Part of the fun of riding a motorcycle is the thrill of conquering new terrain. Like pushing yourself all the way to the peak of a fourteener on foot, getting to the top via two wheels is a grueling yet exhilarating feeling and one you’ll remember for a lifetime. The sharp switchbacks over flat-faced cliffs lead you, slowly but surely, to a big reward up top. But this is no easy feat—not physically nor mentally—and you’ve got to be prepared for every inch you climb.
Why Cruise Through the Peaks?
Mountainous landscapes provide a completely different, often more dangerous, experience than most flat-land riders are used to. There are the tight corners, which limit your visibility to oncoming vehicles, and the drastic descent, which can take a toll on your brakes. And then, of course, there’s the heights factor. The twists and turns leave you thousands of miles up in the air, which can be a major issue for people with a fear of heights. A quick glance to your right and you’ll see thousand-foot cliffs dropping off into vast valleys. That can definitely be distracting!
But carving your way through the peaks is nonetheless worth all the stomach drops and sweaty palms, at least if you go into it prepared and ready to tackle anything. Here are the things you need to know before you conquer one of the world’s greatest motorcycle-friendly mountain roads.
1. Train the Body and the Mind—The fact that you’ve got a full tank of gas and a powerful engine shouldn’t deter you from feeling like a gold medalist at the top of the mountain, because this can be hard work.
- Train the Body—Physically, you need to have a strong core, back, shoulders and legs in order to maneuver your bike up, up and up. Remember, regular cruising can burn around 600 calories per hour, and more if you’re tackling tough, curvy roads. Spend some time strengthening your upper body before you depart.
- Prepare the Mind—There’s no doubt about it, the biggest challenges of this type of riding are mental. You’ll very easily psych yourself out and stay at the bottom of the mountain if you think about it too much. Know the hazards you might encounter and how to quickly respond and you’ll feel better heading up.
2. If Traveling with a Group or Passenger, Stay in Touch—Do you have a good motorcycle communication device for talking with fellow riders or your passenger? We recommend investing in one that doesn’t just rely on Bluetooth, which can be spotty when traversing particularly demanding landscapes. Look for one with mesh technology, such as the Cardo PACKTALK Bold, to solve this issue. The right motorcycle headset will also let you jam out as you crush the ascent, so go ahead and get your John Denver playlist ready!
3. Prepare for Altitude Sickness and Low Air Pressure—Altitude sickness can happen to anyone who lives in a lowland area and travels to areas at 8,000 feet above sea level or higher (for reference, Aspen hovers around 8,000 feet up). Symptoms include trouble sleeping, fatigue, headache, nausea, rapid heart rate and shortness of breath with exertion. It’s important that you take the ascent slow to properly acclimatize, and that you pay close attention to your body if you start to show symptoms.
4. Know Your Route Beforehand—Anytime you’re taking an especially challenging or unique ride, it helps to get acquainted with the route you’ll be taking before you actually kick off. This will ensure that you feel confident about the way you’re going, even if there’s only one single road leading up the peak. It will also prevent you from wanting to fuss with your GPS or look at a map, which can take your attention away from making a safe climb and absorbing the experience to its fullest.
5. Prepare Your Bike and Perform an Inspection—The last thing you would want is to be halfway up a mountain and realize that something’s off with your bike. Before you leave, perform a thorough inspection, including but definitely not limited to:
- Checking tire pressure and making sure there are no tears, cracks or punctures in your tires. Remember, elevation can affect tire pressure.
- Inspecting every component of your brakes, including brake lines, fluids and rotors, before you depart, to ensure a safe journey.
- Checking all fluids and top them off if necessary. Ideally, you should have your oil changed within a few hundred miles of the time you head out.
Another thing we would recommend doing before heading out on your mountain ride is to stash some emergency parts on your bike. Extra spark plugs, lights, wiring and belts can go a long way when you’re in a remote location. Typically, there are no mechanics once you get above the ridgeline! Finally, if you see another biker or motorist in need, stop and help. Ideally, they will do the same for you if you need assistance.
6. Go Slow and Steady—A windy road climbing up the side of a mountain is no place to practice tricks or take turns at high speed. This is a situation where going too fast or being reckless in any way could mean death, so make sure to go at a slow pace the entire way. Some of the most popular mountain passes can get clogged in the summer and traffic may inch by, but resist the urge to weave and cut your way to the summit.
Slow and Steady Wins the (Motorcycle) Race
Like anything related to riding, it pays to be slow, calculating and reasonable so you can anticipate any literal and metaphorical roadblocks before you crush your route. Taking some time to plan before you cruise your way to the top can go a long way to ensuring that you enjoy every single inch you climb. And, trust us, the reward will be well worth it when you see the views from the top!
Author: Andrew Moore who is the marketing coordinator for Cardo Systems, the world’s market leader in Bluetooth, DMC, and entertainment systems for motorcycle riders. Formally, Andrew was a professional Motocross racer and has spent the past 12 years traveling on his bike. On weekends, you can find him mountain biking in the summer and snowboarding in the winter with his two sons. Supplied by Cardosystems.com