Italy 2022 Prologue 2

TET Italia 22 – Luino to Vodo di Cadore
4.5 Days On Route – 500km
1 Drop – Jack Webdale to Blame

You know what they say. New chain, new. Erm. Chain. I’m glad I didn’t let Day 1 Version 1.0’s broken chain put me off. Heading into the mountains couldn’t have been more the right decision, out of the Valley of Hot Death and into the Alps brought instant relief, followed by stark relief in the form of rain, followed by extreme relief jumping into an alpine lake in a thunderstorm.

Some questionably legal trail riding in Switzerland in the attempt to find my friend’s Alp (for those not in the know, that’s a summer residence for cows, I did one in 2020) was a criminal pleasure, but in my defence I was genuinely looking for the place. You’re still allowed to enjoy a mistake, right? Fortunately the worst consequence was being pulled aside and forced to have a caffeschnapps with a mountain bar owner. Tough life.

A long motorway haul in Der Schweiz, all without spending a single CHF got me to Italy. Crossing the border at Domodossola the heat hit so bad that my sidestand melted into the tarmac. Taking this as a sign of what was to come I cut up and East to join the TET at Luino. More free alcohol was forthcoming when the restauranteur who’s forest I was sleeping in took pity on my hammock in a thunderstorm and gave me a beer and a sandwich. Score!

Section 5

Starting the TET was something of a disappointment and (spoiler alert) has remained a mixed experience. The little loop starting at Pelio Superiore was nice, but still mostly tarmac. That which wasn’t was easy going, with the only minor scare being the super deep gravel they put down at the refugio bar… feet down, eyes up, that’s the way we dig a rut. Or something like that. Give audience included, so couldn’t put on any speed to get through elegantly.

Heading down towards Como, I get to the lake itself and I’m thinking “bit much for a water crossing, I’ll need quite a run up” but then I see there’s a ferry. Then I see there’s a brit on a mahousively overloaded CRF300. Who’s thinking the same thing. Ah ha! I have a travel partner.

Over on the boat we go. The first time in months I’ve needed a mask. On the open deck of a boat. Makes sense. Speaking of rules…. on the other side my cavalier companion led the way to lunch, right into a very obvious pedestrian zone. But it’ll be fine… we Brits really are an exception to these silly European rules, right? Right? I’m expecting a fine in the post to my silly German address. Ah well. Grabbed food, rushed down and boarded the second ferry as the ramps went up. Timing!

The rest of the day involved a very weird trail in an urban park, but all seemingly above board. Some fairly nice mountainside trails and a whole lot of twisty roads. All good, but nothing to get the blood pumping. Except that just before dinner I forgot the firey nature of our Italian brothers and, in jestful defence of my beloved Scotland, nearly picked a fight with an Italian doctor on an XT. Maybe I’m too good an actor! But talk of tires cooled things down nicely.

Searching for a campsite with Jack was “fun”. Clearly he doubted the strength of my left leg, so decided to test it by dropping his bike on my bike from on high. Which caused no damage aside from a serious Beer Flood situation in my top case. Stinky. Like brave warriors of the road on we went, smelling of beer and looking for a place to sleep. Up a steep trail to an observatory looked good. It wasn’t. Jack the Lad likes his trail turns on the side stand, turns out the side stand didn’t like his trail turns and snapped cleanly in two. That’ll be the second CRF that’s broken a day after meeting me!

Watch out CRFs, I’m coming for you all!

A crap campsite was found. A bad nights sleep was slept and we went our separate ways. No companion for me. World’s saddest song. Smallest violin. All that.

Section 6

Do you like motorways? Do you like hot industrial valleys? You’ll love the start of Section 6!

It’s worth it though. Do you like climbing exceedingly steep rough roads? Do you like restored Roman Crazy Paving? Do you like rivers and fabulous vistas? Do you like long sweeping gravel tracks on the side of mountains? Do you like illegally riding into abandoned American communications bases that they’ve tried very hard to block off to vehicular traffic? Then you’ll love the middle part of Section 6!

Do you like lots of road leading to a short, illegal, residential off-road section that rides like the linesman swapped to an EXC that day? You’ll love, but probably have mixed feelings about, the latter part of Section 6!

Seriously though. I’m not a terrible rider and I would absolutely not touch that section on a GS or similar. Unless you’re Pol Tarres. Then feel free.

It all ends around the weird town of Recoaro Terme. I thought “Oooh! Thermal Water! Pretty Italian Girls Barely Dressed! Fantastic!”. I got a homeless guy sleeping in a car park and a closed, inaccessible bathhouse. But the town itself is lovely. Curious place with a very strange, slightly sad, atmosphere.

I woke up with the very last part of S6 to go and was in enduro paradise until breakfast. It’s that loop on the track near San Quirico. The whole area is just littered with tracks, all legal, all skill levels, it’s somewhere you could probably spend a few days exploring and developing your riding skills. The TET route through it is pretty intense, I’d certainly have second thoughts about it on a big bike alone. On my little bike alone I loved it.

Section 7

The first part of TET Italia East that has approached 50% trails! Yay! The first part is another area of infinite possibilities, but the route mostly takes in wide and easy gravel tracks. But they are that kind of bumpy that simultaneously saps the strength and encourages you to move ever closer to hooligan mode. I came close to losing it twice here and that just because I was giving it the beans. What limited beans a DR350 has to offer. The whole area was packed with walkers and mountain bikes, all sharing the trails in happy harmony.

There’s also a series of British graveyards, apparently we Brits fought there back in the First World War. Which I didn’t know about. While the war itself certainly wasn’t as black and white as it’s horrendous successor, especially Italy’s opportunistic land grab at the end, I’d suggest that the lads themselves would probably appreciate a visit. They should have been out riding the TET, not dying on a foreign mountainside.

Keeping with the military theme I’ll give a shout out to Forte Lisser, which you find just off of Section 7 at N 45° 56.662′, E 011° 40.626′. It’s a well curated track to get up there, but the fort is spectacular, the views are out of this world and the staff pleasant and knowledgeable.

Section 7 sticks with the road now until you get to the “Only Open at Weekends” section. I’m going to be controversial here. I got there on a weekday and wasn’t going to wait around for two days to ride a short stretch of trail unless there was a very compelling reason to do so. Looking at the map it doesn’t go though anything like a residential area and the signage at the start of the trail makes it very clear that the reason it’s weekends only is due to the forestry workers who are active during the week. Risk of trees falling on one’s head and all that. I’m firmly of the opinion that I’m big enough to decide for myself if I take that kind of risk, so I did. More on the topic of legality later. It’s a beautiful trail, spectacular cliffs, no forestry workers and easy going.

Then that’s pretty much it, the weekend loop is really the last notable hurrah for TET Italy East as it stands at the moment. There’s some gravel towards the end of S7, but mostly road. The little guest house at Magla Ciauta, at the end of the little spur, is ran by a lovely woman and has spectacular views very suitable for a beer at the end of my little TET trip. Looking ahead to S8 on the map it was clearly all road until the Slovenian border so I hopped on the road and the next day I was over the ludicrous curves of an almost completely empty Stelvio and back home in the Black Forest.


I’ve mixed views about the current Eastern Italian route. That’s one reason why later this year I’m hoping to scout the proposed North South route. I’d guess that the part of the route I rode is maybe 1/4 trails and the rest road, which isn’t as bad is it sounds because the road sections really are spectacular and they’re far enough off of the beaten track that there’s almost nobody there. The contrast between that and when the route takes you briefly down to the overpopulated lakes is quite jarring.

What’s not so great is the question of legality. Of the quarter that is trail a significant portion of it isn’t legal any more and doesn’t look like it’s been legal for some time. I’m neither a preacher nor a saint, so I’m not in the business of telling anyone what to do, but compared with the perfectly permitted pass paradise that is the west of Italy I really can’t recommend the eastern part of the route if your focus is trail riding. If you’re happy to do a little bit on the trails but mostly ride amazing, twisty, remote roads then it’s a brilliant route to follow.

For me, I’m glad I went. It was the perfect climate in this heatwave, the food was fantastic and there were just enough trails that were just interesting enough to keep me happy.

The Bike and Me

On these write-ups, which I hope will help inform other people, I think it’s probably useful to say a little about me and the bike.

I’m on a heavily modified DR350S, reduced weight and top notch suspension. Mitas MC23 Rockrider tyres, 1.8bar. Light luggage, about 35L in total. I’m a fairly experienced, if slow and steady, trail rider. 90kg, 37 years old and reasonably fit. I had no significant traction issues at all, didn’t drop the bike once and only came close when I was being a bit of a hooligan. Or when a CRF fell on me. I’d say that in the dry you could do the whole thing on pretty much any bike, any tyres, except for the marked section. There are a few small parts that could be problematic with the wrong tyres in the wet, but these are easily bypassed. While there is a lot of road I don’t think I’d have been a lot quicker on a bigger bike, there are so many twists and turns that I doubt I’d have been able to make use of more power.

Overall I’d describe the route as easy.

Hammock camping was ok, but as always in alpine terrain it can be tricky to find two trees that are not on a ludicrous slope.

Food, fuel, service, supplies are all plentiful. It’s Italy. I didn’t even bother to carry any food or cooking equipment. Pizza all the way, baby.


Breakfast, two coffees and a croissant, was about 5eur.
Lunch and dinner were pizza or pasta with a beer, averaging about 12eur.
Didn’t use any hotels, guest houses or campsites.

Hope that’s useful to anyone who’s considering doing the same!