• Tag Archives Sustenpass
  • A rainy July Sunday

     

    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.

    Clouds ahead

    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


  • 15 days, 4 countries- Part 6 The final chapter

    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!


  • Sustenpass – 2224m

    When I moved to Switzerland in 1999 I immediately set about seeking out and riding as many of the Swiss Alpine passes as possible. Less than 3 hours from home is the village of Gletsch and the start of a trio of passes comprising the Grimsel, Susten and Furka passes. Each are unique in their own way but the Sustenpass was the one that I enjoyed most the first time I rode it, and is one that is still a major favourite due to it’s great mix of roads and it’s scenic beauty.

    My preference is to ride it in the Innertkirchen to Andermatt direction, and often times I ride over the Grimsel first, and stop at the restaurant (pictured below) at Innertkirchen for lunch,

    This is a natural stop off point where you can sit outside basking in the sun watching the bikes come and go, before you follow the signpost to a wonderful afternoons ride over the Sustenpass.

     

    The road climbs fairly quickly as you exit Innertkirchen through small villages. Start gently as it’s easy to get carried away and misread the way the bends turn! Soon you’re passing through lush green woods with pastures dropping away below to your right.

    Looking back you have this amazing view of the tunnels you’ve passed through whilst ahead you have amaazing bends like these.

    Tunnels are a major feature of this pass which add to it’s special feel.

    A little further up you have a glacier on your right. It’s been getting smaller and paler every year but has a turquoise hue and is still worthy of a stop and picture.

    The fun and bends continue up to the 2224m summit after which you pass through another tunnel before heading off on the descent. This is as good as, if not better than the ascent. If you’ve got the time why not stop at this cafe located 100m or so from a picturesque waterall?

    More than likely though you’ll pass straight by as the descent is fantastic. With clear visibility of the road unwinding ahead of you, it’s VERY easy to get into an ever faster pace, but you’ll need to be on top of your game and counter steering skills are required in spades as bend after bend greets you, just be careful on the approaches to the villages as some of the bends are quite sharp and can catch you out after the wider sweepers you’ve just ridden!

    It’s a very atmospheric ride in less than sunny conditions too, low level clouds creating amazing pictures such as these.

    One of my favourite shots on the Susten, descending through the clouds to the village of Wassen.

    After Wassen it’s on to Andermatt, which is another crossroads for the passes and offers a multitude of options for your onward journey.

    A top tip is stop in Andermatt, get up early, and go and ride the Susten in the opposite  direction, then over the Grimsel and back to Andermatt via the Furka pass, there will be very little traffic and you’ll have the pleasure of riding 3 great passes with very little interference from tourists. Enjoy the solititude, take some pictures, and stop and take in your surroundings, they’re very special, and doubly so when you have the peace and quiet of your own company.

    This is definately one of  THE passes to ride. Make the effort to go and you’ll be well rewarded.

    AlpineBiker rating.

    Ride experience 10/10 Road quality 8.5/10 Scenery 10/10


  • 4 days of magical riding the high cols in 3 countries

    Here’s a pictorial record of  covering 2000+kms, 19 mountain passes, in 3 countries. Lifes tough in 30 degree C heat, but I had a great time, hope you enjoy the pics too! 

    Galibier – France

    On the Galibier there was a professional photographer taking pictures of all the motorcyclists and cyclists passsing by. Even if only one in 50 bought off him he’d have made a lot of money! 

    Mt Cenis- Italy

    The water is held in a huge lake behind a dam here, with this weird triangular building overlooking it all. An hour spent over lunch and I’d got a great suntan it was so warm!.

     

     Iseran- France

    Everyone takes their picture here, so why should I be any different?

     En route to the Swiss Alps and days of pleasure.

     

    View from the Grimsel

     

    Water cascading over mountain tunnel on the Susten

    View down to Airolo from the Gotthard

    The original and paved Gotthard

    Hungry Marmot on the Furka

    Guess where?

    Check down in the valley for the 48 hairpins

    Another pass, another 2500 metres or so!

    Super lunch stop spot

    Ice cream stops mandatory!

    Klausen

    Check the waterfall!