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Tips to find best motorcycle byways

Grand adventure - byways

It takes me a long time to get bored with a good motorcycle road, but sometimes you have to vary the route and try a few different byways.

The basic route might be ok and a great way to get to where you meet up with your friends at a favourite cafe, but it can easily become mundane.

So drag out the maps and start looking for alternative routes.

harley Street 500 tackles some back roads
Harley Street 500 tackles some back roads

One of my favourite places to meet up and have a coffee with fellow riders has basically one road to get there. However, there are still loop roads that branch off the main route and eventually rejoin. It makes the journey longer, but adds a little spice.

After all, don’t we all look for the “Long Way Round”?

If you haven’t pre-planned your trip by looking at a map, either on screen or good old-fashioned paper, there are still ways to find alternative byways. I’ve listed five:

  1. Explore: Don’t be afraid to have a look down a branch road. You never know where it might lead. It could be a dead end, or it could open up a whole new route. What’s it matter if it’s a dead end, anyway? After all, isn’t riding all about the journey, not the destination?
  2. Compass: If you have an eventual destination and are open to seeking out some byways, it’s always good to use the sun or a compass to keep your eventual destination in mind and not end up doubling back on yourself.
  3. Hasten slowly: Don’t be in a hurry. There is no point being on a deadline to get somewhere. You may have to backtrack, you may get hopelessly lost, you may go round in circles.Byways
  4. Signs: Given plenty of time, you can experiment and try that “no through road”, “gravel road”, or “local traffic only” road as sometimes those signs lie and there really is a way through. Usually it’s via a bit of gravel or a track, so it pays to have an adventure bike or something that isn’t too troubled by gravel.
  5. Landmarks: Look for topographic indicators of great roads, such as hills and rivers. If you see a hill in the distance head for it. That’s where the roads twist and turn. The same goes for rivers which have roads that meander in sympathy, interesting bridges, maybe a ferry crossing, or even a water crossing.

You should also look at the names of branch roads as they will give an indication of interesting times ahead:

  1. Old, Historic, Heritage: They indicate an original road before bulldozers and surveyors with theodolites carved a straight line through the hills. They usually follow the natural contours in a very entertaining fashion.Road songs - byways
  2. Way, Drive, Track: I avoid anything called a motorway or freeway while words likes these indicate much more fun. However, even some highways (Omeo Highway, for example) can be motorcycle roads. Anything called a street should probably be avoided at all costs.
  3. Scenic, Vista, View: There are lots of these in the mountains and hinterlands because they have elevated vistas. However, some don’t deserve the name and have been put there by unscrupulous land developers to dupe buyers into purchasing a block which has far less than panoramic views.
  4. Hill, Mountain, Ridge, Range: For obvious reason – they twist and turn.
  5. Valley, Gorge, Canyon: Same deal.
  6. Creek, River, Dam: Ditto.

If you have a GPS, make sure it “breadcrumbs” or tracks your route so you can remember it for next time or to share with your friends. If not, try to trace your route on a paper map as soon as you get home so you don’t forget it.