Author: Kathy Bechtel, Italiaoutdoors Food and Wine
The Dolomites offer superb biking in Europe
The magnificent Dolomite Mountains, a UNESCO world heritage site noted for breathtaking scenery, panoramic views, and spectacular peaks and gorges, is home to some of the most superb biking in Europe. Here you will find the perfect routes for all levels of cyclists, from renowned bike climbs that challenge the best riders during the Giro d’Italia, to picturesque easy cycle paths along the Sudtirol Strada di Vini (Wine Road). Combine the scenic terrain with a wonderful blend of Italian and Austrian/Germanic cultures; you begin to appreciate why it is a much sought-after destination for cyclists.
The Dolomites offer a range of cycling experiences in Northeastern Italy
The Dolomites are located in Northeastern Italy, in the region of Trentino-Alto Adige, just south of the Austrian border. While today part of Italy, the area was in fact part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire until the end of World War I. While Mussolini tried to “Italianize” this region, it remains very proud of its dual cultures, and you will see street signs and town names in both languages, and meet many residents who will greet you in German, or even in the local dialect, Ladin.
These mountains have proven themselves to be the ultimate challenge for expert cyclists, with many long and arduous passes featured on the Giro d’Italia. But for those of us who may not quite be ready for a long climb just yet, there are many flat routes to enjoy. The Adige River winds its way down through this region, and today the Sudtirol Strada di Vini (Wine Road) follows along, with a separate, parallel cycling path. This path is a more level ride, actually going downhill from Bolzano to Lake Garda, offering spectacular views of the adjacent mountains while we cycle down gradual terrain. This variety of terrain makes this region an ideal location for groups of mixed abilities, where more casual cyclists can enjoy a leisurely cycle through some of the most beautiful vineyards in Italy, while the ‘hammerheads’ can challenge themselves on a famed mountain pass, and all meet for cool-down loop and a post ride wine tasting.
A wide array of destinations is found in this region as well. Smaller, lively cities such as Bolzano and Trento offer many activities for our non-cycling hours, from delightful dining options, shopping, to museums and other cultural and historical venues. Other nights we may stop in a smaller town such as Tramin, a town centered around wine production, and home to the Gewurztraminer grape. Here, we can visit several wineries; learning and tasting their magnificent wines. Finally, we can end the week with a night or two in the city of Verona, noted for its historic architecture, an ancient Roman Arena and Juliet’s balcony, or over by Lago di Garda, the largest lake in Italy, surrounded by the noted wine regions of Bardolino and Valpolicella.
The climate here supports cycling a surprising number of months during the year. While some of the more northern mountain passes may only be accessible from June through September, there are many options and challenges in the southern Dolomites and Pre-Alps, where the climate is moderated by the nearby Adriatic Sea. As early as March, and as late as November, we find good cycling in this area. And the mountain climate here remains cool enough in the peak summer months of July and August to allow comfortable biking, when many southern regions are unpleasantly hot.
Getting to the Dolomites
There are several ways to travel to this region. The airports of Venice and Verona are easily reached from most major cities, and offer a very nice location for a pre- or post-tour visit. There are many train stations, both in Verona and Venice, as well as Bolzano, that will also bring you to the area and make convenient places to meet up with our tour. We are happy to offer our assistance to our guests in planning travel to and from, and any pre- or post-trip stops.
Italiaoutdoors Food and Wine Dolomites bike tours
Our specialty is the design of custom tours in the Dolomites for small private groups of 4 or more. Our custom tours are truly personalized adventures, not just a standard itinerary offered on the dates you wish. Our custom trips are private tours with a unique itinerary, created specifically to meet the fitness goals, desired terrain (or mix of terrain), varied interests and budget of your group. Rather than hire guides to lead your trip, owners Vernon and Kathy will personally be there to ensure it runs smoothly, and adapt if it does not.
Bike the Wine Roads of Trentino-Alto Adige
For individuals, we offer several unique scheduled tours in this area. Italiaoutdoors Bike the Wine Roads of Trentino-Alto Adige is a 10- or 8-day tour of the most picturesque wine regions in Italy. We begin in Bolzano, make our way south along the Sutirol Strada di Vini, visit Lago di Garda, and end in Verona. This tour offers flatter terrain along cycle paths and country roads, but we can provide a climb or two should a guest be interested in testing their abilities on more advance terrain.
Train Like A Local – Mid-Mountain tour
Our Train Like A Local – Mid-Mountain tour is a great introduction to climbing in this region. Here, we learn the techniques of climbing, challenging ourselves on the same routes the local race teams train on. This is a wonderful trip for travelers of mixed abilities, as we can base our explorations in some of the interesting small cities in the Veneto, providing many options for mixed groups of novice, expert, or even non-cyclists.
Insider Tour Of The Classic Climbs Of The Dolomites
Our Insider Tour of the Classics visits some of the legendary climbs of the Dolomites, such as Passo Giau and Tre Cima. We combine these classic routes with several local favorites, equally challenging climbs that are not well known outside of the Italian cycling community.
The Agony And The Ecstasy
For those looking for the ultimate challenge in the Dolomites, we offer our hardest tour, The Agony and the Ecstasy. On this tour, guests test their limits on the most difficult tours in the area; all rated over 200 in difficulty. After pushing our limits physically on climbs like Monte Zoncolan or Monte Grappa, we reward and restore ourselves, relaxing in comfortable mountainside accommodations, enjoy the local cuisine, and discovering a few of the local wines, unseen outside of the region.
Italiaoutdoors Food and Wine
Experts on bike tours in Dolomites and Northeastern Italy
We do not offer tours worldwide, or even Italy-wide; we focus our passion and energies on creating regional tours in the Dolomites and Northeastern Italy only. In this way, we ensure that our guests truly experience all aspects – the terrain, the rides, the food, the wine, culture – of this unique and spectacular area of Italy.
Italiaoutdoors expert in recreational programming, Vernon McClure, will personally design and lead the cycling on your tour. Vernon, an ex-Army Ranger, has lived in the area for over twenty years, creating and leading adventure tours first as head of Recreational Programming for the US Department of Defense, and then as an independent guide leading tours and performing staff training for several of the major multinational bike tour companies. They relied on Vernon to provide his unparalleled regional expertise, extensive program design and risk management training to their operations in this beautiful part of Italy. As a local guide, Vernon has extensive knowledge of the hundreds of climbs in this region. If you’ve cycled the Dolomites before, he can find new routes for you to conquer. Vernon has cycled, hiked and rock climbed in this area for over 2 decades, and is passionate about sharing his backyard with cyclists of all levels.
There is no better way to restore yourself after a challenging day in the saddle than to explore the amazing foods and wines of the region. Each day will bring us new specialties to try, and new wines to discover as we learn that each locale has it’s own cuisine that reflects it’s history, culture, and traditional producers. Joining Vernon in the program design on the culinary side is Kathy Bechtel of Italiaoutdoors Food and Wine, an avid biker and ski instructor, as well as a professionally trained chef, cooking instructor, and food blogger specializing in the unique cuisine and wines of the area. All our food, from breakfasts to fine dining each evening, even our roadside snacks, will introduce you to the best in the local fare; daily wine tastings will allow you to discover the wonderful native wines rarely found outside of the region.