Peaks And Lows

Col du Lautaret

Col du Lautaret


Time for an update about my motorcycle adventures. The trip to the French Alps I wrote about in the last two posts was great. The region around Gap is called “Les Grandes Alpes” on street signs and in tourism materials and that sounds like a boast, but actually it isn’t. The language doesn’t do it justice and neither can my photos like the panorama above. It is just so great. The french road engineers have to be commended for building mountain roads there that seem to defy gravity itself. They are a dream to drive. We did Col d’Allo, Col de la Bonnette, a circuit of the Parc d’Ecrins and went up and down the switchbacks of Alpe’Huez of Tour de France legend.
That was last month. A week ago, I did this:
Traffic jam on the Nürburgring's Nordschleife. Reason: me...

Traffic jam on the Nürburgring’s Nordschleife. Reason: me…


On an impulse, I went to the Vulkaneifel region (320 km on the Autobahn, wasn’t so bad, actually) and did four laps of the Nürburgring. As anyone interested in motor-sports knows, they offer so-called tourist rides. Strange name for the possibility to ride this historic race track that Jackie Stewart called the “Green Hell”. Well, it wasn’t for me, but I had a good introduction by a fellow rider from Mönchen-Gladbach I met in the parking lot. He gave me very good hints and even rode the first two rounds with me. The track, now, it is 22 km of curves, dips and rises and even two banked corners laid into the scenic Eiffel woodlands. The course is very well marshaled and while I was there was closed twice for about an hour each to get the wreckage off the track when a driver had run out of tarmac and made the acquaintance of the guardrail. No injuries, luckily. There’s not much run-off at the Nürburgring! Apart from the devalued gear on the crash truck, one could see race cars in the parking lot from a Renault Clio up to a Bugatti Veyron. The drivers came from all over Europe with the Netherlands and Great Britain represented most, but also from overseas (Japan!). It is a racetrack of legend, it seems! Motorcycle riders came from Germany, mostly, and their rides varied from Supersport bikes like mine to BMW R1200 GS (affectionately called “Gummikuh” in Germany) travel enduros. So, it was a mixed track day for cars and bikes, and that makes the experience even more special. While the race car drivers have to contend with bikers blocking the racing line in the curves, the bikers in turn must accept being overhauled at 200 kph 20 centimeters from their elbows. Neither one of them can assume that the other one is a good driver…
Anyway, it was a memorable experience and I will surely return, but perhaps on a day for motorcyclists only or for a training day with instructors.
From internationally famous racetracks to the provinces. Ladies and gentlemen, the parc fermé at the Heidbergring at Geesthacht!

From internationally famous racetracks to the provinces. Ladies and gentlemen, the parc fermé at the Heidbergring at Geesthacht!


This is where I partook in another curve training yesterday. It was great, like the first one. Gerold, our friendly instructor, really worked on our weaknesses. Me especially… being able to afford the fastest bike in the paddock is one thing, but my lines, my curve speed and steering my vision were pitiful in the beginning. Perhaps a bit less so in the evening. My excuse: I was distracted by the course warden, who constantly measured the sound level of my bike when I drove by and threatened to ban me if I didn’t shift up more. The Panigale is loud (108 dB in the papers) and essentially wants to be ridden at high rpms. But shift up I did and I wasn’t thrown off. The higher gear even helped to increase the corner speed.
A red flag raised over the Heidbergring.

A red flag raised over the Heidbergring.


Unluckily, this training day comprised three crashes. One was a minor lowsider, the guy who suffered it was in my group and could continue right away. It just took a bit of paint off his fairing. The second one was a flip above the bars from braking too hard and warranted a visit of the local ambulance. Clavicle broken. The last crash came at the end of the day, the rider had his last turn and did a highsider at the exit of a high-speed curve. Nasty crash, that, broken clavicle again and possibly concussion. His BMW R1000S looked rather totaled.
With a subdued mood and mixed feelings, the event ended and we hoped the two injured riders would be well again, soon.

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4 Responses to Peaks And Lows

  1. moppedfahren says:

    Could you post a gpx track of where you rode dans les Grande Alpes? I have absolutely no idea when I can find the time to go there, but seeing your photos and reading your texts, I definitly want to.

  2. chammann says:

    Tank you for your interest. Sorry to say, I didn’t produce GPS tracks while riding the roads in the Gap region. I’m not that much into electronics while riding my bike, GPS navigation on the smartphone (when and if it works!) is as far as I will go. And I carry paper maps as a backup. But if you want to experience some of the splendor of the French Alps, look to the east and north-east from Gap. You almost can’t go wrong. The Col and Cime de la Bonnette are well known and signed out as one of the routes to Nièce and known for being the highest paved road in Europe. The Col d’Allo is more obscure, more winding, more scary and a side road, dead end, actually, on the way to the Cime de la Bonnette from Gap. The circuit around the Parc d’Ecrins (whatever an Ecrin is…) goes from Gap to Grenoble, to Bourg d’Oisans (the climb to the Alpe d’Huez starts there!), over the Col du Lautaret and the Col du Vars back to Gap. A glorious day’s ride! Have fun riding these roads and others in that region. I just might join you when I have two weeks of vacation in October, though some of these Cols may be closed then.

    • moppedfahren says:

      Thanks for the hints! I won’t be able to go there this year, though. I completely understand the need of not dealing with gadgets while riding. While I find satnav extremely useful at times, I found that I can enjoy simply getting lost on the motorcycle much more. I tend to log many of my rides however, as it makes finding that great, winding part of the route again way easier later on.

  3. Pingback: Flawed Ambassador | Phaedrus rides a motorcycle, too, you know!

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