There is no official or exhaustive definition of what makes a partial or a total round-the-world travel route, but the following sets of general and route-specific characteristics can help distinguish the three main type of travel routes: hemispherical, transoceanic, and circumnavigating.
- Riding time – The great majority of the travel time is spent riding on a motorcycle and usage of other forms of transportation to carry the motorcycle (ferry, planes, trucks, trains, etc.) seldom occurs and only to overcome expected obstacles (such as crossing an ocean, a strait, or a region where riding motorcycles is not allowed) or unexpected challenges (such as a medical emergency, a mechanical failure, an impracticable road, or long-lasting dreadful weather conditions). Side trips, away from the motorcycle and occurring within the tour's time frame, do not count toward the tour itself.
- Distance – Intercontinental tours are usually several thousands of kilometers or miles in length and it is common to see riders covering distances in the 50,000 kilometers or miles range, some even reaching several 100,000s after many years of riding. Riding distance covered within each one of the traveled continent is also often measured in thousands of kilometers or miles.
There are not any specific characteristics about overall tour duration or continuity (making the tour in one single trip instead of multiple ones) since these have more to do with individual traveling styles than anything else.
A hemispherical route features riding through at least two continents, both being located within the same continental block: either the Americas (North and South America) or the Eurasia/Africa/Oceania continental block (Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania). With this type of route, there is no crossing of either of the two main oceans – the Atlantic and Pacific.
- U.S.A > Central America > South America
- Western Europe > Africa (from North to South)
- Europe > Russia (Europe and Siberia)
- Europe > Middle East > India > Southeast Asia > Australia
A transoceanic route features riding through at least two continents, with at least one of them being in the Americas continental block and another being in the Eurasia/Africa/Oceania continental block. The other particularity of this type of route is that the rider and the motorcycle do cross one of the two main oceans (crossing the 30th meridian West in the Atlantic Ocean or crossing the 170th meridian West in the Pacific Ocean) in order to bridge the two continental blocks traveled.
- U.S.A East Coat to West Coast > Crossing of the Pacific Ocean > Japan > China > Southeast Asia
- Europe > Northwest Africa > Crossing of the Atlantic > South America
A circumnavigating route thoroughly goes around the Earth and features riding through at least three continents, crossing at least one of the two main oceans, and with the additional characteristic that all four of the following regions are ridden through, during the tour:
- A region bordering the West Pacific front (on or near the East Asia's, Southeast Asia's, or Australasia's Pacific coast).
- A region bordering the East Pacific front (on or near the North America's or South America's Pacific coast).
- A region bordering the East Atlantic front (on or near the Europe's or Africa's Atlantic coast)
- A region bordering the West Atlantic front (on or near the North America's or South America's Atlantic coast).
Each one of these regions to be ridden through is typically an individual country or, for large continental countries: a state for the USA (ex.: Florida, bordering the East Atlantic front); a province for China or Canada (ex.: British Columbia, bordering the East Pacific front); a state or a territory for Australia (ex.: New South Wales bordering the West Pacific front); a republic, an oblast, a krai, or an okrug for Russia(ex.: Primorsky Krai, bordering the West Pacific front).
This type of route usually includes two major ocean crossing (Atlantic and Pacific), for both the rider and the motorcycle, although it may include only one ocean crossing for the motorcycle since it may be left or sold in the last country visited.
- Central to Western USA > Crossing of the Pacific Ocean > Russia (Siberia and Europe) > Europe > Northwest Africa > Crossing of the Atlantic Ocean > South America > Central America > Central USA
- Europe > Turkey > Iran > Pakistan > India > Nepal > Tibet > China > Southeast Asia > Australia > New Zealand > Crossing of the Pacific Ocean (rider and motorcycle) > USA West Coast to East Coast