What makes being a gravel grinder in Alta Badia at the heart of Dolomites so great ?
Alta Badia located in the heart of the Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage site is well-known for road cycling as it is surrounded by legendary passes which have made cycling history: like the Pordoi, the impressive Fedaia, the Giau with stiff switchbacks. Alta Badia has even named this area the ‘land of cycling’. When actually this place has more to offer on the gravel scene too.
The gravel scene is growing everywhere, even in Italy where last summer we found an unexpected easy access gravel road at high altitude and a great network of high alpine refuges.
What’s it like getting around Alta Badia on Gravel?
Alta Badia is a long valley with a wide range of gravel riding options for all levels, surrounded by national parks with high cathedrals of rocks and narrow valleys on each side.
At the bottom of the valley there’s an easy gravel path along the river which connects all villages from Corvara at the the top to La Villa at the bottom, the gravel path is very smooth and easy, but can get crowded with hikers during summer.
There are two main high-altitude plateaus between 1800 and 2100m elevation on the east side of the valley, the Störes plateau and the Armentera, where you find beautiful white dirt groad locally known as giarablancia (white road). They’re easy to ride and compact, reminiscent of the strade bianche of Tuscany. Usually the climb to the plateau starts on steep, Italian tarmac then makes the transition to groad and finally, gravel. Your efforts are rewarded with 360° views over the valleys and the national parks.
Finally, the third playground is the high mountains, the high peaks where a gravel bike gives you access to 2300m and above. These peaks are reached via singletrack or girablanca. One of the most popular is the 5 Torre, in the shadow of the Giau pass. The gravel is definitively more technical and sometimes requires carrying your bike or pushing it up steep gravel groad of 20% gradiant and above. The view are stunning and give this feeling of pro-solitude against a dramatic backdrop.
Can you share your favourite GPX. routes? [Just 3]
We've chosen these short-distance routes thanks to Klaus Isara, the local gravel enthousiast from the valley.
The Juel Gravel tour – for the peaceful Valley of Longiarù and the Juel Pass dirt track
Armentara Gravel tour – for the landscape that you'll see as you cross through the Armentara meadows and a 360° view above of all the valley
Störes Gravel Tour just above Corvara with long gravel panoramic groad
Cinque Torre Gravel Tour, the alpine gravel ride in the shadow of the legendary Giau pass
Is there anywhere you can rent a bike, or should travellers bring their own? What sort of bike is best to make the most of the local riding?
Alta Badia has one of biggest networks of bike-friendly accommodation and bike-shops, available at https://www.altabadia.org/en/summer-holidays/cycling/bike-friendly-accommodation-food.html
Also our recommendation is the Melodia Bosco Hotel, where the owner is extremely knowledgeable about gravel in the valley, Kaus Isara http://www.melodiadelbosco.it/en/ and where you can rent all kinds of bikes too.
Which is the best time of year to explore Alta Badia in the Dolomites?
Most cyclists come to Alta Badia between June and September. Those who truly know the region, however, also favour holidaying here from the end of May or up to mid-October. For these are the times when one can truly relax in Alta Badia. There is less traffic on the roads and one can fully enjoy the landscape and the natural beauty. On gravel, there are definitively fewer people on the groads and we recommend avoiding road cycling in peak summer (especially August) altogether.
The start of autumn is when the Dolomites present themselves in a magnificent light. The alpine pastures and forests take on atmospheric hues, nature rewards us with a unique interplay of light and shadow and in the evenings the rock formations glow in warm shades of red.
What advice would you give to someone looking to explore your area by gravel bike?
The Dolomites, like all mountains, experiences changeable weather conditions. So be ready for unpredictable weather with a light rain jacket and a light puffy vest for thermal insulation, plus the usual repair kit and food, which I like to store in apidura saddle bags. Personally, for rides under 4hrs I like to use the racing saddle pack 5l.
Most of the gravel is fairly rideable, so I recommend using tubeless tires up to 40mm width (like the Venture tire from WTB), or s45mm on front if you plan to ride above 2000m in a bit more technical terrain.
Words & Images: Le Cycliste Tricolore