ROUTE 5: A ride around Bormio, Lombardy
It’s the mountain-motorcycle rider’s Mecca - but are you ready for the pilgrimage to the Stelvio Pass?
Once you start taking an interest in touring especially touring in the mountains, it’s not long before you get to hear about the Stelvio. Italy’s highest mountain pass has a fearsome reputation: 75 hairpins, with 48 on its northern slope - 14 crammed tight into the final, steep two-mile run to the summit. It can be daunting - and for some riders, it’s just too much.
“It’s a terrible road. Just U-turns” says Weeble over breakfast, before we set off. He’s ridden it once, in the wet, when he’d had a bike licence for only three years. And he hated it. Whereas I love the Stelvio. But i’d been riding for more than 20 years before I finally had a crack at it and now I can’t get enough - this is my third visit of the year…
It’s chilly as we start the climb: this is the second highest pass in the Alps (just 13m lower than France’s Col de l’Iseran) and the surrounding peaks are casting dark shadows on the lower slopes. Up and up we climb, twisting and turning, making good progress on the well-surfaced southern slope. It’s pretty quiet this early in the morning - sometimes Stelvio gets busy with cyclists and, especially, moorcyclists.
There’s a bustle of shops at the top, selling snacks and souvenirs to the steady stream of visitors. Weeble and I both buy stickers, then head for a coffee at Tibet - the restaurant with the bet views - before tackling the famous 48 hairpins of the north slope.
This side of the pass is easier to ride as a climb than as a descent, but it’s brilliant in both directions. It’s technically demanding, stringing so many tight corners together so they flow, but that’s what I love - the challenge of it, with the most amazing mountain backdrop.
When we get to the bottom, Weeble flips up his helmet. “You know what? I relaly enjoyed that. It’s actually a pretty good road,” he admits. It’s better than that: Stelvio is amazing - as long as you’re ready for it.
Maps and downloads for a ride around Bormio
Destination 5: Stelvio and the high passes
Please note: This page contains the route files for The RiDE Guide To Italy which came free with RiDE magazine in July 2015. These website page are not regularly updated, so please check all critical information before you travel. All route files are in .gpx format. Garmin and BMW users can download the main file, which contains all the routes and our recommended hotels as separate waypoints. TomTom users can download the individual routes and use the Tyre software to convert them. For many routes we also have Google Map links. However, as Google Maps will not plot routes over seasonally closed high Alpine passes (such as Stelvio) when they’re shut, these may not work for every route all year round.