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The 20 best motorcycle rides in Europe

I’ve been trying to come up with the definitive list of Europe’s greatest motorcycle rides, to stop myself going crazy as I lie in my hospital bed. It took me about 20 minutes to remember that trying to come up with any definitive list of anything is just about the surest way to drive yourself round the twist...

But it did get me thinking about my favourite rides - and why I like them. To live up to the horrible click-bait title (sorry, but I do need to grow my readership numbers) here’s my pick of the best motorcycle rides in Europe. I did try to make it a top ten, but there are just too many great roads - and I’ve already been in hospital for too long - so here’s my top 20.

20 The Ardennes (Belgium)

Tight wooded climbs, long sweeping bends and picturesque villages. With added tanks left over from the Battle of the Bulge.

19 Sleaford to Moffat (UK)

My favourite ride to my favourite hotel, The Buccleuch Arms, taking in Wolds, Dales, Pennines and the North York TT.

18 The Thuringerwald (Germany)

The riding in this hilly German forest/ski area is every bit as good as in the Black Forest, without the tourists, traffic or lowered 70kph limits.

17 The Vercors (France)

Quieter than other corners of the Alps, with staggering gorge and “balcony” roads carved into cliffs. A good head for heights is essential.

16 Marbella to Jerez (Spain)

So many amazing roads, from the Med to the hills around Ronda and Grazalema, then on to the race track for my favourite Spanish MotoGP round.

15 Douro Valley (Portugal)

Fabulous flowing riding through Portugal’s port-growing heartland, as sinuous roads coil through quiet wine-terraced hills.

14 The Five Passes (Switzerland)

A well-known “great” Alpine route: Susten, Furka, Neufenen, St Gotthard and Grimsel passes. Often busy, always magical.

13 Cols of the Tour (France)

So many amazing roads in the Pyrenees. If I had to pick just one favourite ride, it’d be this one using the Tourmalet and other Tour de France climbs.

12 Guadalupe (Spain)

Stunning roads in every direction from this town in Central Spain. My favourite ride is a long one, up to the Sierra de Gredos and Pico Pass.

11 The North Coast 600 (UK)

Increasingly busy, Scotland’s most-famous route is still great... but it doesn’t include the A87: a horrible oversight this longer variation fixes.

10 Cueno (Italy/France)

One of the most challenging, rewarding, beautiful roads I’ve ever ridden is the Colle dei Morti - the hill of the dead. It makes this one of my favourite rides.

9 Picos de Europa (Spain)

If I had only one day in this popular biking area, I’d ride my version of the classic Potes-Riano-Cangas de Onis triangle.

8 Sella Ronda & Passo Giau (Italy)

The Dolomites are pretty close to heaven: the views, the roads, the coffee... Busy but still sublime, especially this ride on the most beautiful passes.

7 Sierra Nevada (Spain)

Southern Spain: sunshine and ski areas on this amazing ride - a favourite when sneaking a bike day into family holidays.

6 Stelvio (Italy)

I love Italy’s highest pass, but it is demanding - and that’s the point. Ride it well and it’s hugely satisfying. Timing is key or it is crowded.

5 The Tarn & Cevennes (France)

From the larger-than-life Tarn gorges and Millau Viaduct to the mad, twisty roads of the Cevennes, I love riding here.

4 Tarragona (Spain)

I’d say the hills inland from this Catalan city have the greatest concentration of twisty roads in Europe - the riding is dizzyingly good.

3 Serra da Estrela (Portugal)

I love this compact range of mountains, criss-crossed by amazing roads. Stopping for coffee at the observatory is pretty special, too.

2 Grossglockner (Austria)

The Grossglockner toll seems steep until you ride the road: it’s mind-blowingly good. Gets busy, especially at weekends.

1 Gorge de Verdon & Cime de la Bonnette (France)

This is my idea of heaven: France’s grand canyon and its highest road, linked by an endless succession of brilliant roads.

Of course, even as I’m completing this top 20 I’m thinking “What about the Ring of Kerry? The Vosges? The Odenwald? Corsica? Sardinia? Wales?” Because of course there so very many great places to ride, and so many roads I love, that any list will fail to do them all justice. And of course compiling any list WILL drive you mad...

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By the way, if you want to ride these roads, versions of some are already available as GPX downloads from the Touring section of the website (not on mobiles) and I’ll add the others when I get out of here - at the moment I’m writing everything on my iPhone.

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Hi Simon,

So sorry to hear of your accident and injuries but what a positive attitude to take in the recovery period. My best wishes for a full and speedy recovery, do you plan to return to the UK or continue on BSTL?

Dave Johnston (DJ)

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