Photography: Antton Miettinen
Ever travelled to a part of the world you didn’t know and wanted ride? We went to Eurobike, the world’s largest bike show, to check out what’s hot for 2015 and afterwards wanted to get outside – so we consulted the Strava community to put us on the right track.
Eurobike: vast exhibition halls filled with the latest and greatest frames, bike parts and gadgets, in a small town on Lake Constance in Germany. Long, sweaty days trudging up and down (one of our friends tracked his day’s activity at the expo and clocked up 32km of walking), and a diet of potatoes, Schnitzel and beer, topped up with more Schnitzel, more potatoes, and more beer.
To shake a week’s hard work and overindulgence out of the legs, and also to complete our August Gran Fondo, we planned a long ride. First step: take a look at the area, to get an idea of its geography. Next step: a visit to a few local leaderboards to see who was riding what… and how fast.
Armed with a few segments to target, we could have made a route on Strava Route Builder and ridden off on our own. But we wanted some company and local knowledge – someone to chat with and who could show us where to get good kaffee und kuchen. So we searched through the leaderboards and got in touch with Eirini Karyda. She’s a local heroine who, since moving to the area, has put her name at the top of great swathes of QOM leaderboards.
This area of southern Germany, west of Munich, is at the very centre of Europe, bordering Switzerland and Austria, and close to Liechtenstein. Italy’s legendary Stelvio pass is only a short car ride – albeit across three countries – away. Between the Stelvio and us, the different ranges of the central and eastern Alps: from Kempten, the town where we started, the Algäuer Alps and the Tyrol loomed distant on the horizon to explore – a land of evergreen forests, dairy cows and green meadows, alpine peaks wreathed in low cloud and fairytale castles perched above still lakes.
Eirini had agreed to show us some of her favourite roads, with some challenging climbs including the Oberjoch Pass. She led us through town on car-free bike paths and pointed us towards the hills. Soon we were in the countryside, riding past gabled wooden barns and chalet-style houses with steep roofs, herds of large cattle watching our progress.
After a week breathing recycled air under fluorescent lights it was a joy to get out and explore. The tarmac seemed to have been made extra-smooth for our enjoyment and though the skies were gloomy the sun poked through the clouds to illuminate the dark green pines. Through Germany the roads gently rose and then tumbled as we skirted the peaks and traversed their lower slopes; the scenery was mellow and the villages welcoming. But soon after the picture-postcard town of Bad Hindelang the Oberjoch reared up, the switchbacks stacking on top of one another and took us high above the valley below to the ski resorts at more than 1,100m (3,600ft).
Down the other side and over the border into Austria, we ducked under cable cars, negotiated gravel paths and then detoured up a dead-end valley for a ride around a lake that reflected, mirror perfect, the surrounding mountains and the sky. After a quick stop for food, Eirini decided to take us along a road she had explored only once before, even deeper and higher into the mountains past a village called Namlos (which means ‘Nameless’) – a tiny, deserted place surrounded by forests, gorges and even at 1,250m dominated by peaks high above. Then a rollercoaster into the more populated uplands above the town of Reutte, and a flat valley ride back into Germany.
Once back in Germany, the gently rolling roads and perfect surfaces provoked a blast for the finish. Only at the last, with around 15km to go, did the legs begin to complain.
Total: 195km – with the last 7km on a gentle downhill, surrounded by acid-green meadows and bathed in golden evening light. Without the local knowledge, we would never thought to have explored the path around Vilsalpsee lake, or known to head farther into the back roads of Austria (you know that when you pass a place named ‘Nameless’ you’re a long way from anywhere). We might still have got lost climbing gravel roads through a quarry, as we tried to find the bike paths down to Reutte, but the point wasn’t to have GPS-accurate routefinding – rather, good conversation and good company along the way.
Are you heading somewhere you don’t know well and are taking your bike? Let Strava help you get the best out of your trip. Create a route for your GPS device before you go on Route Builder and look at the popular segments with the heat map toggle. Or use Segment Explore to see which local hills have your name written on them… and don’t forget to send us your pictures and stories to let us know how you got on!