Madeira is a very motorcycle-friendly place. The quality of the main roads is overall decent. However, they are very demanding, winding, sometimes very steep and at times located close to a steep edge
Types of motorcycles to consider
There are obviously many different types of motorcycles that can be chosen from, however they can all be split up in 2 main categories:
- Scooters (automatic gearbox, mostly 125cc);
- Geared motorcycles (usually bigger engine capacity and more power).
Scooters are at their best when moving in and around Funchal. Because it’s an automatic gearbox, you don’t have to worry about clutch work, so that you can fully focus on the traffic. The scooters also work perfectly fine for all other roads and routes on the islands, but only if you don’t take a passenger. It is not recommended to take a passenger while going into the mountains on a scooter, simply because it doesn’t have enough power to push two people up the steep inclines. However, if you are alone, scooters have more than enough power to go anywhere on the island. They are probably also easier to drive for beginners than geared motorcycles, and don’t require a special motorcycle license.
For the more experienced riders, however, discovering the island is better done with a bigger, geared motorcycle. Driving on the beautiful mountain roads in the center of the island is simply better with a geared motorcycle. Inexperienced motorcycle riders may find driving the roads of Madeira a little too challenging on a big geared motorcycle.
When renting a motorcycle, focus on the overall technical condition and especially the condition of the tyres. In order to prevent any problems with getting back your eventual deposit* it is always a good idea to take a lot of pictures of the motorcycle during the handover. You should take pictures of any scratches and defects you can find, even small ones, to prove you weren’t the one who did the damage. This tip is useful for renting all types of vehicles, not just motorcycles.
Some motorcycle rental companies also offer helmets included in the price of the rental. Since safety and comfort are vital, it is always good to make sure that the helmet is of good quality. It might be a good idea to bring your own helmet if possible, even if it is just to make sure it fits right.
The same thing goes for gear, most rental companies offer an option to get gear for an extra price, so therefore it is always a good idea to bring your own gear: shoes, gloves, pants, jacket, etc.
Motorcycles are a relatively unpopular means of transport on the island. However, two-wheelers are a privileged group of vehicles on Madeira. Dedicated free motorcycle parking spaces can be found everywhere on the island, also in places where car parking is paid. And if there is no space, you can park on the sidewalk, if you don’t block anything / anyone. In addition, drivers on Madeira pay a lot of attention to motorcyclists in traffic.
Beautiful places to ride on Madeira : Funchal
The capital of Madeira has its own rules. The traffic is heavy in the center, so you must get used to maneuver between packed cars. The ER103 road is a beautiful road near Funchal following winding and narrow streets, and cascade-built houses. This road requires a lot of concentration while driving, but the view over the city compensate this effort.
Beautiful places to ride on Madeira : Pico do Arieiro
Perhaps the most challenging route but also definitely one of the most beautiful routes on the island is the road to Pico do Arieiro. At times, this road can be filled with fog and have poor visibility. With this road being a narrow road, the fog can bring poor visibility which can make the road look very mysterious, as if it was in a horror movie. Once reaching above the clouds, this route makes you feel as if you are driving in heaven.
Beautiful places to ride on Madeira : South West
There are several beautiful roads in the South-west of the island. For example, after following the main highway VR1 towards Ribeira Brava, there is the VE3 road that leads all the way to nearly the westernmost tip of the island. This road is filled with tunnels and roundabouts. If you exit this road at Ponta do Sol, going up on the main roundabout, and take the last exit on the roundabout after the high school and hospital, you will find a beautiful road called the ER222 passing various rural villages where you will rarely find any other tourists. If you keep following this road, you will eventually reach Prazeres. From there, you can take go back on the VE3 until Ponta do Pargo.
Beautiful places to ride on Madeira : Paul da Serra
After following the VR1 towards Ribeira Brava, instead of taking the exit to the right into the sharp curve turning underneath the highway, keep going straight onto the VE4 towards São Vicente. The VE4 of itself is also a beautiful almost flat road in the middle of the great separator between the east and west massifs. Therefore, the sights to both sides are fantastic, boasting wonderful steep cliffs and incredible rockwork. Once you reach the place Serra de Água, you can choose to take the first exit possible to the left and head towards Encumeada, or keep going straight and after the long tunnel heading to São Vicente, turn right, on to the ER228. This road leads all the way, uninterrupted, from São Vicente, over Paul da Serra, towards Porto Moniz. This road has a lot of variety but due to its high altitude, it offers views over Paul da Serra, and at one point it is possible to see the ocean on the North and South, at the same time.
Beautiful places to ride on Madeira : SÃO VICENTE – MACHICO
The ER101 road is suited only for the most experienced of riders, as the pavement can be bad at times on this road, and there are too many sharp curves with steep inclines to count. However, the beauty of the sights that can be experienced on this route more than makes up for the concentration needed at times. This road is always also mostly empty, leaving you a lot of freedom with just your motorcycle and the road. This road is one of the toughest ones on the island.
All in all, the roads of Madeira are wonderful and perfectly suited for a motorcycle experience that you will never forget. Whether you want to take a 1-day guided tour or rent a motorcycle for multiple days, you will have a great time on your motorcycle on Madeira. If you really want to see all parts of the island, it is recommended to stay at least 3 days, otherwise you will not have enough time to explore everything. Madeira is suited for all riders, novice to experienced, and is guaranteed to give everyone a wonderful experience that you will remember for the rest of your life!