Alpine Passes with a 35 years old SR500

Discussion in 'Global Trip Reports' started by Franz, Aug 17, 2013.

  1. It all started with a dream, so first of all I had to get a bike in Austria. I didn’t want all the conventional bikes but an old and reliable Thumper so I decided to look for an old Yamaha SR500. Bike was found & bought and after a week of working on her in late May I decided to give it a go at my second trip to Europe this year. Bike is 35 years old and in very good condition but still an old lady.
    Here she is ready to roll at my first petrol/coffee stop before the town of Leoben on the parking lot of a Petrol station:


    Funny, there’s mainly two brands of Petrol available: Austrian OMV and Italian ENI (former Agip) some Shell but nearly none of the others. Petrol choice is 95 Regular, 95 Super, 98 Super Premium and a very few have even 100 octane petrol, no gasoshyte ones. Petrol prices in Austria vary a lot but are still cheaper than in Southern Tyrol (a former Austrian district) in Italy. Be careful and do counting your change in Italy evertime and everywhere……..
    Got myself also a scooter-style SHARK helmet with built-in sunvisor, an IXS summer jacket, some summer gloves, a new Hepco & Becker rack mounted plus a Malaysian made GIVI topcase. Had to change the rear shocks to new ones as the old ones gave the bike the handling like sitting on a 50 year old mattress. Front end was rebuilt with new gaskets & bearings as was the complete front brake setup. Carb has been cleaned and refitted with new jets, some electrical faults have also been solved. So ready to roll.
    I started in Eastern Austria near the town of Baden and the decision of where to go was left to weather and bodily conditions of myself. Luckily Austria has not seen such a hot summer in decades, I experienced temperatures of up to 39’C during afternoons but thumping along good roads between 70 and 125 km/h gave me plenty of wind for cooling a little. So I packed all necessary stuff both into topcase and a small rucksack which I strapped onto the bike, easy done as the topcase works as a hard barrier.
    Unfortunately I have some serious problems with my spine since weeks which had me take loads of painkillers and anti-inflamatory drugs with me, had to take them every day otherwise I would not have had the pleasure of riding.

    Some rural road in the state of Carinthia:

    Did not have a riding buddy so anything was done alone, next time/year I will ask my partner in CNX to join me on dad’s Honda SH300i, will be more fun with 2 riders.
    In total I rode 1700 kms within 5 days/5 nights which gave me a hefty 340km/day over small mountainroads & backroads but we both managed. Only realization was that the SR’s brakes are not up to much downhill riding with 2013 speeds, so I rode a little slower than usual and more careful. Must admit also that the windforce is lengthening your arms in any situation as the original handlebars are a little too wide for my taste.
    I started off on the motorway A2 until Neunkirchen, then on the S6 until St. Michael, S36 to Judenburg, 317/S37 all around Klagenfurt, E55 via Villach to Spittal a.d.Drau, 106 to Winklern and then the 107 to Heiligenblut where I spent my first night in a good Hotel near Austria’s highest peak the Grossglockner. This mountain is 3,798 m high and has some magnificent attractions and views.
    Heiligenblut and its famous church and in the background the Grossglockner:


    Stayed there for a night (Kaertnerhof Heiligenblut Hotel) and left early the next day as I expected to get very hot and crowded on the famous Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse, which is one of the oldest and highest mountain passes in Europe. Made it up to the 2,504 meters above sea-level pass and took a detour to the famous Pasterze Gletscher on the way to the pass. I was really shocked as how little of this glacier is left and how much it has melted off in recent years. There were already some people at the viewpoint so I did not waste much time, made fotos and left for the pass. SR at the entrance road to the ‘Pasterzen-glacier valley’:


    Magnificient view of both mountain and glacier:

    Small dam with water for use by locals living there:

    Another Photo of the access-road:

    Descent was done after some freezing moments on the highest road elevation (~2,571 m) as the wind was blowing a morning cool air into my gear and I didn’t want to risk anything nasty for my health. Going down is very spectacular as one can see, there’s plenty of turns with a sheer drop into the abyss both on the way up and down but must admit that the condition of the roads are perfect and the safety protectors are sufficient different to what I saw in Spaghettiland where everything is either not existing or flimsy. Photos are both sides of the pass and the highest point there and self explanatory:



    SR at the Hochtor at 2,504 meters:

    Some shots of the road and surrounding mountains on one of Europe’s most ridden high mountain passes:






    As my left arm was already numb I decided to stay at the foot of the mountains in Kaprun for one night again in a marvelous Hotel called Kaprunerhof. The same day I went to see the 2 famous dams in Kaprun. Access to buses up to the dams was free, courtesy of the Hotel, could also have done the famous Gletscher-skiing (Glacier) area at Kitzsteinhorn with its free floating visitor platform but time was running out in the afternoon. The state of Salzburg is such a marvel as there’s so much to see everywhere which I have done already in earlier years, so my decision was to stay on the road and do some more riding over magnificent mountain passes.

    Lower dam taken from inside the bus:

    Part of the upper dam:


    Lower dam viewed from the upper dam:

    Dam, Lake & surrounding mountains:




    Next day I woke up early, had a yummie brekkie with local produce not that ‘fried egg & toast’ rubbish and took to the road again. First on the 168, passing Krimml and its famous waterfalls and then up the Gerlos Pass and down the 169 along the lovely Zillertal to Jenbach. Further on the E60 until Oetztal junction and then into Oetztal, Soelden and up to another marvel the Timmelsjoch into Southern Tyrol on the 186.


    Waterfall at Krimml, did not have the time to walk closer to them so just some ‘far-away’ fotos:


    Coming down the Gerlos Pass into the valley of Zillertal in Northern Tyrol:


    Timmelsjoch Pass (2,509 meters) is something very spectacular once you come to the other side in Southern Tyrol, the sheer drop is a little frightening once on the first hairpin turn, so take it slow is the only way to ride. After taking some fotos (not on the highest point as freezing cold wind there) continued my descent and into the town of Meran. Took me some time to find the turnoff to the Vintschgau valley as in Spaghettiland there’s no such thing such as proper road signs let alone road numbers. Continued my trip then on the #38 up to Kastelbell where I had to stay as I got surrounded by heavy rain and dropping temperatures.



    The SR already on the Italian side 1 km before the Austrian border:





    Just consider the steepness of the mountainside where the road was built in………..:


    By now I encountered already heaps of motorbike riders and makes from Austria, Germany, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, the Czech Republic and France only to name the big bulk, of course also riders from many other countries. All bikers were wearing proper protection, had proper new gear & bikes and stayed mainly in posh places, not the ‘cheap Charlie’ version we encounter so much in Asia, riders here seem to enjoy the riding & living and do not complain at all; seems to me that much of the whinnies & cheapies have moved to LOS. Also do they know obviously what proper body care, wash and clean clothes are, always clean and no smelling contrary to what we encounter sometimes in CNX………
    Next day got up early for my most anticipated trip up to the Stilfserjoch Pass (Stelvio Pass, 2,757 meters), so I filled up, dressed up all warm clothes I had with me as it was cloudy and cold that morning and rode along the 38 via Prad and starting my ascent to the pass. On that slow and steep ascent you also pass the Ortler mountain with its 3,905 meters height, one can see heaps of glaciers there, simply magnificient. But nothing compared to what awaited me further up the road. This mountain road defies any description but is a marvel that once in Europe you all should try to ride with a bike. As you can imagine after the drop from very hot to rainy I froze my butt of, could hardly move my fingers anymore as totally cramping of frost, up on the pass it had around 7’C and was raining slightly.

    All these photos have been taken with frozen fingers and in light rain, so the quality is not the best but one can still see why this pass is so famous:







    Stelvio market & Top point, loads of bikes parked there:


    Ortler mountain and a memorial for the guys who have been on top for the first time:


    Next time I shall not forget my rain overall………Got myself of course my trophy, 2 shirts with “Stilfserjoch” on it plus proper stickers. Did not carry on to Bormio but left after some warming fluids & fruitcake back down the Pass and followed the #40 to Reschenpass between Southern & Northern Tyrol. Here’s my favourite photo of a church: under water……………now the fish can do some Hocus-Pocus…..
    Serious, this church and some houses were flooded here for building a big natural dam. Had an uneventful ride down the Reschenpass into Landeck and onto the E60 again up to Zirl where rain again stopped my progress.

    My favourite position of a church:

    On the way to Reschenpass, all over Autria and Northern Italy one can find castles, churches and monasteries on each and every hill from medevial times:

    Next day the up until Woergl then the famous ski and HiSo resort town of Kitzbuehl and in direction of the Pass Thurn on the road 161 down to Mittersill.



    From there it was then a ‘km-eating’ trip: #168 & #311 to St. Johann i. Pongau, #163 to Radstadt, the E651 eastwards until Liezen, then passing Admont on the #146 through the famous biker area the “Gesaeuse”, then onto the nothing less magnificient #25 & 24 up to Wildalpen where I stayed my last night in a beautiful Hotel called Bergkristall Hotel Wildalpen. Just on the back of the Hotel is the starting point of one of Vienna’s main water supply lines. Some fotos of Wildalpen and the Hotel.



    At the Hotel were also parked a bunch of old restored tractors, mainly of Austrian Steyr make, two also had a trailer behind for accommodation, all have been modified to do at least 40 km/h to be able to move. Guys driving them were mostly over 75 years of age and they do this every year several times, they have already been to the Cote d’Azur in France and other faraway places in the EU with their old vehicles:


    Next day I returned back home via the famous village of Mariazell and its famous Church and then on the #21 via Pernitz back to the district of Baden. Passing the famous “bike racetrack” Kalte Kuchl but the authorities have imposed a 70 km/h limit for bikes as there have been a lot of dead bikers on this particular stretch. I didn’t mind thumping along at a leisurely pace as I found out again that just in front of my home-door there’s so much to see and do.


    Finally I got back home in time for a yummie lunch my mother had prepared and took 2 days to recover my strength. Would I do it again ? Yes of course, 2014 planning has already started but will be most probably on a Yamaha MT09 or an XJR1300 or an TDM900, all depending what else I want to travel in Europe: Scandinavia-Northkap, eastern states, former Yugo states, Switzerland-France-Spain-Portugal, many more years of biking here to come, so no rush as there’s also the ‘big one’ coming up either in 2014 but more probably in 2015, what this is about ? No, I won’t tell now, need to continue the preparations and once ready to roll will let you know.
    Some more remarks: passes in Austria are all taxed, I apid between 13.- and 23.- Euros as roadbuilding is really expensive here. Also do you need a tax sticker for accessing all the highways, you can buy these usually at any petrol station and can choose between different lengths of time for limited timely access here on the highways. Police were hardly seen but be aware about all the speed cameras everywhere. Stick to limits when there are some as police don’t care that much about you doing a little ‘over’ on open roads or highways but can become very nasty and expensive once you push it in limited areas. Usually: habitats 30km/h, villages/towns major through roads: 50 km/h, roads in common: 100 km/h and highways 130 km/h. In Italy be aware that common roads only give you 90km/h.
    As for food, please stick to times as much as you can: Breakfast you usually get in your Hotel or Pension (private Guestrooms) 07:00-09:30, lunch between 12:00 and 14:00 and Dinner between 18:00 and 22:00 as if not during these times there’s not much of cooks left in the kitchens. If you go on a trip to Central Europe with your Thai partners, please tell them that in the Alpine regions of Europe people drink TAPWATER, there’s hardly any non-sparkling water bottles on sale as you just open the crank and enjoy pure, clean and cool water here.
    Sorry for the quality of the fotos as I am not known for being good at that, but they should give you enough information to water your mouths 55555555……..
    As for myself, I’m happy and look forward to some more biking days as the weather was good to me this time, and if it rains, I don’t give a hoot as I can still ride fathers FIAT Barchetta 1.8 convertible…….. Cheers, Franz
  2. For all interested, I could get out 200 kms of the small 12 liters tank on the SR500 before switching to 'reserve' which gave me around 5 liters on 100 kms, quite good for this old lady.......rgds, FR
  3. FRanz
    Breathtaking, sensational roads & unlimited fresh air. Let's have lots more.
  4. David, don't worry, plenty more to come in the upcoming years ! Not only central Europe but also eastern & southern EU plus Scandinavia.
  5. great report and pictures :)
  6. Fantastic Franz... Lovely fotos and great report.

    Will be reading this again tomorrow..

    Thanks for sharing.

  7. Pensionist, Marcel & Brian, many thanks for your "flowers" ! :p: :D: :happy5: :mrgreen:
  8. Truly Spectacular Roads and Photos! I have to agree with a few of Your Comments as well Franz. The complaints on Prices etc get a bit Boring sometimes and You have to wonder why given how cheap the Cost of Living is here! You get what You Pay for! See You on Your return Mate!
  9. Thanks for posting these pictures, Franz.
  10. Ian & Lightemup, many thanks for your replies ! Will look at my storage if there are some more good fotos.........Cheers, Franz
  11. Fantastic and inspiring!!! Definitely have to put a European tour on my short list!! :happy1:
  12. Hi Tony, yes very inspiring to thump up all these passes and be looking down all the steep valleys, Europe is simply marvellous ! Met soooooo many bikers, all greeted, even the HD and Be-eM ones. And man, bikes are cheap secondhand and mainly in good nick. But I am tempted next year for the MT09 new 3 cylinder by Yamaha. Should be a ripper bike for my planned tours here. Cheers, Franz
  13. Have to revise my statement about new bike in 2014 as my spine doesn't allow it but will do the loop again in 2014 and include some more amazing passes as my target this year were only the ones I did and this despite the fact that my spine was already seriously damaged, so was living on Voltaren and Tramadol which are medications with the effect of a sledgehammer.
    Only that this time I will do the tour on my dad's scooter the Honda SH300i, the SR500 although new rearshocks and the front end rebuilt, will serve short trips near my home. Advantages on the scooter will be that I will not have to greet every 200 meters which I needed to do on the SR, electric start and not being effected by cold mountain weather in an elevation of 2,500 to 2,800 meters. Obviously many bikers in the EU don't recognize a big scooty of being a motorbike too, maybe because we never had that amounts on 100-125's there. So people never rode these convenient low cost transport bikes there. And I shall not forget that having more than 1 motorbike in the EU is already luxury that not many can afford as too expensive as for taxes and insurance. But the tour will be done again, but this time at a lower pace and a better, newer camera. There's also some passes I won't post as known mainly to Austrians (and our neighbours in S-W-N directions) and we will keep it that way as long as possible, otherwise roads are clogged soon with campers and trailers and smoking/failing brakes. No need to be a b...h anymore as tourists are arriving in droves every year and have their favourite places anyway. A little bit should stay unknown for other motorists other than bikers. Cheers, Franz
  14. Looks like a great ride on a great bike!
    Thanks for the pic's.
  15. Thanks DaRider, there's some more missing from the French & Swiss Alps plus from your neighbouring country Norway the 'Trollstegan' which I intend to do in the coming years. Anyway would love to also do a tour of Northern Sweden/Norway/Finland in 3-4 years as I used to work there when I was still studying to make some money for University life. Bergen, Rovaniemi, Malmberget, Lulea, Umea........would be a 'rememberance tour' and then head up to the Nordkap, this of course I will do on the old Thumper to make it more delicate if my health permits by then.
  16. Sounds like a fantastic ride! Best of luck.:)
  17. Excellent trip Franz. Been there a month ago, but already miss my mountains!
    Maybe I'll come to Chiang Mai in October for a trip. and maybe we can meet up.

  18. Markus you are very welcome in Chiang Mai !
    I intend to do another ride up the Stelvio this late summer and include some more exciting mountainpasses in the Alps. All of course again on the "old lady" as she was awoken from her wintersleep by my brother and did come to life after the second kick !!!! Interesting stuff you have on Sale on your Blog-site, once I got time I'll go over it in detail and see if there are some goodies to be fitted on my SR. See u in CNX, Franz

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