Buenos Aires, by Noelia Diaco. Photo is not visible, used only for sharing on social networks.

Riding Harleys and horses in San Antonio de Areco

October 10, 2011
“And the people who love me still ask me
When are you coming back to town
And I answer quite frankly
When they stop building roads”

- Alison Krauss, Gravity

Ever since I sold my Honda CB750 motorcycle in '09 (after putting 30,000 miles on it, including a long ride around the U.S.), I've wanted to get back on a bike. When we got to Argentina, with a long list of places to visit in the region, motorcycling was high on my list of modes of transportation. Steph had never been on a motorcycle before, but (being an adventurous gal) was happy to try it out.

Our research turned up a number of companies that rent motorcycles. Imported bikes carry hefty tariffs here (and Harley imports are currently frozen until 2012), so none of the options were cheap. I also didn't bring my helmet or gear, and all the companies wanted $50/day/person or more to rent them. Renting a Honda Transalp for a week in the mountains sounds awesome, but the prices were exorbitant. We also looked a little into the feasibility of importing a bike from the states, but it seems like a bureaucratic nightmare.

For one day, though, the rental cost was manageable. We found one company called GoodBike that rents Harleys and organizes day trips to ranches in San Antonio de Areco, a town not far from Buenos Aires in the Argentine Pampas. The Pampas are the "fertile lowlands" of the region, with a landscape similar to the Great Plains in the U.S., and an ancient gaucho (cowboy) culture. San Antonio de Areco, according to Rough Guide, is "the home of gaucho tradition," with a number of working historical estancias (ranches).

So yesterday, after several days of rain and with the clouds still looking ominous, we took a bus to a northern suburb of BsAs where GoodBike is based. I was imagining a shop on the side of an industrial road with a parking lot full of Harleys, and a group trip with a bunch of other bikers. Instead it was the house of the owner, Alberto, with three shiny Harleys in his garage: a Sportster, a Road King, and a Street Glide. (Similar to our sailing guide, it seems to be common here to monetize hobbies; Alberto is a lawyer but is hoping to turn this into his primary business.) His friend and our bilingual guide Daniel (whose parents moved to Los Angeles when he was a kid, but left because of the motorcycle gangs) was also there with his Sportster.

We fitted up with gear from Alberto's stash, jackets and gloves on top of the thermal and rain layers we brought from home. (The forecast was 60°F/15C with clouds and/or rain, so following the formula that highway riding reduces apparent temperature by 30°F, we erred on the side of warmth.) We were assigned the Road King, a beautiful 1600cc cruiser with a passenger backrest and hard saddlebags for extra gear. I had never ridden a Harley or an engine over 750cc before, and it had been a while since I rode anything, so I took the bike around the block first to get a feel for it. Like a bicycle, one never forgets how to ride!

Alberto, the organizer, and Daniel, the guide, on Sportsters; and us on a Road King

After riding 100km, we got to our destination, a ranch in San Antonio with a distinctly tourist feel.

A llama, pronounced "jama" here
A slow-roasting traditional asado
1 horsepower in 1st gear...
... 70 horsepower in 6th

After lunch, the gauchos put on a show:

Target practice

Grabbing a tiny red ribbon with a pin

Back at the garage, Alberto suggested I try the other bikes, too. So we took his Sportster and Street Glide each for a spin around the block. For pure riding, the Sportster is probably my favorite. The Road King and Street Glide are both built for comfortable cruising, but the Road King had some drawbacks: it's built for a bigger person, so my back hurt; the indicator lights are below the driver's field of vision, so I had to take my eyes off the road to see if my blinkers were on; and the windshield was huge and seemed like a potential problem in the rain. The Street Glide had the lights in front, lower seats, and a shorter windshield; it also had a stereo built in, which would be nice for the long, straight ride to the mountains. Its tradeoff was even more bulk and weight to maneuver at slow speeds, and a very sensitive clutch.

If the price is right and the bike's available, there's a good chance we'll rent the Street Glide for a longer trip. I'm having a friend ship my gear from the storage unit, too. You can't keep a biker off a bike for long!

The route home


  1. Cool! Make sure your gear sent here by mail is used and LOOKS used. At the post office they may try to charge a 100% customs duty fee. If they do, you will want the insured value of the package to be low.


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