Over 1.4 million people across the UK use motorcycles, scooters and mopeds, travelling approximately 4.4 billion miles per year. With 131% more motorcycle registrations over the last 20 years, the number of people riding across the country has seen a huge increase.
But which are the best areas to ride in? Well, several different aspects make a great ride, and of course, everyone has a different preference. We’ve taken 8 ranking factors and delved into which regions in Britain make the best spots for each. From avoiding traffic to rain-free rides, check out our guide to the best spots for bikers.
Best for Avoiding Traffic and Rural Riding
With its scenic routes and large expanses of countryside, it’s really no wonder that Scotland took first place in both these categories. When it comes to avoiding busy roads, Scotland experiences the lowest total traffic per total road mileage compared to anywhere else in the UK according to our analysis of ONS data, giving it the top spot on our rankings. There are 791 thousand miles of traffic annually per mile of road in the region, which is less than half of what we see in busier areas such as London (over 2 million!).
- In 2022, 29.2 billion vehicle miles of traffic were travelled across the 36.9 thousand miles of roads in Scotland. This is a slight decrease from pre-pandemic, with levels in 2019 at 30 billion.
- 13.7 billion miles were driven on A roads, 10.3 billion on minor roads and 5.2 billion on motorways.
- 200 million miles of this traffic was travelled on motorcycles and scooters.
Scotland’s rugged coastline also delivers one of the greatest rides in Europe. Bikers have been enjoying motorcycling here for years, with the combination of wide-open spaces, fabulous corners, and a lack of traffic making it an outstanding area for motorcycling. The North Coast 500 is the ultimate destination for a road trip and can be taken at a relaxed pace over 2-3 days, or completed in a day by more experienced high-mile riders.
Also ranked as best for rural riding, government data shows that Scotland has 24,096 miles of rural roads to choose from. In fact, over two-thirds (65.2%) of Scotland’s roads are classified as being ‘rural’. This is great for bikers, with RideTo reporting that rural riding constitutes 40% of overall motorcycle traffic. Looking at the rest of the country, Great Britain has 260,783 total miles of rural roadways, meaning that nearly 10% of these are in Scotland!
If you’re a fan of riding in the countryside, adventure bikes make a great choice. Roger Ironmonger, motorcycle blogger, and enthusiast, comments:
"The ability to handle any rugged terrain you can throw at them is a nice feature but where these motorcycles really shine is in how effective they are on the road"
Roger recommends the Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin for performing excellently both on and off the road with a great touring capability. Another option to consider is Ducati’s Multistrada V4 S. The name Multistrada literally means 'many roads' and Ducati has taken that seriously, somehow producing a motorcycle that can perform at the highest level in any environment you can think of.
Best for the Smoothest Journeys
Winner: The North East
Motorcycling over damaged surfaces isn’t fun, and can become dangerous. In fact, a recent MCN survey revealed that 1 in 5 motorcyclists claim to have had an accident or sustained damage to their bike as a result of hitting a pothole, with the article also citing that over 10 thousand callouts in 2021 were down to pothole damage, according to RAC.
So we wanted to find out which region in the UK we would find the best roads to give motorcyclists the smoothest journeys. This brought us to the North East, which has the fewest reported roads requiring maintenance according to government data. The region has the fewest amber and red classified roads, which signifies that repairs should be considered.
96% of B and C roads in the North East do not currently need to be considered for improvement according to 2022 reports, and the same goes for 98% of their motorways.
Brett Tinkley Lexham Insurance’s Marketing Manager, comments:
"Riding over potholes isn’t just uncomfortable - it can do lasting damage to your tyres and suspension, and in more severe cases can even result in a jolt so hard that you’re thrown from your bike. While we all like to think we’ll see bigger potholes coming with enough time to get around them, the truth is that some of the UK’s roads are so riddled with issues that you’re often looking at a choice between a bad route ahead and an even worse one. Unless you’re in the North East, that is, where we’ve learned that bikers have the best chance of having a much smoother journey!"
In the period ending March 2022, local authorities in England reported that 15% of their unclassified road network, 4% of their A road network and 6% of their B and C road network were categorised as red and should be considered for maintenance. National Highways reported the same for 4% of motorways and 7% of A roads.
Best for Adventures in the Sun and Rain-free Rides
Winner: East Anglia
If you like motorcycling in the sunshine and avoiding the wet weather, think about heading to East Anglia for your best chances of sunny, rain-free rides. We reviewed Met Office data and discovered that the region experiences over 1,942 hours of sunshine per year - more than any other area of the country. And, this has increased by over a quarter (27.6%) in the last 10 years, with residents and visitors to the region enjoying the sunniest ever January and March in 2022.
If that hasn’t convinced you to head to East Anglia for adventures in the sun, local news outlets also report 2022 as experiencing above-average sunshine in 9 out of 12 months and claim the titles of the:
- Warmest year on record (+1.0°C)
- 8th driest year on record (76%)
- Sunniest year on record (121%)
Make sure you’re prepared for riding in sunny weather. It can be tempting to strip the kit in warmer conditions, but that could lead to serious consequences in the event you are thrown off your motorcycle. Instead, opt for lighter gear, such as summer riding gloves and ventilated jackets. Kevlar Jeans are also a great choice, protecting your skin whilst keeping you cooler than ordinary textiles.
If you’re more concerned about staying out of the wet weather, East Anglia is also our top choice for rain-free riding. The region experienced 504.3mm of average rainfall in 2022, which has decreased by 37.7% in the last 10 years. To put it into perspective, that’s 3x less than in Scotland!
British weather is unpredictable, to say the least, so if it does rain, don't let it put you off from your two-wheeled commute. A little extra kit and care is often all you need to keep riding whatever the weather. Something to consider when it rains after a prolonged dry spell, is that dust can wash into the roads and make them greasier than usual. If you do see some fast approaching, make sure to relax and adjust your positioning through corners for a straighter line than usual to keep the bike upright and go with the flow.
Best for the Safest Journeys
Winner: The North East
As we’ve already established, the smoothest roads can be found in the North East, so it was no surprise that we also found the region to claim the title of ‘safest journeys’, with data suggesting it could be the safest place in the country to ride a motorcycle.
Brand new data from the Department of Transport reveals that there were 311 motorcyclist casualties in the region in 2022 - less than 1 casualty per 1,000 bikers. We’re not naming names, but that’s over 30 times fewer casualties than the region at the bottom of this list, making it quite a significant win for the North East.
The region is also doing well at decreasing the number of casualties, with over 36% less in 2022 than 10 years ago. These also account for less than 2% of the nation’s total. To keep yourself safe when riding, it’s important to make sure you take precautions such as wearing the correct gear, staying alert for potential hazards, and having the right insurance policy in place.
Stuart Johnson, Lexham Insurance’s Technical Auditor comments:
"Today’s roads are busier than ever and yet the most common causes of road accidents remain the same - ‘lack of concentration’, ‘tailgating’ or ‘impatience’. As a vulnerable road user, motorcyclists must have a heightened sense of awareness to the risks around them and remain focused to potential hazards throughout their journey. A lack of concentration can lead to human error and/or reckless endeavour - both equally capable of ending in calamity. Failing to leave a safe stopping distance behind that of the vehicle ahead can, in the case of a motorcyclist be very serious, if not fatal. This is especially prevalent when road conditions are unfavourable, such as wet or icy weather. Similarly, impatience can generate recklessness/bad decision making and is commonly seen in a large percentage of filtering accidents. Whilst filtering is deemed an acceptable practice, the rider should not view filtering as an automatic right. When filtering, the rider should be mindful that the manoeuvre carries with it a ‘higher duty of care’, being a manoeuvre fraught with danger from obstructed and/or unseen hazards."
Best for New Bikers and Community
Winner: The South East
Last but not least, where in the UK can we find the most bikers? For both newly registered motorbikes and all motorbike registrations, the South East comes out on top.
17.4% of newly registered motorbikes were in the South East in 2022, with a number of these likely to be those getting into motorcycling for the first time, meaning the region may well be a winner for new bikers wanting to connect with those in a similar position. The world of riding can be an intimidating place when you’re entering as a newbie, and you may find yourself with a lot of questions! If you aren’t surrounded by a biking community, check out our Beginner Motorcycle Rider FAQs for support from Bike Matters blogger, Jessica Lofts.
Alex Strange, Motorcycle Editor at Lexham Insurance, adds:
"One of the very best aspects of riding is by far the community. Knowing that you can set out on any ride and meet like-minded folk along the way is what sets the two-wheeled community apart from any other. For new riders, it’s a sure way to build your confidence whilst also having a great time. Though motorcycles and scooters only make up a minority of traffic on the road, there’s a huge shared passion for all things two-wheeled that is evident wherever you go – biker meets and events, cafes, even stopping in a bike parking area. The sense of community and adventure is fantastic – and a great way to find more excuses to get out and about by bike!"
Unsurprisingly, the South East also took first place for community, with 17.1% of all registered motorbikes across the UK being in the region. There are many events and rallies bikers may wish to get involved in, and check out this helpful community map to find local clubs to meet up with other riders and get involved in the community.
One more stop
Whether you hate riding in the rain, or love having a sense of community around you, hopefully, our rankings can help you decide where to head for your next road trip. Here’s a quick roundup of our top spots for each of the rankings:
|Avoiding Traffic||Scotland||Scotland experiences the lowest total traffic per road mileage compared to anywhere else in Britain, with 791 thousand miles of traffic annually per mile of road.|
|Rural Riding||Scotland||Scotland has 24,096 miles of rural roads to choose from - the highest amount compared to any other region.|
|Smoothest Journeys||North East||The region has the fewest amber and red classified roads in the country, which signifies that repairs should be considered.|
|Journeys in the sun||East Anglia||We discovered that East Anglia experiences over 1,942 hours of sunshine per year - more than any other area of the country.|
|Rain Free rides||East Anglia||East Anglia is the driest region with 504.3mm of average rainfall in 2022.|
|The safest journeys||North East||This region had the fewest casualties in Britain, experiencing 311 in 2022 - less than 1 casualty per 1,000 bikers.|
|New bikers||South East||17.4% of newly registered motorbikes were in the South East in 2022, with a number of these likely to be those getting into motorcycling for the first time.|
|Community||South East||The region has the highest percentage of motorcyclists in the country, with 17.1% of all bikers residing in the South East.|
And, before taking to the road, make sure you have the right cover and get a motorcycle insurance quote direct from Lexham!