Guided Motorcycle Tours
By Walter F. Kern
Part 1: Gourmet food, the finest hotels and great roads form the basis of organized motorcycle tours
There are many companies that will plan a motorcycle tour for you and then guide you on the trip. These motorcycle tours are not cheap. When I first thought about organized motorcycle tours, I couldn't imagine why anyone would want to spend so much money to go on one of these tours. After all, motorcyclists have been touring by themselves for nearly 100 years.
The rise in popularity of motorcycle guided tours must mean that a market does exist. In fact, there is a lot of repeat business by riders so satisfied with their motorcycle guided tour experience that they book another tour with the same company. So what do you get when you opt to pay a premium to tour? The first thing is that you don't have to plan your tour -- no more phone calls to try to setup reservations along the tour route for motels and meals.
Of course, you can wing it and not plan anything and just grab the first motel that comes along as you near evening. Then you can ask around for a good place to eat and maybe get a good meal. Or maybe not. What happens if you break down? Will there be immediate help to get your bike off the road and headed toward a repair shop? With a guided tour you get good places to stay and eat and good riding roads -- no more unexpected gravel roads in the middle of nowhere. You also get a chase vehicle to carry your luggage, dispense soft drinks and carry your bike if it breaks down.
I decided that I would try one of these motorcycle guided tours myself. My wife and I were soon to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary and we had always wanted to ride in Nova Scotia. We decided to leave all the planning to Northeastern Motorcycle Tours run by Sean Reid. They had a 1600 mile tour that included the scenic Cabot Trail. About the only extra costs expected on the trip were gas, lunches, and shopping expenses. Our job was to ride to Bar Harbor, ME where the tour group would meet to begin the tour. After a late afternoon meeting that included introductions, we all met for dinner at the Bluenose Inn. The group included 11 bikes and 14 people including three trikes. Both the dinner and the accommodations for the evening were first rate and a great way to kickoff the tour.
The next day we met at 7 am to catch the giant Cat ferry that speeds to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia at nearly 50 mph. After passing through customs, we headed off on the first leg of the tour. Sean Reid has to be part psychologist to manage this many riders on an excursion. Some want to go fast. Some want to go slow and stop often to take pictures and side trips. Some want to go on their own. Some want to always be in contact with Sean as he leads the group. Of course, all these divergent interests cannot be satisfied. It takes a day or so of getting to know how he operates to enable a comfortable riding pattern to emerge. His method is to make sure each person understands the directions and lunch locations before the day's riding begins. He then mixes it up between riding with the fast group and the other groups and makes it a point to wait at route changes until everyone has made the turn.
Reid has gone to great pains to select the very best accommodations along the route and the best places to dine in the evening. In fact, we noted that some riders we met along the way were quizzing tour participants as to where we would be staying and eating and what roads we would be taking. I guess they wanted to take advantage of Reid's research and take his tour without paying for it. Needless to say, we didn't give away much and I won't here either. Reid's Web site gives all the details of the tour that he is willing to reveal.
The highlight of the tour is riding the Cabot Trail. I've included a few pictures taken along this trail. We rode the 200 mile trail clockwise. Everyone has their own special way to ride the Cabot Trail. Some ride clockwise, some ride counterclockwise, and some ride clockwise halfway and then turn around and ride back counterclockwise. The beginning of the trail is reached from Baddeck where we spent four nights. Reid makes sure that the ride is done on a clear day.
Reid also spoke French which enabled him to converse with many of the locals especially at the various exhibits we toured and seemed to make our group more welcome wherever we went -- a nice touch.
One of my favorite activities was visiting the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck. Bell had his second home in Baddeck and conducted numerous experiments there that did not involve the telephone. In fact, the Bell mansion is still in Baddeck and owned by the Bell family.
This had been a riding trip. At the end of the day you were tired and ready for a good meal and comfortable room. We were never disappointed.
Go to Part 2 to hear about the stormy trip back to Maine and get my recommendations.
=> Part 2: Maine and my recommendations