Day-3: A blurry route starts to come into focus - The Hills are Alive (with the sound of wheezing) - CycleBlaze

Day-3: A blurry route starts to come into focus

Along with sorting out my gear, my lovely paper maps have arrived - the 1:150K Freytag & Berndt "Top 10" series - which includes lots of relevant information including cycle routes. I've used their maps for several other trips: both in Sweden and Czechia they did me proud, but it was only now I realised that they're actually based in Austria (I'd assumed they were German!) so they're really on home turf here. 

This has really spurred me into planning real and fantasy routes, and checking out the possibilities along the way. On the plus side, the maps seem to verify that some of the off-road or extremely-minor-road adventures I'd been scoping out are possible; and to verify the existence of numerous cycleways alongside more major highways along the principal valleys. These days I have a real distaste of riding in traffic, however well-behaved it may be (and I'll be surprised if the Austrians are anything other than impeccable drivers) for more than short, necessary distances. 

On the other hand, though they have elevations and grades marked, they don't really have contours - and, as I have to keep reminding myself, Austria's a touch hilly, so I need to be careful I don't get myself into 1000m climb situations. I can be worryingly blazé about this when sitting at my desk - "oh yeah, 700m climb, that'll be fine. Sure I'll be happy doing that at the end of an 80km day".

However, I am conscious that I don't want to over plan things - a form of taking away the spontaneity that I've definitely been guilty of in the past. A couple of days in the mountains will be a reality check for me anyway, and it's not like I've got any deadlines to meet. Plans change, and the weather may foil me (more on this below). Nevertheless, it's fun to start sketching out a route, and checking that it's viable, at least in fantasy. Unviable to me means: 

  • Further than 100km in a day. If you plan 100, you end up doing 120+. I'm not Spartacus.
  • More than 1,500m climbing over a whole day. No more than 600m in one climb (1,000m is a real upper limit). 
  • Any sustained climb >10%. I'm still haunted by the kilometres of >15% over Shauinsland.
  • In practice, I'll happily break any of the rules above. But one I really like to stick to: any routes where there's no option but to ride a very busy highway for more than a few kilometres.

So these are things to avoid. What to seek out?

  • Often I'll want to go with the flow, and follow the valleys, well-populated with services, accommodation and cycleways.
  • But I'm here to see a different sort of landscape than I'm used to. So I won't be afraid to hop over the odd pass and get into the mountains, especially if it follows an obscure, unusual or scenic route.
  • And I also like the sense of striking out on my own. If I can travel on gravel or service roads, or even off-road - even if the bike isn't super suited to it - through alpine areas. Unlike wild camping, this is all hearteningly encouraged in Austria.

I need to get to Vienna over 14 days. This should be doable with lots of time to spare and explore. Broadly, this is the route I've come up with, with a mixture of going-with-the-flow and more adventure, taking in lots of Alpine scenery, as well as Bratislava before finishing in Vienna.

A *very* rough idea of where I might go
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Since I've booked my first couple of nights stay in inexpensive hotels and pensions (the current forecast is for lots of rain on that Friday night, so I'm particularly glad to be under a roof) - my first day looks pretty set, and should be a pleasant gentle climb up from Munich to my lodging at the evocatively-named Bayrichzell near the Austrian border. Hopefully any dodgy weather will clear some space in the campsites.

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On the second day - or possibly the third, if the weather's really terrible - I'll cross the border into Tyrol. For this, I've scoped out a really cool sounding, off-road alpine way - could be a bit of a challenge on the loaded Shift, but we'll see. At any rate, once in Austria I'll work my way down the easy valley/cycleway to the resort town of Zell am Ziller.

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Next comes the big challenge. To climb out of Tyrol to the East, I'll need to tackle the Gloßner pass. 1000m of climbing in 25km - but (apparently) the gradient never gets as bad as Shauinsland. No train up from this side - I'll expect to spend a whole day on this!

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Once over the pass, I can cruise for nearly two days down the valley to the East, on dedicated cycleways the whole way. Past Mittersill and (another Zell) Zell am Zee over a few days, eventually I'll pick up the very minor Postalm road to reach Bad Ischl and Bad Ausee in the vicinity of Salzburg.

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From this well-populated area I intend to pick my way down to Liezen, and then find my way along the valley before taking the high road (and Salza radweg) via Wildalpen. Then it's down into the Murz valley and Murzzuschlag. Needless to say, this is a few days' worth.

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My route is sketchier from here. If I'm knackered then I'll head directly up the valley to Wien. If not, there's more to explore to the east, hopefully passing through a bit of Slovakia.

At any rate, I have the slightly inconvenient requirement to catch a train at 6.50 in the morning on my final day, the 11th. One idea, if I don't want to stay in the centre of Vienna, is to take advantage of a well-established free camping site by the Danube. Unfortunately it's a fair (if flat) stretch into Vienna of 45km, so it would be a very early start. On the other hand, in a free camp it's easy to pack up and set off when you like.

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Scott AndersonLooks like a brilliant itinerary to me. Can’t wait to follow along. Some of this is similar to a route I’ve been mulling over for a few years but going the other direction, so I’ll be interested to see how it goes. Good luck!
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5 months ago
Jon AylingThanks Scott! I'm hoping I've not overdone it on the climbing, we'll see how it goes - but either way it'll be good scenery. Cheers!
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5 months ago
Rachael AndersonHave a great time!
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4 months ago
Jon AylingTo Rachael AndersonCheers!
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4 months ago