By July with summer in full swing I’m starting to get itchy tyres and feeling the need to be out on the bike enjoying the sunshine. What better way to scratch that itch than to spend 10 days exploring some of the best mountain roads Europe has to offer? Well actually, the only way I can think of is to do it with 15 like-minded bikers who I can share a beer and swap stories with in the evening!
That’s exactly what Magellan’s 2017 Austrian Tyrol and Swiss Alps tour provided. Simplicity and a lack of hassle characterises the entire process. Once you’ve chosen from the broad selection of trips available online all you need to do next is dream about your coming holiday! Everything is planned and arranged quietly in the background, your only headache is what to pack. Or if you’re lucky which bike to bring!
After an early morning meeting in Folkestone for a quick briefing it was straight to the Eurotunnel Terminal; just type in the reference number provided in your (very comprehensive) tour pack and ride through. Easy! Half an hour later and we’re eating up the miles on the French autoroute. By the same afternoon the autoroute has been replaced by golden wheat fields being harvested from horizon to horizon and fast, rural roads with very little traffic. Arriving at the hotel at the end of the day’s ride you’ll find your room booked and ready and dinner arranged for the evening. All you need to do is shower and decide what beer you’re having!
The first stop of this tour is in Verdun and there is opportunity first thing the following morning to visit the ossuary and memorial at Douaumont, a very moving and somber reminder of the sacrifices that have been made by previous generations. It’s certainly worth spending a quiet hour or so here.
From here it’s onwards through day two. Everyone is beginning to settle into the rhythm of the road now; a morning coffee stop, a lunch stop and an afternoon coffee stop generally break up a day of around 300miles. All the stops have been researched and tend towards hidden patisseries, cosy family run restaurants and favourite local spots. They aren’t set in stone though and you’re free to ride the day however it suits you. Often members of the group will set off on their own only to find themselves sitting down next to one another at the next stop having arrived only minutes apart!
Not long after crossing the border into Germany over the mighty Rhine, day two finishes up at the wonderful Gasthaus Auerhahn, just south of Baden-Baden. Tantalisingly right at the very start of the famous B500 and on the edge of the Schwarzwald. This is the perfect ice-breaker as the beer begins to flow freely on the lovely shaded front terrace and members of the group begin to open up to each other about what they hope to achieve or take home from this particular trip. Some are focused on the days ahead riding the exhilarating mountain passes, others are retracing trips they took 30 years ago. Some are here for the fun of being in a large group with a common interest and still others are just enjoying their first motorcycle tour.
Day three sees us riding the gorgeous B500 forest road. Speed cameras are present but in nothing like the density you’ll find back home. A foggy day today and the route swoops through the Schwarzwald, plunging in and out of the cloud layer. A fantastic ride but only a taster of the mind boggling roads to come! The route heads southeast through picturesque german towns with storybook names like Freudenstadt and Marktoberdorf, and as always the day’s stops are carefully selected so you don’t have to ride round in circles hunting for a snack. (Unless you want to of course!)
I think it’s worth stressing at this point just how much freedom you have on a Magellan tour. You really are encouraged to take the reins of your own holiday. Recommendations are provided in the tour pack but there’s no need to tramp around in single file behind the guide, missing out on something you’d prefer. You choose how your holiday pans out. Having a guide along means that you can do this without the hassle! As we arrived this evening into the beautiful town of Oberammergau (Google it if you get a minute!) several of the group decided to try a local Mexican restaurant for it’s vegetarian options whilst others wanted a more authentic german setting. All everyone needed to do however was sample our hotels honesty bar and relax on the terrace whilst reservations were made. Easy!
After Oberammergau we continued east before dipping south into Austria and the first two-night stay of the tour near Zell am See. The high class Glemmtalerhof hotel was our staging point for day 5’s ride out to the famous Grossglockner high alpine road. A tortuous tarmac snake winding it’s way up to the Pasterze glacier with breathtaking views all around and exhilarating riding on perfectly surfaced hairpin bends. This type of road (which barely exists in the uk) is why many of the group left home on their bikes in the first place and it makes a fantastic introduction to the next few days of world-class riding!
From this point on the riding was ridiculously spectacular! We stayed in Flims before moving on to a second two-nighter in Meirigen, Switzerland (home of the Reichenbach waterfall where Sherlock Holmes and Moriaty fought to the death!)
It seems as if every kilometre of the route was laid out specifically with motorcycle touring in mind as it soars over mountain pass after mountain pass through some of the most amazing scenery. The spare day in Meirigen includes a circular itinerary of several more passes for those who still hadn’t had enough!
This section of the tour is the real highlight for me and you can see the excitement in people’s eyes in the evening as they recount each day’s adventure over dinner with strangers who have now become fast friends. It’s great to see people who’ve only known each other a week sharing their experiences so freely.
The camaraderie of the road on tours like this one is a wonderful thing. Everyone had someone to ride with each morning if they wanted to and there was always somebody happy to lend a hand or a piece of equipment or simply to photograph that amazing holiday memory!
Sadly nothing lasts forever and we began to head back east and away from the Alps with only a couple more stops to look forward to. Thankfully however, these were both fabulous! The beautiful Vosges was our next destination with narrow, labyrinthine woodland roads ensuring everyone’s ride was unique (even with identical sat navs!) and the family run Hotel le Rouge Gazon providing food and beer in legendary quantities amidst a breathtaking forest panorama.
Finally we rolled into Reims for our last night. A great opportunity to embellish our adventure stories one more time over one more beer before making the run to the English Channel and home as the newest members of the Magellan family.
If this sounds right up your street then check out the upcoming 2018 tour!