When you love biking and travelling there’s only one logical thing to do: combine them into one mind-blowing experience! But where should you go? What are the best routes? From day trip delights to multi-week odysseys, here are seven ideas to test your biking skills and maximise your travel thrills…
1. Route 66, USA
This 2,200-mile ride from Chicago to Santa Monica is more than just a road; it’s an iconic journey through American history and pop culture. From references in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath to scene-setting in Pixar’s Cars, Route 66 is etched into the psyche of travellers and bikers as a definitive bucket list experience.
This is adventure for the cinematically-inclined; speeding along through dusty valleys and arid plains, you’ll feel like a road warrior of the silver screen. Accordingly, the stops along the route are well-suited to bikers, with plenty of opportunities to get some kitsch souvenirs, food and a comfy bed for the night.
2. Chile and Argentina, South America
From the fictional dreaming of Route 66 to factual footstep-following in Latin America; Che Guevara’s motorcycle journey has been an inspiration to backpackers and road trippers for decades. His diary of low-budget youthful exploits and eye-opening political revelations has been thoroughly mined by writers, filmmakers and travellers, and this part of the route was arguably the most magical. For added authenticity, do the trip on a similarly old-school bike – but remember to get classic motorbike insurance.
With the majestic Andes providing the backdrop, with lush valleys and crystalline lakes making up the rest of the landscape, you’ll have an awesome time winding through the two countries. There are loads of biker-friendly pit stops at Osorno, San Carlos de Bariloche and Puerto Varas for when weariness hits or you simply need to re-fuel.
3. Cape Town to Johannesburg, South Africa
If you’re quickly jaded by endless desert road or relentless mountainous landscapes, then this might be the route for you. From sun-baked grasslands, fertile valleys and salt-sprayed coastal passes, South Africa has diverse country to suite the easily bored rider.
Travelling east along the coast from Cape Town you’ll hit temperate towns Like Mossel Bay and Knysna on the legendary Garden Route. Continuing north-east, things heat up as you ride along the sub-tropical Zulu coast. As you continue east you’ll be blown away by the gorgeous mountain terrain of land-locked Swaziland, before heading west past the South African capital of Pretoria to Johannesburg in the dry province of Gauteng.
4. The Transfagarasan Highway, Romania
From the New World diversity of South Africa to some Old World gothic romance; the route from Sibiu to Curtea de Arges takes you right into the heart of Transylvania. This classic ride through Eastern Europe was conceived in the 1970s and runs across the highest mountains of Romania for almost 22 miles. In the decades since its inception, it’s frequently been described as one of the best roads in the world.
The route is closed in winter, so this is a summer trip. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though; after 20 minutes of ridiculously fun and tight hairpins the hot plains of Transylvania give way to a jagged moon-like landscape and eventually a plateau of sharp, snow-topped mountain peaks. It’s in the Arges Valley where gothic castles and monasteries line the road, so be ready for your imagination to be captured by imagery right out of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
5. Australia’s East Coast
Australia was made for epic journeys, and riding its East Coast is probably as good as it gets. Start off in the temperate climes of Melbourne before heading north-east from New South Wales to Queensland. Riding up the coast alongside the Pacific Ocean is pure freedom. Stop off to see Heron Island and the Yarrangobilly Caves, located smack in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef, then indulge in some fun on the Gold Coast before reaching Brisbane.
That might be the end of the story, however many bikers essentially double back on themselves once they hit Brisbane and travel down the coast on the more difficult interior roads. This will give you a totally different perspective on Australia, with the beach and cliff roads of your outward journey giving way to mountains and jungles as you return.
6. Cabo de Gata to Granada, Spain
Tumbleweeds, ahoy! Back on European soil, this day trip takes you through spaghetti western territory. The 130-mile route includes the barren, desolate volcanic cliffs of Cabo de Gata, the stunning country of Almeria and the pure, clean air of Las Alpujarras. This is a world of achingly stark canyons and endless horizons of sand and sky; you might recognise it from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
After a few hours riding through this kind of Wild West topography you might forget you’re on a motorbike and start imagining yourself on a horse. But you’ll soon come back to reality, and glance admiringly at white Moorish villages scattered across the landscape, as well as distant high peaks of the Sierra Nevada stretching up to over 3,000m.
7. Pacific Coast Highway, USA
We finish up back where we started. Well, in the USA at least. The 1,700-mile route from Astoria, Oregon, to San Juan Capistrano in California is one of the archetypal road trips, taking in beaches, cliffs, forests and quiet seaside towns. The road is just heaven, winding and rolling alongside the ocean as if part of the tide itself.
This is an epic distance, and there’s plenty of variation to the riding – from speedy thrill-seeking to more leisurely cruising. This is obviously a longer journey, but there are plenty of stops to suit all budgets. The cities along the route – Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego – are also very biker-friendly.