Biking trips are what you make them. So make yours awesome by trying something new this summer
orget about the same old clichéd Route 66 and Harleys. Here are our three top ideas for the Golden State
Words: Andy Downes
sk most people to think of a road trip across America and they will almost certainly say Route 66 on a Harley. It’s become so ingrained in the psyche, we now think it’s the only option for an American trip. Except America is massive, varied and offers an enormous bounty of bikes to choose from. MCN took an Indian Chieftain out into the Nevada desert for a taste of something a little different.
Motorcycles make a lot of sense in California. The weather is sublime and the stunning mountains are in sight and peppered with gorgeous riding routes. Not to mention the wild deserts and some of the most incredible national parks in the world, like Yosemite and Joshua Tree.
My route ahead stretches from Long Beach in LA to Las Vegas, Nevada, past Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino National Forest, stopping for lunch in the old mining town of Barstow, past the World’s Tallest Thermometer and then into Las Vegas.
Even in December the LA weather is 20 degrees, sunny and warm on the neck. The powerful Indian Chieftain underneath me is perfect for the job and what might appear to be a big bike in the UK, simply melts away on the giant six-lane-wide freeway out of Long Beach, towards San Bernardino and the mountains. The traffic is heavy but slicing through the lanes of slow-moving cars is easy; the Chieftain’s Bluetooth working with my iPhone to play music through the speakers. The bike is in its element and I’m loving it; despite the hazy brown LA smog leaving a metallic tang in my mouth.
Still, I can see the epic mountains up ahead, drawing us in. Pulling off the freeway onto the 330 and the scenery immediately changes. As the climb continues, a light sprinkling of snow appears; a reminder of our height above sea level and the time of year.
The stunning scenery continues all the way through Running Springs, Big Bear Lake and up as near the summit of Silver Peak as the road gets. Then the descent begins; the rugged rocky canyon walls peel back and the wide, open, dusty desert rolls out ahead. I love desert landscapes because, despite the unforgiving nature, they always seem so peaceful. This ride covers it all, changing in and out of different worlds and landscapes every hundred miles. It’s unbelievable.
A lunch stop at The Idle Spur Steak House near Barstow was perfectly timed. The dry desert air has left me gasping for fluid; the prime rib burger is simply sensational and it takes all of my self control not to order another.
The run down through the desert to Baker and a quick picture stop at the World’s Tallest Thermometer means the final stage of the run to Las Vegas is approaching. It also means a large, cold beer is finally going to be sunk.
Have a go
We flew to Los Angeles direct from London and stayed in the Long Beach area. Local bike rentals are available from a variety of firms such as Eagle Rider, Moto Quest and others. The cost of rental would be around £900 for a week for something like the Indian Chieftain but there is a massive range of other bikes. Check out www.eaglerider.com or www.motoquest.com for an idea of what might suit you.
A fly-ride holiday in the world’s hottest desert for £1500? Yes please!
California to Death Valley
Words: Andy Davidson
bead of acidic sweat trickles into my left eye and stings. I close it and use my other eye to scan the vast nothingness in front of me. The engine is burning my legs and my feet sit in pools of seemingly boiling water. I think I might faint. I must look like a sweaty Pop-eye – a Pop-eye on a BMW R1200GSA, that is, in the middle of Death Valley. I am so spectacularly lost. Suddenly, I spot a small plume of dust in the distance. I ping my goggles over my sore eyes, kick the GS into first and spin the back wheel until it gets traction. This is the fastest I’ve ridden all day, the back tyre snaking over shale as the front bounces over serrated rocks. Just as I start to gain on the plume it makes a sharp turn. There’s no way I’m losing it; I flick up into fourth and open the throttle, chasing it across the desert at 70mph. Eventually the plume of dust stops and I ride into it. I look around and see two riders with a GPS! I should have brought one of those. Sure, I’m going to taste dust for the next two weeks, but this is the coolest thing I’ve ever done.
Death Valley is in the Mojave Desert, California. It’s the lowest, driest place in America and has the world’s highest recorded temperature at 56.8°C
Have a go
• This self-guided tour is called Taste of Dakar and is run by US-firm AltRider. It’s around £200 and includes two nights camping, GPS routes for all skill levels, meals, beers, drinks and instruction. www.altrider.eu
• It costs £100 to rent a BMW R1200GS per day (less for a smaller-engined machine) from Moto Quest in Long Beach, California. www.motoquest.com
• Budget £700 for a round-trip flight and it’s about £40 a night for a decent hotel.
Ditch the desert and ride to the end of the world. Go on, it’s not as tough as you’d think…
California to Alaska
K, maybe it’s not easy. Well, it’s definitely not easy, but one of the UK’s leading tour companies can certainly take the edge off with their USA Epic Alaska and Canada tour. Toursareus World Motorcycle Tours operate a 5000-mile adventure ride, starting in Long Beach California and ending in Anchorage, Alaska. Forget about shiny, chrome-clad Harleys and the same old clichéd Route 66; fly to California, mount a BMW R1200GS or 800 and prepare yourself for the most wondrous ride of your life. The adventure includes the Pacific Coast Highway, British Columbia in Western Canada and the legendary Alcan Highway. The trip is bursting with lakes, glaciers, whale watching and staggering mountains. But if one of the most awesome trips in the world doesn’t sound like fun, then Toursareus also organise and run tours in Europe, elsewhere in America and Canada, Morocco desert tours and New Zealand. Jumping on a guided tour takes away all the stress and organisational hassle. Just sit back and enjoy the most epic routes known to man.
Have a go
The Epic Alaska Tour lasts 16 days and the next one starts May 12. Prices start from £2995 all in — including a BMW R1200GS (spare motorcycles and support vehicles included). For more information visit worldmotorcycletours.co.uk