Crossing the Alps: a long trail to the finish line, so it’s best be well prepared
Summer has now arrived and many bikers are already dreaming of crossing the Alps with their mountain bikes. Everyone who has already conquered these mountains with the strength of their own muscles understands the physical and mental challenges only too well. But when we arrive at our destination – on Lake Garda for example – we forget all about the hardships and feel that exhilarating sense of pleasure and achievement in every fibre of our body. But it's a long way to the finish line, so it’s best to be well prepared.
There are various ways of crossing the Alps, but the most adventurous variant is, without doubt, planning the alpine crossing yourself and transporting your luggage from stage finish to stage finish under your own power. This means that mountain bikers have to rely on their own meticulous planning and it requires them to react flexibly to changes in the route, the weather and to their own physical fitness.
Self-guided transalpine trails
If you've decided on a self-guided transalpine tour, you’re recommended to ride the trail in a small group of mountain bike friends, whose strength and proficiency are roughly the same as yours. There are a number of routes in the Western, Eastern and Central Alps to choose from. The classic routes run from Garmisch, Oberstdorf or Mittenwald to Lake Garda. In turn, there are many different routes within this start-finish constellation that vary from easy to very difficult – in terms of both the physical condition and the technical skill required. In preparation for your tour, we recommend you read a few books on the subject, for instance from the professional mountain bikers Uli Stanciu or Achim Zahn.
Plan the route to suit the ability of the weakest rider in the group. There are also easy, but equally beautiful classic trails over the Alps, for example, the Via Claudia. These can even be mastered by families with bicycle trailers or electric bikes, because most of the route follows cycle paths. Once you've decided on the route, you should book the lodges and hotels in advance, especially during the main season. You must also organise the return transfer.
Crossing the Alps demands boundless energy and deep commitment from every single member of the group. Empathy, mutual support and mastering difficult situations together – that's what it's all about. But you will also share wonderful experiences – and you will remember that moment when you crossed the Alps under your own steam and finally arrived at your destination for the rest of your life.
Crossing the Alps with a tour operator
A guided crossing of the Alps is also an option and there are many tour operators, who specialise in mountain biking holidays. The advantages are obvious: the guide you've booked knows the trail and any possible diversions like the back of his hand. The luggage is driven from one stage finish to the next. The hotels are booked in advance and your return transfer is also guaranteed.
Both variants have a lot in their favour. Planning the tour on your own gives you flexibility and individuality, but also brings with it more challenges and requires more time and effort to plan. In contrast, crossing the Alps with a professional guide makes planning and the trail itself safer, but, of course, it also gives you less room for manoeuvre.
Each mountain biker must decide for him- or herself which variation suits them best. In any case, it is essential to judge your fitness correctly and to start off somewhat more cautiously. Correct preparation with the right training is essential. What's more, your mountain bike must be suitable for the planned tour and well maintained: after all, it's the only means of transport you have! Everybody who crosses the Alps collects so many wonderful moments, reaches the limits of their physical endurance and gets to know their bodies better – and most of them become repeat offenders, because the sheer variety of routes is a constant invitation to embark on a new adventure.