We are all familiar with the deadly boring reports about road bike trails, in which each region tries to make its mark by describing its best tours. Reading enough of these articles is likely to send you to sleep. There are literally hundreds of these tedious accounts, each of which sually closely resembles the last. Cycling these three road bike tours changed my life!
In actual fact, most sportsmen and women are not looking for the best tarmac road or the most well-prepared hiking trails, but instead hope to find something special on their travels. Something which sets this route apart from the others, for example a good hut or restaurant, special people or landscapes. The question is always; why is it worth the effort, muscle pain and sweat to follow this route? For exactly this reason I went looking for some really special routes around my home in the ZIller Valley and was positively surprised.
Proudly, I’d like to present you with some accounts of my experiences (and achievements!) with the fully-disclosed intention of convincing you to try road biking in the Ziller Valley.
Mayrhofen – Schlitters (easy route) Lake Schlitters
After finishing work I was looking for a short cycle ride. Since the season has only just started, I wanted to test out my bike and gradually build up the kilometers with a few gentle cycle rides. The beautiful route to the end of the Ziller Valley, passing Lake Schlitters at the halfway point, ticked all the boxes.
When I arrived, I realised to my dismay that it had been ages since I had been to this beautiful natural swimming lake. For me, there is nothing more spectacular than the combination of mountains and water. Two elements which inspire strength and energy. I treated myself to a well-earned summer spritzer at the lake café.
As my gaze wandered to the lake and the Karwendel mountain range behind it, I reminded myself how lucky I am to live in such a versatile and stunning place. The sound of water splashing brought me back to the moment and I watched as a couple swam a final lap of the lake. “Next time I’ll bring a rucksack with my swimming costume”, I thought to myself. I finished my drink and cycled home, satisfied with my discovery.
Mayrhofen - Schlegeis Reservoir (medium route)
Everyone has experienced the feeling of not wanting to cycle a killer route and yet still needing to burn off some energy. One Saturday morning, after completing my to-do list, I tried to think which route could satisfy this need.
As it was already fairly warm, I decided on the route to the Schlegeis reservoir. The road leads from Mayrhofen through a gorge and, therefore, is partly shaded. Most of the route follows the river and the cool breeze off the water makes pedaling that much easier. After the gorge, I reached Ginzling and the route continued along a private road.
I passed the tollbooth and cycled a few hairpin turns. Looking ahead of me into the valley I saw the imposing Schlegeis dam. Behind it twinkled the highest mountain peaks of the Ziller Valley Nature Park. The Schlegeis dam, with its length of 725m, is the longest VERBUND dam and can store a total of 126.5 million m3 of water. Guided tours of the inside of the dam are available.
Zillertaler Höhenstraße (High Alpine Road) (difficult route)
Early in the morning, my friend, Gitti, and I started out on our bikes from Mayrhofen towards Hippach. The weather was cloudy, with more chance of rain than sun; perfect for tackling the a strenuous tour along the High Alpine Road. The main thing was to be doing what we love; riding our bikes and pedaling hard. On the way to Hippach we enjoyed chatting and catching up with each other, but as soon as we reached the first climb, we struggled to find the breath to talk. In constant switchbacks, the route led steadily upwards. There were few stretches where you could catch your breath; actually there were none!
At the halfway point I was more or less broken. How could I possibly make it to the tollbooth and the highest point at Melchboden?
After giving myself a mental kick up the backside and not wanting to let my friend down, I continued the tortuous ride upwards. Three quarters of an hour later we finally reached the guesthouse. Completely exhausted, I hugged Gitti in relief. However, the views over the mountains of the Ziller Valley were an excellent reward for my exertion. Satisfied and completely happy, we finished our tour via Zell am Ziller.
Why did these experiences have such a profound effect on me? I have been road biking in many different places but only ever experienced about 90% enjoyment. My expectations that road biking would be better outside the Ziller Valley were always disappointed. These tours have taught me that there’s no need to travel far to find amazing cycling routes when so many amazing ones are right here on my doorstep.
© Stefanie Eder - 2019