The Alps, The Rockies, or the Andes: Which Mountain Motorbike Tour Is for You?
When it comes to motorbike rides, there’s no question that motorcycling in the mountains is the best. Endless twisties, jaw-dropping scenery, and the thrill of tackling hairpins and big sweepers on your motorcycle is the essence of why we ride. But if you’re looking to explore some new routes and ride the mountains, what’s the best place to do it: the Alps, the Rockies, or the Andes?
Motorbike Rides in the Alps
Italy, Switzerland, and France are the ultimate European motorcycling destinations for one reason: the Alps. Stunning roads, countless incredible mountain passes, and amazing views are what draw thousands of motorcyclists to the Alpine regions of Europe, and places like the Stelvio Pass have long become iconic bucket list rides. If you own a street, cruiser, or an adventure motorcycle, riding in the Alps is a must: leaning into those gorgeous curves, stopping for coffee in the charming little ski towns, and experiencing the local motorcycle culture is a great way to enjoy motorbike rides in Europe.
If you’re going to ride the Alps in the high season (June through to August), make sure to plan ahead a little: book your stays in advance and try to ride earlier in the day to avoid heavy tourist traffic; be prepared to stop often and have your camera or phone fully charged, because you’ll be wanting to take dozens – if not hundreds - of photos along the way.
The only drawback of riding in the Alps is that you can’t get off the tarmac. Off-road riding in Europe is very restricted, so if you ride a dirt or a dual-sport bike, it’s best to head West and explore the Rocky Mountains or the Andes.
Adventure Riding in the Rockies
In North America, the Rocky Mountains is the most scenic region you can explore on your bike. All the way from Canada and across the US, the Rockies are among the most beloved motorbike tour destinations regardless of what bike you’re riding. Easily accessible yet still offering the feeling of riding in a remote, pristine land, the Rockies can be experienced both on and off the road. Expect scenic roads and byways revealing awe-inspiring views of the mountains, authentic mining towns and ranches, and almost limitless off-road riding if you’re planning a motorbike tour in the Rockies.
For dirt bike rides, the best place to experience this majestic mountain range is Colorado. Here, in the true Western backcountry, you can ride the Rockies on graded dirt roads as well as gnarly single track, enjoy wild camping, and meet like-minded riders: Colorado hosts a large section of the famous Trans American Trail, a network of backcountry roads and off-road trails connecting the West and the East Coast.
If you’re planning your Rocky Mountains motorbike ride for the first time, make sure to ride here in the summer months: from late October to early May, some of the mountain passes are still covered in snow, and some of the dirt bike trails may still be impassable.
Motorcycle Touring in the Andes
Stretching all the way from Colombia down to Chile and Argentina, the Andes Mountains are one of the biggest mountain ranges in the world. Out here, riding motorcycles feels like going on an expedition into the wilderness: although plenty of the Andean routes are paved and well-maintained, the distances between towns and cities are much bigger than in the US or Europe, and you get the feeling of riding in uncharted territory. In addition to mind-blowing scenery, the Andean regions of South America are also a cultural experience: traveling here, you will discover indigenous communities, old colonial towns, and remnants of ancient civilizations that lived here long before the Spanish conquistadors or the Incas.
If riding a motorcycle in the Andes is on your bucket list, keep in mind that this mountain range is massive, and you’ll need a lot of time to cover the entire length of it. However, if you can’t take several months off and ride all of South America, pick an Andean country that will offer the most of what you’re hoping to see. In Colombia, the Andes Mountains can be explored in a week; in Chile and Argentina, you’ll need to cover long distances to experience it all. Bolivia boasts the famous salt flats of Uyuni, and the high Andean plateau often likened to Tibet in the Himalayas; but if you can only choose one country to see the best of the Andes, ride Ecuador.
Here, you will be able to ride both on and off the road and see so much diversity in scenery and landscapes you’re guaranteed to get your fill of adventure. The Andes Mountains in Ecuador are dotted with active volcanoes and crater lakes. They are home to unique wildlife, colorful indigenous villages and towns, beautiful national parks, and some of the most scenic routes in all of South America. And the best part is, you can see it all in a matter of just ten days or a couple of weeks: the distances here are much shorter yet pack much more of a punch.
Have you ridden the Alps, the Rockies, or the Andes on your bike? Let us know in the comments below!