There’s still snow at altitude, even in June! Here’s a very recent film ascending the Galibier from the North.
CLICK LINK TO VIEW
Here are some additional pictures taken by Mark on our recent tour
LAC DE SERRE PONCON
GORGES DU VERDON
SELF & SUE IN THE GORGES
COL DE LA LOMBARDE
TOP OF THE BONETTE
I’m pleased to announce confirmed tour dates, itineraries and pricing for next years AlpineBiker tours, so if you’ve ever fancied taking a tour in the Alps or Dolomites and don’t want the hassle of booking your own hotels or finding routes, why not check out next years tour options, and if you’re not sure how good they are, spend a minute or two to check the riders comments section on the website, www.alpinebiker.com
4 different tour options to choose from:
3 days 4 nights in the Jura/French Alps
6 days 7 nights in the French Alps
7 days 8 nights in the Swiss Alps OR
NEW for 2012
10 days 11 nights in the Swiss Alps / Italian Dolomites.
Thanks for looking!
If you are one of the 18,500 visitors to this blog since I started posting in 2009, thanks very much for your visit, and I hope you found something on here of interest to you. My blog however, is an add-on to my main website www.alpinebiker.com. which perhaps you may not have visited yet? The tour website features films, pictures and details of the types of alpine tours I offer, and have run so far.
I put a lot of time and effort into providing excellent quality and high value tours, and into giving people a really special riding experience in the amazing mountain scenery and awesome alpine passes, and from being on some of the best roads in Europe. My tours have attracted riders from all over the world, and I’m very proud to be able to post just a few representative comments from some of those riders from America, Norway and Australia, who have recently taken an AlpineBiker tour and thoroughly enjoyed it . (Check the tour website for other comments from riders from the UK, Canada, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands)
If you haven’t yet visited the tour website www.alpinebiker.com, perhaps these comments may inspire you to do so and see what these guys are talking about, and see for yourself what you’ve been missing?
Eddie (USA) “ Your passion for motorcycling and touring the Alps is apparent in your attitude and from the detailed planning and thinking that went into making the trip a once in a lifetime vacation. Thank you for sharing that gift and passion with me and the others. I would not hesitate to highly recommend you to others and to book another trip with you in the future. Sincerely Eddie”
Mike (Canada) “ It clearly takes a true biker with a wealth of experience riding in the region to put together a spectacular tour like the one we enjoyed this summer. It also takes hard work and an eye for detail in the planning phase. I think the “something extra” that assured the success of our tour was your patience, good humour and genuine interest in seeing us all really enjoy ourselves.
Thanks Paul for an amazing adventure. I am certainly recommending an alpinebiker tour to my biking friends and acquaintances, and I am looking forward to my next chance to ride with you”.
Nick & Terese (Australia) “Great ride, beautiful scenery, great company, great food and accomodation. We had an awesome time and it really was the trip of a lifetime for us “flatlanders”.
Dan (USA) “A big thanks for your efforts in having this tour exceed every expectation we had prior to the start of the journey. I look forward to our next “once in a lifetime ride with you next summer!”
Chris (USA) “Hands down one of the best trips of my life! Paul is a terrific guide with extensive knowledge of the roads. He is also a hell of a lot of fun to have a beer with! This trip exceeded expectations with both Paul’s leadership of the tour, and the quality of the lodging and food at the Le Biot chalet”.
Steve (USA) ” I would like to thank you for a once in a lifetime (well until next year) experience.Your planning, expertise and riding skills made it the thrill of a lifetime”
Rob (USA) ” Paul’s experience and organisation set this trip apart from any other. Perhaps the best biking trip I have ever taken”
Paul (USA) ” The once in a lifetime long weekend Alps riding tour experience with Paul Starmer exceeded my expectations. So much for once in a lifetime- I’ll be back, maybe Spain or the Dolomites next time!”
Cesar (USA) “An AlpineBiker tour is the experience of a lifetime. Excellent roads, challenging passes, great accomodation, breathtaking landscapes and perfect logistics let’s you worry about nothing but to enjoy and work on your riding skills. Paul’s catering to everyone’s needs and riding styles will make your experience second to none. You will leave wanting to come back and adding Paul to the list of your friends!”
Cary (USA) ” Thanks for a fabulous tour. The routes we rode, and the sights we saw are unparalleled. The lodging and food was first class; and your easy demeanour, local knowledge and flexibility made our tour an unforgettable experience. AlpineBiker.com tours is a must for those who want to ride the Alpine”
Trond (Norway) “Paul, I have had the best of times. Your tour, riding and companionship really made this an event for the history books. Enjoyed myself enormously!”
“Do not think twice about getting one of his tours. I`m usually a do it yourself kind of guy, but this experience really was something else. If you have time, just do it. I`m quite sure you wont regret it”
PART 6- THE FINAL CHAPTER
Friday- Today we start on what will be the last leg of our journey together as a group. We will be crossing the Fluela, Wolfgang and Klausen passes to our end destination of Andermatt.
The Fluela is one of those passes that I don’t ride as often as I should, and it’s a good un, starting only 10kms from the hotel.
View back down the valley
It’s quite bleak at the top today with very little traffic of any description up here
Eddie throwing snowballs at Nick, I said it was cold up there!
On the section of motorway skirting Liechtenstein we stopped at a services there for mid morning coffee and some great blueberry buns!
There was a kids attraction called Heidiland where wooden characters appeared out of this building and music played, whilst down below goats in a pen kept small children amused.
Once off the motorway there is a frustrating section of countless small villages and 50kph speed limits, but soon enough we arrived at the start of the pass where we stopped and I warned the group to take care on the first corners which are paved.
Roadworks and a tunnel delayed initial progress but soon we are ascending and enjoying the mountains and waterfalls that make this such a great pass.
The group spent ages taking photos and I’d been at the top for a while before Nick and Terese arrived.
Church on top of pass
With Eddies arrival we went into the restaurant and ordered some food and drink and waited for Mike and Dave. When they didn’t appear we started to get worried, even asking a German who pulled up outside if he had seen anyone? Eventually they did turn up and it transpired that Dave’s bike hadn’t started way down at the foot of the pass, and he’d had to take panels off it to find the solution, which was a faulty battery connection which he was able to fix before catching up with Mike who had gone back to look for him.
So after yet more BMW dramas we resumed our journey, but only after the low level cloud which enveloped the pass had blown away.
Great valley on way down
With the Klausen despatched it was back towards Wassen and the tunnels that lead to Andermatt
Officially the tour was now over and we had some pretty impressive stats. 4269 kms and nearly 72 hours of riding time. When you consider our moving average speed was less than 60kph, you get an idea of the amount of climbing we had done, with my count being at least 56 passes!
Saturday- Departure day
Eddie is the first to leave this morning, but as he has several days left before returning to the US, his plan is to head for Zermatt to see the Matterhorn. We just hope the cloud lifts enough for him to at least see something!
As the rest of us are readying ourselves, a group of young guys on a mix of scooters and mopeds pulled up at the petrol station outside the hotel, and I watched as they poured pre-mix oil into their two strokes, which brought back memories of my early riding experiences and a two stroke Puch Maxi moped.
The weather looks iffy again and starting in waterproofs turns out to be a smart move as the Sustenpass is wet, very wet. Lights shining through the murk and gloom we make our cautious way up and over the pass which we had ridden a week earlier in the opposite direction in almost ideal conditions compared to today.
We all rode together as far as Interlaken where we stopped for coffee, to try and get warm, and to say our farewells to Dave and Mike who now had just a 20km journey to Thun to return their hire bikes before taking a flight back to Canada from Zurich the next day.
The lake at Interlaken
Mike and Dave
Now with only Nick and Terese remaining, we headed for Geneva over the Jaunpass.
I can’t EVER remember stopping to sleep when out riding, but it was now late afternoon and after 15 days I was tired and needed a power nap, so we pulled over on a convenient layby with benches and both Nick and I slept for half an hour whilst Terese guarded the bikes.
Finally back close to Geneva and with Nick and Terese installed in a local hotel just a 20 minute ride away from the BMW garage for Monday’s repair work, the tour was officially over, no more bikes in the rear view mirror to check for, no more packing and unpacking of bags, no more mountain passes, just “normality”.
SUMMARY- Looking back I would have to say this had been an eventful tour, starting from day one with the diesel episode, through 4 drops, and BMW’s which seemed incapable of traversing high mileages without problems. The list comprised: Nicks K1300GT with a leaking driveshaft seal, Daves F800GS with a dodgy battery connection, Eddies GS1200 with leaking captor seal, and my GT which inexplicably lost it’s mudguard extender somewhere on our travels! Only Mikes ST800
and the hired Deauville and Pan European (once running on petrol!) survived unscathed.
For the riders, well they survived somewhat better. Nick and I bizarrely both lost weight! Everyone’s riding improved, and they experienced pretty much every type of weather imaginable; from monsoon rains, through sleet and snow, low cloud and mist reduced visibility, and of course, some sunshine! Looking back through this report it seemed that inclement weather impacted on us almost every day, but you know what, that’s what makes alpine riding special. Sitting atop a pass watching clouds drift in and out exposing or hiding amazing views, riding through rain conditions that you’d probably normally never venture out in improves riding skills, and struggling through snow and sleet certainly focuses the mind and concentration. Considering the countries these guys came from and the challenges of alpine riding, they all “done good”. Better still they all got back in one piece, and will have memories which they’ll never forget (neither will I), and tales and bragging rights with their riding buddies to keep them going for years.
So guys (and Terese), hope you enjoyed yourselves and that reading this tale brings back some happy memories. It was a pleasure to ride with you all, hopefully we will stay in touch, and wear your tour t-shirts with pride, you earnt the right to wear them!
IF READING THIS RIDE REPORT HAS WHET YOUR APPETITE FOR ALPINE TOURING, THEN CHECK OUT THE www.alpinebiker.com WEBSITE FOR DETAILS OF 2012 TOURS- COMING SOON!
Wednesday- The day started dull and it was clear that rain, or at least low cloud was hanging over the Col d’Izoard which was to be the first pass of the day. We filled up at the petrol station of a local supermarket and hunted in vain for some tie downs to secure the topbox lid on Nicks GT which now refused to lock. Eddie came to the rescue with a cargo net, and so with wet gear donned again we set off to climb the Izoard.
Here is the only picture taken today as the weather was less than kind all day
After the Izoard we passed into Italy and the passes of Montgenevre and Mt Cenis. Normally the Mt Cenis is a great stop off point with its great lake and dam, but today we passed straight on over and through, little realising that once we had descended the other side down into Lanslebourg that we we would be stuck in a bus shelter for an hour seeking refuge from the monsoon rains that had descended to halt our journey. With real fears that there would be snow atop the Iseran which stood between us and our hotel for the evening, we eventually had little option other than to carry on, and sure enough there was snow on the Iseran, in fact the road at the top was covered in settling snow and we struggled to keep a view of the road ahead through snow covered visors.
I bill my tours as “adventure motorcycle holidays”, and for sure this was proving an adventure for those to whom snow was almost an unknown quantity, but we all survived, and the hotel was a welcome refuge after a day full of every type of inclement weather you could imagine!
Thursday- Low cloud was the first thing we saw when we awoke the next morning, but knowing that it should soon burn off and that there would be sun at higher altitude, I tried to motivate the troops as they worried about what looked to be another gruelling weather day ahead.
Although we had some low cloud we were able to enjoy the ride up to the Petit St Bernard and the now obligatory pictures I take with all my tour riders alongside this giant St Bernard dog.
After a great ascent of the Grand St Bernard from Aosta we stopped for a warming cup of hot chocolate at the summit.
Views en route to the summit of the Grand St Bernard
At Martigny, Terry, armed with an old GPS of mine, departed the group to return to Geneva to collect his repaired Pan European whilst the rest of us continued on to Gletsch and the Furka pass and these views
Up until now we had been been enjoying some great sunshine but all was to change, as after taking the pictures above, we encountered such low cloud we couldn’t see more than 20 meters ahead! Taking the smart option, we fell in behind a car and allowed it to lead us safely down the pass towards Andermatt.
Here are the tour totals so far, 2110kms and 33hours 45 of saddle time.
FRIDAY- Low cloud hung over the mountains as we sat at breakfast but I knew they would lift.
Post carriage driven down main street in Andermat
Today was another day where we could leave the bags at the hotel and ride without luggage. This would be great for Nick, as with the heavy GT, wife and luggage, his riding had naturally been a little tempered. In an overwhelming gesture towards my fellow man, I offered to take Terese as pillion with me for a while, to allow him to make the most of the days Alpine passes. It takes some confidence to leap aboard someone elses bike as pillion, and also for a husband to allow his wife to be transported into the mountains behind another rider, but I guess both had seen enough of my riding over the past few days to have sufficient trust in my abilities, and so we set off into the mountains and into weather which as predicted, was now starting to clear.
First stop the view into Airolo. I always take people here as it’s spectacular, then I follow it up with a ride down the paved Tremola which is really unique as it has a paved surface.
Nick at the Tremola
Next over the Neufenen and back to Gletsch before riding over the Grimsel down to Innerkirchen and lunch.
Cloud on the Neufenen
Top of the Grimsel
Next the Susten, which is a real favourite of mine and one which this group loved too.
Here a view of water cascading over one of the Sustens many tunnels taken by Terese riding pillion
Snow and glaciers
Perfectly radiused bends
Looking down the valley from the Susten pass towards Wassen
The return trip back up to Andermatt took us through several tunnels and the start of traffic queues
Here Dave found the ground had dropped steeply away beneath him and couldn’t get his leg down in time to prevent a topple over. Thankfully he was uninjured and we continued on to the hotel where we found Terry waiting for us.
Bike woes were not over though, with the next task being to check Nicks GT driveshaft which was leaking oil, sound familiar? Not wanting to miss the tour and with no BMW dealer closer than 200kms away, we effected a repair by adding some engine oil to at least cool the bearing and resolved to check the oil seepage regularly over the next few days.
After a quick running repair Mike wanted to ride the Furka again and see what we had missed in the cloud the previous day, so along with Terry, the 3 of us set off for a quick ride up to the top of the Furka and the chance to see the marmots at the top.
Whilst we were away riding the others took a chance to stroll round Andermatt and view some of it’s great character wooden buildings
THIS IS A GOOD POINT TO MAKE A BREAK, WITH THE NEXT CHAPTER BEING OUR RIDE INTO ITALY, AN UNFORGETTABLE ASCENT OF THE STELVIO, AND INTO THE STUNNING DOLOMITES
My latest tour was months in the planning, starting as far back as September 2010 with interest from a Canadian, and growing over the interim months with others from Australia and the US. The common theme was that each had an extended period of time available, so after much discussion, many Skype calls and email correspondence, I created a 15 day tour which would see us ride the Jura region of France, the French and Swiss Alps, the Dolomites in Italy, enter into Austria to ride the Grossglockner Pass, and cover in excess of 4000kms and 56+ major mountain passes.
Meticulous planning, hours poring over maps, pre-riding of routes, hotel reservations, creation of ride itineries, and co-ordination of meeting points for the group count for nothing though when you’re thrown a curved ball, the first one being on Friday morning when one of the Canadians mistakenly put diesel into his loaned Pan European, thereby creating a chain of events that involved him being stranded at the roadside for 9 hours in blazing hot sun, whilst I had to make 6 hours of round trips to and from his breakdown point to collect his stricken bike with a trailer, and then deliver it to the dealer the next day, and rescue his trip by assisting in hiring a replacement bike at a discounted rate, thanks Honda Geneve!
Draining 24 litres of diesel which literally ate away at the tarmac as it dropped onto the roadside!
Curve ball number 2 was early on Saturday morning when Eddie, our American rider, called and explained he had oil on his rear wheel. After a quick call to the local BMW dealer we were able to get the bike checked over and a faulty captor seal was replaced in ultra quick time. So now with a replacement Honda (Deauville) and a repaired BMW GS1200, the 3 of us set off to meet with the rest of the group who had been at the hotel since Friday night waiting for my arrival!
The tour should officially have started with riding on the Saturday, but as we had already lost half a day all I could do was extend my apologies and suggest we eat at the hotel and ride that afternoon, thus giving me a chance to get things back on track, give the tour briefing, and hopefully have a stress free remainder of the day.
The afternoon ride only started at 15.00 and it was 21.00 when we finally made it back to the hotel, but in line with how we had started, it didn’t pass without incident, when another of our Canadians effected a U turn too quickly and ended up with his bike on top of him! This was clearly a selfless act of heroism designed to save any repair costs, but it worked, the bike was unscathed, and the only damage was a little loss of pride and a scuffed riding jacket.
So with an eventful start to the tour we settled down for our evening meal and several beers soon cheered everyone up!
Sunday- I had returned home early to collect my wife Sue for today’s tour, but this morning the weather had turned from yesterdays glorious sunshine, and wet gear was the order of the day. After a cross country ride to Bonneville I offered the choice of a ride around option for anyone who didn’t fancy the potentially tricky ride over the Col de la Colombiere. Two opted to take it and we agreed to meet at St Jean de Sixt. Those who rode with me found the Col to actually be bone dry and we had a great ride over. We stopped for lunch in St Jean de Sixt where we were entertained by music and dancing in the town centre.
Next, up and over the Col d’Aravis
Then down into Notre Dame de Bellecombe where this massive cycle was celebrating the Tour de France
We crossed the Col d’Aravis and had an afternoon coffee stop at the Cormet de Roselend
Riders L to R- Eddie (USA), Mike and Dave (son and father Canada), Terese & Nick (Australia), Terry (Canada), “AlpineBiker”
Next a great run down into Bourg St Maurice and over the Col de Forclaz to Annecy, before returning to the hotel for a daily total of 355kms riding
Evening meal was meat cooked on skewers over a charcoal burner. In Switzerland this is called charbonade, great!
Monday and we decamp from the hotel for the South of France leaving these great views behind
A big thank you to our great hosts at the Auberge de Catray, Carine and Michael
Our destination today is the Gorges du Verdon. It’s a biggish distance at 537kms but 150 is on the autoroute.
En route to Gap
Here is the always stunning Lac de Serre Poncon
DAVE- BMW GS800
EDDIE- BMW GS1200
MIKE- BMW ST800
TERESE & NICK- BMW K1300GT
TERRY- HONDA PAN EUROPEAN/HONDA DEAUVILLE
The day was hot and after a great ride down to La Batie on the Col du Labouret we wanted a drink but couldn’t find a restaurant open, so settled for dunking our heads in the spring water trough in the centre of town, you can’t believe how refreshing that was!
We arrived in the gorges early evening and took these shots at Pont Sublime
Evening meal on the balcony directly over the gorges was a real treat, as was breakfast the following morning watching the sun light up the gorges
Sunset over the gorges
Breakfast on the balcony directly overlooking the gorges
The sun gradually lighting up the valleys
We had a quick run out in the direction of Aiguines for these views thinking we would have the roads to ourselves but 5 minutes later we were engulfed by a large group of Italian riders
Next back round the gorges to this viewing point at the Balcons de Meussia
Trying to stay cool in the shade
The mediaeval town of Trigance
Next, the Gorges du Daluis
After a long lunch in Guillaumes we rode over the Col de la Couillole with this great view
Next up to the summit of the Col de la Bonette, the highest pass in Europe. 3 weeks previously it had been blocked and we couldn’t ride beyond 2714metres
Plenty of altitude gain today!
Overnight is at one of my favourite hotels, the Bon Logis in Haut Gaudissard, Risoul.
What a great view to start your day!
So far we are only 4 days into the tour and have ridden 1553kms and spent 23hours 51 of saddle time.
NEXT INSTALMENT FEATURING WET ASCENTS OF MAJOR PASSES THE IZOARD AND ISERAN
Here are some pics and just a few words from a trip I made in June through the Parc Natural du Mercantour with Sue, Mark and Sev.
From a wet Barclonette we descended the Col d’Allos which had been closed a few weeks earlier when Andy and I had tried to ride it. Entering the parc we found a wonderland of lush green fields, waterfalls and great roads, one we will definately be returning to soon.
Marmots at play
Great little hotel at Puget Rostang
Next day we found the Gorges du Cians closed so had to retrace our steps up the Gorges Daluis and at Guillaumes took the Col de la Couillole towards the Col de la Bonette.
Great viewing point here
No mistaking which road we are on!
Great little town set on hillside
Next the view from the Bonette
The last segment to the top but unable to be ridden as it was blocked by snow!
Bikers playing in the snow
Our route lies in this direction
Great descent into Jausiers
View from the hotel
Next day home via the Col du Lautaret
It’s been a while since I last posted, mostly because I’ve been racking up the miles. Ride reports and pics will follow soon, here is a taster of a few of the places I’ve been recently.