Mountain Biking in the Alps
Mountain biking is the ultimate way to combine a vacation abroad with a gratifying physical activity. The rider is intimately exposed to the people of the region and to its customs, beliefs, and culture. A network of huts spaced along the trails are places of temporary communal living for intimate strangers.
The practical benefits of alpine huts are obvious: The first is cost; the average price is around $15 dollars a night, and the accommodations are much more pleasant than camping. The huts also serve wonderful food at a reasonable cost, so cooking utensils and supplies do not need to be packed. An additional benefit is that the bedding is included (except for your own sleeping bag liner, which is required), so all that the traveler needs to bring are personal belongings.
The starting point of most trails is usually near a town and can be reached by train, but locating the cycling trails takes planning. (I recently found a web site, www.maps.com, that carries an English version of the Alps Region map by the company Reise Und Verkehrsverlad.) Other good Alps maps are produced by Michelin. I found mine at a local bookstore. Since the biking trails are shared with hikers, books such as the Sierra Clubs Adventuring in the Alps are useful.
If finding the network of trails is a concern, consider using a touring company. I booked my trip through AlpsTours, www.alpstours.de, based in Munich, Germany. The cost of the trip was under $600 for eight days, and that included all lodging and some meals. They provide a guide and make housing arrangements; the riders are responsible for everything else. Once the trek begins, there is no further assistance from the company. An American presence is rare (I was the only American that ever rode with Alps Tours).