Tauerntreffen is a unique winter mountain rally. The organisation keep the event small and for real motorcycling enthusiasts, with an invitation only policy. Refreshingly, they try very hard not to attract the raucous, drunken behaviour, as seen at the Elephantentreffen in Bavaria, and although drinking alcohol is a feature of the event for some, it is a more respectful and sophisticated atmosphere. See my video for a taster. https://youtu.be/fofW0tYP0TI
The motorcyclists at home at this event are certainly more for lively and amusing social discussion rather than partying. The attendee’s of this rally come from all generations but have a love of cold weather riding and appreciation for mostly older machines. Most riders use sidecar’s however the event is not limited to them, many solo motorcyclists make the journey too, with a notable amount of Vespa’s ridden over the alps by younger Italian riders. The event is organised by the A.I.A. http://motorang.com/AIA/index-english.htm . Who hold other events throughout the year. With snow being unpredictable, the location for this event is deliberately placed high in the mountains, so to my knowledge there has been snow on the ground at some point throughout the event every year, which makes for a more adventurous atmosphere.
The rally begins on Thursday and ends on Sunday, over a winter weekend around the end of January. At this time of year and at an altitude of over 1700m in the Central Austrian Alps, snow is almost guaranteed. There are 3 accommodation options, firstly there is a mountain Lodge with shared rooms, secondly there is a cheaper indoor option of a bed above the workshop, this is unheated so a good sleeping bag is required. There are other hotels etc, down in the valley also, however the third on site option is to camp. The sidecarists’ can make elaborate camps with heated tepee type tents and barbecue grills. However the soloist will have a tougher job of organisation, as winter camping items can be bulky.
For a UK rider the journey there in winter is quite an undertaking in itself. From the Midlands I travelled there in 2 days, and back in 1.5 days, this included the long ferry crossings, and I regretted not being able to take my time to enjoy the journey a little more. On my journey out the temperatures straight off the Ferry were around zero degrees C, but dropped progressively as I travelled south East. There was snow on the ground by Cologne, and by the end of that day the temperatures were down to -5C in Bavaria. This said the roads were dry, and did not at all feel slippery. Being dry, my visor stayed clear and did not fog so riding conditions were ok apart from the cold. However on day 2 the morning temperature in Regensberg was -7C and as I travelled south I saw -10C at one section. Riding on motorways at this temperature requires good kit, and I confess to using heated gloves and jacket. It is often regarded that the Elephant Rally in Solle is an undertaking, it is therefore worth noting that there is another 200km to go to Tauerntreffen.
After passing wonderful scenery in Austria and riding in and out of the numerous tunnels I was hit by a really strong head wind being forced down the valley near to Treiben. Fortunately this is where the motorway ends and The riding changes pace as you head up the pass to the ski resort of Hohentauern. Where a right turn down hill leads to one of the main features of Tauerntreffen, the 5KM single track, mountain road to the event. In the winter the road (which is a private toll road) is used as access to the Edelroute Hutte, and as a local sledging track. From the resort of Hohentauern it is most likely snow chains will be required, as there is an initial down hill section that was Icy before the steep climb up the mountain through the forested road. The toll road is one of the big challenges of the event, in 2017 the road was compacted snow and ice, to the solo rider this makes it quite difficult to ride, as the road is rutted, the ruts can easily throw the bike off balance and lead to a fall. To some extent freshly fallen snow would be easier to ride. With bike fully loaded I fell once on the way up to the camp site, where I was greeted by a very hard ground with compacted snow/ice about 3 inches thick, and below this frozen gravel. The campsite is usually a car park, and is pretty flat, however to give you an idea of the grounds lubricity, I put my aluminium tent pole on the ground, that seemed flat to the eye, but really had a really minute slope, the pole slid off 15m. Fortunately I saw it slide away.
Securing the tent is not easy, as the pegs need driving in with a hammer, so need to be thick and robust, I broke my pegs although they looked thick enough the hooked end snapped when hit hard (don’t buy normal pegs). So I needed to resort to another method. Some use large screws and a battery drill to secure into the ground, so as I was well prepared, I had some and the means to screw them in enough to hold the tent. I then covered over the pegs and tent valance with snow and poured a little water in the peg area also. A few minutes later the snow/ice had hardened and the pegs were very well secured.
Once set up I walked the 400m to the Hut for a well earned beer. Before heading down to camp again to cook. I had pre-prepared meals in Mylar bags https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&sqi=2&ved=0ahUKEwjZwY6vy8zTAhXhIcAKHR5gAVUQFggiMAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FBoPET&usg=AFQjCNGH21mc4ces0OjVkDTYMnYQcQIY8w so I could just drop the bag in the water and boil it. This worked really well as I didn’t need to wash up once. After making a hot water bottle with the cooking water, and putting it in my sleeping bag and a flask of mint tea, (ideal as the milk freezes for my normal brew) I went for a short walk. Living in the suburbs I rarely get the chance to see the sky without light pollution. Sitting in a quiet spot on the mountain in the dark with the stars for company was a real highlight for me.
My double sleeping matt and triple bag setup worked really well against the -10C temperatures of that night, so I awoke refreshed. There was a ride out planned on that day to a local alpine style pub, I chose not to go together in the group, as the sidecars travel the Icy roads much faster than I could, so went independently, however made an error, and went to the wrong pub that was up a mountain pass on the other side of the valley. A nice ride, but difficult to handle due to the patches of snow, on the mostly dry road. However, I rode the Ice without chains to get to a restaurant with a great view of the mountains and ski slopes, and enjoyed a hot soup and coffee in the alpine sun. The ride back up the toll road was fun without luggage, particularly as dusk turned to darkness in the shade of the forest. The night concluded with another camp cooked meal and drinking tea around a campfire.
Having picked up suspected influenza at the rally, which later put me in hospital for 4 days as it developed into Pneumonia, the journey back was a lot tougher as I was battling with a fever. Also travelling alone, made it more of a strain as I did not set off back until lunch time, so the first day’s stint to Cologne was mostly done in the dark. There is a long stretch of motorway between Regensberg and Wurzburg where the road is at around 500m Altitude. This was particularly unsettling as freezing fog descended with temperatures at -5C, which slowed progress, and added a cold damp feeling to what until then had been cold dry air. However England saved the worst weather of the entire event. The Hook of Holland Ferry to Harwich landed at 7.30pm to torrential rain, as I sat in the immigration que, I could feel the downpour starting to infiltrate my collar and knew I was in for an unpleasant journey home across the country. The rain didn’t let up, and the cold dark roads with huge volumes of spray being thrown up by every passing vehicle was bad enough, but the worst feeling is when there is no choice but to ride with the visor up, and feel the heavy pointed raindrops bombarding my face and eyes as I try to make progress. In hind sight, I should have pulled over, had a tea and waited it out, or at least put on my rainsuit, but after the last few days the 150 miles to go seemed so close I didn’t consider stopping.
In summary, this is a great and unique event filled with adventure. However I was lucky with good weather to travel in. If snow storms hit on the travel days, expect severe delays, difficulties and possibly not getting there at all. Key advice, travel light, but be well prepared and take the event/journey seriously, read the advice on the organisers website, and my own, keep an eye on the weather, and check the local webcams and ski sites to get a true picture of the conditions. But do Go.