One of the first long-distance sport-touring ride events, the Motomarathon, made a comeback in June 2021. The event, which took place in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, proved that the four-day ride remains one of the most enjoyable forms of individual recreation in the new age of social distancing.
After its headquarters moved from Colorado to New Jersey in 2020, the Motomarathon Association returned following a three-season hiatus, retaining its original format developed over more than 30 years of organized group riding that compresses as many twisty and scenic roads as possible into four days.
Back in 1986, I was part of a small group of Colorado motorcyclists who tried to ride as many mountain passes as we could squeeze into a long weekend. An interest soon became an obsession, and I began designing annual “Pass Rides” that evolved into a nationally sanctioned series of Motomarathons.
The Motomarathon is not a competition, it’s a vacation. It’s about riding the best roads during daylight hours while avoiding interstates and urban areas. The rides emphasize sightseeing, leisurely lunches, and camaraderie after long days at a nice hotel/restaurant. The Motomarathon philosophy emphasizes individualism and minimalism, so each rider is free to make his or her own accommodations (camp if you want!), to ride alone or together, or to ride only one day or one checkpoint. It’s as open and flexible as possible.
Founded in 2009, the Motomarathon Association established criteria for riders accumulating checkpoints, and began maintaining event, annual, and lifetime standings on the Motomarathon website. Motorcycles that are popular for technical mountain riding on paved roads (with the occasional optional dirt road thrown in) are typically BMW GSs, Ducati Multistradas, and other adventure bikes, but all motorcycle types and brands are welcome. There have been plenty of cruisers, sport-tourers, and even a few Can-Am Spyders at Motomarathon events.
Routes are designed by local experts and kept secret until the evening before each day’s ride. For the Adirondack event, which was headquartered at the Garnet Hill Lodge in North River, New York, the riders’ excited chatter each evening often focused on where the next day’s checkpoints would take them. To Charles Bronson’s gravesite? To Lake Placid’s Olympic ski jumping facility? To the top of Whiteface Mountain? Yes to all, plus a random gas station out in the middle of nowhere. At each checkpoint, riders photographed their badge numbers at designated landmarks to validate that they followed the route and logged the miles.
After a three-year hiatus, it was great to see the Motomarathon tradition continue, especially with our usual crew of experienced riders who can handle big bikes in the twisties and do it all day long, usually logging 300-400 miles per day for four days straight.
In 2020, I turned over the reins to veteran routemaster and motor officer John Bossolt. No one is better qualified to take over the association. John and his team have designed many Motomarathons in years past, and their routemastering talents epitomize the spirit of this approach to sport-touring.
Each night was like a reunion, with old friends catching up and new friends meeting for the first time. Riders came from all over America –Maine, Florida, Arizona, and other far-flung states. Those who had never ridden in the Adirondacks appreciated the shared knowledge of local routes. Many who knew the area well were still surprised by roads they had never ridden before.
Motomarathons have been run in many popular riding areas around the country, including the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the coastal ranges of California, the Pacific Northwest, the Ozarks, the Smoky Mountains, and the Great Lakes. Two events are planned for 2022: the Great Smoky Motomarathon (May 31-June 3) and the New England Motomarathon (September 26-29). For more information, visit motomarathon.com.