The Dolomites, four men, six countries one small bike

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Slowboy
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The Dolomites, four men, six countries one small bike

Post by Slowboy » Thu Sep 19, 2019 3:48 pm

It all started nearly a year ago when one smart Alec, me, had the idea of a camping tour to the Dolomites. Nine months later, our intrepid foursome met at the Euro tunnel ready for two weeks of adventure. One CRF250 Rally (me), one Triumph Tiger 800(Ralph), one GS1200 (Mason) and one NC700X, (Simon). An eclectic mix then.
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Day one saw us cross the channel and belt along the Autoroute to Lens for a night in the highly recommended B&B Hotel in Lens. Secure parking, very clean and tidy, nice breakfast. I would definitely recommend it for a first/last night stop over.

Day two was our long ride across France. We did this in glorious sunshine and my goodness was it a long hot day (34 degrees) riding across what seemed like the French equivalent of the fens. We bashed out the first 150 miles on the autoroute, after I had guided the team up and down the Lens bypass for half an hour looking for the way out. (Sat nag user error). The Autoroute drove us mad, especially when the buried sensors mostly wouldn't detect the Rally because it's too high off the ground and too slim and lovely (much like its owner) for them. We were glad to see the back of it.

We passed the next 170 miles were on French D roads, which only got interesting as we approached the Ardennes and our home for the night, the campsite in Ribeauville. Coming down the (small) mountains was interesting, especially when we encountered the brick pavè encrusted hairpin bends. Thank goodness it wasn't wet.......😳
I'd picked Ribeauville for the night as it's a sleepy medieval town with a nice camp site pretty much in the centre of town. Sleepy that is except for the last weekend in August when it's their biggest festival of the year (no we hadn't checked or booked). There were people everywhere and camper vans crammed onto every available space on the streets. My heart sank, we were arriving after the campsite had closed for the night, it was getting dark and I could see us kipping under a hedge somewhere. This is where Lady luck smiled on us, the campsite guardian was still in the office, spoke excellent English and had one pitch left that we could put all four tents on for the night. I've never been so relieved!
That night we joined in with the festivities, with live traditional bands walking the streets, bars in the street and a funfair to boot. I seem to remember it was a late night.
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Day three saw us heading across the Rhine into Germany. We rode the main roads, through the Black Forest, very scenic, and on to Lake Konstanz, where having got split up in a complicated town that confused the hell out of me and my sat nag, trying to send us through a multi storey car park and the wrong way down a one way street, we gathered ourselves up again and found a site for the night. This was the worst site of the trip. The facilities were excellent, the site was right on the shores of the lake, but the pitch was a poor joke. It was clear they don't really do tents, and the tent pitch for the whole site was just 10' wide and no more than 40' long. We had to pitch so close to our neighbours that we might as well have got in their tents with them. We ended up here for two nights as the heavens opened on the first night and the biblical rain didn't stop until 14:00 the next day. I was beginning to think we might need jet skis. The only saving grace was the bar served beer and coffee and did food, which was ok if you liked sausages, or previously frozen Pizza.
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Day five saw us thankfully leaving and heading off for another long days ride to our base in the Dolomites. As we pressed on through what remained of Germany, the mountains grew bigger and nearer. (No Dougal this is a hill and those mountains are very far away) We started on our first proper passes, or so I thought,until we got into Austria and climbed part way up one on the main road to stop for lunch. Truly a restaurant with a view.
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The afternoon saw us heading up the Timmeljoch, our chosen pass from Austria into Italy, which is a toll road after what must be the highest motorcycle museum in Europe with a stunning view from the top. And a very fine cafe.
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The run down into Italy was a proper baptism into the art of mountain passes, with some enormous views down into the valley and time to phone a friend if you mis-timed your braking and turning. The run to the campsite was superb, through some amazing scenery.

We were in the campsite for three nights, and took the chance to ride through some of the most spectacular scenery. Just when you thought it couldn't get better, it just did. There are just not sufficient superlatives, there just aren't.
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Day eight. Starting our trek home from the Dolomites, we made our way to Lake Como through the mountains of northern Italy. As ever the scenery was excellent, but as the day passed we knew it would be raining, and we knew this would mean snow at higher altitudes. The last pass we needed to cross was up at nearly 2200 metres and the rain, heavy and thundery, had really set in as we approached it. Lunch was taken in a really nice little restaurant, although their floor would need a good mop down and the seats a good days drying after we'd sat there for an hour.
No matter how good your waterproofs, the water still gets in where you stick out in the end. As we went over the pass, we could see the snow, it was getting colder as we approached and seemed to be going upwards forever. I really regretted not fitting heated grips before we left, and my brand new Alpinestar Outdry gloves were proving to be anything but waterproof. Very disappointing, not recommended. Finally we dropped down, the temperature started to climb and eventually the rain stopped. When we stopped, Mason informed us the BMW temperature gauge was showing -1 degrees as we went over the top of the pass. It certainly felt like it. Anyway we arrived at a very pleasant campsite on the shores of Lake Como and pitched the tents for three nights. That night and much of the next day, the heavens opened again.
It was here, on a run out with Mason to get some fuel that the "big leg incident" occurred. To cut a long story short, an Italian white van driver 'hip and shouldered" me into a low wall, I suspect deliberately, although not with injury as the intended outcome, where my leg was crushed a bit between the bike and the wall before I fell of, damaging the fairing. And then he b*****d off sharpish and no, I didn't get his number.
Thanks to the kindness of the campsite owners who ran me into A&E, and the support of Simon who came and sat with me while I waited to be seen it wasn't so bad. In the end nothing was broken, and I had a big purple calf to show for my trouble. While the bike was cosmetically challenged, it was and is straight where it matters.
Leaving lake Como, We headed off into Switzerland, where we needed to pay 36.50 euros for a motorway vignette, on our way to Interlaken. We made our way there via the Furka and the Grimsel passes, but not before we were subject to the nearly 17km long St Gottard tunnel, as the junction we wanted at its southern end was closed due to road works. Mason let us know after that it was 37 degrees in there and it was certainly blooming hot. After the tunnel we headed over the Furka and Grimsel passes, ending up well above the snow line. The scenery was totally breathtaking. The pictures just cannot do it justice.
At Interlaken, I went off to a hotel for the night, in deference to Billy big leg, and the others went to a campsite, which turned out to be excellent.
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Day 11. We met up early doors and headed off to Avallon in France' firstly along the excellent Swiss motorway system, which we'd paid so handsomely for, then over the border into France via much smaller roads where we stopped for the first coffee of the day (Switzerland being legendarily expensive) we then worked our way down from the mountains and into the hills of central France to Avallon
Avallon is a lovely medieval town and the old part is really excellent, based in the beautiful and lightly visited Morvan region, where there are loads of accessible trails. Definitely recommended. The campsite was a municipal one, and was very good indeed, as they all, with one exception, had been. We stayed here for a couple of nights, and wound up the trip here as Simon needed to get back by Friday and I, feeling a bit secondhand and duffed up, thought I might go for the channel from there as well.
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Day 13, we said our goodbyes, and made our mostly separate ways back home. An excellent trip, with four almost complete strangers had become fellow travellers and friends over the course of two weeks. Big thanks to Mason, Simon and Ralph for making it such an enjoyable and interesting trip.
The little 250 performed superbly, averaging mid 80's to the gallon, carting me and my kit with ease. More than capable for a 2500 mile tour. I really don't miss the power of a bigger bike anymore. The Heidenau K60s worked well wet, dry and on forest trails, with very little wear evident at the end of the trip. With my cool covers seat cover under the sheepskin it was a tolerably comfortable place to spend a day riding.
Here's to the next trip on a small bike.
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Re: The Dolomites, four men, six countries one small bike

Post by PHILinFRANCE » Thu Sep 19, 2019 4:38 pm

Great stuff , proper enjoyed that

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Re: The Dolomites, four men, six countries one small bike

Post by Godspeed » Thu Sep 19, 2019 4:39 pm

Fantastic!
Thanks for taking the time to write it up, I really enjoyed that.
Hurrah for the small bikes 👍
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Re: The Dolomites, four men, six countries one small bike

Post by WillS » Thu Sep 19, 2019 5:04 pm

Nice trip report and photos. Thanks for posting.
Did the Alpes and Dolomites a few years ago on a 1200RT, fantastic scenary and roads.
A good trip for you on the 250cc CRF Rally.

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Re: The Dolomites, four men, six countries one small bike

Post by Alun » Thu Sep 19, 2019 5:24 pm

Thanks for taking the time to post.

I've travelled and climbed in most mountain ranges of the world and the Dolomites are as spectacular as you'll find anywhere.

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Re: The Dolomites, four men, six countries one small bike

Post by boboneleg » Thu Sep 19, 2019 5:51 pm

Nice one, looked like a great trip (Italian van driver aside). More proof of what a great little bike the Rally is :)
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Re: The Dolomites, four men, six countries one small bike

Post by mark vb » Thu Sep 19, 2019 7:10 pm

Enjoyed the trip write-up, in particular having recently ridden thru Switzerland into Italy, camping at Lake Como, now in Tuscany. I like the idea of a CRF Rallye.....
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Re: The Dolomites, four men, six countries one small bike

Post by chunky butt » Thu Sep 19, 2019 7:55 pm

Great ride report, really enjoyed that.

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Re: The Dolomites, four men, six countries one small bike

Post by dibbs » Thu Sep 19, 2019 8:13 pm

Brilliant ride report slowboy, i really enjoy reading these kind of things and seeing the pics, thanks for sharing. Also as a side my business is named after the town where you live, which is weird because i never knew it even existed when i set it up! Keep up the good work and im looking forward to your next adventure :D

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Re: The Dolomites, four men, six countries one small bike

Post by Slowboy » Thu Sep 19, 2019 9:16 pm

boboneleg wrote:
Thu Sep 19, 2019 5:51 pm
Nice one, looked like a great trip (Italian van driver aside). More proof of what a great little bike the Rally is :)
Yes, it was a great trip, yes I'd like to take that particular driver aside....... 8-) and yes the Rally is a great little bike, and as tough as a tough thing. At least I get to learn some new plastic welding skills. :D

I was blooming lucky not to be more seriously damaged, but you can't let it spoil a damn fine trip in good company.
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