Day 4: Thur 17th June 2010
Ride: Adenau to Chamonix – 517 miles
The forecast for the Alps still wasn’t looking good and the decision to ride south into poorer weather was split. Some were optimistic that conditions would improve while others thought it would be better to change the plan and head west into central France where it was clearer. Nevertheless the decision was taken to stick with our planned route and head down to Chamonix.
Regardless of what the weather was going to do today we were in for a long day of riding. We just didn’t realise how long when we set off. We left Adenau on the B257 which took us to the A48 Autobahn at Ulmen.
Although it was sunny in Adenau within 20 minutes, before we’d even got to the A48, we felt the first drops of rain and immediately dived into a petrol station to put our waterproofs on. This was a wise decision because it wasn’t long before a few drops of rain turned into very heavy rain.
We joined the A48 and the spray on the dual carriageway got progressively worse. Phil was leading and couldn’t keep more than a couple of riders in view behind him. The A48 soon joined the A1 and we rode southwards, past Trier to Nonnweiler, where we took the A62 to Pirmasens. About 15 miles before Pirmasens the rain began to ease and for the first time Phil could see that whilst Cat, Gaz and Kyle were still with him, Pete and Bob were missing. One group had become two groups before we’d even covered 100 miles.
Leaving Hotel Blaue Ecke in Adenau and who says you can’t tour on a sportsbike
In Pirmasens Phil’s group refuelled and tried, unsuccessfully, to make contact with Bobby and Pete. Leaving Pirmasens Phil took the B10 to Landau where his group joined the A65 heading southbound to the B9/A35 towards Strasbourg, exiting near Roppenheim, and then picking up the D4 – they’d been in France for a few miles – towards Baden Baden. The border between France and Germany is the River Rhine and in the middle of the bridge the D4 becomes the B500.
The B500, or Bundesstrasse 500, is a very famous biking road and today we were all going to ride it but only after a second stop for fuel and a coffee break. While he was off the bike in Baden Baden Phil finally made contact with Bobby and Pete. They were fine and had stopped for lunch and were about an hour behind.
The majority of bikers think that the B500 runs between Baden Baden and Freudenstadt when in fact it runs from the border with France as you cross the Rhine, all the way to the border with Switzerland at Waldshut. Setting off through Baden Baden we picked up the B500 until we reached a point where the signs offered a choice of routes to Freudenstadt – the B462 or the B500 also known as the Schwarzwald Hochstrasse, which translates to the Black Forest High Road.
Your choice which way to Freudenstadt – boring or interesting
As a result of the poor weather today unfortunately we didn’t really get an opportunity to take any decent photos. However, a month after we rode the B500 Phil got the chance to ride it again. And this time the weather was much better and so we’ve included the shots he took in July in this report. You can tell they were taken later on because it isn’t raining and more significantly Phil’s on a different bike, his BMW K1200S instead of his S1000RR.
Leaving Baden Baden the valley road soon starts to gently climb and turn and it’s not long before we came to a sharper left hander and a sign that told us that we were about to encounter motorcycling nirvana for the next 30 miles.
20th July 2010: The B500 and signs that tells you that you are about to encounter motorcycling nirvana for the next 30 miles
20th July 2010: These first three shots are a good representative of the sweepers on this section
One feature of the B500 is that all the bends have a constant radius (or so Phil was told by someone) and so once you have got your entry speed right you just hold it on the throttle until you see the exit and then gas it.
The road climbs to a height of about 3,300 feet ASL and if the weather had been nicer the view from the top overlooking the Strasbourg valley would have been great. As it was we were in low cloud and we couldn’t see a great deal.
Phil and Gaz at about 3,300ft in the rain and low cloud (L) and the view overlooking the Strasbourg valley (R)
20th July 2010: These two shots are at the same spot one month later and as you can see the view overlooking the Strasbourg valley is spectacular
From this high point the road undulates for quite a while, gently rising and falling, but rarely dropping below 3,000ft. It’s a constant stream of lefts and rights and because there are no blind crestes and all the bends are open we could always see oncoming vehicles so overtakes were never a problem.
20th July 2010: From the high point the road rarely drops below 3,000ft
20th July 2010: These three shots are good examples of the constant radius bends that make the B500 one of the best biking roads in Europe
The B500 disappeared for a bit as we approached Freudenstadt where it merged with the B28. After a mile or so we turned off onto the L96, which took us to Wolfach. This is a pretty bit of road but the surface was fairly poor in places.
At Wolfach we turned right and then left onto the B33 – which wasn’t bad but was fairly busy and nothing to write home about – to Triberg im Schwarzwald where we turned right and the road once again became the B500. It’s a steep climb out of Triberg through Schonwald and Furtwangen, and a mile out of Furtwangen we turned left. This next section of the B500 to Hinterzarten is as good as the first section.
20th July 2010: Beyond Furtwangen and the second good section of road
At Hinterzarten we joined the B31 and B317 past the lake at Titisee and then after about 3 miles we turned left back onto the B500 for the last 25 miles to Waldshut on the border with Switzerland. This final section of the B500 was as good as the previous two and we could see what so many other bikers had been raving about. At Waldshut we crossed over the Rhine again into Switzerland and stopped for a coffee, and to reflect upon what we’d just ridden.
By this stage it was nearly 5.30pm and we still had 180 miles to go until we reached Chamonix so we needed to get a wriggle on. The route was simple, ride through Brugg to Aarau where we would pick up the A1/A12 motorway and run down past Bern and Fribourg to Vevey – on the shores of Lake Geneva. From there we would pick up the A9 until Martigny and run up and over the Col de la Forclaz and Col des Montets to the French border from where it’s a straightforward run down the valley to Chamonix. This is the same route we used for our first trip to Chamonix 5 years previously.
The plan was fine but we had misread the weather when we had taken off our waterproofs near Wolfach and were too stupid to put them back on again. Even when we stopped a few miles later for fuel on the motorway and felt the first drops of rain coming from a very big black cloud above, we still didn’t put them back on. As soon as we got back on the motorway the heavens opened.
This downpour was worse than the rain we’d encountered in the morning and soon everyone was drenched. The spray was awful and it was hard to see the lights of the cars in front. There didn’t seem any point in stopping again to put our rain suits on – we were far too wet for that – so we just powered through it. All that kept Phil going was that he could see a little bit of bright sky in their direction of travel and figured that the quicker he rode, the quicker he would get there.
Gaz at the base of the Col de la Forclaz (L) and a view looking at the start of the Forclaz on the Martigny side (R)
After Fribourg the rain abated a bit and as we rode down to Vevey it was dry as a bone. By 8.30pm we were at the base of the Forclaz but we didn’t bother stopping for a beer at the top on this occasion, it was getting dark, and just continued down the valley into Chamonix where we stopped at the MBC – the Micro Brasserie de Chamonix. Here we could get fed, watered, warmed up and watch France lose to Mexico in their World Cup group match, which made us all feel a bit better! It was 11.00pm before we finally got to Chalet Le Bois Rond and we hadn’t heard from Bobby and Pete since lunchtime.
A little after 11.30pm we made contact with them – they were on the wrong side of the Forclaz and it seemed that having lost touch with the rest of us on the Autobahn from Ulmen they had progressed at a more appropriate pace before stopping for lunch somewhere on the B500 – we should have guessed! When in Switzerland they had met the same rainstorm as us but decided to take shelter at a motorway service area, which lost them a further hour so they were about 3 hours behind us. Nevertheless Kyle was able to talk them in over the phone and they finally got to the chalet at 12.30am.