B500 & Swiss Alpine Passes Trip Report – 19th-23rd July 2010 (Part 1/2)

Motorcycle trip to Switzerland

Part 1: The ride down to Switzerland via Nurburg and the B500

Report by: Philip

Total mileage: 1,990 miles

Four weeks after our 2010 BBOT Tour to the Western Alps and Chamonix Mont-Blanc had ended I had occasion to travel again to Switzerland. As the weather forecast was good – or at least better than it had been for our touring holiday I decided to take one of my bikes, this time my K1200S on which I had ridden the first three BBOT tours.

I intended to retrace a lot of this year’s route with the intention of taking the photos which bad weather had denied to us a few weeks previously. I also hoped to get in some of the Swiss passes which none of us had so far ridden, and also the Route des Cretes in the Vosges mountains.

Mon 19th July

I left Bewdley on Monday morning for the Channel Tunnel. After an uneventful ride and crossing I was soon eating up the autoroute miles to the Eupen turn off for Nurburg. After taking a batch of photos of the B258 and some of the other roads around the area I decided it was too early to stop and headed for the autobahn southwards.

Start of the B258 at Monschau (L) and a representative shot of the B258 (R)

Nurburg Castle (L) and the road leaving Nurburg en route to Trier (R)

The longer I rode this day the more time I would have to photograph the B500 in the Black Forest and maybe take in a Swiss Alpine pass before ending up at my hotel in Switzerland.

I realised that in the pleasant sunshine of that evening the autobahn was actually very nice running through some lovely scenery in the Eifel Mountains. It was quite a contrast with the heavy rain we encountered in June when you could hardly see the road ahead.

Eventually spotting the sign to Trier I turned off to find a hotel and ended up in the Hotel Romischer Kaiser very close to the Porta Nigra. The hotel was reasonable value at €72 a night including breakfast – the only disadvantage was the lack of aircon.

Tue 20th July

On Tuesday with the sun shining I continued to follow the tour route to Baden Baden and achieve my aim of getting a series of good photos of the B500 as it runs through the Black Forest.

Setting off from Baden Baden I picked up the B500 and rode through the town until I reached a point where the signs offered me 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. After riding a few miles down the valley with the road gently climbing I came to a sharper left hander and a sign that told me I was about to encounter motorcycling nirvana for the next 30 miles

The B500 and signs that told me I was about to encounter motorcycling nirvana for the next 30 miles

These first three shots are a good representative of the sweepers on this section

One feature of the B500 – so I’ve been informed – is that all the bends have a constant radius 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 about 3,300 feet ASL and the view from the top overlooking the Strasbourg valley is spectacular.

Parked up at about 3,300ft (L) and the spectacular view at the top overlooking the Strasbourg valley (R)

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 that enabled me to get in to a really good rhythm, and because there are no blind crestes and all the bends are open I could always see oncoming vehicles so overtakes were never a problem.

From the high point the road rarely drops below 3,000ft

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 I approached Freudenstadt where it merges with the B28 and after about a mile I turned off onto the L96 to Wolfach. This is a pretty bit of road but the surface was fairly poor in places.

At Wolfach I turned right and then left onto the B33 to Triberg im Schwarzwald where I turned right again and the road once again became the B500. After a steep climb out of Triberg through Schonwald and Furtwangen I turned left and the next section of the B500 to Hinterzarten is as good as the first section.

Beyond Furtwangen and the second good section of road

At Hinterzarten I joined the B31 and B317 past the lake at Titisee and then after about 3 miles I turned left back onto the B500 for the last 25 miles to Waldshut on the border with Switzerland. This last section of the B500 is as good as the other two.

Crossing the border into Switzerland at Waldshut I joined the A1 towards Zurich where I took the new A4 to Brunnen where the road reverts to single carriageway as it runs up the eastern shore of Lake Lucern to Altdorf.

Here’s my bike with Lake Lucern in the background (L) and the approach to Altdorf (R)

Altdorf is the place where in 1307 William Tell shot the apple off his son’s head and below is a photo of his statue in the main square.

William Tell, founder of the Swiss confederation

Leaving Altdorf I turned towards Burglen and the Klausen Pass. This road would take me all the way to Nafels where I could join the A3 for the final stretch to Bad Ragaz.

The Klausen runs from Altdorf to Linthal and it’s a nice pass. It has some good views and pleasant scenery and from Spiringen the road climbs gently eastwards. As you approach Unterschachen look up and you will see the pass as it goes back on itself before resuming its eastward course at Urigen.

Early stages of the Klausen Pass before Spiringen (L) and approaching Unterschachen where you can see the pass as it goes back on itself (R)

The road continues to climb gently and below you can see the pass road looking east towards Unterschachen and up to the next section.

Looking East towards Unterschachen

Into Unterschachen the road drops briefly but soon rises again and this time the climb out is steeper than before.

After Unterschachen looking towards the summit

Along this section of the pass the surface is pretty good but the drop on the right is sheer and long and not one for the faint hearted or anyone who suffers from vertigo. It was here that I noticed what seemed to be a sundial on a rock. I stopped and saw that it seemed to be a memorial presumably to a climber, initials GW, who had died there on 20th August 1960 at 11.55am.

And not long after spotting the sundial I spotted a waterfall across the valley and from that point you can get an idea of the drop below.

The memorial to GW who had died here on 20th August 1960 (L) and a view of the waterfall across the valley (R)

The final run up to the top is pleasant and the view looking back towards Altdorf is spectacular however when I reached the summit the view was even better and reminded me of the Dolomites.

A view from just below the summit looking back towards Altdorf

The pass sign at the summit (L) and the view from the summit – it reminded me of the Dolomites (R)

There were a lot of cows with their cowbells towards the top and on the descent the biggest danger seemed to be the risk of the bike skidding on all the s**t that was on the road.

The first section of the descent ran gently down towards Linthal before entering a tight section, which took you down to the valley floor.

On the descent, just below summit (L) and a view from the valley floor looking back towards the summit (R)

The road in the valley floor ran fairly straight for a few miles albeit with a bumpy surface. Finally, the road dropped down through woods into Linthal through a series of bends and hairpins, three of which were cobbled.

My view was that this was a nice pass to ride without being outstanding.

The pass road from Linthal back to the summit was the site of the Klausenrennen, a hillclimb that ran from 1922 to 1934. Rudolf Carraciola in a Mercedes W125 set the hill record in 1934 at 15 minutes 22.2 seconds for the 23 kilometres. The Swiss revived the event in 1993 and it’s run every 4 or 5 years and the next event is in 2011.

Part 2 >>

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