Forget your preconceptions of Bavaria as the playground for lederhosen-clad, mug of beer-touting, Schnitzel-guzzling farmers. We set ex-freeride pro and one of Germany’s best ever mountain bikers Andi Wittmann the task of persuading Canadian-born, freeriding legend Richie Schley that there’s a lot more to discover – especially by E-MTB.
Until a year ago Andi Wittmann was one of those riders that did it all. He was fearless, taking on the biggest jumps, the highest drops and the steepest trails across the world. But in just one ride a crash changed everything. A five-metre high fall at full speed in a dirt jump show saw him wind up with two broken feet. It looked like his career was over. But now 12 months down the line he’s back riding, albeit on an E-MTB. Born and bred in Bavaria, his E-MTB is a tool for him to explore further afield in his homeland, and this time he’s been joined by pro Canadian rider Richie Schley. One of mountain biking’s pioneers, well-travelled Schley lives in California these days, but had a few hours to spare for an adventurous ride and scenic lunch stop before travelling further north in Germany.
In all their years of shuttling and cable cars, these two pros were more fixated on the descents. But today’s loop sees them riding up the climbs – and having a good time doing so! The trail up to the 1,669 metre-high Kampenwand from the picture-perfect Aschau in Chiemgau is one of the most fun climbs on an E-MTB. You soar up the limestone trail at a fairly impressive 18 km/h before having to navigate the tight hairpins further up. They’re the real challenge, asking for a little nudge here and there, a bit of sensitivity for the maneuvering – this isn’t about who’s got the biggest balls any longer. Both riders have grown out of the classic ‘measuring-up’ style of riding. The relentless drive for faster, bigger, further, like in freeriding has just confirmed how nice it can be to enjoy a ride in the mountains where you can make the most of the nature and views for hours.
When it comes to food, the Chiemgau is probably the best region in the bavarian alps; surprising visitors with so many open meadows and the obligatory mountain restaurants than you can stop at. After a climb of just a few hundred metres of elevation you’ll already reach your first mandatory pit-stop as you scale the Kampenwand. The Maisalm is one of the must-stop spots, especially on mild summer evenings when they dish up a mean BBQ. The Gori-Alm is home to a mountain restaurant run by good-natured Paul, who’s as welcoming to his guests as he is to his animals that roam the meadow. All his meat is home bred and reared and he assiduously follows the seasons with a menu that’s completely organic and local, which left Richie and Andi with no doubt as to where to have lunch.
As the Gori-Alm is about halfway up the mountain, there’s still a choice of trails to extend your ride, either continuing up towards the top of the cable car or Steinlingalm, or dropping back towards the valley floor. Andi and Richie decide to ride both options – a smug nod at how it’s doable with an E-MTB. If you’re planning an all-day route, this region has a myriad of options, and the Outdooractive website is where you’ll find a lot of the largely gravel-based routes. If you prefer more challenging trails, then look out for a hiking map for more techy trails.
After an opportune photo snap with a local cow and the obligatory view over the Chiemsee Lake, the two riders tackle the final vertical metres of descent for the day, dipping back into the treeline onto a pretty gnarly, unkempt trail, which is definitely suited to these two pros. As he clambers into his SUV to continue northwards, Richie says once again: ‘Yeah, that was awesome!’ Once on the German autobahn heading northwards, there’s little word of speed limits, which gives him a dose of adrenaline – but, if we’re being honest – it won’t be half as much fun as an E-MTB.
Words & Photos: Christoph Bayer