Tour of the Alps 2013 – Day 1 – Part 2 – Stelvio and Umbrail Pass
We did this trip in September 2013. We are Einar on a BMW R 1200 RT and me on the Yamaha FZS 600 Fazer. The goal was the Alps and some of the highest passes Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France have to offer. On this leg, we ride the Stelvio and Umbrail passes.
Timmelsjoch was a pleasure. After the fog cleared, we had a lovely drive down to Merano where we turned right on SS38. We had a lunch at Bachguterhof in Tschars before continuing to Spondigna and further towards the Stelvio Pass.
Stelvios hairpins are notorious and feared and are impressive when standing at the top and with the view eastward. The first time I rode over here on a motorcycle there was a bicycle race passing over the pass. It was challenging for everyone. The road is narrow and the ride became tougher by hundreds of cyclists with accompanying vehicles on the road.
Today the traffic is considerably quieter and more relaxed. Those of you who have ridden over the Stelvio Pass knows that Stelvio is more than the hairpins on the top of the climb. The turns starts at Trafoi, which is only 5 kilimetres from the Stelvio Pass in air distance, but the distance to the top following the road is 13,5 kilometres. Trafoi is located at 1540 meters above sea level, so in 13,5 km we are climbing more than 1,200 meters to the top of the pass.
In the forest by Trafoi the distance between the hairpins are longer than at the top of the climb, but the curves are still demanding and quite narrow if you should meet a car. We have to stay focused on the ride at all time. As visibility in most corners is very limited, it is not always possible to keep the ideal line into and through the turns. This also applies when you get up in the mountains where the turns are sharper and steeper.
At the top of the pass, we take a short break. The shops are concentrating on souvenirs and street food. If you find yourself, a place in the sun you can enjoy the view and let yourself, be entertained by all the passers by. Had it not been for the urge to ride on, we could spent some time here without getting bored.
We head on to the Umbrail Pass, just 3 km down the road. We take to the right and cross in to Switzerland and Umbrail Pass. If you want to explore more haipins, you can continue towards Bormio for 7 km. The south ramp of Stelvio is not as demanding as the northeast ramp, but give you an entertaining ride. The detour would add 16 kilometres to our route, so this time we go directly to the Umbrail Pass.
Unlike the majestic and high location of the Stelvio Pass, you have the feeling of coming down in to the valley to Umbrail even though it is located at 2503 meters above sea.
The Italian / Swiss border passes just beyond the highest point of Umbrail. The descend starts soon. A first it is far between the hairpins and at the top the road is wide and with a good overview. It will becomes narrower when you get a little further down, and in the woods, you get about 3 km of gravel road.
The last descent is in the woods and has some amazing hairpins that can make you lose your sense of direction completely. I recommend a short stop. When we come out of the woods, the lush Münstertal opens up in front of us. The road runs through Santa Maria where we turn left on Kantonstrasse 28 and the direction towards Ofenpass (2149 m above sea level). Ofenpass is a parenthesis compared to three passes we already run today. We head on ride the 3 km long tunnel to the Lago de Livigno. Shortly after the tunnel we pass into Italy again
Livigno is a small duty free paradise and we take this opportunity to refuel the tanks with cheap petrol before we begin to look for accommodation. We settle for the night at the thriving Garni Baita Cecilia in Livigno centre. With clean rooms, underground garage and affordable rates, this is a nice ending to a very successful day on the bikes. Although we have only ridden 240 kilometres, we feel that we have used the day to its maximum. It seems like forever since we drove through the fog on the way up to the Timmelsjoch.
Passo della Stelvio
Country: Italia. Hight: 2758 m.a.s.l.
The road over the Stelvio Pass was built within five years in the period from 1820 to 1825, and the current road follows the original route. In all, the road have more than 70 hairpins, 48 of which are on the infamous northeast ramp.
Tolls: There have been plans to introduce road toll over the Stelvio Pass, but as of 2016, this is still not introduced.
To get there:
From Merano follow the SS38 west. From Bormio follow SS38 north past the Umbrail Pass. You can also get to the Stelvio Pass from Switzerland. Turn off at Santa Maria in Münstertal and ride over Umbrail Pass.