In January 2014 we had the idea of mountain biking somewhere else than our home trails. Since 2010 we have been biking in the south of Hamburg in northern Germany (yep! you can mountainbike in Hamburg, but more about that in a later post). Daniel was about to move from Hamburg to Stuttgart for a new job (office and suit of course!) and we needed a good reason to continue our common hobby.
Hence, it was clear that the destination for our first trip should not be too far from Stuttgart and the trails should not kill us.
We started leafing through bike magazines, searched the internet and narrowed the options for a long weekend down to:
Harz in Germany
Oberstdorf in Bavaria (also Germany ;))
Switzerland (not Germany)
As we could not agree on a destination in Switzerland and we always wanted to bike in the Alps we chose Oberstdorf and booked a Hotel for three nights from the 1st of May. Unfortunately the weather forecast got worse from week to week until only five days before our trip the forecast was really bad for Oberstdorf.
The decision for an alternative destination was easy: good weather. Meaning: no 24 h of rain! This is how we ended up in Caldaro al Lago not far from Bolzano in South Tyrol, our first bike travel.
Planning?! Yeah…ehm…no planning. The only thing we planned was the date and booking the Hotel for mountain biking Caldaro. Does that count as planning? But we learned a lot from that experience. We came only with our bikes (Daniels bike was a 9 year old hardtail with 80 mm travel!!) and a lot of stuff we thought that could be useful. We even borrowed GPS devices with routes for biking from the tourist information in Caldaro. Doesn´t sound like planning too much.
Best travelling time
Best travel time for mountain biking Caldaro is April to October. Always check for snow in the mountains. The Penegal webcam gives you a good impression about the situation.
Dustin drove together with a friend from Hamburg to Stuttgart by car and slept a night on Daniel´s couch. Next morning we put Daniel´s stuff into the car. Incredible what you can fit into a small BMW 1 series: 3 people, 2 bikes and a lot of luggage. We drove over Ulm onto the Brenner Autobahn in Austria and via Bolzano to Caldaro. No traffic jams, lucky us!
Travelling by train is also possible. From Munich it takes about 4 hours to Bolzano. From there you take the bus to Caldaro al Lago (35 minutes).
As mentioned above we had only little time to find a place to stay. But luckily we found a very nice “bikes welcome” bed´n´breakfast, the Villa Weingarten (tripadvisor) directly in Caldaro al Lago. Managed by a young couple, normal rooms and clean, exactly what we need.
Breakfast: Really good half-board in the guesthouse. We were allowed to take some rolls and fruits for the day.
During the day: rolls and fruits from the breakfast, power bars and of course bananas. If you get up the Mendel you find restaurants there and on the west side of the Penegal is another mountain hut with a restaurant.
Dinner: Caldaro al Lago is used to tourists and offer a wide variety of restaurants.
Maybe due to our lack of planning we had to snap our first tour off only 100 meters below the peak we wanted to reach. We started to cycle up the Grauner Joch. At about 1700 meters of elevation we started climbing over fallen trees and at the highest point (1900 meters) we had to stop due to a closed snow surface. With a total climb of 2300 m by bike and at least ten fallen trees, we rolled back to the guesthouse. Days later we only called that trip the “Joch des Grauens” which translates to “Yoke of Horror” (in English it sounds even more terrifying).
Still feeling the first day in our legs we decided to get up the Mendel Funicular in order to bike Penegal trails. Most of the trails were still covered in snow but the more west we biked the better the trails got. Almost every meter we could imagine how amazing the trails must be in summertime.
What we learned
If bikers coming downhill tell you that the conditions up the mountain are pretty bad, it is mostly true.
Coming from snow and ice with temperatures below zero the brakes might not always work as you want them to. Shredding down the mountain, fallen trees can approach pretty fast 😉
If you are crazy enough you can even keep up with enduro mountain bikes even with a 9 year old hardtail on downhill trails. Crazy guys from Hamburg!
If you have to get down on the east side of the mountain, don´t cycle down the road on the west side! Because then you have to drive the 400 meters back up!
A little bit of planning upfront would have saved us some issues mountain biking Caldaro.
All costs per person:
Fuel: ~125,- €
Hotel: 90-€ (for 2 nights)
Ticket Mendola funicular: 9 €
Food: about 20,- €/day
Total: ~264,- €
A very chaotic planning with still a lot of fun. We biked only a fraction of the trails we could have biked at Caldaro al Lago. Accommodation at Villa Weingarten was great and the panorama from up the mountain was really nice. Get there maybe in June or at least make sure the snow is gone.