Alpine Delight: The 2014 BMW MOA/Edelweiss Bike Travel Alpine Delight Tour
The very first Edelweiss tour in 1981 made its way through the Alps with five riders and two guides, including company founder Werner Wachter. Ever since then, Edelweiss has become a go-to solution for motorcycle riders of all stripes who share a common desire to see some of the most beautiful vistas and ride some of the most memorable roads all over the world.
The 2014 BMW MOA Alpine Delight Tour explored some of the most picturesque and challenging roads in the world, taking in the Alps and Dolomite regions of Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland. Five MOA members got together over email to discuss the trip: Paul Bates #30139, Michael Diehl #89137, Chris Hughes #33373, Elaine Rourke # and Shane Whitney #192518.
The ride began last August in the beautiful resort town of Seefeld, Austria. The group of riders rode through the green Bavarian hills of southern Germany, visiting one of King Ludwig’s amazing castles along the way. “The first riding day was easy,” said Chris, “and it gave everyone an opportunity to get acquainted with their motorcycle as well as the riding conditions we could expect for the rest of the week.”
“The switchbacks were as awesome as we’d always heard,” added Elaine, continuing, “One mountain pass had 48 of them!” Several riders agreed that while the roads were narrow and some were subject to traffic, most of the time, there was little traffic, and that made the roads more inviting than intimidating. Paul attributed the lack of traffic to school being back in session and credited the preponderance of “Welcome Bikers” signs at every roadside restaurant, café and attraction for making him feel at home everywhere the tour went.
“The Dolomites were the most stunning landscapes of the rides,” Chris said. Shane agreed, calling the Dolomites the absolute highlight of the tour. “The Dolomite passes were more challenging than the Alps,” Shane said, “and the views were more of a departure from what I see riding through the Adirondacks at home. I enjoyed the total focus it takes to ride the passes at a faster pace. The feeling of exhaustion at the end of the day made me feel like I put in the work and I enjoyed the hell out of it.” Chris concurred, saying, “The unending beauty was a challenge to my senses – I didn’t know whether to keep riding or stop and admire the scenery.”
Michael especially enjoyed Italy’s Passo di Stelvio, which features 36 switchbacks on the western side, the peak (third highest in the Alps) at 2,758 meters (9,048 feet), then 48 more switchbacks on the eastern slope. The 18-kilometer (11.2 miles) pass has numerous, mostly unlit, tunnels as well as sheer drop-offs and stone walls to greet the tour buses, trucks, motorcycles and bicycles that traverse its path. Following Stelvio, the tour wound through Glurns, a 13th century walled city that has remained virtually unchanged since its founding. Stelvio was the last pass of the tour, with the day’s ride ending back in the start city of Seefeld. Michael and Pam plan to view and review their hour-long GoPro video of the ride through Passo di Stelvio in the off-season to remind them of their time on the tour.
Michael relied on his wife, Pam, to navigate and identify upcoming hazards, especially when riding through the tight switchbacks. Elaine has suggested that Edelweiss include GPS units, loaded with the tour routes, on each bike. She said, “In some places the road signs were in German, Italian and a local dialect, which made it difficult to follow printed directions and maps. Having a working GPS on the bike would have added to my enjoyment of the trip.” She eagerly credited the Edelweiss staff, especially guide Michael Keller and Austria-based staffer Karin Gritsch, with making the tour such an easy, enjoyable experience.
All the riders agreed that staying in the same hotel for two nights at one point in the tour was a real plus. “It cut down on packing and unpacking, said Elaine. “The stops gave us the opportunity to explore some quaint towns, like Seefeld, St. Ulrich and Livigno,” said Chris, adding that the rest days gave the MOA riders a chance to get better acquainted with each other as well. Shane liked the two-night stays as well, saying, “There were plenty of nice locations for several days’ worth of local riding, so the necessity to change locations everyday just wasn't there.”
Elaine called the Alpine Delight Tour “the trip of a lifetime, a dream come true.” For Elaine and her husband, it was an adrenaline-pumping way to fight getting old as they celebrated their 25th anniversary and her 65th birthday. “Being from Florida,” she says, “the mountains provided a true departure from our usual motorcycle riding experiences.”
Shane particularly enjoyed the ability to ride on his own or in a smaller group, and explore some of the off-route areas on his own and at his own pace. “I’m an adventure seeker,” he admits, “and that allowed for more adventure than with a group ride. I was very excited to ride through Switzerland and the Alps.”
Paul reminisced about the weather, noting that Alpine weather in late September and early October is not unlike the eastern United States in that it brings clear vistas, clean roads and crisp temperatures. He noted that the Edelweiss bikes were all equipped with panniers and tank bags, giving enough day-to-day carrying capacity to bring along all the layers necessary to handle changing temperatures and the one brief rain shower they encountered.
For more information about Edelweiss Bike Travel, see their website at www.edelweissbike.com.