The plan was to ride over the Grand St Bernard to Aosta in Italy and onto Breuil-Cervina for lunch overlooking the Matterhorn. The weather forecast looked to be ok, and with Mark and Sev, Sue and I, Brian, Tim and David all saying they were coming, I was looking forward to a decent days ride.
We planned to meet at 08.30-09.00 at La Cote services, and arriving there at 08.35 I saw Brians Panigale and Tims GS already parked up, and the twin headlights that had been gaining on us as we approached the services, turned out to be David and his recently purchased Triumph GT1050.
I’d had a missed call from Tim before I left, and when we joined him and Brian in the restaurant upstairs, he asked me if I knew that the Grand St Bernard was closed due to a landslide? Some quick thinking and a couple of options thrown out to the guys, led to a decision being made to head to the Alps instead. Mark arrived sans Sev (who was feeling unwell) his customary 5 minutes late (he’ll claim 4), so we shared the new plan with him and we were off, 15 minutes later than planned, but hey, with the long nights these days we weren’t in a big rush.
We stopped at Brig for the first of many petrol stops for Brian and his thirsty Panigale. It was amazing how much noise Brians bike makes! Inside the many tunnels en route the sound of the exhaust reverberated like a jackhammer and you could feel the vibrations though your body. It was so loud you couldn’t even hear your own bikes engine! How he managed to retain any sense of hearing after a day on it I’ll never know! Still, after a coffee and comfort stop at the adjacent McDonalds we were off again, through the quaintly named town of Bitsch, and into the start of the countryside leading to Gletsch and the mountains.
The nearer we got to Gletsch the more variable the weather became. Roads were sometimes soaked from earlier showers, and from time to time we passed through others, a trend which was to repeat itself throughout the whole day. After a great run into Gletsch (always love that bit of road) it was up the 2431m Furkapass and a chance to enjoy some dry roads.
Through paved tunnel
View the other side looking forward to the Grimselpass
I’d abdicated my usual leaders role for part of the day to film the others. I’ve 20+ films on Youtube featuring some great roads, but always with a forward facing camera and no other riders with me, so today was a chance to film something different.
(The film will be posted on YouTube soon entitled “A rainy July Sunday”)
Mark led part of the way until Brian decided to stretch the legs of his Pani and blasted past. Two up and on a bike weighing at least 100kgs more than his, I did my best to keep up and film. Stopping at the top after the usual brisk run up, it was then onwards towards Andermat and low level cloud and mist.
About to enter the clouds!
The roads quickly became sodden, the drop offs suddenly more worrying, as visibility and speeds were reduced.
Check the road dropping away to the right
Time had marched on a little faster than I’d hoped, so we decided to have lunch at the Aurora hotel in Andermat, and were able to sit outside in the sun and relax for a while, hoping that the weather forecast Tim was looking at indicating more showers, would pass us by.
Pictured left to right, Sue, Mark, Brian, Tim and David
Out of Andermat then, through the tunnels down towards Wassen
and the turn off for the 2324m Sustenpass.
This pass is one of my all time favourites, but normally I ride it in the opposite direction, so today would make an interesting change, and its true, things seemed completely different.
Stuck behind a group of Italians for a while, Brian David and I got past them leaving Mark and Tim stuck behind. As we got higher the roads suddenly became damp, and we hit the cloud/rain again.
Brian was doing a good job leading, especially given his tyres don’t have much tread on the edges, but he at least had a rain mode and traction control to assist him.
As we entered the tunnel at the top of the pass I decided now would be a good time to stop and don my waterproof top, as by now the rain was pretty heavy,
Setting off a few minutes later after Tim and Mark had gone by, I passed David at the side of the road also putting his wet gear on.
The lower slopes of the Susten which are so enjoyable going up were quite frankly a pain going down in the wet. Tight bends and wet roads don’t make for much fun, but once down in Innerkirchen the roads were drier and only moderately wet, as we set off towards Interlaken. A few kms before we got there, Brian came alongside indicating he needed petrol, so after dialling in a search for nearby petrol stations into the GPS, we dived off to the closest one 6kms away.
After a few kms of main road we turned off towards Zweisimmen and some interesting cross country stuff, the best bit unfortunately spoiled by having to follow a couple of cars and a camper van. We turned off to join the 1509m Jaunpass where we stopped for a hot drink and the last stop of the day (except for Brian who needed yet another petrol stop again later!).
Wet roads beckoned yet again as Mark led the group down towards Bulle and Gruyeres.
Cross country towards Chateau D’Oex, and finally the rain had got to Brian. Clad in leather jacket and bike trousers rather than waterproofs, he’d braved the rain all day, but coming alongside at some traffic lights in heavy rain he forlornly asked “whats the quickest way out of here?”, and was clearly disappointed to be told “We’re going the quickest way”.
The final pass of the day the 1445m Col des Mosses was probably a welcome sight for all as a wet and by now tiring group knew that at its end was Aigle and the autoroute home. Once on the autoroute Brian showed how keen he was to get home and he and I left the group as we headed back home, mindful of course of the many Swiss radars! Near Aubonne Tim turned off for home and Brian for yet another petrol stop. David parted company with Mark and I near the airport and we rode the final 5 kms home.
Final stats were 635kms and 8 hours 02mins moving time.
The day had been long, but we’d ridden several passes, got wet, but had fun. All in all not a bad day considering it wasn’t the route we were planning to ride. Just goes to show when the Alps are in your backyard there’s always somewhere to go!
N.B As it was so wet there was little chance to stop and take photos, so all bar two in this report are screen shots taken from film shot from my on bike camera