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13-11-2020 | Sander Kolsloot

Trip report gravel Innsbruck

On Sunday morning, September 13, around 09:45, I arrive at the Hofburg in Innsbruck in a somewhat stressed state. I have just been able to adjust my KTM bike, which I could use especially for this ride. On this square in front of the Hofburg and the city theater, the start of the seventh edition of Gravel Innsbruck will be in fifteen minutes.

In the ideal scenario, I would have been here 20 minutes earlier to shoot some pictures with my group and meet some other Dutch people, including top skier Maarten Meiners, former union trainer Frank Pennings and the Dutch delegation of the local tourism agency. However, sometimes things don't go according to plan and that's why I was already sweating even before I even rode a meter of gravel.

The temperature is already pleasant at the start and according to the weather forecast will rise rapidly to 25 to 27 degrees. Gravel Innsbruck has become a multi-day cycling festival after seven editions. It is organized by Ride with Passion, who are also behind the Tirol-KTM continental racing team. Co-owner Thomas Pupp wants the event to appeal to a younger audience and at the same time put Innsbruck on the map. 

Multi-day event

On Friday evening there is a debating night with Dutch input from cycling city Utrecht, on Saturday there's a real festival with demonstrations of different brands and cycling artists. Gravel Innsbruck is the Sunday cherry on the cake. Anyone who has had a good look at the roadmap will still blink their eyes. The ride on Sunday is a trip of almost 80 kilometers with a total of 2012 meters of climbing. After 65 kilometers, there is the opportunity to squeeze the brakes and enjoy the sun. For those who don't, a a loop of 15 kilometers awaits with the famous and dreaded 'Highway to Höll'. This climb was also in the World Championship course in 2018. Painful to see on TV, a nightmare to ride yourself.

Highlights of the route are further down the road: the Europe Bridge and a ride on the Innsbruck bobsleigh run! Up, though. The start is punctual at 10.00 am and as soon as we leave the city along the river Inn under the supervision of the police, I look out of my eyes. Innsbruck and its surroundings are beautiful. The mountains, nature, everything is right.

After a few kilometers we see the first strips of gravel. Now it really starts. First some pieces that are relatively flat. It's a nice bike ride and as a Dutch group we easily stay together. After about 7 kilometers, however, it goes up quickly. The gradient quickly exceeds 10% but apart from a few small pieces it is very easy to do with the gravel bike. After four kilometers of steep climbing, we reach the top and we can enjoy the first beautiful views. From that moment on it doesn't get any flatter and we ride until the first stop at Bike Hotel Seppl, where I stay.

The food stops are good, with enough drinks and here and there some fruits and other local produce. My companions wait for me, laughing. They go up the mountain just a little easier. I laugh it off and get ready for another 60 kilometers of enjoyment.

Gravelbike a must

Shortly after the first stop we're climbing again, this time to a height of 900m. I stop on top and look down. Ouch, that's steep. A MTB descent that would not be out of place in a downhill race, smiles dangerously at me. According to the organization, the whole route is also suitable for road bikes. I really don't think so. Bouncing, swearing and ranting, I come down wonderfully well. This is less fun. 

After this challenge, we dive into the valley and then we're going up again under the Europa bridge. The picture is beautiful but the climb that is presented to us makes many other participants gasp for breath. 20-25% is no easy job, not even on the KTM X-strada. On the top I notice that the tank is already quite empty. How far is the next stop? And where is that bobsled run? From this moment on, I'm suffering.

Bobsleigh track

The ascent of the bobsleigh track is a relief. Great to be able to ride through it. After about 50km and more than 3 hours on my bike, I stop at a farm that also serves as a food stop. Again, there's plenty to eat and drink. From sweet to savory, everything local. 

With another 30km to go and my stomach filled, I get back on my bike and continue. We dive into the farmer's meadow, then through a nature reserve, over a footbridge, straight through the fields towards Innsbruck city. We make a nice loop through the bottom of the BergIselschans.

After the paved, easy descent into town. When I arrive at the finish line, the call of the finish meal and the cold radler is just too loud. I squeeze the brakes and stop. The highway to hell can wait another year for me.

Final verdict

Gravel Innsbruck is a nice trip, where the organization could still make a few improvements to make it even better.

Why go?

  • Relaxed atmosphere
  • Gorgeous route
  • Well stocked stops
  • Good quality finish meal and there are plenty of drinks
  • Full city with a striking youthful character.
  • Price quality ratio.


  • MTB descent in the course is fun for the experienced rider, a bit less for others
  • Be sure to bring a gravel bike, or an MTB to this event
  • Supply's are a bit far apart. Even with the warm weather, an extra water stop would have been nice
  • The GPX didn't work with many. Just leaning on the signage made it unclear. That was a pity.

In Innsbruck itself you can go to several highlights that go back to the golden age of Innsbruck, in the 1500s. The golden roof, the court castle, the court church and the old town are beautiful points to look around. For a beautiful view you go to the Nordkette, by cable car. You can also take the MTB/gravel bike up there. Then prepare yourself for a big climb! Cycling in the region Innsbruck lends itself perfectly as a base of operations. You can go in many directions, from a flat ride through the valley, to a complete tour of 160-200km with the heavy climbing. The round trip towards Kühtai, the Hottinger Holl but also the region around Praxmar and Lusens is beautiful.

Join Gravel Innsbruck next year? The next edition will take place at 12 September 2021. More info about Innsbruck can be found at

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