A Sunday Ride Through the Swiss and Italian Alps
On Sunday, we started our day with a bang, leaving our Bormio hotel and heading straight up and over the Stelvio pass. Winding our way along it’s delicious serpentine hairpins, I wondered if my day was figuratively all down hill from there. As we motored on, I quickly found out that it had just begun.
From the northern foot of the Stelvio pass we went on to the Swiss border and headed towards the Ofen pass. This pass was generally fast and loose with good tarmac. It had more sweepers and few (if any) hairpins. The biggest difference with this pass was that the roadway ran through a forest, whereas the other passes moved up and over the treeline. It reminded me of riding in California.
The sheer number of motorcycles and maxi-scooters that were out riding this loop on a sunny Sunday afternoon was just staggering. There were bikes everywhere! Some observations:
- It was nice to see nearly everyone was dressed in full gear.
- Most bikes were toting some type of storage luggage on them.
- Naked bikes and the big BMW GS’s were the most popular bikes on the roads.
- We saw very few fully faired sportbikes in the mountains.
- I saw a few other women riders but not nearly as many as I expected to.
- The majority of road surfaces were very good!
It seemed too that the competence and skill level of the majority of riders we encountered was really quite excellent. But, I suppose if you spend your life riding those roads, you just have to get good at it. The roads aren’t forgiving.
Don’t Wait Up!
My two traveling companions, Kenny and Pimmie are quite a bit more speedy than I am. I’m not slow but I am just unwilling to take what I see as unnecessary risks anymore. I’ve come to realize that my ability to enjoy a ride isn’t always directly proportional to how fast I’m moving. My riding throughout this trip would definitely be classified as “conservative.” There were times when I felt a little bit like an anchor as I watched them fade out of my view. Though neither one said anything negative about it, I did wonder if they were fed up with my dawdling.
Until we got into a comfortable rhythm of riding together, I could see them checking mirrors for me, pulling off and waiting, wondering what the heck was taking me so long to turn up. I tried to be clear that they needed to stop babysitting me and to just wait for me at the next turn off. I’m not a new rider or someone who has no skill, for crying out loud. I contended that there were plenty of people around if I should find myself in trouble or in need of help.
Shortly after my speech, on the Flüela pass I saw Pimmie had actually doubled back to look for me. I will admit it bothered me to think that he would have spent any time worried about my riding. The irony was of course that not 3 minutes before I came literally inches from busting my ass pulling onto a pea gravel shoulder to take some photos. The front tire just washed out sideways while I was slowing to a stop. I managed to catch it at the last second. Of course, I kept that to myself until now ;o)
I absolutely loved the stark landscape of the Flüela pass.
Sportbike-shmortbike. Run What Ya Brung!
The last pass that we took for the day was the Maloja pass, which is about 30 miles south of St. Mortiz, Switzerland. It is a tall, terraced, hairpin turn pass. The view from the top looking down over the roadway was amazing but unfortunately there was no room to stop for a photo. When we reached the bottom of the pass, I found a spot to pull over and was hoping I could get a view from the bottom up.
As I sat on the side of the road a group of guys on GSs came motoring towards me on their way up. Zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom they rounded the bend by me with the last guy sending sparks up as he dragged his sidebags through the hairpin. I laughed in spite of myself. It was just so freakin’ awesome to see this train of bikes rail through the turn. I’m so goofy, I clapped. The last guy smiled as he righted himself and rode away.
The three of us pulled into a small guesthouse hotel at the foot of the pass in the town of Vicosoprano for the night. Though we didn’t turn a lot of miles in the grandest sense, they were quality miles. None of us drank enough throughout the day and it had started to show. We were all tired and unfortunately, Pimmie wasn’t feeling very well.
We sat on our balcony and listened to sound of the church bells ringing in the town below. Nestled in amongst the trees, the only sound other sound we heard was occasional high rpms approaching the corner until the sun went down.
This was one of the most amazing days of riding of my entire life.