Five Days in the Hills of Austria on a Bike with the Famous Sixers


They decided to go on a bicycle vacation this year. They refer to the mom and her little girl.

“It will be different from our typical beach lounging” (a notion inspired by the sports-obsessed boyfriend of the daughter).

‘They’ mentioned you cycled before, so you should be able to make the necessary arrangements. Get away from it all for a week, preferably somewhere warm and sunny. Our physical fitness will benefit from cycling. But since we haven’t ridden bikes in years, it should be downhill, right?

Charming. I’d better go to work if I’m going to fulfill such lofty requests.

That meant I, the mug, had to get to work.

We were fortunate enough to have two English cyclist friends living in Vienna, and after a few phone calls and some online study, we settled on a location. The only option was Austria.

Austria deserves its reputation as a hilly country. I only needed to convince the ladies that this was a good plan.

From my previous bike adventure, I was aware of the relatively flat regions to the southeast in Burgenland, which borders Hungary. I thrive on difficulty.

It’s also possible that you didn’t realize that Austria is one of Europe’s most bike-friendly (radfreundlich) countries. Recreational activities abound, from golf and horseback riding to water and mountain sports, as if snow sports like skiing and snowboarding weren’t enough.

The National and Regional Tourist Information Centers I visited were easily accessible online. The majority of these sites also include an option to switch to English. It turns out that Austria has dozens of shorter one-day circular routes, all of which are signposted, and maps of each are accessible from tourist offices, in addition to roughly 20 long-distance routes. They also provide helpful details on where to rent bicycles, stay at hotels, and bed and breakfasts.

One particularly lengthy path appeared ideal for my needs. The Ennsradweg, or Enns Bike Path, is the name of this route. It begins in the Dachstein Mountains and travels to the Danube via Enns. I mentioned that it declines a kilometer throughout the 250km (150 miles) journey. (This is correct; however, I neglected to add that there would also be uphill!)

We looked up flights to Linz, a wonderful city with stunning antique architecture located a couple of train hours up the Danube from Vienna. Bob and Monika, our Viennese friends, decided to come along and meet us in Linz a few days later to travel with us.

Everything was planned out to a tee: flights, a bed and breakfast for the first two nights in Linz, a Bike Trailer Transfer for six people and their bikes into the Dachstein Mountains to their starting point in Radstatt, and even the weather looked promising.

The six of us on the bicycle squad were ready to start, ages 21 to 68.

…or were we? In just two days, everything went wrong!

The ‘Viennese pair’ issued dire weather warnings stating that our planned route had been flooded to a depth of several meters due to six days of the heavy wet stuff, resulting in closed highways and cycle routes unusable.

Due to an oversight on their part, the hotel informed us through email that our bookings had been canceled, and we couldn’t pick up our bikes from the tourist office until several days into our trip.

But it didn’t matter because we weren’t likely to arrive. All flights out of the United Kingdom were canceled or delayed due to heightened security measures in response to terrorist concerns.

Despite our last-minute worries, we got in Linz on schedule, reached our hotel, and bikes all out. Whew!

First Full Day of the Adventure

After spending the night in Kaspardorf, a picturesque mountain village in the Radstatt winter ski region, we picked up the trail alongside the river Enns, which was still a tiny trickle. Almost flat and with a tailwind, this is an ideal starting point for novice legs. A steady 30 kilometers to our first night’s lodging at a beautiful and welcoming working farm in the picturesque village of Weissenbach near Haus. Trout caught that day, pork chops, and Viennese Bob’s favorite dessert, milk ras sul faa, strudel, were on the menu for dinner. The brandy coffee didn’t put us to sleep, but we drank them.

After helping the grandmother herd the cows to an early pasture the following day, we earned the right to indulge in the farm’s milk and yogurt for breakfast. The breakfast buffet was beautiful, as was the standard fare of eggs, bacon, cereals, cheese, and toast.

The best is yet to come. Our direction is downward.

Irdning is still another 30 kilometers away on day 2.

Although this should be dubbed “Irdning on the Hill,” it gave us a downhill start the following day. They would have made it if Chris hadn’t gotten a flat after 2 kilometers. We could not get the valve out of the tire because the mechanic had improperly installed it, but the local bike shop helped us immediately. When we returned to Linz, they offered to reimburse us and sent us a specialty cake from Linz (called a “Linzertorte”) in the mail. The United Kingdom’s tourism sector, take note: that’s service!

On day three, travel 46 kilometers to Admont.

This hotel came as quite a shock. Winter sports and sightseeing in the summer and fall. We ate outside under the stars and spent the following day leisurely discovering the neighborhood. The Benedictine monastery that now stands on the site holds the world’s most extensive theological library and museums dedicated to art, sculpture, and natural history. We also took a tour of the abbey’s herb gardens, where plants were grown for their medicinal and curative properties, just as they had been centuries ago. Nameplates precisely detail each herb and its traditional applications.

The 61 kilometers to Weyer on day four.

The ‘Gesause’ were gigantic ravines that we had to bike across, but the day was worth it as we flew down stunning mountain routes surrounded by towering peaks. Ate at a mountainside café while watching school groups white-water raft the Enns River, which had grown so swift that it could no longer be termed a stream.

We stopped at a riverbank ‘locale’ on the outskirts of Weyer for some afternoon refreshment, and the landlord proudly displayed the high water marks from a week earlier, which were about four meters higher than the river’s current level. After learning of our plight, he insisted on taking one of our group members the three kilometers into town in his car so that they could assist in locating suitable lodging. Although Monika claimed she had the most excellent German, she only wanted to ride in the landlord’s BMW.

The private home that served as our “hotel” was built around 700 years ago and included a chapel. Each of us had our own fully furnished flat, and for what? Twenty euros each! That night, dinner was in a cozy spot adorned with vintage pictures and model versions of Volkswagens and Porsches. It turns out that the grandson of the original head designer for Ferdinand Porsche ran the restaurant.

The following morning, I rode into the gorgeous market center, where I purchased a pair of bicycle shoes for a quarter of what they would have cost in the UK. Outside of the winter months, Austria is quite affordable.

The 50 kilometers to Steyr on day five.

This was the most challenging trip day regarding elevation gain and loss, but I found the beautiful views and the fact that we now seemed to be finding our cycling legs to make up for it. (Even if my brand-new shoes were giving me blisters!) However, a few of the guests decided to stay home. They wanted to take it easy on the train for a day, so they went ahead and made hotel arrangements, explored the charming town of Weyr, and were now eagerly awaiting our arrival.

Taking three passengers and their bikes and luggage on the train for 50 kilometers would cost 48 Euros. Undoubtedly good.

Being a woodworker, the sight of a wood yard on the outskirts of a tiny town is one I will never forget. Millions of cubic meters of Larch, Oak, and other valuable timbers are stacked neatly, yet a fence or guard does not protect them. Where I buy my wood, this would only last approximately a day.

They were able to adjust, and they did. A converted row house in the historic mews architecture, located near the heart of town. We could safely leave our bikes outside in the open and unlocked all night. Bob had difficulty believing they would be safer there than Vienna, so he shackled and chained his bike to everything he could find. Some of the pieces probably likely spent the night on his pillow!

We indulged in a sumptuous supper on our final night in Vienna while toasting the tour’s success with a round or two of the local libations. The lodging was a success once more. Some of our clothes had been washed and pressed by the landlady, and they were handed to us at breakfast, folded and all. Free of cost!

The following day, on our last day of cycling, we descended to the Danube town of Enns. Now we were on a level plain with easy riding and nothing but farming for miles. We said our goodbyes at the train station, and Bob and Moni headed back to Vienna while we returned to Linz to hand in the bikes.

It became clear that Austria is a stunning and exciting destination. They have preserved the fortunate inheritance of mountainous natural beauty and rural pastureland and the history and architecture of the cities and villages we passed through. As a British designer and builder of outdoor and garden furniture, I was impressed by how they successfully incorporated some surprisingly modern furniture and art elements into otherwise well-preserved examples of typical medieval architecture.

We’re a group of six cyclists who had a fantastic time in Austria in 2006 and plan to return next year. What more could you want from a vacation when surrounded by magnificent landscapes, kind locals, delicious food, and good company?

The Austrian government does not pay us to say this; it’s a great spot to ride bikes.

P.S. I’ll have finished the ‘Drauradweg’ in southern Austria, which follows the river Drau from Sillian on the Italian border, and the ‘Greenways River Elbe’ trip from Dresden, Germany, to Prague, the Czech Republic, and Vienna, Austria, by the time you read this. Excited for retirement.

I would be pleased to help anyone interested in learning more about our trip or Austria. Woodcraft UK, where I work, is a leading manufacturer of premium hardwood outdoor furniture, and my website is

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