I had an unexpected free day during a business trip to Vienna, and rather than working (which I do enough on the weekends), I rented a motorcycle and explored the Wienerwald, the “Vienna Woods” at the top end of the Alps.
It’s a lovely rural area with all of the beautiful mountain scenery you would expect from Austria. Rolling green hills, soaring rocky peaks, stone castles, tiny towns, and small narrow twisty roads. Perfect! With road elevations below 3000ft and unseasonably warm weather, I didn’t have to worry about snow.
It was a little bit of a mission to find a motorcycle to rent in Vienna, but with some help from friend and colleague Michael, we located a nearby motorcycle store called BikeCity. This is when the fun started! They were happy to rent me a ZX6R (100 euros), but they didn’t have a jacket, gloves, pants, or boots to rent. I called every store in the city. No gear rental. Everyone referred me to another rental store, which unfortunately went out of business in the summer.
I knew it would be cold and possibly a little rainy in the mountains, so I posted a plea for help on a motorcycle message board. Most thought I was having fun at their expense, and others suggested I was a poor planner (guilty!), but a few kind souls offered some advice and suggestions. I ran down all the leads, unsuccessfully, but a young Austrian named Chris took pity on me and offered me his gear for the day.
We met for drinks and I managed to squeeze into his jacket and boots, even though Chris is 30lbs skinnier than I am. He even drove me back/forth from the motorcycle store the next day! I couldn’t believe I was so fortunate to meet someone so kind and friendly. Hopefully one day I can repay the favour and we can ride together in California or somewhere else.
I rode a ZX6R Ninja, a high-revving sportbike with a redline above 16,000rpm. Funnily enough, Chris crashed this bike just a few months earlier. Bad Chris! My Speed Triple 1050 is totally different: gobs of wheelie-torque, a 9000rpm redline, and an upright riding position, so it was fun to ride something different. The ZX6R really didn’t make much power below 10krpm, so I found myself constantly flipping between the gears to keep the bike moving. The scream of an inline on the boil is pure magic. The seating position was fun for the first four hours, and not so much after that.
I rode regional “B” roads: B17 south, B11 West, B18 South West, B21 West, B71 North West, B25 North, B28 East, B39 East, and then reconnected to the A1/B1 freeway back into Vienna. Here’s a google maps route:
There are speed cameras everywhere near Vienna. They’re gray boxes on either side of the road. They were very difficult to spot, so I always tried to ride with traffic and was careful whenever anyone slowed down for no apparent reason. There aren’t very many outside of Vienna, and only in towns. I hope that’s true, I’m not completely sure. I didn’t see them if they were out there. I didn’t see any police cars on the B roads.
At the junction of B27 and the road from Gutenstein is a restaurant called Kalte Kuchl, or “Cold Kitchen”. It’s been around for 500 years, and is now a scenic motorcycle hangout. Chris recommended I get the topfenstrudel with some hot chocolate, it was incredible.
If you hear a funny pinging noise, it’s sand or gravel being thrown up from the front tire, and if you’re turning at a high rate of speed you will very shortly lose traction and start sliding the front. Fun!
The 30km of B71 was awesome, starting from Mariazell and going all the way North West to Polzburg. Perfect smooth roads, beautiful mountain scenery, no traffic, only a few villages with slow zones. B39 was good too.
Boots two or three sizes too small will keep your feet warm and safe, but you won’t be walking in them by the end of the day. More like hobbling.
The ZX6R hits 220kph in the top of fourth, and still has two more gears! I wouldn’t know this directly because I always drove at the speed limit, but I imagine this would burn a lot of gas.
There are very few gas stations in the middle of the ride. I only got 130km before the low-fuel light came on. If you then keep the bike in 6th gear and keep the revs below 4krpm (and turn the engine off and ghost-ride downhill!) you can make it another 25km. Apologies to the rider who passed me while I was slowly riding uphill, and who I zoomed by in full tuck ‘stealth mode’ on the way back down the other side.
I was happy I only had jeans on. The temptation to drag knee was overwhelming. I kept thinking to myself “don’t be a squid, don’t be a squid”. It didn’t work, but no knee pucks were a strong motivating factor!