Motorcycling Adventures in Mother Russia. Now your juices must be flowing, anticipating what you are going to discover with this MotoDreamer article.
If it’s epic riding, you’re after? Russia has it in spades. It is the world’s largest country after all! Whatever you hope to experience in your travels, chances are, Russia has what you’re looking for.
Russia’s rambling routes through rolling countryside, stately forests, medieval townships, and fairytale villages are under the global motorcycle community’s radar.
The truth is, if you haven’t considered Russia for your next riding adventure, you’re missing out on something special.
As one of the few foreign riders to explore this land of splendor of Mother Russia becomes all the more real.
Motorcycle tour outfit MotoDreamer’s vision is to encourage motorcycle tourers to ride the roads less traveled.
This venture will take you on an eye-opening journey that’s exhilarating and enlightening in equal measure.
Motorcycling Adventures in Mother Russia – What can I expect?
Russia is an incredible biking destination. It has the world’s fourth most extensive road network, covering a total of 1.28 million kilometers. At the last count in 2012 – 927,721 km of paved roads and another 355,666 km of unpaved roads are crisscrossing the country.
Author’s Note: Do not forget Mike has, I suspect, ridden on nearly all of them in his adventurous time.
Of course, these roads don’t even come close to covering the bulk of Russia’s 17.1 million-kilometer land area. Vast tracts of impenetrable wilderness. From the far Siberian Arctic to the volcanic wastelands of Kamchatka, remain utterly inaccessible by road.
Russia’s most remote regions are the realm of hardcore off-road warriors. Think Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s battle with the infamous Road of Bones in the far eastern regions of Yakutia and Magadan.
Not all of Russia is even close to being this extreme! Stick a little closer to civilization, and there’s plenty of great riding to enjoy. All without the boulder-slides and dilapidated nightmare bridges.
Only a couple of hours outside central Moscow, the traffic dissipates. Now sense the hazed exhaust fume over the highways replaced by clean air. With the added bonus of fewer people, and beautifully quiet, rural roads for hours, even days.
Riding in the Cities (aka Gridlock Central)
Moscow is notorious for its endless traffic jams. How bad exactly? Moscow consistently ranks as the worst city in Europe for traffic.
As a megacity of 12 million people. Moscow has a stubbornly car-centric culture, paralyzing congestion is one of the most excruciating thorns on the city’s side.
Despite its comparatively modest population of 5 million, St Petersburg still ranks in the top 10 most congested European cities.
Needless to say, city riding requires all senses on high alert and unwavering concertation. The size of the city is a source of confusion in itself. Now combine the angry, frustrated motorists and a population of local bikers. All of whom display maneuvers suggesting the potential for carnage is secondary to getting ahead of the pack.
Our advice for surviving Moscow’s traffic mayhem?
- Avoid rush hour if you can. (Moscow has the world’s most extended rush hour. Somewhere between 6:30 am and 10 am, and 5 pm and 8 pm.)
- Stay calm, but be confident, assertive, and always on-guard alert – expect drivers to completely fail to acknowledge your existence.
- Road rules are broken without thinking, and road manners are utterly unheard of – traffic brings out the worst in people!
- Have an escape route mapped out – use secondary roads where possible and get out of Moscow ASAP
The Rest of Russia & your much-anticipated motorcycling adventures can begin with Mother Nature.
Luckily, once you’re outside the city center, those seemingly endless lines peter out rapidly. Even on main roads, traffic is usually relatively light.
Multi-lane highways connect Moscow and St Petersburg to other population centers. For riders, skip the roads when you can. And instead, explore the endless rural backroads. All winding their way past quiet countryside, meadows, forests, lakes, and rivers.
Russian road conditions vary immensely, from pristine to atrocious.
At times, expect a rough ride, even on sealed roads. Many are frequently eroded and riddled with ruts, cracks, rocks, puddles, and potholes. In the last few years, many major highways have been upgraded. But every year, after winter, the potholes rapidly rear their heads again.
Author’s Note: have you ever hit a pothole the size of a moon crater? I did once a few years back; both my front tires collapsed. Not a positive experience for the contents of my wallet the following day, I can assure you.
Whenever a smooth stretch of the road presents itself, there’s a tendency for many cars and trucks to believe they are suddenly transported to a runway and watch them take off at lightspeed. The highway speed limit is 110km, but this is often ignored, despite the presence of speed traps.
“Unpredictable” is the best way to describe Russian motorists. If they’re speeding or erratic, give them a wide berth. The prevalence of dangerous driving is the main reason Russia is best left to the inexperienced rider.
If you can handle the sometimes challenging conditions, riding through rural Russia is a magical experience. As you cruise along curving country roads. Many shaded by stands of birch and pine, the scenery is intoxicating. with rolling green hills, wooden farmhouses, and 15th-century villages, medieval cathedrals, and elaborate Imperial mansions.
Russia offers fantastic riding and fascinating Tsarist, wartime and modern history. And an absorbing cultural deep-dive unlike anywhere else on earth.
Why is Mother Russia Still an up-and-coming MotoDreamer Adventure Travel Destination?
For the uninitiated, the logistics of riding in Russia can be a little overwhelming.
Only in the last few decades has Russia opened up to foreign travelers. The tourist infrastructure is still developing outside Moscow and St Petersburg.
The quality of tourist services like hotels, restaurants, tours, and tour guides are hit-or-miss. Finding helpful travel information (especially for riders) isn’t always easy.
Tourists are permitted to rent vehicles, including motorcycles, in Russia. However, many local rental agencies have little experience with foreign clients. So complex tasks like hiring a vehicle can be pretty problematic if you don’t speak Russian.
While Russians are friendly and renowned for their hospitality towards guests. The language barrier is a challenge, getting lost, finding fuel, potential breakdowns, and indecipherable road signs all to contend with.
MotoDreamer, with you in their minds, have created their tour named: A 10-Day Guided Tour Through the Heart of Russia.
The 10-day loop, beginning and ending in Moscow, includes six full days of riding. Plus guided sightseeing days in Moscow and St Petersburg.
You’ll meet your professional, bilingual tour leader in Moscow. Where your choice of one of MotoDreamer’s as-new 750cc and 850cc touring bikes will be waiting for you. As with all MotoDreamer Tours, you’ll be tailed by a support vehicle in case of any mishaps.
The Route for MOTORCYCLING ADVENTURES IN MOTHER RUSSIA.
Riding north out of Moscow is like journeying through time.
Moscow to Tver (Day 3)
The first day’s ride will stick to predominantly secondary rural roads. Immersing you in the fantasy atmosphere of a bygone era. Moscow’s rampant commercialization seems a world away here. Where Old Russia lives in the scattering of storybook cottages and tiny churches between the 431km scenic route to Tver.
An elegant town on the Volga River considered one of Russia’s heritage ‘Golden Ring’ cities, Tver can trace its history to the 12th century. The beautiful baroque Catherine’s Convent is a testament to Catherine the Great’s fondness for this peaceful riverside sanctuary.
Tver to Valday to Novgorod (Day 4)
The ride from Tver to St Petersburg is an equally scenic two-day affair. Tracking north-west away from the more populated Volga River region. The roads feel far more remote, and the wilderness increasingly takes over.
There are even a few stretches of sand and gravel to have a bit of skid-and-slide fun with. Soak in the sublime sights around you. There are highlights such as Seliger’s sapphire blue lakes and Valday National Park’s rugged glacial landforms.
The last stop before St Petersburg is Novgorod, one of the oldest cities in Russia. With a 900-year old Kremlin beside the banks of the Volkhov River.
Motorcycling Adventures in Mother Russia. Next sightseeing St Petersburg (Day 6)
As one of the most beautiful cities on earth. It made perfect sense to break up the ride, with a full day’s city sightseeing in this living art gallery of a city.
We’re sure you don’t need us to sing St Petersburg’s praises. But if all that riding has got you in the mood to relax, wine, dine, and be pampered, St Petersburg has it all covered.
Motorcycling Adventures in Mother Russia, St Petersburg to Pechory (Day 7) to Derbovezh (Day 8)
After living it up in St Petersburg, your final three riding days will take you back through the old country. We’ll stay overnight in a homestay in Pechory, famed for the network of burial caves beneath its c1473 monastery.
Sample home-cooked Russian soul food and brave an invigorating banya. A traditional Russian sauna that involves whipping naked with a bundle of birch twigs).
Author’s Note: Send the pics to me, and I will censor Mike whipped by a big hairy Russian Bear; well, one day I will.
The lively, lakeside resort town of Derbovezh is the final stop before the 375km back to Moscow. You will ride on a mix of narrow backroads and speedy expressways.
Why Should Motorcycling Adventures in Mother Russia be on Every Rider’s Radar?
Russia is a land of countless contrasts. Take note of thousands of years of world-shaping history. With hundreds of unique ethnic groups, and a staggering variety of natural environments.
MotoDreamer’s 10 Day motorcycle tour may only offer the tiniest glimpse into what makes Russia Russia. All mapped out to show you as many sides of the country in a short length of time.
With the added freedom of touring on two wheels. You’ll soon leave the tourist trail far behind in search of whatever Real Russia is to you.
Written by: Fiona Davies (extreme pillion rider and adventure travel writer)