crossing austria
a not so summer ride!

austria is not big. but from from neusiedler see to bodensee 4 day trips wide!
for well prepared roadbikers and their attached luggage it’s a little more than 800km 
. with a small everest of about 8.545m of height in between.

the idea: a relaxed summer ride in moderate, warm and dry conditions. 
hey, it never rains in the far east of austria in early august!

start am neusiedler see


stage 1, august 5

7am. pouring rain!

within minutes after the start all of the 13 riders gathering around the bus station
in the harbour of neusiedl am see were soacking wet and dirty from all sides.
luckily we had icy cold northwind as a compensation. for whatever!
a perfect start into a ride with the longest stage already on day one.
an impressive and not really flat 265km to world famous stift admont - and his impressing old library. which nobody had an eye for, because it was closed on arrival time.
but now in order!

we started our epyc ambitions on empty bike paths (who else would be so crazy to ride under such circumstances) and crossed empty villages. no further memories for the first two hours, just one word on the wet and silent lips: sh..t! with not even 40k on the clock we were almost ignoring the well known esterhazy castle in the not so well known city center of eisenstadt on this dark and not inviting morning. in the small town neudörfl we had a first stop. we flooded the extraordinary welcoming cafe while trying to dry ourselves a little bit. enjoying delicious coffee, a quick first and a half breakfast!
a big THX to the friendly waterproof employees who warmed at least our hearts.

on the road again, the rain eased a little bit and we only got wet from below and the fellow colleagues riding in front. leaving burgenland heading to niederösterreich.
after about 100k in, we passed gloggnitz, where we decided not to stop. too cold! too wet!
here we reached the end of the flat part of our trip.

after some optimistic and maybe too naive riders pulled off their rain jackets during the first stop, because of a flat tyre (all in all we had about 9 on the way to bodensee), they decided easy hearted to put them back on after a few minutes. the first climb up to preiner gscheid was beautiful despite the modest weather. but maybe it’s simply more fun to ride uphill under these conditions. at least it feels warm. either way, on top at about 1.100m it was foggy, wet and cold. the edelweißhütte was closed, and the extra grumpy hüttenwirt was scaring us off his terrace. definitly not the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

entering styria and a chilly downhill to kapellen later, a little and unexpected miracle happened. no rain! and… OMG… was that a dry street? in any case, the best time to stop by a warm and now definitely crowded restaurant. the meal was delicious, fast and good.

shortly after rolling on again slightly upwards to picturesque neuberg an der mürz and his XL church everything was back to normal on this day. rain set in again around mürzsteg! getting more intense slowly but surely. that made us decide to take the slightly shorter route via niederalpl to gußwerk. which meant to skip the pretty small town of mariazell. famous for another too big church. but who cares! sometimes priorities have to be set. from the 1200m high niederalpl the rain reminded us to be extra cautious (some more, some less) to reach gußwerk safe.

an advantage of a weather like this: almost empty and carfree roads! with the exception of some extraordinary ugly and crazy cars with dutch plates on! and funny(?) people inside.
we reached weichselboden and wildalpen relatively relaxed. or were we just tired?
time for a stop! reaching our 200k point, the little supermarket with his cosy gastgartenveranda was a heavenly place for the next half an hour.
we cuddled a little bit to warm us, while refilling ourselves with all kind of unhealthy but tasty sour-sweet stuff. in almost normal summer conditions you would have a spectacular view of the back of hochschwab and the nicely coloured river salza. but not this time!
after some short, ugly (who said funny?) ramps we reached hieflau, entering the green hell aka national park gesäuse with good vibes. and leaving it with a kitschy version of a happy end! the sun came out to guide us on our last k’s to admont.
to a beer, a dinner and a bed.

250k with 3.300m

august 6, stage 2

some had a very very good breakfast, some an almost very good one!
nearly dry streets and apparel (thanks to the extra heated room; normally used for drying ski boots) and two new riders!

we left admont for liezen through the dust of yesterdays humidity. a silent atmosphere with slightly heavy legs around. beyond liezen, a town without further remarkable characteristics brother sun entered the beautiful and now brighter scene, opening views into ennstal and at least on half of grimming, an impressive mountain who looks like his name sounds. a steep short climb with a first unannounced sprint at the bottom of the mountain later and some more k’s, we reached nice bad mitterndorf. where some of us were happy for a friendly and helpful bike shop for some quick little repairs etc. and all of us for the nice "konditorei" where we caused a heavy congestion first at the order and then at the cash desk! no further escalation due to very nice ladies in charge again.

passing the impressing large skiflying hill of kulm, we rode into the heart of salzkammergut.
from bad aussee on to hallstatt. a city grown famous already 800 b.c. due to salt mining and graveyards. giving a name to the whole period of the pre-roman ironage. overtouristed these days and soooo awesome beautiful that they rebuilt hallstatt somewhere in china. just said!

but… already 5k before hallstatt - thanks to a thunderstorm - we had an involuntary early lunch. at a place called hell or höllwirt. nice timing for almost all of us. only the two guys with the flat tyre flatrate subscription got a little wet. after the rain stopped we moved on as planned. here, they were again: wet streets! missing factor: around zero! the stop in hallstatt was one groupfoto long and beautiful! and off we rode again.

after about 100k the way lead us up to gosau. the three lane ascent on the last part up to pass gschütt was not only exhausting but ugly. entering oberösterreich shortly below 1.000m. the fourth austrian province in two days, and not the last one this day.
the short speedy downhill was ended by a long uphill passage in now kind of summer like conditions which brought us via annaberg (home of a famous austrian female skier, whose name is... yes... anna!) to st. martin am tennengebirge. time for a refuel-break at a scenic supermarket, who saved some of us from bonking. because lunch was too early and long gone on this day!

then the flow set in: in the form of a very nice 25k downhill passage from st. martin via eben and fritzbachklamm to bischofshofen! hello salzburg!
you don’t have to remember bischhofshofen from a riders point of view, so we not even stopped at a red light! instead we took our speed to enter the 20k long climb up to mühlbach am hochkönig and dientner sattel which started directly behind the city.

starting moderate with great views, sun and only a few crazy motorbikers, things got a little more challenging behind mühlbach. the last 3.5 k’s up to dientner sattel where signposted with 15% of elevation. and they kept their promises! heavy breathing and sweating guaranteed. have we mentioned the luggage on our bikes?

after a short relaxing and regrouping break on top we went down to dienten. a town even austrians do not know how to pronounce. the last „fun” part of the day was the ramp up to filzensattel with again up to 15% for about 2k. but then… the big and 15k long high speed descent via maria alm to saalfelden flushed some adrenaline into our tired bodies. ending day 2 with the second best pizza of the ride and a stay in the very charm of a summer hostel aka school dormitory.

 190k and 2.600m
a last walk to a last beer! 

august 7, stage 3

the best day! weather wise. blue sky and sun in the morning. but only the fourth best breakfast. for all, but one! leaving saalfelden with a little radweg session. (not really built for cyclists exceeding the 15 km/h limit, a typical austrian phenomenon!) a first surprising but short gravel section couldn’t stop us on our way to st. johann in tirol having a coffee with friends from graz on their (surprise!) cycling holiday trip. sadly, we had to say goodbye to one of our riders until bregenz due to knee problems. the stop at the konditorei lasted way too long, but on a saturday morning we were not alone with our idea! on the way to wörgl and the inntal it was kind of fun to see all the tourists stuck in their cars heading south at walking speed. one flat tyre on our side, same suspects!

in the old centre of rattenberg we crushed a wedding foto session. shortly before we left the inntal again in jenbach. enough is enough!

with already 100k on the road again, the recommendation was to ride the old street up to achensee. here it was! not long, but again crispy steep.15% and more in hot and humid conditions. and the most stupid car driver of the whole ride as a guest! a nice italian restaurant gave us back some power. and we were rewarded with spectacular views in the whole achensee area and beyond. fantastic! and mainly quiet. then we left austria for while.
crossing austria by bike sometimes is nicer via a german corner. we are convinced we found the best one for cyclists. first we followed the river walchen, crossed a stausee called sylvensteinspeicher and then headed westwards along the river isar on a long private toll road with a short gravel detour caused by construction works.

the last k’s of day three were a race against the approaching thunderstorm which hit us exactly in garmisch-partenkirchen. but only a few seconds before we entered the hotel lobby.
at least the fastest of the bunch!

yes, most of us stayed there at a grand hotel. but the only grand thing was the size of the room for the bikes, which under covid free circumstances is used as a festsaal now and then.
a few metres away we had the best pizza and co. of the whole ride!
not really typical food for the region, but we were hungry and needed it badly!
after a late "kaminzimmer" session we ended day three! some earlier. some on day four!

180k 1.600m

august 8, stage 4

after a night of rain, the last day started chilly and dusty again. we had the best breakfast ever in a bavarian bakery and welcomed a fresh rider exklusively for the last stage.

out of garmisch-partenkirchen we passed the valley station of the cable car up to almost 3.000m high zugspitze, without having a view at germany’s highest mountain.

and then there was our little borderline experience. not the small river neidernach (we looked that up!) between germany and tirol was the surprise, but the unexpected graveled road alongside. this tiny road changed from metre to metre into a heavier gravel section that ramped up more and more before slowly turning into a kind of MTB trail. exactly at this point even the route planner, a man of otherwise endless tranquillity got a little nervous. the non existing GPS signal on his guiding device wasn’t really helpful either. to ride on, or not to ride on, that was the question? one that should remain unanswered forever, because all of sudden, the path flattens, a car was spotted and a paved road appeared in the distance. we have reached the shore of plansee on a magic misty morning at a camping site! what a thrill! and not the slightest technical problem.

after this little improvisation, everything ran again as carefully and exactly as planned. almost!

a few k’s along the lakeshore, and then down to sleepy reutte. the starting point for our long way up the lechtal to vorarlberg and the village warth. 50k firstly slightly ascending. not really visible but feelable. the surrounding mountains were still covered in clouds, so we stayed focused on the street. which lead us via a nice climb in the end up to almost 1.500 m. which ment objectively, it didn’t really got warmer! lucky us, there was this nice, exclusive, brand new and hip design bar on top in warth. our favourite, not so cheap warm-up station for the next hour. but as we couldn’t stay here the whole day (and couldn't have afforded it) we stepped out again into the cold fresh mountain air, with continuously reduced visibility on the way up to hochtannbergpass. now with our friend and native guide who came to meet us from bregenz! good for psychological reasons! and anyway!

due to fog and rain at 1.650m things got a little wetcold and unfriendly again. especially the not so easy downhill part on slippery roads via schröcken and mellau down to bregenzer wald was a challenge. braking artists was we all are, we made it. all safe!
we gathered again once more and started for the last episode.

two minutes after we were assured that no rain is expected on our way towards bodensee, we all got caught by a heavy rain shower on the open road towards schwarzenberg.
everyone and everything wet again! summertime, and the living is... ah...shut up!
so we changed plans and skipped the route via bödele to bregenz and took the one
via andelsbuch and alberschwende. 

this slightly hasty decision and the heavier car traffic on the new route brought at one point a little uneasiness into the otherwise so harmonic and balanced group. (ok. that's a little exaggerated, but not untrue. in real life we just had fun all along the way!) in the end, the perfectly guided ride into the crowded festival city bregenz calmed the few minutes of disagreement in no time!

a last little forced wait in form of a closed railcrossing a few metres before the finish on the shore of lake bodensee (which - fun fact - is called lake constance in english) turned out to be the ideal moment for lightening up the faces of all the superb riders standing there in wet socks and shorts. what an athmospheric finish for an epyc not so summery summer ride.
deep satisfaction, exhaustion and joy!
THX to all the contributors!
see you in 2022!
or elsewhere!


even the epyc epilog added some memorable moments to those intense four days:

as there were:
 the turkish restaurant with its delicious kebabs and beers and sweets and pizzas, which we occupied within seconds and for the next hours.
a finisher party is a finisher party!

a finally sunk underpant from a nudist swimmer we know.

the bike wrapping orgy at the platform for those who took the night train back home.

and a very intimate last evening in dornbirn for the few who added one more night in vorarlberg. before definitely ending the 2021 version of epyc.