7 Bucket List Rides for Motorcyclists
Andrew Greene Guest writer, rider advocate and fan all things with 2 wheels.
Most motorcyclists have a bucket list of rides that they’ve always dreamed of taking. Whether it’s exploring the craggy coasts of Italy or the volcanic geysers of Iceland, these scenic rides are a big part of what motorcycling is all about for many riders. The human desire to explore and to experience nature feels that much more satisfying when you’re doing it from the back of your favorite machine with your friends’ voices encouraging you through your motorcycle bluetooth intercom.
These seven rides have gained legendary status among motorcyclists as some of the world’s most rewarding. Some are suitable for all skill levels, while others are for experts only. Some are dense and luscious forests, and some are expansive landscapes where you can see for miles in all directions. All provide an unforgettable two-wheel experience.
1. Tail of the Dragon, Tennessee/North Carolina, USA
It wouldn’t be a rider’s bucket list without the Tail of the Dragon, a ride that might be the East Coast’s single most venerated and most popular motorcycle route. The thing is, though, that it really does live up to the hype, with some of the most twisted motorcycle roads in America that will push your skills as a rider to their limit.
How crazy does it get? Let’s put it this way: 318 curves in 11 miles, with no intersections. In other words, it’s practically made for skilled motorcycle riding. And it doesn’t hurt that the scenery is amazing, with both the Cherokee National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains providing some of the nation’s best scenic riding.
2. Amalfi Coast, Italy
Southern Italy contains some of Europe’s most beautiful vistas, and the Amalfi Coast offers a perfectly crystallized vision of what this region is all about. Plunging cliffs, azure waters and buildings hundreds of years old combine to create a truly breathtaking experience. And that experience is even better when it happens on the back of a bike.
A fast motorcycle tour of the region will take around two days, but it’s better to stretch it out and enjoy the food, wine and historic architecture if you’ve got the time. The area between the cities of Sorrento and Salerno is the Amalfi Coast proper, but the coast lies close enough to Rome and Naples that any bike tourer should try to see the entire area if possible.
3. Pacific Coast Highway, California, USA
The Pacific Coast Highway is a legendary ride that winds its way through some of California’s most legendary scenery. The highway runs over 650 miles in its entirety, but you don’t even need to tackle the whole thing to take in the incredible vistas that the route is known for.
Throughout the route (particularly in its northern sections), you’ll see pristine beaches that are often teeming with sea lions. The PCH also crosses the Golden Gate Bridge, a must-see for those who love America’s architectural landmarks. Finally, don’t forget to stop at some of the many independent roadside restaurants dotting the PCH for a fresh and tasty meal.
4. Icelandic Ring Road, Iceland
Iceland packs an incredible amount of gorgeous sights into a country smaller than many U.S. states, and the best way to see them from a bike is by traveling the Icelandic Ring Road, a road that circles the outer rim of the country in around 15-17 hours of riding time. Iceland is one of the world’s most recently formed landmasses, and its intense volcanic activity creates stunning geysers, waterfalls and other natural features.
Start by exploring the sights in the capital of Reykjavik before moving on to amazing natural spaces like the Dimmuborgir lava fields and the raging Gullfoss waterfall. Of course, Iceland does present the logistical challenge of transporting your bike to the island, so look into local motorcycle rental options (or ferries from Denmark, if you’ve gotta have your own wheels).
5. Salmon River Scenic Byway, Idaho, USA
The Salmon River Byway winds its way through the lands around the Idaho-Montana border, crossing through the primeval forest, jagged mountains and the 7,000-foot Lost Trail Pass. The forests are also crowded with animals like elk and deer, which makes for great nature viewing opportunities, but also makes it imperative to maintain concentration while riding.
Riders should know that this is a truly curvaceous route, so don’t expect a lot of long straightaways for opening up the throttle. But if twisted is your style, take a tour of it and see the multiple nearby national forests, each of which provides its own hair-raisingly fun riding challenges.
6. Normandy, France
Like your rides with a side of history? The Normandy run will give you the chills. Fans of both medieval and 20th-century history will find plenty to see, including the picturesque monastery of Mont St. Michel. But the main attractions, of course, are the beaches of the D-Day landing, complete with abandoned Nazi fortifications. In general, this region of Europe is packed with history. If you have some time to spend in the area, you can start in a nearby city like Paris or Ghent and work your way along the northern coast of France. Fancy a visit to England? It’s a short hop across the Channel via the ferries that operate from ports like Calais.
7. The Transfăgărășan Highway, Romania
Some of Europe’s most idyllic countryside lies well outside the traditional tours of Italy, France, Germany and the rest of the west. Case in point: Romania’s Transfăgărășan Highway, which snakes through the Carpathian Mountains and plunges through lush green valleys. Its remote location means it’s rarely used by business travelers, making it the perfect playground for motorsport enthusiasts.
The highway is also dotted with offbeat attractions like Poenari Castle, in which the actual Vlad Dracul (the inspiration for Dracula) once lived. You can even stay in a hotel that’s carved completely from ice for a truly unique experience.
Which one of these amazing routes will be your next big riding trip? That’s up to you. Just remember to be realistic about your skill level and your group’s needs when you’re choosing routes, and don’t forget to pack motorcycle road trip essentials