Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Europe Tour 2016 Part 2 - Head for the hills.

Continued from Part 1


The Africa Twin was dragged out into the light and we quickly got the front wheel off. I'd had new tyres fitted just before the we set off so I was gutted to get a puncture. Young Joe was a great help setting about the repair. I've got a bad habit of becoming a right miserable bastard when things go wrong with the bike and Joe kept my spirits up. Euan was enthusiastically smashing tyre levers around every where and trying to rip the tube out. Rick supplied the tools and everyone else mucked in. We found a wee hole in the tube which we patched with a pushbike patch which in turn was double patched with another piece of inner tube. The bike was reassembled and the tyre inflated. It stayed up! Our repair was airtight. Braw.
hoob phone pics

hoob phone pics

hoob phone pics

hoob phone pics

hoob phone pics

hoob phone pics


I phoned Wolfgang. We were supposed to be well on our way to his house up in Breitnau by now. Wolfgang assured us all was fine and not to rush. It was a nice ride over past lake Titisee and in no time we were at Wolfgang's traditional house. On the way over I was getting more and more concerned with our repair. Was it deflating or was I imagining things? I knew there was a motorcycle garage in Freiburg and I'd pretty much made my mind up to stop in there and get a new tube on our way to Livigno the next day. When we arrived at Wolfgang's the usual greeting and introductions were exchanged. Wolfgang's partner Uta had cooked a proper feed and we were joined by Wolfgang's son Robin and his girlfriend Danni. Between lunch and dinner Robin took us for a spin in Wolfgang's Willys Jeep (have a look on the bonnet) and we had some Rothaus beer that Wolfgang had kept cool in the stream beside his house. We never made it to the brewery, will have to do that on our next visit. Barbecue was for dinner and the evening was passed with more beers. I told the guys my plan to go to the bike shop and get my tube changed. They decided to head straight to Livigno while HB and I would follow Wolfgang to the bike shop. Livigno is a tax haven in the very north of Italy, not far from the Swiss and Austrian borders. The obvious route would mean riding through Switzerland and that would mean having to buy a Swiss vignette at 40 euro. I was also pretty nervous about riding through Switzerland after hearing all the horror stories about people being caught at 7 kph over the speed limit or crossing a line painted on the road by a meter and receiving huge, and I mean HUGE fines.

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At Wolfgang's place.

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Wolfgang gets some beers out the stream.

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 I checked the tyre pressure the next morning. It had lost a little bit air but was holding enough to get to the bike shop. I got busy with the foot pump while the guys packed their bikes up. I went over the route and the campsite we were heading for with them before HB jumped in Wolfgang's car and we all headed in separate directions. I followed Wolfgang to a familiar place, the same bike shop I had bought the tyre for the ZZR from on my last visit. My Africa Twin joined the queue behind some English guys who were also in with tyre problems. One of them had got a puncture in the rear of his Yamaha XJR which he'd repaired with one of those worm things. Like my repair it got him to the shop but he was changing the tyre for piece of mind, you don't want to be getting a blow out on some of the high passes! The new innertube was fitted and the guy even gave the bike a once over; it was like a mini MOT. All that for 40 euro. there's been some folk moaning that the Africa Twin has tubed tyres. Their argument is tubeless is easier to fix with the wee worm or rubber mushroom plugs. The guy with the XJR had done this very repair, but was very nervous about riding at any speed, so had to get a new tyre at 160 euro. I had the Markus the mechanic add his name to my list of destinations on my pannier lid before saying our goodbyes to Wolfgang and heading south.

hoob phone pics

hoob phone pics

hoob phone pics

hoob phone pics

hoob phone pics

We stopped at the Swiss border to buy our vignette, the Swiss border guards and police were friendly and helpful getting us on our way quickly, then it was motorway to Davos. I kept one paranoid eye fixed to the speedo all the way. Even from the motorway Switzerland is a stunning country but I couldn't relax in case I accidentally creeped over the speed limit. Off the motorway the speed limit is 80kph (50mph). The roads were open and fast but I crawled along at 80 with a queue of probably irate Swiss motorists behind me. Ultimately a fine of several hundred euros would mean the end of our trip so I dawdled along doing my best to make space for people behind to overtake when I could. There are several ways in to Livigno, one of which involves taking the tunnel. On one of our stops we picked up a message from the rest of the guys, they had attempted to take the tunnel only to find it closed. Instead of heading for the tunnel we took the route over the stunning Fluella Pass, Bernina Pass and the Forcola di Livigno. Once we were in these higher roads thing improved significantly. The Swiss alpine passes are among the best roads in the world. As we twistied out way up and over the mountains we passed glaciers, snow covered peaks and frozen lakes. At the top of our last pass, Forcola di Livigno we crossed the border in to Italy. Things could become much more fun now as I could give my full attention to getting us down the road into Livigno without worrying about being 7kph over the speed limit. I had done my best to commit Google maps to my sieve like memory and we found the campsite quite easily arriving just a few minutes behind the rest of the guys. It had been a long day but those last few miles from Davos to Livigno were absolutely amazing. It felt great to be back in the Alps.
phone pics from euro tour

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Time off the bike is just as important as time on it. We wanted a holiday as much as a motorbike trip so we had planned as many two night stops as we could. The sun was going down not long after we arrived in Livingno and the temperature dropped pretty fast, high twenties becoming low teens in no time. We headed to a local pizzeria for our food, watched Iceland shaft England at the football, had a few beers then back to the campsite where we found Joe, Jamie and Wojtek, who had headed back earlier, attempting to keep warm around Joe's double burner camping stove. Jamie was feeling so cold he even attempted to pre heat his sleeping bag over the stove.
Another stunning alpine day woke us up. I wanted to head off on the bike and ride Stelvio pass with everyone else opting to stay and chill out in Livigno. Livigno is a tax haven so the fuel I chucked in the tank before I set off was the cheapest I've found in years working out at around 80p per litre. Riding up the Passo del Foscagno gives great views over Livigno and takes you eastwards through some stunning Alpine landscape to the bottom of Stelvio pass. These roads were relatively quiet, it was good to get out on my own and chuck the bike around a bit. Most of the other traffic were bikes, I stopped to take a couple of photos and got speaking to a guy on a Triumph who loved the Africa Twin. I say speaking, he had no English and I had no Italian. He understood what I meant when I offered him a seat on the bike, he sat posing while his missus took photos of him. We headed off in opposite directions where after a few miles I joined the Stelvio Pass. I'd ridden the Stelvio before years ago on my 1150 GS, I thought it was busy then but it was fucking HEAVING now. There were hundreds of motorbikes, loads of pushbike, classic cars, fast cars, banger cars, motorhomes and tour buses and everyone was trying to squeeze into the same wee strip of tarmac that famously switchbacks its way up the mountain. Top Gear once declared Stelvio to be "The Best Driving Road In The World." They must be smoking better gear than Wojtek because while Stelvio is scenically stunning, it's no where near the best road in the area, never mind the Alps or the rest of the world. The tight hairpin bends offer no flow or variety. That doesn't stop folk from trying though, you really need to have your shit together, it seem that at least one person drops there bike riding Stelvio every day. I had a few close calls, dodging a few folk who miss judged the corner, running wide. I figured the secret was to keep an eye on what was coming down the hill. This meant looking nearly behind me as I rode forwards, it took a wee bit getting used to.


phone pics from euro tour
Wojtek samples Fermet Branca. It's fucking horrible.

phone pics from euro tour

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Overlooking Livigno.
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The campsite in the distance.

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Triumph owner and the Africa Twin.

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Stelvio.

phone pics from euro tour

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phone pics from euro tour

The top of the pass was stowed out. There were bikes everywhere. I though I was going to have to dump the bike further down the road untill a Harley rode away just beside the Suasage Stall. The top of Stelvio is like a wee village. There's a few hotels and shops selling souvenirs as well as the famous sausage vendors. The original guy was somewhat of an legend, folk said he spoke seven languages and was a millionaire. These days the orange stall has tripled in size and there's some competition over the road. Thankfully the food is still as good. I got a huge roll with a selection of sausages on it and, of course, it was loaded with sauerkraut and mustard. Braw

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  phone pics from euro tour

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phone pics from euro tour

It was more amazing views and chaos riding down the other side, I even got stuck in a traffic jam caused by a bus that couldn't make the hairpin bend. I went down as far as Trafoi before turning around and heading back over to Livigno with only a brief stop at the top again to speak to some English guys who had some ABR stickers on their bikes, ABR being a magazine I've been writing for. We exchanged stories and shot the shit for ten minutes before I headed down the hill. The temperature was getting up again as my altitude dropped, it was another scorcher when I arrived back in Livigno. I rode back into the campsite around 4pm to find the guys in various states of intoxication but mostly asleep. In the sun. There was gonnae be some sunburned bodies later on!
HB, Euan and I wandered into town for food and a few beers while the rest of the guys done their own thing. They were planning on riding Stelvio the following day before heading to our next destination, Abbadia Lariana on the banks of Lake Como.

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Livigno goats.
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But I'll keep that for Part 3.



Mike


6 comments:

  1. Nice shots of the mountain views....I remember Stelvio Pass fondly, rode it just after dawn and it was empty of traffic except for some test drivers on some fast MB cars....I think the crowded conditions you describe would have had me bailing out ....

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  2. Views from the passes are always so beautiful but they can keep all that traffic. I've heard of gravel roads through the area that would be fun though.

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  4. I've just watched England stuff Scotland, so swings and roundabouts hey.
    I spent 2 1/2 weeks around France and Germany around this time, the hottest we had was 37C.

    Great report by the way.

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  5. Spectacular mate, its on my bucket list to go to these places. Loving your write up

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