map view of Saalbach
driving skills

Not yet fed up with mountain biking from the tour on Gran Canaria, we planned to go biking for a long weekend in September 2015. As both of us had not much time besides our jobs to plan another “big” tour, Dustin asked a friend in Hamburg, originally from Saalbach-Hinterglemm, a municipality in Austria, for a recommendation. The answer was foreseeable 🙂

After a bit of research about mountain biking Saalbach and it´s surroundings it was decided. We were going to test Daniel´s new Orbea Rallon Enduro in Austria! In only three days we cycled almost every downhill track, completed the Big-5 (read more below) and visited the bike park of Leogang, the host of the annual UCI Downhill Mountain Bike Worldcup.

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After the friend´s recommendation to visit him and his girlfriend in his hometown Saalbach-Hinterglemm we started our planning. This time it was not much to do, as he gave us the contact to another friend´s hotel and offered to be our guide for that weekend.

The weather forecast promised the best week of the year – perfect planning for mountain biking Saalbach, we suppose!

Weatherwise we recommend mountain biking between end of May and September. Bear in mind: most of the cableways do not open before beginning of June!

Dustin crammed all his gear into his car and drove down to Stuttgart to pick up Daniel. After a nap on Daniel´s couch we drove at 30 degrees centigrade via Munich down to Austria.

It is also possible to get there by train via Zell am See, but it takes ages. In case you want to fly, it is wise to compare the connections to Munich and Salzburg airports. Still the last kilometers to Saalbach take some time.

Anyhow, we arrived safely by car and checked in in the afternoon. Enough time for riding a first trail.

We stayed at Hotel Alpina, managed by a young and bike enthusiastic couple. It was a great stay with clean and comfortable rooms.

Well, even though we are from Germany, we sometimes had a hard time with the Austrian German. Useful knowledge: Austrian German is the only pluricentric language officially recognized by the European Union.

Even if you don´t speak German or “Austrian” you will be fine with English, as the area is very touristic.

The hotel´s breakfast was very delicious and we could take sandwiches for the day. Moreover Saalbach-Hinterglemm is a touristic area with a long history as a skiing area. You can find grocery stores and a good selection of restaurants in the center of Saalbach.

The trails in Saalbach range from beginner to pro level. We tried to cycle almost every trail we could find. Our favorite was the Hacklberg trail with about 10 km downhill, through forests, over northshores and rocky sections.

Day 1:

At the day of our arrival we had some hours left before sundown. We took the last cableway of the Reiterkogelbahn up the mountain and continued uphill by bike to the Hochalm. The Enduro track started winding down the Hochalmtrail fairly easy and smooth. After a couple of kilometers we dug our tires into rough and rocky terrain until we got back onto a forest road leading us back to Saalbach.

Day 2:

As mentioned above, the area around Saalbach offers many options for biking. It is possible to cycle up the mountains and take the downhill lines back into the valley. If you have a “Joker Card” included in your hotel reservation you can also take your bike with every cableway. Our goal was to ride as many lines as we could that weekend, therefore we took the cableway on day 2. We shredded down the Milka-line, Blueline, X-line, Hacklbergtrail, Pro-line and almost every other line you can find on the area. Just like the slopes at skiing you choose the lines by your level of difficulty. We explicitly liked the 10 km long Hacklbergtrail with it´s amazing panorama and spectacular and diverse track sections. After taking the Schattberg X-press up the mountain you can access the first section of the X-line and turn left to climb up the Westgipfel to the beginning of the Hacklbergtrail. For the first kilometers the trail appears to be like a hiking paths down the side of the mountain, after that you enter a more engineered section with both kickers and Northshore elements. A lot of fun to ride and always a possibility to go around difficult obstacles. Over the weekend we rode it about four times.

Day 3:

On our third day, we headed to complete the Big-5. During this trip over five mountain peaks you go on every cableway in both Saalbach and Leogang. The day before Dustin decided to change from his 110 mm suspension bike to a rental Downhill bike. That seemed to be a good idea for the downhill lines, but ended up for him pushing the bike over many sections of the Big-5. Starting very early in the morning in Saalbach we took the cableway and crossed over a mountain ridge towards the Leogang valley. A track covered with roots and pretty technical cycling, perfect environment for an Enduro bike. At the end of the day we had gained 1000 meters on elevation by bike and cycled over 65 km downhill. You sleep very well after the Big-5!

If you are going to ride downhill lines don´t expect highest performance from a 110 mm All mountain bike. On the other hand also don´t expect a Downhill bike to be the best choice for technical uphill and trips with elevation gain of 1000 m.

All costs per person:

Fuel: ~100,- €

Hotel: 204-€ (including Joker Card for all cableways)

Food: about 20,- €/day

Total: ~385,- €

This trip was totally different from a classic bike holiday. No matter if you are a pro or a total beginner, Saalbach is a paradise for every mountain biker. Due to the skiing infrastructure with all the cableways, you save a lot of “uphill energy” for focussing on the panorama of the Alps and improving your downhill skills. We suggest to go for at least 3 days and you will feel the progress of your performance in both endurance ad technique. Mountain biking Saalbach is a hell lot of fun!

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