions for hours on end. Instead, we rented a house in Moab that served as our base for two days of riding.

As a warm-up for the White Rim, we spent our first day riding Chicken Corners Trail, a 42-mile out-and-back route on Bureau of Land Management land that passes through Kane Springs Canyon, goes over Hurrah Pass, and runs along a high sandstone bench on the southern edge of the Colorado River. We got hammered by rain early on, but then the clouds parted, and we enjoyed a fun, scenic ride. The trail ends 400 feet above the river across from Dead Horse Point Overlook, the filming location for the final scene in Thelma and Louise when they drive off the cliff.

White Rim Trail
Hidden from view near the patch of green is the Colorado River, which joins with the Green River below the southern tip of White Rim Trail.

Having obtained our day-use permits online, the next day we left the house around sunrise and rode north on U.S. Route 191 past Arches National Park and then turned west on State Route 313. There’s no gas in Canyonlands, and the nearest gas station is about 30 miles away in Moab, so completing the loop requires at least 160 miles of range. We were equipped with auxiliary fuel canisters just in case.

White Rim Trail is a two-way road, so it can be ridden in either direction. Our plan was to ride it counterclockwise, saving the famous Shafer Trail for the very end. We turned west on Mineral Canyon Road (BLM 129) before entering Canyonlands and followed the long, flat, well-graded dirt road for about 12 miles.

White Rim Trail
When ridden counterclockwise, White Rim Trail passes through Bureau of Land Management land before entering Canyonlands National Park.

The road into Canyonlands climbs up onto the Island in the Sky mesa, which is where the visitor center and many RV-clogged overlooks are located. Since the White Rim is below the mesa, riding it in either direction requires going down a series of steep switchbacks to get to the trail.

White Rim Trail
Getting to White Rim Trail from atop the Island in the Sky mesa requires a steep, switchbacked descent to the rim and then a similar ascent at the end.

On a crisp morning in late May, we peered down into the red sandstone canyon carved by the Green River and descended to Horsethief Bottom. After passing the Canyonlands National Park boundary sign, we cruised along the flat trail and took in the full spectrum of colorful scenery: green vegetation along the river; layers of red, pink, yellow, white, and gray rock; and blue skies sprayed with tufts of white cirrocumulus clouds. Off in the distance was Canyonlands’ Maze district.

White Rim Trail
Riding along the Green River, with Canyonlands’ Maze district off in the distance.

Our first challenge was crossing a sand wash where Upheaval Canyon dumps into the Green River. If the Green is running high, the wash can be flooded and make the trail impassable. We blasted through on the gas and soon found ourselves at one of the two most technical sections on the trail: Hardscrabble Bottom. Since we rode the loop counterclockwise, this section was downhill, and we picked our way along without incident.

Even though it was a Saturday, we rarely saw others on the trail. We waved to a group of Jeepers at a campground, and we passed a few 4x4s and mountain bikers followed by support trucks. Otherwise, it was just the four of us enjoying the sweeping views and a fun trail with minimal dust thanks to the previous day’s rains.

White Rim Trail
Box canyons, hoodoos, buttes, and spires are common sights in the eroded landscape of Canyonlands National Park.

The second technical challenge on White Rim Trail is climbing up and over Murphy’s Hogback. Our KTMs were perfectly suited for the terrain, and we again made it through without any problems. Bigger ADV bikes would be more of a handful here but certainly capable of getting through.

Read all of Rider‘s KTM coverage here.

While some of White Rim Trail is red dirt and sand, miles of it are on bare sandstone, which makes for a bumpy ride. Long-travel suspension, good ground clearance, and a sturdy skid plate are essential.

White Rim Trail
Pausing to admire the view. Parts of White Rim Trail run right along the cliff’s edge, and there’s no fence or guardrail.

The sky had become progressively cloudier throughout the day, and by midafternoon, dark clouds blotted out the sun. At the junction with Potash Road, a ranger checked our permits before we began the final climb up the Shafer Trail switchbacks. This section of trail is accessible by anyone visiting Canyonlands, so we worked our way to the top around not only Jeeps and mountain bikes but Toyota Camrys full of Instagrammers too.

White Rim Trail
The switchbacks of Shafer Trail marked the end of our White Rim ride.

A few fat raindrops began to fall as we exited the trail. We made a hasty retreat back to the house to hoist celebratory beers and share stories about our adventure.

The post White Rim Trail on KTM 690 Enduros | Favorite Ride first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com