From mountain bikes to road bikes – cycling in Alta Badia

From mountain bikes to road bikes – cycling in Alta Badia

Road bikes take you FAST to your ending point, whizzing up (if you have the stamina) and down roads.

They are distinguished by two basic handlebars: drop-bar handlebars, lightweight and aerodynamic, which are your best bet if you want to go fast, and flat-bar handlebars. The latter combine the efficiency of drop-bar road bikes with a slightly more upright riding position. This means less strain on your back, hands, wrists and shoulders; they are, however, less efficient from an aerodynamic point of view.

As for road bike types, they are as follows:

Sportive: designed for long distances, comfort and pleasure, and intended for those getting into the sport or want leisurely rides. They features a more relaxed head angle which puts you in a more comfortable position, so you are not as low down on the front. The frame is less stiff, i.e. more relaxing, although this reduces performance because the power transfer between the pedal stroke and the frame is reduced.

Racing: these bikes are more performance-focused than sportive bikes.

Their head angle is lower, which makes for an aerodynamic position and an increased performance. Their frame is stiffer and have a higher gearing ratio.

Triathlon: performance is their credo, but they are conceived for sprinting and speed, therefore shorter distances.  They have straight, low handlebars, aero frames with shaped tubing, they are stiffer and have a high gear ratio.

Touring: similar to “sportive” bikes, focusing on comfort, they are superb for long distances, especially if a lot of luggage is required.  They feature focused frame geometries, tougher frames, more fittings (mudguards, panniers and so on), they have wider tyres and the gear ratio is not too sophisticated.

If you are in Alta Badia for a short holiday, you may cycle only in this marvellous region, but once back home, you may well consider buying your own bike. The information above will thus be useful.

What about clothing, though? What shall you wear?

Make sure you wear the appropriate clothing: padded shorts/trousers do feel funny at the beginning, but they will act like a Godsend. There are many models in various colours, just choose the one you feel most comfortable with.

When the weather is hot and dry, jersey clothing is your best choice. Lightweight, technical fabrics are designed to wick sweat away from your skin as you perspire in the heat. Although a base layer may not be the first thing that springs to mind on a blazing day, it’s often this first layer that you put on that is the most effective at drawing the moisture away from your body to keep you dry and comfortable. Check that their pockets are strong enough and also pay some thought on their UV rating.

If you get caught by the rain, a waterproof jacket will do, as will do waterproof gloves (unless you plan to ride the Giro d’Italia, that is!)

If it’s windy, a good gilet or vest will save your day: this is a most effective piece of clothing that no cyclist should be without.  Wind proof materials, such as Gore, will prove vital, too. Make sure you protect your hands and feet.  If it gets really cold, making sure the upper part of your body stays warm may prove tricky, as it’s the one you use less. A good base layer is the golden rule (as is for any other season!). if you use a thicker one, this will transfer sweat to your mid layer and on to your outer layer

Last but NOT least, you should wear a helmet. This goes without saying, of course, for the tarmac is hard indeed and you will not want to come face to face with it. Choose bright, pale colours, as a black helmet will cook your head in the height of summer!

Sunglasses – ideally with lighter lenses – are also perfect, as they will protect you from the wind and sun, and clearly protect your eyes.

Mountain bikes differ in that their tyres will allow you to go to most places – and go down them – since road bike tyres are simply not conceived to go on bridleways or stony paths.  Mountain bikes are seeing a real surge these days, and Alta Badia does offer a series of superb paths. Check here ( for more info.  You will want to wear a helmet, good gloves and glasses. Your clothes will feel more loose as opposed to road biking, but they’ll still need to have some UV protection, be sturdy enough, and the same base-layer + middle layer + outer layer rule will apply.

Do not spend too much money at the beginning, unless you are sure that you’ll be riding for hours and hours. You will learn what you’ll need as time goes by.

If you are going to rent a bike during your stay, then choose a comfortable one. If you intend to buy one, though, you should know a few simple basics on mountain bike models.

1 Rigid: A rigid bike has no suspension. This saves weight, cuts down on maintenance and means there is less to think about when you are learning to ride off-road. But on rocky or rooty tracks your comfort and control will suffer. A rigid bike is always preferable to a bike with poor suspension, so they're a good buy if you can only afford a couple of hundred quid/dollars.

2 Hardtail: As the name suggests, this is a bike with a hard – ie. un-suspended – back end and a suspension fork at the front. This type of bike helps you tackle more technical terrain. They're heavier than similarly priced rigid bikes, but cheaper, lighter and have better handling than entry-level full-suspension bikes. For a new bike with a decent budget fork you should be looking at paying upwards of £400.

3 Full-suspension: Full-suspension bikes have suspension at both the front and rear, which improves comfort and helps you ride more technical terrain. The downside is increased cost – it's difficult to find a decent new bike for under £800, except in the sales – and weight, plus more moving parts to break or wear out.

All this being said, you can now go and pedal along marvelous mountain roads and passes. You can rent a bike  - ask your local tourist office  - and make sure you check the weather before you venture out.

Do not forget water and some food – even a snack will do – and also bring a camera with you. The stunning scenery is waiting for you, so go ahead and explore! 

Appointments to keep an eye on:

 - The Giro d’Italia in Alta Badia: the Giro will reach Corvara on 21 May 2016

More info

 - Sellaronda Bike Day on 19  June 2016

More info

- Maratona dles Dolomites – Dolomite road bike marathon on 3 July 2016