Two chicks, two F650s, and two big dreams. Katherine, on an F650GSa single with an ebay engine that was installed a whole three weeks before the start, and Sabine, on a F650GS twin that she has owned from new, off to ride the Alps in a nine-day pass-bagging adventure that would check off entire bucket lists for some people. What started as a wish to see the Sella Group (Sabine) and a burning desire to run Stelvio (Katherine) ballooned into a trip that eventually included 2600kms, the weirdest train ride ever, and 36 Alpine passes. The trip actually started on Day 0, when we boarded the DeutscheBahn AutoZug in Düsseldorf with 37.4 miles on the trip odometer. Lined up at 20.00 or so, we were in a group of roughly 40 motorcyclists and 30 cars bound for München. The train also included a section going to Innsbruck – the vehicle carriers were separated in Munich so that the Innsbruck-bound passengers would not have to wait for unloading. Among the cars going to Munich were a group of British Elise enthusiasts who we would see and speak with again, and a group of three riders who we agreed (with a smile) to meet in Bolzano, as we were all headed there at one point in our journeys. Funny how everyone had similar itineraries…
The AutoZug is not for the faint of heart. The carriers are two-level and motorbikes live on the lower floor. The clearance is 1.56m, shorter than me. Motorcyclists attach tiedown straps to prefered points on their bikes, ride them in, and ride out after the trip. I rode in with my chin bar firmly pressed to my tank bag, and was warned to remove my GoPro from my helmet. Rats, I really wanted that on video, too. The DB crew moved in and secured the bikes with cleats front and rear and tiedowns.
We booked a compartment for ourselves – adding about 15€ per head to the ticket price. As we managed to get a pretty smoking deal on the tickets, this was a logical upgrade. 187€ total, including two passengers, two bikes, and two breakfasts. By booking the entire compartment, we did not have to deal with anyone else. Many groups had the same idea – the three guys were two cabins over. The changing in the hallway thing worked for them, but not us. On the other side was a group of five riders, also bound for the Alps, but east instead of west. DB equips the compartments with standard european power outlets, plenty of lights, good curtains, and these things that function as beds. It all adds up to a decent way to get some sleep and distance in, at least for what was going to be a transit stage anyway. I collected some additional items at the Bahnhof grocery store, and we tucked in for the night.
Getting off the carrier is no worse than getting on. If you’re 2.2m tall and riding a GSA, it’s clearly not fun, but for short people on short bikes, it’s not that bad. Just don’t lift your head up. You exit the carrier into a deployment lot where the riders assemble and build up their bikes for the big trip. Any luggage carried into the cabin is remounted, and then it’s off on tour! We are the last out, as I wait for my riding partner to get her bike built.
Day 1 is planned to take us first to the Sudelfeldstrasse and Tatzelwurm, then to Kitzbühel, Saalfelden, and down the Grossglockener Hochalpenstrasse to Linz, Austria. We start off on the A8, southbound to the B307 and the Tatzelwurmstrasse. The Tatezlwurm consists of a few linked up Kehren, or switchbacks, but not much else. The scenery is pretty, though. I’ll continue to use the words Kehren and tornante to describe these turns, depending on where I am at the time. From Kufstein, we head across the B173, B178, and B161 down to Kitzbühel over Pass Thurn, the first real pass we took. On the way, we stop for a bunch of decorated cows, the annual Almabtrieb in which the cows are driven down from the mountain peaks into the valleys for the winter. At this point, we run into the three guys from the train for the first time. At Pass Thurn, a tourist bus driver moves his bus for us so we could take a photo with the pass sign. From there, it is across the B168 and stopping for fuel (285.2kms on the odo, total 247,8 total), then up to Saalfelden for a quick shoppping stop and lunch at the Gasthof Frohnwies.
After lunch, we head on to the Grossglockener Hochalpenstrasse, one of the original Alps passes and the highest in Austria. It consists of beautiful ascent and descent ramps and two actual passes, the Fuscher Törl and the Hochtor. The Fuscher Törl is in the clouds when we ascend, on the other side, the Hochtor is in the sun. Not bad for our fist big ascents. We avoid the Edelweisespitze as it is not only in a dense cloud, but paved with cobblestones, a surface neither of us love. At the Fuscher Törl, we find cars being tested for braking function.
We wind down the day by heading to Linz, and just past there, find a small pension that offers us room and board for the grand sum of 35€ a head. Including a garage for the bikes, not so bad! On the way there, I have to make an ugly uturn and my bike takes a nap, but no damage and those Vario boxes are a lot tougher than they look.