I’m tearing down the most famous road in America on my black and chrome Harley-Davidson Road Glide, just flying through New Mexico while holding perfect symmetry with six other bikers as our mighty procession of choppers suck up the dry air and spit it out with a thunderous roar. The only distraction from the sheer majesty of the rose-coloured earth and isolated mesas is the heavy thump of desert wind on my ears. Well that, and the thought that I’ll be partying in Vegas in just a matter of days – a worthy break from the Chicago jazz dens, Oklahoma barbecue and Santa Fe culture I’ve soaked up on my road trip thus far.
At least that’s how I imagine it’d go if I was on the Route 66 Motorcycle Tour across the US, instead of typing in my room on a weekend and watching Sons of Anarchy reruns to fuel my escapist fantasies of following the footsteps of the various dreamers and desperadoes who have conquered that legendary highway. The 15-day guided tour is one of many offered by the world’s largest motorcycle rental and tour company, EagleRider.
Once referred to by Forbes as the ‘Disney of the motorcycle travel adventure market’, the company boasts a network of classic, sport touring, and street class bikes that are regularly rented out or used on guided tours for riders who want to slide from coast to coast without the added burden of actual ownership or motorcycle upkeep. Since the company’s early-90s inception, it has wrapped its wings around other countries as well, with one of the most recent expansions being several itineraries in Australia.
Now you can engage EagleRider for guided motorcycle tours in locations like Morocco, Mexico, Italy, South Africa, and Canada. Imagine pitting a Harley against the chilled air of the Canadian Rockies, constantly jumping from the backseat of your chopper to an open-air safari jeep in Kruger, or tracking the long journey from South Australia to the Top End with a truly open outback adventure. You can see why I’d be so caught up with those fantasies during a year where the boundaries of freedom have never felt tighter.
Small group tours claim to have that liberating sense of adventure stuffed into their often rusty vans, but very few can lay claim to the type of experience that defines EagleRider. Not bad for a company that was founded with just four Harley-Davidsons in a small LA garage.
As co-founder Chris McIntyre tells it, EagleRider was built on the “American Dream” and a modest $20,000 in cash. “The company was built by riders, for riders,” he tells us, recalling when he and co-founder Jeff Brown used to dream about renting Harleys to tour the Alps in Europe. “It simply wasn’t possible [back then], but even more interesting was that nearly all the people we asked to rent Harleys in Europe, asked us if there was the ability to rent Harleys in the USA.”
The market-gap wouldn’t have been hard to see from there, sending both McIntyre and Brown onto a trip up the US Pacific Coast, one perched on a Heritage Nostalgia and the other kicking it on a Low Rider. “Along the scenic route we met and asked fellow motorcyclists, travellers, and outdoor enthusiasts what they thought of the EagleRider idea. That trip confirmed our business thesis”.
Once the tour side of the business was revved and running, EagleRider initially offered two of the most emblematic riding experiences one could possibly dream up. The first, the “Wild Wild” Southwest USA, while the second skirted the breezy coastline of Baja California. The latter remains McIntyre’s favourite and most memorable experience of “freedom on two-wheels”. Why? You try riding remote roads down the Baja peninsula, whale watching in Guerreo Negro, drinking beers and eating freshly caught fish tacos cooked via bonfire on the beaches of Lereo, and trailing the path to the world-famous Cabo San Lucas with a view of the southernmost tip of the Baja peninsula. That one would be hard to top, even if McIntyre has since peppered EagleRider’s multi-day tours with experiences like medicine dancing with a Navajo Indian Chief under the desert sky, taking a helicopter through the Grand Canyon, and fly fishing from a yurt in Montana.
Though the US is still very much EagleRider’s main play, a 2013 expansion to Australia was pretty much inevitable. “Australia is a motorcycle country and a dream destination for American riders,” explains McIntyre, who described the growth of inbound motorcycle tourism as slow but steady, since many visiting riders have some apprehension about riding on the left side of the road in Australia.
That shouldn’t be a problem for those already in the country, however, and luckily for any Aussie who wants to ride, EagleRider is keeping its stock of Harleys, Yamahas, Hondas, BMWs, KTMs, Husqvarnas, and Royal Enfields all polished up for when tours recommence mid-2021, exploring the country all over from Coober Pedy and Tennant Creek to Kakadu National Park and Katherine.