Alps Tour 2010
I have tried to keep this short(ish) very hard as it was just such a great trip, every turn had a view I wanted to stop and photo, I have just quickly assembled a piccy or two per day from 600 we took.
We were already committed to meeting friends at Pension Williams in the Black Forest, but wanted to get into the Alps as well, armed with the excellent ?Motorcycle Journey?s through the Alps and Beyond? book I looked for possible places to visit and roads to ride.
With 15 locations, 80 trips (2-12 hours riding per trip) and 322 passes we were not going to do the whole book, so I concentrated on areas not too distant with as many of the higher rated routes as possible, I also have many people on this forum to thank for great advice.
Andermatt was the clear winner for density of great roads, minimal traffic and maximum views, so I then chose another location either side, the Mont Blanc region was one side and had some great routes (and could also reach routes in other chapters of the book ? as could Andermatt)
Livigno was the other side, more isolated, but close to some great routes and within easy reach of the Stelvio, which everyone told me you have to do.
Alpine Roads by Sportsbike:
I also tried to find some routes well suited to a larger sportsbike (ZZR1400) and was surprised how many were pretty good fun on this bike, despite often not using the top two gears or more than half the revs for miles on end.
Boring run down to Train, we got loaded easily, but my mate a few minutes behind was on ?next shuttle? supposedly 7 minutes behind, but no trains arrived after ours for nearly an hour, he was kept waiting and Eurotunnel did not say what caused the delay.
The rest of the day was an easy run to Two Wheel Moorings, with a quick stop at Vimy Ridge and the American Cemetery which are both on our route to Two Wheel Moorings.
The Bike at the American Cemetery
Another long day, started quite nice and we took a few back roads to start and drove past a few WW1 Sites just North of Verdun, no stopping as we had a long day, but added a bit of enjoyment?until we hit a French Cycle event, thousands (literally) of them, people lining the streets and they were using ?our route? to the motorway, this slowed us down for about 30 miles as the morons were all 6 abreast and wobbling all over the place.
Once on main route we got going, although quite boring we were now running through the Vosges Mountains (mole-hills compared top what was to come) and this at least provided better scenery. Then it started to rain a bit, then a lot so we stopped for waterproofs, my Oxford Products ?Bone Dry? suit immediately tore around crotch so rest of the journey was wet nut syndrome for me.
When we got to Besancon we left motorway style roads and headed for the start of the Alps, immediately scenery improved (In fact Besancon is very nice with a huge Fort up on the Hillside) but first we needed to leave the town, some Muppet had clipped a cliff face the road winds along with his lorry and its load of glass had gone everywhere, eventually we escaped to countryside and despite being in France still it looked very Swiss and as soon as we stopped for a break Cowbells could be heard ? this seems the case pretty much anywhere in Switzerland.
The views just got better and we stopped at Lake Luasanne for a coffee and heart attack (Swiss Prices) before the final run to Hotel Du Repos.
@ 110 Miles (with sat-nav error, about 90 following route correctly)
We wanted to do a loop around some passes and stop for the Chamonix cable car, but it was raining with poor vis, forecast was to improve so we waited a bit and headed out for what is Trip 10 in my book, this was quite nice covering some good roads and pleasant scenery . This made for a good introduction into Alpine biking, and to the wonderful Goulash Soup that seems to be popular throughout the region.
We did the longer route,
Due to the Sat-Nav (another story, all I will say for now is NEVER buy a Garmin, we had two of them constantly malfunctioning all week) we got sent up a wrong turn and by the time I realised we were back on the Motorway, on the plus side by now weather was nice and we got to see Lake Luasanne in the sun:
The Hotel was pretty good here, the manager Jamal was a top bloke and I would recommend this Hotel to anyone, great location, modern, clean, tidy, good food etc.
Hotel Du Repos
This was the biggest day out of the tour, trip 13 in the book, door to door 250 miles,
We had a great run out of our Hotel location to Martigny, then a few main roads before heading out towards the Grand Saint Bernard Pass, this whole road was amazing, great Sweepers all the way up to the Snowshed before turning up the pass proper.
The pass is great, twisty / tight on way up, twisty with tight sections on Italian side, much of which has been resurfaced to Moto-GP Standards.
The approach to the Grand Saint Bernard, the road has already started narrowing here, earlier it was wide and open, now it is going from sweeping to twisty. It transpired there was some big event on with people from Switzerland and Italy meeting up, yet somehow we did not find the traffic levels very frustrating, I guess any other day it would be very good.
This trip covered 8 Passes, many were tight and twisty, San Carlo was very tight in parts, but wonderful and deserted with it. At Chamonix we hit traffic (loads of it ? the only place we dound UK style congestion) around this area where great views of Mont Blanc, but due to (another) failure on Sat-Nav we had lost a lot of time around Aosta and had to stop and pull out real maps so had little time to stop.
The traffic was so bad around a town just outside Chamonix we pulled in at a roadside restaurant to eat and let it die down a bit, what a result! A great steak house, alfresco eating by a river and one of the best steaks I have ever had, fair prices too (By Swiss Standards) the place was empty when we arrived, but filing fast as we left, think we found a real gem here.
Way back involved Col Des Montets which is main road but sweeps from side to side and has stunning views of the Mont Blanc Glacier, which we were unfortunately running too late to stop and stare at.
The last pass was the Col De La Forclaz, not highly rated but we loved it, great views entering the valley with Martigny down below.
About 125 miles, the end covered of much of trip 2 in the book.
This was the easiest day of the trip, a simple run along a valley floor. Much of it Motorway, about half way up the valley the motorway ends (being extended at the moment) and you end up going through some towns / villages which are pretty dull.
Then you have a choice of going directly up the Furka, or taking the Nufenen and St Gothard, a bit longer but as we had time we went this way, it also left us less to do the following day.
It was damp as we left but dried out as we went along, the first motorway bit had good scenery but apart from that was dull, towards the Nufenen turn we were into log cabin villages and much nicer surroundings.
The Nufenen provided us our first real taste of roadside snow, new to us so we stopped to play.
The run up was quite tight in places, by the top it was quite cold, blowing a gale and we had small flakes of snow blowing around.. The Caf? at the top was very good, and the Goulash Soup was the perfect dish.
The run down was less tight and more fun, even with the damp patches, by the bottom it was very warm again, but we were immediately going to be heading back upwards on the St Gothard Pass, by now I had learned not to keep putting on layers of clothes as you end up stopping every 30 minutes, just cool down on way up, warm up on way down
We started up the old St Gothard (Tremola) but after just a couple of miles the cobblestoned sections were annoying us, so we went back and took the new road ? quite a piece of engineering, but a fairly dull ride.
The Original St Gothard Pass
We arrived at the Hotel plenty early enough to wander about the tow n in Andermatt and grab a beer in a local pub.
About 150 miles
This is trip1 in my book, the Lauterbrunnen extension is part of trip 5, unfortunately weather was a bit grim, we only had one day here and it was the weak link in the plan, everywhere else had two days, but we needed them for certain as both Livigno and Martigny had a ?big day out? plus at least one other place we wanted to see, with Andermatt we could cover two passes on way in from Martigny and one on way out to Livigno leaving just 3 close together ones, but no spare day if weather bad.
We left a bit later as it was forecast to clear up and we did not have too many miles to do, going up the Furka was in cloud until just before the top, when it cleared though the views were stunning
On the left is the Furka Pass into Gletsch, coming out of the village on the right is the Grimsel Pass, we took a few pics and then headed to the car park where there is a caf? / shop and a huge perma-frost glacier you can walk inside (for ?4) so we did this and moved on.
The Grimsel took us back into cloud which did not clear until we were almost down the other side, a real shame as the views are supposedly spectacular, just after the bottom the road starts flowing nicely and becomes far more ZZR territory until we get on the main road to Lauterbrunnen, straight and a bit dull except yet again for scenery, huge cliffs with waterfalls one side and Interlaken the other.
We wanted to try the Lauterbrunnen cable car, at the top is the revolving restaurant made famous in the James Bond movie. Time was getting short so we headed back. We had another pass to do, the Susten; this was the best of the day both for weather and the ZZR. Twisty with not many tight sections, near the top we met a chap on a GSX Suzuki, 85k on the thing and just a failed wheel bearing at 80k, I left all envious, happy in the knowledge that my bike is much faster when not breaking down
The Susten pass, one of my favourites and on the ?must do again list? ? as is the Furka, Grimsel and Nufenen, in fact Andermatt will have to feature on a future Alps trip!
That evening at the Hotel bar the owner asked how I liked the ?Bond? room, my room had some pictures of Sean Connery and a poster for the ?Gold Finger? movie (The car chase was filmed on the Furka Pass, a Hotel in the Movie footage is still there and looks pretty unchanged). It turns out that Mr Connery stayed in my room whilst filming, another look at the pictures and I notice some were taken in the Hotel restaurant.
The Connery Suite!
About 140 miles to Italy, Plus 75 mile run to the Stelvio.
Another easy day, and a fine day, after the dull previous day Andermatt had clear blue skies and looked amazing (did I say we plan returning here) and we had a wonderful run across to the Northern reaches of Italy.
The start of route was up and over the Oberalp pass, it actually started behind our Hotel, from our window you could see the first few turns built into the cliff side, so within 1 minute we were off and running.
Described in my book as the worlds best sweepers, the Oberalp certainly has great curves, it starts with what are really 1st / 2nd gear hairpins - no clutch slip required and by now any corner faster than 10mph was fine, just crank her over and fire out on the low down grunt, it then gets more open and becomes twisty then your on the open road heading towards Davos and Chur, sweeping turns and great scenery for miles
Before Chur we hit a lot of traffic, bit like being at home, luckily this was short lived as we got away from the town, with a choice of passes we chose the Julier as it would be quickest and I was hoping we could get to the Hotel in time to dump bags and run up the Stelvio.
This was one of the best roads I have ever ridden, easily as good as the N260 in the Pyrenees and with better views, the whole approach to the Julier itself is amazing, wonderful twisties and sweepers all the way, generally more open than many Alpine roads and easier than most to judge the turns, also for the most part track quality surface, the tyres and suspension mods paid for themselves in this one 20 ? 30 mile run, two up with luggage and riding pleasure like that of a track day.
We stopped at a rather nice lakeside caf? for lunch, well tried to my food never arrived, reminded them three times and ended up with half my order! Gave up and moved on as we were in a hurry and could not wait for them to cook mine, everyone else had finished long before my half meal arrived.
We than arrived in St Moritz (you can smell the money a mile away!)
And then had to run over the Bernina Pass, another awesome road with great views and good surface.
Arrived at Hotel in time to drop bags and head for the Stelvio,
What a great idea, firstly traversing the very nice Ofen Passand then we ran up the Umbrail pass for the views (were not disappointed) this joins the western Stelvio ramp at about 2500 metres, at this point turning left (and up) headed into snow, or right to go back down, obviously we went up.
At the top there was proper snow, had a great time cranking the bike right over with snow lining the road, awesome! Obviously at the top were loads of bikes, the cafes were busy, time for tea and cake!
Oh and a quick lie down!
Then what everyone goes for the famous stacked hairpins, this is the rougher and tighter eastern ramp:
We took the friendlier West Ramp down, a great run; some parts were surprisingly fast (well faster than I was led to believe) and fun.
We then had to go over yet another pass (Passo Di Foscagno) to get back to Livigno, another tight / twisty route. Rounded off with a good value meal, Italy is much better value than Switzerland, although it has duty free status Livigno was still not mega cheap?except fuel at about 78p a litre
Another very easy day, departing Livigno via the one-way tunnel, this brings you out on a great piece of road, although not a pass the ride all the way to the Fluella pass is very nice, twisty and flowing for the most part and as with most of the roads we encountered generally a good, grippy and smooth surface.
The Fluella pass is a great ride, not as good as the Julier IMHO (but many here have them the other way around) my book rated the Albula pass very highly, we found it a very good ride, many passes and roads are more enjoyable to ride, but the views where pretty good and again despite claims of poor surface and bumpy in parts if it was in the UK you would call it a very decent B-Road.
We stopped for a bit to take pics on the Fluella and watched some bikes on a great section where you can see down the road for quite a way as it switches back and forth, nearly everyone in the Alps looks to ride smoothly, the locals are great to tag onto and help tow you along unfamiliar roads, no ego?s here, I never once got carved up by a bike or experienced any attitude, most riders wave and they all keep it down around town, if bikers in the UK behaved like this we would get far less hassle from the general public, let?s just hope the UK Power Rangers don?t come here and ruin it like they have done in parts of France and Germany.
We then needed to head back over the Bernina Pass again and returned to base via the most boring pass, the Forcla Di Livigno, not a bad ride and if it was on my doorstep I would be out on it a lot, but quite dull compared to surrounding roads and it suffers with traffic getting in and out of Livigno ? still deserted by Oxfordshire standards.
Another relatively easy ride out, we did not bother with the Juff excursion (Highest Swiss Town) and just rode the big loop, this took in five passes, the first one was the lesser run out of Livigno itself, OK to wake you up.
Once out of the Livigno Valley we got another chance to ride the Bernina pass, no bad thing and I doubt I would ever tire of this road, we then went through St Moritz, on to Slivaplana (very beautiful) and on to the Majola Pass:
This pass is famous for the stacked hairpins (and is also the only Alpine pass with one ramp, down into Italy (or up into Switzerland) the switchbacks are not great fun, but once past them the road is a delight for miles all the way down to Chiavenna, the scenery is also superb the whole way and the road is well suited for Sportsbikes / Tourers.
At Chiavenna we turned up the Splugen, by Legend this is a horrible piece of road impassable by anything less than a trials bike being ridden by a Lampkin, in reality it is better than most British B-Roads the whole way!
You can see here the surface, in some places (mainly in tunnels) the top layer of chippings has come off in patches leaving ?huge? 5-6mm ruts, seriously this road is in fine fettle by UK standards, all the country lanes where I live (Oxfordshire) are in much worse condition.
The worst part is the stacked hairpins which are very tight, all 1st gear slipping clutch and requiring use of both sides of the road so if something is coming down you need to wait ? if I did this again I would definitely do it in the reverse direction ? which I reckon would also give better views.
Here are a couple of professional pics, the road was very narrow and had some traffic and nowhere to stop for piccies, mine were taken by Jen as we were moving, these show the impressive engineering better:
Once near the top it levels off nicely and has more great views, the road is busier than I expected and has several villages along it, must be very lonely up there in winter! The Swiss side is far easier, but still tight / very tight on the descent to begin with before opening up a bit for the last couple of miles.
We now had the Tiefencastel ? Silvaplana route to do again (Julier Pass) which is definitely my favourite stretch of the Holiday, this time it was a Monday afternoon so was worried about the ?traffic ? I had been warned of, again it was deserted, the odd car to get by here and there but you will not find a decent road this free of cars anywhere in England or Wales, maybe Scotland but it won?t be of this quality for corners, surface or views.
After that fun we still had to run over the Bernina again, and it was now becoming even better as I could remember a few corners now.
Unfortunately it was time to leave the Alps, a fairly dull blast up to the Black Forest, it started OK and we got another go over the Fluella Pass, we would have also crossed the Wolfgang pass of my list, but missed the turning (this one was not well signposted) and ended up going under the mountain in a long tunnel.
From here the roads opened up and mountains became hills, we ran along the south side of Lake Constanz, but to be honest it was pointless as the lake is pretty much hidden from most of the (very congested) road.
Once clear of here we got some Autobahn miles in, although dull these are handy for covering miles quickly, 110 cruising seemed comfy for both of us and really clocks down the journey times, we can also still talk OK on the Autocom, though at this speed the music is getting hard to hear.
Once we approached the Black Forest we ran the whole length of the B500 from the south of Germany up to Seebach where we were staying, the road was quite nice and less boring than the motorway; the southern reaches were winding sweepers with little traffic.
By Triberg it was much busier (still relatively deserted, just less so than the southern parts) but the road goes through a fair few built up areas and has lower limits etc. it only really gets good about 10 miles from Seebach junction, in fact that 10 miles is the best sweeping part of the B500 as it becomes tighter as you head towards Baden.
Day 11 - 13
The weather was forecast to be bad on our first day (in the afternoon) but clearing into the following morning so we got the free (for tourists) train / buses to Baden and went to the Caracella Spa baths to relax, these do work wonders after 10 days of bike riding. The weather held until into the evening?
And stayed bad the following day, did not really start to clear until evening by which time it was too late to run up the B500, should have reversed my days, but not too bothered as have ridden 500 before and will be back next year.
One alarming trend is the number of morons turning up to use the B500 as a racetrack, not helped by a UK bike mag describing it as a cheaper alternative to the ring, our Hotel owner told us how this summer they have had 11 bikers killed including one of his guests, this has led to speed limits being lowered along large stretches of the B500 and a higher police presence (especially at weekends)
This was a real dull ride, 560 miles of which about 525 were motorway, more like an endurance test, compounded by Eurotunnel cocking everything up at the French end and allowing cars just arriving to jump the queue, by the time we realised and tried to get in line we missed what should have been our train, the ET staff insisted there is nothing they can do about cars with M allocations jumping inline when only J has been called. When we finally got on a train it was delayed, by the time we got into the UK it was 7.00pm ? about 3 hours after we arrived at Calais instead of the hour it should have been, plus of course it was hammering down with rain and by now I had given up with the leaky ?Bone Dry? suit and just sucked it up for the two hour blast home.
Just need to decide where to spend the week I have available next year now?