www AlpineRoads com Biking In The Alps
Assuming you don't own a piece of junk, basically, YES! Prepare to ride
up to 2000km a week on average, plus 1000km getting there and back
(from the UK). So make sure the bike is in good condition. Chain, tyres,
brake-pads and oil. You don't want to be wasting valuable holiday time looking
for a shop in northern Italy, or wherever, just to buy a set of tyres which is
going to cost you as well, as you'll probably end up having to pay full
bike-shop prices. I always find the first 3 days to be the hardest - it takes
time to adjust to the more intense riding and conditions. After that I find
things settle down and I can really start to enjoy the end of day post-mortem
(not literally hopefully).
If you have only a limited amount of time, and it looks unlikely that you'll be back for a while to "do" the rest, then I'd recommend you go to one of these areas. You should be able to cover them easily within a week including getting there, barring mishaps.
A tricky one, this, and one that we get asked quite often. It depends on so many variables that I can only give you a general answer. The things that mostly affect the distance you can ride include:
Martin drew up this graph of the miles per day we did from a selection of our trips. This doesn't include days where we didn't ride at all for whatever reason.
As you can see there is a fair spread of values, with the peaks at 160 and 230 miles or so. What this represents is anyone's guess, so I'll leave the interpretation up to you.
Bear in mind that you'll be on small, unknown country roads most of the
time, you'll probably not really average much more than about 45mph, dropping
to around 30mph if you include lunch and photo breaks. Looking back through my
notes of old trips we rode between 180 and 200 miles a day usually, on the road
about 10am and stopping at about 5 - 5:30 ish. That dropped to 55miles on a
very wet Grimsel pass, and over 500 on a blast back up into Italy. I'd plan on
about 200 miles a day for those days you actually ride.
The Alps are high enough to have snow falls throughout the summer. So
always have in mind that a high route may be blocked for bikes for a day or so
after a storm. To avoid most of the snow and freezing temperatures at
the tops of passes go after mid-June. Before that, keep to the lower
passes and get the electrically-heated fur undies on. Most major passes are
officially closed until mid-June, so plan to be flexible and have an
alternative "low route" available.
The start of July is when the main holiday periods start. This means 1)
there's more traffic on the roads, and 2) most of the hotels etc. will actually
be open (assuming they're not full). The good news is that most of this early
holiday traffic is just passing through from Germany to Italy and doesn't stop
much. The last few years the Alps haven't started filling up until mid or end
The Alps are a rain-magnet, and it frequently snows in summer on the
higher passes (though it doesn't always settle on the road ). It is very
frequent that you start a journey in scorching conditions and 15 miles later
you're shivering. So have your waterproofs, bear-furs and bikini at the ready.[
On the whole the average Brit. biker will find the attitude towards
bikers a breath of fresh air (if often accompanied by a whiff of garlic). At
worst attitudes are neutral, at best you can find hotels and pensions reserved
just for bikers. Hoteliers and restaurateurs have woken up to the fact that by
alienating bikers they are losing a large source of income. There are a growing
number of especially "biker-friendly" places springing up all over the place
and some of these places provide lists of the best local roads and sometimes a
workshop and recovery service. We've even been given good local road tips by a
German border guard while Martin waved the traffic through. (The roads were in
Austria - was he trying to tell us something?).
It's up to you really - we did our first trips with old
Greek-island-hopping rucksacks bungeed onto the pillion. Hard or soft, it's up
to you, just don't overload. Make sure the weight and distribution doesn't
affect the handling, or get in your way. Otherwise you won't enjoy it. Not a
bit. Hint: We always take a couple of black bin-liners - always useful for
making sure everything stays dry in a downpour, and can help keep the dirty
skids away from the cleaner shirts.
If you're in a group you can share some of the tools amongst you. It's a
good idea to make sure that you have one of every tool to be able to remove the
bodywork and tank; to get to the plugs and to remove front and rear wheels
(tyre changing tools are hardly worth taking). Anything more than that and
you'll probably need a garage anyway. I recommend a length or two of thick,
insulated wire - this can double as an emergency jump-starter cable and to tie
on bodywork/luggage in a scrape. You only need one can of your favorite
chain-lube. In Italy, motor oil is generally only available in 2litre bottles,
a bit of overkill for a top-up. A way of siphoning petrol is
all too frequently useful.
We get asked this question fairly often, and unfortunately just as the proverbial meat can also be poison, we would like to offer a list of our
favourite stretches in each region. We thought of an overall rating system, whereby evey stretch gets a mark,
but that really is just too complex and of questionable
value, so we decided to stick with our own personal top 3 list.
are generally easy to find in the Alps. Large towns only have more
expensive hotels. There are very few Motels. In Italy away from mountains and
lakes accommodation is particularly difficult to find. In general if it ain't
scenic forget it in Italy. An Austrian pension with breakfast should cost max.
€29 (ÖS 400), normally around €18. English is spoken in quite
a few places though less so in Italy and France. Try the gîtes
in France. In Italy, B&B is scarce, so hotels are the place to stay.
[This is what Mark thinks: I carried my one-man around on the
Suzuki no worries. Bungee it on properly and off you go. Of course as soon as
you start with tents and sleeping bags and stoves and footballs and sun
loungers then it gets a bit tight for a pillion on a sports bike...]
[Thanks to Neal for this:]