Adventures are best had when they aren’t planned – but if you don’t have the time or the energy to research routes, plan a spectacular itinerary, and figure out your own accommodation options, a motorcycle tour is the next best thing. When you’ve only got a week or ten days to spare, the logistics of a self-guided journey just aren’t possible; so what’s a rider to do?

Book a tour. Having led motorcycle tours in Colombia, Ecuador, and Romania, and joined tours in Croatia, Portugal, and Italy, I’ve had the luck to observe and compare. What makes a quality motorcycle tour, and how do you pick the right one for you? Over the years, I’ve noticed a few factors that can make all the difference.

Local Knowledge

No matter how good, big, or reputable the tour company is, nothing can beat local knowledge. Some tour operators offer tours around the world, either shipping their (or their customers’) bikes to the destination or renting locally, and they may even employ local guides or fixers, but the reality is, if you want an experience that’s truly authentic, look for tour companies that organize tours locally, in their own area.

What Makes a Quality Motorcycle Tour? // ADV Rider

After all, a motorcycle tour isn’t just about great roads or trails and awesome scenery – that, in most cases, is a given anyway. It isn’t that hard to put a few famous routes together and call it a tour; but when there’s local knowledge, the whole experience is much deeper, more intimate, and more exciting.

For me, the two best tours with exceptional local knowledge were the Ecuador Freedom expeditions in Ecuador and Enduro Escape in Romania. With Ecuador Freedom, whether you choose a guided or self-guided option, you’ll be given routes designed with incredible precision: you’ll stop at local eateries that also happen to be hummingbird sanctuaries, see hidden waterfalls and indigenous villages tourists don’t ever get to visit, stop at local guitar makers’, Panama hat craftsmen, or indigenous leather tanning workshops and chat with the locals, sample fresh seafood straight from a fishermen’s net and have a shot of homemade canelazo at a traditional hacienda in the mountains…

What Makes a Quality Motorcycle Tour? // ADV Rider

The list goes on – equally, in Romania, Enduro Escape guys will take you to a cabin in the woods for a traditional goulash dinner cooked in a huge pot on open fire out on a mountain, show you where bears like to congregate early in the morning, recommend the best winery in town, and take you on trails few riders get to see.

These are just two examples, but when looking for a motorcycle tour, especially if it’s somewhere remote or exotic, look for local tour operators – they’ll know all the hidden gems and best places to see, eat, and experience on your journey.

Unlimited Off-Road Riding

Looking for an off-road tour? Look for places where dirt riding is unrestricted. In Europe, that’s Portugal and the Balkans; in South America or Central Asia, that’s pretty much everywhere. If you pick a place where off-road riding is restricted to one degree or another, prepare for tarmac liaisons – granted, they are sometimes inevitable, but the more restrictions on trail riding a country has, the longer those paved stretches will be.

What Makes a Quality Motorcycle Tour? // ADV Rider

Custom Tours

Let’s say you’ve found a tour that you like: the on-road/off-road ratio is just right, the bikes are perfect, the route seems interesting, the dates work…But you’d like the tour to be a little longer. Or shorter. Or have more off-bike experiences. If that’s the case, don’t hesitate and ask the tour operator for a custom tour: more often than not, they’re happy to oblige, especially if you’re coming with your friends. If the tour operator offers a five-day off-road tour with one rest day and plenty of riding, but you’d rather go on a seven-day off-road tour with two rest days and some sightseeing, drop them an email and ask whether they could put your custom tour together: chances are, they’ll say yes, albeit perhaps with slight price variations. If you’re traveling alone and would like a more custom approach, opt for a self-guided tour and ask the operator to include more twisties or less off-road sections – whatever your preference may be – and hit the road on your own terms.

Tour Assistance

Imagine joining a motorcycle tour, enjoying the ride, then having a flat tire or some mechanical issue and waiting on the side of the road holding up the tour and waiting for the guide to find a local mechanic…not fun. It isn’t always necessary to have a chase vehicle with an experienced mechanic following the tour, but inquire whether assistance is available at a moment’s notice at the tour operator’s HQ, or whether the lead guide is an experienced mechanic able to solve most common issues on the spot.What Makes a Quality Motorcycle Tour? // ADV Rider

Some operators like to take a spare dirt bike in the chase van for off-road tours, or be prepared to deliver a spare bike within a few hours if things go wrong; find out hat their assistance policy is, and don’t go with tour operators who are hoping to just wing it – unless, of course, that’s the sort of adventure you’re after.

What makes a quality motorcycle tour for you? Share in the comments below!

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