Last updated on August 10th, 2015
Le moto sono Fantastiche
Strategically lost in the Italian Alps
Having a bike doesn’t mean racing. Or at least, it doesn’t mean ONLY racing. Because that’s the wonderful thing about bikes. There’s something that can be enjoyed by everyone. Me, for example, I love going to trackdays, but I also love touring. And that’s where my OTHER bike comes in. Because yes, I have the Ducati (featured in the previous article), but I also have a ’99 Cagiva Gran Canyon 900cc. It’s one of those big enduros, kinda like the Honda Africa Twin, or the Yamaha Super Ténéré of that age.
The ‘Canyon (or GC, to make it shorter) was some sort of ”niche bike” even at the time she came out. The marketing boom of these big enduros (now leaded by the almighty BMW R1200GS) wasn’t even starting, so Cagiva, with the GC, kinda anticipated everyone.
Anyway, this big Cagiva isn’t only a great touring bike, she’s also a quite sporty one! That’s it for two reasons:
- The actual riding position, is closer to the one of a supermotard/naked bike, rather than a tourer
- The GC has a Ducati engine: The glorious, air cooled, 900cc engine that equipped the Ducati 900SS and other sporty Ducati bikes (Like the Ducati Monster 900cc)
But I’m digressing. This time I won’t talk about lap times, shred tyres, or knee-dragging on whatever bend it was. This time we need to lay back, relax, and enjoy the surroundings.
So, this year, in June, me and my lovely other half decided to have a little (4 days) moto-vacation. We installed hard-luggages and a top case on the Cagiva, and choose our destination: Livigno, close to Switzerland. A nice little mountain village, and also a strategic position for some sight-seeying.
Livigno was our ”base camp” during those 4 days, but our REAL destination was the Stelvio Pass. Possibly the greatest road in Italy, and one of the best to be found in Europe.
I will now describe the roads we chose (avoiding those bloody boring highway transfers, of course. There’s nothing more boring than being on a highway, on a bike). Oh, I almost forgot. From where I live, to Livigno, it’s roughly a 450/500 km ride. Thank God the Cagiva’s seat is comfortable!
It’s a nice, medium speed road. Turns are wide and very gentle, and the asphalt is very well maintained. Only downside is that the Val Sabbia is actually in a geographical depression, so no matter what time of the year you go ride in there, it’s either hot as hell, or freezing cold.
Second interesting road: Passo del Tonale.
Basically, a track. A nice mixture of hairpins, straights, medium and long bends, all surrounded by forests. It’s…a dream, really. If only it was closer to where I live! Interesting fact, when you reach the top of the Pass, there’s a monument dedicated to the soldiers fallen during WW1. So it’s worth going up there for the road AND for some interesting sight-seeying. Don’t forget to drink at the fountain: This is pure, icy, mountain water! Delicious.
Third interesting road: Passo del Gavia.
Ah, the Gavia. Quite possibly one of the most extreme roads we have down here. It starts out very gently, not very steep, bends are not tight…it tricks you into thinking it’s going to be a piece of cake.
Then, the more you climb it, the more the road gets narrow (to the point that if two BIKES (not cars) were to cross roads, one has to stop in order to let the other one pass). Also, those gentle bends at the beginning quickly transform into tight, steep, hairpins. Going up even more, the protections at the side of the road disappears, meaning that if you miss a turn, you’re going to fall right to the bottom of the valley. The surrounding changes as well. You may find green, lush woods at the bottom, while by going up, you’ll be meeted by rocky landscapes, SNOW, and if you’re lucky, at least 10 ° C less. This year, we were sweating when we started the climb (30°C), and as soon as we reached the top, we were absolutely freezing (3°C). That’s because the Gavia is not only one of the hardest mountain roads, it’s also one of Italy’s highest, with a altitude of 2652 meters. This year, we also had a surprise when we reached the top: The parking space in front of the little bar was half his usual space, due to…SNOW! At the end of June! Keep in mind that as I said, elsewhere the temperature was of 30°C, enough to make you sweat just by wearing a t-shirt!
Also, the actual road goes from ”well maintained” to being a proper enduro trail, with dirt, rocks and so on.
”Phew!” is usually the first thing you say when you get to the top, and you take your helmet off.
Fourth interesting road: Passo dello Stelvio.
The Stelvio. Italy’s most famous mountain pass, this road is the Mecca of motorsport enthusiast from all over Europe. The Stelvio is 2.760 meters high, and is composed of FORTY (40!) tight hairpins. Every year, thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts gather here for the ”Stelvio National Meeting”, a thing going on for 40 years, now. Two years ago, 4.000 people were there. The Stelvio is also one of the usual checkpoints in the Giro d’Italia cycling competition.
The road itself is obviously very, very, very well maintained. It’s smooth as silk. You start climbing those hairpins, and while climbing, you get to see every possible landscape. Green forests, waterfalls, rocky plains, hills, tunnels carved in the very mountain itself, bridges…you name it. Also, while climbing, you can meet any kind of people. Guys riding their bikes, guys struggling to get on the top riding their bicycles, car enthusiasts enjoying their rides (and I’m talking about Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, THAT kind of rides)…everything.
Once you get to the top, the scenery is breathtaking. You can see basically everything around you, the sense of freedom will leave you just speechless.
See? As I mentioned at the beginning, bikes can be enjoyed by pretty much everyone, for a lot of reasons.