September 23, 2011 GMT
The Dolomites

The Family Truckster is full of electronic gadgetry. The bag of tricks includes:

- Electronic Suspension Adjustment, with three settings adjustable of the fly (Comfort, Normal or Sport). When stationery it is also possible to adjust for the load ie one up, with luggage or two up.

- Three engine mapping settings, Rain, Road or Dynamic but these are only adjustable when stationery (I pretty much forget about this and tend to always stay in the Road setting).

- Heated grips and heated seat. I used to think these options were a load of old rubbish when I had a motorcycle in Australia but when it gets below 10 degrees the heated grips in particular are most useful.

- Trip computer showing average MPG, average speed, front and rear tyre pressures, oil levels, miles to go on remaing fuel, and ambient temperature (I usually have it set to display the ambient temperature but occasionally keep an eye on the tyre pressures).

- There is also a radio and an iPod dock with the ability to select tracks, albums, artists and playlists from a rotating collar on the left handlegrip in conjunction with 4 controller buttons on the left fairing. This interface is simply brilliant and relevant info on song, album and artist is displayed on the dash to assist with selections.

- Traction control which has actually kicked on a couple of occasions on this trip and essentially stops the rear wheel spinning too fast when traction is lost (say loose gravel or slippery roads). This is most reassuring and a excellent safetly feature.

- ABS brakes and central locking of panniers and top box.

- Adjustable front windshield.

- Plenty of warning lights to inform me when something needs attention.

With all this stuff it sounds like the dash must look like something from the cockpit of a fighter plane. But it's relatively simple and also the controls are easy to use although a little intimidating when you first take the demonstrator for a test ride.

The dash is fairly simple with two circular old fashioned dials for the speedo (miles and kms) and the techometer. Everything else is electronic including fuel and engine temperatutre gauges. Absent any warning lights the dash also displays the engine mapping setting, the suspension setting and the track or radio station selected.

All these toys give you plenty to keep you occupied on a long journey.

But not exactly what you want to distract you when riding in the Dolomites. The scenery is spectacular but the road demands respect and 100% attention at all times.

The hotel provided some information at dinner last night showing the weather forecast and a suggest route for motorists (cars or motorcycles). Over breakfast I programmed their suggested loop into the GPS.

Even though only 160 miles it was challenging riding with a few mountain passes over 2,000m including many tight switchback turns. It was great. This was only the second time on this trip that I had been riding without my luggage (the other time was when I visited Auschwitz with a dodgy rear tyre).

There were plenty of bikes out today. Everyone was behaving and it's always nice to acknowledge a passing biker with a left hand wave. I was overtaken only twice today. Both times they were Italian riders on Massey Ferguson 1200's. I consoled myself that these guys knew the roads whereas for me it was the first time. Those Massey Ferguson's do handle really well though and when cranked up and at high revs they really can get along in the hands of a good rider. No shame in getting passed at any time, no matter what the bike, as long as you can enjoy a beer at the end of the day.

As a biking destination the Dolomites are as good as anywhere I've been. And I've only done a few of the many mountain passes in the region. I have a book with me that shows the route for a days ride of just over 400km which covers 17 mountain passes, and even this is not all of them.

Even though today was all about riding I was constantly left breathless with the stunning scenery as I turned the next corner or entered the next town. Nothing about today's ride was dull or a chore. The Dolomites is pure biker heaven. You could spend a week here and hardly go on the same road twice. Today was a great day.

My photos don't really do the scenery on offer here justice, but trust me, it's great.

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Posted by Brett from Oz at September 23, 2011 06:30 PM GMT
 


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