European Trip Questions
IÔÇÖm looking for some advice/feedback on some questions regarding a planned (self guided) motorcycle tour in Europe in September. IÔÇÖve posted here before and got some great advice that helped me get the plan going, now I have some specific questions.
First off let me briefly summarize the plan as it currently stands so you might better understand why IÔÇÖm asking these questions.
Depart US after labor day and fly to Munich. Pickup two rental BMWÔÇÖs (exact source undecided) for 10 to 14 days. Head south into the Alps and/or northern Italy and select one place from which to base day trips. May not spend the entire time in one place so moving, once or twice, is OK, just not everyday.
Return the bikes to Munich and take in a couple days of Oktoberfest. Then take a train to Rome, Florence and maybe Milan to spend a few days each exploring these great cities. I have no desire to ride a bike in a major Italian city and canÔÇÖt afford to let a rental bike sit idle for several days while we explore, thus the split venue.
So hereÔÇÖs my questions;
So as not to lug riding gear around Europe after the MC portion I was thinking of shipping our gear over and back via UPS, FEDEX or some other company, probably shipping to the rental agency or perhaps the hotel we stay at upon arrival in Munich. Anybody done this? Pros, cons, tricks?
How crowded are the Alps and Dolomites in the first 3 weeks of September?
Generally speaking what kind of weather can we expect in that period? I know this is subject to change but I am looking for something to base gear selection on, especially temp wise (will I need my electric jacket liner?).
I found a website, WWW.MOBIKEHOTEL.COM. It appears to have some nice places listed and I was thinking, since they are geared to riders, maybe these would make a nice base hotel for Alps/Dolomites loops. Does anyone have experience with these folks? Or, other suggestions?
Assuming we base in Tyrol region of Austria or Dolomites region of north Italy, is it reasonable to be able to make a loop into the Tuscany region in 2-3 days? Ditto for the Lake Como region? IÔÇÖm trying to determine if we want to expand the riding area (within the 10-14 days) or if this would be overextending ourselves.
Thanks in advance for all your great advice.
Ok, congratulations on your choice of going self guided. Heading out of Munich head towards Garmisch. There is a small toll road that runs east/west about 1.5 lanes wide that is stunning. Basically it's between Wallgau and Fall. It's pretty hard to find, as I recall, I thought I had turned into someone's driveway but as it turned out, it's one of my favorite pieces of road. The toll house is a phone booth size building and the toll gate is a wooden arm. Very charming. There are numerous roads along the Bavarian alps on the German/Austrian border. All equally stunning. Don't know your interests off the bike but if you head for Salzburg you can stop in at Berchtesgaten. This is the home of Hitler's Eagles Nest. His Bavarian retreat build by the SS as a gift and where the most evil plans were hatched. The retreat is now a restaurant with little mention of it's previous tenant. All the top Henchman had chalets in the area. This is well documented in the Band of Brothers series. Good idea to travel south through Austria. You will need a vignette ( a sticker that allows you to travel on motorways) in Austria. Your rental may come with one, if not, you can get them at most petrol stations. I believe I paid 100 euros fine on a ski trip when I went into Austria in the middle of the night when everything was closed and got stopped as soon as I got on the highway ( I was looking for an open petrol station ). You also need a vignette for Switzerland which you may choose to travel through to get to Italy. There are numerous world class passes in CH. Basing yourself in Andermatt will allow you to spend two days riding quite a few of them. The Interlaaken area is very nice also Grindelwald. You could go there and back from Andermatt. Watch out for buses on the CH passes. They are everywhere and they take up the whole road on the corners. On the weekends, the big passes have a substantial amount of two wheel traffic. If you can manage to be there mid week, the passes will be more enjoyable.
Originally Posted by paulmul
The first three weeks of September is a great time for you to ride. Moderate temperatures and summer vacation is over. All the big passes will still be open.
Lake Como and nearby Lake Maggiore are excellent riding, eating, and slouching. A great place to stay after conquering the CH passes. I highly recommend staying in Alba, which is south of Milan, and north west of Savona which is probably the northern end of the Tuscany region. The Tuscany region is worth seeing, bring your appetite. This is rolling hills and vinyards. Great food and people. Also, there are some nice roads over the Maritime alps on the Italian Mediterranean. Imperia is the town where I've stayed on the water. I'd return back to Germany via the French alps. In my opinion, France is the most beautiful country in Europe. Only drawback is that it's full of the French. Follow the Route de Napolean up from Cannes. There are numerous smaller routes you can take in this direction. If you are a fan of the Tour de France you may want to check out the grueling Alps d'Huez climb. Finally, I'd head towards the Black Forest in Germany and then east to Munich. Don't get intimidated if you have to go through some cities. Just avoid rush hours. Work out hand signals with your wing man so you know when you are pulling over to check your map, pee, take pictures, etc. Also, what to do if you get separated!!! On my trips the leader goes back and the trailer goes to the last place where they were together and stays put!. Regarding the weather, I don't think you'll need anything electric. Good rain gear and layers. Pack light. I bring one pair of jeans and one button down shirt for hitting the town. You should be able to wash socks and chonies in the hotel shower. If this is your first time you will find that Europe is moto friendly. Every time I pull over and unfold the map, someone will pull off the road to help me out. I've done 40k km all self guided in the past two years. No mechanical, medical, or legal issues at all. I ride a R1100RT which, according to at least one tour operator, "is too big to horse around the hairpins in the alps" All I can say to that is " Yippee-Kai-Yeah"
I am working on a Ride Report from my first self guided trip I took when I moved here. Should be up in a week or so, many of the places you will be going I have pictures of. Don't know how to do a Ride Report search but I posted a Ride through Italy I did in November. I think you can find it by clicking on my profile. I am happy to make copies of maps I have and send them to you to give you an idea of your route. Having options is always great. Go where the roads are dry!. Any direction from Munich is great riding. Don't rule out Spain and the Pyrenees if that's the only place the sun is shining. I'd offer you a place to stay but in July I'm moving back to CA.
Regarding sending your stuff back via UPS. I had a buddy look into shipping a bicycle via UPS and they were going to charge him 500$ each way. I would check with your Munich hotel and see if you can stash your stuff there while you train around. I've stashed a hockey gear bag in Amsterdam for a few days before so I think you should be able to do this.
Any specific questions or details I'm glad to help you out any way I can. Email me.
Also, watch for Globalrider to reply to this thread. Alex will give you good advice.
Franze is living the dream.
I shipped stuff back from Europe once and think it was DHL. It was about 80 pounds and, if I recall correctly, was under $50. The external dimensions were such that a helmet and riding gear would fit so I think you'd pay less according to weight.
Second the going after the vacation season. You don't want to travel in August.
Euro touring info
Have a look at:
Loads of useful information on routes, bike rental, tours, accomodation, weather, webcams, etc.
and also try:
These are bike-friendly hotels. Some offer bikes for hire, they have garaging, workshop facilities, drying rooms, etc.
Hope this helps
paulmul... You have a great plan. I did this summer '06 following business in Geneva. Would note I had no issues with weather, lodging, or traffic during July. You should be fine in September. Like your idea shipping the gear.
A difference is I launched the trip from Geneva, staying in the Andermatt area. From here I went a different direction every day. This was great advice given me... find a ground zero and go different directions. Have ridden internationally numerous times, including Chile this past June, and the self-guided adventure works very well.
Want to mention I rode all the major passes in Dolomites, also Stelvio, and a couple of others along the way, also passing the Lake Como, Lugano area, in one long memorable day, doing it from Switzerland! Noted in Day #2 here:
You might want to get in touch with www.knopftours.com.
They offer many support services which may be of value to you.
Sfarson did it right!
wow, Sfarson, I'll echo Burnszilla's ride report comment on your thread that it's the best post ever but I'd like to add that it was the best time I've ever spent looking at a computer screen. I'll send you a PM with more comments but I don't want to hijack this thread with gushing compliments.
Paulmul, if you haven't seen the videos in Sfarson's post, do it. It really brings it "home" so to speak.
I've thought about your questions for a few days. I'd fly with my helmet, boots, gloves, and pants in my carry on luggage and wear my jacket. Yeah, I know, not that comfortable but if you've never had your luggage lost, maybe this would be the time and that would not be cool. Sending it home UPS or FED EX seems to be reasonable. Then you can wear that smart new Italian leisure suit you pick up in Milan on the flight home. I wouldn't risk getting there and not having the stuff that makes you most comfortable. You will already be on someone else's MC so having your own helmet and boots would be the minimum to put you in the groove.
Sfarson has shown what's possible in Andermatt. A great place to start. For the Tuscany region, my earlier post was incorrect. The Tuscany region doesn't really start until you get near Pisa. However you should be able to do a lot of good riding, including Tuscany, from La Spezia, which is on the coast. There is a pretty good movie, and without sounding sexist, I'd say it's a "chick flick" which I define as no guns, car chases, or bad guys getting punched out, called Under the Tuscan Sun. It's worth seeing as it takes place in the area and the culture is pretty interesting. My final town to set up shop would be in Briancon, France. In fact, if I only had one place to ride, this would be it. The Gorges de Verdun is absolutely incredible and there are numerous beautiful passes, valleys, lakes, to explore.
In summary, Andermatt would give you the classic alps passes on the most incredible roads you'll probably ever ride. You would go through the Dolomites to get to La Spezia . This will put you on the Mediterranean and offer you some of the best food you'll ever eat as well as fabulous hills, valleys, and old world towns and happy pleasant natives. Very different than the alpine villages/people you'll see around Switzerland. Briancon will give you some really good roads, scenery, that you won't see in the other two locations.
franze... Thanks, I had a fantastic and memorable time in CH. Looking forward to a return.