Five 'classics' motorcycle rides

Chances are slim, but if you’ve ever looked for the definition of ‘classic’ on Merriam-Webster, their definition is ‘a work of enduring excellence’.

Which is exactly what the next five motorcycle rides we’ve selected for you represent: man-made marvels, spoiling you over hundreds or even thousands of kilometers with every gem the appurtenant country has to offer. Must-rides, period!

 

Route Napoléon (France)

 

Let’s hit it off with the one that needs no introduction at all: the Route Napoléon.

Charged with culture and dotted with grandiose landscapes, the Napoléon route offers an emblematic escape through the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, from the shores of Vallauris towards and beyond the citadel of Sisteron.

A historic road that has marked history about two centuries ago when The Little Corporal started his march to Paris when he touched down in the Gulf-Juan.

Sinuously winding its way over mountains and diving into valleys, you’ll ride in the footsteps of the emperor, while the road takes you back in time, as far as 1815.

The road starts off in the south of France, near Antibes, from which point you take the D6185 that ‘ll take you right through Cannes - where we will have the opportunity to pass in front of the commemorative plaque of the historic landing of 1815 -  towards Grasse.

Not far beyond that city, you’ll devour the Pas de la Faye, a mountain pass which will offer you some stunning views over the latter city, before heading towards Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey.

From thereon you’ll serpentinely climb your way up to Castellane, and linger on towards Dignes-les-Bains, while bolting past mountains ranges, the most stunning gorges and the Taulanne Clue.

A beautiful, steep-sided canyon which winds down from the Col des Leques and ‘punches’ a natural hole through a rock. Paved pulchritude.

From Gap on, the valley widens and the D951 takes you from Motte-du-Caire towards Sisteron and Tallard, followed by the Durance valley, which is freckled with mountain lakes, pastures and pretty villages.

At the end of the trip, the majestic Col Bayard awaits, with its steep and twisting stretch of asphalt leading towards La Chapelle-en-Valgaudémar.

One to ride back and forth.

Length: ca. 315 kilometers.
Duration: at least one day, preferably two or more.
See the Route Napoleon (+GPX)

 

Northcoast 500 (Scotland)

 

Let’s hop over the Channel for our next one: the Northcoast 500 - or NC500 - that’ll drag you along the best of the best the Scottish Highlands have to offer. From enchanting ‘lochs’ over mythical castles, age-old distilleries, and breweries, this trip won’t disappoint.

The road itself wrinkles its way along the outer edges of the North Highlands of Scotland, while devouring the borders of Wester Ross - not to be confused with its GOT-namesake - Sutherland, Caithness, Easter Ross, the Black Isle, and Inverness-Shire.

As it is a roundtrip, the start and finish are one and the same: Inverness.

If you decide to drop it to first gear at Inverness Castle, you’ll be treated to incomparable views from its lookout tower over the capital city of the Highlands.

Sewing together over 800 kilometers - or 500 miles, hence the name -  of stunning coastal scenery, the North Coast 500 naturally follows the jagged coastal edges of the North Highlands – and has become one of Scotland’s worst-kept secrets over the last couple of years.

Even though the road and the views are more than promising from a first glance, the North Coast 500 is so much more than just a riding route - it’s all about the journey and perhaps even more about the experiences you’ll enjoy along the way.

From the purest wilderness, over mountains, moorlands, hidden lochs, Highland glens, and even pearly white beaches: this one has it all!

However you’d like to ingest it, it will offer a truly unique riding experience, quite unlike anywhere else in the world.

The main thing to remember is to take your time.

Length: ca. 830 kilometers
Duration: 3 to 5 days, depending on the amount of time you’ll take to really savor the surroundings.
See The Northcoast 500 (+ GPX)

 

The Basque Circuit (Spain/France)

 

From bafflingly beautiful mountain passes and stunning architectural and historical marvels to mind-blowing seascapes, the nearly 500 kilometers long Basque Circuit spoils riders with a breathtaking range of scenery that will stay with you for the remainder of your days on earth.

The ride starts in Bilbao, which is nestled between the Basque mountain range and the Bay of Biscay, in the north of Spain.

You might want to consider not starting your trip right away, as the city is also home to the stunning Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art and the gorgeous Basilica of Begoña - both well worth a bit of your time to have an elaborate visit.

But the road awaits, so we’re moving on towards Gasteiz, a true ‘hidden gem’ and the Spanish Gastronomy Capital of 2014 where you’ll also find a plaza and cathedral.

From Gasteiz on, the circuit uses the A1 as a lead towards Pamplona, from which the N-135 will prove to be the perfect gateway to the historic Roncesvalles pass, which will lead you through the magnificent Pyrenees into France.

Quite a demanding bit of riding over here, but the stupefying views will make it worthwhile! After the visual indulgence, the ‘Départementale 918’ - D918 if you’re in a hurry - provides you with sumptuous scenery of french basque country as you wind your way to the city of Biarritz, while a never-ceasing sea breeze is blow-drying your hair.

After you’ve enjoyed the epicenter of French beaches and casino, the Circuit leads you back to Bilbao, but not before you’ve savored the marvelous Bay of La Concha and San Sebastian.

Although the ‘circuit’ itself is a loop which connects the POI’s along this route in the fastest way possible - read: highways - there’s plenty of opportunities for B-roads instead.

So do yourself a favor and aim for the less-traveled roads that dissect the mountains for stunning scenery, great riding and a year stock of mountain air. No matter which route you choose, you’re sure to return from your adventure refreshed and eager to explore more of the lavish Iberian peninsula.

Length: ca. 480 kilometer
Duration: At least two or three days, if you plan a visit to the Guggenheim in Bilbao and enjoy some of the views and cuisine along the way.
See the Basque Circuit (+GPX)

 

Milano-Taranto (Italy)

 

While today’s motorcyclists might admire the great adventurers of the Dakar Rally, in between the two World Wars, the economic and technical means were not nearly as elaborate as they are now…

Nevertheless, events as the Bol d’Or in France, the Tourist Trophy on the Isle of Man and the Milano-Taranto in Italy were the places heroes rose.

One of the reasons for the great success of the latter was the fact that anyone could participate in it - as long as you had a motorcycle license and a road-legal motorcycle which you believed was fit for the occasion.

During the first edition in 1937 - at the time called the Copa Mussolini, later changed for obvious reasons - the racers had to cover the route in one night. Madness.

After a deadly accident during the edition of 1957, the race was banned for a while, but it got reinstated a couple of years ago.

Albeit a non-competitive version of the former race.

And what about the route? Well, that depends…The original route in 1937 ran over 1.400 kilometers from Milan, over Cortemaggiore, Bologna, Firenze, Rome, Frosinone, Napoli, Foggia, and Bari towards Taranto.

But a lot has changed since the interbellum. Take for instance the official Milano-Taranto of 2018, which amounted to 1.800 kilometers and crinkled its way between Milan and Taranto over Padova, Arezzo, Colli del Tronto, Caserta, and Matera.

The 2019-edition will be even longer: it will be ridden from the 7th to the 13th of July, and will cover over 1.900 kilometers.

Don’t worry: not overnight, but split into six stages.

Whether you wish to ride this eternal motorcycle rival of the Mille Miglia during the official event or on your own initiative - we’re 110 percent sure you’ll enjoy it.

Length: 1.900 km
Duration: 6 days, if you do it right.
More about the Milano - Taranto

 

Pan Germania (Germany)

 

And we’ll go out on a bombshell: the 10.000 kilometer-long (!) Pan Germania - also known as the German Motorbike Route – is an absolute must for every motorcyclist, that leads through the country's most beautiful motorcycling regions.

The spirit of the legendary Route 66 lies ahead: endless roads, secluded tracks, curvy roads, and drops…

Many high points and never a dull moment.

And if you think you've already discovered all there is to discover, you'll be in for a pleasant surprise: it runs along romantic, dipping roads that wind their way along rivers and lakes, curved roads that run through tunnels and roads with outstanding panoramic views.

The route was officially opened in 2004 by German motorcycle design engineer Friedel Münch during the traditional Vogelsberg Motorbike Festival and has ever since been a favorite amongst road hogs.

If we split it up the country into four rhumbs, the northern part of the route will lead you past stunning panoramic views and takes you along the coastline of Germany - an area often overlooked by motorcyclists.

Take for instance the island of Sylt - officially not a part of the route, but well worth a small detour. The same counts for the island of Fehmarn, reachable via a bridge.

If we continue clockwise, the eastern part of Germany will pamper you with endless strings of charming towns, the possibility to visit Dresden and the Harz mountain range in the eponymous natural park. In for some more up-and-down action?

The Kyffhäuser hill might be exactly what you are looking for: the 85-road leading towards the summit is home to no less than 36 switchback turns. Need we say more?

Further towards the south, the Alps provide a breathtaking backdrop to a number of stretches along the Pan Germania, followed by a ride through the dense and majestic Black Forest.

May we suggest a small detour from Freiburg towards the Schauinsland Pass?

That way, you’ll come across a hill climbing circuit (L124 / the Schauinsland Strasse) that not many motorcyclists will know.

Closing off this clover-like roundtrip of Germany, the western part of Germany awaits, with its stunning natural areas and scurry cities.

You will pass through the magnificently winding Sauerland and the Eiffel riding through picturesque wine regions along the Moselle, where grape harvests and countless wine and winemaking festivals are reasons to visit in themselves.

Our suggestion would be to make a small detour towards the largest extinct volcano in Europe: the Vogelsberg hills on Route 276, that can be reached through gently curving roads, idyllic towns, and river valleys.

We know this one will take most of your yearly amount of spare time to complete - but it’s well worth considering…

Length: Ca. 10.000 km
Duration: This conquest of Germany will easily take you more than a month - if you intend to enjoy some of the views and places, at least.  
More about the Pan-German

 

Where next?

Explore the best roads & POI's around and plan your next trip based on those roads.

 


 

 

 

 

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