We all want fun, excitement and adventure in our lives, and one sure-fire way of guaranteeing all three is by going on a motorcycle tour.
But where do you want to go? Do you want to go it alone or book up with a tour operator? What bike do you need? These are among the many questions you should be asking yourselves, and to help you out a little, here are some of the answers.
Q. Do I ride alone or with a tour operator?
This really depends on your personal preferences and your style of riding. If you’re planning to tour previously unexplored areas, then it could be really beneficial to go with a tour operator, as they are likely to be experts in your destination of choice and will know all the best places to visit.
Using a tour operator is perfect for people who don’t want to nit-pick through the fine details – they ultimately take away the stress of planning for you. Touring with a group is also much more sociable and is a great opportunity for you to meet enthusiasts like yourself.
However, you must remember that you’ll be slightly more limited if touring with an operator. If you self-plan and tour, you are more or less free to roam wherever you wish.
Q. I’ve chosen to book with a tour operator. How do I choose the right one for me?
A simple ‘motorbike tour operators’ search in Google will provide you with thousands of results, which means that it can be really difficult separating the good from the bad. The best thing to do is first think of where you’d like to go – narrow it down to just a few locations and then search online directories for tour companies that operate in those areas. Also, look on forums for reviews from bikers who have been there and done it. Would they recommend the company? Does it sound like your kind of tour?
Once you’ve picked out decent tour operators, there’s plenty of other stuff to consider, and most of this information can be found on companies’ websites. You should find out what the daily mileage and riding style of the tour is – there’s no point signing yourself up for a tour that far exceeds your riding capabilities and skills. Where does the tour start and finish? What is the company’s cancellation policy? Are you responsible for transporting your own luggage? What level of support does the operator provide in cases of emergency? What about insurance?
If you’re planning on riding a bike supplied by the operator, you need to make sure it’s one that you will be comfortable riding. You also need to make sure you’ll be comfortable with the terrain and geography of the tour. As well as this, think of the destination – are their certain areas covered in your itinerary that are currently experiencing political unrest?
Most of this stuff will be available on the operator’s website – but if you’re still unsure of anything, drop them an e-mail or give one of their representatives a call.
Q. What bike is best?
When touring, your bike is your best friend and so selecting the right one is crucial. The first big question is: are you going to be riding your own bike or one supplied by the operator? If it’s your own bike, you must ensure that it’s suitable for the type of tour you’re booked up on. If your tour is mainly off-road, for instance, a smaller cc engine (such as a 400 or 500cc) might be ideal as you’ll be doing smaller distances and you’re far more likely to drop the machine. Or you might want to choose a V twin over a four cylinder for long distance/high speed tours due to the lower revs and more comfortable tone of the engine.
Whatever bike you choose, it’s essential that it’s in good nick. Never tour on an old motorbike that needs extensive work. Even with tour bikes, it’s good to give them a check over before you embark on your journey, as they are likely to have clocked-up some serious mileage. Make sure you always consider comfort, carrying capacity and range.
Q. Where are the best places to go?
This is really down to personal preference, too, and depends on what it is you’d like to see, do and experience. Here are a few recommendations:
Alps – Think zigzag roads, panoramic views of lush green valleys and plenty of hairpin turns. There are plenty of great tours in the Alps, taking you through fantastic mountain passes like Furka, Susten and Grimsel.
Norway – Norway is renowned for its breathtaking scenery, comprised of green valleys, stunning waterfalls and of course its famous fjords. The Sognefjorden is the longest and deepest fjord in the world. The mountainous roads, rocky terrain and sheer-drop cliff edges make for a truly exhilarating ride. Norway is also home to two of the most scenic roads in the world – the Eagle road and the Trolls road.
Australia – If you fancy going further afield, consider touring through Australia’s outback. Humid, dry and desolate, you’ll feel like you’re the only bikers in the world! The weather hugely affects the terrain which can have a significant impact on your bike – make sure you plan plenty of water and fuel stops. Also, riding in such heat can be very testing and the rocky tracks will push you to your limits – make sure you’re well prepared and travel as light as possible.
Q. What do I bring?
If you are planning to go it alone, take a look at our touring season preparation tips we wrote last week. If you choose to book with a tour operator, they will give you guidance on what you need to bring as well as what they provide for you.