Posted On 26 Mar 2024
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This entry is part 13 of 26 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#26


Roarin’down a canyon – the Bear on the road in the US West.


Just a reminder about our own top tour for this year. As you will have read, Stuart’s conducted tour of the South island of New Zealand went off like the proverbial; I reckon this one will be even better.

I am inviting you, our readers, along on The Bear’s Best of the West ride in the US from the 15th to the 30th of August. With the expert help of Steven “Skip” Schippers of Great American Motorcycle Touring I was able to tweak one of his tours so that it covered the roads I want to ride.

If you’ve been reading my stories, you have probably realised how much I enjoy touring the western United States. Now I can show you why.

On my visits I’ve found some special places, and I really like the idea of sharing them with you directly, not just on paper.

This is a 16 day tour with 14 days of riding. Milestones along the way include well-known attractions like the Pacific Coast, one of the most iconic stretches of Route 66, and Monument Valley, plus national parks like Death Valley, Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia and Zion. All linked by superb roads in weather that should be wonderful – although I obviously can’t guarantee that. On top of that you’ll have a chance to meet motorcycle design legend Craig Vetter, and share a meal with him.

Cost is very reasonable, ranging from $5,995 per person for two people sharing one bike and one room, to $7,195 per person and a bike sharing a room with someone else, and $8,995 per person with a bike and a single room.

Rocks are red, Harleys are too, come along or you’ll be blue!

Cost of air fares is not included, and all costs are quoted in US dollars. Even at the present exchange rate this is good value! Mention my name when you book and you’ll get a discount of $300 per motorcycle.

Price includes Harley-Davidson rental; you get a first and second choice of model. Specific BMW and Honda models may be available at an additional cost of $40 per day.

You’ll need to arrive in LA on or before 15th August and you can plan to leave anytime on or after the 30th.

Extra hotel days before or after can be arranged. Absolute deadline for booking is the 15th of June, but I would obviously suggest you get in before that;

the maximum number of participants is 20, and a few keen readers have already booked.

RIDE WITH THE BEAR THE BEST OF THE WEST For more information and bookings, please email Skip at, and copy me in at . Skip and I will lead the tour. Love to see you, and let’s see if we can fill the tour entirely with MOTORCYCLIST readers.

But do it now – I’m keen to see you out on Route 66 and beyond. PT


Duration: 15th to 30th of August, 2015
Cost: from US$5995 to US$8995.
Bike: Harley-Davidson of your choice (within reason)
Support: Luggage van
Guides: The Bear, Skip Schippers


You can of course go a little further – but don’t try to make it in a day!

“Hey Bear,” writes Colin Denman from Perth, “I followed your advice and bought a bike, finally. (Col had been riding a scooter, mainly just to work). Now I need something to do with it! It’s a three year old Honda Deauville, a real revelation after the scooter. So my question is, how long can I reasonably expect my girlfriend to spend in the saddle, and how far is a good day’s ride anyway? I have some ideas for rides (from your Motorcycle Atlas), but can you suggest some more that would be suitable for a beginner?”

Tough question, Col. How long pillions are prepared to go depends on a lot of factors, to start with. But it will be best if you kick off slowly, and make sure she’s comfortable.

Maybe invest in an AirHawk seat cushion for her; make sure she has good bike gear to wear including a comfortable helmet. What about starting with a day ride out to York or Northam, or perhaps New Norcia when you and she become more comfortable with riding? After that, perhaps an overnighter down to Margaret River, or even just Bunbury or Busselton.

Just take it slowly, and work your way up from maybe a hundred kilometres to what…400? Make sure you include plenty of breaks in interesting places with good coffee and you’ll both be fi ne. On the way up to New Norcia I recommend the bakery at Bindoon.


Laura O’Brien rode Cambodia with Tony Jacobs of Ride Expeditions ( or Here’s her report!

Day 1: It’s 9am. It’s 29 degrees. I’m dripping with sweat and think, do I really need to put all this gear on? Of course I know I do. Cambodia’s roads aren’t exactly the safest of places.

What with the numerous potholes, the abundance of animals that are prone to dart out in front of you and the main rule of the roads being: there are no rules. We finish our breakfasts of pork and rice and get kitted up!

Starting our 5-day trek from Cambodia’s second city, Siem Reap, we are thrown straight into a rider’s worst nightmare. Thousands of Honda Dreams, Tuk-Tuks and cars all swarm around you. Stray dogs and pedestrians who either class themselves as indestructible or are suicidal walk freely on the road. We slip through the tightly woven traffic until the road deteriorates into a red dirt track.

Off road, and away from the helmet less families of six all crammed onto one scooter, we can really begin to open the XRs up. We ride past lush green paddy fields, dodge ox-carts, cows, chickens and dogs as we wind in and out of small faming villages where children run out to offer a high 5 or a quick ‘Hallo!’ and make you feel every bit a celebrity.

We stop for a typical Khmer lunch of Lok Lak in the town of Sisophon. The food is delicious but we’re eager to crack on with the riding in order to get to Pailin before nightfall. The closer we get, the more beautiful the terrain becomes as we near the foot of the breathtaking Cardamom mountain range. Known for being unknown, the pyramid shaped mountains are densely covered in a lush jungle that seems to take over the whole landscape. We arrive at our destination, a quaint guesthouse that overlooks the mountains. Beer in hand we sit back, relax and take in the beauty of our surroundings.

Day 2: Today we hit ‘Sticky land.’

“Why do you call it that?” I stupidly ask just before I see the mud. Finding a balance between, well, balance and speed is a struggle. If I got too fast, I get thrown off. Go too slow and I will get bogged down in the thick, wet mud. We have the occasional fall into the soft, wet dirt but make it out alive and move on to riding on gravel roads that snake up into the hills.

I’d read about the millions of still active, still undiscovered landmines that litter Cambodia, yet this didn’t prepare me for the uneasiness I felt when riding past military groups equipped with metal detectors carrying out their daily landmine search.

Still, the scenery is fantastic and we arrive in the small mountain village of Osaom. Our hosts are delighted to see us, we are welcomed into their homes and shown an ‘Esky’ full of cold beers.

Result! I’m in awe of the generosity we encounter from people who have so little. I decide to take a stroll around the village and I meet a group of Khmers who give me a drink of their locally brewed rice wine with cobra blood. Not my favourite drink in the world, but at least I can say I’ve tried it.

Day 3: Luckily, today is an easier day of riding as we climb further up into the mountains on the road the Chinese built to accommodate traffic to and from their controversial projects in the Areng valley. As we arrive in the town of Koh Kong, next to the Thai border, we decide it is time to treat ourselves. We relax by the pool and get a well-earned massage. The aches and pains of a few days’ riding melt away as I look out onto the pristine jungle, beautiful waterfalls and forget the problems of everyday life.

Day 4: Refreshed and rejuvenated, we are ready to tackle the Old Smugglers Trail. We have been excitedly talking about this for a few days now so we fuel up on a big breakfast and are ready to go.

It was always set to be a challenge, and boy does it live up to expectations.

The hills are steep and relentless yet we keep pushing through. We constantly swerve around huge boulders and deep ruts that litter


The Wickham Motorcycle Café is funky cafe with classic bikes suspended from the ceiling at 3 Throsby Street, Wickham NSW – just behind the foreshore in Newcastle.

Luke Tonkin is the owner and says he rides as often as he is allowed.

the barely paved road. The occasional overhead bamboo shoot threatens to throw us off if we lose concentration at any moment. Exhausted, but with huge smiles on our faces we make it to Chiphat. A few beers at a local haunt ends again with the dreaded rice wine making a guest appearance…

Day 5: No need to set an alarm, cockerels clucking and pigs grunting were enough to wake us from a decent nights sleep. A quick stroll around the village and it’s time for our final stretch to Sihanoukville. We get a ferry (essentially planks of wood floating on fishing boats) with our bikes across the Chiphat River before riding the dirt roads out to the highway. Bear in mind this is no super highway, the landscape shifts from small villages and towns to beautiful countryside littered with makeshift tractors and farm workers wading knee deep in paddy fields. A quick pit stop is in order as we are all starting to feel hungry so we head back on to the dirt and pick a place by a waterfall, because we can.

One final blast on the bikes lands us at the finish line… the beach! Cold beers all round as we celebrate a truly magnificent experience.

We recommend that you take a ride out there and see the menu.

Great food, plus gourmet flavourings, jams, jellies and stuff.

If you’d like to know more just visit their website at . Might well see you up there – a ride to Newcastle is well overdue!


Peter Francon of Free Spirit Adventures sends greetings from Nepal. “We wanted to let you know we’ve recently revised both Tour Dates and Prices for all our Tibet Tours. And by popular demand we’ve moved back the Tour of Nepal dates, giving you more time to book and plan.”

The tours now start on the 18th of April, the 2nd of May and the 16th of May and the 17th of October. Prices are 2200 Pounds for the rider and 1200 for the pillion.

“We’ve also revised our Kathmandu Everest Base Camp Lhasa and the return trip.

Departures are now the 31st of May, 28th of June and 26th July and the rider price is 2900 Pounds with the pillion or Jeep passenger paying 1700 Pounds.”


Now you can traverse South America on a greater range of bikes with Compass.

Compass Expeditions has announced that a lowered suspension model F 700 GS has joined the fleet that Compass runs in South America. They’ve also added a BMW F 800 GS and an R 1200 GS.

“As one of the only International Motorcycle Tour companies that own their own motorbikes in South America we felt that it was important to offer a variety of bike sizes for our clients,” said Mick McDonald, founder of Compass. “For the taller riders the F800GS with its much taller seat works really well and handles the dirt sections comfortably.


“The Greatest Show in Motorsport: The Isle of Man TT is the kind of event riders around the world fantasize about when they are chugging through their daily commute,” says MotoQuest. “Take a beautiful island with incredible roads and scenery, then clear it of all traffic and let riders on heavily tuned race bikes have their way with it! Seeing the front wheel come off the ground as some of the world’s fastest riders barrel down a country lane at triple digit speeds mere inches from homes, shops, brick walls and sometimes spectators is an experience unlike anything else in motorsport, and MotoQuest has the inside line on getting a small group of riders track side at this year’s TT practice week on the Isle of Man and Wales Adventure this May.”

You’ll have the chance to ride the famous Isle of Man TT mountain course in the mornings, followed by track side spectating at prime locations in the afternoons.

Get to know race fans from all over the world who have gathered together for the TT; enjoy the local cuisine after a day’s ride; discuss the day’s racing with the locals over a pint at the pub.

In addition to the TT, you’ll explore the Welsh countryside including Snowdonia and Brecon National Parks.

“The Isle of Man and Wales Adventure leaves May 29th, 2015. Sign up today on our website.

Space is limited and this adventure will fi ll up fast!” Further details at or from .

For those after a bit more power or perhaps riding 2-up we have the R1200GS with comfortable seating for a pillion. The lowered suspension F700GS is especially popular with female riders but is available for anyone with its lower 765 mm seat”.

The new larger bikes are available at an upgrade price on request for all 2015 and 2016 South America tours and are booking out fast, Mick says.

More about Compass tours in 2016 is at

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