www AlpineRoads com Biking In The Alps
The Dolomites - Italy
The Dolomites are without doubt one of the great biking areas of the Alps. There is a very high density of mountain passes all within the same area. Many of them interconnect without the need for the boring main road in between. The Dolomite Mountains have a characteristic flat topped, vertical monolith appearance, which is unique within the Alps. Therein lies the bad news. Come a nice sunny weekend day, the roads are packed with tourists from northern Europe taking in the scenery at a gentle 15 mph. At the height of the Holiday season, this goes for weekdays as well. Your best bet is to stay locally and get up early, or alternatively risk the weather in June. Being in the nature of the Dolomite passes in that they run into one another, to a certain extent they also do so in my mind. So some details may be lacking.
We've stayed in a few places in and around the Dolomites over the years. We can recommend Arabba and Corvara for central location, and St.Vigilio for prettiness as well as St. Leonhard, which is a bit further away, but close enough, and perfectly situated for hitting the Timmelsjoch, Jaufenpass and the Dolomites too.
Well the obvious circuit if not racetrack, is the four passes of:
We've mostly done these anticlockwise, though it's great both ways.
This also would include the little stretch between the west end of
the Giau (Caprile) to the junction with the main Falzarego road
s243 Grödnerjoch/Passo di Gardena: Corvara - s242b junction
From Corvara is a set of sweepers and medium hairpins, then up through the trees to the top in a steeper section. A great surface now (2002) after the much needed repairs in 2000 with the ultimate in classic Dolomite scenery.
The western side runs below a huge rock wall and therefore suffers from ice, rockfalls and subsidence so is a bit bumpy. [It had been completely repaired and resurfaced in 2002]. The scenery makes up for this bit. From the junction with the s242b it continues into the Sella road.....
s48 s48/s242 junction - Passo di Pordoi - Arabba
33 hairpins on the eastern ramp should keep you busy. This is one of the best stretches there is, but only if you can do it outside the busy times. Expect busses and lorries. Even then you can usually get past the traffic with relative ease. A great surface with only one or two spots of subsidence. The eastern lower section around Livinallongo is sweepers and superb, very much like the Grödnerjoch, if a touch less visibility.
Passo di Campolongo
ss48 Passo di Falzarego: Andraz - Cortina
ss244 Passo di Valparola: Falzarego pass road - Villa la Sterna
ss48 Canazei - Pozza di Fassa
Busy, boring main road with all the local traffic. No petrol between Canazei and Pozza
s244 Gardertal: Bruneck/Brunico - Zwischenwasser/Pedraces - La Villa/Stern
Potentially a great road, running along a narrow tree-filled river gorge with high rock wall above you on either side and the occasional gravel-pit. Very twisty and a good surface. Well, it would be a brilliant ride if it weren't for the seriously heavy traffic, lorry after bus....and the oil and gravel with almost no chance to overtake. To avoid the traffic do this only after midnight and with bloody good headlights.
As the heavy vehicles and busses will be working during the week, this is one road we recommend riding at the weekend. If you can ride it in the evening or early morning and avoid the gravel spills it is quite nice.
241 Pozza di Fassa - Karerpass/Passo di Costalunga - Karersee
The short bit up the hill to the top is a good wide road through meadows and trees. It can be difficult at speed. If it gets busy, don't worry you can turn off at the top for the ...
Karersee - Nigerpass - Blumau
A low pass on a narrower and twistier road but with a generally good surface. Because it's narrow it can be difficult to overtake. There are not many hairpins but oodles of 90° corners and it's a bit steepish in places.
Scenery? There is some impressive scenery of the Dolomites and across to the Stelvio and the Swiss border. Trees and alpine meadows.
Fairly difficult especially at speed.
ss48 Misurina - Auronzo di Cadore
A continuation of the Passo Tre Croci, it runs though dark woodlands, mostly snaking with fast straights, except the bit near the lake which is a bit tighter. Quiet, with little traffic, but don't go out of your way, otherwise an enjoyable ride. Definitely a good way out of the Dolomites to the East.
ss638 Pocol nr. Cortina - Passo di Giau - Selva di Cadore - Caprile
This is my personal favourite in the Dolomites. It's becoming more popular now as others begin to realise its worth. It's also quite long so you get a good run for your money, and relatively easy yet still satisfying. The north ramp is a bit bumpier (has been improved by resurfacing in 2006) and shorter but the southern ramp is mostly just one corner after the other with narry a straight bit. Imagine getting into a rhythm on the corners, lovely. Now imagine getting into a rhythm with really tight twisies and the hairpins are just tighter bits you hardly notice them.... I like to go down the south ramp best for some reason.
This road naturally leads into the next stretch...
251 Selva di Cadore - Staulanza - Villa
If you turn left at the bottom of the Passo di Giau you'll be on the road to the Forcolla di Staulanza. Running through a few small picturesque villages with a good surface, the road is mainly mild twisties and tight sweepers. Very little traffic.
Near the bottom you think it's finished and it runs through the villages of Villa and Forno di Zoldo before the turn off to the Passo di Cibiana.
ss203 Caprile - Andr
Slightly climbing and twisty with few hairpins to spoil the rhythm. A superb surface (2001). Very much like the Falzarego which it runs into. Lovely.
s251/s347 Forno di Zoldo - Agordo - Castello
The next bit, from the top of the pass down to Ágordo is wider, fewer hairpins and better repaired. It consists mainly of sweepers, twisties and snakes, rather than serious hairpins. We think this is the better side.
Difficult, especially at speed (what else). The first stretch to is very good, not unlike a wider Passo di Giau. Then the roads get narrower and bumpier. Zoldo Alto - Passo Duran (1601m) - Ágordo - We first did this whole section to Trento in a long, hard afternoon, all the way to Trento. Because of that, and the fact that the roads are all a bit similar we can't remember much about any of them that distinguishes one from another.
The rest of the route goes like this:
Passo di Cereda (1369m) - Fiera - Imer - Passo di Góbera (988m) - Canal s. Bovo - Passo d. Brocon(1616m) - Castello - Strigno.It took us 7 hours in good weather, about 350km.
The whole route varies from wide sweepers, straights and incredibly tight bumpy bits. It's very demanding, and I'd only try the whole lot at speed in the dry. It'll take you all day in the wet.
s641 Canazei - Passo di Fedáia - Caprile
This road runs below the great Marmolada mountain where it leads to winter and summer ski resorts.
Because of that the road is generally well-kept and now the major road works of the last few years is finished it's become a good ride. The western ramp reminds me of a small version of the road up to Val d'Isere, in that it's a little busier and dustier hugging the rock face, the eastern ramp not unlike the Pordoi and the Grödnerjoch with its open, green, alpine meadows.
s641 Sottoguda Gorge
As of 2005 the Sottoguda gorge is closed to traffic. Only pedestrians and cyclists allowed. I'm leaving the entry here in case you fancy a break from the bike and nice stroll up the road. It's not far.The gorge road "Sottoguda" is off the Passo di Fedáia on the way to Caprile. This is not on all maps as the road is very narrow and doesn't go anywhere much. It snakes along beside a stream in one of the narrowest gorges I know of. It has towering vertical sides, and not much light gets down there. The whole place has the eerie effect of making you feel very small (One for you Goldwing drivers then).
ss552 Ampezzo - Fasso di Mont Rest -Tramonti di Sopra - Manaigo
(The Aprilia won the race by about 50 yards. The ZX10 and GS 500E ----- nowhere!)
ss52 Lozzo di Cadore - Passo di Máuria - Ampezzo - Tolmezzo
This road is a long ride from Lozzo to Tolmezzo, all the way through woodland, except for the towns at the bottom near Ampezzo, then it's sweepers and houses - a bit of a drag. Still, the rest of the road is very good, quite narrow and a little bumpy in places, but on the whole very good and lots of fun. A number of hairpins on the Lozzo side, then a long snaking, winding road down onto the valley. Definitely worth thinking about as a way into and out of the central Dolomite area.
Val d?ora-Olang - Furkel pass -St. Vigil/Vigilio
Quite narrow and twisty but very little traffic. What traffic there is can be polished-off pretty quickly as it's normally going so slowly. The surface is good and there's generally good visibility on the corners. A very nice ride through trees and low hill, and the best alternative to the ss48 to Brunico/Bruneck if you're going to take the ss244 down to to Dolomites.
ss12 Brenner - Sterzing - Brixen - Bozen
To the West of the main Dolomite area is the north/south motorway and accompanying A-road leading north to Innsbruck and south to Bolzen Bolzano.(Avoid if you can: Industrial and busy) and then Trento. As this busy A-road approaches Bolzen, the river valley along which it runs, is apparently very scenic, as long as you like motorway viaducts in your deep tree lined valleys. There are also a couple of passes west of Bolzen worth looking at. Around here you may also find that you pass through German speaking areas, as this is the edge of the region of South Tirol, still within Italy.
If you do ride down this road and you get bored, try ....
s42 Bozen - Mendelpaß - Fondo
Southwest of Bozen (Bolzano) is the Mendelpaß I've done this pass when the surface, weather and traffic have been crap. A couple of years later (1998) the surface was new, and dry, and it's been totally resurfaced again and improved now (2001). This transformed this low-level, densely wooded pass into a humdinger of a route. The hairpins, though not numerous are wide, and there are a number of wide sweepers to play on. The down side is it's a popular country drive for Fiat Pandas especially at the weekend.
One of my favourites.
Brixen - Lus?n/L?sen
To the west and north of Brixen (a fairly pretty little town, actually), is a great road - or two actually. They both lead to the Würzjoch, the first going via Lusón after which it becomes a single-track road until it joins the Würzjoch road.
From Brixen the road climbs gently alongside a river in a wooded valley. There's little scenery really, but the road is superb. It's tight sweepers with a wide, mostly new surface and great visibility in the corners.
If you're near here do it.
The second alternative is the complete Würzjoch road described below...
Brixen - Millan - St Andrea - Würzjoch - St. Martin in Thurn
Climbing up out of Brixen is a long section of twisties of the best sort. A nice wide, well-surfaced road on the whole, it's fast and has real knee-down potential, with only relatively few hairpins. It gradually gets narrower up to the top of the pass where it's not quite so much fun, but then the scenery takes over.
Down to St. Martin is a shorter steeper version of the western side. Brilliant!
There's little traffic on this road except for bikes. It's gone up in my esteem from a few years ago.
s238 Fondo - Gampenjoch/Passo di Palado - Meran
Leading north from the Mendelpaß is the Gampenjoch or Passo di Palado. This is again a low level pass and the southern bit from Fondo is fairly level snaking through dense woodland. The northern side is longer and drops down to Lana near Meran. It's not very challenging but fun. There's some great scenery coupled with wide enough road on the north ramp.
ss508 Sterzing/Vipiteno - Penser Joch/Passo di Pénnes - Bolzano
The northern ramp is narrowish and relatively short (17km). After extensive repairs in 2003 it's become a brilliant set of twisties. The southern, less steep side is 50km of medium to ton-upt sweepers running through a few villages and tunnels (the more frequent the nearer Bolzen you get, where traffic increases, especially south of Samtheim).
I'd recommend this route. It's not hard.
347 Forno di Zoldo - Passo di Cibiana- Venas di Cadore
Narrow and twisty 1st to 2nd gear route. Surface on southern end a bit broken in places though not bumpy. The Northern part deteriorates as it gets more bumpy. Still a reasonable route.