There are different rules in the mountains than in the lowlands

For motorcyclists the route is the goal. Curvy mountain routes and passes are particularly popular, as the mixture of fantastic curves and impressive scenery make every tour a unique experience. So to prevent the trip from becoming a nightmare, you should prepare yourself and the motorcycle for the very specific requirements. BikerSOS gives tips to turn the trip into pure joy:

Sometimes less is more

Despite good condition, the daily workload for small side roads and extreme passes with partly unpaved roads should be no more than 200 kilometers. With winding roads and some higher passes, 300 kilometers are enough, if you want to be stress-free and especially before dusk at your destination. Those who want to enjoy the vistas or individual visits besides the obligatory breaks should make a realistic time schedule .

Proper packing

The adventure on the mountain already starts with packing, because only with a well-balanced motorcycle will the curves become a pleasure without regret. That means, the weight distribution should be as far as possible similar as it is when riding alone. Heavy luggage such as photo equipment, tools or drinks are at the bottom of the tank bag, rainwear or warm clothing can be stowed over it. In no case may the tank bag restrict the freedom of movement at full steering angle, since this must be used almost completely in some hairpin bends. Also in the panniers comes heavy luggage at the bottom, light is placed over it.

Preparing the motorcycle for the mountains

According to the higher payload, the suspension and damping should be adjusted. Especially at the rear, when using softbags or suitcases, even without a pillion, there is usually so much additional weight that only an increased preload of the spring brings the bike back into the right balance. In addition, the lean angle freedom improves, which is very important on the often extremely undulating mountain passes. Simply measure the negative suspension travel on the rear wheel with and without load and adjust according to the values ​​without loading. Slightly more rebound damping (set screw at the bottom of the suspension strut) prevents the higher sprung masses from ringing after bumps. In addition, a firmer adjusted compression damping (set screw between shock absorber and expansion tank) supports the balance and protects against puncture of the suspension. Both of these measures make the machine more stable in alternating turns and deep bumps, but can somewhat reduce riding comfort and responsiveness. Since the static axle load barely increases in the front, a few millimeters more preload for the fork springs are often sufficient in conjunction with a slightly higher compression damping (set screw below) in order to rely on a stable braking behavior downhill. Regardless of engine and consumption, which increases during the pass, there should always be enough fuel in the tank to ensure the descent with the engine running after leaving the reached the mountaintop: without fuel, the engine brake is missing – a highly dangerous fact.

Motorcycle gear and equipment for mountain roads

The outfit has to be adjusted to the requirements of the mountain tour. Temperature differences of 25 to 30 degrees are not uncommon in the high mountains. Therefore, a fleece sweater, a universal neck / head protection and thin but warm under gloves are always stored in your luggage. Nothing is more annoying than to reaching the mountain pass trembling and clammy. Also, because coldness can reduce the concentration and agility dramatically, not to mention the messed-up driving pleasure and the bad mood. As different as the temperatures, so different may be the light conditions in the mountains. Within a few meters you can face  gleaming light snow and the darkness of a ravine or a tunnel. And with a dark visor or sunglasses the view vanished. Therefore: Use a light tinted visor that offers the best compromise between glare protection in bright sun and good visibility in the dark.
Especially useful in the mountains: a helmet with integrated, quick-opening anti-glare protection. Do not forget: The visor should be fog-free, because you always have to expect strong thunderstorms on mountain tours and low temperatures in high altitudes. When the height flight turns into blind flight, fun’s over.

The motorcycle and the height

Depending on the engine design and the setup, some horsepower will fall victim to the low oxygen content of the air in locations over 2000 meters. With high payload and with engines with low power reserve, an overtaking process can sometimes extend enormously. Especially older single-cylinder engines with carburetors or small-volume four-cylinders sometimes runs out of steam drastically. The reason: In the mountains the engines run  (low atmospheric pressure) too fat, because the proportion of gasoline is too large in relation to the oxygen content of the intake air. This can sometimes be noticeable by a black exhaust smoke when accelerating at higher speeds. Back in the valley (higher atmospheric pressure) this black smoke is vanishing again. Although modern injection engines also lose a bit of power at high altitude, they do not over-lubricate due to an adapted injection quantity.


Riding fun on the mountain

motorcyclists on mountain roads

The view guides the movement. Do you know the right viewing technique?

When cornering in the mountains the following ist important: The view guides the movement. Only those who let their eyes swing between the front wheel and the horizon will find the right line. In left-hander bends you have to look in the direction of corner exit, in right-hander bends as far as possible along the right-hand side of the road. The “round” driving line is particularly important for tight bends and especially for serpentines.
The bend should be approached at left turns from the right edge of the road and in right-hand corners of the middle of the road at a safe distance to oncoming traffic. In the course of the curve, it is important to stay outside as long as possible and only to pull inwards when the corner exit is seen. So, even narrowing turns can not become a surprise.

Of course, when cornering also the speed must be correct: If the engine is always “on the gas”, the bike pulls safely through the bend. The throttle should only be opened when the corner exit is visible. It’s better to get into the bends with less speed and get out faster. Otherwise, the line quickly becomes a hook – and the risk of tipping increases, especially in hanging bends.
In order to always have sufficient power and torque when driving uphill, even on machines with less steam, it is recommended that lower gears are turned higher. Then upshifting is smoother. When driving downhill, the energy plus due to the rolling load must be taken into account. To have enough reserves and one does not have to brake constantly (this can even lead to “brake fading” with loss of power after extreme heating) it helps to shift down early to use the “engine brake”.

Online-Tipp: A good overview of nice mountain passes and motorcycle tours in Austira, Germany, France, Italy und Switzerland.


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