Magazines often focus, quite rightly, on the superb high mountain passes of the Alps – the Furka, Grossglockner and San Bernardino but to name just a few are all fantastic roads, offering great riding and great views.
But criss-crossing the Alps you will also find miles and miles of off-road trails, which have been used for hundreds of years by the local population, and many are suitable for motorcycles!
In the November 2015 edition of RiDE Magazine, Chris Moss and his friend Pete head down to the South of France from the UK on two very different adventure bikes, the KTM 690 Enduro R and Suzuki V-Strom 650XT which had both been fitted with Continental TKC 80 tyres, to see how they both cope with the different aspects of the journey.
Riding down to the Alps is a two day affair from the UK, the kind of distance riding that the Suzuki was made for, but the KTM was a pleasant surprise too for both riders despite its narrow seat, offering more comfort than expected on the long trip through France.
The two riders joined up with four others on more dirt-focused enduro machines at the mountains near Col de Vars, before hitting the trails and enjoying a spot of wild camping and open fire cooking for the next few days. Some people get all the tough jobs!
The KTM takes the off-road riding in it’s stride. On day two, Chris switches over to the Suzuki, which feels much heavier and more difficult to handle, but he adapts to it quickly, enjoying the Alpine views and often challenging riding. At one point, all six riders come unstuck when their current trail is blocked by snow, but a ride down a steep goat track, and a herculean effort by everyone to manhandle the bikes back up onto the trail via a steep, rocky path.
The descent out of the clouds, thousands of feet above sea-level, is a little tricky on the heavier Suzuki, with Chris admitting to having a few moments, but the riding was still very rewarding.
With the enduro riders taking on some even tougher terrain the next day, Chris and Pete decide to head home, taking in an obligatory ride to the top of the Col du Sommeiller heading towards Bardonecchia. Only a couple of days riding away, these fantastic mountain routes are well worth a visit.
After the trip, Chris commented:
“KTM’s 690 Enduro R isn’t ideally suited to long-distance trips, but taking things easy saw an unexpected 70mpg, for 170 miles from it’s 12-litre tank. Also surprising was the level of comfort from its tall and narrow seat (though Pete did need a sheepskin cover). A KTM-supplied rack and Giant Loop MoJave luggage turned the 690 into a pretty competent tourer; as long as you adjust your route and pace, riding as far as Greece would be realistic. Off-road it proved very capable.
The Suzuki was really tested off-road. Bulky and heavy, with more limited suspension travel, hanging on to it was quite tricky at times. However, there’s no doubt the V-Strom is perfectly able to cover hundreds of miles of less extreme trails, its XT-spec extras all adding ruggedness and the Suzuki tankbag and dry sacks carrying sufficient luggage.
Continental TKC 80 tyres boosted the off-road ability of both bikes.”
As Chris says “pukka dual-purpose tyres are a must” for this kind of trip – and you won’t find better than our market leading TKC 80 – trusted for over 30 years by many of the world’s leading overland riders.
Find out more about the TKC 80 here.