Motor Bike Ride through the Dolomiten in
couple of years I really long for a good long motorcycle ride in the
for the motorcycle, every couple of years BMW comes out with a better bike. I
was interested in the refinement of its most popular bike model, the GS – recently
BMW brought out the R
1200 GS; with less weight and more power it’s an even better bike than its
predecessors R 1100 GS and R 1150 GS. It’s handling and response is superior to
the previous one. So when I rented this newest bike for a day in the Austrian
I very much looked forward to the coming day with perfect weather and this new bike for the trip to the ‘Dolomiten’ just South of the Austrian Alps.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
meet at 6:45am at a gasstation in ‘Mittersill’ near my Aunt Rosi’s house. For
Frank this means another 180km approach from
refuel our bikes, I put on some cloths Frank brought for me and soon we’re off heading
for the first couple of mountain passes and tunnels. At 7:20am we’re at the
entrance of the ‘Felbertauern Tunnel’, a 5km long tunnel which will bring us to
the South side of the central ridge in the
There is hardly any traffic this early in the morning and we have the roads to ourselves. After crossing to the South we ride down the big road through the ‘Tauerntal’ valley. I remember ten years ago we came back after a long ride crossing to the North late in the evening. Then we were doing upwards of 160 km/h (100 mph), but today we’re not in a hurry, so we take it easy and mostly obey the speed limits…
we turn to the West into the ‘Defreggental’ valley, which leads up to our first
real pass, the ‘Staller Sattel’ (2052m). This pass marks the border between
the highest point there is the border to the
it is 9:00am and we’re getting ready to depart again. Now we are entering
Exiting through the ‘Anholtzer Tal’ valley and passing slightly to the East of ‘Bruneck’ we’re heading South for the village of ‘Corvara’. The roads are small and windy with countless turns. You can’t go fast on these roads, but in my opinion they are the best roads for motorcycle riding. Today we will have hundreds of km of these roads, with literally thousands of turns... motorcycle heaven!
2 hours after crossing into
This terrain is a playground for the outdoor enthusiasts: Mountain hiking, climbing, biking, skiing, hanggliding and paragliding, river rafting, motorcycle touring, … there’s so much to do here. The rock climbers, for example, often leave a parking lot on top of a pass and within minutes they can start climbing a vertical rock wall.
The scenery is quite picturesque: You often have meadows above the treeline (1800m) with plenty of wild-flowers, some cows, horses or sheep grazing on the slopes, with the steep mountains towering overhead. Well worth stopping for another photo op:
You may see some paragliders in the air aloft, a few motorcycles passing by, some tourists craning their necks to watch some rock climbers, and some cyclists sweating up to the next pass. I can harldy imagine a better outdoor playground than this terrain on a beautiful summer day!
next valley is the ‘Grödnertal’, from which we ascend up to the
No matter where we look, we associate memories and outdoor experiences from our early adulthood with nearly every mountain we can see, typically involving skiing or hanggliding experiences.
picture above shows the highest mountain in the ‘Dolomiten’, the ‘
On a day like this, you can leave your worries from the office behind – no wonder Frank is giving me a bright smile and a big thumbs up!
is tempting to just sit there and enjoy the view, but we know we have a long
way ahead of us today, so we never stop for too long. That said, when we reach
is excellent skiing on these slopes until late in the spring. Just 12 days ago
I saw this mountain massif very clearly from the air on our flight from Milano
to the ground: Refreshed from our long lunch break we take off again and follow
the roads further South along the border between the Italian provinces of
‘Veneto’ to the East and ‘Trentino’ to the West. Just South of the ‘
descend into the ‘Val Cismon’ valley and reach our Southern most point in the
litte village of ‘Fiera di Primiero’, just 30 km (arial distance) West of
‘Belluno’, from which you could reach the town of ‘Venezia’ in about 1 hour on
the autostrada highway. I have never been in this neck of the woods, and let
Frank and his onboard GPS lead the way. We’re definitely on the Southern side
of the Alps now, with Italian influence more dominant than the Austrian
elements in many parts of the Dolomiten region called ‘Südtirol’, formerly part
Several little villages and countless turns later we’re getting very hot under our helmets. We stop to cool off with the fresh water of a local fountain and a breeze in the shade of a small chapel - very refreshing. What a different world from, say, my office park at Citrix Sytems in Fort Lauderdale, to which I shall return next week!
From here we’re heading North-East over three consecutive small passes: ‘Passo di Ceredo’ (1369m), ‘Passo Duran’ (1605m), ‘Passo Cibiana’ (1536m). This doesn’t sound like much when coming from the likes of ‘Sella Pass’ (2240m), but when you consider that the little villages in between like ‘Agordo’ are only at 611m above sealevel, there are still 1000 m to climb and descend everytime. And the roads are extremely narrow and with so many turns, it’s often difficult to pass cars and trucks, even on a motorcycle. And you can’t go fast even without traffic, as you always have to be able to stop going into turns, as you never know what to expect coming the other way… Even in the villages, the traffic patterns take on a more relaxed, and less organized, shall we say ‘Italian’ flavor.
It is on this part of our trip that we realize we won’t be back by 7:30pm in time to return the motorcycle that same evening. Our GPS indicates an ETA of past 9:00pm, and we realize there is no way on these roads to pick up the average speed. This neck of the woods is not for people in a hurry, it is for people who take time and enjoy the scenery!
We’re also slowed down by road construction, which often leads to one-way traffic controlled by red lights. At least we can always roll to the front of the queue with our bikes and be the first to take off when the light switches to green! Another picture stop around 5:00pm when we cross the ‘Passo Duran’:
At times the roads are so small and the little villages so confusing that despite previous excursions and GPS on Frank’s part we need to consult the map to make sure we’re taking the right turns.
For the next 2 hours we’re hardly stopping at all and I don’t take any pictures. So many turns, vehicles to be passed, tunnels and bridges to be crossed, hard to describe in words. One memory I have of this part is a long straight tunnel with a 80km/h speed limit. There is one lane each direction with a double solid line in the middle, practically no traffic, so we’re doing maybe 90-100km/h. After a minute or so of entering the tunnel I hear a deafening roar and see a small white light in my rear-view mirror. In what seems only seconds later, a motorcycle overtakes us and flies by on the opposite lane doing perhaps 160-180 km/h (100+ mph), in very dim light in a tunnel! This is riding with very high risk, and if the Italian carabineri clock your speed, kiss your drivers license good-bye…
we exit via the ‘Sextental’ valley and reach the nice village of ‘Toblach’ in
the ‘Pustertal’ valley. From here we follow the main road to the East and cross
near Silian back over the border to
Such stops are always good for some refreshing drinks or icecream. I also carry a little backpack with pockets for small water bottles, which we regularly refill at such stops.
The next section offers the best road in terms of riding fast, hardly any turns and long straight-aways, but also plenty of traffic. Once I finger out my camera and take a picture while driving, somewhat complicated by the fact that I have to operate the camera with the left hand (as the right hand controls the throttle).
maybe a minute or so of riding slowly behind a truck and putting my camera away
I decide to accelerate and close the gap to Frank up ahead. This is where a 100
hp motorcycle really makes a difference. Opening up full throttle in 5th
and 6th gear I quickly close the gap to Frank and briefly see speeds
up to 180 km/h on my speedometer. Last time I (briefly) moved this fast on 2
wheels was on the
we reach the town of ‘Lienz’ and carry on over a little pass to ‘Winklern’,
from where we retrace the route up the ‘Mölltal’ valley to the village of
‘Heiligenblut’ at the bottom of the ‘Grossglockner’ mountain. I’ve been here
many times, including 1 week ago with my son and mother with the car, as well
as on a mountain
bike ride 2 years ago crossing the ‘Grossglockner Pass’ from the North. In
fact, I stop at the same parking lot and take a self-timed picture from the
exact same spot each time, with the ‘
It is getting dark and we practically fly up this last pass road, with barely any traffic remaining this late in the day. It is almost 9:00pm when we reach the ‘Hochtor’, at 2505m our highest point for the day.
What a great day it has been! We didn’t waste any time and thus maximized the number of passes you can cross in daylight and thus the mountain scenery you can take in on a day like this. Now the sun has set and it is getting too dark for the sunglasses…
On the way down the North side we hook up with a group of 5 riders who also finish the day with one last descent. I pull ahead a few turns and stop to take a picture of the evening action:
odometer shows close to 600km which is also the mileage limit I negotiated with
the dealership for the 1 day rental. Frank will log 900km by the end of the day
due to his ride back and forth to
the bottom of the pass we reach the village of ‘Fusch’ and decide to stop for
dinner. I will stay overnight at a nearby