Cycling Destinations | Part #230 Nov. -0001
TEKST / ASTER CHENG | FOTO'S / ASTER CHENG
There are so many beautiful cycling destinations, it’s difficult to name just a few. The world serves us, cyclists, well and you can take it all in at a comfortable pace. You really get to enjoy the area and can get to places where cars cannot. In part #2 of Cycling Destinations, we have chosen the Black Forest in Germany, the Cévennes in France and South Tyrol in Italy as areas to add to your to-bike list.
The Black Forest
In the south of Germany bordering France and Switzerland lies a mystic forest called the Black Forest or as they say in German, Schwarzwald. It’s 160 kilometers in length where the highest peak is that of the Feldberg with an elevation of 1,493 meters above sea level. The scenery changes as you move from north to south. Where the south is rougher with open plains and steep climbs and the midsection is characterized by dense forest and many “emergency” huts. These huts unfortunately are not to stay in. You need to be a member of an alpine club or pay a small fee to get the key but they are nonetheless nice locations to take a rest.
The Black Forest is greatly undervalued for cycling. It’s reachable via many different countries. There are many great tarmac main roads and back roads taking you to the most beautiful sections of the Black Forest. Some tarmac roads also lead to gravel roads that can be cycled with a road bike if you are comfortable with that. Otherwise, Komoot will help you build a route that’s tarmac only. You will ride through forest roads, open farmland, and small picturesque villages. A diverse yet familiar landscape, that will make you feel like you’ve been there before but combines many different areas into one.
When the Black Forest really gets interesting is when you take a gravel- or mountain bike and really dive into the forest. There is no internet reception so make sure you know where you are going. The terrain can get pretty rough and steep. Sometimes you find yourself in an overgrown vegetation path but if you look close, you can see the double track to follow. Like all offroad roads, other than in the Netherlands, you need to have some pretty good fitness and a tough mental state of mind because you will be challenged. However, you know that when you reach the top, a well-deserved Apfelschorle will be waiting for you.
The Feldberg is the highest peak in the Black Forest and can be climbed from various sides. If you take the road bike, you can either climb from Titisee or Todtnau where the lather is a little bit more difficult with an average steepness gradient of 5.4%, definitely doable. If you really want to test your fitness level, you can take the offroad climb where gradients go up to 16%.
The Cévennes is an area that’s often ignored by cyclists. It’s in an area in France that can easily be reached via Montpellier. It doesn’t have high mountains like in the Alps or the Pyrenees. But for someone who just started cycling and wants to try “easier” climbs or someone who wants to go to an area that is still relatively unknown by cyclists but extremely beautiful, it’s a must-visit! The highest peak is that of the Mont Lozère (1702m) and the Mont Aigoual (1567m) follows. The pro peloton in The Tour de France in 2020 climbed the Mont Aigoual. Next to that it’s also the famous climb from the book ‘The Rider’ by Tim Krabbé. The Cévennes are next to the Province region where the iconic Mont Ventoux is located. The Mont Ventoux can be spotted from many areas in the Cévennes and is always breathtaking to look at.
What makes the Cévennes so special is that it’s quite unknown and because of that the roads are quiet making you feel like you have the climbs and descends to yourself. It’s rich in geographical, natural, and cultural significance and therefore parts of the Cévennes are protected. Narrow winding roads taking you through gorges, valleys, plains, and lush green climbs. Small medieval villages that feel forgotten, ghostlike.
Along the routes, there are many nice small restaurants serving the most delicious French cuisine, and it’s not expensive. Halleluja for being cyclists!
South Tyrol is an area in the North of Italy bordering Switzerland and Austria. It’s tucked between the Italian Alps and the Dolomites Mountain range. It’s the sunniest area in the Alps with up to 300 sunny days per year. You will come across vineyards, lakes, glaciers, and a beautifully rugged landscape. It’s perfect for hiking and biking and we recommend taking your gravel bike or mountain bike to really enjoy what South Tyrol has to offer.
Traveling with your bike doesn’t come easy in South Tyrol. Steep and long offroad climbs is what you will face but it’s worth it. An occasional hike-a-bike simply because it’s too steep to climb. But once there, you will find yourself on old forgotten military gravel roads accompanied by spooky abandoned bunkers. You will not find a single soul, only a few goats, and cows that you will share the road with. You will look to the left and only see rolling hills as far as you can see. Low hanging clouds and the chilly air that add to the overall mood of the area. The rewarding meal and drink at the summit will only taste better having worked your b*tt off for it while you are looking at the neighboring mountain tops enjoying the view.
Next to the beautiful climbs and views, another great part about this area is that you can enjoy both Italian and Austrian cuisine. One day you can be eating a delicious pizza for dinner and the next day you have some Knödel for lunch. It keeps it interesting.
For South Tyrol, we recommend to carefully consider the front chainring(s) and cassette you are going to use. If you are bikepacking, 15 kgs are easily added to the weight of your bike making going uphill even tougher. But don’t be discouraged, your body (and mind) can handle more than you think.