Monday, July 20, 2015

Trip 2015

The French, Swiss and Italian Alps

   In November of 2014 I was at the motorcycle show in the NEC in Birmingham with Col and came across the guys from Bikeshuttle. The plan is to put your bike in the back of their purpose built truck and take it to Geneva, leaving you to make your own way their by train and plane then meet your bike the following day. We thought the idea had promise so decided there and then that Geneva was on the table for the 2015 road trip. In January we put the trip to Geneva idea to the others, and forecast our costs using bikeshuttle and only myself and Col were going to be able to do this one. The were afew other issues by using the Bikeshuttle service we hadn't thought of which when we weighed it up shoved our costs up and the price out of reach.
 Still determined by the idea to ride in the Alps we looked at other ways to get us there. Riding the 740 miles eachway was not what we wanted to do, so we decided to hire a van ourselves, stick the bikes in the back, along with anything else we needed but we would still use the same hotel Bikeshuttle use as they have underground parking. So through the early parts of the year we hired a van from Europcar, booked the hotel and Eurotunnel and our trip was made.

  We set off at 4am heading to the tunnel, the news was reporting strikes in Calais and the illegal immigrants were also up to no good, so we were expecting to be part of "operation stack", but along the M20 nothing was left apart from a portable loo every half a mile.

  We planned to visit the old Grand Prix curcuit at Reims on the way as Col and I both have seen it on television and wanted to do a lap, also to Ride the Italian Jobs Grand St Bernards Pass and find some roads to add to our Ultimate riding roads list.

   The van seemed to be a great idea as we arrived at the Eurotunnel only 3 and a half hours later which on the bikes in the past had took a further 1 hour due to fuel stops. It felt great not to be sweating and stuck in leathers on the back of the train.

    We arrived in Reims at dinnertime and made our way to Gueux where the old grandstands are still standing and had a look around before taking the van around for a few laps of the 1952 layout of the circuit.
 Time was rolling on so we continued on across France and the temperature on the vans read out went from 22 up to 29 degrees, again we were glad not to be in leathers at this point.
 We arrived at the Business Park Hotel at 18:30 local time, its just on the outskirts of the French part of Geneva. A brief cock up took us into the Swiss part and the City centre which meant we had to buy a Vignette from the Police for 40 Swiss Francs (about £28) this meant we could use the Swiss motorways for a whole year, even though we only needed them for all of 5 miles.  The room was nice on the top floor and we dropped our luggage then went to the restaurant next door for Pizza and Beer.

  We woke up to blue sky, I suggested we went to the 3rd highest of the mountain passes Grand St. Bernards Pass as it was the closest, just 2 hours 10 minutes away from the hotel of which 90 mins are on the motorway. We arrived at a town called Martigny and I put the camera on the bike. The climb started and a few long bends that doubled back on themselves got us back into riding twisty roads again, Snow could bee seen on the mountain tops in the far distance and I pressumed that was where we were headed as we followed the river then through a few tunnels before taking the turn that says Col de St Bernardo, it got steeper and tighter, the road surface was a bit broken and patchy in places and the bike was in first gear alot suddenly you see the buildings at the highest point of the road and we stopped on the carpark to look at from where we had came. The temperature was a good few degrees cooler, and with your leather jacket off a definite chill could be felt at 8100ft. Snow was left in patches here and there but not on the roads. I bought an over priced drink from the restaurant and then we set off into Italy to see the bit from the film " The Italian Job".
  The tarmac was very good over the border, imagine someone has just dropped spaghetti onto the
The high road zig zags up the mountain
mountain is the best way to describe the way the road had been laid. It just kept twisting left and right, some corners were into huge rock faces and others were onto huge drops with nothing but a small fence to stop you going over the edge. After 10 miles we came to some roadworks so turned around then headed back to the top. Col wanted to do it fast, where I went for the quick but scenic version, trying to look at the views as well as keep a reasonable fun pace,  Thank you Italy, the road was great fun.We both enjoyed the Italian side but my mind was now on the journey back to the hotel as it was getting a bit hot. We stopped for fuel on the route back, the local temp was now 32 degrees, even with the visor open and my jacket undone it was not cooling down. The motorway was busy and the engines were running over 100 degrees for a lot of the time the fan was on trying to keep it cool but all it was doing was using the battery up. We hit Geneva at 17:30 rush hour and in the queue Col saw 117 degrees on the temp gauge, We got back to the hotel our leathers stuck to us and our faces covered in road dust stuck to sweat. I checked the weather app on the phone. it said the next 3 days were going to be 32,34 and 37 degrees!
 Our UK all year round leathers are not designed for that kind of heat, there's no vents only a zip out inner lining, so out it came.
 Next day we looked at the map and headed for the French Alps and Annecy Lake, we noticed a
Mont Blanc in the distance

Lake Annecy behind the bikes
mountain called Semnoz with a twisty road on the map so after a drink and cooling Ice cream we climbed the 16km route along the D41/D110 to the top at 5446 feet. Another great bit of tarmac through the forest with plenty of turns to keep you busy. Not quite so exciting as the previous day on St Bernards Pass but still entertaining enough and cool enough on the top to be bearable.
 Down by the lake it was 34 degrees the clear water looked inviting as we sat on a bench in the shade our leather trousers and boots not giving us a break from the heat. We needed petrol but neither of us wanted to summon up the will to go looking for a garage and to go on the journey back to the hotel.
      Back in the village St Genus Poullity we used a pub called Charly's, a guy from the USA got chatting to us about bikes and his mate lived locally so told us to try a road I had been looking at earlier from Gex to Saint-Claude. This became our plan for the next day as it was not so far and it was gonna be hotter again. So we discovered the Jura Mountains.

  The road leaves Gex and snakes its way up the mountain, through a few villages, over some fresh tarmac and then over the top.
Its around 4650ft so was nice and cool, which was a relief as the temperature was forecast for 37 degrees. We took a left and dropped down the mountain another twisty road with a couple of tight bends and a hairpin thrown in for good measure before we rode through the village of Mijoux. The climb starts again and the road now with race track smooth and fresh tarmac which had the banked corners you would expect on a track, weaved its way up through 5 hairpins in the forest section. Over the top the road opens and dips slowly down and eventually you get to my favourite part called Les Moulins,
this doubles back on itself and has 9 sharp bends all very close to each before it goes through a few more villages, one of which I liked the name of called Mont Brilliant. We pulled into the little picnic area just before arriving at Saint-Claude and threw our leather jackets on the ground, the sweat was dripping out of us but we both enjoyed the ride.

 The Journey home was 14 hours long, it could have been 80 minutes shorter but there was an incident on the M25 causing tail backs for 4 junctions and unfortunately we were stuck in it.

  We found some great roads, its such a shame that none of them are just up the road from where we live!
 I think there will be another trip in Switzerland yet.

 The whole trip for 5 nights cost us just under £750 each, (not inc spending money)
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