The ride of a lifetime – A peek at some trails that every rider must journey on at least once
Riding a motorcycle is truly an exhilarating experience. The feel of a powerful machine between your feet roaring across the unending depths of the open road is just too alluring for anyone to resist. It is said that once you return from a long haul, you develop a certain intimacy with your bikes… The feeling of clinging to the heat of your engine when it’s cold, the serenity of just letting the throttle go just to feel the breeze and cool off… and the intuition of shifting by the flow of the wind, make you one with your machine. This bond cannot be described in words, nor can it be narrated as eloquently as it can be felt…it’s almost poetic, yet very real… and it is just something that comes to you when you’ve spent enough time on your machines.
More than anything riding a motorcycle cross country or across continents becomes more exciting because you happen to meet amazing people on the way. People that point you to newer roads and fuel your spirit of exploration.
As riders ourselves, we’ve gone on several expeditions with our groups. Some of us have even gone nomad, just to see how far our spirit of wanderlust can take us. We’ve been lucky enough to embrace some of the most spectacular views, and meet some amazing people along the way, whose stories and experiences have in turn taken us in directions we’d never have gone otherwise. Today, we’re going to share some of their best-kept secrets, about the rides they have taken, and bring before you a peek inside some of the best motorcycle trails that every rider should journey across at least once in their lifetime. From the great Australian Outback to the American Flatlands, we’ll list mountains, deserts, valleys, and all such places where all you’ll need are 2 wheels, gasoline, and a strong spirit of adventure.
But before we dive into that, let’s get one thing straight, every rider needs to prepare for a long ride because cruising 50 miles and traveling cross country or across continents are two completely different riding experiences. That’s why, for new enthusiasts, it’s always advisable to build your tolerance for the road. Especially because we are not talking about weekend joy rides. Our list entails days of rigorous traveling! Of crossing treacherous roads, and vast expanses where there may be nothing for miles. But at the end of it all, once you’ve returned, you will yearn for more… That’s how addictive a true riding experience is!
Having said that, before embarking on your next adventure, it is always advisable to have a checklist of things you’ll be taking along and things you need to prepare for. So very quickly, here’s our little checklist of pre-ride preparations
Have your bike checked. It is imperative that your bike is ride-worthy and has all parts greased or degreased, tuned, clamped, welded, and powered up before you start your journey.
Have the necessary gear. Of course, you’ll have your riding gear on, so what we mean by gear here is for you to have the basic tool kits, like puncture repair, spare fuses, spanners and wrenches, a couple of extra gear cables. And any other thing that you can think of which will help you reach the nearest service station or mechanic without leaving you stranded. But don’t get too bulky, and remember to tool-up only with DIY essentials.
Have food and snacks. Energy bars, dried foods & nut mixes usually help you fuel your body in the right way. Water is essential so have a large water bottle with you. There are a lot of filters available that can turn spring water drinkable so it’d be a good idea to have one on you in case you are drinking straight from the natural source.
Wearables. Clothes are essential but remember not to pack too many. This is a ride and you don’t want to make it bulkley by packing party wear, formal shoes, and things you’d normally take on vacation. Be frugal, and drop all materialistic longings.
Pack some tech. It’d be a good idea to have GPS on you so you can find your way across or back. Map your route, and load it on to the GPS, so even if you do not get cell phone connectivity, your GPS will be there to guide you.
Pro Tip: Be light and pack like a survivalist. Take what you need and not what you want. Remember this is an experiential journey and not a recreational outing.
Now that we’ve covered the basics. Here’s our list of Rides of A Lifetime! Just so you know, we’ll not be listing ride times and what you should you be packing and the site seeing aspect, primarily because there’s a lot of information already out there and we just want you to have a flavor of ‘the where’ rather than ‘the hows’ and ‘the what next’…
Leh-Ladakh – The True Himalayan Experience
Beginning from the foothills of Manali, the journey to Leh-Ladakh, which was recently inducted in the republic of India as a state, takes you on the best journey of your life. The constantly ascending slopes, turns overlooking deepest valleys, and plateaus stretching out into nothingness, Leh-Ladakh is one wild experience wrapped in the enigma of a centuries old community of monks. In just about 20 odd hours of riding (with breaks to soak in the breathtaking views), you will reach Leh, the capital of Ladakh, from here, journeying north, you will arrive at Khardung La, the World’s Highest Motorable Pass, and instantly feel the serene sense of achieving the impossible. You will be at peace. Your descent down into the Nubra Valley will be equally epic. You will navigate through small archaic tibetian villages with terraced fields of barley, amazing mountain views with vibrantly colorful outcrops that and an odd ancient monastery seemingly defying gravity on the cliff side. There’s a lot that can be said about this epic ride. In fact, you will find articles, with a mile by mile detailing. But in the end, the experience of a ride through this beautiful slice of land, can only be experienced by the soul, through the lens of one’s own eyes!
Death Valley & Route 66: The Great American Classics
Let’s begin with Death Valley first. The cliffnotes of this epic ride are as follows; The demanding route stretches 225 miles between Las Vegas, Nevada and Lone Pine, California, with the real tester being the 85 miles between Death Valley Junction and Panamint Springs, California. This is where a two-lane road hauls you up and over jagged peaks, drags you down into the pit of the valley at 280 feet below sea level, and then takes you around switchbacks, twisties, and dips while forcing you uncomfortably close to sheer drops where guardrails are noticeably absent. Death Valley can get warmer by the hour, so the best time to start here is early to very early. We may dare say it is for experienced riders with a lot of miles behind them. But we can definitely say, Death Valley is a life changing experience!
Route 66 on the other hand is a Great American Classic. This famous stretch was once the main highway between Chicago and Los Angeles that runs 2000miles across some of the nation’s most stupendous landscapes. You’ll actually cross three time zones and eight different states from Illinois to Oklahoma riding through Texas and New Mexico before ending up in sunny California. All through your journey, you’ll discover classic pieces of old-school American History, like quaint diners, neon-lit motels, and much more. It’s a long ride, very long in fact! But depending on where you start from, finishing it is its own reward (or so you will know when you ride it)
Simpson Desert – The Great Australian Crossing
Right here in our very own backyard is the Simpson Desert. And for every Australian rider, looking to test their mettle, this trail is your proving grounds. Why? Because for one it is the largest sand-dune desert in the world! With about 1100 miles of dunes between you and your end-point. Its red sands contrast the blue skies and the occasional occurrence of scrubs and waterbodies, provides a very artistic appeal to this otherwise barren landscape. We must mention that traveling from west to east is recommended by many, as the dunes are steeper on the east face. When travelling the QAA line, you’ll run all the way to Birdsville which takes in the biggest sand dunes of any track, including the famous Big Red.
WAA line is the lesser traveled track that is ideal for those looking to escape the crowds during busier periods. It splits from the French line via the rig road and runs more or less parallel, to the south before it joins the French Line. WAA is relatively easier to travel than the French Line primarily because you’ll cross smaller dunes through here.
N14 From Marrakech to Western Sahara, Morocco – The Silk Route of Riders
Morocco’s National Route 13 has been in use since the Roman times and is now considered a prime bikers’ haunt. And this is the gateway into the eden of earth, Africa. The route has everything from high altitude looping roads of Atlas Mountains, to the blazing trails of the Sahara Desert. Meandering roads often take you through quaint Moroccan and African villages that have a rustic beauty that allures you. There’s so much to give away here, it’s almost impossible to say why it needs to be in your bucket list. But some adjectives that we can think of are that it’s romantic, makes you look badass, you’ll get the best of mountains, valleys and deserts on one long stretch, and above all, you’ll have a cross-cultural experience that will stay with you for a lifetime, like a Leonardo’s Monalisa.
The Cape Town Circuit & the Swartberg Pass- Soak in the South African Vibe
Cape Town to Kimberly stretch of South Africa is probably the summary of the land’s greatest beauty. You’ll loop through spectacular mountain passes, slow down to admire picturesque towns, and surely stop to admire the iconic Cape Winelands and Cape Peninsula. Then meandering into the heart of South Africa, touching the outskirts of a national park, you’ll finally arrive at Kimberly, to hang your helmets and enjoy the South African hospitality. This experience just like any other is truly remarkable, sure there are tours that will take you through it, but we suggest you use your good old fashioned wits, guts, and passion for riding, maybe nomad or with friends, to catch the true beauty of this magical drive, uninterrupted.
The epic Swartberg Pass on the other hand is not so touristy. It is on the northern edge of Little Karoo in the Western Cape and even though it is perhaps the shortest one on our list (30 Kilometers), its predominantly dirt-road personality makes it an adventure for every centimeter you cover. The pass was constructed by Thomas Bain between 1881 and 1888 and is arguably one of his finest road-building projects, and goes from the valley floor through an incredible series of hairpins and straights stretches, to reach the peak. It then plunges down the side of the mountain and through deep gorges towards Malvadraai.
Ceylon Roads – The Lion of Srilanka
This island nation has a secret that can be found at the end of the most epic journey you can take traversing a route called the Ceylon Roads. Mind you this trip is only open from December to April and has absolutely must-take-stops like the Cultural Triangle (Sacred City of Anuradhapura, Ancient City of Polonnaruwa, and the Ancient City of Sigiriya), tea estates, rainforests, and national parks. That’s why it’s called Ceylon Roads because you can literally go to so many places that intersect one another to finally arrive refreshed & full of memories that will never leave you.
There are literally many more trails out there, so many that we can literally create an encyclopedia around the subject. But we’ll leave you with these for now with a final word of wisdom that bikers often pass along to fellow riders – Whenever you see a small dirt road splitting from your smooth tarmac stretch, take it… it’ll lead the same way, but the experience will be far more enriching.
Also, keep following us, because we will be updating more to our list of biking trails regularly.