This entry is part 4 of 30 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#25



“Let’s take a look at what’s offered by the destinations popular (or not yet popular) with Australian motorcycle travellers.”

Changeable weather high in the Alps (Photo Gretchen Beach)

Who goes where and why use them?

I had an email from my old (and I do mean “old”) mate Bernd Tesch the other day. Bernd, with his website keeps track of the around-the-world and otherwise serious motorcycle travellers.

Interestingly, he noted that as far as he knows there are only about 300 people alive today who have ridden all the way around the globe in the time covered by his records: from 1912 to the present.

That number seems remarkably low to me, but Bernd is the one with the computer records…

The interesting thing about this is just how low that number is. Consider that most motorcycle tour operators would take at least 300 people on their tours each year – and there are dozens of operators. Of course very few, if any, of the people who travel with an operator actually ride all the way around the world. But the discrepancy is still very, very large.

So does that mean that people are no longer riding the big distances on their own? Of course not. We hear of a few every year.

But it does mean that a lot of riders who want to tackle the more interesting roads and countries have been opting for organised tours.

We certainly don’t blame them; we’ve been doing the same thing. Indeed, we are now running organised tours of our own, for readers.

There are many reasons for the preference for these tours, but the principal one is the brutal reality that few of us have the time we would need to plan, organise and fi nally actually do the rides we dream of. Annual holidays are simply too short. Imagine, for example, trying to put together a bike trip through somewhere like Vietnam. Visa, permits, hotel bookings, bike rental and breakdown recovery, route planning, advice on things to see and do, timing… it’s all a bit daunting.

It can be done, but do you want to spend your time doing this – or would you prefer to be riding? If you get a tour operator to do it (at least, if you get a reputable one) most of this is taken off your back. Your holiday will be easier and you will spend more of it actually doing what you want to do – riding – instead of hassling.

There are more reasons, but I’m sure you can imagine those for yourself.Just think, for example: what if I go somewhere and miss the main attraction – because I don’t know it’s there?

By the way, we’ve been on tour with some of the companies listed below; we’ll mention it in the listing if we have.

Meet Craig Vetter

Craig Vetter with one of his current projects, a fuel-saving streamliner.

Here’s something you won’t get on any other bike tour:

For those of us lucky enough to be going on The Bear’s Best of the West bike tour of the western USA in August, here’s a bonus: lunch with his friend Craig Vetter, one of the great names in motorcycle design. Craig is credited with creating the ‘cruiser’ motorcycle with his 1973 Triumph Hurricane, but he’s done much more than that. You will get a chance to eat with him and hear about his amazing life.

Check Australian MOTORCYCLIST Magazine for more details of the tour, or email and for bookings.


None of the above of course means that travelling in a group like this is necessarily better. For one thing, it will cost more than if you just do it yourself. There is no getting around that. After all, you will have more services available – the bike, a guide, help with formalities, often a support van which carries your luggage, breakdown assistance and so on. That all has to be paid for. It all depends on what you want. But to come back to the question of time, above – if you want to make the most of your two or three weeks of annual holidays, it’s good to know that those things are taken care of for you.


On a guided tour you can’t always stop where and when you want to, and go on when the feeling takes you. That might seem to be a disadvantage, but if you’re on your own, are you sure that you want to trade another day in town X for the opportunity to see waterfall Z the next day? A planned tour will take into consideration all the attractions along the way.

But frankly this is getting a bit boring to write, and I imagine it’s getting just as boring to read. The choice is yours; if you’re planning a bike holiday you will know better than I do what you want. If you want the advantages an organised tour (including a self-guided one) can bring, read the rest of this feature and then choose one (or look further).

If you don’t, start thinking about organising your own tour. We’ll have a feature to help you with that shortly, too.

Whatever you want is always all right with us!


Let’s take a bit of a general look at what’s offered by the various destinations that are popular (or not yet popular) with Australian motorcycle travellers.


If you’re heading bush it makes sense to consider a group tour.

There’s safety in numbers, and getting lost, crashing or breaking down is far less scary if you’re with a group. Operators will generally have satellite phones so the Flying Doctor is only as far away as the nearest fl at bit of ground. If you’re not using your own bike, the one supplied will usually be a medium-sized dual purpose or dirt bike. Most likely you would bring your own gear, such as helmet, boots and gloves.

It can also be fun to go for a ride when you’re away from home for a couple of days, perhaps in another capital city or holiday destination. Bike availability will vary, and a selection of basic gear should be available. Road tours under these circumstances may or may not be self-guided.


The scenery is the big attraction, along with the roads. Ship your own bike or rent one to go on an organised tour; that will make sure you take the right roads and see the best sights! You can rent all sorts of bikes – literally; there are bikes on the market in New Zealand which have never made it to Australia. Take your own gear; it’s only a short hop across the Tasman.


Best thing about tours here is that you don’t need to worry about legal difficulties and you know you’ll have somewhere to sleep at night. Mostly you will be riding a small bike, or even something like a clutchless scooter-bike hybrid, but the traffic makes it advisable to stay small! That’s different in less congested places like Thailand. Take your own (open face, perhaps) helmet; you can pick up gloves, jackets etc locally and cheaply.


If it’s India you will almost certainly find yourself on a Royal Enfield, which is a good choice for the chaotic traffic. Some of the other countries will present you with Enfields as well. Once again, take your own helmet… and probably your other gear as well. It gets cold up in the mountains!


Harleys are traditionally the bikes here, but Honda GoldWings are almost up there too. Indian is climbing in popularity for rentals, too. Traffi c is not usually much of a problem, but it’s best to choose a bike that will be comfortable for long distances. A lot of rental places will have helmets, and they will probably be of reasonable quality, so perhaps you don’t need to take your own. I would anyway. Other gear I’d buy locally; there is excellent bike gear available in the US at reasonable prices. Chat with the cops, but don’t argue.


I would always choose a dual purpose or dirt bike down here; even so-called good roads can deteriorate very quickly, and often connections from one town to another will lead through awful patches of sand or mud. Bring all our gear. There is a good chance you’ll bite the dirt (although usually at low speed) so be ready for it. Get a Yellow Fever shot before you go.


It’s hard to generalise, because different parts of Africa vary so widely in the quality of their infrastructure, but let’s just say that outside South Africa you’re best off with a dual purpose or dirt bike (I’ve been stuck in the Sahara with a Yamaha XS1100, and it was no fun). Take all your own gear, but make sure none of it looks military.


Any bike you want, any tour you want… Europe is motorcycle heaven, although you won’t think so in, for example, the Alps on a weekend… Buy motorcycle gear locally, except your helmet – European helmets will not be approved for use back home.

Operator, give me information…

Here are 33 tour operators for you to choose from, the biggest collection ever compiled. We haven’t been on trips with all of them, but we do know them.


Specialising in the Alps and the spectacular Balkans, Adriatic is based in Ljubljana in Slovenia. The Bear has signed up for their Beautiful Balkans Adventure in early May and we can’t wait to see his photos. Bikes for tours or rental are mainly BMWs, including the S 1000 XR, as well as Yamahas, Triumphs and Suzuki V-Stroms.


Whether it’s Everest Base Camp or Tibet, or other Asian destinations like Bhutan, India, Nepal or even Bali, Asian Experience has the experience to take you along. You even get the choice of sealed or unsealed roads.


‘Don’t dream. Do!’ is the motto, and Beach’s have been doing it – running bike tours all over Europe – for 43 years. The Bear recently took a tour with them and came back scratched (he crashed twice, his own fault) but seriously impressed. Beach’s are Offi cial Travel Partners of BMW, and The Bear is looking longingly at an F800 GS and Sardinia…


Bill Kniegge’s Blue Strada Tours is based in North Carolina, which puts it within easy reach of wonderful bike roads like the Blue Ridge Parkway, Deal’s Gap and the Diamondback Motorcycle Route. Bill will happily customise trips for you, or supply maps and instructions for a self-guided ride. As a bonus, you get a taste of Blue Grass music and local food specialities. One way rentals can also be organised to Southern California or Denver, Colorado.


With motorcycle adventure tours in places as widely spread as Mongolia, Bolivia, South East Asia and New Zealand, Britton grades its rides as one, two or three helmets to indicate the degree of difficulty. Its Yamaha Far North Adventure Ride is New Zealand’s longest-running non-competitive bike event.


Whether it’s a guided tour or just rental,California Sunriders has a huge range of Harley-Davidson models from the Harley-Davidson Authorized Rental Program for you to choose from. The company is dedicated to offering more than just a bike or a ride – it will provide you with an enjoyable and memorable holiday experience you will remember for years.


If you were looking for a tour operator who could honestly say that they’ve “been everywhere” then you’ve come to the right place. Compass runs both short trips and continent-crossing tours like the 105 day London to Magadan maxi-adventure. The Bear took one of their South American trips and, despite a vile stomach bug, had a wonderful time. They offer bike rental in Australia, too.


Dubbelju is in San Francisco, one of The Bear’s favourite cities, and it’s run by a good mate of his, Wolfgang. What more could you ask for? Well, how about a terrifi c range of bikes and a thorough serving of advice about where to go and what to see in northern California, complete with detailed maps? No guided tours, but it’s almost as good.


They have more than 80 rental locations around the world, and they offer H-D, Indian, Triumph, BMW and Honda bikes – though not all of them at all locations. Complimentary shuttle pickup from hotels or airports, locked storage for your suitcase and many other services are standard. In North America they will even provide a DOT approved helmet. Check their ‘Featured Deals’ on the website for cut prices.


With probably the largest selection of tours in the world, Edelweiss really has something for everyone. That includes training courses as well as tours of just about every motorcycle road around! The Bear sampled the Edelweiss Pyrenees tour recently and came back raving about it. Wide range of bikes and starting points.


Another tour operator with a staggering range of destinations all around the world, EXMO also has a wide range of services. This includes shipping your bike if you want to use it on a tour. They also offer a photo book and a professionally edited FullHD video of your tour.


Either Mike or Denise or both of them lead every single Ferris Wheels tour, and they both ride. Tours were originally based in the Himalayas and conducted on Royal Enfi eld bikes, but Ferris Wheels has expanded to cover the globe – even Iceland – and different bikes are available for different tours. Ferris Wheels has been an outstanding Australian tour operator for 20 years.


Whether it’s guided tours, self-guided tours or full on adventure expeditions, Free Spirit offers it all. Specialising in tours of Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan as well as Rajasthan and southern India, they provide the classic Royal Enfield Bullet bikes.


While they’re theoretically a bike shipper, not a touring company, Get Routed does run occasional rides from some of its unloading points in Europe and North America which include the UK, Barcelona, Piraeus, the US and Canada. Get Routed’s Dave Milligan will even organise accommodation for you in the Isle of Man for the TT!


This company offers many different tours, not just bike rides. But The Bear reckons their North Vietnam tour, which he did a couple of years ago, is just as professional as if it was the only thing they do. Bikes vary in size and quality, but the spirit is terrific.


This is the operator we’ve entrusted with running The Bear’s Best of the West tour, which will give you some idea of how highly we value them. Sign up now for this top tour in August! Along with guided and self-guided tours to Sturgis and all over the West, as well as across the continent, GAMT offers bike rental; bikes are Harleys, but others may be available at extra cost.


Spain, Portugal, Morocco and the Alps – it’s hard to think of a better range of riding destinations anywhere, and Hispania covers them all. An Official Partner of BMW Motorrad, Hispania has guided and self-guided tours on a comprehensive range of BMWs, and even offers bike storage in Spain if you want to leave your bike down there for excursions.


For the past 17 years, IMT has been the leading motorcycle tour operator in Spain and Portugal. As well as tours of the Iberian peninsula, IMT runs tour of Morocco and the rest of Europe. New, fully equipped BMWs are available for rent in Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon and Malaga, among others. IMT is an Official Partner of BMW Motorrad and features BMW Academy training.


Based in northern Auckland, New Zealand, Just Ride offers Ducati and Triumph motorcycles for guided tours and rental. They specialise in short tours with small groups, and routes are flexible to suit the riders. If they don’t have the bike you want they will try to get it.


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