The Ultimate Motorcycling Bucket List.. and how to experience them

If motorcycling is all about letting yourself go and enjoying the moment, then make sure you have ticked off all of these before your 'time' comes

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There are motorcycles you want to own, bikes you want to travel on and use and then there are some bikes you maybe want to experience, just once.

These are the ‘Bucket list bikes’ – the machines that may be impractical or undesirable to own but which also undeniably deliver a unique experience, a thrill like nothing else or maybe a sensation you simply can’t afford to own but which still deserve to be sampled once.

And the arrival of new 2021 machines like Suzuki’s all-new Hayabusa, which is the definitive hyperbike and even Harley’s new limited edition Electra Glide Revival, which is surely the definitive classic Hog, we’re reminded of such ‘bucket list bikes’ once again.

But which are the best? Which biking experiences should be on your own bucket list – if you’ve haven’t done them already – and how do you go about getting them?

To help you, here, in no particular order, are our ‘Top 10 bikes you should ride before you die’ – and how you can go about riding them!

Try a hyperbike – Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa

Suzuki’s all-new, 2021, fully revived and revised Hayabusa has already been one of the success stories of 2021... or at the very least garnered the most coverage.

The original, launched way back in 1999, famously rewrote the ‘speed’ rule book by producing over 190bhp which, combined with ground-breaking aerodynamics, resulted in speeds of over 200mph, in turn prompting the hasty introduction of a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ restricting new production bikes to 300kph/186mph.

The new version doesn’t beat that, of course, but with a still simply astonishing midrange delivery that seems to warp time and space, an utterly planted chassis that makes a mockery of what you thought you knew about stability and speed, nevermind fancy new electronics, TFT dash, brakes etc, it IS, once again, the very definition of a hyperbike.

And if you want to sample that unique hyperbike thrust before you die, now is the time. Demand is high, supply won't always be good - book a test ride while you still can. This chance may not come around again.

Ride a Harley in the US of A

Yes it’s a cliché, and yes, too, unless you’re an absolute devotee, most Harleys make little sense in the UK. But riding one in the US, however, say along the Pacific Coast Highway or along the scrap that remains of the America’s ‘Mother Road’, Route 66 is a completely different kettle of fish.

In our view the best way of all is to join the hundreds of thousands of other Harley riders attending the annual Sturgis Rally in South Dakota, taking in the stunning scenery around Mount Rushmore, attending the numerous rallies, enjoying the lazy ‘potato-potato’ soundtrack and, over the course of a few days, finally ‘getting’ the whole Harley ‘thang’ – something you can never do in rainy Teddington or litter-strewn Lutterworth.

Best of all, you can. It’s not cheap, admittedly, but EagleRider are just one of numerous touring firms offering Harley ‘fly-ride’ holidays to Sturgis, Route 66 and many, many more. Our advice? Take the missus, book a Street Glide and take in as much of the Badlands, atmosphere and parties as you can. You won’t regret it.

Experience an original Brough Superior (or another classic motorcycle)

Classic bikes, especially old, British classic bikes like, say, a 1959 Triumph Bonneville, BSA Gold Star, Vincent Black Shadow and, the grand-daddy of them all, the original Brough Superior SS100, are undeniably a ‘thing’.

And, though few of us can afford them, less own them – or perhaps even want to –and very few even get the opportunity to ride them, few breeds of bike figure higher on any self respecting biker’s bucketlist. It’s a weird one, in all honesty. By definition such bikes are almost invariably dynamically disappointing compared to modern machines: they’re crude, slow, have dodgy brakes and tyres and sometimes no suspension.

Any ride is also overshadowed by anxiety – the worry of breaking it, damaging a priceless artifact, crashing even. But better than all that is the bucket list ‘tick’, the barroom bravado, the envy and admiration of your peers that comes with it. And again, you might not quite realize it, but this is possible, too.

The UK’s National Motorcycle Museum in Coventry offers ‘Try a Classic Bike’ days, which have included Broughs, BSAs and more, through its ‘Friend of the NMM’ membership scheme.

Adult subscriptions cost just under £30, a nominal insurance surcharge is applicable and short off-road rides are supervised but who cares? How else do you get to ride a Brough?

Take a KTM on the Picos d’Europa (or similar)

We’re all supposed to have done some off-roading. In any dream garage it’s almost expected that there’ll be a token, but fairly hardcore, off-roader alongside the Ducati, Harley and Yamaha stroker. And ideally, for ultimate kudos and to satisfy that bucket list tick, its should be a KTM of 300cc or more.

In truth, of course, few of us actually do, most of us are only marginally off-road capable and the likelihood of owning and safely riding a hard-core enduro for most of us is about the same as dating a Page 3 girl.

But, of course, these days you don’t have to. Instead you can sign up to an all-inclusive enduro holiday in Spain such as those offered by SolMoto, who claim to offer ‘The Ultimate Enduro Experience in Spain’ and from just €500 you can get three nights including breakfasts and two days guided riding (flights aren’t included) aboard KTMs ranging from 300 to 500cc on some of the most stunning trails and off-road ‘pistes’ in the world. Best of all, all skill levels are catered for. Go on, you know you want to…

Ride a V4 Ducati

Ducati remains – and probably always will – as one of the most lusted after bikes of all. The Italian brand’s superbikes are the stuff of legend. Its MotoGP missile the most feared of all. Even its latest adventure and cruiser bikes are more potent and exotic than all its rivals put together.

The latest Panigale and Multistrada’s astonishingly potent and distinctive V4… their ultra-sophisticated electronics… the immensely capable chassis and their seductive looks… And yet… they’re also so pricey and exclusive they remain in the domain of an extreme few. (The Scrambler meanwhile, I’m sorry, just doesn’t count.)

Yet, although most of us may never be able to afford to buy one, trying one out, perhaps just once, is a different matter entirely. Yes, dealer demos are sometimes possible but we’d recommend instead high-end rental clubs such as the Spyder Club.

For membership subscriptions starting at £1500 you get a set amount of rental ‘days’, a maximum permitted mileage, the option of bikes being delivered to and collected from your home and a whole fleet of exotic machines to choose from including MV Agustas, Triumphs, BMWs and, yes Ducatis including its latest Streetfighter V4. 

Sample a fully-fledged GP bike (well, Moto2...)

MotoGP bikes are the ultimate, simple as. So it’s only natural that riding one should be right up there on any self-respecting biker’s bucketlist. Trouble is, unless your surname’s Miller or Rossi or, for us Brits, Crutchlow, it’s also about as likely to happen as landing the winning ticket in the lottery. (Which is probably just as well ‘cos you’d probably end up on your ear at the first corner anyway…)

But… you CAN ride a Moto2 bike, which, surely, is the next best thing and as these machines are Triumph Street Triple 765-based, producing around 130bhp, they’re surely far more rideable for us mere mortals, too – in fact, thanks to their sublime chassis, more manageable proportions and so on they’re probably the ultimate track bikes you can ride.

Austria’s Red Bull Ring continues to offer its unique  ‘Moto2 Riding Experience’ aboard genuine KTM Moto2 machines with 30 minute sessions accompanied by an instructor costing €375 and 15min ones from just €210 (about £180) which, considering you’re aboard a genuine grand prix machine is surely some kind of steal.

Learn to ride a trials bike

After enduro riding and motocross, trials riding is surely one of those mysterious motorcycling ‘black arts’ we all aspire to, at least to some degree. After all, who hasn’t wondered at the astonishing static, balancing and climbing skills of multiple world champ Dougie Lampkin?

Which is why mastering – or at least sampling and becoming half-proficient at – is also up there on any biker’s bucketlist. And yes, again, you don’t need to fork out thousands or risk breaking your wrists (well, hopefully not) when you can simply visit an experience day with one of the best currently offered by Inch Perfect Trials in Lancashire.

They offer a variety of experience and training days, for all levels of ability, with everything provided starting at just £110 for a half day, and even with some training sessions offered by no less than Dougie Lampkin himself!

Learn how to wheelie like a boss

Look, wheelies are a part of motorcycling... whether you're intending to do one, didn't mean to lift the front or haven't quite worked out how to control the bunny hop. And let's face it, they also look cool otherwise we wouldn't do it - but they are also dangerous if you get them wrong. So why not take yourself off the road and learn how to 'pop a wheelie' properly in a controlled environment at the 'Yamaha Extreme Wheelie School' where you won't just get to perfect your skills, you'll take them to an insane new level. Prices start from £225 for a day courdse that includes lunch, the bike and gear if you need it.

Find out what the electric fuss is all about

Ridden an electric bike yet? No? Thought not. But even if you haven’t, insist they’re not for you or have no intentions of buying one in the future, admit it – you are intrigued. What ARE they really like? Are they really silent? (No.) Do they really have the instant drive that’ll outstrip most superbikes? (Yes, up to about 25mph at least) And how do they work? 

Well, it’s about time you found out – at least before you kick the bucket that is. And you can do just that more easily than you might have thought. Many electric bike dealers offer demos, primarily because the manufacturers understand market ignorance and suspicion has to be overcome. Some go further still.

The English Electric Motor Company, based in Diss, Norfolk, is arguably the UK’s leading multi-franchise electric bike dealer with machines not just from Zero but also Energica, Super Soco, Niu and Horwin, happily arranges demos for visitors and even goes so far as to also offer what it calls ‘Doorstep Demos’ (where demo bikes are delivered to your door for a charge of £350, although this is refunded if you buy) and even extended demos. Tempted yet?

Ride a true superbike on track

OK, we’ve covered MotoGPs bikes, toyed with riding an exotic Ducati V4 on the road and had our sense of speed truly frazzled by Suzuki’s blisteringly fast Hayabusa – but how about trying a true superbike on track?

It’s only there that you can truly discover what the latest superbikes are really capable of – and not just their straightline speed but also their astonishing brakes, brilliant chassis and mind-warping electronics, too.

Trouble is, short of risking your pride and joy on a track day (assuming you have a ‘pride and joy’ superbike in the first place), it’s not that easy, is it? Actually, it is.

Yamaha’s current ‘Track Experience’ is available not just at Silverstone but also Brands Hatch, Donington, Cadwell, Oulton and Snetterton, has a fleet of track-prepared bikes including not just its R1 but also the R6, Niken and MT family, provides all the equipment you need and costs from £499 for the full day.

Ride an adventure bike with an off-road God

OK, adventure bikes and adventure bike experiences and off-road training days are nothing new, but Honda’s latest version, centred on its stunning Africa Twin and run by former three times 500cc motocross world champion (and all round nice guy) Dave Thorpe, should still be on your biking bucket list.

Dave also runs motocross and enduro events and schools but its his Honda Adventure Centre, based in the heart of Exmoor, Somerset, that we’re most interested in here. Designed for riders of all abilities, one and two-day adventure tours are offered aboard Honda Africa Twins which not only help you become a genuine adventure rider but are adventures in themselves taking in a variety of stunning scenery.

If you always fancied a taste of ‘being Charley and Ewan’, but didn’t have the budget, support trucks or much fancy BMWs, this is the way to tick it off your list!

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