1. Would do again. Over and over and over.
In the words of the guys from Grand Rapids “Get out! Go outside! Do something!” Check, check, and check. The goals of the trip were achieved and fun and adventure were had. This, as Gatsby says, is living! With hope, more adventure will ensue, even if it means renting bikes on one continent or another.
2. Pre-trip planning paid off huge.
We began serious planning four weeks out, prior to that, it was just “hey, let’s ride some passes” over coffee/tea/ice cream. We used two guidebooks and a found map of the Alps with passes marked. 100 Alpenpässe mit dem Motorrad and Pässe XXL. We are searching for a copy of the map, it was excellent, but now nearly destroyed. While the two books often differed in observations and ratings of the various passes, we were able to get a general idea of what to expect. We began by assembling the list of interesting passes and then plotting them on the map. From this, we assembled a route that would touch them with minimal transit time. I used both Google Maps and BaseCamp to visualize the routes, settling on BaseCamp as planning proceeded. Prior to departure, an overview map was created using GPSvisualizer.com.
The general idea for the trip was to focus exclusively on ascents and descents while minimizing transits. This is how the AutoZug got slotted in – it shaved an entire day of transit from the trip. We spent roughly ten hours discussing and plotting the route on the map (four significant revisions) and I put another ten+ hours into BaseCamp. There were two significant versions of the .gpx fileset prior to departure. Two changes to the fileset were made underway, most noteably the transit of Julier in place of Albuela. The Landeck loop was not set in the proper direction as loaded and needed to be reversed in the unit. The final version of the route as ridden is available by email request. Too late, we discovered that Garmin speaks more characters than TomTom, which would not load files with non-base-ASCII characters in the names (umlauts!). Once the umlauts were removed (after the trip), the files loaded without problem. How American.
We established through internet and social contacts that 200 to 300kms per day was realistic, this assisted with route planning and expectations. We were in this range or exceeding it all days, at the expense of photos on the higher mileage days (end of trip). The non-pass (effectively transit) stages were not as well documented as the pass stages.
We checked with assorted sources to look into hotels and found that we could expect to find places without stress along the route. This proved to be quite true, and with the exception of Switzerland, we found the prices quite acceptable. We estimated 100€ per day for all expenses and this was sufficient without having to worry about money. In retrospect, we would stay at more pass hotels, as this almost guarantees a traffic-free trip up at the end of the day and a traffic-free trip down in the morning. Travelling without fixed hotel plans opened up many options for distance planning and allowed us to flow with the ride each day. This is a very good thing.
3. Should include human aspects in the pre-trip planning.
Pair an introvert with an extrovert and eventually there will be friction. We mediated this by choosing single rooms when available. We were able to handle it in stride for the most part, but would recommend that people have this discussion up front. It can save some stress on the road.
4. Gear planning is critical.
Considerable back and forth about leather versus textile occupied the three weeks prior to the trip. Textile won out and happily so. Washable underlayers were the winners. Socks need to be upgraded. You can not unpack and repack enough times. All Dainese boots leak eventually. The Vario boxes from BMW are much tougher than people make them out to be. They don’t break, they collapse, which means a few clicks and they are back to normal.
5. The bike was awesome.
Whatever worries I had about the bike are not there any more. What a super performer, even with the engine having a whopping 600kms on it prior to going out. I could have packed fewer tools, but was quite concerned about issues. NONE. Not a one. Big thumpers are in their element on steep descents. The compression braking is formidable. I could run whole descents in second gear and need no brakes. Amazing. The single item is a possibly worn-through chain guard, which is being supplemented by a piece of plastic binder right now. If the noise comes back, I’ll know what to replace. No surprise as I was running slack on top due to the engine braking.
I would be remiss in not mentioning the Postbusses. In most of Austria and some of Italy, the public transit is run by the post office. They have to deliver the mail anyway, so why not deliver a few people while they are at it? To a one, these are some of the most professional, courteous, and skilled large vehicle operators I have ever encountered. Where tourist busses were clogging traffic and taking up space, the Postbus drivers were following the road and holding impressive lines. Riders should take note that there is nothing to fear from a Postbus. Everything else? Be afraid. Be very afraid.