For those who ride there’s nothing quite like hitting an amazing stretch of tarmac (or sometimes dirt). Whether a sweeping road, scenic highway or twisting mountain pass it has the same formula. The exposure to the open-air frees the sense to the sights, smells and unfiltered beauty of the vast world. While some great riding roads are often close to home, others are found in far off and exotic lands. Below is a list that contains a small sample of some of the world’s best motorcycle passes?
1 Milford Rd, New Zealand
2 Road of Happiness, Vietnam
3 Snaefell Mountain Road, Isle of Man
4 North Yungas Rd, Bolivia
5 Trollstigen, Norway
6 Great Ocean Road, Australia
7 Transfagarasan, Romania
Milford Rd, New Zealand
New Zealand’s west coast is home to what is considered to be one of the most scenic motorcycle passes in the world. Part of the south island’s National Highway 4, the road links Te Anau to the world-famous Milford Sound.
It meanders through ancient glaciers, vast world heritage areas and some of the world’s most pristine national parks. The ride will usually take between four to five hours but this depends on how often you stop. In most people’s experience, with the distractions of hikes and photo ops, the trip usually takes much longer than expected.
Road of Happiness, Northern Vietnam
It precariously winds its way 200km through south-east Asia’s most rugged and picturesque landscape. Beginning and ending (for most) in Ha Giang Town, the pass is also known as the “Ha Giang Loop”.
Most of this it was built in the early 60s by a team of keen volunteers. The aim of the construction was to serve some of the most remote and poorest communities in Vietnam.
The original inhabitants of this region still live a relatively simple life here. Terrace farming is extensive and many still wear traditional dress and follow unique customs. The memories of interactions had with locals here are what many visitors hold most dearest.
The cliff-hanging hairpins, heavy use by locals and treacherous weather means this road should be approached with caution. Don’t let this deter you though. Vietnam is a mountain-pass heaven and due to low speeds even novices can comfortably ride the twisties. Not all motorbike trips need to be held at breakneck speeds. Some of the greatest roads are actually better to experience at a slower pace.
For more amazing tips on motorbike routes in Asia, check out Tigitmotorbikes article on the best highway passes in Vietnam.
Snaefell Mountain Road, Isle of Man
Leaving one of the slowest behind we now proceed to what must be one of the world’s fastest motorcycling roads. Perched between the UK and Ireland, the Isle of Man is home to the annual TT races. The 60km street track is actually a public road and when not being raced on it is open for use.
Snaefell Mountain Road links the towns of Ramsay and Douglas across the island’s highest and one of it’s fastest spots. This stretch, a third of the total course, has seen some terrible accidents in racing history. It should be treated with caution.
The spectacular island is a must-visit for any motorcycle nut. No visit is complete without a loop of the entire TT course and a squirt along Snaefell Mountain Road. Like every other spot on the island, it has no official speed limit. Be warned. “Reckless” riding is still a serious traffic offence.
North Yungas Rd, Bolivia
The aptly nicknamed “Death Road” connects the lofty city of La Paz to the lower-lying Corico. Riders of this 69km road will encounter sheer cliff faces that fall up to 600m to the valley floor. For most parts, it is unpaved and rarely more than 3 metres wide.
Built in 1930 it was the only road to transport goods from the Amazon to La Paz. Sadly many deaths took place here when heavy loads and trucks slipped from the edges. It may not be the best of the best motorcycling way but it surely must be one of the world’s most dangerous.
While this road has been replaced for locals, North Yungas Road remains heavily touristed. Weather can get very wet and foggy and visibility can suffer greatly. When skies are clear, however, the views are outstanding. Countless memorials remind current users of the many deaths and to focus more on the road instead.
The Trollstigen, or Trolls Path, is a heavily touristed mountain pass that helps to connect a village in rural Norway. Part of the Norwegian Country Road 63 this particular section climbs at an angle of 10 degrees.
It is steep, narrow road and falls a total of 320 metres in altitude. For most of the year and closed from late autumn through to winter due to the weather conditions. Riders need to be careful of landslides and falling rocks which are fairly common.
Regarded as an engineering masterpiece, each of the 11 corners has their own unique names, in memory of the project foreman. What makes this road extra motorcycle-friendly is that the tightness of these corners keeps buses and trucks banned.
Great Ocean Road, Australia
This stretch of road is so special that it actually holds national heritage recognition in The Land Downunder. The 243km long roadway straddles the coast on one side and dense woodlands (for most parts) on the other.
You may like to take your time as you travel the Great Ocean Road. You’ll be passing some of Australia’s most famous natural landmarks and surfing beaches that are well worth a stop. Also, it should be noted that it abounds with wildlife here. You’d be incredibly unlucky not to spot a kangaroo or koala at some point on your way.
Only a short distance from the city of Melbourne, it follows The Shipwreck Coast as it meanders it’s way westward. Easily one of the most beautiful motorcycle trips you could imagine. Road riding doesn’t get much better than this.
Romania’s Transylvanian Alps have some of Europe’s most dramatic scenery and roads to match. The Tranfagarasan is one particular stretch of highly hyped tar that’s regarded by many as the world’s best road. Regardless if this is true or not, it’s still one of the great motorbike passes.
Built in the 70s by the military, it cost thousands of tonnes of dynamite and many lives. There are a number of remarkable tunnels and viaducts driven through and seen along the way. Climbing to a peak height of 2042 metres, its surface is pretty decent in most sections. Be warned though that most of the road is closed during winter.
Motorcycle Bucket List
While these lists are interesting, real riders know that real riding pleasure doesn’t always come with awesome scenery. Nor does it need to be in some remote jungle, death-defying or involve the best or greatest of anything. While it can be nice to dream rest assured there is always a great and open stretch of empty and inspirational road just waiting around the next corner.