Winter is wrapped around us and my thoughts are on the roads ahead that spring will bring. To help with the parked motorcycle syndrome, I love to read the ride reports that others have put together. The forums are great for this but can lack a little luster, and sometimes information is not complete. To the rescue comes Road Runner Magazine's newest book publication.
"America's Backroads" is a collection of ride reports contributed by ten riders who regularly appear in the magazine. They proclaim that their list is the "TOP 20 MOTOROCYCLE TOURS". While reading the well crafted reports it dawned on me that if you plugged in a list of MSTA event s on the same map as these top twenty tours, there are more than a few that overlap. The motorcycles they ride on these tours are as varied as the parts of the country they ride in, the big touring Gold Wing's, Road Kings, sport bikes and adventure machines are all represented.
Some of the reports really spoke to me; Northern Arizona - Grand Canyon Country by Troy Hendrich (pg 71) was one that spoke louder than the rest. That area is high on my want to ride list and Troy's easy and colorful style brings life to the area, sparking my interest and desire to get out there. A perfect tale read on a cold morning with a cup of coffee to take one away from the snow, at least for a little while.
The Rider/Writers are not shy about stopping for photo opportunities; each report is filled with gorgeous pictures. These images compliment the words, and are a big part of the quality feel the book has.
Planning the next season travels is another way to mentally escape the cold that lurks just outside the window. It was reassuring that the report on Southwest Wisconsin (pg 106) read accurately. Having spent a lot of time and miles in this area of riding treasure, it was easy to compare my first hand knowledge to Chris Meyers' report. Both the information and feel he details allows me to recommend America's Backroads as a good starting resource to build a travel plan.
Along with tales from the road each report is completed with a "Facts and Information" page, that summarizes the suggested tour. Included on the page is the total mileage, a one paragraph synopsis of the general area, which is the best travel season along with map sources and appropriate web sites as well. The final touch on this reference page is a map that overviews the area highlighting the route discussed.
Each report does a fair job of letting you know the roads and route numbers they found worthy of being on the "top twenty" list. That said it would be a small task to use the report and overview map, but I do believe that you could recreate their trips.
However, you are not left to your own devices. They have detailed tank bag maps and gps files for each tour. For a small fee ($4.95) you download specific tours that interest you from the www.RoadRUNNER.travel website.
America's Backroads also describes all aspects of what goes into a motorcycle tour. Covering a half dozen topics that the editors call "Service". After every second or third ride report a page is devoted to imparting things to know, from Riding at night to what tools to bring this book provides a complete picture.
Road Runner Magazine's first issue was published in 2001 a child of the new millennium. This magazine was started by Christian and Christa Neuhauser, a young couple who loved traveling and riding motorcycles. Their love of the two motivated exploring 42 states, which inspired the production of the magazine. A magazine that "reflected their passion for the riding, the allure of roads less traveled, and memorable destinations."
The combination of all of these parts brings together something for every rider; both veterans and those who think they want to tour should enjoy reading this. The editors of Road Runner have a winner here that is perfect to while away the cold winter, fueling my dreams for the season that is soon to be here.
Travel magazines and books are a dime a dozen. You can find them by the hundreds for any place your little wanderlust inflicted heart wishes to go.
Add in the desire to see those places while on two wheels and have a book targetted specifically towards you and the options dwindle significantly. Add in entertaining writing and the list dwindles even further. Finally mix in the desire to not only read about someone else's travels but get information that you can actually use should you decide to follow their path and, yes you guessed it, the stack gets even smaller.
All that being said has led me to be the kind of person that reads a travel book only as a reference before I actually travel to that particular destination; kind of like cramming for a test. Books about other peoples' travels are not what I consider light reading so when RoadRUNNER Magazine sent us a copy of their new book, "Riding America's Backroads, 20 Top Motorcycle Tours", I was less than motivated to read it.
Expecting to find dry, travelogue type writing I took a deep breath and turned to the table of contents section (we book reviewers must approach such undertakings slowly and methodically). The individual articles are grouped by the region of the country in which they take place which makes navigating the book itself a simple undertaking.
Turning to the first section labeled "The West" I found tours in Alaska, Kalispell, Montana, Northeast Oregon, and the Mendocino Coast in California, all written by people riding various types of motorcycles. There were also the obligatory beautiful, if oversaturated, pictures of gorgeous scenery, motorcycles, and people who look like they are having more fun than should be legally allowed. All of this I expected. What I didn't expect was the quality of writing; it's actually pretty good. Sure some of the writers suffer from an overuse of colorful adjectives but overall I found that I was enjoying my "travels" with them.
The same went for all the other sections of the USA; SW, SE, Midwest, and NE. One of the nicest parts is that at the end of each tour article is a facts and information page detailing about the tour; total route mileage, best travel season, what type of roads to expect, additional books and maps, where to find more information, what attractions to look for and visit, and a high-level map of the entire route. Handy stuff that.
As an additional bonus RoadRUNNER Magazine has also placed handy help articles throughout the book giving you tips on everything from "Tour Planning Nuts & Bolts" to "Group Riding".
Whether you are getting ready to ride the legendary Route 66 and want a little extra motorcycle specific information, are looking for a new ride in your neck of the woods, or are just snowed-in and need a motorcycle "fix", RoadRUNNER Magazines' "Riding America's Backroads, 20 Top Motorcycle Tours" should be sitting on your coffee table (or packed in your saddlebag as a roadside companion).
While it's still very cold outside in most places in the US a gift idea to make you dream of and decide on your next road trips. Riding America's Backroads features 20 full length touring articles and six motorcycle service pieces covering topics like "packing a bike" and "riding in the dark". From the RoadRunner website readers can also download signature tank bag maps and GPS files for each tour of the 20 tours. I have to mention that this book is very entertaining and informative for any traveler, whether on two wheels or four. Contains first class photography about the landscapes and attractions that you will encounter along your way.
I have had the opportunity to review this publication and I really liked what I saw.
This was the first publication of a series and had 191 pages and covered 20 Tours.
The tours covered 5 sections of the country broken down to West, South West, Midwest, Southeast, Northwest as well as a service section that included tour planning, how to pack the bike, tools and a few other items
Each section starts off with a Facts & Information section and then goes into the actual ride with the rider telling you about it and points of interest backed up with some good photography.
The articles are by different people so that makes it even more interesting.
The soft cover version that I reviewed was on high grade gloss paper and justified the price of the publication.
I have ridden in some of the same places as a few of the articles I read and did find the authors version and article to be be very informative.
Even if you have been riding a long time I am sure you would enjoy this publication. If you are new to touring it is a valuable insight to planning where you want to go.
I am sure you will enjoy it as I did.
I am looking forward to future issues as well.
" It is well put together, informative and just a fun read, especially when the winter is keeping you trapped."
RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Tour & Travel magazine writers and editors tout these 20 U.S. motorcycle rides as the best. The tours, which each take several days and follow primarily back roads with twists and bends that riders will savor, are grouped into five geographic regions. After a kickoff that fittingly traces the path of fabled Route 66, writers describe the other tours in a breezy and almost diarylike fashion, remarking on the progress of each day's ride and folding in information about general riding conditions, eating places, scenic spots, and points of interest. A one-page "Facts and Figures" synopsis for each route includes a map, total mileage, and attractions. The plentiful, vivid, and inviting photographs capture several highlights of each route, giving the book a "wish you were here" quality.
Verdict: This should appeal to a wide range of motorcycle riders and perhaps even to travelers in the family sedan. Because roadways and landmarks rarely change, it should have lasting value and relevance. A nice addition for travel or motorcycling collections.-David Van de Streek, Penn State Univ. Libs., York
Here's an idea that I can get behind: a motorcycle travel magazine compiling articles on 20 of its top U.S. tours, including Route 66, into one well-illustrated book. Motorcycle tourism has steadily grown as baby boomers approach retirement, so the market for such a book is there.
RoadRunner Motorcycle Touring & Travel magazine, on its 10th anniversary, has done this with "Riding America's Backroads" (softcover, Fox Chapel, 192 pages, $27.95). In addition to the Mother Road, the book includes tours into central and northern New Mexico, the Mendocino Coast of California, Grand Canyon Country of northern Arizona, and Big Bend National Park in Texas - all with beautiful full-color photographs and illustrations. Sprinkled throughout are one-page stories and sidebars about trip planning, group rides, repair tools and other information.
However, I found enough flaws with "Riding America's Backroads" that I would use it with caution - especially with Route 66.
In the book's opening chapter of Route 66, the uncredited writers mention they inadvertently skipped Tulsa and Oklahoma City, which signals they drove on Oklahoma Highway 66, aka the interstate, through those cities instead of taking the classic alignments. Oops.
And Kansas - and its 13 miles of Route 66 - isn't mentioned at all.
The book's serious shortcomings pop up when the authors mention eating breakfast at Norma's Diamond Cafe in Sapulpa, Okla., and stopping to see the Big 8 Motel (famous for a scene in the movie "Rain Man") in El Reno, Okla. Both places have been gone for at least five years.
Obviously, the article was written a long time ago. But, like the error-riddled "Road Trip USA Route 66," the publishers needed to employ a fact-checker to ensure the book is up-to-date. At the least, editor's notes in the story should have informed readers that those landmarks are defunct so that future travelers aren't disappointed.
The end of the chapter includes a one-page Facts and Information, including the best times to travel, typical road conditions, books and map resources, key Web sites, and a short listing of attractions.
However, the Route 66 map places several towns in inaccurate spots, including Stroud, Okla., away from Route 66 entirely; Clinton, Okla., being very close to the Texas border; Santa Rosa, N.M., in the Tucumcari area; Oatman, Ariz., being east of Sitgreaves Pass instead of west, and Barstow, Calif., being about 100 miles too far to the east.
With these oversights and mistakes in the opening chapter, it doesn't give one much confidence about the rest of "Riding America's Backroads."
Another gripe: The book does not contain an index or listing of chapters by page number. This makes trying to look up the sections a big hassle.
The book provides a website in which you can download global-positioning system files and tankbag maps for your trips. I had a devil of a time finding the address for the downloads; it wasn't featured on RoadRunner's main site. The only place it's listed is on the inside flap of book cover. Anyway, the download site is here.
The downloadable maps are the same as the ones in the book. So the downloadable Route 66 map has the same problems with the strangely positioned towns as the book version, and is only marginally useful.
I don't have a GPS unit, but plugged in RoadRunner's downloadable coordinates into Google Earth. Admittedly, this isn't ideal for testing. But I determined that RoadRunner's coordinates did include older Route 66 alignments such as the Santa Fe routing, part of the Admiral Place in Tulsa, the Sidewalk Highway near Afton and Miami, Okla.; the old Geary, Okla., alignment, and the old Springfield-to-Carlinville routing in Illinois.
However, the GPS coordinates did not go into Arizona's scenic Black Mountains and the quaint mining town of Oatman. I'm not sure whether RoadRunner thought Oatman Road is too challenging, or an oversight.
So, if you're a Garmin junkie, it may be to your advantage to supplement the device with other Route 66 coordinates, such as these.
"Riding America's Backroads" might provide a motorcycle enthusiast a few good ideas for his or her next road trip. But I would think twice about using it as a primary resource.
In the interests of full disclosure, I have a confession to make. I am a total sucker for glossy motorcycle touring books.
You know, the ones that have page after page of big and colorful tourism bureau photographs showing lovely roads winding through stunning scenery. When it comes to these things, I am like a trophy wife on a spending spree-I want them al. Come to think of it, such tempters do not even need to be motorcycle-related, but they do need to have velvety black ribbons of pavement swirling off to the horizon, as if beckoning their readers with the soft whisper that says, 'You could, no should, be here.'
So it was with a certain measure of glee that
I received Riding America's Backroads: 20 Top
Motorcycle Tours ($29.95, www.foxchapelpublishing.
com) from the folks at RoadRUNNER
magazine. After all, for a good decade, the ridin'
writers and photographers at this North Carolina-based publication have been tantalizing us with trip reports from all corners of the globe. From Idaho to Italy and from Africa to Arizona, we have been able to couch-ride the world via informative write-ups that are illustrated with photographs so glorious that we fall into them like Alice going down the rabbit hole. After all those years of reading RoadRUNNER, I must admit I was prepared to like this new book covering their top 20 trips the minute I pulled it from the envelope.
Predictably, Riding America's Backroads does not disappoint.
From the tantalizing cover shot of a rider enjoying Montana's
Glacier National Park to the final photo of a lovely curve in
Somewhere-I-want-to-go, USA (sadly, several of the bigger illustrations lack explanatory text), this book is everything that anyone familiar with RoadRUNNER could expect. Whether it is a scooter tour through the posh Hamptons or a multi-day scramble over the dirt passes of Alaska, each of the 20 rides in Riding America's
Backroads is lavishly illustrated with that magazine's hallmark-
beautiful photography that not only gives the reader a sense of the actual ride in question, but also the territory through which it travels. And a particularly good example of this well-rounded trip coverage appears right away in the Route 66 adventure which opens the book. Not only do plenty of shots of the highway itself accompany the day-by-day trip report, but there are also numerous illustrations of the unusual businesses and iconic structures that remain from that once-popular trail's heyday.
Lest someone get the idea that Riding America's
Backroads is little more than a glorified picture book and better suited for the coffee table rather than the tankbag, it should be noted that each ride report also comes with a page of practical information. There are notes on mileage, road surfaces, and the best time of year to do the ride, as well as contact information for area attractions and lists of useful reference books and web addresses. Rounding out each trip's
'Facts and Information' page is a map of the route for reference purposes-along with a note to "always consult more detailed maps for touring purposes." Some of that greater detail can be found on the RoadRUNNER
website, which has GPS files and printable copies of those maps available for (free)
download. While the maps are PDFs, the GPS information utilizes the .gpx file format that is widely used by most major navigation devices. (Having no such navigational device myself, I
could not verify that the GPS downloads associated with Riding
America's Backroads work as advertised. However, a quick search of the web on this topic revealed postings on several motorcycle touring forums where GPS owners noted that they had easily and successfully downloaded the files in question.)
Besides the photos and text that accompany each of the book's rides, there are also six informational essays scattered throughout
Riding America's Backroads. With titles such as "Packing A Bike,"
"Tour Planning Nuts and Bolts," "The Dark Side" (which covers night riding), and "When the Pavement Ends," each one tackles a separate topic relating to motorcycle touring. At just a page each,
none of these treatises get into any great detail about their topics,
but each one certainly imparts valuable information, particularly to those who are new to two-wheeled touring-which makes sense in a way since many of the rides covered in Riding America's
Backroads are of the marquee type that anyone who has been riding for several years already knows about, even if they are still on the 'to do' list. The Grand Canyon, California's Mendocino Coast,
the high passes of the Colorado Rockies, and the Skyline Drive/
Blue Ridge Parkway of the Appalachians are just a few of the very well-known riding destinations in the book. Perhaps I am taking the editors of RoadRUNNER too literally, but I would like to see more coverage of real backroads of the off-the-beaten-track variety.
However, in light of the book's fabulous photography (which makes each trip a treat to look at no matter where it is located),
I should note that this is more of an observation than a criticism.
These folks could write up and photograph the roads in my own backyard and I would probably love the result.
If I did have to find fault with anything in Riding America's
Backroads, it would be that the writing which accompanies all that eye candy is often uneven. (And this has long been this writer/editor's sole complaint about the magazine as well.) While some of the entries in this compilation of previously published trips are written eloquently, even elegantly, some lack smoothness and continuity. They jerk along from paragraph to paragraph and are about as much fun to read as it is to ride a misfiring machine. Happily, these clunkers are interspersed with much more pleasant reads, like Troy Hendrick's piece on the Grand
Canyon, Robert Smith's take on the Black Hills, or Chris Myers'
notes on the rolling hills of eastern Ohio. Reading these offerings,
and others like them, help to dispel the sour taste that some of the less well-written pieces tend to leave behind.
Of course, one could avoid that problem altogether by simply not reading every word of the book. This would be perfectly acceptable. After all, as the old saying goes, 'A picture is worth a thousand words.' Thanks to all of that colorful photography,
Riding America's Backroads is packed with a lot of very valuable and spectacular information. It would certainly add flair to any rider's coffee table-which is a good thing, since, after going through its pages, the dining table is probably going to get covered in road maps.