One of the World’s Best Motorcycling Roads: San Bernardino Pass

Though it has been in use since Roman times, the San Bernardino pass was first made known to me from the first episode of Top Gear season 10. In it, Clarkson, Hammond and May set off to Europe to find the world’s best driving roads. Watching that show on DVD in the dead of winter as 3 feet of snow piled up outside lit a fire in me. One of the best driving roads? If that isn’t enticing, I don’t know what is. It was only logical to add this switchbacked beauty to our ever growing To Do list.

Leaving the town of Splügen, Switzerland we headed west towards the northern foot of the San Bernardino pass. Like the Splugen pass coming from Chiavenna, the San Bernardino pass began it’s ascent up the mountain like a terraced ribbon candy, zig-zagging its way up many switchbacks into mountains.

When the pavement unclenched it’s teeth and we rose above the treeline, the road opened up into a few kinder, gentler turns. I was able to catch glimpses of partially obscured, smooth tarmac on the left and right. I thought to myself how could those sections of roadway actually be connected to one another?

When the team of engineers began talking about paving the pass and asked “What is the shortest distance between two points?” the answer must have been “WHO CARES?!”

The San Bernardino Pass Switzerland

At the summit of the pass there is a restaurant at the San Bernardino hostel. It sits alone in the stark landscape overlooking Lago Moesola. Even though the sky was threatening to open up on us, there were many people out enjoying the day there.

IXS Ducati Multistrada San Bernardino PassWhile there taking in the view, we spotted a pair of new Ducati Multistradas that were stickered with IXS logo stickers. The bikes were surrounded by 4 guys dressed in identical textile suits and matching helmets, and a man driving what I assume was a support car. With more guys than bikes they must have been either riding 2-up or were swapping riding duties.

They went through the motions of the standard magazine photos – you know like the ole side of the helmet shot. The one that catches the guys eyes with his visor flipped open while he contemplatively looks off at the scenery and pretends to not notice a giant camera lens next to his head. I wonder where those images will appear.

Lago Moesola San Bernardino Pass Switzerland

We were already riding on borrowed sunshine-time trying to beat the rain that was forecast earlier in the morning. It was looking quite gray and a little threatening, so we didn’t dilly-dally for too long. We set off heading south to continue along the pass.

Not long after riding past the lake another roller coaster of sidewinders was waiting for us. The view of the racetrack-like road was enough to send you into fits of excited giggles. Kenny and Pimmie dashed off ahead and I pulled off. I was able to watch them making their way around some of the curves like watching my own personal roadrace.

San Bernardino Pass Switzerland South Side

Around the web many people include the San Bernardino Pass in their listing of the best driving, cycling or motorcycling roads in the world. Now I can see why. The diverse scenery, the road condition, the road layout – they all combine to make this pass an absolute joy to ride. It is not to be missed.

BMW F 650 GS on San Bernardino Pass San Bernardino Hostel Kenny and Pimmie Riding San Bernardino Pass
Fuzzygalore on the San Bernardino Pass - Thanks for the pic, Pimmie!

I'm pretty sure I smiled all the way up and all the way down.


Rachael is the whimsical writer behind the 20+ year old Girlie Motorcycle Blog. As a freelance blogger, she is on a mission to inspire laughter, self-examination, curiosity, and human connection. Girlie Motorcycle Blog can be found on several Best Motorcycle Blog lists.

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6 Responses

  1. ToadMama says:

    I’m smiling with you. I am thoroughly enjoying this trip re-cap. I especially loved the Google street view of that one pass. It’s a shame that’s not available on all of the passes.

  2. pimmie says:

    I still hear Kenny ask; ‘are those missile silo’s??’… lol

  3. crudmop says:

    Oh c’mon – they LOOKED like silos of some kind, or old army viewing posts. Sheesh!

  4. pimmie says:


  1. September 24, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Two Wheels Down, Motorcycle Stuff, Nick@RideTheWildWind, Nick@RideTheWildWind, FuzzyGalore and others. FuzzyGalore said: Blogged: One of the World’s Best Motorcycling Roads: San Bernardino Pass […]

  2. September 27, 2010

    […] we climbed down from the top of the San Bernardino pass, we had the rain on our heels. If we were going to make the most of our plans for the day we were […]

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