A compilation of places I’ve travelled by motorbike during 2013 filmed with my GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition
A compilation of places I’ve travelled by motorbike during 2013 filmed with my GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition
Following on from my trip to the Alps, and now over the post-holiday depression I paid BMW Park Lane a visit earlier this week to have a look at a new R1200GS and took this fetching red example for a short test ride:
I won’t bore you with all the details (there are plenty of online reviews on this bike) but suffice to say it ticks all the boxes for my inner geek with a long list of electronics. It is hugely powerful, reverberating at idle and accelerating with more torque than a freight train. The sound it makes echoes between the buildings.
I love my F800GS and it’s not going anywhere, but the next time I do 3,000 miles over 12 days I need something a little bit more spacious and with adjustable seats. The 1200 ticks the box here also with the front seat adjustable for height and angle, and the rear seat adjustable for space (moving forward and backward). And with 50% more horsepower and nearly double the torque of the 800, it promises to be even more effortless on a long day of riding.
After discussion with excellent sales exec Harald I selected options and accessories. I say excellent because Harald was patient and transparent with all my questions and went out of his way to liaise with the regional BMW UK manager to look into a small insurance issue for me (which was resolved to my satisfaction within 2 days).
I put down my deposit on a red 2014 R1200GS TE to secure a slot on the assembly line in Berlin. Third week of September, the computer says. Tick tock.
The TE (touring edition) includes the gorgeous full LED headlight/daytime riding light, electronic semi-active suspension (compensates for weight and road surface and can be adjusted firmer or softer as required), 5 riding modes, GPS mount, heated hand grips, tyre pressure sensors and cruise control.
I ordered it with the following options/accessories:
It will look similar to this bike (photo credit: BMW):
…but with these wheels (photo credit: BMW):
Why do I need two bikes? It gives me the best of both worlds really—I will use the F800GS for treks out on rougher roads/byways/trails, being the more suitable (and lighter) bike for this type of terrain, and also fitted with the tyres for the job. Since it has already done a winter on our salty roads, I can keep using it for commuting when the weather becomes foul without losing sleep over the inevitable damage the salt will do to the finish. For long trips and on days where it won’t be getting a salt bath I’ll have the R1200GS. That’s not to say it will be a sunny day/Starbucks cruiser bike, I intend to use it to its potential as well.
If, down the road, I find it does everything I want and the 800 becomes redundant I can always consider selling it on at that point. But for now it would break my heart to get rid of it when it has been a model of reliability and enjoyment.
BMW’s own insurance offers a really good deal for people with two BMW bikes—the insurance is paid on the more valuable bike and the less valuable bike is insured under the same policy at a flat rate of £5/£1,000 of value. A really good deal I must say.
I’ll need to update my blog description since it will now have a joint F800GS/R1200GS focus… Six weeks to go!
Today’s outing to mole valley
Apart from looking a bit like the rise of the machines, this was the most stunning sunset I’ve seen for as long as I can remember
My hero during this humid night #fan
While suffering at home in London in 30°C weather with clear skies and nearly 100% humidity, and after nearly a whole bottle of Chat-en-oeuf circulating through my veins I thought it would be a suitable time to reflect on the trip.
Hightlights? Visiting Tom in Lille, my friend Laure in Ammerschwihr, my friend Renate’s family in Flachau and meeting Dirkyan in Belgium all top the list.
There were a few more. Hôtel La Val in Ruèras Switzerland with its kind and accommodating husband and wife team, Hôtel Ambiente in Wemding Germany with its considered mix of old and new carried out to perfection, and Urberacher Hof in Urberach Germany with mum and daughter team Margarete and Gisela who made us feel part of the family. Honourable mention to Hôtel du Commerce in Thônes France with its tip top restaurant and meeting Zoë our expat Irish server (and fellow biker).
Every country we went to was full of generous, kind and welcoming people without exception. It’s interesting how countries gain reputations from visitors but our experience shattered all the preconceptions. From petrol station attendants to restaurant servers and hoteliers, everyone did more than their fair share to make us feel welcome. I don’t know how much of that was down to travelling by motorbike but it doesn’t matter really.
But which country did we enjoy most? I would have to say Germany. There is a certain acceptance ingrained in German culture toward outsiders that I can’t quite put my finger on. The roads on the whole are an engineer’s wet dream with curves and bends seemingly designed to fling a motorbike around. And the autobahn is always close by when the temptation of opening up the taps on the bike becomes too strong to resist.
I can’t neglect the Grimsel Pass in Switzerland, however. This caught me out, temperature dropping from 17°C at the bottom to 0.5°C at the top with a full on snowstorm. Perhaps I didn’t express earlier just how terrifying the experience was… I really thought at a few points that the next hairpin corner would be my last, slipping on black ice and sliding off the guardrail-less edge and smashing to our deaths on the rocks hundreds of metres below. But I wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything.
To balance the Grimsel, the Cormet de Roselend was the definition of joy on a bike, especially on the way back with a mad German man on an R1200GS as a pace bike in front of us. I think we caught him out keeping up on a fully loaded F800GS, a testament to the capability of BMW’s midrange GS bike.
Finally, the real star of the show was the bike. After 2,500-some-odd miles of heavy going (225kg including us and the luggage) it kept chugging along without retort, not giving a single problem along the entire journey. True, I replaced the rear brake pads in Austria, but they were nearly shot when I left London. I checked the oil a few times along the way but I needn’t have bothered—it didn’t use a drop. And the economy was the biggest surprise—60mpg on the nose. Considering the weight and the steep mountains we crossed, this figure is nothing short of a miracle.
I can’t wait for the next adventure later this summer—though it won’t be quite so far from home, I’m thinking Wales or Scotland.
This was the quiet star of the show—from hot to cold, and rain to snow these little units never stopped, never gave any problem at all. They are the least expensive units in Sena’s range but well-featured and support multiple bluetooth connections, so GPS instructions, mobile phone, music player and intercom functions all work as expected. Battery life is fantastic, with the intercom open all day they last nearly 2 days on a charge, and charge via USB. This is an example of a device that does what it should do without any fuss. Are you listening, SPOT?
Photo: Sena SMH5 • Source: Sena Technologies
Couldn’t be more pleased, it’s not particularly expensive gear compared to some but it is well constructed, fits me perfectly and works as advertised. I’ve shelled out a bit extra to replace the stock, unremarkable pads with D3O versions (CE Level 2) but otherwise it is as shipped. I stayed completely dry through all sorts of rain, with one exception—a bit of dampness seeping through the undersides of the trousers after 2 hours of downpour including an hour on the French motorway. The Variant helmet shape is also great in rain as the airflow combined with the peak keeps the visor clear of rain, and in hot weather it is the best ventilated helmet I’ve had to date. A lot of people seem to have an aversion to brighter coloured gear but to be blunt I don’t and whatever makes people see me means one less person to plough into me on the road. Too bright for you? They make their gear in black also. And the hood is great when you take off the helmet on a rainy day. Doesn’t flap at speed either.
The biggest disappointment of the trip with respect to gear—YES I know it says on their website that they recommend using special Energizer Lithium batteries but what they don’t say is that other batteries either don’t work at all, or only last an hour or so. The special Energizers are virtually impossible to find anywhere in Europe. Top that off with constant Bluetooth connectivity issues (phone and device stop talking) and a stupid app on the phone which needs to be in the foreground or the unit stops sending tracking points, and you have a product that would do better smashed at the bottom of a rocky Alpine chasm than on my next trip. Infuriatingly disappointing after wasting a shitload of cash on this plus another shitload of cash on the subscription fees. And the map sharing function on their website works like something from 1999. In 2013 devices should not be such a struggle—are you listening SPOT? Built-in battery, USB charging and up-to-date software should not be too much to ask for a ‘premium’ product.
Photo: SPOT Connect • Source: SPOT LLC
I’ll say one thing about the chain hotels—they do good international breakfasts. We were presented with a buffet-style spread (smorgasbord?) covering everything from fresh fruit to salad to scrambled eggs.
During breakfast the woman at the next table loaded up on two full plates of breakfast, and then made herself an enormous sandwich which she wrapped in a napkin and hid in her handbag. Naughty.
Our Eurotunnel ticket was for 6:20pm so we decided to taken the rural roads back to Calais since the journey would have only taken 2 hours by motorway.
Someplace between Antwerp and Ghent:
The same place, looking the other way:
Along the way we stopped in Brugge for lunch at an Egyptian restaurant I’ve been to a few times in the past—Toet Anch Amon—located 30m away from the Friet Museum (and free motorbike parking). It’s interesting how owners of small restaurants remember people who have come in before, as was the case this time. The last time I ate there was more than a year ago.
A museum all about chips:
London was calling so we slabbed it the last hour to the Eurotunnel terminal and arrived nearly 3 hours before our scheduled departure time. The Eurotunnel operates a flexible system allowing people to depart up to 2 hours before or after the scheduled time at no charge. The theory is to prevent people from driving dangerously to make their crossing.
With motorcycles it’s even more flexible, as the people directing traffic simply radio ahead to the train and squeeze you on the next available crossing regardless of the schedule time.
After speaking with an extremely cheery border officer we made our way to the shuttle and crossed 2 1/2 hours early.
View from inside the shuttle as we left Calais—train yards are not exactly eye candy:
In situ for the crossing:
A panorama of the carriage:
Coming out on the Folkestone side we beelined it straight to London dodging the sloppy UK drivers most notably in South East London. Unscathed we arrived and got straight on the phone for takeaway before checking out for the night.
The Urberacher Hof was another highlight of the trip—Gisela and her mother Margarete were fantastic hosts. We were treated to a full classic German breakfast and then personally seen off when we left. Definitely worth a stay.
Milka muffins for breakfast:
A bit of memorabilia from a Canadian icon—in central Germany:
The weather was threatening to rain but fortunately never followed through and before long the clouds parted. I said it before, but Germany is made for motorbiking, the roads are excellent and the speed limits are realistic enough that you can have fun without risking your licence.
A mum-n-pops petrol station:
We soon headed off the main road onto a twisty, narrow route through the forested hills.
During the climb, a beautiful cathedral appeared:
We stopped in a tiny farming village for a quick rest. Maybe being used to dirty old London our standards are low but Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria and Germany were shockingly clean everywhere, no rubbish to be seen.
Old tudor style farmhouses, some in better condition than others:
Around 5pm we reached Würselen (near Aachen), the unassuming home of FC Moto—and known for its excellent European mail order service selling all sorts of motorbiking gear. Indeed there was an overwhelming selection of everything from helmets to full body rigs.
Out front of FC Moto:
We slabbed it from Aachen across the bottom of the Netherlands, stopping briefly in Heerlen for chocolate sprinkles (a Dutch/Belgian thing) and on towards Antwerp.
We met up with our friend Dirkyan at a motorway exit just before Antwerp and followed him through some beautiful Belgian villages to his home where we met his wife and were treated to a delicious home cooked meal and local specialty beer. We stayed until late talking about our travels and life in general. It was a real pleasure and a great way to spend the evening—thank you Rango for inviting us to your home!
We rode the short distance to Antwerp where we stayed in our first chain hotel of the trip—the Scandic Hotel Antwerpen. But the price was right and the night manager let me park underneath the hotel for security in the staff area. Even the chain hotels can be accommodating when you travel by bike.
Still not over my cold I didn’t even unpack the panniers, it was straight to bed for the night.
I came down with a nasty cough/head cold which kept me up with hiccups and heartburn much of the night. With breakfast running only until 9am I had no choice but to get myself up but couldn’t face anything more than a yogurt and some melon.
Hotel Ambiente looking fantastic despite the cloudy skies:
Feeling less than myself I could barely bring myself to carry down the panniers, sweating like I’d run a marathon. We got underway and the cool air helped matters considerably with the odd rain shower actually refreshing as we rode toward Kitzingen.
Petrol station colour matched to the bike:
We arrived in Kitzingen around noontime—having been 14 years since I was last there, I couldn’t remember where to go to find the cemetery where Vlad (Dracula) the Impaler was buried.
The tourist information office was closed between noon and 2pm so I stopped by the local police station where I was buzzed into a rather stark and intimidating office.
However, I was greeted by a smily and rather round older policeman with an enormous German-style moustache and his colleague who looked about 12 years old. I’m quite certain it wasn’t the first time they were asked about this as they had a good old laugh when I told them where I wanted to go. Nice to see the Bundespolizei actually have a sense of humour as they always look so serious and suspicious when you see them in the open.
We got to the cemetery which is just over the road from the town’s crooked church spire which, through the years, has leaned directly toward Dracula’s grave. The spire has openings in the shape of inverted crosses so that at nighttime the light inside will fall on the ground the correct way up in relation to the spire itself.
The crooked spire:
Dracula’s grave protected from vandalism by the wrought iron gate:
On the ceiling above the grave are angels throwing up on the bodies of people Dracula killed in battle:
Close-up of one of the skulls:
A shot of the rest of the cemetery:
We carried on toward the village of Giebelstadt where I stayed with friends in the (now disused) US army barracks in 1999. Along the way we stopped to have a bite to eat at a little bakery in Fuchsstadt where I accidentally knocked over the bakery’s sandwich board with my right pannier.
The bakery in Fuchsstadt:
Unfortunately I couldn’t find the barracks—it seems they were knocked down after the US army abandoned the base so we topped up with petrol and started moving in the direction of Aachen.
Still not feeling my best we stopped more often than usual, in one place on the side of a farm road where we were approached by a very excited black dog and a farmer woman who spoke German with the strangest accent I’ve heard. I don’t think she saw tourists often and was interested in hearing where we’d been and how long we’d been travelling.
Rural farm road:
By 5pm I was done for the day, finding it increasingly difficult to focus on the road so it was time to find a place to spend the night. My phone picked up the Urberacher Hof 20km away in Urberach which was favourably rated and only €50 for the night.
When we arrived I have to admit I would have taken the room even if it was lined with cockroaches but it was a wonderfully quirky and slightly kitsch mum-and-daughter operation with a homely atmosphere.
The owners allowed me to park in their back garden for added security:
We had dinner at the gasthaus which specialised in pub-style food.
Perhaps boring to look at but one of the most delicious salads I’ve had recently:
Half a deep fried chicken with chips—this is what holidays are about:
The view from our table:
Bellies full it was time to get some sleep and hopefully shake off my nasty cold.
We had a traditional Austrian breakfast at 10am and packed up to head to Munich.
Our friends’ beautiful traditional Austrian style home:
What a luxury to have a view like this from the sitting room:
By the time we’d finished saying our goodbyes it was nearly noon. We decided to slab it to Munich to make up some time and so we would have a chance to visit BMW Welt.
We both agreed that Austria was a fantastic country to ride through, let down only by the enormous police presence for speed checks, plus countless speed cameras, particularly on the autobahns. Fortunately no flashes on this trip.
We entered Germany about an hour after leaving and gave the bike a chance to stretch its legs on a few sections without speed limits. With panniers and a full load on half-worn Heidenau K60 Scouts I didn’t push it beyond 160km/h but it still had plenty more to give.
What amazes me about the F800GS is how stable and forgiving it is, no matter what the speed or load. It has torque like a freight train in every gear but at the same time it’s easy to keep at the speed you wish without constantly having to make adjustments to the throttle.
From the cracked single track lanes and dirt roads of France to the snowy hairpins of the Grimsel Pass in Switzerland to the Autobahns of Germany nothing catches it out—BMW have done well to make a true all-rounder bike.
Munich really is BMW-land and it seemed that one out of two vehicles on the road carried the blue and white checkered flag. We arrived at BMW Welt around 2:30pm and parked underneath in the sterile car park, every surface clean enough to eat off.
After a quick lunch at the sandwich bar we had a wander through the atrium.
The new Rolls Royce coupé:
On the terrace:
The new vehicle delivery area:
BMW headquarters from BMW Welt:
Suspended F800GS pimped out in Touratech toys:
BMW M display:
After we finished at BMW Welt we paid a reasonable €2 for parking and slowly made our way out of Munich during evening rush-hour. Stop and go traffic isn’t particularly pleasant in 27°C weather in full gear so it was a relief once we came out of Dachau and were on the open German B-roads.
The Autobahn is a novelty for a little while with its lack of a speed limit in some sections but Germany’s B-roads were made for motorbikes. Apart from 50km/h speed limits in towns and villages, and the odd 80km/h section at higher-risk junctions, the speed limit is 100km/h which means good progress through the countryside and long sweeping curves among the fields and rolling hills.
The Germans are also exceptionally skilled drivers on the whole as evidenced when we were passed by a Volkswagen Transporter and then had difficulty keeping up through the curvy bits. The drivers certainly enjoy a bit of speed.
By 8pm I was tired and my bottom felt like it was about to prolapse so I fired up the booking.com app to see what was around. About 10km away was the very reasonably priced Hotel Ambiente in Wemding so we headed over to have a look.
The hotel was right on the corner of the town square in a medieval German village and full of old world charm. We keep having rooms on the 2nd floor of hotels which means lugging the panniers up several flights of stairs after long and tiring days, and today was no exception.
After a quick shower to freshen up we headed down to the restaurant and were treated to proper German pub fare with fantastic local beers and ice cream sundaes to finish off. A perfect end to an enjoyable day—well maybe with the exception of the young chaps trying to impress their girlfriends by tearing around the town square on their 50cc hairdryer scooters during dinner. But we’ve all been there one way or another.
Just as we were heading to sleep lightning started in the distance—fingers crossed for a dry day tomorrow.
View from the window:
Fountain in the square:
Usually a shower is a daily routine to keep from being offensive to others, but this morning it was an occasion with clean modern Austrian design in the wet-room style and a view of the Alpine hills out of the window. The lights come on automatically when entering the room and the fan switches on when it detects a decrease in air quality. I love ‘invisible’ tech, with each item going about its business on its own accord.
Wet-room style shower:
Clean Austrian architecture with solid wood cabinetry (no MDF here):
Suitably clean we intended to do a 45km loop of villages near Flachau including Filzmoos, Ramsau am Dachstein, Haus, Schladming, Pichl and Radstadt. Doing a quick once over of the bike I realised I had less than 1mm of brake pad material on the rear. The BMW Navigator has the full BMW Motorrad dealership network programmed in so I chose the closest one and pointed the bike in that direction.
The closest dealership ended up being Autohaus Kaufmann KG, 64km away in Kaprun—or to put it another way nearly halfway back to Innsbruck. Fortunately the route ran through some roads seemingly made for bikes with perfectly banked corners and not much traffic.
Arriving at the dealership they had a main garage for both cars and bikes, and a smaller, almost tent-like structure just for bikes. I spoke with the service adviser/technician who asked for the paperwork for my bike which was back in Flachau. No big deal, they pulled it from the chassis number.
Not 20 minutes later the bike was in and out, new brake pads installed and I was presented with a reasonable €66 bill for parts, labour and 20% tax. German/Austrian efficiency at its finest? I’m sorry to say I could never see that happening in the UK where the usual routine is to call ahead and then book it in for the following week. And despite my distinct lack of German language skills they provided a tip top, warm and friendly experience. Plus one for Autohaus Kaufmann KG.
Heading back to Flachau with a balmier 26°C showing on the instrument panel we foiled several hiding police trying to catch speeders (they are ALL over Austria, this is not a country where it’s advisable to break the speed limit).
Fresh off the lay-by of Europe’s Sankt Johann im Pongau—this year’s rage in warm weather, high-flow functional underclothing for the motorcycling world… can be wetted for additional air conditioning properties. Rippling muscles optional. Yes—you saw it first here:
Back in Flachau we thought we would have little rest and then do the village loop after all, but it wasn’t meant to be since we both ended up in siesta-mode, waking up in the early evening just in time to go to dinner at Pinocchio Pizza (we are less than 2 hours from Italy after all).
A group shot courtesy of our server’s photographic prowess:
Italian food with Austrian style:
After dinner we went inside to the bar and had hazelnut schnapps followed by a pine schnapps from a specific pine tree which only grows between 1,200 and 1,800m. It was a perfect end to our time in Austria, and we went back to the chalet for a good night’s sleep before tomorrow’s journey to Germany.
The next morning we woke up to blue skies and no forecast of rain after one of the best sleeps I’d had in a long time.
After a traditional Swiss breakfast of breads, meats and cheeses we packed up and headed towards Vaduz, Liechtenstein.
Morning view—no HDR required:
A quick rest in the shade:
Arriving in Liechtenstein:
The roads in Liechtenstein are very similar to Switzerland with the same type of signs and the same speed limits. It is such a small country that we were in Vaduz within 20 minutes of crossing the border.
We parked illegally on the pavement to nab a shot of the art museum—a perfectly rectangular building among all the old-world architecture.
Obligatory shot in front of the Kunstmuseum in Vaduz:
The castle overlooking Vaduz:
We did a 50/50 mix of autobahn and backroad riding since we had a considerable distance still to cover to reach Flachau where we were invited to stay with some friends. By chance we ended up going through the Arlberg Road Tunnel, Austria’s longest tunnel at a nose less than 14km in length. For most of the length there is a slight curve but it gets to the point where you almost get hypnotised by the overhead lighting and is not for the claustrophobic among us.
Coming out of the tunnel on the Tyrol side we paid the €9 toll and exited the autobahn to carry on through some of the Alpine villages and towns.
Being Sunday everything was closed but that didn’t stop us using the car park of the local Spar for another break:
Charly’s Hundefriseur for Fido’s short back and sides:
And another stop:
Near the bottom of the last pass before Flachau—Hochkönig—like a complete divvy I decided to see how hot the brakes were by touching them after 10km of 18% grade… no more needs to be said:
Looking down the hill toward Mühlbach am Hochkönig:
We arrived in Flachau at roughly 8:30pm and spent the evening sharing photos and catching up with our friends in their gorgeous new Austrian-style chalet home surrounded by the juicy green landscapes from The Sound of Music before checking out for the night.
We woke up to grey skies and non-stop rain so we didn’t exactly rush to leave Thônes. After we packed up we had a walk around the Saturday market before setting off toward Switzerland.
Negotiating the narrow Alpine roads in the wet was a little bit less confidence-inspriring than in the dry as many are poorly surfaced due to the hard winters and the bike has a tendency to slip somewhat mid-corner if pressing on a bit too hard.
We arrived in Chamonix at lunchtime after nearly two hours in torrential rain. I was only damp on the undersides of my legs from the constant tyre spray but everything else was perfectly dry. Plus one for Icon’s waterproof gear.
Not exactly under cover:
Over the road a shop selling biscuits, booze and candy, what’s not to like:
Kitchen doesn’t open for lunch but they threw together some delicious salads topped with fried egg:
After lunch we crossed the border into Switzerland where a few bored-looking border police were ignoring the cars and carried on to Martigny. The descent is an amazing drive, long downhill straights with hairpin corners on the ends and an incredible view of the valley lined with vineyards.
From Martigny we headed east and as we carried along the valley the rain eventually stopped.
A quick stop in the valley:
A chap and his wife were walking along and offered to take a photo—they didn’t seem the camera-snatching type:
At the east end of the valley the rain started again as we started to climb. Little did I know that the GPS was leading me over the Grimsel Pass, one of the higher Alpine passes in Europe and a notoriously harrowing road. At bottom the temperature was around 17°C and as we climbed I was watching the thermometer slowing counting down.
Approaching the snow line:
A sign of what was to come:
Not the best panoramic shot but gives a sense of how vast this place is. Looks like the mountains were draped in green before a generous sprinkling of frosting:
The road was great going up but as we reached the summit the rain showers turned into a snowstorm and the temperature had reached 0.5°C, ice warning flashing away on the instrument panel.
Fortunately the snow wasn’t sticking to the road but my windscreen was covered, and I was wiping my helmet every 30 seconds or so to see.
After the summit is one of the most nerve-racking, narrow roads I’ve been on. It’s corner after corner of left-right bends with no barriers and a sheer drop to the unknown. I’ve driven and ridden some crazy mountain passes in my time but this one, combined with the snow, literally frightened the life out of me.
Out the other end, the temperature rose as quickly as it had fallen and before long we were in Andermatt where we stopped to [kiss the ground] have a pizza. The barman spoke fluent English and there were 3 American chaps sitting at the next table who were behaving slightly oddly as though they were looking for trouble. Couldn’t quite put my finger on it but I’ve travelled enough to know when it’s time to move on.
I got my booking.com app fired up and found a room at a reasonable cost at Hotel La Val about 30km away in Sedrun-Ruèras.
The hotel and the man and woman who ran it were absolutely lovely, like they were inviting us to stay in their own home (which, in some respects, they were). It was very 70s in style but warm and cozy, and everything was absolutely spotless. They even let me park the bike in their personal garage for the night so it would be secure.
Cannot recommend this hotel enough.
A room with an HDR view:
Swiss-style in-room shower—quirky:
After feeling a bit shell-shocked from the ride over the Grimsel Pass, it didn’t take long to fall asleep in one of the most comfortable beds so far this trip.
We left Thônes around 11am with the intention of visiting my snowboarding haunt Les Alps—in particular Chalet Les Sapins where I stayed a while back. As we were already behind schedule, Nice and Monaco were knocked off the list and we intended to head northeast towards Liechtenstein after passing through.
Alpine meadows near Le Lencieux:
Up and down mountain after mountain and it keeps chugging along:
Along the way, the first pass is Col des Aravis, an easy ride up (freshly resurfaced) and a bumpy ride down (patch on top of patch). I have been having a lot of trouble trying to capture the enormity of these mountains and passes, my lenses don’t do them justice.
Col des Aravis:
Flossy enjoying life in Col des Aravis:
Halfway down, we stopped briefly in La Giettaz to use the public toilets which are next to the roadway with a convenient lay-by large enough for a couple motorbikes.
We carried on towards Bourg-Saint-Maurice on some seriously narrow backroads—after doing so many hairpin corners I have completely got over my anxiety about doing U-turns on a fully loaded bike, practice makes perfect and there is no room for errors on these roads.
Not your banker’s Mercedes… near Le Manon:
The highlight of the journey was Cormet de Roselend—a high Alpine pass connecting Beaufort with Bourg-Saint-Maurice. This road is literally make for motorbiking—a well-surfaced ribbon of tarmac snaking its way through the mountains and around the north end of Lac de Roselend with its steely blue-green water.
The stunning Lac de Roselend—photos cannot communicate how enormous and open this pass is:
Nearly ready to carry on:
From Lac de Roselend to the summit and down to Bourg-Saint-Maurice:
Arriving in Bourg-Saint-Maurice we stopped for a snack in neighbouring Séez before heading up to Les Arcs.
A snack in Séez:
It was when we reached Arc 1800 where things went a bit pear-shaped… Trying to navigate the maze of roads (which are ski runs in the winter) is like trying to untangle a bowlful of overcooked spaghetti and we inevitably ended up on the wrong road at a dead end. I’m not sure what I did exactly but in the process of doing a 3-point turn on a slope I overbalanced the bike and it ended up on its left side with us on the floor next to it, rear wheel still happily spinning along in first gear.
One bruised wrist (Zev’s) and a slightly scuffed plastic corner piece on the pannier later, we picked ourselves up and headed back down the hill toward Bourg-Saint-Maurice again.
I’ve come off my bike riding off road enough times and it has never shook me up but for some reason I experienced a significant loss of confidence for the next hour or so, running over in my head how I managed to tip us over in the first place. I was a bit surprised how something so minor put such a damper on the day.
Safely reaching Beaufort again we figured it was time for a drink and another bite to eat. We contemplated heading toward Chamonix but decided we were tired and it would take the same amount of time to go back to Thônes and have another delicious dinner at Hôtel du Commerce.
Having another snack in Beaufort:
One last stop before heading back to Thônes:
We reached the hotel, stuffed ourselves silly with some of the best food I’ve had and passed out asleep, ready to try again tomorrow.