Go Back   Horizons Unlimited - The HUBB > All Miscellaneous questions > Travellers' questions that don't fit anywhere else

Travellers' questions that don't fit anywhere else This is an opportunity to ask any question, and post any notice you wish that doesn't fit into one of the other sections.
Contact Overland Solutions for all your custom modifications and setup for overland travel.

Like Tree1Likes
  • 1 Post By docsherlock

Reply
 
LinkBack Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 14 Sep 2012
Registered Users
New on the HUBB
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 2
Riding the Alps in November

I know riding the Alps in winter sounds mad but the Alps are a part of the world I simply fell in love with and riding through them on a m/cycle must be one of the greatest experiences ever in life. However this year I plan to go to the Dolomites this November and am just trying to gather info of what the conditions will be like and what bike I should take etc. Normally I would go anywhere on my Honda XL700 Transalp which has just about toured the planet so far but as this is a rather large bike i was thinking of something smaller simply for the snow and ice. Looking at other members write ups I noticed one chap rides his CBR125 just about anywhere. I own a CBR250 so perhaps I should take that or on the other hand I do have access to a XT66R!! If anyone on the list has any experience of riding the Alps in winter i would love to hear of your experiences.
Thanks
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 14 Sep 2012
Moderated Users
Veteran HUBBer
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 502
Better off doin' 'em in Summer, mate.

Just back from France and Switzerland - great riding.

Alps in winter on a bike? - about as much fun as a fart in spacesuit, I reckon.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 17 Sep 2012
Wheelie's Avatar
Gold Member
Veteran HUBBer
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Oslo, Norway
Posts: 457
Last three seasons I've been commuting in and out of Oslo all year round, regardless of weather...even during the worst of snow storms. After too many very close encounters, I finally ate it... and got just a tiny bit wiser, and decided only to ride if condtions were good and the forecast promising.

Spiked tires and rough thread can do only so much for you. Even if you can stay up right on flat straights, down hill can be impossible if it is slippery and you have to slow down or come to a full stop... even controlled braking from the slowest of speeds and you will either fall over or not stop until you crash into something - no ABS or rider skill in the world can keep the bike up if there is no grip and gravity is at work. Riding is usually not the biggest problem - stopping is... which you will have to do a lot of in and near towns.

Imagine deep loose snow, with some ruts and ice underneath, in a bend on a slight downhill slope, right before an intersection... you are riding at 20 kmh with your feet down, trying to slow down for an oncoming red light with crossing cars and pedestrians, without falling over. You are thinking that if you are so lucky to be able to navigate the turn, there is no way in hell you will be able to stop at the light - this as gravity wants to take your bike, down, down, down, the slope, like a heavy sled. You find you are so right, it appraoches all so slow, and so far ahead... there is ample time to try anything before reaching the intersection, and you do. In fact, you could probably have made a nice long prayer if you had your calm about you. But, there is nothing you can do... you navigated the bend somehow, but tires are locking up even with ABS, and the only thing keeping your bike upright is your legs, with your feet fimly sliding accross the road... you are no longer sitting, you are standing/sliding on the ground, holding the bike up by the handle bars, slightly askew, but still moving forward... and miraculously you somehow slip through to the other end, among all the pedestrians and passing cars, all missing you by inches in both directions... and everything is ok, and you are utterly stoked "Yeah baby!". Riding in snow can be quite exhilerating!

Then, a hundred meters later, having sped up a bit on a "safe flat stretch" while making a mental note to get some snow chains, a taxi cuts in front of you and slows down just enough for you to have to put on the brakes, and you slam into him... Nothing big, but you come to an understanding with mother earth, not to ride in these conditions again.

There are lots of hills with lots of traffic in the alps, and snow and ice does happen, even without your permission. If the road is dry - no problem. If the road has ice and snow on it, it can still be ok with spiked tires as long as it is relatively flat and straight and you don't have to do much stopping. And if there is no traffic, then it can be super exiting. But snow on black ice on bendy hilly roads with traffic????

a few winters ago I witnessed a French biker in the Norwegian mountains that couldn't make a right turn and slided into the oncoming lane where he was run over and killed. It was nothing he or anyone could have done to avoided the accident except not have ridden at all.

If you are prepared to sit it out until roads are throughly cleared (which could be a very long time), then I'd say go for it... after getting the appropriate tires and snow chains for extra measure. If not, then I would advice against it.

Please don't ask me where to get snow chains as I have no idea.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 19 Sep 2012
Registered Users
Veteran HUBBer
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Oxford UK
Posts: 989
If you're going in November you could get lucky. We have a home from home in the alps and I frequently go down there by bike in November. It's a very variable month - sometimes it's glorious autumn weather with warm sunny days (ok, with somewhat chilly nights) and other times the snow ploughs are on overtime. This was last year (ok it was the end of October but nothing changed for a couple of weeks afterwards) -




Whereas a couple of years earlier (pic taken on 11th Nov) with the road covered in sheet ice -






Generally the snowploughs etc from the local councils do a very good job of keeping the essential roads open. Note that's essential roads. Some of the great rides in the summer take in (in my neck of the woods anyway) passes like the Galibieer and the Croix de Fer. They're not classified as essential routes and are just left blocked over the winter, so once the first snow falls that's it for many of the roads you might want to ride. The ones that are left are generally busy as everyone who lives in the area uses them to get to work.

I know it seems obvious but the biggest problem with riding in the alps in winter is that they are hilly. On a bike that means that sooner or later you'll be faced with trying to stop going downhill on ice. Wheelie's warning about the difficulties of doing that sometimes is not to be taken lightly. The consequences can be much worse than just sliding along the road a bit and pulling the bike out of a ditch. Even without the hazards of hitting other traffic while you're sliding there are bends near me where only an easily missed armco barrier separates you from a 500ft drop. I've gone down that road in winter in a Land Rover fitted with 4 wheel chains and been uncertain at times whether I could stop. A bike in those conditions would be an absolute nightmare.

Often you don't even need obvious stuff like snow on the roads. A cold night can freeze mountain runoff water where it crosses the road so an early morning start can find you coming around a corner on a dry road to be faced with an ice slick across the tarmac. Usually I prefer to follow a car or something so they slide first!

A small lightweight bike is definitely an advantage when it comes to trying to deal with adverse conditions but on the other hand you have to get there first on it - and then you might be wondering whether it would be quicker to get off and walk on some of the climbs. How do I know - meet my winter hack bike, a mid 70's Suzuki 120 in mid prep for next years Elephant rally. Dog slow on level roads and a second gear grind on some alpine hills, it's about as lightweight as it gets short of backpacking. Based on my experiences with this I'd say choose your transport carefully if you don't want to remember the trip for all the wrong reasons!

Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 20 Sep 2012
Registered Users
New on the HUBB
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 2
Winter in the Alps

Thanks for all that info and photos guys. I live here in Scotland so am quite use to snow and icy conditions but as you say, going downhill is extremely dangerous. I have 3 bikes here and was planning on taking my Honda XL700 Transalp again but if its going to be mighty cold then I may take my small CBR250. That would be hell for such a mighty long trip but she would make it. The other bike I have is a Suzuki DRZ400 but the problem with this bike is that it is a "Supermoto" and I cannot get any off-road tyres for it so its not very good in icy conditions although I have used it loads in those conditions in Scotland. Perhaps a small off-road 125 may be the best.
I will watch the weather and see what its like a few days before and decide then what to take. I just prey its not going to be another mighty cold winter;-)
Thanks again
Cheers
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 13 Nov 2012
Registered Users
New on the HUBB
 
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: High Wycombe, Bucks, UK
Posts: 4
Brrrr! Good luck!
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 14 Nov 2012
Drwnite's Avatar
Gold Member
Veteran HUBBer
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Darwin
Posts: 282
If you're lucky you will manage 50 - 75 K's at a time sometimes a lot less if the road is not a meter under the snow. You will be the only bike on the road. You will be freezing. When you pull up at a servo you will be looked apon as if you have just had your way with the the village goat! You will be greeted with "what the hell are you doing man"

The only good thing about riding the alps in winter is the schnapps, the sausage machine which are great to hug and in answer to the questions on your sanity the only answer is and I quote " It's all good mate, I'm from Australia !"

Go for it !
Attached Thumbnails
Riding the Alps in November-dsc00428.jpg  

__________________
I spent all my money on Bikes n Beer. The rest I just wasted.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 15 Nov 2012
Registered Users
Veteran HUBBer
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Manchester
Posts: 120
Do they ever close the mountain passes in the winter or do they try their best to keep them open?
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 15 Nov 2012
Drwnite's Avatar
Gold Member
Veteran HUBBer
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Darwin
Posts: 282
Pass Closed

Often Passes are closed due to very deep snow and ice. I stayed at Innertkirchen in the Swiss Alps inearly June this year after meeting a group of very thirsty Sweedish blokes. We all had to do quite a bit of re routing and in my case back tracking due to pass closures.

The upside is you will find a fellow bikers in the same boat and more importantly somwhere to pull up and discuss alternate routes over a or 16 ! The locals will only too gladly inform you of closures and alternate routes.
Attached Thumbnails
Riding the Alps in November-l1040157.jpg  

__________________
I spent all my money on Bikes n Beer. The rest I just wasted.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 15 Nov 2012
Drwnite's Avatar
Gold Member
Veteran HUBBer
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Darwin
Posts: 282
Weather

Try this site for weather forecasts.

Weather Forecast & Reports - Long Range & Local | Wunderground | Weather Underground
__________________
I spent all my money on Bikes n Beer. The rest I just wasted.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 16 Nov 2012
Registered Users
Veteran HUBBer
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Oxford UK
Posts: 989
There's quite a few sites that'll tell you which passes are open or shut - I tend to default to Alpine Roads.com and use their links - AlpineRoads: Pass Conditions
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 16 Nov 2012
Registered Users
Veteran HUBBer
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: UK
Posts: 3,370
Quote:
Originally Posted by olionel View Post
Do they ever close the mountain passes in the winter or do they try their best to keep them open?
Sure do.
Why keep them open anyway? The roads are for commercial use i.e. those which access the ski resorts will be maintained and those which cross international borders will receive more attention than the high routes that join up a couple of villages.
__________________
Dave
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 16 Nov 2012
Registered Users
Veteran HUBBer
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: SW France
Posts: 266
We went to La Plagne one year on the bike for a bit of late season skiing in early April. We were snowed in for 5 days staying with my brother near Bourg-en-Bresse but then the weather improved. When we arrived at La Plagne we stayed up at the high resort at about 2000metres and the snow above this was just about ski-able. When we left it had snowed heavily overnight so the mountain road was pretty dodgy but the main roads were fine. In the afternoon we rode up to the col de Petit St. Bernard and the road was dry and really good fun. We got to within about 100 metres of the Italian border and found the col was closed (until the end of May) and the snow on the road was 2 metres deep. We had to backtrack through the Mont Blanc Tunnel and when we dropped down to near Turin it was a balmy 25 degrees at six o'clock in the evening.

I know this is the end of the season rather than the beginning but I think you'll find most of the high passes are closed from mid October to the end of May. As Backofbeyond says the weather is very variable throughout the winter.
Reply With Quote
Reply


Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 Registered Users and/or Members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Three weeks to tour in north Vietnam in November mertens_k Southern Asia 2 18 Sep 2012 16:32
London to Cape Town, November 2012 Tfoy97603 Travellers Seeking Travellers 56 4 Sep 2012 16:51
Highway Riding at 299km/hour MountainMan The HUBB PUB 27 25 Jul 2012 22:43
From Sydney to Cairns - November solar eclipse ride sirius-star Travellers Seeking Travellers 1 28 Apr 2012 02:34
Meet up to ride the Salar de Uyuni - late November 2011 whereskyle South America 1 9 Nov 2011 00:13

 
 


HU DVD Summer Special!

Now that summer is here, get On the Road! Take 30% off the Achievable Dream - On the Road! 2-DVD set until August 31 only. Get On the Road! Learn the tips to staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure!

Our veteran travellers share their tips (and great stories) for staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure.

"A fantastic, informative and inspirational DVD."

"It's brilliant - thank you very much!"

Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'ONTHEROAD' on your order when you checkout.


Renedian Adventures


Renedian Adventures

What others say about HU...

"I just wanted to say thanks for doing this and sharing so much with the rest of us." Dave, USA

"Your website is a mecca of valuable information and the DVD series is informative, entertaining, and inspiring! The new look of the website is very impressive, updated and catchy. Thank you so very much!" Jennifer, Canada

"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia

"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders

contest pic

10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!

NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!

HU 2014 T-shirts now in!

Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!


What turns you on to motorcycle travel?


Global Rescue, WORLDwide evacuation services for EVERYONE

Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!


New to Horizons Unlimited?

New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!

Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.

Susan and Grant Johnson Read more about Grant & Susan's story

Membership - help keep us going!

Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.

You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.


Books & DVDs

amazon

All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.


Motorcycle Express for shipping and insurance!

Motorcycle Express

MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!




All times are GMT +1. The time now is 03:47.