2013: The GS does its first Stella Alpina Rally

As you may remember, last year I conquered the Stella Alpina on my 1982 Honda CB250N Super Dream, but this year I took my recently purchased 2005 Suzuki GS500.

Usually, I travel over to Bardonecchia with my dad although this year he left the country 10 days earlier than me to attend the Phoenix Rally in Czech Republic, before continuing on to the Stella. In previous years, I have been lazy and relied on him to decide our route and give me directions through our intercom, so this year my other half and I would be navigating ourselves to and from the Alps, using just a 30-year-old paper map.

We allowed ourselves 3 full days to ride to Bardonecchia, planning to cover around 250 - 300 miles a day. Considering that we had no sat nav, it was actually quite easy to navigate through France’s quiet country roads and we didn’t even manage to get lost!

Mid-morning on the Saturday, we arrived in Bardonecchia and after a good catch-up with my friends, travelled up to a local restaurant to have our traditional pre-Stella lunch with Mario Artusio, the founder of the Stella Alpina Rally.

The next day was the day of the Rally itself. I was keen to see how far up Colle del Sommeiller I could get on my sporty machine and to see if it was any easier to keep upright on the off-road than my old wheezing slug of a Super Dream.

Stella Alpina Rally: Off-road hairpin corners were tricky on the GS!
We stopped at the 'control' point reasonably near the top which is where many have a rest, or perhaps go no further, and have the opportunity to buy sandwiches, t-shirts and the rally badge.

It was here that I met some great new people from all over the world and even some readers of my blog who recognised me! It was great to be able to meet some of you who read my geeky updates and it was fantastic to hear the positive feedback you gave me.

Stella Alpina Rally: Stopping to check out the beautiful views mid-way up
Stella Alpina Rally: Rally control point / Rest area
After a well-deserved rest, we continued on towards the top of the Colle. For this last stretch of the track I actually chose to get on the back of my dad's BMW R80 G/S as the track does become a lot more challenging and I didn’t really want to push my luck any further on the less-negotiable part of the off-road, especially considering the motorcycle I was riding.

One fellow Stella-enthusiast that I met, Dale James, totally put me to shame by riding his particular motorcycle all the way to the top; an Aprilia Tuono 1000r, albeit with Continental TKC80 tyres on – still no mean feat! Click here for the YouTube video of his Stella experience.

Stella Alpina Rally: Tightening up some important screws after the off-road riding nearly shook my rear mudguard off

I completed the Stella without dropping my trusty machine and we had a smashing time. The rest of the week consisted of 3 more days of off-roading in the area with our friends before heading back to Calais via Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium.

Conquering yet more Alpine passes off-road in the days following the Stella Alpina Rally
Overall, I found the GS500 still to be a real challenge to handle on the off-road, but not quite as bad as the Super Dream. Having a more powerful motorcycle this year also helped when we really started climbing in altitude and working with less oxygen.

During the 10 days away from home, I managed 2,625 miles and 6 countries. I wonder what motorcycle I will decide to do the Stella on next year – no doubt something equally as inappropriate for off-road riding as usual!

And don’t forget; it’s the second Sunday in July – every year. See you there!