We came for BMW Motorrad Days. We stayed for spectacular riding in the Alps.
BMW International Motorrad Days held in the German mountain town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen was an amazing experience for us small town Canadians. Some 40,000 people, primarily bikers, descend on the quiet little town of Garmisch to celebrate all things BMW motorcycle, from the GS Trophy to the thriving German custom scene, and everything in between.
Delicious food, friendly people and the sounds of motorcycles at every turn. The three day event has a solid community atmosphere, with plenty to do and see. It went by in a blur as we packed our days as full as we could. But that was only the beginning.
With two gorgeous Triple Black BMW R1200GSs at our disposal and a few days before our flight back to Canada we couldn’t resist exploring the Alps.
Based on advice given to us by people we met at Motorrad Days we decided that we would get the most value out of our limited time by focusing on riding in the Dolomites. We had a pretty good head start with Garmisch-Partenkirchen being poised on the edge of the Alps, with plenty of epic roads less than a day away. Our main focus for our tour was going to be mountain passes, so we started with Timmelsjoch on the Austrian-Italian border.
We really had zero expectations going into this trip, just wild optimism and excitement for the unknown. We had not previously done any riding in Europe. Once we were on our approach to Sölden we started to get a sense for the riding to come. With mountains on either side and waterfalls dotting the slopes we absorbed all the sensory inputs as we passed through many charming little towns through the valley. The smell of fresh mountain air, the heat beating down from the sunshine, and the stunning vistas blasting into our eyes.
Gaining elevation in preparation for Timmelsjoch pass, reaching an ultimate height of 2,474 m (8,116 ft), we were in hairpin heaven. The road was incredibly smooth and the traffic not too bad. Hikers, cyclists and motorcyclists alike appeared to be drawn to the area. We stopped for photos and to soak in the views as we transitioned from green meadows to high alpine terrain. When we popped out the other side we were surprised to discover we were in Italy. A reassurance of this was the kiosk selling all sorts of Italian cured meat: cacciatore, mortadella, pancetta, salame, and prosciutto, among many others.
Next on the map was Jaufenpass. Greeted by more amazing mountain views and thrilling roads we were having a blast. As we set our sights on the next pass on our route, Penser Joch, we decided that we should call it a day. We found a nice motorcycle friendly guest house with a view of the surrounding mountains in the small town of Egg Dosso. How did we know it was motorcycle friendly? The sign outside read exactly that! These roads are very popular among riders and the guest houses know it. Not shortly after we’d called it quits for the day did the skies open up and a thunderstorm rolled through, completely obscuring the mountain view. We timed that decision to perfection. For supper we decided to try the local cuisine: Fettuccine Carbonara and Tiroler Speckknoedel, both were excellent!
The day of passes was next in the program, starting with Penser Joch first thing in the morning. The cool morning air was refreshing, the blue sky inviting us to enjoy what would surely be a day to remember. Our goal was to ride as many passes as we could. From Penser Joch we had somehow got on the tunnel route to Bolzano. I lost count with how many tunnels we drove through; it was kind of fun and different from the usual highway riding routine. That morning we had been enjoying fresh mountain air, now we found ourselves riding through countless tunnels in humid jungle-like conditions. After navigating the busy and somewhat chaotic streets of Bolzano, a charmingly Italian looking town from our perspective, we pointed the bikes towards Nigerpass and onwards to dice up more Dolomite passes.
We get our first views of the sharp, jagged, dramatic Dolomites while riding Nigerpass. Passo di Nigra, Passo di Costalunga, Passo di Fedáia, Passo di Pordoi, Passo di Sella, and Passo di Gardena, quite a mouthful, experienced under the most accommodating blue sky and sunshine. The roads carve right through the mountains, it feels like you can almost reach out and touch the rocky slopes. Each pass serves up more entertaining motorcycle riding but after completing that pass list we were exhausted and thankfully found a great hotel in Colfosco.
The owners were very welcoming to motorcyclists, with Valentino Rossi memorabilia decorating the entryway we knew we’d found the right place to lay our heads for the evening. They really made the effort to make motorcyclists feel welcome. They had a special drying rack where you could place your motorcycle boots overnight. And Alberto made the history books by becoming their first Peruvian visitor, let alone on a motorcycle! The owner spoke German, Italian, English and some Spanish, greeting other guests in different languages was a reminder that European people in this region are prepared to welcome the visitors and are thankfully multilingual.
The rock formations in the area are truly unique and unlike anything we’ve experienced before. The roads are spectacular, they get so close to the action, and there are so many options to criss cross your way through the region. The riding is very engaging, lots of different turn types with plenty of quality tarmac to enjoy comfortably perched on top of two wheels. It would take weeks to ride the same amount of turns in North America, not too mention that the road surface quality is immaculate in comparison.
Returning to Germany we hit up a few more passes, Passo di Valparola, Passo di Falzárego and Passo Tre Croci, before programming the GPS to take us to Munich. Truly unbelievable riding. With the triple threat of amazing scenery, quality roads and perfect weather it felt like we’d stumbled upon motorcycle nirvana. Our Beemers were amazing, such a perfect machine for touring and with torque for days we had plenty of capacity to enjoy the curvy roads. They made the long days easy and the fun parts more fun.