The 10 Best Motorcycle Roads in the world
Riding a motorcycle is a truly life affirming experience. Compared to the confines of a family saloon, exploring the world on two wheels offers a totally immersive and involving experience that simply cannot be matched. At Ride Expeditions, we’re lucky enough to ride some of the best roads in the world and have a chance to explore wonderful countries by motorcycle and meet amazing people on the way. So we thought we’d put together a list of some of the most epic motorcycle roads from California to Canberra – routes that you should make every effort to ride before you get too old! . Of course, some of them are on our own tours and that’s no coincidence – we make it a priority to pick locations with the best roads and routes in the world. As for the rest – well let’s just say we’re working on it!
So here's our list of the 10 best motorcycle roads in the world:
10. THE HO CHI MINH TRAIL
So were straight in with a truly epic and historic route that most riders will have heard of but few will have ridden. The Ho Chi Minh Trail stretches from the North of Vietnam all the way down to the final stop in Ho Chi Minh City a distance of nearly a thousand kilometres. Built between 1959 and 1965 during the intense and brutal conflicts in the region, the trail was originally a vital route for munitions and supplies.
But that’s in the past thankfully and now the Ho Chi Minh trail is a world class collection of trails, tracks and roads that scythe through the incredible landscape of Vietnam and neighbouring Laos, through everything from dense jungle to stunning valleys and open plains and is definitely best explored by motorcycle.
To enjoy the trail you really need a lightweight trail bike and that’s exactly what we do on our Ho Chi Minh tour. Armed with the right bike, exploring this epic route is a truly unforgettable experience – forget the bucket list, you need this one in the diary! Check out our video right here.
9. THE PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY
So you couldn’t get two routes much different than our first picks, but great motorcycle riding comes in many different guises! And for road riding in a fantastic location, you’d be hard pushed to argue against the Pacific Coast Highway. Of course which bit of State Route 1 is actually the Pacific Coast Highway seems to be open to debate, but if you’ve got the time and the bike to do it we’d recommend riding the whole 1,000 kilometres of SR1 from its start way north of San Francisco to the end just south of Los Angeles.
But if you don’t have time for the full route, then we’d go for the glorious section between Monterey and Morro Bay. This stunning ride tracks the cliffs and achingly beautiful landscape that borders the crashing Pacific Ocean beneath you, taking you through the iconic Carmel and Big Sur as the road snakes south towards the immense Morro Rock that sits above the bay. It’s only a 200 km ride, but you won’t want to rush this one – take your time, stop a lot and take lots of photos!
8. THE NORTH YORKSHIRE TET
Riding incredible routes doesn’t always have to mean going to exotic locations – it’s about the experience and the scenery and you can find that on your doorstep or on the other side of the world. So our third route may lack the glamour of the Pacific Coast, but it’s no less beautiful. The Trans European Trail takes in wonderful tracks and incredible roads across most of Northern Europe and down to the tip of Africa. But the section we’ve just picked out starts from Kendal in the Lake District and goes across to the Irish Sea before tracking all the way across the north of England to finish in Newcastle on Tyne. On the way you’ll witness the beauty of the Lakes, the splendour of the North Yorkshire moors and the stunning countryside of County Durham.
You’ll either need a trail bike or a small adventure bike to complete the ride, so don’t set out on your BMW R1250GS and expect to have an easy time, but armed with the right bike and a group of good mates, this is four days of riding heaven with added pubs!
7. THE AMALFI COAST
Italy is one of our all time favourite holiday destinations, and we’ve ridden all over this wonderful country, from slicing through the olive groves in Tuscany to adventure riding from Sanremo to Sestriere on the Hard Alpi tour or trail riding in Sardinia. But our selected bit of tarmac nirvana is on the achingly gorgeous Amalfi coast on the southern edge of the Sorrentine Peninsula, just below Naples.
The route is only around 60 kilometres long, but what it lacks in length it more than makes up for in scenery. The road goes from Sorrento to Amalfi, and for much of the distance tracks the rugged coastline, sometimes clinging to the cliffs over impossible drops down to the crashing waves of the Mediterranean below. You’ll pass through postcard picture villages, travel through tunnels chiselled out of the rock and you’ll need to keep your wits about you for those tight hairpin bends and endless corners, especially if there’s a tourist bus coming the other way!
But there’s no need to rush on this road, it’s so stunning from start to finish that it doesn’t matter whether you are on a Vespa or a V-Max – take your time and drink in this truly epic road.
6. THE SWARTBERG PASS
Until recently we’d not experienced the incredible riding in South Africa, but once we did – Man, had we been missing out! Trying to pick one of the best routes was a tricky task – we could easily have picked the amazing Garden Route along the South Coast or perhaps the breath-taking Chapmans’s Peak Drive that hugs the cliffs around the very southern tip of the continent, or or or….
But our pick is the epic Swartberg Pass on the northern edge of Little Karoo in the Western Cape. The pass is part of our Cape Crusader tour and once you’ve ridden it, you’ll be in no doubt why we included it in our list and on our tour. At just 28 kilometres long it’s the shortest on our list but like the Amalfi Coast road, it’s action and drama packed for every centimetre of the way. The pass was constructed by Thomas Bain between 1881 and 1888 and is arguably one of his finest road building projects, even if the convicts who provided the labour may not have agreed! But don’t head out on this route and expect billiard table smooth tarmac – this is predominantly still a dirt road with only small sections or blacktop to get you up the very steep bits, so an adventure bike is perfect for the job.
The Swartberg Pass goes from the very valley floor through an incredible series of hairpins and straights to reach the peak and the awesome landscape visible from the Teeberg view point. You can also pick out the amazing road that awaits you as it plunges down the side of the mountain and through deep gorges towards Malvadraai. If you’ve got a drone, then this is the time to spin up those little propellers – nothing else will capture the scale and splendour of the Swartberg Pass, unless of course you come ride it with us! Here’s a little video taster .
5. THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD
So far we’ve not covered anything in the Antipodes, and with so many incredible roads and landscapes to explore, that needs correcting. We’ve picked the Great Ocean Road as it fits nicely with the other coastal roads on our list, but more importantly it’s an amazing road to ride.
The Great Ocean Road is around 300 kilometres long so is a comfortable day’s ride between the decidedly English sounding Torquay and Peterborough but the road between the UK namesakes is not anything like as epic! On this road you’ll track some of the stunning Victoria coastline and experience everything from dense rain forest to open clifftops with a stunning view south towards the distant horizon. Built between 1919 and 1932, it’s hard to pick a best bit on this beautiful ribbon of blacktop, but certainly the Shipwreck Coast section with the limestone pillars jutting out of the waves is pretty special, as is the stretch above the Apollo Coastal Nature reserve, so maybe stop here for an hour or so.
And as it’s a pure road route you can take any bike you like from a step-thru to a Yamaha Tenere 700 – it’s all good!
4. THE TRANSFARAGASAN HIGHWAY
Now it’s not a conventional motorcycling destination but on the basis of this road, perhaps we should all add Romania to our ‘to do’ list. Like many of the epic roads in the region, the Transfagarasan Highway – or more prosaically the DN7C – was originally constructed in the early 70s as a strategic military route by the ruthless regime of Nicolae Ceaucescu. The 90 kilometre route snakes through endless climbs and hairpins right up into the cloud line of the Carpathian Mountains between Sibiu and Bascov and thanks to the extreme altitude is only usually passable in the summer months. Even in the summer you’ll need to check the weather forecast though!
If you are talking epic roads, The Transfagarasan Highway has it all – terrifyingly deep drops border the road without so much as a solitary barrier, while the longest tunnel will plunge you into complete darkness for nearly a whole kilometre, and you can even stop off at the castle of Vlad the Impaler. But it’s the road that is the star here as it slices through the Romanian landscape, sweeping left and right across valleys, over peaks and down epic descents – no wonder Top Gear called this the ‘Greatest driving road in the world’ and it’s even better on a bike!
Allow yourself time to experience this route – it’s so worth it!
3. THE TROLLS LADDER
Staying in the Northern hemisphere but this time our selected road is a fair bit closer to the arctic circle than Romania, but certainly just as immense and jaw-dropping as anything else on this list. The Trollstigen or Trolls Ladder can be found in the Rauma region, halfway between Bergen and Trondheim and is one of the most amazing stretches of tarmac you will ever ride, snaking either side of the rugged mountains through a series of tight and technical hairpins. This is not the route to take if your brakes aren’t up to scratch!
Riding the Troll’s Ladder won’t take long but the view from the top is truly worth it so take the box brownie with you and of course you can’t go without a few selfies. And with so many other wonderful roads in this part of Scandinavia, you’ll be sure of similarly exciting and picturesque riding from dawn to dusk. And the bike to take? We’d go for the KTM 790 Adventure!
2. THE WILD ATLANTIC WAY
With our list of the best motorcycle roads in the world generally pointing out routes high in the mountains and next to sun-kissed oceans, our penultimate choice goes against the grain a little but is still a truly intoxicating ride from start to finish. The Wild Atlantic Way travels along the beautiful coastline of Ireland from the top, right up in Londonderry, down to the end point in Kinsale, and at 2500 kilometres is the longest coast road on the planet – if that’s not enough reason to take it on, we’ve no idea what is!
At such a long route, you’d need to factor in nearly two weeks to tackle the entire Wild Atlantic Way, and with Ireland’s often unpredictable weather and small winding roads, that’s a big ask. But no matter whether you ride the lot or just small bits at a time you will be rewarded with wonderful views and great riding all day long, from the north right down to the south. The route is divided into six regions – Northern Headlands, The Surf Coast, The Bay Coast, The Cliff Coast, Southern Peninsulas and ending with The Haven Coast – trying to pick the most beautiful is just impossible. The Wild Atlantic Way is like a reliable postman – it always delivers.
If you are going to ride this route, best not to take the latest sports bike as these lanes need a relaxed and laid back approach – maybe a classically styled Triumph Bonneville, or an Africa Twin would do the job? Check out the route here or better still – get yourself to the Bikefest at Kilarney
1. THE KHARDUNG LA PASS
We are finishing on a high – quite literally! At over five kilometres above sea-level, The Khardung La Pass is reputed to be the highest motorable road in the world, and having ridden over it numerous times on our wonderful and ever popular Himalayan Heights tour, we’re happy to confirm it’s bloody high at the top and the air is mighty thin.
The road going up to the pass goes from Tsati in the north traveling a serpentine route up the mountains to the peak of the mountain before plunging back down to Leh on the southern side. The road is at times smooth tarmac and then rough gravel and everything else in between – to reach the summit takes effort from you and your bike as both of you fight the effects of the altitude. But once you are there – Hell Yes!
You can take any bike to the top, but two recommended things to have are decent suspension and fuel injection, and bear in mind with all those stones and gravel, a Royal Enfield Himalayan might be more suitable than an R1.
But don’t worry about all that, the scenery on this final ride is way beyond epic from start to finish. Gotta be done!
So that’s our list of the 10 best motorcycle roads in the world. If you’ve ridden them all, you are a very lucky bunny, but if not hopefully there are a few here that you can tackle. And if they are any of the ones on our tours – then we’d be happy to come with you!