list 1 – some favorite routes

One traditional is to do lists after a long ride. They’re a useful source of beta for other riders. Lists were useful for me 2 years ago when all of this was just an idea.

There’ll be more cool lists over the next couple of weeks, maybe.

We’re wrapping up North, Central and South America. Today here’s a short list of some of my favorite rides, by country, in the order they were done. Disclaimer: some countries saw more extensive riding than others.

This is a list of roads, so mostly not scenic photos.

Canada

Nothing to report. I raced across.

USA

Texas Hill Country. Various routes. I’d never heard of it until I was told about it locally. 100’s of miles of fantastic dirt rides through rolling hills and rivers and a huge biker social scene. I had my first good river crash here. Spent an extra week. I’ll be back. Specially printed route maps are available locally. Not blogged yet
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Texas Hill Country is Texan in a big way.

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The people, the trucks, the cattle, the fantastic and unpredictable dirt roads, and all of those rivers, the whole thing. Fantastic.

Yes, the southwest is spectacular, and I loved it, but this was right at the time.

Mexico

The track up the side and around Xinantecatl, Mexico’s second highest volcano and into the caldera at 15,000 feet, just short of the summit at 15,500. Intoxicating. I was lucky to ride this with Helge Pederson and Fred Bauer. Photo from video on blog
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About half way up with Fred
Motorcycle tour in Mexcico

Runner up would be the paved road from La Trinitaria to Las Guacamayas. Mountains, waterfalls, tunnels and hot jungle. A border road, I got the most intensive shake down of the whole trip so far by Mexican police here. A lonely and stunningly beautiful road
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Mexico is huge I didn’t even scratch the surface. Next time.

Guatemala

Acul to Chancol. Remote, indigenous, dangerous. Magic. Rode here with local legend Julio Hartmann
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The reason to be here was to ride a ride less travelled, through a Guatemala untouched

Belize

Paved! Wow what a fabulous road. The Hummingbird Highway. This road is high-speed twisties through jungle with skinny bridges to fire through. Enough said
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Belize doesn’t have many roads. But no cops either

El Salvador

The loop from the PanAm to Alegria and back, paved road up, dirt road down. The best twisties in Central America up until this point. Up the side of a volcano to a village perched on a ledge and to a lake with a monster in it. Amazing, remote. Around the lake
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Most people tear through Salvador. It’s not an easy country to get a handle on. I loved it from the first moment I saw the ranch and horse culture and did some excellent loops into the country

Honduras

Doesn’t count – I just blasted through it border to border

Nicaragua

My own route, improvised one day trying to ride around the north shore of Lake Nicaragua. It turned into an adventure. Unlikely bridges, water crossings, a tiny ferry, brilliant dirt, sand and mud. And the sense that no bikes had done this before. My most challenging and satisfying riding day up until this point.

The second muddy lake. I got stuck in the mud once and got dangerously deep a minute later. Fun. Pic from video on blog
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Great little bridge. No cars beyond this point
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There’s a route map on the blog

Costa Rica

Lots of great roads in Costa Rica. By far my favorite was the road into and through the Osa Peninsula, the most untouched area in the country. Take the Puerto Jiminez road from the PanAm and head on to Carate, the end of the road. Crocodiles, snakes, monkeys and mud. A jungle ride
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Tiny roads beside crocodiles
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And ends up beside the ocean. Where you can’t swim because the sharks are aggressive
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One of my favorite rides in Central America

Panama

Although Panama isn’t known for epic riding I had a few that were excellent. But the standout was the last half of the road from Volcan to Boca Chica. Paved twisties through stunning countryside. No good road shots, sorry
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Like Osa in Costa Rica, as remote as you can get in Panama. Fantastic small villages en route
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Boca Chica was one of the best destination towns in Central America

Colombia

I really didn’t do a good job of riding in Colombia although we put good miles in. I just wasn’t feeling very adventurous at the time. It was the beginning of South America and in retrospect I was over thinking the whole continent at this point. So we just cruised around, seeing the things that had to be seen. The best routes are backcountry and I just didn’t get there much.

The road from Cali to Pasto stood out as special
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Or the Hobbit-land road from Giron to Medellin
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I think part of the reason I didn’t get the most out of Colombia was because of the hype. It’s many riders (those that ride CA and SA only) favorite country. Later I talked to a very experienced rider who lives in Guatemala about this, because after, say, Peru I found that hard to believe. He said it’s popular because it’s easy and fun. I wouldn’t be in a rush to head back. Except to hang out in sin city, Medellin.

Ecuador

The long ride over the Andes from Quito to Coca makes me smile like a fool whenever I think about it. Not a well-travelled route, we came out by canoe. We’ve crossed the Andes a number of times and this is one of my favorite crossings. The descent for a couple of hundred miles into the Amazon was an experience I’ll never forget. One of the top ten rides in South America. At 13,000 feet, green
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And down into the Amazon
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This was so spectacular that it could be in a scenery list, but the ride was incredible. Nothing else in Ecuador compared to it.

Peru

My favorite riding country by a wide margin. I spent two months riding here. It had everything. I have a little canned speech for people interested in riding in Latin America but are put off by all the hassle and grief: Just go to Peru. Fly the bike to Lima and ride for 60 days.

Picking the best route, when It had 20 brilliant routes is hard. But the most memorable is the classic Canyon del Pato.

60 miles, single lane dirt, 35 narrow tunnels. Unrelenting, 100’s of feet of drop-off, epic exposure for hours in a canyon with no guard rails and weird sandy sections. A well-known rider said this maybe one of the best 60 miles in the world
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Peru is rider heaven. This is short because I want to do a full retrospective on this, my favorite riding country. Which may or may not happen.

Bolivia

The classic is the Lagunas Route and I didn’t do it. I rode to the start at Uyuni, saw the flooded Salar and used that as an excuse not to attempt the Lagunas 400k of sand solo. I was late in the season and it was raining for an hour or two everyday. If I hadn’t been solo I would have done it without hesitation. You’re going to fall on this route and if you fall bad rescue just isn’t happening. My biggest regret of the trip so far. Next time.

So there’s a good back-up route for best route in Bolivia; Death Road! The most famous road in the world. 200 to 300 people fall off the edge every year.

There’s a particular buzz that comes from riding on a narrow, shitty, unprotected and wet soft-shouldered road with a 2000 foot drop beside you. Not for the faint of heart, this route would be exciting to even walk. The only thing that stops it being completely epic is that it’s over in a couple of hours and that it’s not technically hard
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The desolate ride up onto the altiplano from Potosi to Uyuni was a fantastic ride
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The route was notable for its loneliness. I didn’t see a soul on the road or off. Wonderful.

Chile / Argentina

I’m putting these two countries together, as the same route goes through both.

The classic route in South America – Puerto Montt to Ushuaia via the Carretera Austral and Ruta 40.

A typical Carretera shot
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A typical mid-point Patagonia shot
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A typical Ruta 40 shot
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A typical Tierra del Fuego shot
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It’s 2115 miles one way, but of course you have to reverse at least some of it, so a minimum of 2310 and in our case 2477 miles. This is one of the world’s best routes. Difficulty depends on the rider, obviously, but maybe 500 miles for us was difficult, often because of the famous Patagonian wind on loose and deep gravel. Many sections of it are extremely remote, so a crash solo would be disastrous. A very experienced rider friend of mine told me that Gobernador Gregores to Tres Lagos scared him and it scared me. It was so hard I didn’t think I could finish it, but had no choice.

This may have sounded a bit dramatic, but it was dramatic. I hope I have other adventures ahead like this.

So for riders not wanting to do a whole South American epic but want to do this route, there’s a simple way: Ship the bike to Valparaiso, Chile, by boat or Santiago by air. If you take the PanAm down to the route start from here it’s about 3 or 4 days. Then Puerto Montt to Ushuaia will take 2 or 3 weeks. Reverse partially by boat from Puerto Natales and the return will take 14 days total.

So to ride one of the best routes in the world might take 5 to 6 weeks.

Uruguay

Well, I only did one route, Colonia del Sacramento to Frey Bentos, but it was a beauty. If I ever come back to SA I’ll spend more time in this wealthy and ultra-civilized little country.

Riding through huge Eucalyptus for hours
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Comments

2 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Re the deadliest road – there are some stunning shots of it by Joey L.
    http://www.joeyl.com/commercial-galleries/deadliest-roads/#!991

  2. Anonymous,

    This is an awesome retrospective. Congrats!

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