Photos and words by brand ambassador, Leslie Kehmeier
I was on a dream tour this summer, ticking long-awaited mountain bike destinations off my list. After the Czech Republic, I went back to my base in Austria and made plans for a weekend in Northern Italy and the famed Dolomites.
Nicknamed the “Pale Mountains”, the Dolomites are a stunning sub-range of the Alps, known for their whitish-colored peaks that rise jaggedly above rustic Tyrolean villages. As one of the unique landscapes found on the planet, the mountains are a special kind of limestone that make a very dramatic backdrop for trails. Tourists have been traveling to the region since the 1850s. Historically known for skiing, climbing, and hiking, mountain biking has also become a mainstay in more recent times.
I was first captivated by the Dolomites when I saw photos in a magazine almost two decades ago. I don’t recall the name of the article or where it was published, I just remember seeing mountain bikers as tiny specs below giant sheer cliffs. It looked beautiful and challenging, a scenario that has become my favorite kind of riding experience.
With thousands of kilometers of trails to pick from, visitors here can pedal for days on end. Unfortunately, I didn't have that kind of time - my dream ride would have to happen in a few hours.
After some internet research, I came across some good beta from fellow photographer Mattias Fredriksson, suggesting a route from the quintessential northern Italian town of Ortesei.
Situated at the western end of the Val Gardena Valley, the area boasts over 1,000 kilometers to explore. I set my sights on a route from the alpine village of Seceda, taking me on a singletrack sampler down to St Cristina and eventually looping back to Ortesei.
As many days in the Dolomites start on a lift, I followed suit by hauling my bike up through the cobblestone streets of town to the bottom of the Furnes lift station. From there it was a two-gondola-kind-of-day, switching partway through the ride from a two-person pod to a large cable car.
At the top, I felt the chill of higher elevations as I pushed my bike up to a ridge. My reward was a stunning view of craggy spires, also known as the Geisler group. The dream to ride in the Dolomites was happening and it was every bit as good as I had imagined.
It was hard to stay focused on the classic alpine singletrack with the views of the surrounding mountains cloaked by the clouds.I picked my way down to trail 2B, headed towards the Pieralongia and Resensburger Huts. The route took me through in and around the limestone rock formations the area is famous for. Now I was the tiny figure on the remarkable landscape that I had seen in the magazine photos years ago.
On the approach to Resensburger Hut, the narrow trail widened to welcomed me, along with my fellow bikers and hikers, for coffee and strudel. Like everywhere else in the Alps, no ride is complete without a proper snack stop. It seemed very appropriate for this occasion, an excellent way to celebrate another destination ticked off the list.