The Ferocious Figure of Eight
“Gravel bike” is no longer an unknown term among cyclists but it is still met with questioning looks among amateurs, “What sort of bikes?” Yup, this was the same for us at first but when we noticed that some of our bike tours were being listed on various sites as being among the best gravel tours in the province of Salzburg, we decided to take a look at this topic. And so it came about that we asked Max and his friend Christoph – two proven experts from neighbouring Bavaria – to check out the Salzburger Saalachtal for its “gravel suitability”. Have a read for yourself:
We cross the same bridge at Reith and begin the really tough ascent to Mayrberg. It's not enough that the gradient reaches 21 %, no, the yellow orb is incessantly blazing down on our heads. My companion has long since left me and sportily begun the ascent while I fight through the gravel, turn by turn, on the edge between falling off and another turn of the pedals. It occurs to me that a better name for the tour would be “The Ferocious Figure of Eight” but at some point I master it and I meet my partner again, waiting for me on the Mayrberg, who proudly announces that he rode up in 6 minutes and has achieved third place on the Strava rankings. Gasping for breath, I find it difficult to get excited about it but I have more enthusiasm for cooling off in a nearby stream.
As we still have a few metres of altitude to conquer we continue pedalling diligently until we leave the trail towards Hundalm and the view towards Weißbach opens up. With the winding descent in front of us we let rip over gravel and then tarmac. During a short break I ask whether it wouldn't be better to do this tour the other way and ride from Weißbach towards Reith. After a bit of discussion we agree that although the ascent would be nicer, the descent with the gravel bikes would be really tricky. At the end we are sure that both are possible and it depends on whether you prefer a more relaxed ride uphill and greater difficulties downhill or the other way round.
Once we have all of our metres of altitude behind us, we wind our way back to Lofer, very tired (well, I am at least). Here there is a well-deserved shandy waiting for us and the knowledge that the same wheels are not always as fast as each other.
The Ferocious Figure of Eight – 55.4 km, 1360 metres of altitude, suitable for mountain bikes or gravel bikes
If the route is too steep or too long, I recommend the following alternatives:
- The Ferocious Figure of Eight without the second ascent from Reith – this shortens the route to around 39 km and a little more than 600 metres of altitude.
- Or the idyllic circuit via Unken to the Schwarzbergklamm and then up to the