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Bikes, beers, and a brotherhood at ‘BMW Alps Adventure Motorrad Days’ (Part 2)

The continuation of our European Alpine motorbike tour

The author's VizMin group became more cohesive with every riding day. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

NOTE: For Part 1 of this story, click here.


After the previous four days of riding in the heat, it was time to put on our rain gear as the temperature was in the low teens with light rain. Five mountain passes were on the itinerary, the first two being the Hochtannberg Pass (1,660m) and the Furkajoch (1,737m).

With the bike set to Rain mode, we must have spent the first two hours riding in fog and light rain, although it wasn’t so wet that we felt miserable. At the Rhine Valley, we passed through the principality of Liechtenstein. A country with an area of only 160sq-km, it’s the sixth smallest nation in the world and the fourth smallest in Europe.

We did a brief photo stop to see the castle of Vaduz, where Prince Hans-Adam II’s family lives. Unfortunately, the facade was under renovation so there wasn’t much to see beyond a panoramic view of the tiny kingdom.

Scenic mountain roads with nary a hint of garbage in sight. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
At the Albula Pass en route to Italy. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Exiting Liechtenstein, we now found ourselves in Switzerland for lunch, followed by a long and winding road lined by scree fields—the Albula Pass (2,312m). Another brief photo stop in St. Moritz and then a terrific hour of switchbacks and sweeping curves at the Bernina Pass (2,328m) before finally reaching the small town of Livigno in Italy.

Breakfast in Austria.

Lunch in Switzerland.

Dinner in Italy!

Panniers and a top box are essential to long-distance touring. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO


The tour guides said this was a “rest day” as we’d just be riding in and around Livigno, but apparently, this was also code-speak for budol. After briefly backtracking on the Bernina Pass, we made our way to the Mortirolo. I’d only ever read about the latter following professional cycling news, and now I could finally see it with my own eyes.

At the top of the Passo del Mortirolo, one of professional cycling's toughest climbs. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

The Mortirolo is one of the hardest climbs in pro cycling—12.4km long with an average gradient of 10.5% and an elevation gain of 1,300m. What the roadbook leaves out are the numerous hairpins along narrow and roughly paved roads, with the gradient at the corners regularly going above 20%.

On the one hand, I felt envious of the numerous cyclists making their way up. On the other hand, I was glad I wasn’t suffering like them and only had to worry about not losing my balance on the tight switchbacks.

One of many coffee stops during the tour. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
IMAX views are what await in the Alps. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
Total concentration on the switchbacks. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

If the Mortirolo was fascinating, the Gavia Pass later that afternoon was mildly terrifying—43km long and 2,618m above sea level. The road isn’t quite wide enough for two vehicles to safely pass. You have to stay close to the wall to let the other vehicle get through. Countless blind curves and switchbacks, precious few guardrails…

I was actually making good time until I made the mistake of looking down into the valley below and realizing there’d be no stopping me or the bike if I fell off the road! Pretty much everyone in the group felt the same thing, and we needed a few minutes at the top to regain our nerves.

The Gavia Pass is a test of one's skills and nerves. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
Overtaking on the Gavia is a very sketchy maneuver. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
The GS was a solid machine for touring the Alps. A favorite among riders. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO


On our final day of riding, we would be riding the Queen of Alpine roads: the Passo dello Stelvio. At 2,758m and with 48 switchbacks going up and 27 going down, it’s one of the greatest driving roads in the world. There were quite a number of cars, bikes, and motorbikes on the road, so it wasn’t a free-for-all going to the peak.

This was just as well since it made safely negotiating all those hairpins a lot easier than on the Gavia. At the top was a small town with souvenir shops, cafés, and sandwich carts. I made sure to enjoy a doppio all by myself at one of the cafés with a fantastic view of the southern side of the Stelvio.

Riding up the Stelvio. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
The author was glad he took the BMW Rider Training course with too many switchbacks to count. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
At the top of the Stelvio. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

By the time we went down, it was a leisurely ride back to Austria, with a gelato stop at Glorenza, Italy’s smallest city, and a photo stop at Lago di Resia where the church steeple of the village of Graun peeks out of the lake.

You can't pass through Glorenza, Italy's smallest city, without having a gelato. PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO

One last mountain pass to see the view at Gacher Blick, and then it was time to turn over the bikes to Edelweiss’s headquarters in Mieming.

With the last day of riding finally done, we had ridden nearly 1,700km, gone through numerous, spellbinding places, and over world-class roads that every rider dreams of.

Our group with tour guide Hans at Liechtenstein. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
Franz and Chris were the best tour guides the author could have asked for. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

I also made fast friends with my riding group, who quickly made me feel welcome as we looked out for each other throughout the week.

Sam, Ranjie, Abdi, Felix, RJ, Van, Mark, Jimmy and Sheila, Kyle and Pangkie, Bong, Raz, Irvine, “Vice” Carlo Loreto (former vice governor of Leyte)…I couldn’t have asked for a better riding group to share the experience with.

During the ride, we kept safe and stayed out of trouble. When one of us occasionally got lost, we’d patiently wait for him to find his way back and not make a fuss about it. At night, we drank way too many beers to count.

Another great way to tour Europe, perhaps? PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
The author lost count of how many beers were consumed during this tour, being cheaper than water. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
The author's kit included his Bell helmet and Gaerne boots. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
Nearly 1,700km of breathtaking sceneries and great company. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

And all along the route, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many riders. I think every hour we’d pass at least two groups and exchange the universal “hello” hand signal. No need to race each other, everyone just enjoying the day.

Our two guides, Franz and Chris, did a stellar job leading us through five countries, taking care of all the behind-the-scenes logistics so all we had to do was concentrate on the riding and have fun.

Needless to say, my GS rode flawlessly—my personal airplane flying through the valleys and the mountains. It also helped that the roads were terrific. Except for the bumpy surface of the Mortirolo, I don’t think I saw a single pothole.

Every day of the tour would bring us to some amazing places. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

BMW Motorrad tirelessly talks about “making life a ride,” and in those seven days where we spent the better part of the day on the road, it really was one of the best ways to explore and see the world. If you love to ride and want to try some of Europe’s best roads, this tour should be at the top of your bucket list.

Andy Leuterio

Andy is both an avid cyclist and a car enthusiast who has finally made the shift to motorcycles. You've probably seen him on his bicycle or motorbike overtaking your crawling car. He is our motorcycle editor and the author of the ‘Quickshift’ column.