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    An unusual August day spent on windy passes and historical mountains

    By Niccolò Gallo | 27 October 2022 | 1 min
    Motorcycle: Suzuki SV 1000
    Mileage: 500 km in total, 287 km standard route
    Difficulty: Easy
    Duration: 1 day
    Time of the year: August
    Weather: Variable, sun, wind, light rain
    Temperatures: 10°C - 20°C
    Essential equipment: Windproof and waterproof shell, spare warm gloves, dark visor to be fitted as and when
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    Niccolò Gallo

    The author

    Born in 1992, I’ve been working for Dainese since 2016, where I deal with graphics and creating video content. I’ve been surrounded by motorcycles since I was a child, due to my father who works in the sector and always had a few major motorcycle manufacturers as his customers. I’ve been riding since I was 19 and I prefer twin cylinders. I have a Suzuki SV1000 in my garage. I don’t use it as much as it deserves, but when I ride it, it’s a real treat. 



    The itinerary

    3.54 in the morning, or rather, at night. Only 6 minutes until the alarm goes off, but my eyes are already open. What am I doing, on a Saturday at the end of August, with the alarm set at 4 a.m.? It’s all my overenthusiastic friends’ fault, and they always try to make me feel like I’m the wimp, too. “Let’s go to the mountains to watch the sunrise!” they said. “It’ll be fun!” they said. It might be fun, but, for me, getting up at 4 a.m. is harrowing, and I’ll make sure to let them know. In any case, I chose to accept their invitation, so now it’s my problem.   

    5.30 a.m. at that bar outside Bassano, we said. So let’s go, on my feet. I’m not even having breakfast to save time and because I don’t feel like it at this hour. I brush my teeth and get dressed in 15 minutes, and I’m off. My SV1000 starts without a hitch. The headlight is set a tad high but at the end of the day illuminates the road big time, so I don’t mind. From home, it takes just a minute on the state road, then I’m off to the mountains. An hour and something later, I reach the gas pump at the entrance of the Valsugana valley, and thank goodness someone thought it was a good idea to open the adjoining bar at 5 a.m. so I can reinvigorate myself with a cappuccino and croissant together with Carlo, who arrives right after me. The ones who actually came up with the idea are always late, darn them. 

    A couple of minutes later I can’t help but smile as I hear the unmistakable gruff bark of the V4 Aprilia approaching, with its quick shifter’s red-blooded double-clutching sound. It’s Luca, with his amazing Tuono, the one who planned today’s outing, closely followed by Jurgen and Enrico. After years, the band is back together – the last time we met was in 2019, I believe. After all, I couldn’t have missed this one out. 


    Taking on the legendary Manghen Pass 

    We all fill our tanks and start heading north. It’s the state road up to Civezzano, then we turn off and go up to Baselga di Pinè and back down to Cembra. The fun starts here. A spectacularly winding asphalt road goes up the Cembra Valley, steady and with no great climbs. Its wide turns are a pleasure to ride on a sports motorcycle, interspersed with more or less long straight stretches – it feels like being at the track. Moreover, at this time it’s completely empty. We continue to Cavalese, where we change pace and turn right toward the Manghen Pass. The Manghen Pass road is steep, narrow and winding, well known to and beloved by motor sports lovers because, since the 1970s, it’s been one of the legendary special stages of the San Martino di Castrozza rally. To think that fifty years ago, when it was unpaved, cars would drive it at full speed, at night – it sends shivers down my spine. In fact, we actually are shivering, but because of the temperature. It might be August 20, but it’s definitely cool and, actually, this is not the best weather. The fact is, we didn’t see this wonderful dawn, but never mind.  

    The Manghen Pass road climbs among pine trees and here you can still plainly see the wreckage caused by storm Vaia, in the fall of 2018. You can clearly distinguish bare mountainsides and other places where the fallen trees haven’t yet been removed. Amid tight bends, curves and counter-curves, we rise to 2,047 meters above sea level. Riding a sports motorcycle here is not actually that amazing. The asphalt road is slow and twisty. It’d most probably be more fun with a light supermoto... but what can you do. I relax, enjoying the moment and thinking about the Italian rally pioneers who, so many decades ago, crossed these mountains on cars like the Fulvia HF, Alpine, Fiat 124 and such. The sky is overcast and a strong wind is blowing. In these parts the temperature is well below 20 °C – I’d say more around 10 °C, actually. Fortunately, I was careful with my clothing. Fabric jacket with waterproof shell on top that can be removed quickly should the sun come out; for the legs, medium-weight long underwear and technical jeans with protectors. Just one note to myself, about my choice of gloves: I had initially thought of starting out with thick gloves and bringing a pair of thinner ones with me, but just before leaving at 4 a.m., with a sleepy brain, I changed my mind and left the warmer gloves at home. I’ve learned my lesson: When leaving at a ‘weird’ hour like this, don’t question the decisions you made the day before with a clear head. I take advantage of the SV silencers, which also prove to be excellent heaters. 

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    It’d be nice to stop at the hut that’s just under the pass. I know from previous experience that the food is good there, but, after all, it’s 8 a.m. and a plate of dumplings at this time might not be advisable, or indeed available. Moreover, the sky promises rain, so we choose not to hang around and go down the other side. But not before having taken the ritual photos on the helicopter landing pad. It’s a little tradition of ours, but we don’t linger for long, also because the wind is really strong, which doesn’t exactly make for an idyllic break. We go down to Telve. On this side, the road starts right at the top, narrow and winding, but as it descends the valley it gets easier and widens, becoming more pleasant. Between Telve and Strigno we cross the SS47 Valsugana state road, the same one we traveled in the opposite direction a few hours ago, and then go up again toward Castello Tesino and the Brocon Pass. Here the road is much wider and the climb to 1,616 meters is more enjoyable. The hairpin bends and all the curves are broader. Riding a sports motorcycle here is definitely a different experience compared to the Manghen Pass. But beware – this is true only when going up on this side, as when you go down to Canal San Bovo the road narrows again and keeping up a lively pace takes some effort. Oh well, at least our hands are warming up.  


    The Grappa Massif and its hidden pearls 

    The last climb of the day is up Mount Grappa. We go up from the least trafficked side, the northern one, along the SP148, after taking the SR50 to Lamon. From the top, the view toward the plain is spectacular. The strong wind has cleaned the air, which is now clear. You can see Venice with its lagoon and the Adriatic Sea as if they were a stone’s throw away. Then, from left to right, from Friuli to Lombardy, with the Montello and the Asolani hills in the province of Treviso in the middle, you can see the Euganean hills in the province of Padua and the Berici hills in the province of Vicenza. Mount Grappa is also steeped in history. It’s where some unhappy events occurred in World War I, but the monumental war memorial on the top, dedicated to the fallen Italian and Austrian soldiers, is worth a visit. In fact, the whole massif is worth exploring. It’s full of secret spots and hidden views, sometimes reachable through dirt roads that today, due to the motorcycles we’re riding, we can’t reach. We cross small villages scattered here and there, such as San Giovanni and Il Lepre, built around the tavern by the same name, and it makes you wonder how places like this still exist. They look as if they’ve come straight out of the 19th century, immaculate and unaltered, except for a few cars parked here and there in the farmhouses’ yards. In San Giovanni, the ‘small museum of the Great War’ is an interesting place, though nothing more than a room full of relics and finds from trenches, woods and meadows over a century of searching. It’s located inside the San Giovanni hotel restaurant, where, moreover, the food is divine. 

    On Mount Grappa, too, it’d be worth stopping for a proper meal break, but it’s just 11 a.m. and as it’ll take an hour and a half to return home it’s best to go back, taking advantage of the early start – a ride of almost 500 km but I’ll be home for lunch, with the rest of the day off. Some hugs and kisses – going back on the road with the boys after such a long time has been a real joy. After all, even if we didn’t catch the spectacular dawn we were hoping for, and regardless of the weather and the roads, what really matters is great friendship, when, even on the go, a glance is enough to understand each other, even with a dark visor, and you share a laugh or a smile at every break. From Bassano del Grappa it’s all state road now, and the SV and I are back home, safe and sound. 

    The spectacular views from Mount Grappa
    The spectacular views from Mount Grappa

    How to plan a day trip to the mountains 

    Planning an outing like this is simple, given the low number of hours you’re away from home. You can leave at 4 a.m., as mentioned, and be back by 1 p.m. On an day like this – Saturday, August 20 – unpredictable weather conditions are the only real factor to consider. Had it been a normal hot summer day, there would have been far fewer variables in play. As such, it was necessary to dress as if it were spring, or fall, with the aforementioned fabric jacket and the addition of the raincoat, which I wore for most of the outing. I wore sports boots, the Dainese Axial D1 boots to be exact, my favorite solution for ‘real’ motorcycle rides, as they truly offer the maximum safety available on the market while also feeling as comfortable and light as sneakers. I’m a bit obsessed in protecting my feet and ankles, which I constantly put down on the ground, often quite roughly, so I’m always looking for maximum support and solidity. Objectively, technical shoes or less extreme boots would also have been fine, but the Axial boots are just so comfortable that I really don’t feel the need for a different solution. For my hands, I chose short leather sports gloves, but I suffered from the cold for most of the outing. It would have been advisable to have a second, thicker spare pair with me. Full-face helmet, as always, and with double visor, given our departure in the dark. I used the clear one for the first hours and the dark one from mid-morning onward. 

    Nothing special to report with respect to motorcycle preparations. Throughout the outing, I wore a specific motorcycle backpack, not the most comfortable perhaps but very convenient for storing items of all kinds, and as I rode seated the whole time it didn’t hinder me a bit. In there, I kept the second visor, wallet and documents, some snacks and a bottle of water; and I had no problem fitting in the raincoat, too, once I took it off. Good alternative solutions would have been a tank bag or a bag tied to the passenger seat. 


    Essential equipment


    Full face helmet

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    Leather jacket

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    Motorbike jeans

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    Waterproof jacket

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    Leather gloves

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    Waterproof gloves

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    Back protector

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    Racing boots

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