DOWNHILL ON FAT TYRES

For a long time, bicycles and snow have gone together as badly as hot chocolate and sunsets. But since the arrival of the fat bike, you can go out on the mountain on two wheels even in winter – mostly downhill, though.

Is it an ultra-thin motorbike? A mountain bike with the tyres pumped too full of air? Is there perhaps a little electric motor hidden somewhere in there? The fat bikes Heinz Peer is unloading from his trailer this Monday morning take a bit of getting used to. They’ve been around for a couple of years already, but these bikes which you can ride over snow and mud have never really caught on with the cycling general public. Riding your bike in the winter, in particular on the mountain, is more of a specialist hobby.

One of these freaks is Heinz. Originally from Steier, he runs the Bike Academy in Ischgl with his wife, Renate. All summer long, they lead mountain bikers through the mountains of Paznaun, show them trails and paths, open their eyes to nature, and give them technical tips on getting quickly but safety back down into the valley.

a moment’s pedalling, slie a bit, brake once or twice to test your balance, and you’Re already feeling at home on the cumbersome thing.

Starting this season, they’re also open in the winter. Every Monday, when the Kappl cable car starts up early at eight, these curious-looking bits of sport kit are carried up the mountain next to the skis, with the help of a wooden bar. You have to give a good push to even get started – unless you can easily lift the 16 kilos that a bike like this weighs. But then it’s very stable on the snow. If you go uphill, you stand up, like in mountain biking. A moment’s pedalling, slide a bit, brake once or twice to test your balance, and you’re already feeling at home on the cumbersome thing.

once you’ve overcome your doubts and gained a bit of confidence, you’ll soon enjoy the ride over the snow

Every Monday now Heinz leads groups down the toboggan slide in Kappl, bend by bend, slide after slide. First cautiously, then faster and faster, with the pleasant side effect that the bike is easier to hold at higher speeds. Even beginners don’t break out into a sweat, either from sporting exertion or from nerves. Once you’ve overcome your doubts and gained a bit of confidence, you’ll soon enjoy the ride over the snow.

And so you should, too, because then the second part of the tour, on the hiking paths on the opposite side of the valley, goes pretty steeply uphill. For advanced fat bikers or experienced mountain bikers, it’s still easy. There are many more challenging tours on the programme for them. The Peers also put together individual programmes. And when the snow is grippy enough, the fat bikes can be ridden cross-country through the winter woods.