Over the last half century of riding motorcycles, I have traveled on some amazing roads.
Living in Southern California for 40 years, we had Mulholland Drive through Malibu; the legendary Angeles Crest Highway (60 miles of it) out of Pasadena; Trabuco Canyon in Orange County, and of course, Highway 1 through Big Sur, meandering along the Central California coastline.
Some of them are more challenging than others; some are more visually beautiful.
The eastern United States claims The Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap, throughout the Appalachian mountains, with 318 corners over only 11 miles, as being the most challenging.
Almost all parts of the United States have exciting motorcycle roads, and that is no different in Europe.
Riding through northern Italy, you have Passo dello Stelvio and the Strada Della Forra along Lake Garda; through Germany you have the Black Forest routes, Romania claims the Transfagarasan Highway (which BBC’s Top Gear TV show called, “one of the best road rides on earth,” and one I have personally driven and can attest too!), and the list goes on and on.
Some of these routes are longer than others, and can take several hours to half a day. But recently I took one of the most challenging technical rides I have ever ridden over just 18 km.
It went from the city of Litohoro, to Pieria, which cannot really claim to be a town since it is really just a launch point for hikers. It is at the foothill of Mount Olympus. Yes, that Mount Olympus, in Greece.
I was advised by the gentleman at the front desk of our hotel that I should go to Pieria, and have a coffee, and since I’d be riding right through the gorge and to the base of the mountain, I took his advice. Kathleen, my lovely wife, thought better of it after she looked at the map and saw twisties galore. Good for her!
The ride up was not that long, only 18 km, but over that short distance were eight 180° hairpin turns, plus enough corners to keep me constantly attentive. On the way up it was challenging to really appreciate the spectacular views, so I decided to do it on the way back down.
I finally made it to the summit at 3500 ft. and was a little underwhelmed since I was expecting more. There was a restaurant, a single restaurant, where I could have gotten a coffee or a beer or something to eat, but no town, and truth was, I was more interested in getting back down the hill!
Before I left on my journey, it was about 70° F/ 21° C at the base and I did not have my gloves with me, but I did have a jacket in the bucket. Good for that, because on the way up I shivered, especially since the temperature dropped precipitously, and my hands were chilled at the end.
When I got to the top and collected my thoughts, I contemplated ways that I could capture some of the beauty, and some of the challenging corners on the way down. AHA! Let’s see what I can do with my camera video.
First I got one of my 3/4-in wide bungee cords, wrapped it around my chest three times, and tested to see whether my phone would hold in that. Because parts of the roads were washed out with some very significant bumps and grooves, I thought I better not risk that.
Plan B was similar and involved wrapping my bungee around the front windshield, a poor man’s GoPro if you will, but unfortunately the angle was off and all that could be seen out the view would have been sky and trees; no road and no views.
So I went with Plan C which was no plan at all, and that was to just keep my phone in its cradle, and videotape and take pictures while I could.
For anyone who’s ever done that, you can see the flaw in my plan, because the vibration of the motorcycle is such that it does not give you clear video while riding. Maybe on a four-cylinder, but not on a single cylinder 310 CC!
I ended up stopping along the way at a few places, took some pictures of the view, caught one of the many 180° hairpin turns, and just enjoyed the ride.
This particular route will remain forever in my memory, both from the visually grand spectacle of it, and from the memories of driving what I considered to be the most technically challenging motorcycle road I have ever ridden on.
Norm Bour left the USA permanently in February 2019 at the age of 64. His goal was to travel the world six weeks at a time, which he did, and wrote two books about his experiences. He visited 26 countries along with taking countless plane trips and many motorcycle trips, and has been riding a BMW 310 GS bike for the past six month. He just completed a 4,000 mile tour of Turkey and Greece. You can follow his journey at www.TravelYounger.com along with his Facebook blog by the same name.