Sunday, April 23, 2017
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5 reasons why Austria is a great bike touring destination

5 reasons why Austria is a great bike touring destination

So, you think you know Austria? Big mountains, men in strange leather shorts, heady accordion fueled folk music and giant glasses of yeasty beer, right? Think again. Austria may be the best cycling destination in Europe. Here’s 5 reasons why:

1.A well developed and well marked Cycle Route network.

Cycle Route Signage; Austria; bike touring; two wheel travel

For the first few miles cycling into Austria we weren’t sure if it would live up to the benchmark set by its northern neighbor, Czech Republic. We had been very impressed with the Czech Cycle Route network and we were sure Austria had a pretty decent cycle route system as well, but we were cautiously skeptical nonetheless. Quickly we were convinced that Austria would deliver on all fronts. The routes are numbered in a logical fashion with signage and milage markers along the way. Most of the cycle routes were plotted just as they were in the Czech Republic, along small secondary and/or agricultural roadways; however, a few, mainly in the south, are actually wide, separated cycle tracks running next to the roadway. These tend to be along village areas and their surroundings. Once back into the countryside they return to the roadway. The routes are not only are well marked, but there are cyclist friendly facilities and repair resources conveniently placed along the way which often include a few interpretive signs and maps as well. On the few instances when we came upon a section of the cycle route/roadway that was under construction there were accurate and up to date detour markings for motorists as well as cyclists. Even in the mountains when a tunnel was bored through a mountain there were separate cycling tunnels parallel to the roadways. Not once did we find ourselves without direction and even several times we veered from our long distance routes to the more local routes through a nearby village just for the fun of it.

2. Charming Towns, quaint villages and bucolic mountain scenery.

bicycle touring picnic in austria on the ennsradweg

We stopped at this field for a picnic and to enjoy the view of the Alps

When most folks think of Austria the first images that come to mind are towering peaks, expansive fields brimming with wildflowers, herds of bell-laden cows happily grazing green hillsides, charming folksy buildings placed in neat and tidy villages and crystal clear mountain streams. Not that we would ever perpetuate stereotypes, but Austria, at least rural Austria, really does look like this. It’s beautiful. As we cycled through the interior of Austria we stopped over and over to remark on the unbridled beauty of this place. Almost no place else have we seen such natural beauty surrounded by neatly cared for towns and villages.

3. Wonderfully friendly people.

hans the accordion playing waiter

Need I say more? Like most rural folks, the people of the Austrian countryside are friendly helpful people almost to a fault. Don’t mistake the lack of the immediate smile, like you’d see in the USA, for unfriendliness. They are reserved, salt of the Earth kind of folks. Willing to help or offer guidance even when approached in our child-like German-Dutch-English hybrid speak. Without fail we have been met with gentle, slowly spoken replies or politely asked,” Do you speak English…?” Phew, “Yes, we DO speak English…”

4. Great Camping and Lodging.

In almost every town or village there is a Gasthaus or Gasthof, most of the rural areas have camping sites and all are well documented on almost any map you can find. The camping sites ( campingplatz) have all had hot showers (whoopee!), and laundry facilities and a few even have had internet access for a fee. The Gasthaus is thing of beauty: Good food and neat, tidy rooms and most are cycling friendly, at least the ones along the Cycle Routes. Not once did we have someone look at us crossways when we asked where we could park our bikes. Many Gasthauser even have bike facilities or provide a nearby garage to store bikes overnight.

5. It’s NOT as mountainous as you think.

bike touring; cycling; cycle touring; bike camping; steiermark austria; two wheel travel

Ok, let’s get this straight: Yes, Austria is a mountainous country. Although the Cycle Route network would lull you into thinking that it’s not really all that mountainous. Don’t worry there are mountains, and you get to see plenty of them, and you do “get to” climb over quite a few of them. There are also wide and long rivers with great roadways and cycle routes running just next to them. Mostly the longer more popular Cycle Routes, like the R7 and R2 routes run along the bigger rivers and through the valleys. Taking you next to and around, but not over the mountains. In approximately 400km cycling around Austria we have come to exactly 2 monster climbs. The rest have been rolling and some sustained climbs here and there, but nothing unbelievable. If we can do it, anyone can…

About Tyler Robertson

Passionate about bicycling, photography and great tacos, Tyler is always happiest when in the saddle. Now living in and exploring Eastern Europe by bicycle, he often spends time analyzing how bicycles can change the face of travel and the economic landscape while planning his schedule around bicycle trips (instead of the other way around). If you would like an opinion or contribution on any of the above, please connect on Google + or contact Tyler .

8 comments

  1. Great story. I love Austria. Also added you to my blogroll.

  2. Hi there, I love reading your posts, so I can see what (where!) you are up to! Back to the desk tomorrow, thinking of you both cycling free in Austria. It looks beautiful and like great fun. Keep the posts coming!
    xx Joanna

    • Internet has been so scarce on this trip!! We made it to Dubrovnik and have a few days to rest before flying back to Wawa!! See you the following week!!

  3. I spent a week travelling through Austria by rail.. it’s an amazing, beautiful country. Would very much like to go back and spend a month cycling there.

    • Hi Velophile, I agree Austria is BEAUTIFUL.
      Although I always say this about everyplace we’ve toured: I loved our time there and can’t wait to return. Currently I’m editing our Summer trip journals including some links to trip planning resources, which are plentiful in Austria, so keep an eye out for them soon. Until then if you have any questions about routing, terrain et al for Austria let me know. I’d be happy to answer them the best I can. 🙂 Thanks for commenting.

  4. hey there! came across this great post as my husband and I are google-searching our hearts out, planning for a september trip to austria to cycle our hearts out! he wants alp climbing, i want bucolic valleys and villages. we’ll find a compromise eventually, but i would love to hear more specifics about the routes you took. there seem to be many, though some seem possibly crowded? any suggestions?

    • Hi Sara,
      You two have picked a great destination– Austria is a super place for cycle touring! While we haven’t covered all of Austria (not yet, at least), we do highly recommend riding through Steiermark. The best part is from Steyr to just past Au Bei Turnau. The real high Alps will be near Innsbruck in the west, but there are definitely some big climbs and spectacular mountains– as well as some easier riding along the rivers and valleys. It could be a great compromise. We especially loved the mountain village of Wildalpen. For more details, see our trip journals here-– We are also putting together a wish list of 1-2 week cycle routes in Europe and have some great ideas for Austria. Stay tuned!!

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