The Alps, 2019

Eight countries, nine Alpine passes, seven days

Document start date 24th September 2019    Last updated 2nd October 2019

Contents

Click on any image for a larger view (click on that for the original).
Clicking on a map thumbnail will give an interactive route map.

Introduction

Possibly because I may be coming to the end of my motorcycling career (a significant heart operation impending, and glaucoma affecting one of my eyes), my good riding friend R organised this little trip. There were three of us, R, my son, and me. No-one else was invited, we knew that we would be covering a lot of ground fairly quickly, and a larger group would inevitably lead to delays in keeping the group together, and we needed to "make progress".

Timing was also an issue. Son was committed to an event, running up hills for charity (sometimes I can't believe he is my son) on the Saturday, I have a hospital test on the Monday week. We didn't want to delay because later in the year the weather can close the passes we wanted to do.

R decided a route, and booked hotels. He's very good at this sort of organising, and knows most of the passes we would be riding, though he'd never done such a concentrated event.

So, Son gets home on Saturday approaching midnight, we need to set off at 7:30 in the morning. He is going to be tired. Oh, well, he will recover. He made sure his bike was packed before he went off on his little exercise.

My preparation? Friday I decide to check my tyre pressures. Look at my rear tyre - yes, that's got a couple of thousand miles left in in it. Front tyre? Oh, less tread than I thought. And it might rain. And I'm going to be riding in the mountains. So, ring up my local tyre supplier, "Have you go t a front tyre for me?" "Yes, I'm looking at a BT023." So, whip the wheel off, newspaper in the boot of the car (it's still "her" car, so I daren't get it dirty), in goes the wheel, and I have a nice new tyre on the wheel in short order. Put the wheel back on the bike, and as I fiddle the brake callipers to get them on, I notice the depth of the pads. Not exactly worn out, but I will be doing some braking in the mountains, possible heavy and prolonged. So, ring up my dealer, "Have you got some brake pads?" "Yes, in stock." So, jump in the car, round to the dealer. Brings out the pads. They're EBC. I really would prefer Yamaha, but that's all he has. Ok, they will have to do, and I install those. Now the bike is ready. I spend Saturday getting my laundry up to date and packing, ready for the Sunday 7:30 start.

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Day 1 (15/09/2019): Derby (England) to Pontavert (France)

In the past, we'd always used a ferry to get to the Continent. On this occasion, because of ferry time-tables, we would have lost another day. So we decided to use the Eurotunnel rail link.

This had repercussions, we couldn't sensibly get to R's preferred meeting point (just outside Saint Malo), so R suggested Pontavert, although this meant another (wasted) day for him.

We left Derby about 7:30 (son was a bit shattered, he'd had a tiring day the day before, and hadn't got home until nealy midnight.

The run down to Folkesone to catch the train was surprisingly good, no hold-ups at all, we were able to hold the speed limit almost the whole way.

Just one stop for fuel just before reaching the Eurotunnel terminal, then we checked in, to find that we could take a much earlier train than we had booked, which meant very little hanging around.

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Derby to Folkestone
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Bikes in the Eorotunnel train

Boarding was easy enough, but the staff guiding us on weren't clear about how they wanted the bikes parked in the carriage (cross cornered so the front wheel was against the curb), took a bit of shuffling when we finally realised. Too used to ferries.

The train was very smooth, virtually no sense of accelerating and decelerating. Quite impressive in its own way.

Off-loading took a little while since we were parked right in the last carriage. Having ridden off the train, I was a little surprised since there were no imigration formalities, apparently we'd done that in Folkestone without realisung it. The train and the tunnel must be considered part of France.


Then a pretty boring run on French motorwarys to our first night's destination, just outside Pontevert. Most of the roads were "peage" or toll roads, cost quite a lot, but it would have taken hours longer to avoid them. So, tolls it was.

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Calais to Pontavert
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First day's stats.
607.4 km=377.4 miles
94 km/h=58.4 mph
126 km/h=78.3 mph


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Day 2 (16/09/2019): Pontavert to Chambéry

Today was another slog along French motorways, again, mostly peage. It's the only way to cover ground in France, but it is expensive. Good run, no problems.

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Pontavert to Chamb & eacute; ry
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Second day's stats.
721.3 km=448.2 miles
97 km/h=60.3 mph
144 km/h=89.5 mph


Countries so far: England, France.
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Day 3 (17/09/2019): Chambéry (France) to Fully (Switzerland)

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On the D902
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On the D902
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Val D'Isère
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Val D'Is & egrave; re
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Near Montvalezan
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Lac du Grand saint-Bernard

Today is the first of the fun days. We head south, east then north, hit the Col D'Iseran (to Val D'Isere). We cross into Italy via the Petit St Bernard, followed by the Gran At Bernardo into Switzerland. The roads are all you could ask for if you like twists and turns. Click the route map below, follow it, expand it. The zigs and zags are challenging, but the roads are well kept and have plenty of grip.

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Chambery to Fully
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the bit towards Petit St Bernard
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Third day's stats.
382.5 km=237.7 miles
58 km/h=36.0 mph
137 km/h=85.1 mph


Passes today:Countries so far: England, France, Italy, Switzerland.
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Day 4 (18/09/2019): Fully (Switzerland) to Triesen (Liechtenstein)

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Near Passo Della Novena
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Bike hiding in the dark

Today was about more passes and more countries.

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One of those zig-zag roads
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Closer view
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Closer view to the right
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How they ease some of the hairpins
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There are a few birds up there
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View over the valley
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Son wants better vantage point ...
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... for his photo

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View over Totensee, ...
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... a lake ...
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... by the Grimsel Pass
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The Steinsee
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Cloud hides the valley
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We were above the cloud


That cloud covered our last pass, made going down a bit hairy, visibility was just a few yards. R, leading, found a car to follow. Son and I followed the tail lights of the bike in front. Unpleasant, knowing the drop-offs just off the edge of the tarmac. We stopped once at a viewpoint, R assured us that, had there not been this fog, the view was the best of any. Typical.


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Fully to Triesen
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Fourth day's stats.
430.5 km=267.5 miles
58 km/h=36.0 mph
133 km/h=82.6 mph


Passes today:Countries so far: England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein
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Day 5 (19/09/2019): Triesen (Liechtenstein) to Baden-Baden (Germany)

Well, the interesting stuff is over. We have two days to get to our ferry. First leg into Germany, however we are passing near the border with Austria. "Shall we make the detour?" asks R. "Of course" we both reply. So, we divert, cross into Austria (border police have no interest in us), turn round, back into Liechtenstein, and into Germany.

Lots of traffic. We go onto (famously) de-restricted autobahns, but don't push the speeds, there's little point, and the traffic is heavy enough to make it uncomfortable. So, moderate speeds it is.

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Looking over the Bodensee
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Looking over the Bodensee

We stopped once overlooking the Bodensee (as the locals call it) or Lake Constance (as the rest of the world calls it).


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Triesen to Baden-Baden
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Fifth day's stats.
442.5 km=275.0 miles
58 km/h=36.0 mph
148 km/h=92.0 mph


Countries so far: England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany.
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Day 6 (20/09/2019): Baden-Baden (Germany) to Zeebrugge (Belgium)

Just eating miles to catch our ferry. R's bike was causing him a problem, his clutch was dragging, changing gear was difficult. When we came to board the ferry, inevitably a slow performance, he was having real problems, so pushed it for much of the booking-in process. More of this later.

Never having been on this ferry before, I was somewhat surprised to find we had to strap our bikes down ourselves. Straps were provided, but the hawser running the length of our lane was pretty slack, and, as people adjusted their straps, the tension came and went. Most unlike the ferry I'm used to, from Plymouth to Santander, where the staff are responsible and do a pretty good job.

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Baden-Baden to Zeebrugge
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Sixth day's stats.
596.2 km=370.5 miles
90 km/h=55.9 mph
144 km/h=89.5 mph


Countries so far: England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, Belgium.
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Day 7 (21/09/2019): Hull to Derby (England)

The ferry crossing was unremarkable, smooth (for which I was grateful, considering my bike-strapping comments above). Arrived before the due time, docked, but weren't allowed to disembark until the official time, presumably because of the immigration people.

The motorbikes were pretty much the last off, and inevitably, I was in a queue where someone took ages to be allowed in. I was almost the last out of the dock. R rode his bike off the ferry, but having joined the immigration queue, he pushed the bike to the immigration kiosk. Son kept with him, mostly to make sure no-one ran into the back of him (I was put in a different part of the ferry, so was a bit away, couldn't provide any support).

We had arranged that son would accompany R to a Ducati dealer not too far away. They left the dock long before I did, and although I caught up with them before their turn-off, I went straight home, there was nothing I could do.

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Hull to Derby
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Seventh day's stats.
96 miles, average 56mph
(don't believe the maximum)


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Comments

My trip stats:

Total miles: 2072 (GPS), 2121 (odometer).

MPG (not including the last 150-odd miles): 56.79 (Imperial), 47.28 (US), which I thought was pretty good considering some of the riding we were doing.

Weather:

Temperature varied between about 6C and 35C (43F and 93F). Apart from our foggy bit, it was always sunny and bright, couldn't have wished for better. For the cooler tempertures, a fleece under my jacket was sufficient. The hotter temperatures were higher than I was comfortable with (being from England), but, whilst we could keep moving (and after remembering my suit had vents), it was fine.

Hotels and food:

R has always wanted reasonably high standards. Although he hadn't been to any of the hotels we used, he is very good at picking out satisfactory accommodation, we weren't let down on this trip. His organisation for the whole trip was well up to his usual standards.

Bike problems:

My FJR - none, son's ZX100SZ- none. R's Multistrada - hmm.

Wouldn't run properly until warmed up (a minor inconvenience) but then his clutch wouldn't free. When he first mentioned he had a problem, he said he was having trouble selecting neutral. We quickly diagnosed a dragging clutch, and found his clutch hydraulic fluid was black, seemed obvious that this was his problem. Not much we could do, but whilst waiting for the ferry in Zeebrugge, he phoned the Ducati dealer from which he had originally bought the bike in Lincoln, about 50 miles from the Hull ferry terminal, they said they could have a look if he brought it in (this would be a Saturday). After exiting the port, he rode it there (son in tow as mentioned above), they bled the clutch in 10 minutes or so, got him on his way, and didn't charge him.

As I've mentioned before, R lives on the island of Guernsey. His nearest dealer is on the nearby island of Jersey. He had it serviced there a few weeks before this trip. They obviously didn't do a very good job (he's been disappointed with them before, but has little option). He was, in any case, planning on changing it, it's given a lot of trouble.

Overall:

An excellent trip, really good riding, at least for the two days in the Alps. The other days were inevitable overhead, pretty boring. Had we not been under time constraints, we could have taken a few more days and had more interesting "before" and "after" days, but as things were it was impossible.

Route map tecnical stuff

I take route log files from my satnav, my earlier Tomtom would give a position every 10 seconds or so, my current one every second.

In the past, I've used Google Drive to lay the route points on an interactive map, which has worked well. It was a somewhat cumbersome process, converting the Tomtom file to a csv file, uploading that to Google Drive, getting Google to create the map and provide links for both a map I could embed in a web page and a stand-alone map.

Google have said they are withdrawing this facility later this year. I don't know whether previous links will work and just new routes will be stopped, but I needed to find another way ("need" is perhaps overstating it, but certainly a strong "want").

So, I found another way of doing it, using OpenStreetMap. This is an open-source operation, and can do much of what I want. Basically, I've taken an example they give, written a utility to substitute my map centre and zoom factor using the Tomtom's GPX file lat-lon data, also track colour etc, onto their example. This gives the result you can see. Not a trivial exercise, but now my utility is fully automatic, I just feed it the GPX file - a much simpler process than going through Google Drive. (Not all my own work, son helped me with some of the more esoteric bits. That's what sons are for, isn't it?)

Google was better in some resects, you could switch to a satellite or street view, and you could change the marker colours along the route - I like to do this to show direction. However, I never found a way of "joining the dots" with Google, whereas openstreetmaps does that.

I've not yet found a way of embedding a map. I also think loading the map segments is a little slower than Google.

So, still some work in progress, but so far so good.

End of technical stuff.

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