Just last weekend I found myself engaged in an animated discussion on an interesting topic related to (surprise!) motorcycling. The beer fueled, arm waving chatter focused on the “not controversial at all” subject of “what constitutes the best riding roads?” In particular, the group narrowed the subject down to an even more basic question. What’s better/more fun/more challenging? Hairpins or sweepers?
The debate was catalyzed innocently enough by a rider who expressed his desire to someday “ride the Alps” and , in particular, ride the famous Stelvio Pass. Now If you don’t know of the Stelvio Pass in the eastern Alps, near the Italian/Austrian Border, then you should. Aside from being the highest paved mountain pass in the eastern Alps, the northern approach to the Passo della Stelvio (or Stilfser Joch if you prefer the German name) features 48 hairpins while climbing 1871 meters to the top of the pass. The Brit TV show Top Gear, at one point, anointed Stelvio the “greatest driving road in the world.” Take a look and see what you think.
Challenging? Oh yeah. Remarkable vistas? Most certainly. But the “greatest driving road in the world?” The contrarians in our tiny debating society took issue. The argument kinda went like this – “Where’s the challenge in hairpins? You accelerate in a straight line, then you brake, downshift, wobble through some ridiculously tight little corner, and then accelerate up through the gears again. Ad infinitum.” This sect asserted that medium and high speed sweeping corners are “the real deal” for motorcyclists. For them it’s all about the higher speeds, linked corners, line selection, the rhythm and the sustained lateral g’s. On roads like this – the famous Mountain Course at the Isle of Man.
So, once again we pose a question. Which is better? This? Sweepers?
Or this? Hairpins?