"An Alps Riding Academy? This sounds very interesting! What is this?..."
Either these words or something along these lines is what people on tours keep asking me when talking about one of Edelweiss Bike Travel's latest "babies"...
Since a couple of years Edelweiss Bike has already been offering tour members a riding school day the day ahead of the actual tour start. No doubt, this is still a good and recommended way to get used to the motorcycle you're going to ride on tour as well as to the European roads and the flow of traffic.
Apart from this, our experience was that most of the riders would have liked to even go further into detail and wished to be able to practice more when it came down to the various riding techniques that turn a motorcycle ride in the Alps or the Dolomites into a stress-free and pleasurable one.
To explain the origin of the Edelweiss Alps Riding Academy, you'll first need to take a closer look on the world map:
You will discover that Europe (speaking of countries like Austria, Switzerland and Northern Italy in particular) is a "tiny spot" compared to many other countries in the world. Looking more into detail now, you'll understand that, naturally, everything within these countries is much more tiny because it, again, needs to fit into much smaller places...
On top of that, these areas are blessed with one of the world's most magnificent mountain ranges that somehow managed to fit in. So centuries ago locals were very creative in building roads around and over these mountains (a motoress' humble gratitude at this point ).
Furthermore, villages are nestled against the mountains with houses that stand next to each other with almost no distance, thus, having only narrow roads running in-between.
The Alps and the Dolomite mountains offer a variety of roads for all tastes - from wide and flowing sweepers up to the narrowest single lane road, including tight uphill switchbacks. Thus, involving different riding techniques than in other places of the globe.
All these aspects put together laid the foundation stone for our one-week Alps Riding Academy, run out of Klobenstein, South Tyrol.
If you are curious now how a riding academy classroom looks like - just scroll down and have a look at the pictures...
The sign tells you exactly where we are located - one of the many picturesque places around Bozen...
...with the impressive Dolomite mountains right next door!
Our welcome meeting and also the class room for the theoretical part.
The "students" are Mark and Christian from the US, Addas from Saudi Arabia and Wolfgang from Germany.
May I also introduce you to our lovely Louise - who accompanies her husband Christian and enjoys our fantastic base hotel Bemelman. The Riding Academy was her present for Christian's birthday!
Christian, one of Edelweiss' most experienced riders and the instructor on the Alps Riding Academy. I'd say his advice is priceless and his lessons the most enjoyable to learn from! It doesn't feel like you're studying
This is the other "class room"
I can't express enough how much fun it was to train on this place! No matter whether you want to train emergency braking, slalom, cornering techniques, etc. you can do this absolutely carefree because no other vehicle would be in your way!
Christian, demonstrating cornering techniques together with Harald
We were also using the riding park's track for the children's bicycle training. The roads are smaller here and offer a perfect opportunity for us to train riding tight corners.
This is Harald, our second instructor for the Riding Academy. Mark in the background is waiting for his turn.
Believe me, after this sunny day of training in the riding park, everybody returned to the hotel with a big smile in the face! It was tough but really great!
If you'd think the intense part was done... not so in reality!
The next morning promised to turn into a wonderful one full of curves an corners on "real" roads!
We went up and down various passes several times in order to get the hang of what we learned the day before.
The award was the view from the top of the rock called Penegal, overlooking Bozen and the wider South Tyrol area.
Day 3 promised to be "hard work" in the Dolomite mountains east of Bozen...
Christian on top of the Sella mountain pass
accompanied by Wolfgang and Addas. Christian and Harald were making sure that theory was implemented into practice
The two Christians talking about the route of the day
A breather on top of Falzarego pass
Strange inhabitants here...
On the way back to the hotel, Christian made sure that we would find some extra tight and most narrow roads to improve our slow manoeuvring skills. We were meandering around the Passo delle Erbe, a perfect play ground for this purpose, always with the summit in sight.
Christian, the genius instructor
and Christian, the truly skilful student
Addas from Saudi Arabia, always ready for an espresso (and no, he is not sitting in front of a wall paper! This is reality )
Harald, our second instructor (as genius on the bike, of course )
This morning's riders meeting before the group departed for the 2-day excursion to Lake Garda to explore the area for more challenging roads!
Wolfgang on his 1200 GS - Thanks Wolfgang for the fun ride - I truly enjoyed it!
Christian and Mark leaving the garage
together with Addas and Harald
What can I say at the end of these days in the Alps Riding Academy? I am absolutely thrilled by the experience!
As a tour guide I get to ride a lot. But there is no doubt I found things to improve in my way of riding. And it definitely was priceless to have the day in the training centre, being instructed by Christian, plus the opportunity to directly apply and practice the new experiences on the road during the following days!
No matter what level of rider you are - the training serves everyone from the beginner to the advanced rider!
What a great experience! And I would do it again anytime if I get the chance - without hesitation and right away!
Greetings to my fellow riders - it was a pleasure to get to know all of you and sharing a wonderful time! Hope to see you again somewhere on the road.