56 The Harz mountains
“The destination I’m always most excited to tell people about is the Harz Mountains in Germany,” says Geraint Hughes of www. dragonmototours.co.uk. “It gives a great feeling of ‘east meets west’ as the roads used to criss-cross the border between the two halves of Germany. The roads are terrific. There aren’t a lot of British bikers there, but the locals get out and enjoy their riding. And all those corners and bends lead into little chocolate box towns with cobbled streets, timbered houses and castles on rocky outcrops. Stolberg’s my favourite, it’s a place where you can chill out. You’ll find plenty of hotels with pools for the end of the day, as well as biker’s cafés where you’ll get a terrific welcome.”
France’s Vercors massif
This Natural Regional Park sits on a 3000ft plateau above Grenoble just west of the Route Napoleon. Geraint Hughes (www. dragonmototours.co.uk ) says: “A lot of people miss it! We’ve never seen any British bikers up there and the roads are empty. But if you’re into mountains you’ll love it. It’s got its own microclimate and it’s high and clear and bright.” You climb using ‘balcony roads’ through gorges, which are as precarious as they sound. Hughes rates the Col de la Machine, Col de Cabre and Col de Rousset as the best. Combine the last two to get on the Rousset via the D518 then head east on the D93 and from there over the Col de Cabre, where it becomes the D993. If you’re greedy, hit the N85 to find the Route Napoleon.
“Alaska is the last frontier,” says Steve Hotson (www.motoexplorers.co.uk). Hotson recently scouted a North American coastto-coast route starting in that state, ranging down through the Yukon. “It’s a wild place where you still really get a sense of the world pre-internet,” he says. “It’s a true opportunity to escape off- grid.” To ride there, either rent a bike or ship yours to Anchorage. Hotson recommends the Dalton Highway as a good place to start, extending from Fairbanks in central Alaska to Deadhorse and the Prudhoe Bay oil fields at the northern tip. It’s 239 miles between Coldfoot and Deadhorse though, with no fuel stop in-between.
When Bill Roughton (www.biketours-uk.com) explored the Horton Plains National Park there was a 250cc limit on rental bikes, which Bill says was fine given some of the roads, although the quality of the rental bikes was not ideal. There are two monsoon seasons to avoid (May to September in the south-west, and October to January in the north and eastern coastal regions). Best to take your own helmet.
How to check that used bike isn’t a wrong ’un