Wednesday, April 24, 2024
Home Vacation Getaway: Your Mid-Winter Moto Vacation Options

Getaway: Your Mid-Winter Moto Vacation Options

by Staff

On the road with Renedian Motorcycle Tours! If you’re tired of winter, a getaway like this (to Africa) might be just what you need. PHOTO CREDIT: Renedian Motorcycle Tours

So it’s winter in Canada. No motorcycling, for most of us; even if we were willing to brave the cold, there’s ice waiting on the roads for the unwary. And even if there’s no ice, there’s road salt, looking to rot the finish off your exhaust and frame. So what are your getaway options, if you really need to get out for a spin?

(What’s that you say? It looks like an early spring? Haha, you fool! Even if we get no more snow—unlikely, but possible—we’re still almost certainly going to get an extra month of frost and near-freezing muck instead, which is no better).

Make no mistake: Leaving Canada for a mid-winter moto vacation is going to cost you something, but the good news is that you can basically pay what you want—so here are your options.

All-Inclusive Guided Moto Tours

This is it—you’re living the dream. Jump on a plane, land in a warmer climate, go on a trip for a week or more, with every detail arranged by the tour operator. All you need is money.

Actually, depending where you’re going or what you’re doing, you might also want to possess some advanced riding skills. If you’re riding easy gravel or pavement, it should be a stress-free vacation. If you’re on a hot machine screaming through hairpins in the mountains, well, make sure your skills are up to the task.

Rene Cormier and his team have been guiding tours for well over a decade, and he was an experienced globetrotter long before that. He offers tours all over the world now. Some readers may remember his stories for CMG many years back, when he was traveling RTW on a shoestring budget. Now, he can take you to the same places he had those adventures. PHOTO CREDIT: Renedian Motorcycle Tours

However, these trips are really the way to go if you’re too busy to sort out the details of your own trip. You might have to pay for your lunch, but breakfast and suppers are usually included, and your accommodations are sorted ahead of time. Your guide should sort out any wrinkles along the way, and you don’t have to worry about speaking the local language. It’s easy-peasy.

Who should you book with? Here in Canada, Rene Cormier of Renedian Motorcycle Tours has been a longtime fixture on the motorcycle show circuit. Depending on the season, Renedian visits Africa, Mongolia, South America, New Zealand, and Scotland and also Canada, in the summer. They have an excellent reputation, and it might be hard to get a spot at the last-minute, but if you’re interested, it never hurts to check.

The very name “Eidelweiss” implies alpine touring, and that’s what the company became famous for. But they have lots of other tours in warmer places, which would be preferable mid-winter! PHOTO CREDIT: Eidelweiss

If Rene is all booked up, you could also check out Edelweiss. Edelweiss is probably the best-known moto-touring company and they have tours everywhere, and they even offer moto-training tours where you can learn the skills you need to ride the Alps… in the Alps! They also offer other training in warmer climes, which is probably a better idea for winter. Edelweiss even offers Vespa tours, if you want a twist-and-go vacation.

Other companies worth checking out are Motoquest (they’ve been around for a long time; you might have seen them at Canadian moto-shows in the past) or Globebusters (they’ve had some very famous ADV travelers as guides in past years). Both of these companies offer getaways all over the world, and the only thing standing in your way is your credit card limit.

Self-guided tours

Some of the all-inclusive tour operators also offer self-guided tours, where they sell you the accomodations/food/route package. You just show up with your bike (or a rental) and follow their map.

There are disadvantages to this arrangement, as you have no guides to help you through local traffic and culture—but maybe you don’t need that. Also, if you break down, there will be no handy chase truck close behind. But there’s also one big advantage: If you want to enjoy a schmancy tour without any annoying fellow travellers, this is perfect.

Rent-and-ride

You don’t have to go through a touring company to do a self-guided tour. It’s never been easier to do a rent-and-ride, and many rental companies now offer route suggestions as well.

EagleRider is a go-to for many motorcyclists looking for rentals in the U.S., but they also have many overseas locations, and offer touring packages as well. Their short-term offerings make them great for day trips.

EagleRider is probably the best-known rental company in North America. But they’re mostly in well-known tourist locations, and they tend to be pricey, especially when you convert the pricing to CAD. Many Harley-Davidson dealerships also offer rentals, with the same caveats (plus, you’re restricted to a Harley at those shops, which might not work for some riders). In Europe, other OEMs also offer some sort of rental through dealerships (Yamaha and BMW both overhauled their rental services in the past few years).

Thanks to the Internet, we now have the option of renting directly from owners (sort of) through Airbnb-style apps. Check out Twisted Road or Riders Share, and there are others as well, some of them small, single-operator outfits. Back in 2019, Mark Richardson used the small MotorbikeVentures.com rental operation to line up an older Transalp for a Euro-tour, all at a very reasonable price—see his write-up here.

Mark and Wendy on the road in Europe. Rent-and-ride worked out perfectly well for his 2019 trip, and it might be the best way for you to explore overseas. PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Richardson

If you don’t feel like searching the Internet for a needle in a haystack, RentalMotorbike.com will serve as an easy-to-use locator, but you’ll pay a bit more.

Ship your bike

For this deal, you’ve got to be in-the-know, but there are moto industry insiders who will take trailers full of other riders’ bikes down to the southern U.S. in mid-winter.  You drop the bike off to them, then fly down to meet them later. This idea is particularly popular with Daytona Bike Week attendees, or dirt bikers who want to hit the western deserts.

If you want to try this idea, ask your local dealership; if someone’s doing it locally, they will know who it is. And it’s worth asking, because this is one of the lowest-priced ways to get in a moto tour mid-winter; the trailers might get pre-booked early, but someone always backs out last-minute, and that could be your chance to get in.

WestJet Cargo will fly your bike to many world destinations… but in the past, the U.S. wasn’t on that list, and discount pricing went away in the winter. Call ’em up, and you may find policies have changed, but be careful. There’s often a lot of confusion about this subject, with airline staff. PHOTO CREDIT: WestJet

You could also look at an airline’s fly-your-bike pricing. Westjet had a deal on moto shipping last year, but such discount pricing typically only runs spring-summer-fall. If you don’t mind paying, though, it’s quite doable!

Resort day trips

This is kind of the lowest of the low, but it is an option, and can be pretty fun. If you’re at a resort, especially in the Caribbean, you’ll often see scooter rentals. They’re cheap, but you also get what you pay for. The helmet they provide may be falling apart. There’s no riding gear, no backup plan if anything goes wrong.

Riding a foreign country on a sketchy scooter can be more adventurous than many would want… but it is a very affordable way to get out for a ride in the winter, if you’re already headed south. PHOTO CREDIT: Zac Kurylyk

Having said that: If you’re stuck twiddling your thumbs while your significant other tans on the beach, you can actually cover a lot of country on a 50 in a day, and if you’re in a place that still relies heavily on donkey carts for travel, then a 50 isn’t so bad!

Also note that in some tourist towns, there are better bikes for rent not far off the resort. The Dominican Republic has Yamaha enduro rentals and even some bigger bikes, all pretty close to resorts. You’ll find the same thing close-by other all-inclusives, except for Cuba, where you’re stuck with Chinese step-throughs. Zac Kurylyk did this wayyyyy back in 2012—see his write-up here.

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