www AlpineRoads com Biking In The Alps
St. Moritz, Engadin - South-Eastern Switzerland
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One of the member states of Switzerland as we know it, Graubünden (The Grey Federation), is mostly German-speaking, but is also home to most of the rhaeto-romanic speakers in the country. Not unrelated to Latin, rhaeto-romanic is the fourth official language of Switzerland along with German, French and Italian. Outside Graubünden, little if any Rhaeto-Romanic is spoken, but there are still some speakers in small regions in the mainly Italian-speaking canton of Tessin (Ticino) and in the border areas of Austria.
The whole area has some brilliant roads, with a range of difficulties and surfaces. This area doesn't seem as concentrated as around Andermatt,and the passes aren't quite as extreme, but they are - on the whole - more fun to ride.
Up out of hot, sticky Tirano, you cross the border in to Switzerland (petrol's cheap here for some reason). You pass the lake and a few small towns - watch out for the railway running parallel to and often right in the middle of the road - some risky level crossings. It's quite fast and not too twisty. Out of the towns the road climbs gently on sweepers and a surface which stays superb all the way to St. Moritz. Up to the tree-line, then the road gets consistently tighter, but because it's a major road it's neither steep nor narrow. The section near the top is absolutely brilliant - fast tight bends which turn into huge, wide hairpins - just chuck the bike over and keep it there. Watch out if you're going really fast as some bends tighten a bit mid-corner.
The northern side is a lot straighter and damned fast, with great views of the mountians. Watch out for the one railway level-crossing - you'll take off if you're going over 30mph!
I like this road. Easy, fast and fun.
Check out the loony Norwegian's video at www.roadmc.com
B28 Davos - Flüela pass - Susch
An easy pass.
B3 Silvaplana - Julierpass - Tiefencastell
The southern side is mostly through the trees. It is not that wide, but has a great surface. After a short but steep drop from the top, the road levels out a bit towards miles of fast/medium sweepers leading to Mesocco. Most traffic takes the motorway.
13 Sufers -Thusis
Rofla gorge, and Via Mala: Take the single-track road that runs alongside the 2-laned motorway. This turns into a road only used by locals and bikes. It's been mostly rebuilt and has now only a few roadworks and bumpy sections, especially at the Bernadino end up to Splügen. Then the surface quickly improves through the trees and along a lovely section of curves up to the picturesque, wild Rofla gorge. Mostly twisites and serpentines. At high speed some corners can catch you out here and on the Via Mala. Great fun. Watch out for the one place where the road throws you onto the motorway for about 50 yards. Don't get stuck on it! The Via Mala is a very deep and narrow gorge. Just before Thusis, take a break if you've got a camera. Watch out for tourists in the road!
Well we ventured here again in 2003. Actually it wasn't as bad as we remembered it. The north (Swiss) side is a wide road and serpentines out of the little villlage of Splügen, then it narrows a bit through trees - snaking rather than twisting, then out above the trees on a long straight. Up a steep narrow set of hairpins on a very good surface to the Swiss border crossing.
Then there's a no-man's-land up more difficult narrow and steep hairpins and over the top to the Italian border. Watch out, the hairpins aren't signposted!
On the Italian side after the border the road continues up with fewer hairpins and a similar good surface. Watch out for cattle in the road. On the descent there are a few grim-looking villages and a few more hairpins leading to a fast road beside a reservoir. There are a couple of dark galleries before the village of Pianazzo. Turn right here to Chiavenna.
It's here that things get interesting. There are a large number of narrow galleries and unlit tunnels, some with bends in them or even hairpins. Previosly the road surface was very poor here but it has been improved somewhat.
Very difficult. A nightmare in the wet or dark (or both).
The surface is excellent all the way. The Davos end is fairly straight with some really kitschy little villages. Around Frauenkirchen it turns into sections of great flickable curves, twisties and a couple of hairpins.
Definitely a much better road than the B27 Sisch to St. Moritz road.
It's worth a detour from the north side to ride up to Bergün and back down.
We haven't ridden the Albula for a while, and it seems it's got a bit worse. Morten Schmidt in Denmark has this to say from May 2003.
28 Zenez - Ofen pass - M?stair/Sta. Maria
The road is fairly level and only climbs at each end near Zernez and Müstair.
Morten's comments: One small aditional comment you could make about the Ofen pass (and other Swiss roads, but the Ofen pass in particular), is that this road was NOT made by the same people who paved the Dolomites! The Swiss curves can change radius 3 or 4 times through a turn, making them highly (or at the very least somewhat) unpredictable.
although we must admit we didn't find it any more so than most roads.
The western side is less steep and has a much better surface. It runs through pretty dreary scenery on the whole, but the road has been widened in places and mostly resurfaced (2001) and it is now a blinder! Wide, generally good visibility and only a few short bumpy bits - do slow down big time for the tunnels! They are unlit, wet, with corners and serious potholes. The old, steep bit by the waterfall has been completely remade with a great series of wide hairpins (see panoram photo). It is still steep in places, especially just before the top, where the Umbrail/Sta.Maria pass joins from Switzerland. The top is normally very busy - packed with bikes and a bit touristy.
The eastern side is a completely different kettle of fish. It is much steeper and is pretty bumpy as the ground shifts here a lot, and it can be closed for a few days after a snow storm, even in July. - If so you can normally get down the Umbrail pass and go round. This side has so many hairpins you lose count - I think about 48 in all on this side, 39 on the west side. Enough for you? Got a stick to shake?
Unfortunately, if you're coming up this side, the hairpins are nearly all blind and extremely steep. Coupled with the awful surface I think it's a nightmare. If you do this and can honestly say you enjoyed it then I take my hat off to you. I'd recommend going down the east side rather than up.
Anyway, if you're doing this on a weekend be prepared to be overtaken. However fast you think you are, the locals'll piss on you.
After this the road gets an average tarmac surface again and climbs the last bit to join the Stilfserjoch just before the top.
On the whole, moderately difficult, but with some great high-ALpine scenery.
A dusty road with lots of heavy lories. Dull, boring but at least it's a way out of Livigno. Which is nice.
The tunnel into Switzerland is single track, and controlled by traffic-lights and is a toll road, cost €5.16 / GBP 3.12 in 2001.
ss301 Bernina pass - Forcola di Livigno - Livigno - Passo di Foscagno - Bormio
A duty free zone. You'll need your passport to get in from both Switzerland and often Italy as well. Get cheap fags and petrol here.
The Forcola di Livigno webcam is here
Dreary and treeless the valley has little to offer in the summer.There's too much traffic on either of the passes to make it enjoyable until you get to Bormio...
The Forcola di Livigno was closed in 2001, and the only other serious way in/out of the Livigno valley is via the single-track, traffic-light controlled Lago di Gallo tunnel to the north....
This is the starting point for the Stilfserjoch (Passo del Stelvio).