Showing up on precious few “go to” lists for motorcycling vacations, Ecuador may just be one of the world’s great secret riding destinations. Straddling the equator, Ecuador has excellent weather year around, plus a wide variety of local climates – from subtropical La Costa to temperate La Sierra to the virtually unpopulated rainforest of La Amazonia.With its varied topography and ideal climates, the riding is outstanding. In 1980, BMW tested its first GS model in Ecuador. At the time, the road system was antiquated – perfect for the granddaddy of the adventure bikes.Since then, Ecuador has worked to modernize its roads, so much so that parts of the Pan American Highway now run six lanes wide. Not to worry if off-roading is your passion; plenty of dirt roads still exist for serious exploration of the backcountry.Although not accessible by motorcycle, but certainly worth a side trip while in Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands sit 500 miles off the coast. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and the birthplace of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, the island chain has a vast array of flora and fauna found nowhere else on the planet.Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental, based in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Quito, offers a variety of ways to enjoy the relatively compact country of less than 100,000 square miles and a population just north of 15 million people.For the independent rider, a motorcycle can simply be rented. The choices range from 200cc dual sport bikes to a Suzuki V-Strom 650 for the street, plus the BMW R 1150 GS, Suzuki DR650, or Kawasaki KLR650 for adventure riding. You can even rent a full-dirt Husqvarna TE630. Unlimited mileage plans are available, plus the bikes are insured (a lock is provided) and come with 24-hour roadside assistance.Self-guided GPS tours run from one day (how does Chocolate and Cloudforest sound?) to the 12-day Introduction to Ecuador ride through the three major regions of the country. These tours can be all-paved or seriously off-road rides.Tours of four days and longer can also be taken as fully guided tours, with the flagship trip being the casual-pace 16-day Intimate Ecuador tour. All-inclusive, the tour covers the country on its best roads, stays at Ecuador’s best lodging, and has an enticing number of off-bike activities, including whale watching, Incan temples and ruins, indigenous markets, and a swim in the Amazon jungle.
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.