World's 10 Best Rides

Edelweiss Bike Travel head honcho Werner Wachter has ridden all over the world, so you'd expect him to have some favorite rides. Here are his top 10 picks.

For me, a great ride means experiencing delicious corners and enjoying the scenery that's flying by. It's difficult to absorb both at once, but when it happens I'm a happy camper. Luckily, I've had that feeling many times over the last 25 years--and on all five continents--running Edelweiss Bike Travel. Here are my 10 favorites:

Lawn Hill National Park - Wollogorang, Australia
It's a dirt road. The red dust and gravel are perfect for a 600cc dual-sport. Although most of it is straight, there are some hills, valleys and river crossings. You'll meet a car every 50 miles or so. If a road train appears--the longest trucks in the world with three or more 44-foot trailers--on the horizon, head for the ditch and stay there until the dust settles. I guarantee you won't worry about the Dow Jones out there!

Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, California
Starting from Highway 101, take Jolon Road--between King City and Paso Robles--and ride west toward Fort Hunter Liggett Military Reservation. Have your insurance, registration and driver's license ready for inspection by military personnel--it's part of the excitement. You'll ride through lush forest to the crest of the Santa Lucia Range on a rough, narrow road with sharp, blind turns. Happiness maxes out as the view opens, shrouded in Pacific Ocean mist. One look at that blue water way down below and you'll know you're close to heaven. Take a deep breath at Highway 1 and aim north or south.

Denali Highway, Alaska
I rode this one for the first and only time in 1997. The 135-mile gravel road between Cantwell and Paxson is doable on road bikes as long as it's dry and you take your time. Start in Paxson and head west. The adrenalin will flow when you see Mount McKinley in the distance. At 20,320 feet, McKinley is the tallest peak in North America, and is visible from 250 miles away as it glows in the sun.

The Road to Ronda, Spain
Starting on the Costa del Sol, it crosses the Serrania de Ronda, a soaring plateau in the mountains of Spain's Malaga province. Ride something light and nimble, such as a Ducati or a Japanese 600. I've ridden it often, most recently on a BMW K1200S. Riding between 40 and 100 mph, it's just one perfect turn after another. Open the throttle for two or three seconds on a big bike and the next bend is in your lap. It's challenging--a superbly engineered piece of pavement. If you can concentrate totally for 30 minutes, this is Spanish for Nirvana. What a road!

Grossglockner Strasse, Austria
Built in the mid-1930s, Grossglockner Strasse--also know as Route 107--is a 30-mile stretch that rises 7770 feet as it skirts Austria's highest mountain. Ride it southbound and don't miss the left turn at the top, which leads to a dozen switchbacks to the Edelweiss-Spitze observation tower. The 360-degree view is worth a million bucks. Thousands of motorcyclists from all over Europe ride there just for a bowl of Kndelsuppe.

Geiranger - Dalsnibba, Norway
Take the ferry from Hellesylt through the Geiranger Fjord. It's spectacularly narrow, with waterfalls on both sides. The road from Geiranger to the mountaintop of Dalsnibba rises almost 5000 feet in 10 miles. Then you are on top of the world.

Amantea - Monte Botte Donato, Southern Italy
Calabria's roads are some of the twistiest in Europe. Start from the Tyrrhenian Sea and ride through La Sila, some of the most beautiful woods in Europe. SS107 climbs east, toward Celico. You pass through many villages and towns such as Camigliatello. Each is a treasure and all are connected by curvy asphalt with little or no traffic. Watch for snow as late as early May as you close on Monte Botte Donato. It's a day's ride if you return to the coast. You'll be tired but happy.

Datong - Wutai Shan, China
Out of Datong you'll find plenty of Chinese traffic, which has its own set of rules; difficult to explain and best learned by doing. The road across China's Wutai Shan Mountains twists like the best in the Rockies or the Alps. Still, the feeling of being in China is intense as you see pilgrims holding hands while climbing to the top. Spend the night in the Buddhist Monastery of Wutai Shan--it's good for your karma!

The Great Ocean Road, Australia
Starting from Melbourne it's about 80 miles to where the fun starts, just west of Anglesea. You ride along the coast for some 160 miles to Petersbrough, passing great vistas at Apollo Bay and 12 Apostles Marine National Park, one of which recently collapsed into the Southern Ocean. Any bike will do, but watch for police with radar. When you are in Southern Australia, this road is a must!

The Road to Milford Sound, New Zealand
Once you're on New Zealand's South Island, stay in Te Anau township for this 150-mile ride through Fiordland National Park to the sound and back. The highlight comes as you exit the Homer Tunnel--nearly a mile long--and see the rainforest-covered canyons and sheer, 4000-foot-high rock faces surrounding Milford Sound itself. Fiordland gets some 275 inches of rain every year, so dress accordingly.