Curved magic in the Silva Nigra
Prof. Michael Hoyer The Black Forest, with its length of about 160 km and width of up to 60 km, offers almost unlimited possibilities for extended half- and full-day tours by motorbike. Of course, it is not the major federal roads that are the destination for motorcyclists, but rather the small roads that wind up the mountains and then offer beautiful views over the Black Forest at the top. Some of these roads almost have the character of alpine mountain roads. As a native of the Black Forest, I know the many small villages and hamlets that make my homeland so characteristic.
The Upper Black Forest is one of the most popular "motorbike areas" in Germany. Mountainous, winding and scenic routes around Lake Titisee and Feldberg - through gorges towards the Rhine or over sunny heights - plus motorcycle-friendly hosts attract many motorbike enthusiasts from all over the world every year. No matter where you start in the Black Forest and where you want to end up, the trips by motorbike always lead along roads that are fun for the handlebars and also for your fellow riders.
The Black Forest: curves and fantastic views
Roughly speaking, the Black Forest can be divided into three areas. There is the northern Black Forest between Pforzheim and Offenburg. It is mainly from these dark fir forests that the name "Black Forest" derives. Nowhere are the forests as dark - indeed, as black - as here. In contrast, the central Black Forest between Offenburg and Freiburg, with its picturesque river valleys, is really lovely. And between Freiburg and Basel, the high and southern Black Forest with its famous lakes and - on good days - views of the Alps.
As a motorbike region, the Black Forest leaves virtually nothing to be desired. Winding roads, picturesque views and towns and villages worth seeing are everywhere. Besides motorcycling, there is also good Baden food and some fine drops of wine and beer, so relaxing after the tour is also a highlight. Due to Corona, none of this is possible at the moment, but that doesn't stop a real biker from getting on his bike and tackling the many metres of altitude between the Rhine and Lake Constance.
Riding experiences in the Black Forest at all times
Since the Black Forest belongs to the sunny southwest of Germany, the motorbike season stretches out for quite a long time. From mid/late March until well into October, you can enjoy the riding experience on sunny and cloudy days. A little caution is advised in the spring and autumn months: as the Black Forest is the highest low mountain range in Germany, it can still snow in April or in October.
Since I normally like to go on a big tour abroad at Easter and this is not possible due to the pandemic, I am exploring my own homeland, which I actually already know. Or so I thought. On the first trip I soon realise that I don't know my home country that well after all.
Day 1: The high mountains
The simultaneously high and sunny southern Black Forest beckons between Freiburg and Schaffhausen. Narrow, steep and challenging bends lead to the Black Forest's highest peaks and lakes. At the edges you will find the Markgräfler Land, as well as Hotzenwald and Wiesental. On Feldberg, Kandel, Schauinsland and other vantage points, you have a magnificent view of the Alps on a good day. There are tours here that require riding skills, so today I'm tackling the "high mountains".
My first tour takes me from Villingen along an old road towards Vöhrenbach. This section immediately makes the off-road genes of my Italian travel companion, the Ducati Multistrada 1260, beat faster. This old connecting road is a wonderful, completely legal and official forest path that leads past a fabulous restaurant (Der Auerhahn - at the height of Unterkirnach). The subsequent onward journey towards Furtwangen through the picturesque Bregtal valley already gives an idea of how varied and beautiful the "silva nigra", as the ancient Romans called the Black Forest, is. Furtwangen is known for three things: The Danube rises here in the Katzensteig valley, at the Pius Chapel, the town is home to a remarkable clock museum (think Black Forest cuckoo clock at this point) and perhaps the most beautiful lookout tower on the Brend in the direction of the Feldberg. And indeed, from here on this beautiful day, I can see the still deeply snow-covered, almost 1500-metre-high peaks, of the Feldberg.
From the Brend, the narrow little road winds through the winding Kilpental valley towards Simonswald. The journey takes you past the mystical Kilpenhof. Here, Sebastian Mack has been distilling not only Black Forest schnapps specialities in the form of kirsch and other finest spirits for many years. A few years ago, Sebastian Mack also distinguished himself as a gifted whiskey distiller whose two varieties, single malt and grain, are rated as insider tips in the relevant circles. As a motorcyclist, it is rather difficult to taste the noble drops - but the smell alone promises delicious spirits - and quickly a barrel of fine single malt whiskey is bought, which I will enjoy today by the warming tiled stove.
After visiting the schnapps and whiskey distillery, the journey continues on unpaved roads through the Kilpental valley towards Obersimonswald. The subsequent Simonswälder valley is a typical Black Forest valley, at the end of which is my personal favourite mountain in the Black Forest - the Kandel. At 1241 metres, this Black Forest peak is one of the highest elevations in the central Black Forest and the local mountain of the town of Waldkirch. Its exposed position makes it more impressive than neighbouring mountains of comparable height. The narrow tarred road promises many serpentines up to the summit, where many hang-gliders take advantage of the perfect thermals to pursue their airy adventure.
As soon as you reach the top of the Kandel, you're on your way down again. I traverse Freiburg im Breisgau through the Glottertal valley before heading to the next peak on an old, legendary race track.
At 1283 metres, the Schauinsland in the Black Forest is the high local mountain of Freiburg im Breisgau and an excursion destination. It used to be called "Erzkasten" because of the silver mining industry; the name "Schouwesland" first appears in 1347. It is located about ten kilometres southeast of Freiburg city centre.
The ADAC Schauinsland Race was a motor sport event held between 1925 and 1984 on a former logging road, today's Schauinslandstraße, from Horben to the Schauinsland Pass summit, covering 780 metres of altitude over a distance of twelve kilometres. To this day, this is Germany's longest and most winding mountain race track, on which several European mountain championship races have also been held. From Horben, you can comfortably float towards the summit on a cable car, or you can take the many curves and hairpin bends under your tyres. Motorcyclists are only allowed to use this old racetrack on weekdays - at any time of the year, the horsepower-strong bolides with daring pilots romp around here on the exciting chase around the bends.
The Ducati Multistrada 1260 takes the chase through the bends light-footedly. With its 158 horsepower, which pulls mightily on the chain at about 7000 rpm, the engine purrs sportily through the manifold bends and can keep up with any super sports bike. Flooded with adrenalin, I arrive at the summit of the Schauinsland in Horben a few minutes after the start - and then the name says it all: SCHAU INS LAND. The view goes from Freiburg across the Rhine plain, if the visibility is good, all the way to the Vosges - and on the other side of the summit you have the next Black Forest giant in your sights: the Feldberg.
Where it goes up - it also goes down on the other side... This old saying proves true once again on my beautiful day tour through the Upper Black Forest. From the Schauinsland, the ride continues over the Notschrei into the Wiesental, to then gain tremendous altitude and finally arrive at the Feldberg Pass. The summit is not accessible by motorbike or car and is currently reserved for the few snowshoe hikers and cross-country skiers. Where the last of the winter sports enthusiasts usually cavort, pandemic calm now reigns. We return via the beautifully situated Titisee at the foot of the Feldberg via the Schwärzenbach valley in the direction of Villingen.