Mountain Biking In Europe

Mountain Biking in Europe

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The trip started in LA, packing our mountain bikes until midnight, trying to decide what really had to go to Europe for 42 days. Our mission – for our two teenage mountain bikers to experience world-class European cross country racing, while the whole family rode all the singletrack we could find near the events.

We took everything to the airport at 4am, maneuvered five bike bags and a ton of luggage through check-in, and headed for Stuttgart. We were picked up by good friends and went to see our new home, a tiny Dethleffs’ RV. Unable to focus enough to load the RV, and in an effort to fight jetlag, we did what any diehard mountain biker would do – went for a ride through the forest to an old monastery in the village of Bebenhausen. One section of the trail lies on an ancient Roman road that includes wagon tracks worn into the stones from another era.

Tip #1 – Getting to Europe

Flights from the U.S. are plentiful, and ticket prices vary quite a bit depending on the season. Book your travel outside of the European holiday season to avoid crowds and to get better rates.

Mountain Biking (and Eating) in Germany

We spent the first official morning in Europe in true American style – eating! Gummy Bears, Ritter chocolate, and crepes. In order to burn the extra calories that we consumed, we headed out on our mountain bikes to ride intervals in the forest. We found some excellent singletrack, winding through the trees for several miles, with lots of mud puddles and ruts. This was our first experience with European mud, and a foreshadowing of things to come. The singletrack ended above the town of Herrenberg with a tour of the old city castle. Of course we finished with a traditional German dinner of maultaschen, or giant ravioli. Whether you eat it boiled or fried, it doesn’t matter. Either way, this German staple is delicious!

Mountain Biking in the Alps

After a few days biking in the Black Forest, we drove to Oberstdorf Germany, in the Alps. We made an attempt to cross over into Austria on the Transalp route, but the high pass was covered with snow. We spent an hour carrying our bikes over a snowfield, only to be turned away by a washed out bridge across a narrow chasm in the side of a cliff.

Tip #2 – Clothing for Mountain Biking in Europe

Since it is much wetter in Europe than in most U.S. mountain bike destinations, it is important to have rain gear, technical waterproof/breathable outerwear, and performance under-layers for outdoor activity. Waterproof shoe covers are a must! A common German saying summarizes it best, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.”

Snow blocks a narrow bike trail

Mountain Bike Racing (and a Stolen Bike) in Belgium

The next stop was Houffalize Belgium for a cross country race. The juniors had their work cut out for them with the most technical descent I have ever seen in a cross country course. Rain was a major factor, since being from Utah we are used to dry western U.S. riding.

A mountain bike riders descends a technical trail

On the last day we woke up to a cut cable-lock and a stolen race bike! We were totally deflated. We spent the morning with the French-speaking police, mostly using hand gestures, and then headed for Austria. We were now desperate to find a good bike shop!

Tip #3 – Bike Locks are Essential in Europe

Our bike was stolen from right next to our RV while we were sleeping. We purchased hardened steel chain locks for the rest of the trip and covered our bikes with a tarp at all times to prevent further theft.

Mountain Bike Racing (and a Good Bike Shop) in Austria

As we headed into Graz, Austria for a junior combined XC race, we spotted a huge bike store. Even better, it was only a 10 minute ride from the shop to the campground and race site. We made multiple trips over the next couple of days, buying mud tires, new bike locks, and a new bike to replace the stolen one.

For the XC race the junior girls had a great course, but then the rain set in hard, and by the time the boys went, part of the trail had to be closed and there was no traction to be found. We mentioned to the race director that we close our trails when they are muddy and he exclaimed, “If we didn’t ride in the rain, we couldn’t ride at all!”

Tip #4 – Mountain Bike Gear for European Riding

Low profile tread racing tires aren’t the best for the wet, rocky and technical singletrack commonly found in Europe. Mud tires and mountain bike fenders go a long way to helping deal with European mud. In addition, brake pads wear down in muddy conditions, so plan to replace yours during the trip. And while running tubeless tires is awesome, it may be hard to find your favorite sealant in Europe. I recommend bringing enough for a few tire changes, just in case. We tried a European brand which clogged up our valve stems and our pump with a rubbery, glue-like material. In addition, make sure your floor pump has enough volume to mount your tubeless tires.

A muddy mountain bike rider

Mountain Biking Epic Singletrack in Switzerland

From Graz we went to the World Cup cross country mountain bike events at Nove Mesto in the Czech Republic and Albstadt, Germany. It was amazing to see so many fans at a bike race. There were over 20,000 people watching at Nove Mesto alone.

Our last week was spent in Davos, Switzerland, doing all-day rides on epic singletrack. The area is well-known for its skiing and beautiful hiking, and new trail access rules are making it a destination for mountain biking as well. In most of Europe, singletrack is reserved for hiking. However, Davos has opened the singletrack to mountain bikers and maps are now available to help find the best rides.

Tip #5 – Mountain Biking in Europe by RV

We found the RV was very cost effective for our travel plans to mountain bike throughout various countries in Europe. We would drive for half a day and then spend several days on our bikes and usually stayed in small, scenic towns with easy bicycle access to trails, restaurants, and shopping.

A rider looks at a mountain range

We really enjoyed our trip to Europe. The people were friendly, the biking was excellent, the race courses were challenging, and there were infinite tourism activities to fill in the gaps. We hope to travel to Europe again in the future to attend and participate in World Cup mountain bike racing.

Patrick Batten, White Pine Racing powered by Team Member

Riders stand outside of an RV