Riding the Alps on the Transalp summer 2006.

June 22-july 2.

Inspired by people like Sylvia Stuurman and the Belgian Big Mike I had the wish to ride the Alps on the smallest possible roads. This year I finally did it. Riding there with some friends of the MC club turned out to be a great experience.
I made some changes to the Transalp in order to make life easier and possibly damage less. Knobbies (TKC80), high Acerbis front fender, lever protection, aluminium skid plate, handlebar risers; I thought I did all that was necessary. As the ride progressed I realized the front suspension wasn't up to the task, the next time progressive springs will replace the standard ones.
As to the damage: one indicator died due to a drop at 0 kmh, the rear fender cracked due to the extra weight of the scottoiler combined with the bumpy roads, the rubber of the left footpeg got misplaced and finally the front plastic isn't as tight as it used to be. So all damage is minor.
As to the TKC's: they wear out pretty quick on turmac. New they had 10.5mm threads, on arriving in France 7mm was left on the rear. The front showed some heavy dents after the rocky rides, so all in all I think one needs harder compound tires for a trip like this. However, riding was a pleasure using these the TKC's. Easy to drag the pegs on normal roads, excellent on muddy parts and confidence inspiring on other unpaved roads. As to clothing: I must find something that keeps me cooler on these hot days.

Our destination...

First camp at Spa.
I started out on thursday, travelling over small roads to meet Symon in Rosmalen at 15.00 after a snack at McDonalds. Together we took the motorway to Maastricht, from there on minor roads again to Spa where we made camp. A decent dinner and then watch the soccer game with some Australians as Australia played a match in the world championship.
Early morning on friday, quickly through Luxembourg and then a wonderful ride through the Vosges. Great sweepers and hairpins, fun to ride but bad for the knobbies. A stop at a supermarket in Schirmeck, then followed the route des Cretes south. Again a great road. Lots of mc riders, but mainly at terrasses alongside the road. Col du Bonhomme, Col de la Schlucht. Finally arriving at Giromagny where we made camp for the night. Dinner: kebab with french fries. Shower, beer, bed.

A quiet day on the bikes. The excellent weather (all week long!) contributed to the experience. To save the knobbies we slowed down somewhat, but when we approached Geneva we joined a group of Harley riders that 'raced' down the mountain roads to Gex. The crazy b*st*rds knew how to RIDE their bikes, these were not the cruising kind of guys!
After conquering hot Geneva we soon arrived at Cluses, where the ride would start on monday. We did some shopping in the African quarter and prepared ourselves a meal. After an hour or so Bart arrived and ate the humble remainders of our meal.
Wine and Armagnac, chat, shower and bed.
On sunday we went out for a hike. In blistering heat we climbed a nearby mountain, then had to walk down a crazy and never ending stairway down to Cluses. A 6 hour struggle... A cold beer and some food was our reward. Soon Geeske and Huyb arrived; we went back to the village to have an Italian meal in a restaurant where service was extremely bad. To add to the 'joy' it started raining like hell so we had to walk back to the campsite getting very wet.
We learned that the last two guys of the group, Peter and Theo, had arrived. It was them that had brought the bad weather: they had been riding in the rain for 5 hours and were very tired. They rented a cabin at the campsite and were kind enough to invite me to their couch. Had a great night on the soft pillow.
Enjoying a quiet day; Symons head in the background.

A short break on a wonderful road.
Monday. Finally on our way. The D4, col de la Colombiere, the D909, col des Aravis. An unpaved detour was skipped as lots of hikers were seen and we didn't want to upset them. East, the D925 to Lac de Roseland. We intended to ride the south and east side of the lake, but fences were closed and we were not allowed in. Further east we rode to the Route des Glaciers, where a gentle unpaved path took us to a great view of the glaciers. Back south, the D902 to Bourg-St-Maurice and nice roads to Arc2000, an ugly wintersport resort. A small unpaved road to Vilaroger was next, quite hard for the ST1100 and the ZZR! Back on normal roads to Val d'Isere, where we settled on the local campsite. We had a corner of our own, where we prepared food, drank wine and discussed the day. Earlier this day we lost Huyb and Geeske, who decided to do their own tour.

Tuesday. A nice ride crossing the Col de l'Iseran. Further south along the D902 we wanted to visit the refuge d'Avérole, but after a few miles the entry was forbidden. Maybe we would have more success reaching the Refuge du Plan du Lac, but we didn't manage to reach it: a dead end 'street'. I did manage to drop the bike for the 1st time, loosing a rear indicator in the process. Down to Termignon and the Col du Mont Cenis. Very hard trail, not suitable for the touring bikes. So it was decided to give up and ride the Lac du Mt Cenis on the north side. A little detour to Moncenisio and Novalesa (Italy!) proved to be a great choice: a lovely winding road with nice views. In Susa we split up, the Africa Twin, DL650 and Transalp were going to do the unpaved bit to Sestriere, the others preferred (quite wisely) to take the normal roads. The climb to the Colle delle Finestre was exciting in itself, but after that the fun really started. Gravel, mud and stone, steep up and down, what a great ride. We did meet a group of Germans on their Beemers (without luggage) and in the end two Dutch guys on an African Twin and a 600 Transalp, also without luggage, but mainly we were on our own, enjoying the ride and the great views. The day ended in Briancon where Theo and Peter had already found a campsite. Symon and I took the ST to get some food which we ate after a well deserved shower.
On my way to Sestriere.

Arrival at the tunnel du Parpaillon.
Wednesday. Straight to the Col d'Izoard over well maintained roads. Then to the viewpoint at Sommet Bucher, an unpaved ride for Bart, Symon and me. We scared some cows (in fact they scared us) and reached the summit where we drank a little before going down again. We joined the others but split up again to ride the Grand Parpaillon. It proved hard to find, but after some heroic tries and help from some mechanics who worked on the skiing equipment we were on our way. Higher and higher on rough roads, and there it was: the famous tunnel du Parpaillon. It does have a bad name as it's dark, has a rough icy roadsurface and rocky walls. Gently we passed some obstacles, a pile of snow and a deep pool of water, and then we were back in the sunshine. On to Jausiers where the others had waited a long time due to our inability to find the right track and nervous they were too as the mobile phones didn't work here. Then to Barcelonette where we would stay 2 nights.

Thursday. We started out together to ride the Col de la Bonette, the highest rideable pass in Europe. A perfect road to a perfect viewpoint, where some of us walked to the very top to have the best view. Lots of bikers were present, but only Symon and me returned to the beginning of an unpaved road which took us through the heart of the Mercantour national park. Not a difficult ride, but a beautiful one all the same. In St-Etienne-de-Tinée we rejoined the others, filled up with petrol and had a drink in the sunshine. Rode together to St-Saveur-sur-Tinée and some miles further south Symon and I took the road from Rimplas to Pierlas and Rigaud, which we thought was unpaved. It was not, instead it was a serpentine turmac road which climbed steeply high above the D2205. Great riding. In Rigaud we were all together again and drank a coke.
As the previous 'offroad' parts had been easy, it was decided that all of us would ride from here to Daluis over 'the little black road' on the map. It turned out to be much harder than we expected, it was a struggle for the big bikes. At Daluis we split up once again; most wanted to return to Barcelonette but Symon and I wanted to ride the Gorge du Verdon. Despite our first rain it was a nice ride, but not very special compared to the previous ones. We started to get low on fuel so decided to return to Castellane, taking the north rim. Thanks to a good speed (plenty of fuel in Castellane...) we arrived there quickly to find that all petrol stations were closed and the one that was operational didn't accept our cards! It took a while before a motorcycle-owning car driver arrived who was willing to help us out. It was pitchdark by now, and as I cannot see well at night Symon led the way home over some creepy roads. He even managed to fall off his bike, fortunately in the gras and with no harm done. We arrived at the campsite at 01.30, Bart was waiting for us with sausages and wine, great!
Somewhere between Rigaud and Daluis.

Friday. Time to go north again. Bart, Theo and Peter left earlier than Symon and me because we were slow to leave our beds after the night before. Once packed we picked up a good pace, copying the behaviour of the french motards. Once past Geneva on the N5 my bum got so sour that I could no longer move on the bike. I stripped alongside the road and went butt-naked back into my jeans. Such relief! We struggled to find the campsite at Besancon, and once found we SMS-ed the GPS coordinates to the others. Technology... We all showered and then had a pleasant evening at the BBQ.

Saturday. Extremely quiet touring today. This part of northern France (between Besancon and Luxembourg) reminded me of France like it used to be. Small villages sleeping in the sun. As usual we took the smallest roads, at one point it even went unpaved by mistake. We wanted to reach Thionville as the owners of the campsite were supposed to be such friendly people. We did get there eventually, but the campsite was fully occupied. The lady served us some cold water, and then we were on our way again trying to find shelter for the night. We didn't find what we liked, so somewhere along the N10 in Luxembourg (near Remich) we split up for the last time. Theo and Peter went back to a campsite we had seen and rejected, Bart, Symon and me carried on. In the end we rode to a youth hostel in Bourglinster where we showered, drank our wine and ate our sausages. The whole village seemed to closed, so that had to do.

Sunday. During the night Bart had started his trip back home. We waited for breakfast and headed out as well. The N4 up to Namur, then motorways back to Holland. Shortly after passing our home border Symon and I split up, making the thumbs-up gesture to each other. It indeed had been a great week.

Swanking at the Col de la Bonette. The T-shirt indicating that I've been higher than this...