So you’ve made the decision to go on a world motorbike tour and you know – roughly – what direction you’re heading, but how do you plan your route?

Some are of the school of thought that you don’t plan at all; just ride in an approximate direction until you feel like stopping. I get that, but it has its pitfalls. Without planning you’ll not be armed with knowledge that can make the difference: whether you’re going to be at altitude (it’ll be cold, passes could be closed), what paperwork you’ll need, and where fuel will be available etc. Equally, you could miss amazing roads or scenery and not even know.

Believe me, there’ll be enough unexpected things happening en-route to make it an adventure.

  • Once you’ve picked your country or continent, nothing beats unfolding a map and looking over your playground. Identify roads with green lines, plenty of squiggles, or those that go over closely packed contours.
  • Then take to the internet. Who else has been there and what do they recommend? Horizons Unlimited is great for this type of advice.  UNESCO World Heritage is also good place for inspiration, so you can incorporate some stunning sights into your route.
Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou, World Heritage Listed – who’d want to miss this when touring Morocco?

  • Check with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office on whether you need any visas in advance and for potential hotspots; places with an “against essential travel” warning are often not covered by insurance and are best avoided.
  • We prefer to keep big cities and main routes to a minimum, as urban areas are generally more expensive, less safe and have heavy traffic. Better to stick to smaller towns and quieter routes…
  • …although on a long-distance ride, it’s wise to plan stops where there is a bit of life, so you can iron out any issues with the bike and take a break from the road for a few days.
  • If your route is remote, camping gear comes into play and this will need to be taken into account with luggage and packing.
  • Think about when is the most optimum time to go. Trying to riding up the Dalton Highway get to Prudhoe Bay, some 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle, in any month other than June to August could leave you freezing in a snowdrift.  Know your climates, but also realise travelling outside peak times means its more cost effective and that bit quieter.
Dalton Highway, Alaska in mid summer.

  • Be aware that you always think you can cram more into a day than is realistic. Routes should take into account less rather than more, and should be based on a riding style that suits your country – you can go a lot further and faster in Europe, than you can in Africa or Asia.
  • Don’t be afraid to adapt as you go. Local information about roads and safety is useful and it can mean avoiding a trouble spot. But taking advice from locals is a bit of a double edged sword, as many will simply try to please. We use local police to help and get factual information, rather than “The road is good” or “The road is bad”.

Once you’ve done your plan, some riders will want to take to doing an exact plan of their ride, using apps such as BaseCamp (for Garmin users) or Tyre, which they can then download to their GPS or phone, but don’t forget to carry hard copy maps with you – GPS just doesn’t give you the same overview, if you want to change your route when on the road.

We love planning and researching new routes, surrounding ourselves with maps and guide books (the old fashioned way!) – all part of the anticipation of the adventure to come!