The whole territory of the Alps, on both norhern side (France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia) and southern (Italy) as well as the Apennins of Italy and the islands, represent a gigantic mine of mountain bike adventures.
Here you may choose a relaxing tour along a lake, or the up and down circuit in a shadowed forest, or the extreme alpine climb to a glacier followed by a long single-track descent back to valley.
All this within a reasonably short distance !
To complete the picture, consider the beauty of the many different landscapes, the warm hospitality and the great cuisine of the various regions.
Here follow some suggestions on how to plan for a successful multi-day trip in the Alps and the whole Italy, with a focus on a rather technical mountain biking practice, including a minimal use of asphalt roads and excluding long transfers on flat areas.
For thisapproach a full suspension mountain bike is needed (typically of the all-mountain or enduro type); any long road transfer would be carried out by minivan or bus.
#1. Where and When ?
All the regions north or south of the Alps, and the Apennins of Italy plus the mediterrenean islands, are great for mountain biking. The choice of a specific area may be dictated by one or more of the following parameters:
PERIOD OF THE YEAR
The Alps are snow covered down to approximately 1200 m elevation from november to march and to 1600-2200 m till end of may. Snow coverage may vary a great deal, therefore it is recommended to get precise information while planning.
If you plan for an holiday in winter or spring, choose the Apennins at lower altitude, or some minor mountain range close to the sea coast in Italy, or the islands, which offer absolutely gorgeous itineraries.
If you plan some freeride tours with the use of lifts or vans in the way up, get prior information about the opening days. Lifts in the mountain are mostly opened to bikers from june to september, but sometimes only in the weekends.
As for wheather, all seasons are ok but, of course, winter can be chilling and some itineraries at higher elevation may not be feasible because of snow, as mentioned above.
May can be a tricky month, with unstable wheather due to the transition from spring to summer.
July and august can be rainy in the higher alpine regions, while at lower altitude the sun shines, and too hot in southern Italy; september and october are often more dry.
July and august are the vacation months for europeans, so they are rather busy. You may find traffic on the main roads and difficulty to book your accomodation; planning in advance is key.
In these months some trails might also be allowed to hikers only, and forbidden to bikers (see #7).
#2. Choose your itinerary
If you have enough experience in route planning, you may identify a possible itinerary on a map, but the risk of failure is high (trail in bad conditions, map not precise, crossing of private land, etc.).
In addition to using a good quality map (see further below) you definitely need a guidebook or a website providing a detailed description of the itinerary and a possible GPS track.
Select an itinerary according to the main features: total distance and estimated duration, total vertical gain, technical difficulty. Additional features are the percentage of single track – forest road – asphalt road, the “cycle-ability” or percentage of the itinerary feasible on saddle (namely excluding the sections where you must push the bike or even carry it on shoulders), the availability on site of food and water supply.
It is impossible here to mention the so many guidebooks available. We suggest you to search on the internet with the specific destination as a key word. Many guidebooks are available only on site.
As for websites with a choice of itineraries and GPS tracks to be downloaded, here is a selection:
https://es.wikiloc.com/rutas/mountain-bike (whole world including Alps)
https://www.giscover.com/index.php (whole world)
https://www.gps-tour.info/en/tracks.html (whole word with focus on the Alps)
https://www.alltrails.com/?ref=header (whole world)
https://www.trailforks.com/ (whole world)
https://track.turbolince.com/tracce-gps-mtb.html (Alps and the whole Italy)
https://www.itinerari-mtb.it/ (north-western Alps)
https://trentinogpstracks.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_12.html (Trentino, Italy)
https://itinerari.mtb-mag.com/all (whole Italy)
http://www.themtbbiker.com/ (north-eastern Italy)
https://www.schweizmobil.ch/fr/suisse-a-vtt.html (central Switzerland)
https://www.guidevtt.com/ListeParcours.php (Switzerland and France)
https://www.singletracks.com/bike-trails/region/austria/?orderby=best&order=DESC (Austria and whole Europe)
We recommend high quality maps preferably of scale 1:25,000 or 1:50,000 with UTM coordinates grid, contour lines, and good imaging of the terrain.
Although most maps are availble as digital files to be uploaded to the GPS device, we suggest to carry with you also the traditional tools: paper map, altimeter, and compass.
As for the guidebooks, we suggest to search on the internet the map for a specific area. Otherwise, for a whole country or area you may look at the following:
https://www.openstreetmap.org digital map of the world
https://www.geoportail.gouv.fr/donnees/carte-topographique-ign digital mao of France 1:25k, also available on paper;
https://map.geo.admin.ch digital map of Switzerland 1:25k, also available on paper, covers also the italian territory close to the border
http://www.austrianmap.at digital map of Austria 1:25k, also available on paper (OK25V series
http://www.pcn.minambiente.it/viewer/ visualizer similar to GoogleEarth, Italy
> Tabacco maps 1:25,000 on paper (Italy north-east)
> Kompass maps 1:25,000 on paper (whole Alps)
MAPS AND APPS FOR YOUR GPS DEVICE OR SMARTPHONE
From these sites you can select the area and the activity of interest (mountain bike), view the area, download the map and the gps file of an itinerary, and upload them to your GPS device or your mobile phone:
https://buy.garmin.com to download maps for your Garmin device
#3. Organized tours
If you wish to plan in advance a multi-day trip and join a group, or get a fully customized logistics arranged for your own group, contact Lynx Trails or have a look at our website www.lynxtrails.com. We may have just a few scheduled programmes on the website, since we mostly arrange mtb tours on request, therefore we suggest to call us by phone/whatsapp or send an email.
We may provide the full package (including airport pick-up, all transfers, accomodation, local guide, bike rental), or just the basic logistics for independent teams.
If you are already on site and wish to join a local group, maybe for just one day, then check on the internet or ask a local bike shop which may put you in contact with a local guide.
#4. Rental of bikes and gear
Bikes and equipment for rental are available in all major resorts. In july and august is recommended to book well in advance.
Bikes are available for rent in all basic categories: cross-country, all-mountain, enduro, downhill (for bike park use only), e-bikes. Prices vary according to the category and the specific model, in the range of 50 to 120 euro /day. Normally the helmet is included and also (for enduro and DH) knee and elbow protections. You may be offered optional insurances to cover any damages to the bike.
E-bikes are now very common and available in all major resorts, but in the peak season they have to be reserved as earlier as possible.
#5. Bike repair and spare parts
If you are using your own bike, you can count on repair services in all major resorts, but some may be closed in off-season (winter). In small resorts you may find little availability of spare parts; we therefore suggest you to bring along some critical parts (specific of your bike) such as brake pads, brake lever, rear derailleur hanger, a few spokes.
#6. Lifts, shuttle services, bike parks
If you practice downhill or enduro and wish to utilize lifts for the way up, these are available in all major resorts and open from june or july till august or september-october.
Most resorts with one or more lifts (cable car or chairlift) also offer at least one trail specifically dedicated to enduro or downhill.
Where lifts are not present, then a van shuttle service may be available on site.
Downhill trails are generally hikers-free and a full face helmet is required to access the trails.
There are dozens of bike parks around the Alps and Apennins, and they are growing both in number and quality of the services (which include bike rental, guides, dh school, bike repair and wash).
The daily ticket in a bike park may cost in the range of 20 -60 euro.
#7. Specific restrictions
By default you may go anywhere with your mountain bike, except:
– in peak season some trails might be reserved to hikers and forbidden to bikers;
– in protected areas (such as nationak parks) there are special rules by which trails might be partially or totally forbidden to bikers;
– lift owners can limit the access to bikers based on their own sole decision;
– local authorities may forbid mountain biking in some days (for example if those days are reserved to hunters or to lumberjack operations);
If a trail is forbidden to bikers, generally a warning sign is located at the access point. Do not infringe these interdictions, since fines may be severe.
Clearly you find all kind of accomodation in the region. Remember to book in advance, especially during the peak season (july and august).
Be aware that some hotels or guesthouses may not accept bikers, whereas other may very well welcome them by showing a sign (such as “biker friendly host”) on their website or at the location.
The bike-friendly accomodations normally offer you a locked garage for your bike and often a washing facility too.
if you book a package tour with Lynx Trails you will have no worries, since the most suitable accomodation is included in the services provided.
#9. Hazards, safety, rescue.
There are no special hazards to mention, except the usual ones of any mountain bike adventure in the outdoors.
In some areas (north-eastern Italy and Slovenia) you may very rarely encounter a bear.- Wolfs may also be found anywhere in the Alps and Apennins, but they are generally extremely elusive.
Be aware that in the remote valleys of the mountains and beyond a given elevation, you will not have mobile phone coverage. In case of emergency, you will need to have a satellite phone available, or an emergency satellite beacon.
The number to call in case of emergency is the european standard 112. When calling, just answer the operator’s questions, and in particular be ready to provide your name, your phone number, and your location.
In the Alps and the whole Italy there is an organized mountain rescue service, which is directly connected to 112, and has available some helicopters too. Relevant rescue costs are at your charge, unless you have subscribed a specific insurance policy.
#10. Common sense and behaviour
Besides the previous points, we just advise you to behave according to common sense and in respect of all ocal regulations.
In july and august bikers share the trails with many hikers. Remember that hikers have always the priority. Slow down when you meet one or more hikers and if needed, continue on foot.
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technical issues, gear reviews, mountain medicine, safety, avalanches, useful info and advice by the pros, and much more…