Entries tagged with “Tirol”.


It is often said that a cycling culture, with riding a bicycle as transport, is only common in flat places. However, on my regular trips to the Alps I am always struck by just how many cyclists you see on the streets. So on my most recent trip I tried to take a few photos to show a wee bit of Alpine Cycle Chic. My first opportunity came on a couple of trips into Innsbruck, but I wasn’t allowed to go on a full-on cycle chic photo safari, just grab the odd photo.

So to start with, a few ordinary Innsbruck cyclists:

Innsbruck cycle chic

Innsbruck cycle chic

Innsbruck cycle chic

Innsbruck cycle chic

Innsbruck cycle chic

As you can see, Innsbruck has a healthy cycling culture, sadly I wasn’t quick enough to get a picture of the Christiania cargo trike in Maria Theresien Strasse. Interestingly, there was a recent attempt by the city council to ban bicycle parking in the pedestrianised part of Maria Theresien Straße, but this was rejected after complaints from the owners of shops and cafès along the street who worried that this would have a negative impact of trade. Spend a while sitting at a pavement cafè and you will soon see why, getting about by bicycle is very popular.

Given the levels of congestion of motor traffic in Innsbruck, it is no surprise that cycling is so popular. This is despite Innsbruck having other forms of traffic which UK based cycle campaigners would tell you are bad for cycling, such as trams, bendy buses and heavy lorries (there is a large amount of building work at the present time), etc. It helps that there are wide cycle paths along either side of the Inn which give access to the centre of the city. There is also an extensive network of cycle lanes, here are some pictures:

Innsbruck cycle infrastructure

Innsbruck cycle chic

Note the the bus stop (Haltestelle) marked with a H, and that the buses stop to the left (outside) of the cycle lane. In the UK this would be seen as potential conflict point, but here the cyclists either stop or ride slowly around passengers getting on and off the buses.

Innsbruck cycle chic

While on the subject of cycle lanes, at traffic light controlled junctions there are not only advanced stop lines for cyclists, but separate lights as well, which allow the cyclists to move off 30 seconds before the motor traffic.

Innsbruck cycle infrastructure

As you will have seen from the photos above, cycle parking along the streets is plentiful, as is residential cycle parking, with apartment blocks all having some form of covered cycle parking. The newer ones often have secure cycle parking built in. Cycle parking is also provided at transport interchanges, such as this bus/tram interchange.

Innsbruck cycle parking

Innsbruck cycle parking

You can of course take your bike on the tram if you want to,

Bikes on an Innsbruck tram

and you can take your bicycle on the bus as well. Unfortunately my pictures of the bike space on the bus didn’t come out too well, but there is space for a up to four bikes, if it isn’t in use for prams or wheelchairs as these passengers have priority for the secured spots. On routes where bike carriage is popular, the buses also carry bikes on the outside. These racks can also, rather conveniently, be modified for carrying skis in the winter.

Bikes by bus in Innsbruck

Sorry if you feel I have veered away from cycle chic and onto infrastructure, but it takes good infrastructure to develop a healthy bicycling culture.

Addendum: the modal share of cycling in Innsbruck is 14% and rising.

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Sunday, Scharnitz, the crack of dawn.

OK so it was more like the crack of 09:30, but that is early enough for a Sunday morning to be dragging a couple of mountain bikes out of the back of a car. With Ulli laid up for the week following her wee accident (see Tales of the Tirol, part 1), Bernie had driven us round to Scharnitz, the self-styled gateway to the Karwendel Alpine Park. This is one of the largest areas of wild land in the Alps, and a great place to go mountain bike touring. Having parked up at he old skiing car park (the chair lift has now gone and the piste is steadily being invaded by trees), we cycled into the village (950 m a.s.l.) and out the other side, past the big car park where the Germans pay to park. As it was still early, the car park was only half full. The road up the first hill out of the village is tarmac and no great challenge, just use the granny ring and keep pedalling. For those who do decide to stop, there a is a field on the right (980 m a.s.l.) usually occupied by some Tyrolean Haflinger horses which are very photogenic, so you can always make out that it is a photo stop rather than a rest stop.

Not far beyond this the tarmac gives out and the road divides, you can go north along the Karwendeltal or east along the Hinterautal, above a gorge with spectacular views down to the River Isar. At this stage it is hard to believe that this is the same river that flows through Munich. Before long the road forks (1069 m a.s.l.), and you have the choice of continuing east along the Hinterautal and following the Isar to its headwaters, or you can drop down and cross over the Isar (1022 m a.s.l.) and follow the Gleirschbach up Gleirschtal into Samertal. For those yet to make their mind up this is a great place to stop and take a few photos.

Whilst we were stopped to take in the views and a few photos, Bernhard sadly remarked that the bike I was riding no longer turned heads the way it once had. He had built it some years ago for his father, who wanted to be able to cycle into remote areas for spring ski mountaineering trips. His father had been rather generous with the budget and Bernhard took the opportunity to build a very high spec bike. I remember how, when I first rode it about five years ago, it really used to turn heads. For those who are interested, it was based around a Rocky Mountain Elements full suspension frame, there are various pictures of it in the ubiquitous blog photo archive. It is still a great bike to ride, but nowadays people seldom give it a second look, not that that bothers me, I just like riding it…

After crossing the Isar (1022m a.s.l.) the way climbs steadily upward, gently at first but after a while it gets increasingly steep. So at first I was having no problems in keeping up with the riders ahead, which was a good feeling, but progressively I started to loose ground. Then I saw that I was slowly gaining on one rider ahead, good I thought, here is my chance to overtake someone going uphill. However, as I got closer I realised the rider I was trying to overtake was no more than 10 years old, so I was still the slowest adult on the hill. Time for a new strategy. I picked an object in the not too far distance, a tree or a rock at the side of the path, told myself that I just had to get there and I could think of having a rest. Of course having reached said object, I would tell myself “not yet, just a wee bit further, try and get to the next corner”.

Rounding the corner, the road got even steeper and seemed to disappear into the trees. I got half way to where it seemed to disappear and stopped for a drink, much to the bemusement of a six year old who blithely cycle past (aided by the odd push from dad who was cycling alongside). Mounting up again, I cycled on to that point where the road seemed to disappear to find that a) it was only about 100m away from where I had stopped and b) the road levelled off (1137m a.s.l.) and the cycling was really easy again. The road was climbing more gently now along a long straight, the Gleirschbach was gurgling away, the sun was shining and all was right with the world.

After a while (and after another short climb) the glen widened and the forest gave way to open meadows. Here alpine cows grazed contentedly (fenced in by electric fences), their bells clonking melodically, well as melodically as a cow bell can clonk. This signalled that we were nearing Mösl Alm (1262m a.s.l.). For those not familiar with the Alps, an Alm is (or was) a small farm only occupied in summer, where cattle are taken to graze the high pastures. Nowadays these Alms often have small (or not so small) restaurants attached to them and maybe basic rooms to let. Some of them have given up the livestock farming element altogether and just stick to servicing the needs of weary travellers (or fleecing tourists depending on your point of view). Personally I find the prospect of a decent meal and a beer, while surrounded by fantastic mountain scenery, after long walk or a cycle, rather an appealing one (especially as the prices usually put the cost of a pub lunch in the UK to shame). In addition, the working Alms also help to maintain the floristically rich alpine pastures which would otherwise disappear under rank vegetation and eventually trees. This leads to a loss of biodiversity which is currently occurring across the Alps. So it was that we decided to stop for an early lunch. The place was busy, mostly with cyclists, as the walkers were still on the trail making their way there.

Sunday lunch time at Mösl AlmSunday lunch time at Mösl Alm.

Lunch finished, we set off again, aiming to get to Pfeis Hütte (1922m a.s.l.) at the head of Samertal. About 500m (1320m a.s.l.) after we left Mösl Alm, we came across a sign telling us that there was 300m of bad road ahead, but after that it was a motorway all the way to Pfeis Hütte.
The notice
Sure enough, the track became very rough, and it continued to be rough until the turn off to Hafelekar Spitze. For any of you who ken Innsbruck, that’s the big mountain the cable car from the centre of town goes up. Obviously we were on the far side of the mountain from Innsbruck. Shortly after the turnoff, we meet a couple coming the other way with a small child in a bike trailer (something like this), heading in the opposite direction. There is no way they could have come up the rough section of path (and they couldn’t have come over Hafelekar Spitze either), so we guessed there must be another way back to Mösl Alm, but couldn’t find it on the map.

Into the Karwendel 3
Riding up the “Autobahn” towards Pfeis. © B. Dragosits.

We continued on to where, at about 1600m a.s.l., the track goes up a large hairpin bend. At the bottom, to one side, there was a bike parking area with about a dozen bikes in it. The track going up looked rough and steep, Bernhard didn’t think he could make it up on his non-suspension bike (he had struggled on the rough section earlier). So he borrowed the full suspension bike which I was riding, to go scout it out, while I wandered off to take a few more photos. After about a quarter of an hour he reported back that the track was really rough and that he wouldn’t be able to make the last 1 km or so to Pfeis Hütte on his bike. So we decided to leave a visit to the hut for another day. The ride back to Scharnitz was a real blast…

For a kml file of the route see here, please note my GPS is a wee bit old and doesn’t get a very good signal where there are trees.

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The more observant readers among you will have noticed that there is a now a weather report for Innsbruck in the sidebar of this blog, this is because Ulli and I are on holiday in the Austrian Tirol.

So day one, as always we were keen to get out and about doing things in the mountains, so as a warm up we decided to go out for a quick ride. Fortunately we were able to borrow a couple of mountain bikes and Ulli’s cousin Bernhard was keen to come along as a guide. Digging the bikes out of the basement where they live, I was pleased to see that the Rocky Mountain Elements bike which I was borrowing had been recently upgraded with disk brakes. The benefit increased control when braking far out weighs the cost of extra weight, in my opinion.

Bikes out, adjustments made, and we were off across the Absam fields, down the new path to cross the Weissenbach (good first test for the disk brakes) and up into Mils on the far side. From Mils we took a path around the edge of Milserwald. This forest area sits on a terrace left behind by the last ice age, and is a great recreation resource for the local area (possibly why Absam and Mils are now among the most expensive places to buy a house in Austria). Coming down the track towards Milser Eiche, on the SW corner of Milserwald, Bernhard and I were racing ahead (as usual) when we came across a Nordic walker coming the other way, who was (as is often the way with Nordic walkers) taking up as much of the track as possible, another good test for the disk brakes.

Having stopped by the big oak (known locally as Milser Eiche) to look at the view across the Inn to Volders and Glungezer (and waited for Ulli to catch up), we skirted round the southern edge of Milserwald to the pretty village of Baumkirchen. From here we picked up the cycle route, along a quiet stretch of road, to Fritzens. After Fritzens, Bernhard decided that rather than follow the cycle route along the road to Terfens, we should go cross county using a series of unpaved tracks. This proved to be much more entertaining, in particular the way Bernhard would cycle round in big circle each time we came to a fork in the track. He claimed he was changing down gear in order to be able to tackle the climb (if we were to turn that way), but I suspect that he was just lost and trying to remember the way.

At Terfens we stopped to have drink from the drinking fountain, of the type with a hollowed out log for a trough which are so common in Tirol, the water is always fresh and cold. This also meant that we neatly avoided being run over by a Dutch motorcycle club, which came noisily through the village. Drink stop finished, we turned north and headed up hill out of the village. This hill gets increasingly steep as you travel north. On a previous ride, I had had to get off and walk the last part, but not this time. We then turned off to Maria Larch (Mary of the Larches, a small church), this time instead of turning off the road to go cross county (on a track which is in winter a x-country ski trail) we continued up the road to Eggen.

Cycling through Eggen

From Eggen we cycled on along quiet roads through fields full of horses to Gnadenwald, joining the main road again at St. Michael. As road riding on mountain bikes isn’t as much fun as trail riding, we turned off the road again, after about 1 km, at St. Martin.

Following the off road trail, Bernhard and I raced off ahead again as usual, after we crossed the dry riverbed of the Fallbach I stopped to wait for Ulli. I heard a loud skidding noise and thought that sounds impressive, then silence. After a minute or so, Ulli still hadn’t appeared so I went back to have a look, and found Ulli standing by her bike with grazes on her arm and knee. Ulli said she was fine and so we cycled on to where Bernhard was waiting. Then Bernhard and I decided that it would be best for Ulli if she were to go to hospital to get her wounds cleaned up, so he went off to get his car and Ulli and I made our way to the nearest car park, a few minutes away.

Taking Ulli in to hospital, I expected them to just clean her up put on a dressing and send her home. So when she came out of the treatment room with a bandage on her arm and knee, I thought that’s it over, lets go home. But she said she had to wait and see someone else as they wanted to put her leg in plaster for ten days, as she had hole in her knee close to the Bursa synovialis (or in German: Schleimbeutel, which translates literally as slime bag) and they felt it would heal faster if the knee was immobilised. Poor Ulli…

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