Amazing motorcycle trips

Image: Lott region, France
For some of France's most wide open roads and diverse riding terrain, the Lot region in the country's wild southwest is a motorcycle-lover's must. AP
/ Source: Forbes

Every motorcycle rider loves the feel of the open road. But too few take the blacktop further than a couple hours from home.

The world is full of bike-friendly locations — spots with big curves, little to no traffic and boundless adventure. Motorcycle tourism can be a great way to indulge your riding habit and see some of the most beautiful places on the planet.

For riding terrain that's far removed from a western sensibility, you could tackle the steep mountain passes, winding roads and Hmong hill tribe villages of north Vietnam — an exotic wonderland for motorcyclists.

"I'd always been curious about Vietnam and its people," says Charles Drummond, a retired marketing executive from Walla Walla, Wash., who toured North Vietnam in late 2007 with Offroad Vietnam, a motorcycle tour company in Hanoi.

During the 10-day trip, Drummond departed Hanoi with a small group of riders and headed north, close to the Chinese border, on a circuitous route that led up steep mountain passes terraced with ride paddies. "The trip was a challenge as far as my riding skills, but I survived," Drummond says. "It was delightfully grueling ... We rode for four to five hours a day and there were mountain passes of ten and 12,000 feet. Homestays along the way made the trip even more rewarding.

Elsewhere in Asia, visit the land of the former Maharajas with a tour through Rajasthan, India. Join a tour group or depart solo from Delhi and head southeast: The riding terrain is fairly flat and low-key, but summertime ventures should be avoided as high temperatures threaten to melt your tires to the asphalt.

Or make the end of the world your mission, and ride through Argentina and Chile to the Tierra del Fuego. Seventeen-day forays with California-based Admo-Tours cover 2,734 miles, with a late-model BMW bike as your chariot from the town of Osorno, Chile, to Argentina's Atlantic coast. Ferry across the Straits of Magellan to Tierra del Fuego, and get back on your bike to catch the Pan American highway and cruise onward to Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city.

Halfway across the world you can ride a Ducati in the revered motorbike's homeland. Italy is notorious for its fanatic drivers, but you'll avoid the motorway entirely as you leave Pisa behind and head for lonely country roads in the Chianti region, and the rolling hills of the Tuscan and Umbrian countryside.