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November 3, 2010

After our nice stay in Olcio at Lago di Como we continued riding northbound, direction Chiavenna. It was beautiful sunny weather and still over plus 30 Celsius, hence why we rode the Italian way and left off our jackets.

That day’s task would be taking ourselves over the Alps, leaving this beautiful area and changing it for another one.

Initially we thought we will be crossing the mountains at St. Moritz. However, after a midday’s coffee break in Chiavenna and the enthusiastic “Passo della Spluga, bello!” of an elderly Italian gentleman we met, we decided that we take that one instead. Geographically shorter it was, just over 30 km from Chiavenna to Splügen, and gorgeous weather it was. So why not?

And it was gorgeous.

One of the most impressive scenery I’ve ever seen so far. The riding was a bit challenging, though, I never needed to go such tight bends before. But once you are on it, you luckily don’t think that much about heights and so on. You just ride, just keep climbing bend by bend, passing through the Italian stone gallerias securing the sides… Once we took the wrong turn, though, and ended up at a ski area. I thought that this should be the highest point, till we found out, nope, wrong turn, you have to go back, take the right turn and continue from there direction Splügenpass… Sigh, alright then, let’s practice a bit of downhill riding, cos there will be lots more to come …

We stopped once when almost having reached the pass in order to take a few pictures.

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Up here the temperature was more than bearable and most importantly not to hot for this kind of riding with full concentration.

Swedephotog was telling me before that the Italian side of passes usually is worse than the Swiss one when it comes down to fences, road quality etc. . Well, I thought the Italian side we passed wasn’t bad at all, so if the Swiss side was even better, riding down would just be a piece of cake.

But as a good German proverb says, firstly things will turn out to be different and secondly (different) from what you expect. And so it was. Approaching the Swiss side, you could see almost ALL nice turns and u-turns waiting for you from above. Just like in this nice video, only it was a lot less traffic. And no music either. Not even in my thoughts.

As you can see that there are hardly any fences holding you, only cow fences keeping the cattle off the road. Which were watching us curiously while we were rolling down the steep road in second or even first gear.

The story of the day was Swedephotog’s, though. He suddenly heard a “pling”, which then disappeared again before he heard it again, and again. Shit. Something wrong with the motor maybe? Then again. Pling. He looks beside him – and there it was, the “pling”. A nice Swiss cow having lunch and moving the bell around her neck. Pling, pling!

Anyway. This is what a  ride on the pass fro Italy to Switzerland could look like only two months earlier:

In fact we saw still a few patches of snow in July! Wikipedia tells you that the pass will not be kept open during wintertime and that even the Italian village Montespluga often gets disconnected from the outer world during the winter months.

Anyway. Due to the missing “proper” fences and the fact that you can see all the tight bends waiting for you, the Swiss side felt more challenging than the Italian one. And that despite a bigger height to cover on the Italian side than in Switzerland.

Having arrived in Splügen, we rewarded ourselves with a proper meal. Then we bought the most expensive motorway vignettes ever at the local post office. However, we enjoyed the nice Swiss motorways, so the ride was expensive, but worth it.

Later at truck-stop  Heidiland we took another break, meeting a fellow motorcyclist on a nice Agusta who happened to be a huge fan of pass-riding. Well, born in Switzerland, that seems to be an appropriate passtime when owning a motorcycle, doesn’t it? Anyway, we told him about our adventures and then of course also names Splügenpass. “Splügenpass?”, he said, “This is one of the most complicated passes in the Alps for motorcycles. If you took that one you can ride any other pass, too.”

Dear, did that boost my self confidence or did it? 😉

This story also proves that sometimes it is really good not to know too much about things you are supposed to tackle, just go with the flow and trust your gut feeling.

Seriously, if I would have seen the pictures I saw on the net now, if I would have watched the videos you can find, you don’t think I even would have considered going this pass, do you?

But we did it, spontaneously, and we got rewarded with new experiences and lots of beautiful views we otherwise would have missed.

An advantage of Splügenpass is by the way that there are no lorries or bigger cars around. They would not cope with the tight bends at all. Flying around the bends are therefore only other motorcyclists, cars and lots of professional cyclists.

This was the first story of one long riding day.

Update: Fuzzygalore from the US also did Splügen this year! Check out her report as well. And then add her blog to your reading list. Otherwise you miss out, I’d say.

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