arrow&v

Alps - Retrospective

During the first five days the cycling hadn't been super exciting. It rained a lot and was windy, also we cycled more than 10% extra because the bicycle paths were horribly indicated in Germany. On the sixth day we cycled 194 km along the Bodensee. On the seventh day we climbed the first Alp pass. The eighth day had two tough passes. On the 9th we arrived in Italy, with the Gavia pass in the evening. That climb in the dark and the camping in the wild afterwards felt for me as the real start of the vacation. The days afterwards we also experienced a lot more. On the 10th day we climbed the Stelvio and lost each other the entire afternoon. The eleventh day was though because we had to climb three passes. On day 12 the route was way tougher than expected. It rained immensely the entire day making even us hide in a hotel around 6 o'clock. The 13th we were well rested and cycled 169 kilometer, until we needed to sleep in someone's rat infested shed because of the rain. On day 14 we cycled 194 km with an unexpectedly tough pass near the end. Day 15 was a lot of racing until the foot of the Timmelsjoch, or so we thought. On day 16 we first climbed the Jaufenpass after which we started the toughest climb of the vacation, the Timmelsjoch. On day 17 the route was easier than expected, which was nice because we were very tired. On day 18 we left the Alps and planned a shorter route home. Day 19 involved cycling 186 km and camping near a haunted factory. Day 20 was the longest, 227 km, of which 100 were passed along the Rhine. Finally, day 21 was the last day. We reached 600 km in the last 3 days and more than 3400 km during the entire trip.
 

The weather

The weather was a lot worse on this trip than during any of our previous vacations. Only our Black Forest cycling trip came close in terms of the amount of rain. The part in Germany had again the worst weather this time. We had rain on 2/3 of the days and on the days it didn't rain the weather was usually still far from sunny.
 

The route

The route Jorien and her dad had planned was very nice. Especially the Bodensee, Stelvio, the entire Italy section, and the Timmelsjoch had beautiful views. The sections outside of the mountains were usually hard to follow because of the many roads and small villages. On days 7 to 17 we climbed mountain passes, except on day 13. Day 12 was the day we stayed in the hotel. From there onwards we averaged 179 km per day. 

route.jpg

The purple line is the planned route. Red and blue represent the days cycled.

The day numbers are indicated as well.

dagafstanden.jpg

The distances we have cycled each day
 

The countries

We visited the following countries: The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and Slovenia. In total we crossed borders 18 times. Belgium was easier than expected in terms of finding the route. Germany was the worst we have ever experienced. The bicycle paths lead nowhere and it was raining non-stop. Switzerland was nice but the food was relatively expensive. Austria was nice as well, we could navigate easily everywhere. Italy was better than we had expected, both in terms of the people and the ease of cycling. It also was very pretty. Slovenia was different than the other countries, but not as much as I had expected. We were able to find food and, although it is a bit poorer than some other European countries, it's not horrible. With a good map it is definitely possible to ride some nice routes through the small villages. The Alps are pretty similar between countries. People speak German everywhere and it all looks pretty similar, although very beautiful. On one day we were even unsure which country we were in.
 

The equipment

I liked my bike. Its front suspension was sometimes hindersome when climbing, but because of it I didn't have any sore back or shoulders. Nothing broke on my bike, except my panniers, which I can still fix. In terms of clothing we can still improve. Waterproof socks (sealskinz) would be a nice addition. I will also buy a gore-tex rain jacket next time. With better rain gear we could have kept cycling even on the day we stayed at the hotel. With so much rain a tent is probably also nicer than a bivy bag, although those are more visible when camping in the wild. While our bivy bags are waterproof and breathing (they are made of gore-tex) we sometimes had to pick between breathing and getting wet, or staying dry and suffocating in our own horrible smell.