Cycling through Italian mountain tunnels

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Andy61
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Cycling through Italian mountain tunnels

Postby Andy61 » 25 Feb 2012, 11:18am

In September I will be cycling as part of a group of about 25 rides from Winchester to Venice passing through 9 countries in 9 days and covering 900 miles. The ride is being organised by the Inspired Living group (http://www.inspiredliving.org.uk/ ) who organised similar rides in 2010 (Winchester to Gibraltar) and in 2011 (Italy top to toe). The purpose is, of course, to enjoy the challenge and in the process to raise funds for Cancer Research UK.

The final day of our planned route has sections of road tunnel in the Italian mountains (I think it is the Dolomites). I am trying to find out whether it is permissible to cycle through these tunnels. We encountered mountain tunnels in the Pyrenees en route to Gibraltar in 2010 and it was not permissible to cycle through those tunnels, hence my attempt to find out more about the Italian ones.

The section of our route in question in Italy is on the SS50/SR50 road and runs from Mezzano, through Pontet, to Fonzaso. Some of the tunnels are named, such as the Sass Taia, Galleria Cofanovi, Galleria Pontet-Cortella and Val Rosna. The best I have been able to determine so far has been through use of Google street view to look at road signs on this section of the route. Thus far I have not seen any no cycling signs on approaching any of the tunnels, but this is not necessarily definitive.

As part of our route we'll be going over the Stelvio Pass (2757m) on our penultimate day, climing up the Umbrail Pass from the North and descending to the east. We've identified a bypass if any of the group don't feel up to it or the weather conditions are bad. Any comments from past experience would be interesting to hear.

Any help or pointers in the right direction would be gratefully received.

andrewleck
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Re: Cycling through Italian mountain tunnels

Postby andrewleck » 25 Feb 2012, 9:08pm

Umbrail is only partially tarmacced rest is loose shale, watch out for herds of cows. Probably more of a problem if you where descending.

eileithyia
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Re: Cycling through Italian mountain tunnels

Postby eileithyia » 25 Feb 2012, 9:53pm

We used a couple of tunnels in the Bolzano area, it was part of a day trip out, the first was unlit and had bends just at the start and just before the far end..... dark you have never seen dark like it! A car drove behind us to illuminate our way.... then we got to the 2nd, started into it at which point my nerve left me and insisted we turned back.
I stand and rejoice everytime I see a woman ride by on a wheel the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood. HG Wells

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andrew_s
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Re: Cycling through Italian mountain tunnels

Postby andrew_s » 26 Feb 2012, 1:24am

Generally it's only the largest tunnels (Mont Blanc, Frejus, Simplon) or those that are over a couple of miles long that are prohibited. There certainly seems to be no signs of any restrictions on these.

It's only really the Galleria Pontet-Cortella and Val Rosna that are of concern - the others are largely galleries which are open to the side rather than full tunnels, and are shorter anyway.
For both of the two longer tunnels there is the old road bypassing the tunnel on the right. These are marked with a "no vehicles" sign at each end, but on a bike I'd give try them, and be prepared to turn back and use the tunnel instead if necessary. The Val Rosna old road rejoins a galleried section of the main tunnel for 200m or so in the middle.

You'll need considerably brighter lights for the tunnels than you would for normal night riding as your eyes will still be adjusted to the bight sun (hopefully) outside. In other cases I've stopped to let my eyes adjust 50m or so inside, but than depends on the traffic and there being space at the side (which it looks like there isn't). For bright, short duration lights, I'd look at the small torches you can get cheap from eBay or the likes of Dealextreme Kaidomain etc.

Andy61
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Re: Cycling through Italian mountain tunnels

Postby Andy61 » 26 Feb 2012, 8:26am

Thanks for the replies andrewleck, eileithyia and andrew_s, useful info about the tunnels.
I've a few questions about andrewleck's comment on the Umbrail Pass. Was this made following a recent ride up that Pass? If so when? I have looked this up on climbbybike.com and it gives the height and gradient profile. The most informative piece of information there is a comment that someone left in November 2011 about their ascent in September 2011. The comment was that they were working on the road at that time, the cattle were mentioned too. I wonder if your climb up there was before that time? Or is the road always being rebuilt because it gets shatterred by frost in the winters?

andrewleck
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Re: Cycling through Italian mountain tunnels

Postby andrewleck » 26 Feb 2012, 5:21pm

My descent was in 2009. The road is remade every year when the snow melts. afaik there have never been any plans to surface it other than with graded shale. hth

kawa9999
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Re: Cycling through Italian mountain tunnels

Postby kawa9999 » 27 Feb 2012, 10:26am

Hi Andy,
this is manuel from Italy. Indeed I used to live south of that area till couple of years ago.
To answer your Question: as far as I rememeber there were no explicit signs to prohibit the access to Bycicles in those tunnels.
But to be honest, I would personally not ride them, unless really it is the only way. The Tunnels are quite of dangerous. That road is also a quite heavy traffic road, for those people coming from the south area going towards the moutains. Some time ago I talked to one quite old (65) Cyclist which used to be almost a pro in the 70/80 and did cycled a lot in those area as he lives there. I told him I wanted to go for a ride in the mountains in those area, indeed take the train from feltre and then go up SS50. He strongly discouraged me to do it, staing it is a very bad road, very dangerous, with heavy traffic, those bad tunnels. He mentioned that some years ago indeed already some cyclist died on that road. I also think car drivers would not expect a cyclist in there in the tunnel (well actually they do not even expect them in normal roads) so it could be quite of dangerous.

If you really intend to do it, please take car that you have very very good light, and that you have a reflective vest, and that you go though it as fast as possible.

Indeed, I do not know exaclty your plan, but I would think about to take instead the "strada del mis". The old Cyclist I mentioned above indeed told me to be a very nide road, with just few traffic, beautiful scenery, and a nice lake.
See here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvbO9YU57HE
here you have a map, with basically your way, and my alternative: http://www.magicoveneto.it/Feltrino/bik ... imiero.htm

Hope this is helpful for you.
Another Advice: In Venice Bikes are prohibited. You can get till the Train Station over the "Ponte della Libertá" bidge, but you cannot get in the city with bikes, not even carry them.
Feel free to contact me if I can help you someway.
manuel

Brucey
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Re: Cycling through Italian mountain tunnels

Postby Brucey » 27 Feb 2012, 1:17pm

I've ridden the Umbrail a few times; a good idea to climb it rather than descend it because of the loose surface -although this is only a few miles long (at least it was the last time I rode it which is ten years ago now).

Italian tunnels and galleries are dangerous; no two ways about it. Tunnels are marked on maps but galleries are not always marked. Not all galleries are well-lit and are more like tunnels, sometimes for hundreds of yards. Going slowly uphill you can be in some danger for some time. Using google street view isn't a bad idea.

My then girlfriend and I were nearly killed in a narrow dark gallery (climbing the south side of the Splugen Pass IIRC) some years ago. A local driver decided it would be a good idea to overtake (which is illegal) and was driving straight at us at speed, no gaps in the other traffic, nowhere to go. My girlfriend -who tried to get as far to one side as possible, which mightn't have done any good anyway, the road was that narrow- hit a metal rail which stood, unseen in the darkness, proud of the surface and fell into the road just in front of me. I can't begin to describe my feelings at that point. By a stroke of luck one of the cars being overtaken hit the brakes, making a gap and the maniac was able to pull over to the right side of the road at the last second, narrowly missing us both. I genuinely nearly had a heart attack. We somehow made it out of the gallery as quickly as possible and were then were so shocked that we were unable to do anything for some time afterwards.

Another incident was decending the south (west) side of the Stelvio. They do road works in the summer, and had taken away the road surface inside a short tunnel. This couldn't be seen; the contrast with the bright sunshine outside was too much... I realised there might be a problem at the last second (the lights of oncoming traffic in the tunnel looked a bit 'jiggly') and managed to slow to 25mph before riding over the roughest surface imaginable (basically hardcore, not smoothed). It nearly broke my bike as it was, but I'd been doing about 45mph seconds earlier and I would have been history on that surface at that speed.

Motorists have accidents all the time on these roads; even though they are inside tin boxes full of airbags they sometimes die too. It is fantastic cycling on those roads, unbeatable... but it is without question dangerous some of the time in some places. Whatever normal maintenance or checks you might normally do on brakes, tyres, rims, checking the frame for cracks etc, think of doing more.

As regards reading situations... no point in getting older if you don't get wiser; -I nearly didn't get the chance...

cheers
Last edited by Brucey on 27 Feb 2012, 3:53pm, edited 1 time in total.
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andrewleck
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Re: Cycling through Italian mountain tunnels

Postby andrewleck » 27 Feb 2012, 3:25pm

I would second everything that as been said about the Splugen, Hairpin bends inside unlit galleried tunnels with absolute [inappropriate word removed] road surfaces do not make happy bed fellows.

guzzimag
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Re: Cycling through Italian mountain tunnels

Postby guzzimag » 28 Feb 2012, 1:57pm

I've motorcycled a good deal in that area and the big long tunnels are a bit mad max - the italians drive like nutters and big accidents are common. That said, a hundred yard tunnel with open sides on a quiet road is very different to a dual carriageway tunnel that is 10km long with everyone doing 120kmh. I'm sure you'll be fine. Just use your nouse and find an alternative route if your spidey sense starts tingling. And enjoy the Stelvio it's magnificent!

Andy61
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Re: Cycling through Italian mountain tunnels

Postby Andy61 » 28 Feb 2012, 8:29pm

Thanks to everyone for your replies. There are some really useful tips which I will pass on to our group. We will certainly need to be careful in the tunnels. I don't think that we have a way of avoiding them all. We will be heading downhill through the tunnels on our last day, so the advice about the road surface and darkness after bright sunlight is useful. We’ll certainly be using lights that day.

For the last four days of our trip we plan to follow the northern shore of Lake Constance, south through Liechtenstein, to Klosters and through the Vereina train tunnel, Zernez, over the Ofen Pass (2149m), Santa Maria Val Mustair, climb the Umbrail Pass (2503m) and into the Stelvio Pass (2757m), descend to Prato allo Stelvio, then on to Merano, Bolzano, Montagna, Cavalese, Predazzo, Passo Rolle (1989m), San Martino di Castrozza, and final day through Mezzano, Feltre, Montebelluna, Treviso and finally into Venice.

I checked Manuel's YouTube link, which set me into looking up other posted videos of the Umbrail Pass. I noted the unsurfaced section, between two small bridges appraoching the top of the tree line, from the timing of the video that showed it I estimated it to be about 1 mile (1.5 to 2km). The surface didn't look too bad and infact there was someone on a road bike climbing it. I'll just have to wait util September for that to be me and my group.

kawa9999
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Re: Cycling through Italian mountain tunnels

Postby kawa9999 » 28 Feb 2012, 8:55pm

Hi andy,

If you need any help on the area from feltre to treviso dont exitate to ask, that area is my homeland and i know quite well.
Just let me know when you will transit by montebelluna, there is eventually a chance that i am eve there.
Manuel

Andy61
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Re: Cycling through Italian mountain tunnels

Postby Andy61 » 7 Mar 2012, 2:05pm

Manuel, thanks for your reply. We will be passing through Montebelluna on Saturday 15th September, most likely at 12 midday +/- 1 hour. Maybe it would be a good place to stop for lunch before our final 50km to Venice. Between Feltre and Montebelluna we plan to use the road to the west of the river that goes through Santa Maria, Quero, Pederoba and Comuda, this looks the smaller and quieter of the roads along that section of the route, any comments would be welcome. I heard that there is a (cycle?) path along the river from Treviso in the direction of Venice. Do you know this and would it be suitable for road bikes? Our currently planned route is along the SS13 from Treviso to Venice, but something more scenic might be nice. We have not yet decided where to stay near Venice on Saturday 15th September, before returning from Marco Polo airport the next day, any sugegstions would be welcome, there will be about 25 riders in the group.

tonupgilly
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Re: Cycling through Italian mountain tunnels

Postby tonupgilly » 7 Mar 2012, 3:36pm

We have motorcycled in Northern Italy many times and I have to say that even on a motorbike, the long, dark, narrow tunnels we encountered, especially near Lake Garda, were awful. We found that very few of the tunnels had the large airflow fans working and in addition to them being in darkness, putting lights on revealed a thick choking smog. The smell of fumes was dire and I tried to hold my breath for as long as possible, rarely making it to the end. I would not like to cycle through them. We eventually tried to find roads that took us over mountains rather than going through the tunnels. The shorter ones wouldn't be so bad simply because they will be better ventilated, but long ones I would think would be a nightmare on a bicycle.

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ConRAD
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Re: Cycling through Italian mountain tunnels

Postby ConRAD » 7 Mar 2012, 4:59pm

Andy61 wrote:...I heard that there is a (cycle?) path along the river from Treviso in the direction of Venice. Do you know this and would it be suitable for road bikes?

Yes, it's called "Ciclabile del Sile" and starts 30 km approx upstream Treviso in a place called "i fontanazzi, i.e. the source of the river Sile".
From there you can reach Treviso, the lovely town where I was born, and then you can follow this cycling path up to Laguna Veneta and finally Jesolo on the Adriatic shore.
Once over there, it's easy to take a boat to Venice or a bus to Marco Polo airport.
Unfortunately, though possible, it's not very much suitable for road bikes.
Here below a few links:
From Trento to Jesolo along the rivers Brenta e Sile
Cycling in the night: Treviso
Cycling in the night: Venezia
Image