Easy Riding: The Ultimate Motorcycle Tours
Because the boundaries of France, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy all come together in the Alps, you can experience four different national culturesand cuisinesin a few days. If you plan to travel for three weeks or less, an organized tour is the way to go. The best operations have spent years developing itineraries that take you over spectacular passes to the nicest hotels and most charming towns. The best time to go is in June, July, or September; August is the busiest vacationing period for Europeans. Start in Austria or Germany, work west to Switzerland, then head south to the French coast. After soaking up some sunshine, you can return northeast through Italy and Austria. You should visit Vienna if you've never done so. From Vienna, you can go on to visit Budapest for a day or two, but park your bike and take the train, because there can be a lot of red tape involved in crossing the border with a motorbike. Fly home from Vienna or southern Germany if you have to return the motorcycle.
What is the best part of the Alps? It all depends on your interests. Switzerland has the most spectacular roads, but Italy is friendlier, and France is more fun. Austria is a good choice if you're touring on your own. The roads are superbly maintained, everything works, and in the small villages you can get a spotless room or "zimmer" in a private home for under $20 per night, including breakfast.
A number of companies offer Alps tours. Among American tour companies, Beach's Motorcycle Adventures (Grand Island, NY 716.773.4960. www.beachs-mca.com) has the best track record on the continent. Tours cost about $5,100 for three weeks or $4,200 for two weeks, including deluxe hotels and the use of a new BMW. For a no-frills tour on your own, you can rent just a bike for about $850 per week. Edelweiss Bike Travel (800.582.2263. www.edelweissbike.com) offers many Alps tours. The best is the 12-day Alpine Mediterranean trip, which starts in Munich, crosses the Austrian Tyrol into Switzerland, then visits French ski areas before blasting south to the Riviera. This itinerary leads riders to the Matterhorn and Chamonix via Europe's most challenging passes. The price is about $3,200 for a solo ride on a 650.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication