Table of contents
- Piedmont and Hautes-Alpes with Yamaha Tricker Are you still alive? Then do it!
- Travel with the Tricker
- Piedmont and Hautes-Alpes with Yamaha Tricker (3)
- Piedmont and Hautes-Alpes with Yamaha Tricker (2)
- The crisis region of the Alps
- Info about the tour
Piedmont and Hautes-Alpes with Yamaha Tricker
Piedmont and Hautes-Alpes with Yamaha Tricker
Are you still alive? Then do it!
A toothbrush, an auxiliary motor, a backpack full of maps: that’s all you need to discover the most beautiful corners of the world.
Monika Schulz, Annette Johann
But only without those ugly glasses. ”The owner of the village shop in Acceglio tears the till rack from her nose and prepares herself for the photo.
She serves in French, “that’s good for business, especially with tourists”. However, many did not come. A few cyclists, a few hikers, a few more on the weekends. She smiles mischievously: “Maybe a schnapps?” Our objection that we were there with motorbikes and really only wanted bread for a picnic, fizzled out. Now we would have to strike, afterwards the shop would be closed. She must go to the hospital to see her husband. oh I see.
Later on, two overflowing plastic bags in tow, we stand outside, pondering whether she talked us into a Barbie doll or not – and how we can store the junk on our bonsai bikes. As a packhorse, the Tricker not designed. Yamaha thought more of a fun bike for the city.
Lunch break high above the Stura Meira valleys.
But Acceglio does not fulfill that. Small, poor, 237 remaining residents. A gas station with a bar, two restaurants, a few guest beds. Last supply station in the Maira Valley, before we only continue on hiking trails into the Italian-French border mountains. Scenically high, economically the dead end of the Alps. Emigration area, 2.5 inhabitants per square kilometer. Just like the other cut valleys that drill west of Cuneo towards France. Some are so remote and forget that even the travel guides write past them.
With heavy rucksacks we swing high above the roaring Maira through Maddalena and Prazzo, whose names, as if against oblivion, are emblazoned meters high on the facades. Closed restaurants, empty houses. The blue bus to “Michelin” thunders past, one of the major employers in the Turin region of Fiat. Down in the provincial capital of Cuneo, it employs over 2,700 people. Less than 60 kilometers away: Elva. The poorest municipality in Italy, on the tiny Colle di Sampeyre. We want to go there. At Ponte Marmora it’s off – and straight to the point. Clinging tightly to the rock, the ramshackle road crawls curve by curve through the bizarre Elva Gorge. Lane width just above towel level, maximum gradient 15 percent! Not for long wheelbases or Sunday drivers. Two insecure sofa scooter pilots crawl in front of us close to the wall. No overtaking is possible. We sit the matter out at the Madonna del Vallone, make a few intercessions for the protection of all snails.
Up in Elva, the defiant alpine church, together with the village bar, strives for something like urbanity, the steep drop into the Mairatal follows immediately behind the last houses. Another five kilometers to the top of the pass, free driving under a clear blue sky, wide swings, bright green meadows – and the feeling of floating. That’s exactly what we wanted. And that is exactly what you can only find in secluded Alpine regions, where there is nothing left but landscape and marmots.
A small wooden plaque marks the top of the pass, 2248 meters above zero. An old military road crosses from the left and follows the mountain ridge far down into the Po Valley. We play around with it until the afternoon, which comes with low-flying rain clouds. Only the north ramp of the Sampeyre to the place of the same name in the Valle Varaita promises drought. It wasn’t planned, but it didn’t get wet either. Get down! 1300 meters of altitude, countless sheep and curves, trillions of red-flowering plants that peek out of a gently green high moor landscape. Alpine vegetation meets Mediterranean, nowhere are the mountains more ornate than here at the southern end of the Alpine arc, at the point of contact between the Mediterranean and the high mountains. On an exposed rock plateau, the backpacks, which weigh tons, are finally freed of the nice lady’s treasures. Bananas, bread, salami – thank God, Barbie is not there.
Travel with the Tricker
First of all: Yamaha would like us very much to say “the” and not “the Tricker”. But we don’t do that. After all, nobody says the Suzuki Bandit or the KTM Adventure – because it’s called the (!) Motorcycle. It’s that simple. And with that, to Yamaha’s real problem with the (!) Tricker: You don’t really know what to do with it. How to offer And above all: who? Marketing strategists have seldom found it so difficult to promote a motorcycle. Two wheels, one engine, done. Not 190, but 19 PS, not 1000 cubic meters, but 250. No titanium, no ABS, no shrill layout – not even black indicator glasses or something. And so the buzzwords are missing to convince the people of the Tricker concept.
Strange actually: With an extremely expensive hyper athlete – forcing the pilot’s knees into his armpits, his nose between the instruments, then happily flicking him into orbit – no questions remain unanswered. Even though such a racing file doesn’t make much more sense in real life than a trickster: You sit just as uncomfortably, you’re just as difficult to travel with and rarely find living conditions appropriate to the species to let the plane off the leash. Nevertheless, a YZF-R1, for example, is traded as a fully-fledged moped, while the trickster has to be stamped as a “shopper for motorhome drivers” or “mobile infotainment system” (original sound from Yamaha). Great idea! Sounds like tingling driving pleasure.
It is true that the small, light trial enduro fits into any fairly full-fledged station wagon and is also convincing in the city. What Yamaha is hiding, however, is the fact that the Tricker drives quite normally. And as normal, brakes and flashes and honks. And bounces and dampens and sprints. Extremely stable up to 120 km / h, extremely handy in curves, at home on any road surface. Okay, the sitting position – buttocks just above the floor, hands quite high – is important to file in order to get a good B-grade. Otherwise, however, everything runs by itself.
Why did we choose the Tricker for Piedmont? She can get anywhere, up and through, without putting undue strain on her environment. Sensitive landscapes call for sensitive motorcycles that are neither too thick nor too loud. This is the strength of the single cylinder, which is sufficiently pressure-friendly and easy to turn – and in its cheerful way of pushing you further and further. Always higher up, deeper and deeper into the oblivion of time. The only sobering effect is the coarse rubble, from which the 19-inch front wheel bounces off in all directions.
The tricks will rarely be thrown away, and if they do, then with impunity, because there is actually nothing on them that can break. The loss of performance in thin mountain air and the minimum range of an average of 130 kilometers are stressful, which is not due to crude drinking habits, but to the bonsai tank: six liters are almost exactly six too little for carefree high mountain tours.
Piedmont and Hautes-Alpes with Yamaha Tricker (3)
The BMW-Gore-Tex-Combo, which has taken position next to us, confidently slams the flip-up helmets and thunders into the thunderstorm. No way for us. There has to be an alternative. We feverishly scan maps and surroundings. There! Down there, maybe 200 meters perpendicular to our feet, a thread-thin slope. With a bit of luck it joins the D 64, in the worst case we end up somewhere in Provence. No matter, the world belongs to the brave. We find the entrance – and a lot of fun in legally escaping the Prior of the Alps via an emergency exit. A few hairpin bends, a few kilometers of dust, then the almost silent landing between colorful forests, meadows and waterfalls in the middle of the Mercantour National Park.
It is evening before we board the flight back to Italy at Col de la Lombarde. Excessively wide bends catapult us into the high abysses of the Isola 2000 ski retort. Mountains turned inside out by bulldozers, raging waters – brown and black from swept earth. End time. Behind it the tiny ascent to the Col, and on the Italian side again an idyll. Hours we seem to sail down from 2351 meters into the Valle Stura. Demonte finally catches us at 780 meters. A formerly pretty small town with old arcades, under which the men sit in the bar and the women on the other side of the street, knitting, in front of the candy shop. After a beer at “Herren”, we check into the “Moderna” hotel. Condition and costs do not matter, the main thing is hot shower and soap.
Fully in luck: Tricker crew on reaching 2744 meters of altitude.
In the morning the traffic surges, mighty trucks make their way through the narrow houses. Fate of the neighbors at the provincial only heavy goods crossing to France. In full contrast to this is the almost parallel dream route through the Vallone dell’Arma, which leads into a kind of high basin between the Stura and Maira valleys, from which rugged, heavily eroded mountain peaks rise. Monte Omo, Rocca la Meia, Becco Grande, 2615, 2831 and 2775 meters above zero. We climb up with a couple of racing cyclists. All around idiosyncratic barreness, hardly a shrub that could still live here. But there are plenty of Italians looking for relaxation who celebrate the weekend up here. Camping tables and a couple of tents not far from the paths where mountain bikers, a couple of motorcyclists and stray car drivers enjoy themselves. The rules of the game are clear: no vehicles on hiking trails! No poking around, no riot.
We try a few ways and finally find a tar-black slope down to Acceglio – also in a weekend mood. It’s a shame that the charming village shop is closed. Barbie dolls were sure to go today too.
Piedmont and Hautes-Alpes with Yamaha Tricker (2)
Breathless to the summit: 2732 meters of altitude demand everything.
Sampeyre from above – well. Plattenbau is everywhere. Ugly concrete bunkers destroy the hoped-for image of the idyllic mountain community, the grace of flat ski slopes does the rest. On closer inspection, the town still develops something like charm. With shops, bars and ATMs in the piazza, where a fairground is just adding the hustle and bustle. However, given the proximity to the Colle dell’Agnello, one of the highest alpine passes, the local Agip petrol station plays the main role. So fill up to the brim, a proud six liters, and then off into space. 2744 meters are a really serious announcement for a carburettor-equipped micro-250.
Despite the breathtaking inclines and serpentines, the ten-kilometer south-east ramp of the Colle throws itself effortlessly into the air. Somewhat similar to a Carrera racetrack, even a loop would not really come as a surprise. Only the tricksters wouldn’t be able to handle it anymore. Panting, she makes the 2300 meter mark. Until then everything went perfectly. Cheered on by the cheery excitement of Italians picnicking, the little four-stroke soared into the sky. But now it’s shift. Almost nothing works in second gear, the first – screeching – too short. Splashing for breath and struggling for altitude, the little trialer just gets the last bend at the Rifugio degli Alpini. Another twelve meters in altitude to the French border is 0.236 kilometers to the pass. Behind us the 3841 meter high Monviso glows, in the backlight in front of us the silhouettes of the French peaks. Unpretentious, eternal, beautiful. We would have even carried the trickers here for this sight.
Below, the lights of the Refuge d’Agnel are glowing, where after a few quick downhill loops we actually get two free bunk beds. The landlord, although dead tired and on duty for 17 hours, pushes the saucepans over the fire again. François Laget has been looking after mountaineers up here for 32 years. In summer the hikers, in winter the touring skiers. He has no fear of contact with motorcyclists, and instead of finally going to bed, he joins us for a chat.
Under supervision: Madonna-protected path through the clammy Elva Gorge.
At sunrise the first mountain boots rumble over the floorboards, tear us out of our springs. Outside crystal clear air, dew on the grass and that wonderful blue morning light. “The early bird catches the worm” – ours is called “la Bonette”. Highest point in the alpine tar world, 2802 meters above zero. Tricker’s shortness of breath or not: we have to go up there. When, if not now? Maybe we’ll never get that close again. The descent teaches us the differences between France and Piedmont: Col d’Agnel instead of Colle dell’Agnello, roofs made of sheet metal instead of stone, flowers on the facades instead of the Vendesi signs, in the shops art instead of Ken & Barbie. Just as it threatens to get cozy, we come to St. Veran. French flagship village! Traffic-calmed, over-restored and considerably arrogant. Instead of plain poverty, now staged history.
Another 70 kilometers to the valley station of the Bonette, in between the white water of the Gorge du Gueil and the comparatively harmless Col de Vars. Fill the tanks again in Jausiers, then the rule is: 1600 meters of altitude must be cracked to iron out Napoleon’s legacy. Past fortress ruins and gray-green scree fields, the pass leads into a black stone landscape. On the last few kilometers an icy wind blows, marmots dash into their holes, and strictly speaking, it’s not beautiful up here. Okay, things might look friendlier without thunderclouds. They roll up pitch black and within minutes bury the southern ramp of the Route de la Bonette. Rain gear would be good now. Unfortunately it is in the tent on the campsite behind Acceglio. After all – the day before yesterday – we just wanted to have a picnic.
The crisis region of the Alps
They are the link between the Mediterranean and the high mountains: Almost at the southern end of the Alpine arc, the Cottian Alps, together with the Maritime and Ligurian Alps, form the contact point between the influences of the lake and the high mountains. Mediterranean vegetation was able to penetrate far into the mountains and form one of the most species-rich regions in the entire Alpine region. The animal world is also unusually diverse there. In addition to chamois and wild cats, shy wolf packs have been roaming the sparsely populated mountains again since the 1990s. At the same time, extreme erosion and diverse types of rock made for distinctive rock formations.
The main Alpine ridge runs here in a north-south direction, so that the valleys extend at right angles from the French-Italian border mountains to the east into the Po Valley. Only in a few places are they connected by tiny transitions. With the exception of the well-developed Colle della Maddalena, only a few very high and narrow passes such as the Colle dell’Agnello lead to France, but in earlier centuries relations with France were more pronounced than with the mother country, Italy.
Accordingly, tourists do not just pass by in the Valle Stura, Maira or Varaita. You go there purposefully. And mostly on the same route back out, as the tiny connections are not even recognizable on many maps. The prerequisites for a reorientation of the valleys were not particularly good, as the traditional agricultural industries, which were operated very efficiently, gradually lost their importance in the last century. And a migration to the deeper valley regions began, to the newly emerging industrial centers around Turin, where Fiat was Italy’s largest employer during its boom times.
Alternatives in the mountains have never been considered, as experts criticize today. The mountainous region had a purely »supplier function« for the lower elevations, a new livelihood – for example in the tourist sector – was not funded. Depopulation of the quiet side valleys was and is the result, often only the main town is still inhabited. Shops and schools close, mostly only the elderly remain.
For several years now there have been the first impulses for soft tourism. For example, hiking projects were developed based on the example of the French Alps, where the de-settlement process had already started earlier. In Piedmont, the Grande Traversata Delle Alpe (GTA) is a widely branched network of long-distance hiking trails from the Valais to the Mediterranean. Landlords were specifically recruited and unused overnight accommodation in the old villages revived. An idea that is also attractive for motorcycle travelers. If you follow the region’s asphalt road network carefully, you will often come across small shops, bars and albergos. They are the region’s only chance and we can use and promote them. A still thin, but new livelihood. It goes without saying that enduro riders in particular are called upon to be extremely cautious here, because the region can only have a future if we treat each other with respect. Generally used gravel roads can be used with the necessary caution, but there is a strict driving ban on hiking trails. Those who cautiously seek their natural experience will find a friendly welcome in Piedmont, but inconsiderate riot-crossers will probably get the door slammed in their faces. Rightly so, as we think! (See also box on page 102.)
Info about the tour
Time required: three to four days; Distance driven: around 600 kilometers.
The quiet valleys of southern Piedmont appear to be a blank spot in many travel guides. Only hikers, mountain bikers and motorcyclists head for the barren rocks of the Cottian Alps.
The fastest way to cross the main Alpine ridge is via Gotthard or Brenner and in Italy via the A4 to Turin. There either climb straight to the southwest into the mountains or drive around the city and take the A 6 and SS 20 to Cuneo.
The entire route is only safely navigable from mid-June to the end of September, as the Colle dell’Agnello and Route de la Bonette include the highest passes in the entire Alpine region. Those who concentrate on the Italian side and the valleys in Piedmont can, depending on the snow conditions, be out and about from May to October.
Accommodation and catering
Beyond the ski centers of Susa, Isola and Sestriere, the main efforts in Piedmont are gentle tourism and hiking guests. There are always break-friendly refugios or bars as well as Albergos with Posto Tappa (simple hiker accommodation) for the night along the route. For example in the upper Mairatal in Elva, Acceglio and Prazzo as well as on the driveways to the passes. In line with the backpack-oriented minimal equipment, we liked these simple accommodations a lot. Since many quarters only have a few rooms or beds, we do not give a special tip, but refer to the addresses in the recommended hiking guides. Camping – in Italy mostly turned off by caravan pens – is reasonably possible in the upper Mairatal.
Without an extremely detailed 1: 200,000 map, the route can hardly be discovered. But unbeatable when it comes to high alpine driving fun and nature experience. Although paved throughout (a few gravel passages were built in only for the tricksters), passes such as the Colle di Sampeyre and the great connection from Demonte via Marmora to the Mairatal are only thinly recorded. In fact, these roads are just as wide as a car, but some of them have been completely re-paved and are extremely ingenious for motorcyclists. Careful driving is of course the top priority on these often completely unsecured stretches. At the Col de la Bonette, the short slope towards St. Etienne is only an alternative to the tarred D 64.
The south-west corner of Piedmont is not mentioned in popular travel literature. Interesting background information and tips on accommodation in the small villages are provided by two hiking guides: by Werner Batzing “Grande Traversata Delle Alpe (GTA) Part II”, Naturpunktverlag, 22.50 euros, and (somewhat limited and only for the Valle Maira) by Ursula Bauer and Jurg Frischknecht “Antipasti and old ways”, Rotpunktverlag, 22 euros. Markus Golletz gives good motorcycle tips in “Motorcycle routes in Northern Italy”, Bruckmann, 17.90 euros. Mairs and Kummerly deliver top cards & Frey with the 1: 200000 sheets “Piemont, Aostatal”. The French part of the route is missing more in both cases (K. &F) or less (Mairs). If necessary, you can navigate there using an overview map (or Michelin sheet 528).
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