Whether the hairpins are on mountain passes or on one of the world’s most storied racetracks, the memory of such rides will live on forever
Story by Misti Hurst
Photos by: Tomas Covinha – 4theriders.com
On the fourth day of our epic 10-day adventure through the Italian Alps and Germany, I found
myself behind the hotel bar pouring drinks with bartender Ilian, waitress Maria and my friend Nicole. Nicole was decked out in a pair of lederhosen and I in a dirndl, the traditional dress of Austria, South Tyrol and Bavaria. Both of us were drinking large steins of beer and shots of Limoncello, Prugna and Grappa with the locals.
“But what are you doing here?” one customer asked us incredulously. “You’re really off the beaten path!”
“That’s exactly the idea!” I replied.
His name was Scott, from Scotland, but he’d lived in the area for 30 years. He said he was “gobsmacked” to see us, it being the first time he had witnessed tourists riding there. He told us that Germans, Austrians and Italians ride those particular back roads, but not tourists.
“You’ve come to the most beautiful place in Italy,” he declared. “How you’ve done that from so far away is really amazing! This is truly magnificent to see you here!”
And it was magnificent to be there.
There were 18 of us in total – riders from Canada, the United States and Australia – plus three guides from Germany. We were together for Leod Motorcycle Escapes’ “Italian Alps and Sachsenring tour.”
Our adventure began a few days earlier in the Bavarian party town of Munich. Tour master Cat McLeod led us through the city to Hacker-Pschorr brewery for our welcome dinner: enormous platters of sausages, bacon, sauerkraut and potatoes accompanied by large mugs of German beer. There we got our first taste of the unique and varied personalities that we’d be riding with for the next nine days.
Getting on the Road
Early the next morning, we crammed our track gear bags and luggage into the back of the support van. Our crazy German guide, Matthias, would transport our belongings to the hotel in the Alps while we rode, we hoped.
Everything went smoothly as we picked up our reserved bikes from the largest BMW dealership in Germany. I started on an R1200R, but had a chance to ride the F800GT as well as the F800R, which was my favourite of the three by far. The staff walked us through the specifics of each of our bikes and then we were off, playing follow the leader through the streets of Munich.
As we took the autobahn out of the city, the scenery changed from interesting to absolutely breathtaking when we passed the emerald-green lake of Tegernsee, crossed into Austria, rode over old Brenner Pass and through quaint villages, then up over Penser Joch pass. The riding was already intense and amazing, and many of us were stunned by the concept of lane splitting and passing on such insanely narrow roads. We were practically rubbing elbows with sports cars, buses, cyclists, hikers and wildlife.
Around 7 p.m., we arrived safely at our Swiss-inspired, castle-like hotel in the small town of Carezza, Italy. It was sunset, and the looming jagged mountain peaks in the backdrop were turning a stunning purple. And 18 tired, grinning riders and drivers were hungry for dinner and a cold jug of beer.
That night a bunch of us stayed up very late under the stars, getting to know one another over the local beverages.
The Dolomites Call
Morning came quickly. The sky a perfectly clear blue, the air warm and humid, not crisp and cold, as I was expecting. Cat arranged our large group into three smaller groups based on speed, riding ability and special requests as noted from the day before. We fuelled up and headed out, one guide leading, another acting as sweep.
Every bike was equipped with a GPS, with the hotel name and location set in case of separation. Each leader followed a carefully designed route that had been collaborated on by our guides Norbert, Angela, Matthias and Cat, with authenticity and “off the beaten…