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Old 11-14-2011, 03:47 PM   #1
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Tornante Pt 1: The Alps Aug & Sept 2011

I was lucky enough to go to Italy for a month. One week of that was a conference in Asti, the excuse for the trip... I arrived a week early to rent a motorcycle before the conference. This thread will be about that trip, I also had a long 4 day trip after the conference where I got to play in the Dolomites.

I've been traveling all over California on my bike, riding 9,000 miles on the bike last year. I took the Alameda County Sheriff Civilian 1 day Motorcycle Course, basic and intermediate versions. I reviewed ride reports on a variety of web sites, BARF and ADV Rider being the main sources of safety and travel information (Thank you Kurt!). I studied the road signs and laws for Italy and Switzerland.

I was fortunate to get a Book by John Hermann, Motorcycle Journeys Through the Alps & beyond, 4th ed. It has many routes and suggested rides.

The best map was the Hallwag International Biker's Paradise MotoMap of Switzerland 1:275,000 scale (Picked it up at a Coop store (the Swiss and Italian version of a grocery chain). It has really good maps with numbered routes, each route has a card with detailed listing of passes and towns as well as rating them on a bunch of factors (twistyness, road condition, elevation gains...)

There were also local maps that I picked up along the way, in the Dolomites the hotels had favorite routes and maps. I strongly suggest 1:200,000 maps as well. 1:300k or bigger are just not fine enough to show the fun roads. Also, bring a GPS... I don't have one and spent quite a bit of time lost pulled over checking my iPhone.

They have speed cameras so I did not see police working speed enforcement. The nice thing is they have warning signs before the cameras. So, you know when you need to go slow, although in Switzerland, the answer is "obey the law", in Italy the answer is "be safe".

My first view of the Alps from the plane.


I flew into Milan from SFO, rented the bike and rode up to Verbania on Lake Maggiore. Where I would stay for 3 nights, riding the roads around the Lakes and visiting the Moto Guzzi museum.


BiancoBlu Moto rental in Milan was the place I rented from. They were the only one I could find that did not have a daily mileage limit. The rate for a F650GS seemed pretty reasonable to me and it was a good little bike. I had wanted to try the Tenere 660, but the previous renter dropped it and bent the forks. It ended up being a blessing as the BMW has heated grips, while the Tenere does not. The bike had a little over 13,000 Kms on it when I picked it up.


It was very hot and humid in Milan.
I brought only five pieces of riding gear with me. My Dainese boots, Hit-Air airbag vest, neck warmer, custom earplugs, and some summer weight gloves. Bianco Blu supplied the jacket, helmet, waterproof pants, and heavy gloves. All my stuff fit in a backpack, with stuff sacks to make it easy to move to the Givi hard bags on the bike. They were also nice enough to let me store stuff in their garage between trips.

The F650GS was a very easy to ride bike, especially at lower speeds. It lacks low end torque, so pulling out of corners was often a case of clutch slipping. The seat was not very comfortable after 200 miles in a day, but it was easy to stand up and ride when needed. Standing up was also needed for the cobblestone roads.

The first day I was very happy to get up to the lake and check the view.


Riding up on the Autostrada is pretty much like any toll Freeway. Pick up a ticket and then pay when you exit the Autostrada. It's also very expensive, about the same as a train ticket.

I knew riding in Italy and Switzerland would be different. One advantage is that motorcycles park anywhere, except car parking spots. Lane sharing is mandatory, the scooter lane is between any two objects on the road. One really nice thing is that everyone stays to the right, and passes on the left.
More to come, but first a view from my hotel room.

Last edited by Tydive; 11-18-2011 at 04:42 PM.. Reason: larger pics per request :-)
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Old 11-14-2011, 04:24 PM   #2
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Day two

The plan was to cruise around the lakes and check out the the Moto Guzzi museum.

Lake views were really amazing. You can see why so many Italians vacation here in the Lake district.


My favorite parts were the tornante (Italian for hairpin turn). So many winding roads. They are just amazing.


A few shots of the lakes... waiting for the ferry.

Just lovely,


A view down to the lakes


Moto Guzzi was closed for August

Oh well, the ride was worth it.


Last edited by Tydive; 11-15-2011 at 11:01 AM.. Reason: Larger Pics
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Old 11-14-2011, 04:47 PM   #3
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Day three
Once again starting off along the lake crossing over to Bern Switzerland.

The passes were everything from small to large, but all were smooth and fun.
Starting out it looks like a great day.

If you like 180 hairpin turns the Passo Alpi di Neggia between Vira and Musignano is a must ride.

Best technical pass so far and just beautiful.

Nice and narrow too, listen for the triple tone bus horn. Big bus, small road, you do the math. It is very simple, stay to the right all the time. Chances are you will be fine. I kinda like to think of the fog line as my "lane".

There were lots of bikes, but I had to get a shot of this one at the ferry.

A quick ride across the lakes, the ferries ran often and were inexpensive. Pro tip for the ferries, keep your bike in gear and on the side stand.

Riding the fog line made some right hand turns and tunnels very fun. They seem to be allergic to straight lines.

Back at the lake, it's just so beautiful. Makes me wish I had the good camera.

Sometimes the main road is a little small or cobble stoned. Riding slowly and keeping to the right on turns was the key to enjoying the small towns, remember you will find a bus on every road.

It's hard to explain just how beautiful some of the high passes really are..

But I'll try.

I'm not the only rider around here.

Gotta love the Alps.

Last edited by Tydive; 11-15-2011 at 11:04 AM.. Reason: larger pics
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Old 11-14-2011, 04:53 PM   #4
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Old 11-14-2011, 06:14 PM   #5
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Old 11-14-2011, 09:46 PM   #6
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is it possible to post a bigger version of the pics ?
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Old 11-15-2011, 02:44 PM   #7
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Pics are now bigger

So, some summary from the Lakes district. Riding up to Malesco from Cannobio or Locamo is just a fun and wonderful ride. I really enjoyed stopping in the small towns and getting the local produce, cheese, meats, and breads. Look for the "Producto Typico" or similar. I really enjoyed Finero, a small town with yummy food and amazing views. They got used to seeing me after my 3rd trip through town.

When riding along the lake shore roads it is best to avoid weekends. That said it is pretty easy to pass, as everyone stays to the right.

The next day was a lot longer ride as I was heading up to Lausanne Switzerland. I used the Biker map to route some side trips to avoid too much of the Autostrada. I had picked up a vignette in Bern that allowed unlimited use of the A roads, not that I wanted to spend time on them.

(I'll add a map here later.)

I wanted to get there early enough to check into my hotel and take a bus downtown to meet with an Advrider member for dinner.

Needless to say it was a pretty ride.

One of the best things about the side roads is you can see down into the valley where the A roads go...

I was thrilled by the roads. They even had little mirrors on the outside of cliffs so you could see around the really small ones.

For lunch I stopped off at the Moosalp lodge, some people decided the roads were too long and just took the helicopter to lunch.

You can see why... it's pretty far up.

They told me about some castles on the other side of the valley, so I went to check them out. Lovely vineyards, and fun twisty roads.

Heading down into Lausanne, I decided to take the wine roads, not a bad first view of the lake.

A storm was heading in, so by dark it was raining lightly. It was a fun day, with some fantastic riding.
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Old 11-15-2011, 03:49 PM   #8
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Old 11-16-2011, 02:07 PM   #9
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After talking with Pascal about his adventures riding his R1200GS around the world with his girlfriend on the back. We decided that my best bet was to ride around north of the lake for my one free day. Also the storm was scheduled to come back in the evening. So in the morning I headed for the hills.

It was semi overcast for much of the riding, but I just kept following the most attractive turns.

I ended up having lunch in a beautiful valley. Duck in fig compote.

It seems like there was construction going on everywhere.

I found a park in the hills, and really liked the wooden horse trough.

Really, you can't ask for more beautiful views.


I made it back to my hostel just ahead of the rain. Headed to the bar on the corner for some hot goat cheese salad and beer.
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Old 11-16-2011, 02:17 PM   #10
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Old 11-18-2011, 02:53 PM   #11
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That was some yummy duck

My last day of this part of the trip started fairly early as I was heading to Milan to return the bike. This time I was planning to ride the Col du St. Bernard. There were some fun rides up to the top, but it was really cold, 3 degrees C at the top. Thank goodness for heated grips.



At the bottom of the pass I pulled over to take a shot back up the zig zagging road. On the way down from the top of St. Bernard was the only time I saw a 40 kph warning sign in Italy. They also had flashing lights and half a dozen signs showing skidding cars. I don't have a shot, but it's an off camber hairpin over a very long drop. The guard rail looked used...



I stopped off at the first little town on the way down, got some hot coco and sat on a deck overlooking the valley. Sitting in the sun, thawing out it was a lovely morning.



I stopped off in a little town of Aosta. I went to the center of town and parked in front of the town hall. Can you spot the GS?



I walked around, had a cuban cigar and enjoyed the castle rich tourist town.



After that it was pretty much a straight shot to Milan on the Autostrada. I got to Milan dropped off my bike and gear, checked into a hotel and headed out to see the town. I loved ATGATT Milano style.



I went downtown and checked out the Duomo.


I was too late to see the inside, but they let me take an elevator to the top. Really great views of Milan from up there.



I enjoyed taking the stairs down too.



So then, I sat down and watched the sun set on the Duomo, drinking a fine Italian wine, smoking a cuban cigar and looking at my maps. I was heading to a conference in Asti for a week and would be back in Milan on Friday to head up to the Dolomites for a long weekend ride.



Tornante Part II: Dolomites Sept 2011 coming soon.

Last edited by Tydive; 11-18-2011 at 03:20 PM.. Reason: more pics
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Old 11-18-2011, 03:08 PM   #12
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Old 11-18-2011, 05:37 PM   #13
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- great report and photos. Thank you!
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Old 11-19-2011, 12:37 AM   #14
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Old 11-21-2011, 04:06 PM   #15
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Thank you guys.

I really wish I had a GoPro and a high quality helmet camera. I can't begin to describe all the really amazing views that I saw but could not photograph. Kurt did it right. Next year I hope to go to France the last week of July for a conference, then take the next week and check out the French Alps That one will have vid
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