Saturday, 15 April 2017

Season Starter - 3 day roundtrip

Since the weather had been decent and I had a couple of days off work coming up over Easter I decided to plan a little season starter tour into the alps. I asked around some of my riding buddies and one of them, Robert, agreed to tag along. Great stuff :)


Thu 13th April:

After only minimal planning and pre-booking two hotels the day before setting off we met at my house around mid day on the 13th April and started our little round-trip.

The weather was mostly cloudy and only around 10°C but dry and the roads were quite empty so we made good progress through the Bavarian countryside. We rode past Ammersee west of Munich and then through Weilheim where shortly after we turned east onto the B472 and then south again onto the B11 to go past Kochel- and Walchensee. The road between those two lakes, the Kesselbergstraße, is pretty (in-)famous around here as it has been a race track in the past and has since then been the scene of many accidents. This lead the local authorities to put a very strict 60km/h speed limit and speed bumps into place as well as a ban for motorcycles on weekends and bank holidays.
Luckily today was just a normal weekday so we were good to ride along there and to be fair in many of the corners 60km/h is plenty fast enough.

After passing the scenic lakes we finally got to Mittenwald which is on the border to Austria and a popular crossing point for holiday makers who want to avoid paying for Austrian motorways. After we rode through the centre we took the smaller and mostly deserted back roads to get into Austria where only a short distance in the sun came out fully and made riding a lot more enjoyable.

We then came to the town of Telfs from where we headed towards Imst and then into the Pitztal. At the end of the valley we went over a small pass and into the next valley which then lead us towards the Reschenpass and the small town of Nauders.

In Nauders we had booked a bed & breakfast called Pension Tirol which I stayed in before on a skiing holiday. After settling in and parking the bikes in the garage, which the owners moved their car out of for us, we found a place to have dinner in walking distance and soon after called it a day.

Here's the route of the first day: Motoplaner-Day1

Fri 14th April

We met for breakfast at 8am and were greeted by glorious sunshine. This was a bit misleading though as it was only a freezing 4°C outside. Still, after a big breakfast we got ready and set off just after 9am.

The route first took down a mountain road into Switzerland where, at first, it got even colder... around 1°C in places. But since the sun was doing its best it was actually not too bad when we weren't riding in the shadow of the mountains around us.

We passed through the town of Scuol and a little later turned east in Zernez towards Ofenpass. Before actually getting to the pass we turned south again though and went through the Munt la Schera Tunnel into Italy. After going through the tunnel you come out onto Punt dal Gall Dam where you need to pay the toll for using the tunnel which was around 12€ per bike.

After a short photo break we rode on to the town of Livigno which enjoys a special duty-free status in the region so especially fuel is very cheap here. The lowest I saw was 1€ per litre of Super as compared to around 1.65€ in Italy itself.
The town is also a popular winter sports destination and even in April it's quite busy with tourists. Many of the slopes were still open and it felt a bit odd to ride along a busy ski slope on the bike.

From here we headed towards Bormio via the Foscagno Pass and stopped for a little coffee break in the sunshine.

Normally, when coming to Bormio you wouldn't want to miss out the famous mountain passes around the area. There is the Stelvio Pass to the north and the Gavia Pass to the east but sadly these were still closed for winter at this time of the year. Even the smaller Mortirolo Pass to the south was still closed, so we didn't have a choice but to follow the valley south out of Bormio and go the long way round the mountains via Tirano and Edolo.

From there we followed the road we had taken back in 2015 on our big Black Forest & Alps tour and made good progress. On the way to Fondo we rode through huge fruit tree plantations which were all in full bloom and which made for very scenic views. I've been in this area several times already but never during this time of the year so it was a great novelty for me.

After a short break we then rode the last bit to our hotel for the night the Pension Kofler in the village Völlan just south of Merano. The last 2km or so the GPS played a bit of a trick on us as it decided we should take the shortest route from the main road up to the village. Unfortunately the shortest route was an unpaved track through the forest which was used by lots of hikers but with Robert taking the lead here we made it through in one piece. Good thing I had my sun-visor down so none of the very surprised looking hikers could see my embarrassed face ;)

After settling into our rooms again and parking the bikes in the underground car park we found a nice little restaurant with a terrace overlooking the fruit plantations and had a nice dinner there.

Here's the route of the this day: Motoplaner-Day2

Sat 15th April

We met again for breakfast at 8am and were ready to set off around 9am. The weather today was a bit overcast but not cold and according to the forecast we should stay dry for most of the way home.

After leaving the hotel we first went down into the valley and had to negotiate the busy city streets of Merano but after making our way through the traffic we soon were on the road leading us to the Jaufenpass. We got up there without much traffic and stopped at the top for some photos. That's where I noticed I was already almost 10km on reserve. Oops... At least from here it was all the way downhill so I was fine ;)

As predicted I made it ok to the next petrol station down in the town of Sterzing with around 30km done on reserve and maybe half a litre left in the tank. All good ;)

After the fuel stop we rode to the Brenner Pass which is the main north-south connection between Italy and Austria but as we stayed off the motorway there was only light traffic. The road took us to Innsbruck and then on towards Mittenwald again where shortly before the German border we stopped for some lunch.

From here it was mainly a ride on main roads to get back home and if it hadn't been for a band of rain between Weilheim and Fürstenfeldbruck we'd have stayed dry for the whole trip.

Overall I did just under 960km in those three days and it was an excellent start to the biking season with great company. :)

Here's the route of the last day: Motoplaner-Day3

Friday, 1 July 2016

French Alps - Day 6 and going home

Fri 1st July:
The last day has arrived and the weather looks good again so the plan is to go to the area north-west as this is somewhere we've not really been to yet and our maps say there's some nice roads in that area. With the route for the day planned out and stored we finish breakfast quickly and get ready to set off again.

The first part of the the route just goes down to the lake and then follows the main road to Gap which is pretty uneventful though quite busy. We make our way through Gap and are soon on the N85, part of the Route Napoléon, heading north. After a while we get to a small-ish left-turn onto the D17 which leads to the Col du Noyer. The road up is a bit narrow in places but has good surface though you need to take care about rocks and gravel that have fallen onto it. We get to the top and find a little cafe there where we decide to make a quick stop.

 We carry on down the pass and follow the road to the north through some valleys and get to the Lac du Sautet near the village Corps. We join the N85 again and follow it for a bit until we turn left onto the D526 just before La Mure. This road takes us to the Pont de Ponsonnas where we stop for some photos and also find out that you can do a 103m bungee jump here, if you feel brave enough. Here the website of the company running it: Vertiges Aventures
Luckily they are closed today...

We set off again and keep following the road which goes up and down a bit through different scenery and we pass through the town of Mens and from there on to Clelles. On that stretch of road it happens that some stinging insect, I suspect a wasp maybe, find it's way into my right sleeve and stings me in the forearm. I immediately stop, get my jacket off and try to get the little bugger out but no sign of it any more. Only the sting is left and it hurts. But there's not much that can be done so I carry on and shortly after Clelles we find a place for lunch. It's called Snack Vercors and is located directly next to the main road in a well kept park-like setting. And it even has a pool!

I manage to cool down my sting with a bit of ice and soon I don't feel it any more...

We eat well and are soon back on our bikes heading down the D7 towards the Col de Menée and from there on to the Col de Grimone. On the way the road winds through some spectacular valleys and under rock overhangs and everyone seems to enjoy themselves.

On the way up the Col de Grimone I go ahead a bit and position myself on the outside of a big hairpin bend to snap some photos.

At the top we meet up again and then head back down the mountain. After that it's basically back to the Gite on main roads. First towards Gap, which we seem to hit at rush-hour so progress is quite slow there and then on to the lake and back up to the Gite.

When we arrive at the Gite we have a little rest, get changed and then it's all hands on deck to load the bikes onto the trailers and pack as much as possible already so we can set off bright and early the next morning.

After that is done it's time to finish off our liquid supplies and some seem to have a bit more than others...

Here the route for that day: Motoplaner-Day6

Sat 2nd July:
Departure day has come. We have breakfast, pack the rest of our things into the cars, clean up the house a bit and do the recycling...

We finally set off around 8am on the long and uneventful drive....

Around 6.30pm we arrive at Rainer's place and unload the bikes. A couple of the guys are going to stay the night at Rainer's and then ride home the next morning but I decide I want to get home tonight still and since it's only about 2 hours from here I load my luggage onto the bike, say my goodbyes and they wave me off shortly after 7.30pm.

At around 9.45pm I arrive at my house with 2344km more on the clock and totally exhausted.

Again, it has been a great tour and the company and scenery has been fantastic. I couldn't have wished for a better bike holiday and I really look forward to the next one.

Thanks guys for taking me along!

Thursday, 30 June 2016

French Alps - Day 5

Thu 30th June:
Today we wake up to mixed weather. It rained almost all night so it's still wet outside but it looks ok for now so we decide to follow the plan we made last night. We'll be heading south via Sisteron and then back. Should work out at just under 300km today.

We get ready and are soon on our way down to the lake. We at first follow the same road I took yesterday to Chorges and then the D3 to the dam. After that it's a left onto D951 which leads to Sisteron through some valleys. It is good fun and not too busy and we come through some scenic villages on our way.

Just before Sisteron we hit some heavy rain. It doesn't last long and when we reach Sisteron it pretty much has stopped again but it was enough to give us a good drenching. We decide it's time for a coffee break so we stop in the centre of town and head for a nearby cafe.

During this short break the weather improves somewhat and by the time we set off again the roads are pretty much dry again. We head south out of Sisteron on the D53 and want to make our way to the Pas de la Graille but shortly after Sisteron we have to stop because Hans and I are low on fuel and probably won't make it over the pass and to the next petrol station. So we decide that the people with small tanks, all the MT-09s, quickly go to the nearest petrol station and the rest head up the pass already and wait at the top. According to Hans' GPS the next petrol station is about 10km away so off we go. After re-fuelling we back-track to the point where we split up and now we too are on our way up the pass.

The road is very narrow and leads almost entirely through a dense forest so it's hard to see what's coming. Also the surface is not very good and quite bumpy and slippery, especially since after the rain it's still wet here and gravel and has washed into the road in some places. After what seems an endless 15km or so we get to the top, meet up with the others and are rewarded with some nice views of the rolling mountains and valleys below.

We carry on down the pass on the south side where the road and weather improves and in the village of  Saint-Étienne-les-Orgues we turn left and head for Les Mées. On the way we decide it's time for lunch and Hans thinks a restaurant in the middle of an industrial estate would be a good choice. The rest of us are a bit dubious but since we all could do with a bite to eat we sit down. The restaurant is called Restaurant le Mardaric and is located on the outskirts of Peyruis. To our surprise we are presented with a quite fancy menu and decide to all go with a 3-course meal which turns out to be great and even the presentation is excellent. Guess Hans had a really good hunch there!

Properly stuffed we set off again. It's gotten quite hot now so the breeze while riding is very welcome. We head towards Digne-les-Bains on some side roads that follow the main road there and I'm being placed in the middle of the group to prevent me from going AWOL again. Fair enough...

This time we get through the town without loosing anyone and are soon on the D900A which winds along rivers and valleys. A couple of times it starts raining again but stops quickly too so not too bad and we still enjoy the ride. We then turn onto the D7 which leads to Auzet and then on over the Col du Fanget to Seyne. On the way Hans goes on ahead a bit and positions himself to take a couple of photos of us going past and after that we stop for a quick break and to enjoy the view.

Now we get to Seyne and Willi is in the lead with his GPS and it looks like the GPS thinks it would be a good idea to go all the way back to Digne. We follow him and slowly it dawns on everyone that we must have taken a wrong turn somewhere but since the road is great and the ride is good fun nobody actually complains. After about 30 minutes Willi also realises that we must be going the wrong way and stops. We work out where we went wrong and it looks like his GPS didn't tick off a waypoint back in Digne and wanted to do that now instead of going directly with the rest of the route. Never mind...

Error corrected we get back to Seyne on the same lovely road and now take care to take the correct turn. We carry on north towards Barcelonnette and take the turn along the lake again. Then we get to  Embrun and stop at the big supermarket on the outskirts to buy some supplies. Most of those are in liquid form and a couple come in 5 litre kegs which we need to transport up to the Gite somehow. Luckily I always carry a cargo net under the seat and we manage to strap the keg to my bike.

We then go back to the Gite up the hill and of course get drenched again by a sudden thunderstorm.
At the Gite we get out of our wet gear, unload and the chefs spring into action again to prepare a great meal yet again.

It was a really good day and even the few spots of rain couldn't dampen the spirits. Sadly tomorrow will be our last day here but we're going to make the most of it, I'm sure.

Here the route for that day: Motoplaner-Day5