Eric Sean Weld

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Some trips are about the destination, and as destinations go, Mexico’s Tulúm, a walled city of 800-year-old Mayan ruins, is a worthy goal. Other trips might be about what you do while you’re there: SCUBA diving, museum bouncing, shopping. There are some voyages, though, in which it doesn’t matter where you go or what you do when you get there. Those trips are about how you go, the nature of transport…a Mediterranean cruise, a trans-Siberian rail tour and…
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A two-day rumble down Mexico’s east coast on a Harley! It was late January, and Tulúm was the target, but this trip south through the state of Quintana Roo on a Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 was all about the ride.

That’s the way it is with Harleys…the splendor of the transportation transcends the reason for going.
Touring Mexico on a Harley is not at all like riding in the United States or, say, Europe. Mexico’s roads, for one thing, are not as trustworthy pothole-wise as those in its northern neighbor, which means, rule number one: you have to keep a sharp lookout.

Highway 3, the main freeway traversing south from Cancun to Tulúm, is also equipped with substantial speed bumps near all the ramps to enter or exit the route, as are roads in the towns of Quintana Roo. So, rule number two: be ready to slow down.

Those contrivances may be inconvenient, but they also add to the rustic quirkiness of riding in Mexico, and they’re a constant reminder that you’re not in your home territory. But beyond that, there’s an intangible quality that accompanies Mexico’s open road, a wild west liberation that always feels unpredictable and adventurous.
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And Mexico on a Harley is distinct from Mexico on a Yamaha or Kawasaki, as fun an experience as riding those bikes may be. With each mile clocked, a Harley builds on its mystique, a romantic notion of hitting the open road on a serious bike. It’s among adventure’s most lofty notions: cruising down the Mexican coast on a Harley. It’s the definition of freedom‹a salad of abandon, power and risk that never lets you forget exactly what you’re
experiencing.

An Indian or a Triumph might be in the ballpark, but nobody ever dreams of heading into the Mexico sunset on a Suzuki. Not even a BMW. Eikka Harley Huhtala knows about the lure of a Harley-Davidson, the undeniable appeal of taking the salt mist in the face and breathing in the Caribbean scent while revving along the Yucatán coast. He knows about the delicious sensation of throwing your leg over the Harley’s low-riding saddle and triggering the engine’s deep purr after an afternoon swim in one of the region’s famous cenotes (sink holes). That’s why Huhtala opened Harley Adventures, a Harley rental shop, in Playa del Carmen in 2003: to give others the feeling that can only come with mounting a Harley in Mexico.

“What I give my customers is an adventure, no matter whether it is a day putt to Tulúm or a seven-day Yucatán cruise,” says Huhtala, a native of Finland, who also races, repairs, exports and imports his favorite brand of bike. “Many people are a little afraid before the ride, but every afternoon
I see happy, smiley, sunburned faces and arms. Best day of our vacation’ is a common comment.”

The only Harley Davidson renter on the entire Mayan Riviera, as the tourist stretch from Cancún to Tulúm is known, Huhtala offers a selection of bikes, from the smallest Sportster 883 up in size to the mid-size Fat Boy to the royal Road King, a 1200-cc hog that commands the road and belittles
contenders. Each bike carries its own price tag, depending on its size.

Most his customers come from the northern United States, Canada, and some from Europe, says Huhtala…all looking for adventure in the sun. Huhtala does all he can to ensure that adventure by supplying each renter with a map of the roads up and down the coast, as well as a detailed itinerary with suggested stops at resorts along the coast, such as Puerto Aventuras, suggestions for restaurant breaks, and directions to the sink holes, where an afternoon swim in their deep, crystalline waters is like a bath in an aquarium,a must-stop, advises Huhtala.

His bright orange Rent a Harley Davidson sign catches the eye of many on the main highway entering Playa del Carmen south from Cancún.
For Huhtala, seeing the Yucatán coast on the Cadillac of bikes is the only way to see it. “Be different and do it the right way,” he advertises on his business card, “not in a crowded tourist bus, nor in a boring rental car!”

Mexico on a Harley it’s the place to see and the bike to see it on.

“Are there other bikes than Harleys?”boldly questions Huhtala.

Not when your trip is all about the ride.