ABR Knowledge Bombs: The Alps

The Alps 

When we mention European bike trips most people think they know all there is know about the Alps, but there is a lot more to this mountain range than a simple route to the countries beyond. So, we hear you ask, what is it about the Alps that attracts thousands of motorcyclists year upon year? We’ve got this covered; here is our essential guide to the top ‘must knows’ to wow even the most seasoned bikers and prove why these mountain passes are more popular than ever.

The St. Gotthard Tunnel (Switzerland) is the longest road tunnel in the Alps and third longest in the world. The tunnel carries over 17,000 vehicles every day and stretches 10.52 miles. On Friday 24 October 2001 a collision of two trucks created a fire in the tunnel, killing eleven and injuring many more so this one needs to approached with some care. 

There is a grand total of around 4,200 km of main roads within the Alpine perimeter, consisting of a whole host of different surfaces from state of the art tarmac to gravel trails which are perfect to test out your, and the bike’s, skills. 

The Aletsch Glacier, located in Switzerland, is the largest glacier in the Alps, covering a total area of 46 square miles. The best views are from Bettmerhorn or Eggishorn – both of which are peaks south of the Glacier and reachable on bike.

The Stelvio Pass in Northern Italy is considered the most dangerous road in the Alps, and one of the most dangerous in the world. It consists of 48 hairpin turns and is the second highest paved mountain in the Alps behind the Col de l’Iseran, falling short by just 19m. 

The highest summit in the Alps is Mont Blanc which reaches a breathtaking 4,807 metres. For the touring riders there are various ‘unofficial’ Mont Blanc routes that take in eight challenging mountain passes, hundreds of hairpin turns and spectacular views of the imposing mountain along the way. 

The Furka Pass, in the Swiss Alps, was used as a location for the Aston DB5/Ford Mustang car chase in the James Bond film Goldfi nger. With so many switchback turns you’ll probably end up more shaken than stirred… sorry, sorry!!

The Alps in numbers

150 million 

Roughly the amount of people that cross the Alps every year, 83% of these by road. 

–5˚C 

The average temperature in the Alps during the daytime in the winter. Snow during the summer isn’t unheard of – so packing the right gear is essential. 

750 miles 

The length of the Alps. They stretch over eight countries – Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Slovenia and Switzerland – and cover an area of around 73,000 sq miles.

2,770m 

The highest paved pass in the Alps, the Col de l’Iseran. France. The pass is only accessible via road in the summer months and has a maximum gradient of 12%.