Photos: Jonas Zaza
The idea came up in spring 2012. We did already some long distance trips last year and needed a new challenge. When I told the members of the 8bar team about the idea, they were all really enthusiastic about it and we just had to find the right date. The research started… Which route? How many kilometers and height meters are doable in a day? What gearing should we use? What clothes do we need?!?
We were four bike riders (Bjorn, Max, Jens and Stefan), a filmmaker and photographer at the same time (Jonas Zaza) and a camera assistant / driver / motivator (Christoph alias Jogi).
The equipment / The bikes
We wanted to change as little as possible on our bikes… Keep it real! A second set wheels? Different bikes for uphill, downhill? There would be no challenge any more… We agreed that we use one wheel set with different sprockets for up- and downhill. Our uphill gearing was 48/19 and 48/17 our downhill gearing. Since we had all flip flop hubs, it was no problem to turn the wheel in no time.
As our escort and movie vehicle we had the 8bar transporter. As the van was closed to the rear, we just fixed an old car seat facing backwards and went with an open tank… I’m still wondering how Jonas filmed at 70km/h and still stayed calm?!?
Thanks to our sponsors Oakley, Schwalbe, Cat Eye, komoot, Elite, Sport Beans and MuleBar we were perfectly equipped and prepared for the tour.
Day 1 (from the perspective of Stefan)
We arrived on a Sunday noon at our starting point Mittenwald, a town at the southern end of Germany. Just at the beginning of the Alps. The weather was cloudy and it was slightly above20 ° C. A perfect start…
On the way we were all in a good mood, but when we first saw the Alps after we left the city of Munich the car was completely quiet… Questions upon questions: Is this possible with a fixed gear bike? Will my knees survive this? Now it was too late… There was no way back.
After the first kilometers the climb started. It quickly became clear that 48/19 was not a proper “uphill gearing”… But we made it somehow. After the first climb, we realized that the week-long preparation had paid off. Our route took us through a plateau and we just waited a bit anxious for the first downhill, which was 5km long and had numerous switchbacks. It took us all a few corners until we got used to the high speed and cadence… But then it started to be fun and we were getting faster and faster. Max and I tried some long skids at the switchbacks and had a blast. As we arrived in the valley we waited for the others and had all a big smile on our face… I still remember Max words. “This is so ridiculous that it is fun again…”
We rolled the last 30 Kilometer towards our first stopover at a town called Imst and looked forward to the local Austrian cuisine and a cold beer… The second stage could come!
Day 2 (from the perspective of Jens)
The breakfast in the morning was delicious and as usual in Austria accompanied by Tyrolean folk music. Unfortunately I was not in good mood because my knees hurt like shit…
After the usual preparations, we started towards the lake of Reschen, our second goal. As a highlight of this second stage, one may mention the so-called “Nobertshöhe” that awaited us at km 68. I knew the climb already, because I did it just a few weeks earlier with my road bike. It is a really steep and rough climb with 11 switchbacks up to 1.405m above sea level. Now, however, was the goal to do it with our 48-19 “uphill gearing”. We did the first turns really fast with proper pressure, but after the fourth turn my legs started to burn like hell and my heart rate monitor showed very alarming values. Neither of us thought about stopping or pushing the bike… no fucking way! We motivated each other and went all to our limits. In the last bend I nearly blacked out and went into robot mode. I cursed the “Norbert”, the mountains, the road, the trip, my knees, the gearing… Everything I called into question. But then however, we finally made it. As we reached the top, it was all sheer luck distribution, happiness and satisfaction at the same time. We downed “Norbert”!
After a short break, we went down a moderate downhill towards Nauders and then on to the lake of Reschen. In the evening we ate some more delicious Austrian food and drank our “after-work beer” in common round overlooking the lake…
Day 3 (from the perspective of Max)
The third day of our tour had a distance of 150 kilometers. It was mostly downhill and straight ahead through the valley of Vinschgau. After a hard day of climbing yesterday, I was really happy about the route profile… but I was still aware that 150k is a 150k no matter what profile.
These initial concerns were quickly forgotten after the first few Kilometers along the lake of Reschen. We had perfect weather and drove down a beautiful curvy cycle way to Vinschgau. I will never forget the downhill with up to 20% descent and the pure emotions … I was very surprised how fast you can move legs. This day we set the speed record up to 68,3km/h. After this awesome downhill we went along the valley of Vinschgau along the so-called “bicycle highway”. A cycle way that leads almost entirely through Vinschgau along apple orchards and vineyards.
After the first 100k we took a short break with some iced coffee, which at 30 °C was also urgently needed. The last 30 kilometers were really windy and of course the wind came straight from the front… We reached our daily destination with tired legs and used the village fountain to cool down. The third day was done and right now we didn’t bother about the last and probably hardest stage with 1.500hm…
Day 4 (from the perspective of Björn)
When I woke up with heavy legs, I had only one thought in mind… We are going to be at the Lake Garda tonight! I remembered Stefan’s words when he said that the “Norbertshöhe” will be our hardest climb. A fallacy?? A look at today’s route including elevation profile makes me doubt…
After the first 10 kilometers along the valley the climb started. A climb that never seemed to end… Today it was hot… really hot. The tar was glowing and we were sweating faster as we could drink the water out of our cycling bottles. It showed once again that 48/19 is not the right gearing for a Transalp.
After a 15 kilometer climb, we finally reached the highest level of today’s profile. From now on, it was mostly downhill. After 10km I heard a loud “bang”… Stefans tube exploded because of a complete skidded through tire. Luckily we just reached the turquoise lake at Molveno… which was a perfect spot to have a short break and a little snack.
We continued riding and waited at every turn to see the lake of Garda… but the only things that we saw were dark clouds in the sky. Five minutes later the rain was pouring down. But then it was suddenly in front of us, the Lake Garda. We made it… FIXED TRANSALP check!!!
The last 400km were exhausting, but this view was definitely worth it. It was an amazing view and an unbelievable feeling to finish this ride. The Lake Garda is surrounded by huge mountains and the view is very impressive. We were all happy and it was silence for a few minutes… It is just not possible to take these feelings into words.
Secretly I wondered how we were supposed to spend the day tomorrow without biking?!?