Swiss passes

Tour of the Alps 2013 – Day 2

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. This is day two on our tour and we aim for Bernina Pass, Albula Pass, Splügen Pass, San Bernardino Pass and the Lukmanier Pass.

Read about the first leg of The Tour of the Alps 2013 here: Timmelsjoch!
Read about the second leg of The Tour of the Alps 2013 here: Stelvio to Livigno!

After a busy day yesterday, I fell asleep just as my head hit the pillow. Today we woke to a clear blue sky. The night has been chilly and there were frost and the fields where covered in white. We were in no hurry and had a wonderful breakfast before we prepared the bikes for today’s ride. At about nine o’clock we straddle our bikes and hit the road I direction of our first mountain – The Bernina Pass. The first skiers have already started the first training session on their roller skies and we leave Livigno.

To be honest the Bernina Pass is not our first pass, as we get close to road 29 we have to pass over the Forcola di Livigno and are already at 2315 meters over sea level. A little restaurant at to top is the only indication of the pass. Now we descend towards road 29, and as we shall enter the road taking us to the Bernina Pass we pass the boarder station and enter Switzerland.

Road 29 comes from Tirano and shall take us to the Bernina Pass. First time I rode over here was on my CB 350 Four in 1974, then in the opposite direction. Past the border station we take right and the enter a road with black and smooth asphalt and are already into the entertaining part of the climb towards the pass. We enjoy the curves and the ride, this is what motorcycling is all about. We pass the highest point and stop at the parking on our left side of the road.

At the highest the Bernina Pass is 2328 m.a.s.l. and besides having a nice view to the lake Lago Bianco it also has the highest railroad in Europe that has no external help form wires or toothed wheels. We have just stopped when the parking is invaded by a group of German roofers with a variety of bikes from Harleys to KTM Adventures. I guess there was about 30 motorcycles in the group.

Bernina pass, 2330 m.a.s.l. has fantastic riding and a break at the summit to admire Lago Bianc and the railway is recommended.

After making some pictures we head on towards our next pass, the Albula Pass. And as we leave the parking the front of the German group is ready to take off as well. On the long straights down the valley they pass us wherever possible. If there is an oncoming car, they even use parking areas on the right side to overtake. They are obviously not scared by the possibility of getting stopped by the strict swiss Police. In the curves, however they are very careful, and we catch up with the group every time we get to a curvy section of the road. As we enter Pontresina we are on our own again, and find our regular pace.

At road 27 we continue straight ahead on road 29 to La Punt. In the centre of La Punt we turn left in direction of Albula Pass. The climb starts immediately and the narrow roads crosses the green fields towards the valley leading us to the Albula Pass. In the climb, we have a nice view over the Engadin valley and the Inn river. This is not a spectacular road, but we enjoy the scenery and have a nice ride. The mountain valley is wide and the Albula Pass is marked by a restaurant. In Preda, 7 km after passing roads highest point at 2315 m.a.s.l. the road will share the valley with the railroad. As we ride down the now narrow valley we can admire the impressive railroad construction. The railroad over from the Albula valley to the Engadin valley was built in 1903 and is a masterpiece with impressive bridges and winding tunnels. Between Preda and Sinas in the Engadin valley the trains run in a nearly 6 km long tunnel.

Albula pass, 2315 m.a.s.l. is a pleasant mountain crossing and the railway on the west side is a masterpiece.

Just as we enter the small town of Albula we enter a roundabout in which we keep to the right to road 3. After passing the railroad station we keep on straight ahead I direction and Chur and Thusis. In Thusis we enter road 13 south and on our way vi pass the Via Mala canyon. Instead of a stop at Via Mala vi deicide to rid the Splügen Pass. And it turns out to be a good decision. The pass is 2115 meters high and marks the border between Switzerland and Italy. Curves and a magnificent view makes this pass one of my favourites. The road is at some parts very narrow and combined with serpentines this puts our skills to the test. As we climb the technique improves, without me getting to confident. When we meet a car, the road becomes very narrow.

We make a U-turn at the border station at the top of the pass and as we start on our descent the clouds clear away and we have a perfect ride down to Splügen. Riding downhill is quite different from climbing, and some of the curves are very steep. Specially in the right-hand curves I don’t feel confident and is impressed by a British rider on a Kawasaki ZZR 1400 passing us. He rides the hairpin curves so quickly and fluently. In Splügen we stop for lunch before heading for the San Bernardino pass.

Splügen pass, 2113 m.a.s.l. offers demanding riding on both sides, we rode the Swiss side only.

We keep to the small road as we head towards the San Bernardino pass. If you plan to ride over the mountain you shall be aware, it is far more easy to hit the tunnel than the road over the pass. The climb is easy with the hairpins starting just at once. As the you leave the valley the climb is more gentle but still you have some hairpin curves left before you are at the top at 2066 meters. We have a short break at the Laghetto Moesola lake before we start on the descent, which offers good riding combined with some wonderful views.
San Bernardino pass, 2066 m.a.s.l. You have to be aware to find the road over San Bernardino and not ride through the tunnel. The over-the-mountain ride is highly recommended.

We stick to road 13 and avoid the A13/E43 to Bellinzona and have some very entertaining riding and very little traffic as most of the traffic is on the motorway. In Bellinzona we enter road A2/E35 in direction of San Gottardo before leave for Biasco Lucomagno at exit 44.

We head towards the Lukmanier pass with the sun ahead and the ride in the partially dark valley is quite demanding. As we approach the pass at 1915 meters we are in a wide valley with lush meadows. The lake Lai da Sontga Maria is at the highest point and has a dam at the north end. We ride the tunnel passed the lake and take a break at the dam. The dam is impressive – 560 meters long and 117 meters high.

Lukmanier pass, 1915 m.a.s.l. feels more like a valley. I recommend to stop at the 117 meters high Lai da Sontga Maria dam.

We admire what we assume will be the last of sunshine for today before we head on towards Disentis/Mustér where we get rooms at Hotel Alpsu, and they have a garage for the bikes very convenient on the other side of the street.

We have ridden a little more than 303 km since we left Livigno this morning and we have a very strategic position for tomorrows ride.

Useful links:

Garni Baita Cecilia, Livigno
Hotel Alpsu, Disentis/Mustér

Today’s mountain passes:

Forcola di Livigno

Country: Italy/Switzerland. Height: 2315 m.a.s.l.
Situated between Livigno and road 29 to the Bernina pass and Tirano

Bernina Pass / Passo del Bernina

Country: Switzerland. Height: 2328 m.a.s.l.
Is on road 29 between Poshiavo and Pontresina. Has Europe’s highest railroad without wires or toothed wheels

Albula Pass / Passo dell’Albula

Country: Switzerland. Height: 2315 m.a.s.l.
Situated between the cities La Punt and Tiefencastel. The road is in a wide valley and offers nice riding, it lacks great views.

Splügen Pass / Passo dello Spluga

Country: Switzerland/Italy. Height: 2115 m.a.s.l.
Situated between Splügen in Switzerland and Chiavenna in Italy. A detour on our route, very entertaining. A fantastic pass with good riding and views. I recommend a ride on the Italian side as well.

San Bernardino pass / Passo del San Bernardino

Country: Switzerland. Height: 2066 m.a.s.l.
Situated on road 13 parallel to A13/E43. If the weather conditions say so, choose the ride over the mountain instead of the tunnel. Be aware – it is very easy to end up riding the tunnel. Nice riding on both sides.