Innsbruck has a new mission: Tirol’s capital will transform itself into the next big destination for bikers over the next few years. The successful bid for the 2018 Road World Championships was the driving force for Innsbruck to further develop in the field of road biking. At the same time, the network of mountain biking trails in the bustling, self-styled Bike City Innsbruck is rising, with the potential to become the next Alpine hotspot of mountain biking. We went on the mission to check the Bike City Innsbruck out.
The Bike City Innsbruck was formed in 2016 with the aim of actively encouraging cyclists and mountain bikers to the greater Innsbruck area. The “Bike City” includes Innsbruck and its Holiday Resorts as well as nearby areas. It’s an alliance that riders of roads and mountain bike trails in and around Innsbruck applaud vigorously. Undisputed highlight so far has been Crankworx, gravity-mountain biking’s biggest festival, which has been coming to the Innsbruck Bike Park at Muttereralm for the first time last year in June. If you missed it, the tracks they used remain in place for the rest of the season. And Crankworx will return to the Innsbruck Bike City in 2018! René and I went there for a sneak peak of the downhill tracks.
It’s Easy To Get To
Located at the heart of Central Europe, Tirol’s capital is one of the world’s most accessible destinations. An efficient road network makes Innsbruck an easy holiday destination. Flying into Innsbruck is an experience in itself, with the airport nestled deep inside the valley, mountains rising on either side. Plus, Innsbruck is a public transport wonderland. There are buses with bike racks on the back, trams on which bikes are permitted, funiculars, bike lanes, and train station with trains heading to almost every conceivable corner of Europe. The surrounding area is easily accessible by bike too, with lots of recommended routes, making Innsbruck the perfect launch pad to explore the amazing singletrack trails of the Bike City.
Trails: Something for Everyone
Bike City Innsbruck is an alliance of four trail areas: Innsbruck’s Nordkette Mountain, the Innsbruck Bike Park in Mutters and Götzens, the Tirol Bike Park in Steinach am Brenner and the trails at Elferbahn Gondola in Stubai Valley’s Neustift. We decide to attempt this circle of trails from inside to outside, starting with the sweet singletrack close to downtown Innsbruck. Iconic Nordkette Range has been the epicenter of two wheeled exploration around the Tirol high country for many years. Cross country and singletrack trails can be found here in abundance, yet the mighty mountain massif offers only three downhill trails, infamous and ultra-technical Nordkette Singletrack Trail, brand-new Arzler Alm Trail and short and amazing Hungerburg Trail.
Arzler Alm Trail: Epic Singletrack Riding for All Mountain Bikers
Equipped with 140mm to 160 mm of perfectly tuned suspension enduro and all-mountain bikes we meet at the Innsbruck Nordkette Funicular station Löwenhaus. As our legs are full of energy we decide to ride up to the trailhead of Arzler Alm Trail, mastering 500 vertical meters. A more convenient way of getting there is riding Hungerburgbahn Funicular up or taking IVB-Bus (Line J) to the district of Hungerburg. From the car park at the base of Nordkettenbahn Gondola, follow the waymarked mountain bike route toward Arzler Alm. You will reach the well-signed trailhead within a 20-minute ride. The final push to the start includes a nasty 200 vertical meters, which can be quite a challenge with a heavy downhill bike.
We start our downhill adventure with a stop at Arzler Alm Alpine Pasture Hut, which gave the trail its name and sits about 300 meters west of the trailhead. Readily accessible, this quaint hut affords stunning views of Innsbruck and is very popular among hikers and bikers. Having enjoyed some delicious cake a la granny, we pedal back to the trailhead. Now it’s time to let off those brakes. The trail starts off with a flowy section with banked berms and some smaller jumps and drops. The jumps are optional so novices are not forced to ride a feature, although they should keep their eyes peeled as some of the signage is not the most obvious – and look out for those surprise gap jumps. After crossing a forest road, tight, handmade singletrack trail with berms, rollers, jumps and a few jump line alternatives for more experienced riders awaits. Further down, the trail eventually merges with the Hungerburg Trail for the last section with more jumps and line options.
After some 400 vertical meters and three kilometers of pure downhill fun, the trail delivers us at the new forest road that links Mühlau to Hungerburg. Riding down left us grinning from ear to ear—this has to be one of the best trails in the area for fun factor. Back down in town, we clean our dirty bikes at the new bike wash facilities next to Löwenhaus Funicular Station. From there, it’s easy riverside pedaling to the Funicular Station at Innsbruck Congress. Next on our list is Hungerburg Trail.
Hungerburg Trail: Brevity is the Soul of Wit
Nordkette Funicular conveniently whisks us up to Hungerburg. At the top, we take some time to soak in the views of Innsbruck below and Patscherkofel Mountain on the other side. Café Hitt & Söhne is located right next to the top of the funicular and the sunny outdoor patio is the perfect place to relax and chill-out. We ride our bicycles to the right toward the car park of Nordkette Gondola base, and turn right into the forest shortly after. Some five minutes later, we reach the well-signed trailhead of Hungerburg Trail. Once it was the only alternative to riding its ‘big brother’, Nordkette Singletrack Trail. With the building of the Arzler Alm Trail, Hungerburg Trail was ‘remodeled’ and has some new lines now.
We ride down through forest for about 100 vertical meters. This is a challenging but great fun trail with a real emphasis on fun. It holds many real treats with some fast flowing singletrack, wooded trails through dense forest, and some exhilarating stretches with great man-made features and jumps for those who like to take to the air. 500 meters down the hill, the trail merges with the Arzler Alm Trail for the last section with more jumps and line options. The downhill course finishes back in the city, with some steep sections and flowing turns to tackle on the way down. We opt to take the Hungerburgbahn Funicular up for another run. Up there, we are spoilt for choice: Nordkette Singletrack Trail or Arzler Alm Trail? We cannot resist to ride the flowy, swoopy fun trail once again.
Nordkette Singletrack: ‘The Beast’
Truth be told, the Nordkette Singletrack Trail is a real Marmite trail – steep techy, switchbacky and taking nearly ten minutes for the fastest pros to complete, it’s not your usual bike park run. Of course, we have been there and done that, so this time we view ‘The Beast’ from a distance. Dropping 1,030 meters into the valley, this expert trail has almost 36-degree angles at times. It’s fast with tricky tight bends, rock drops and rooty turns and is stacked full of drops and huge flowing berms. It’s well worth testing yourself against though as we reckon it’s one of Europe’s most technical trails. It’s rough singletrack and will really test your stamina and technical ability to the full. Is it fun? You decide. One thing is for sure, you will have much more fun here on a full-suspension rig. Innsbruck is a town where urban meets outdoors, it’s where Zaha Hadid’s space-age Nordkette Funicular and Seegrubenbahn Gondola speed you from the town center to the top of Seegrube at an elevation of 1,905 meters in a few minutes. The trailhead of Nordkette Singletrack Trail is some 200 meters below the gondola’s top terminal and can be seen from afar.
You’ll have to tackle a selection of steep curves, rock jumps and rooty turns right from its very beginning. The Nordkette singletrack is known for its radically steep downhill slope and its other distinctive features of being technical and strenuous. The gnarly trail doesn’t only demand technical abilities and endurance, but also courage and therefore only should see the most experienced riders. Famous, notorious and not appropriate for everyone, it’s a long ride with lots of banked corners, loose earth, root sections and rock jumps. Fortunately, the trail crosses the forest road every now and then, which means there are ‘easy’ ways out. Each year in early autumn, the world’s best downhillers compete for their chance at glory here, proving again that Nordkette is rightly considered one of the most difficult downhill trails in Europe. A few years ago, the race course has been made a little bit less spicy to a bit more moderate version, with “only” half of the former distance to tackle; after many hours of working the circuit the consensus was a more rounded trail. However, the trail down from “Fleischbank” is still very demanding of the riders and their equipment. This event is not for the faint-hearted and calls for nerves of steel—it’s one of the most talked about of the year by both, competitors and spectators. Don’t miss it!
The Innsbruck Bike Park: Venue of Crankworx 2017
On the other side of town, above the village of Mutters and the base of Muttereralm Gondola, the Innsbruck Bike Park has been created since 2016. In the afternoon, we get there to check it out. A visit on the Bike Park’s Website tells us that four trails and the “Kids Park” practice terrain are open for the time being. The network of trails is going to rise within the next years to make the Innsbruck Bike Park become Austria’s hotspot of mountain biking.
All Crankworx event locations like the slopestyle and even the excellent pumptrack right next to the base can still be used throughout the season. Unlike some of the giant jumps that are closed for the public, the Crankworx pump track is there for all to play on. We park our car on the car park at the base of Muttereralmbahn Gondola. We want to explore the trails “The First One” and “The Chainless One” aswell as “The Rough One” downhill course.
Equipped with enduro bikes we head for the gondola. Mountain bikers share this gondola with all other outdoor enthusiasts and Mountain Cars, and get a ride on every gondola with a bike label. Thus, it can take a little longer to get into the gondola with your bike at times. Past the mid-mountain terminal, our bikes and we are carried up to the top of Muttereralmbahn Gondola. Back and forth under the gondola and in and out of the trees, we can spot the trail “The First One”. From the top, it’s a bit tricky to figure out where to go as there is a lack of signage. Later, we find out that they are already working on it. Up at the top are the Muttereralm On-Mountain Restaurant and the “Kids Park” practice terrain. This is where you can take to the air with ease and practice those jumps before hitting the trails. The three lines are short but they are magnificent for practicing.
“The First One” and “The Chainless One” at Innsbruck Bike Park: The Playground for First Timers
The trail “The First One” was the first course built at Muttereralm. It is gentler than the Nordkette – gone are the big rocks, instead replaced by loam, roots, and Alpine meadow sections. It drops down 350 vertical meters through forest with a perfect blend of berms and jumps. The trail has been designed to flow, with less gradient it is perfect for both, experienced downhillers and for that first foray into downhill. The trailhead, which is marked with a Bike Park-Beach-Flag, is located between the gondola top and the on-mountain restaurant. Our highlights in the upper section are the two wall-rides and the short ride with roots to negotiate and challenges around every corner. Lower sections run through a wonderful forest and are swoopy and less steep, with plenty of bends, rooty turns and rock drops. Plenty of fun to be had.
From the mid-terminal, “The First One” merges onto the new trail named “The Chainless One”, which was opened in 2018. In the mountain bike world, this new trail is mentioned in stoked tones. What inspires such reverence? Well, “The Chainless One” was designed by Tom “Pro” Prochazka, who cut some of Whistler’s legendary trails. His ability to see lines and work with natural features of land made him a legend in the biking world—and “The Chainless One” has truly been coming into its own as the new signature trail of the Innsbruck Bike Park within a few weeks only. Snaking down its way to the base with 180 bends, the trail is tight, twisty and bermy and packs plenty of thrills, jumps and man-made features. It’s a flowing descent designed to keep speed high and fun level at maximum. As you don’t always have to take the big air option, “The Chainless One” is the perfect proving ground for everyone from novice to pro.
“The Rough One”: The Crankworx Downhill Course
Further down the hill in Götzens is the “The Rough One”, used as the Crankworx Downhill trail in June 2017. This is a huge helping of fun, despite that some last trail building efforts were taking place during our visit.
From Götzens, ride Nockspitzbahn Gondola to its mid-mountain terminal. The start platform can be seen from afar. You can also access “The Rough One” from the top of Muttereralmbahn Gondola. Up there, follow signage and take the forest road to the right, which will take you to the lower section of “The Wild One” that merges into this rollable steep trail with a great level of challenge: 420 vertical meters of winding singletrack trail including a good variety of terrain and a combination of natural and man-made technical features. It’s rooty and loamy and challenging in the upper section. In the middle, it’s a winding route with narrow zips through the forest.
The lower section is fast and boasts intense downhills through meadows and sparse forest with plenty of roots, rocks and wooden features. A huge wooden ramp ensures real air on your bike, however, you can ride around it if you’re not comfortable. The final section swoops down to the gondola base over the ski run in wide open switchbacks and lots of off-camber trail to keep you on your toes.
“The Wild One”: Big-Air-Time
Unfortunately, there is not enough time left to explore “The Wild One” this time. Yet, you know what they say: a pleasure delayed is a pleasure enhanced. The course, which opened in the summer of 2016, has its trailhead at the top of Nockspitzbahn Gondola and leads into “The Rough One” at its mid-mountain terminal. Dropping down some 500 vertical meters, the swooping berms of “The Wild One” head through Alpine meadows, with plenty of jumps and tables. The fun factor is high on the jump line in its lower section with plenty of opportunities to catch air. The lower reaches of trail are loose pack, allowing for a lot of ‘float’ through here with a healthy layer of leaves and needles. The forest is perhaps the most beautiful with tall trees and small pockets of meadows. The grins really start at the mid-mountain terminal, where the 2.5 kilometer long downhill course with jump line begins. Built to show off jumping skills, it has amazing table top jumps and gap jumps. However, all features are rollable so bike park newbies are probably going to want to hit it twice or three times if possible to become comfortable with man-made features.
The Bike City Innsbruck: Four Trail Areas
Thanks to the Bike City Card, four trail areas (including unlimited lift use and bike transport) in and around Innsbruck are accessible with just the one ticket. Two trails can be tackled at Elfer Mountain in Stubai Valley since August 2017. The EinsEinser Trail is a gravity experience that throws everything at you. It’s steep, rooty and winding. Departing from the top terminal, the 4-kilometer-long ride is very technical featuring tricky tight bends through dense forest. On my ride down, I deeply regretted that I had opted for an all-mountain bike. This gem of a trail is best ridden with a fully-suspended rig and an extra dose of endurance.
“ZweiZweier Trail is the smoother one of the two,” a trail builder tells us in the forest. Stacked full of steep bends, drops, gaps and jumps, it is just technical enough to require solid attention to line choice, but just straightforward enough to pin through the forest on solid tread.
Another member in the Bike City Innsbruck alliance is the Tirol Bike Park in Steinach, Wipptal Valley. It was the first bike park to open in western Austria in 2012. It boasts two spectacular gravel downhills (rated red and blue) with trails to suit a wide variety of tastes and abilities. Both downhills start at the top of Bergeralmbahn Gondola and end in the Slopestyle Area that features a variety of table jumps, jump boxes, wall rides and drop offs. Step-up jumps, tables, Northshores and more challenges are sure to give you your adrenalin fix for the day.
The Bike City Card: One Ticket, All the Fun
Mountain bikers and downhill riders wanting to use the gondolas or funicular up to the trails are able to enjoy even more fun in the Bike City Innsbruck since the summer of 2017: The Bike City Card gives access to all the uplifts to all of the four trail areas in and around Innsbruck. A single day ticket costs Euro 36 and lets holders visit multiple trail areas on the same day. Given all that is on offer, you could easily call this moderately priced, though.
There are exclusive special conditions for the validity period of the Bike City Card: multi-day tickets are available for two to five days and can be activated until up to seven days starting from the date of purchase. Changing between individual trail areas on the same day is not a problem – this allows for making the most of the time on and one’s enjoyment of the trails in and around Innsbruck! Truth be told, you will not be able to ride all four areas on one day.
Events & Specials
Hard to beat! Crankworx took in the new venue of the Innsbruck Bike Park in June 2017 and 2018. And this is only just the beginning as mountain biking’s defining celebration will also roll across Tirol to take on the mountains of Innsbruck hopefully again in the summer of 2019. However, it’s not only the big events that count. Thanks to the Innsbruck MTB Downhill and Freeride Association, which was founded in 2016, there’s a whole lot going on here.
To let kids and young adults experience the thrill of downhill mountain biking in a supervised and controlled environment has always been a matter of heart for association founder Sabine Oswald. Yet there was nothing comparable available in all of Austria. Thus, the passionate downhiller founded an association that above all strives to grow the downhill biking skills of next generation bikers. Under the guidance of professional coaches, the weekly Kids & Teens Camps focus on developing the bike skills necessary to tackle the terrain and the trails of Bike City Innsbruck. Another event organized by the Innsbruck MTB Downhill and Freeride Association is the annual Downhill Cup Innsbruck, which has evolved into a 3-event series at Nordkette and Innsbruck Bike Park. Their summer bike camps for kids and teens on Muttereralm and their Bike & Yoga for Girls only programs keep the excitement levels high for truly unforgettable adventures. Plus, the association organized this year’s highly successful Kidsworx event within the Crankworx Festival.
Tailor-Made Infrastructure & Service
Innsbruck, being the capital of the Austrian Tirol, is a thriving town throughout the entire year and one of Europe’s most popular destinations. It’s a central hub for food, nightlife and cultural attractions and events, so there’s plenty to do and see when you’re not out exploring the trails on two wheels. Worth a special mention are the many places across Innsbruck which are doing that bit more to cater for cyclists including providing secure lock up, washing facilities and tools and spares for a bit of bike fettling: Staying with a Bike-Friendly Accommodation will give cyclists the confidence that they are booking quality lodging that meets their particular needs. Those places boast features like bike storage, washing facilities, maps, guides and expert advice on where to go, as well as a menu suitable for keeping your energy levels high. Plus, there are Bike Shops in the city, where there are hire bikes of every persuasion, and workshops where you can either fix your own bike or leave it to be fettled while you see some sights. Guiding can also be arranged there.
The Bottom Line
Innsbruck is going through a time of reinvention. It seems they have been realising the economic boost mountain biking can bring to the summer months. The Bike City Innsbruck was formed in 2016 with the aim of actively encouraging cyclists and mountain bikers to the greater Innsbruck area. In the future Innsbruck will establish itself even more clearly as a biking city. The Arzler Alm Trail is a testament to how serious stakeholders are about investment into this area, it has been superbly modelled in a fantastic part of the forest to create an excellent new trail.
“The First One” and “The Chainless One” at the Innsbruck Bike Park can be ridden hard and fast by advanced riders like me, or more gently by beginners, such as my 6-year old son, making it a great investment with broad appeal. And it will even get better with the opening of the new Flow Trail that links the top with the base. The “The Rough One”, used as the Crankworx Downhill trail, is a huge helping of fun for the diehard downhillers.
Whether you’ve ridden everywhere or nowhere, the alliance of four trail areas has something for you. Expert or complete beginner? The Innsbruck Bike City has trails for all abilities, in all styles from sweet flowing singletrack to monster berms and jumps. There are switchbacks to negotiate, rock gardens to ride, and rock slopes to descend. Whether you are looking for fast and flowy descents or big mountain epics, the ride options in and around the Capital of the Alps are unmatched in their variety and accessibility. Ride them all and decide which is your favourite. Be prepared for thrilling rides!