If someone told me that the best sport riding in the West was going to be in Idaho, I would have laughed, called them crazy, and booked my ticket to Colorado. Yes, the scenery in some of the other states will attract attention with Facebook posts showing pictures of incredible twisting roads scaling epic mountains, but this trip is for true riders, not just bragging rights between friends. This is for the kind of riders who would rather get after it on a racetrack with a blurred desert than look over a cliff on a weather-beaten switchback while the bike strains for air at 12,000 feet.
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Now there is nothing wrong with the latter, but that kind of adventuring lacks the consistency needed to really maximize the street potential of a sportbike. The differentiation in power, temperature (specifically tire temperature) and terrain turns a motorcycle into a less comfortable cruiser/tourer versus using it for the additional lean angle and power that can be obtained under ideal conditions. I’ve climbed the highest road in America, been to the desert and back, and if I had to choose where to ride a ZX-10R in full race attire, Idaho would get my vote.
Why? Idaho is the poster child of consistency. The weather in the midst of August is 90-95° during the day, dipping to the high 60s when the sun sets. Sweat was minimal and the tires were glued to the pavement. In the 10 days we spent in the state we were rained on twice, never more than a few minutes, and the lack of humidity had the surface dry before the sun came out from behind the clouds.
Elevation rarely crept above 7,000 feet, keeping temperatures consistent, power delivery smooth and consequences relatively benign. The road surfaces were clean, and the turns had clear visibility allowing for precise lines without fear of a decreasing radius or unsafe conditions.
This was the first state since Arkansas that made me love the amenity-free, heart-pounding raw feeling of ripping a sportbike through endless curves of a tarmac playground that makes this trip everything it should be.
We took the flattest route from Salt Lake and set our home base in the Southwest corner of Idaho in Boise, which is the best possible starting point for a sport adventure. I’ll admit that as a New Yorker I wouldn’t have guessed that Idaho would have much of a nightlife, but upon arrival at 10pm on a Saturday night, I was quickly proven wrong. Boise has an outdoorsy culture kept youthful and socially relevant by the local Boise State University that blends a city atmosphere with the western culture that we have come to love.
In addition to being an incredibly clean, fun and culturally rich city, Boise houses the most convenient all-star riding in all of our travels. Just 10 minutes outside of the city limits are three incredible roads that offer some of the most exhilarating riding in the entire state. Our first was Bogus Basin Road, a 16-mile, 172-turn smooth-surfaced raceway through the hills, free of commuter traffic, paved with incredibly smooth blacktop and with plenty of run-off – which, thankfully, was only a confidence builder and never tested.
The next two roads are part of a bigger loop that can be done up and back, but they are more fun in a 150-mile loop form, departing Eagle over to the eastern edge of Boise. Starting north on 55 through Horseshoe Bend is an incredibly curvaceous blend of hilly turns that dump riders out, grinning ear to ear, onto the eastern bound Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway to Beaver Creek Summit.
Take this just a few miles east and you intersect the southern route back to Boise on Highway 21 through Idaho City. Taking approximately three hours to get from one side to another, and a summer sunset near 9pm, this makes for the perfect after-work stress relief or a beautiful morning ride on any given weekend.
Now for the true adventure: the loop of all loops. Heading northeast from Boise on Highway 21, we continued past the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway and into the dry empty canyons of Idaho. For 250 miles we flipped the bikes back and forth through the high-speed canyon sweepers on our way to Missoula, Montana.
We intended to camp for the night and then make our way back to Idaho through the famous 99 miles of curves of Highway 12. Unfortunately, the road was closed due to raging forest fires that are about as unlikely to make the news as Miley Cyrus is to tuck her butt back into a regular pair of pants.
With a slight detour up to the mountain waterfalls of Glacier National Park in Montana, we headed back to our base via Highway 12 near Grangeville to take the western scenic route down 95 and 55 back to Boise. If you’re ambitious, it can be done in a weekend, but it means riding from sun up to sun down with limited breaks if you don’t want to get caught in the dark. For us, it was the perfect three-day adventure to check out all of Idaho and a piece of neighboring Montana.
If you are a sport rider and are looking for an all-around great vacation, Boise is the place to be. Impressive roads, great weather and an outdoorsy culture capped by a fun nightlife make it the perfect place for a group of sport riders to have the time of their lives.