Passo Tremalzo on a bike - yes, the southern way!

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by cerv, Jul 29, 2009.

  1. cerv

    cerv Been here awhile

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    As many of European ADVriders know, Tremalzo is one the most iconic passes in the Italian Alps. Built by Italian army during WW1 for strategic purposes, it climbs from Garda lake north-western coast to the other side of the mountains. It’s steep, narrow, majestic and, of course, unpaved. I became so obsessed with the idea of riding it that I planned my whole holiday around it.

    If you are interested, you can see some biking snapshots of our Garda tour at
    http://gallery.me.com/jiricervenka#100351

    and watch video at
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYNWmFBUWtI

    But back to Tremalzo. I learned that although it’s a regular „road“ accessible for cyclists, cars and the lot, you need a special permission to ride it with your bike. And to get the permission, you must spend at least two nights in the area of Tremosine just above the Garda west coast.

    So me and my girlfriend found ourselves a nice hotel:

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    #1
  2. cerv

    cerv Been here awhile

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    The hotel turned out to be not that nice, actually, definitely not for €86 a night. But upon our arrival, a piece of paper awaited us at the reception desk.

    It’s, of course, the permission to ride my bike on „Strada di Montagna“, or mountain roads in the region.

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    #2
  3. cerv

    cerv Been here awhile

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    On the third day of our stay, we headed to find out which way the road to Tremalzo went.

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  4. cerv

    cerv Been here awhile

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    From Tremosine, you ride through a Parco Naturale to the foot of Passo Nota. The road is narrow and hairpins are tight, but the paved surface helps.

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  5. cerv

    cerv Been here awhile

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    You can even have a refreshment on the way up to Passo Nota (1208 m):

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  6. cerv

    cerv Been here awhile

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    At Nota, the road divides. To Tremalzo, you have to choose the trickier one. Suddenly the pavement ends, rocks get big, gravel loose and ruts deep. Then you reach the hairpins.

    No wonder my pillion isn’t looking happy. There is quite a dip behind her.

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    #6
  7. cerv

    cerv Been here awhile

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    We decided this road was too difficult to ride two-up, and turned back to have a nice pizza instead.

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  8. KHVol

    KHVol Long timer Supporter

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    For some reason, all I'm getting for pics is boxes w/ red X's in them....
    #8
  9. cerv

    cerv Been here awhile

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    Another day, another try. We approached Tremalzo from the west, where a great twisty road climbs as high as 1665 m. After a refuge at Passo della Crocetta, the pavement ends and Tremalzo gravel track begins.

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  10. MichaelJ

    MichaelJ Long timer Supporter

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    VERY cool!

    I rode Tremalzo on a rented 1150GS in 2002 - didn't know that I needed a special pass. I was WAY over my head on that bike on that road and didn't have any water with me (big mistake).

    Does the hotel get the pass for you, or do you have to apply directly with the local authorities?

    I'm glad to have done it once, and wouldn't mind riding it again.

    On a 250cc dirt bike with knobbies.

    A couple of my pics:

    The bike on the only spot that I felt comfortable stopping at:

    [​IMG]

    Looking back:

    [​IMG]

    Pay attention to where you're going :evil

    [​IMG]
    #10
  11. cerv

    cerv Been here awhile

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    Precisely in the first (and as I learnt later, the last on this side of the hill) hairpin we gave up.

    The surface, looking comparatively friendly on these pictures, proved too challenging for me to ride it with a pillion.

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    #11
  12. cerv

    cerv Been here awhile

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    We chose the supposedly friendlier way down from Passo della Crocetta instead. You can see it in the background on the previous pic. It turned one hell of a gravel trap, having taken us more than 90 minutes to descend some 11 miles to San Michelle valley. We came across some quite spectacular sceneries on the way down, though.

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    #12
  13. cerv

    cerv Been here awhile

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    The next evening I went alone, again from Passo Nota. First miles were going well, though the surface was badly broken and the bike kept moving around quite a lot.

    By the time I reached the first tunnel (close to Passo Pra de la Rossa, 1446 m), my muscles started to hurt. I stopped and drunk half a litre of water at once. Luckily, the surface was looking nice here. Note the continuing road on the rock wall behind. That’s how it goes mile after mile. Not looking down is essential for your confidence.

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  14. cerv

    cerv Been here awhile

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    Things were getting worse. More and more often I found myself paddling with my feet just because I lacked confidence and physical fitness to keep standing on the pegs and let the bike do its stuff on the loose surface.

    Needless to say, with such slow riding I was only tiring and scaring myself more. I was glad to take 1,5 litre of water with me, though.

    When I entered yet another dark tunnel, I knew I was already quite high and hoped the decline might start right after the tunnel.

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  15. cerv

    cerv Been here awhile

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    But what really started there was this. Yes, I was at Passo dei Gaton (1637 m) and the unbeliavable man-made snake of mountain road in the front of me was the infamous Tremalzo southern ramp featuring some of the scariest, steepest and tightest unpaved hairpins known to a man. Well, to an Italian road builder, anyway.

    I was standing there, trying to take my breath (the air was already fairly thin there), sipping the water and seriously considering to turn back. Only it seemed even scarier and more demanding to ride downhill.

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  16. cerv

    cerv Been here awhile

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    So I went on. Standing up, looking ahead, slowly repeating mantra of „knees, throttle, kness, throttle“ to remind myself to hold the bike with my legs, not with my hands, and keep it open.

    Admittedly, in most of the hairpins I couldn’t find enough confidence to keep looking where I wanted to go and reverted to paddling with my feets. I knew it’s in my head, that my fear was what set the limits, not my body. It was not entirely new, but long forgotten experience for me.

    After the last hairpin, I turned back and saw this.

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  17. cerv

    cerv Been here awhile

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    Yes, I was very high in the sky indeed. The ramp looks like this from above:

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  18. cerv

    cerv Been here awhile

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    Unfortunately I was too tired to climb up the hill and take a photo of the whole ramp, but you can find them elsewhere on the interweb.

    What I was facing now was another eery tunnel. But, you know, this tunnel had a light at the end of it!

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  19. cerv

    cerv Been here awhile

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    At the end of the tunnel, I felt the greatest relief ever. The road started descending!

    Across the valley, I could see the refuge at Passo della Crocetta where the paved road ends, and also the gravel track to San Michelle we rode the day before. Right after next corner, there was that hairpin we lost our courage in and turned back (see post #11 in this thread). So close we got to the Tremalzo summit!

    Even the sky seemed properly blue now and the air was sweet to breathe. I did it!

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  20. cerv

    cerv Been here awhile

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    Back in the refuge, I had a nice espresso, sitting there in that kind of peaceful state you only experience when you overcome something physically and mentally demanding. Although I rode very fast all the way back to our hotel in Tremosine (on the road now), it was one of the quietest, zen-like rides I had ever had.

    I knew I deserved my bit of Garda idyle now!

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    #20