in Austin & Central Texas
Approaching Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. Photo/Manuel Delgado Tenorio
Motorcycle travel in the Central Texas Hill Country is a rider's paradise. There's a scenic motorcycle route in every direction. Long, straight and perfectly paved roads to open 'er up on, or endlessly winding roads through the hills, lakes and wildflowers.
For the adventurous, Central Texas is a maze of 'farm to market' roads (FM) and rural routes (RR). Many of these roads are unpaved, hard packed gravel. Something a novice rider should consider carefully. Many of these roads can be 20 plus miles before you reach pavement.
If you've considered riding to the Rot Rally or other Austin motorcycle rally, you can be assured of many a satisfying motorcycle travel route.
Motorcycle travel in Austin can be reasonable if you choose the right package.
Central Texas Harley Davidson, Round Rock – An authorized Harley-Davidson rental dealer. Their web site reports that every rental includes; Harley helmet, rain gear (nice), 24 hour road side assistance, security system and locks and short term luggage service. They encourage you to select a model and date for your trip then request a reservation for your motorcycle travel. Their site, below, will list availability and current pricing options.
www.centraltexasharleyroundrock.com (opens in a new window)
(512) 652-1200 :: 2801 N. IH-35, Round Rock
Hill Country Motorcycle Rentals – Crotch rocket central. An Austin motorcycle travel scene tradition. Hill Country Motorcycle rents bodacious off-road 2008 Kawasaki KLR650 to the award winning BMW R1200RT. Rates vary with model and terms of rental.
www.hillcountrymotorcyclerentals.com (opens in a new window)
Cowboy Harley-Davidson/Buell – Cowboy offers 13 models to choose from. Rent a Sportster or, my husbands favorite bike, a Fat Boy by the day or week. I like a Softail Deluxe. It rents the same as a Fat Boy. Check their site for current prices and availability.
www.cowboyharleyaustin.com (opens in a new window)
(512) 448-4294 :: 10917 S. IH-35 (about 15 minutes south of downtown)
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Hill Country Motorcycle Travel
Here are some of my favorite motorcycle travel routes. Short, long, scenic, with my favorite road side attractions.
I've included popular motorcycle route info here. Scenic, peaceful, paved roads with only moderate traffic. However, I encourage you to check out the Farm to Market roads. The Roads of Texas is a great highway book map with over 25,000 state and county roads identified. Prepared by Texas A&M cartographic laboratory, a must for any serious back-road traveler. Available here (www.www.shearerpub.com/travel.htm - opens in a new window) or major bookstores.
Headed east out of Austin towards Elgin.
More "plains" type of terrain east of town. Photo/Flux=Rad
Motorcycle Route #1
THE PICNIC ROUTE
Austin to Bastrop – 30 miles one way
Leave Austin about 9 am on Saturday morning. Arrive in Bastrop around 9:35. Take Hwy. 290 east from Austin to Bastrop. You can visit historic Main Street then ride to Fisherman's Park on the banks of the Colorado River for an old time, alone in the park picnic. Best part is you can see some sites like the 3,500 acre Bastrop State Park or Lost Pines Resort and still be back in Austin before noon. Not a very scenic drive, not even a pleasant ride but the picnic by the river makes the day.
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Texas highways boast oceans of blue, red, orange, yellow in the spring. Bluebonnets are the first to bloom. Photo/patti haskins
Motorcycle Route #2
WILDFLOWERS & BIG CHOPS ROUTE
Austin to Llano – 75 miles one way from downtown Austin
Take Hwy. 71 all the way to Llano. You ride through some of the Hill Country's most hypnotic scenery. During wildflower season (March, April, May) the colors blanket the land. Mother nature's quilt as far as the eye can see. This is recreational Austin travel at its best. When you reach Llano you have to check out Cooper's Old Time Pit BBQ. A legend in Texas BBQ and deservedly so. Cooper's is “home of the big chop,” a pork chop as big as a catcher's mitt. Smoked to perfection. Ribs and sirloin steak is excellent, as is the apple cobbler. Many imitate Cooper's, but don't be fooled. The real Cooper's is in Llano and well worth the trip. More about Cooper's Barbeque here.
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Cypress Creek in Wimberly, Texas. Photo/roxannejomitchell
Motorcycle Route #3
OFF THE BEATEN PATH MOTORCYCLE ROUTE
Austin to Wimberley – 38 miles one way from downtown Austin
Take Hwy. 290 west of Oak Hill to FM 1826 (Camp Ben McCulloch Road). Turn south on FM 1826. Turn south on FM 150 until you come to FM 3237, go west. Takes you into Wimberley. This is a beautiful, off the beaten path motorcycle route. Roads twist, turn and curve. Patches of this route are in disrepair. You will pass the Salt Lick BBQ on FM 1826. This is a destination BBQ legend unto itself. Arrange to get there about 11 am to avoid long waits. More about Salt Lick BBQ here.
Wimberley, population 5,000, is a small Texas town with a lot to see and do. Blue Hole is a cypress tree lined natural swimming hole on Cypress Creek. Camp, swim, picnic. Admission is $5. For more info call (512) 847-9217.
If you want to make a day of it, extend your trip to the Devil's Backbone, a looping ridge road with see-for-miles postcard views for 24 miles. Goes to Blanco. Also, check out Hill Country Guitars www.hillcountryguitars.com (opens in a new window) when in Wimberley. Nice selection, expert service and fair price.
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Motorcycle Route #4
OVERNIGHT EXTRAVAGANZA MOTORCYCLE ROUTE
Austin to San Antonio – Approximately 80 miles one way
Take Hwy. 290 west out of Oak Hill for 42 miles. Take Hwy. 281 south to downtown San Antonio. Follow the Alamo signs to the downtown Alamo Plaza. This is an overnight bike extravaganza. I reserve a room at the Menger Hotel across the street from the Alamo. Park and lock your bike and spend the rest of the day on San Antonio's dazzling Riverwalk. Bars, cafes, shops and more. Visit the Alamo, and the Market Square which is an authentic Mexican market (yes - you haggle for the lowest price). The old Spanish Missions of San Antonio are a step back in time to Texas' early history. SeaWorld, Six Flags Fiesta Texas are quality theme park attractions.
The ride from Austin on Hwy. 281 is hilly with some curves through small friendly towns like Blanco and Spring Branch. San Antonio is special. The Menger Hotel has history. Teddy Roosevelt recruited the rough riders there. An elegant old antique of a hotel, romance everywhere. A motorcycle route must.
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Pronghorn antelope are found mainly west of Austin in the Hill Country. Photo/susanad813
Motorcycle Route #5
BARB'S AUSTIN TO FREDERICKSBURG MOTORCYCLE ROUTE
Austin to Fredericksburg – Approximately 80 miles one way
Go west on Hwy. 290 at Oak Hill. Turn south on Hwy. 165 at Henly. Proceed to Blanco. Take FM 1888 at Blanco west to Luckenbach. Take FM 1376 approximately 4 miles north to Hwy. 290, turn west into Fredericksburg. Long, out of the way, moderately traveled motorcycle route to Fredericksburg. Scenic, great pavement (most of the way) and you can visit Blanco and of course the famous community of Luckenbach… if you can find it.
Blanco State Park is 105 acres of biking fun. Swimming, tubing, camping, screened shelters.
Luckenbach (population 25) may underwhelm you. If you can find it, tourists steal the signs faster than they can put them up. There is a general store/bar (open since 1849) an old blacksmith shop and dance hall. That's it. Check their web site for events and music listings (live music almost every night -- luckenbachtexas.com - opens in a new window).
Fredericksburg has many fine German restaurants. Shops and boutiques offer canned Fredericksburg peaches, jams and jellies. You'll also see handmade cowhide couches and furniture.
LBJ National Historic Park (opens in a new window), the ranch is a short ride from Stonewall which is on the way to Fredericksburg. The Visitor Center is located in Johnson City where you can see LBJ's boyhood home. Great route.
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West of Austin near Llano. Photo/dalehugo
Motorcycle Route #6
AUSTIN HILL COUNTRY DAY MOTORCYCLE ROUTE
Austin – Georgetown -Llano – Austin – Approximately 170 miles round trip
Go north on IH-35 out of Austin. Exit Hwy. 29 west in Georgetown. Take Hwy. 29 through Liberty Hill, Bertram, Burnet, Buchanan Dam and Llano. Take Hwy. 71 south out of Llano through the Hill Country. Take Bee Cave Road (FM 2244) into Austin. This is a long round trip. It takes all day if you do any of the roadside attractions.
Liberty Hill and Bertram are small towns. Burnet has a population of 6,325. Canyon of the Eagles is a 900 acre nature park with a 64 room lodge. Vanishing Texas River Tours depart from here. For more about the lodge, www.canyonoftheeagles.com (opens in a new window), or call 800-977-0081.
On your way to Buchanan Dam take the scenic FM 2341 northwest off Hwy. 29. It's worth the trip. Another scenic side route off Hwy. 29 is FM 2342 south. Big landscape and wide angle camera views. Buchanan Dam, population 1688, is home to the 2,000 acre Inks Lake State Park. Camping, shelters, swimming.
Llano, population 3,325, has more people visit the city each week to eat at Cooper's BBQ than the entire population of the city. Llano has shops, boutiques and an old time court house square.
When you turn south on Hwy. 71 to Austin, get ready for one of the most treasured motorcycle travel tours in the nation.
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Just outside Lockhart. Photo/Kent Wang
Motorcycle Route #7
LOCKHART BBQ & FARM TO MARKET ROADS
Austin – Cedar Creek -Lockhart – Approximately 94 miles round trip
Open, farm and ranch roads. Includes stop at privately funded zoo and your choice of legendary BBQ. Take Hwy 183 south. Turn left (east) on Hwy 71 then right (south) on FM 973. Turn left (east) on FM 535 (Co Rd 110) and follow that to Cedar Creek. Get out and stretch your legs at the Capital of Texas Zoo. The zoo is NOT like larger, well funded zoos. It's intimate and provides more interaction with the critters.
From Cedar Creek go west on Hwy 21. When you reach Hwy 183 go south to Lockhart. You'll have a tough choice in Lockhart between Black's Barbecue, Kreuz Market and Smitty's BBQ.
After your fill of BBQ, head north on Hwy 183. Turn left (west) on FM 2001. Go right (east) on Hwy 21 and follow that to Hwy 183.
Treasured Scenic Hill Country Motorcycle Travel
The following are motorcycle routes where the natural beauty of the road is the star. No destination, no road side attractions, just a list of drop dead great Hill Country motorcycle travel options.
Outstanding Motorcycle Routes;
- FM 965 – north out of Fredericksburg, goes past Enchanted Rock
- Willow City Loop – about 15 miles north of Fredericksburg
- River Road -New Braunfels north to Canyon Lake along the Guadalupe River
- Devil's Backbone – FM 32 from just south of Wimberley, west almost to Blanco
- FM 152 – Going west out of Llano
- FM 2323 – Southwest out of Llano
- FM 187 - West of Kerrville and goes south to Batesville, goes past Lost Maples State Park
- Hwy. 16 – From Wichita Falls to Zapata, 541 miles long
- Hwy. 183 – Northwest Austin to Lampasas and Goldthwaite, through the Hill County
For more great motorcycle routes and motorcycle travel planners, I recommend; www.Harley-Davidson.com (use their Ride Planner to map your next trip) (opens in a new window).
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Texas Highway Rest Stops
If you're traveling cross country on your tour bike on the cheap, you can do a lot worse than using Texas rest stops as places to throw the sleeping bag and brush the bugs off your teeth. Texas Department of Transportation has an excellent map of Texas' rest stops (www.dot.state.tx.us/mnt/sra/map.htm - opens in a new window). Some of the recently renovated rest areas resemble mini theme parks. You can use the same web site for current Texas road conditions (apps.dot.state.tx.us/travel/road_conditions2.htm - opens in a new window)
Remember, always camp where it's safe.
Word to the Wise – Texas Motorcycle Travel
The bad news is someone dies in a motorcycle accident everyday in Texas. Many of the fatalities are due to preventable head injuries. I hate helmets and so does my husband. We wear them.
Texas Motorcycle Helmet Law – motorcyclists must wear a helmet for riders 21 or older with the following two exceptions;
- You have completed a sanctioned motorcycle safety course, or
- You have proof of insurance for $10,000 for injuries that result from a motorcycle accident.
Texas police take drinking and driving personally. I have had courtesy stops where the officer just asked where I was going. He of course was evaluating my sobriety. Ride safe and don't drink. You (motorcycle enthusiast) have a reputation for never meeting a beer you didn't like. The troopers know this and are looking for any reason to stop you and evaluate your sobriety. You have been warned.
Secure Motorcycle Travel
My first bike, a Harley Sportster was stolen. It broke my heart. So I am not going to be hit by lightening twice. Here's some good advice to prevent theft;
- Use steering lock and lock bike to a stationary object
- Use several locks of different varieties
- Use a lock with stationary loop lock
- When traveling make sure there is safe bike parking at hotels, rest stops, etc.
- Personalize it – My Softail had my name painted on the gas tank. Yes, it hurt the value when I sold it. But, unlike my Sportster, I had it to sell.
The Last Word on Texas Motorcycle Travel
I've biked all over the US with my husband. I can tell you from experience -- Texas, hands down, is the best motorcycle travel state in America with the most variety of motorcycle routes. For information about the various regions of Texas and long ride motorcycle travel see Texas Road Map here.
Montana, Wyoming, Washington and Oregon have outstanding motorcycle travel routes but in my opinion, they do not compare to Texas for the quality of road, moderate climate, variety of scenery, Gulf Coast, the tropical Rio Grande Valley, the desolate Big Bend country, the high lonesome roads of the plains or the pristine beauty of Central Texas' rolling green hills and deep blue lakes.
Austin and Central Texas are perfect for motorcycle travel. That's why the internationally famous Austin motorcyle rally, ROT Rally, is held here.
Put on the do rag, leathers, jeans and ride down Austin way. Bikers are welcome, real welcome!
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