Best Biking Summer Holiday... America

Best-ever biking summer holiday across America so you can get some ideas for your own. You don’t have to spend thousands of pounds or be away from work for long


Name: John Cantlie
Bike: Honda Goldwing
Miles covered: 14,955
Total cost: £2,400
Pros: Sense of total freedom
Cons: Cost

At precisely 3.33am just 20 miles out of Jacksonville, I sat bolt upright, slammed on the brakes at 80mph and swerved to avoid the brick wall that had suddenly appeared in front of me. And then, just as abruptly, I realised it wasn’t there. After 33 hours straight in the saddle my brain was playing tricks on me. I’d just ridden non-stop from Los Angeles to Alabama, some 2,200 miles across the United States, and the brick wall was a hallucination.

Riding in the USA on a Goldwing is the best summer holiday I’ve ever had on a motorcycle. I covered an insane amout of miles in five weeks, nearly 15,000 in total, and loved every single minute of every single day. To be fair it wasn’t a holiday, not really. I was in the States to do five features for various magazines, from the Reno Air Race to fighting fire with the smokejumpers of Montana. All the stories were in different states but instead of flying to each, I figured it would be far more entertaining to link each feature together on a motorcycle. There’s only one bike for a job like this, and Honda America very kindly loaned me a Goldwing for the job.

Riding the length of Nevada from bottom to top is righteous on a bike like this. The roads are arrow-straight, arcing out ahead of you for mile after desert mile. There’s no helmet law and you ride open in the burning sun and wind, only a pair of sunglasses and the bike’s screen to protect your eyes. I’ve ridden bikes all around the globe and this is one of the greatest sensations in the world. The Goldwing has a four-speaker stereo and I set it to a local rock station, eat beef jerky and crank out another 100 miles. I’m so happy that I call a friend back in the UK on my mobile while we ride on cruise control. “I’m so fucking happy, man. I’m having a proper Americana moment right now,” I tell him. “That’s nice, John, but it’s 2am and I’m asleep. Go away,” he says. I stop in the small gambling town of Reno and cover the legendary Air Race for a men’s magazine. Standing beneath the pylons as 4,000bhp P-51 Mustangs  blaze overhead at 500mph, their wingtips just 30ft above your head, actually sucks the breath out of your lungs. You’ll find this nowhere else on earth.

Northern California is wine country and it’s outrageously beautiful. If you like European mountain roads allied to the cold, crashing Pacific ocean and sky-high property prices, this is for you. We loop up and over, down through Montana and the edge of the Rocky mountains. Across Wyoming and its never-ending grassy plains, farming country and farmer’s daughters who’ve never heard someone with a proper English accent in this part of America.  I’m passed by a chapter of the Vietnam Veterans MCC, 20 Harleys headed south-east like myself. I drop in behind and they welcome me on board, 21 riders all headed the same way. We exchange war stories. Theirs are a little better than mine.

From the gates of San Francisco to the heat of Texas and the green forests of Mississippi, America has something to offer anyone who rides a motorcycle. There are hundreds of companies offering fly/ride rental deals out there, and the current pound-dollar exchange rate means now is a perfect time to go. Americans are in love with the notion of road-trips and bikes, and riding out here opens doors like everywhere else. You’ll meet some of the weirdest, funniest and just plan maddest people in the world, and every single one of them has a story to tell. I tend to push things to the limit and I certainly wouldn’t advise doing the distances that I did, but America really does have it all. So pick a part you want to discover and go explore.


How much do you want to spend? The most popular biking destinations are California and Arizona. Hire a Harley in Los Angeles and head due east. Expect to pay from £100 per day for bike rental and £20 per night for basic motels. It’ll cost you around £8 to fll up your bike, so budget accordingly. Food is surprisingly expensve in the USA and $20 bills last as long as confetti in the wind. It’s not a cheap country, but the people and places you’ll meet will stay with you a long, long time