We were fortunate to catch a ride to Brixen. Of course, you can also take the train and arrive in a bit less than one hour. The Sudtirol Mobil cards are prepaid stored value cards for public transit so it is entirely possible to travel with bikes conveniently and fast. Schedule and information can be determined at Sudtirol Mobile.
Travelling in SuedTirol is almost as easy as travelling in Switzerland with the exception that not all the busses have bike hangers in the back. In that event, you should load the bikes onto the bus's undercarriage storage compartments. As for the Suedtirol trains, there are some that are newer and some that are older. The newer trains are more bike-friendly in that they are wider and easier to load bikes. The older trains are also a bit noisy, so make sure to listen carefully for the announcements so you know when to stop, and if in doubt, ask the friendly conductors. ________________________________________________________________________________________________
We met Alexander Resch at Brixen who helped us settle in at the Hotel Golden Krone. Alex is an amazing host from a family of hoteliers. The family owns a beautiful hotel that is almost 400 years old in a town that is almost 1,000 years old. For us North Americans (where a 50 year building is "heritage") this is beyond mind blowing.
More on the Golden Krone and the fantastic town of Brixen later in the story. Suffice it to say that they enjoy the quality seal of approval that is the consistency of the Bikehotel Sudtirol programme. Food is fantastic, accommodations are luxurious and bikes/bikers are welcome with all needs attended.
After a hearty breakfast, Alex started us out by riding through Brixen's old town and across historic bridges older than when Chris Columbus had his first Carribean adventure. The ride then winds through Brixen's apple orchards and up through picturesque trails and rural roads ending 500m higher at the gondola base of Plose Mountain (Click link for the Hiking/Biking maps aka WanderKarte) ________________________________________________________________________________________________
The Goldene Krone Hotel is in the heart of Brixen's 1000 year old town. We rode through streets many times older than Canada to start the day. Just more awesome European culture
We then had a nice climb up to the Plose Gondola
Once at the top of the Gondola, what do you do? Have Coffee!
Taking the Plose Gondola gives you a free 930m of elevation gain. Of course there is a sun drenched alpine restaurant deck where, like the tourists we are, coffee and cake await. We told Alex that we wanted views so he took us on a leg that traverses Plose Mountain from west-to-east and climbs gradually over 6 kms for 400m of gain over a variation of doubletrack and singletrack generally heading to the Putzjoch. This gives jaw dropping views of the western Dolomites to the south. A super fun descent from 2350m then dropped us back down to about 2000m where we had more authentic Suedtirol food at the Schatzerhutte and Alex tried to teach Lee more obscure Suedtiroldeutsch.
It's worth noting that if you prefer to try out more trails that feed back to the Plose gondola you can drop down earlier on this traverse. These trails are not strictly speaking downhill-bike necessary but more like all-mountain/enduro trails that are still rideable with medium travel bikes. By all accounts they are spectacularly fun. Unfortunately, due to only having one day in Brixen, we missed them -- next time! ________________________________________________________________________________________________
Classic singletrack winding through alpine meadows.
Schatzerhutte for lunch.
Lunch at the Schatzerhutte. With Kniakiachl, Kaiserschmarm, and Kasnocken.
After lunch we rode over to Val Di Funes. This gets you into pretty amazing scenery (the Odle/Geisler Dolomite massif with its white/pink stone in particular is outstanding). While this portion of the ride is scenic and historic the trails meander and it's a long way back to Brixen at the end of the day as you end up having to do a gradual traverse of about 7km with one particularly nice descent on forest trails, then ending with 12km on flat pathways along roads back to Brixen. ________________________________________________________________________________________________
The final descent leg
Down, up then down again and traverse back to Brixen via Val DiFunes
Staying at this place furthered our conviction that mountain-biking in Europe is best done through the "hub and spoke" method. Pick a central location and radiate out from it doing day trips. You could do much worse than stay in Brixen and at this wonderful hotel (oh how it was so hard to leave after only a couple of nights!).
It is certainly dumbfounding when you hear about people riding hut to hut or trying to pick a European mountain-biking trip to try to experience wilderness in some contrived made-for-tourism loops. Let's be clear about our opinions here. There is no "wilderness" in Europe; how can there be when there are people and huts all the way to the alpine? Any pretense otherwise is contrived and one should be honest about it. To be clear, this is very much a North American perspective and one from two rather experienced British Columbians who ride in plenty of wilderness in their home turf. In our opinion, European mountain biking should be embraced for its infrastructure (ie hotels, restaurants, road access, trains and buses everywhere). So find a nice hotel in an interesting town. Find nice singletrack. Enjoy the restaurants. Embrace the friendliness of the people. Soak up the inherent coolness of ancient towns where people live, work and play.
Speaking of nice hotels and interesting towns, this is why we were so excited about Brixen. Goldene Krone, is a four star Bike Hotel. Our half board dining option resulted in gastronomical stimulation of the highest order. Alex Resch was a great host and enthusiastic rider. You can check out some of the guided rides he offers his guests here and you would be well-advised to take advantage of them. Even a quick look shows at least 3 to 4 solid days of riding in the Brixen area alone.
Brixen itself is that magical size; neither too big nor too small but intensely interesting and with lots of culture. Dare I say that it had enough even for non-biking spouses to occupy themselves. First settled in 1901 it is the oldest town in Suedtirol and now numbers about 20,000 people. It has a huge old town (the hotel is right in it!!), innumerable churches, museums, galleries, fairs and even a Brixen Card tourist product that affords tourists deep discounts when spending time in town.
Ride all day then chill in Brixen in the late day/evening. That sounds to us like a magical time. ________________________________________________________________________________________________
(Click on the links to bring the maps up full-page. You can download GPS also if you want to replicate the loops) ________________________________________________________________________________________________
Length: 48 km Duration: 6 hours, 32 minutes, 46 seconds Vertical up: 2031.2 m Vertical down: 2024.5 m Average Speed: 7.3 km/h