Klaus Irsara - Cycling In Alta Badia

Klaus Irsara grew up in Alta Badia, he knows the region like no other. To us he has revealed his gravel tips!

Whether mountain biking, graveling or road biking – Klaus is a passionate cyclist and loves variety. His love for two-wheelers is also reflected in his Hotel Melodia del Bosco in Alta Badia: in the midst of the Dolomites, he primarily accommodates enthusiastic cyclists and even hops on the bike with them himself to show them the highlight routes in the Dolomites. Which are those and why the Dolomites – against the expectations of some locals – are the perfect gravel region, Klaus told us during our interview.

Hi Klaus and thank you for taking your time to talk to us! Would you like to start by introducing yourself?

With pleasure! My name is Klaus Irsara and I come from Alta Badia in South Tyrol – in the middle of the Dolomites. I was born and raised here, so I know the region pretty well. And I’m also the owner of the hotel Melodia del Bosco in Alta Badia.

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The Melodia del Bosco is not an ordinary hotel, but a bike&bed. Have you always been an enthusiastic cyclist?

I learned to ride a bike as a child in a parking lot – even in Alta Badia we don't start with a tour through the Dolomites as children. When I went to university and left Alta Badia for a while, cycling also took a back seat. However, I was always quite sporty and since we designed our hotel so strongly for bikers in 2010, I ride more and more. I love being outdoors, experiencing freedom and being able to explore new things!

What does biking mean to you?

On the one hand it's a great way to balance everyday life and freedom. Everything in our lives moves so fast and we are under pressure very often. On the bike you can try to go fast, but compared to daily life you are still moving slowly - cycling simply decelerates. A roadbike or gravelbike tour is not something you can do in an hour. You have to consciously take time for it and for yourself. For me, cycling is the perfect way to rest my mind.

In Alta Badia I’m able to combine work and passion

You don't limit yourself to one bike, but use your mountain bike as well as your road bike and gravel bike. Which one do you prefer?

Actually, I ride my road bike a great deal, because Alta Badia is the perfect place for it and most of my friends ride road bikes. But I also like graveling and mountain biking very much – I just love the variety. At our place, we have the luxury of being able to live out all three styles. It actually always depends a bit on the time and the weather. Sometimes I want to chase over the passes of Alta Badia on a road bike and sometimes I prefer to plunge down one of the singletrails.

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Do you also bike with your guests?

Definitely! Sometimes I ride through Alta Badia with them only once a week, sometimes three times a week. It always depends on how busy our guides are at the moment and whether they need support. I don't have a precise timetable for these rides – like to keep that open. If everything is planned exactly, it spoils the party! That's why I like to stay spontaneous.

What do you like about biking with your guests?

I generally like to be with people and have personal contact with my guests. There's also a wide difference between being a hotelier in the hotel and riding through the region together with the guests as a biker. It's a completely different relationship – a much easier one. In addition, I also simply enjoy riding – I combine work and passion with it.

Are there any tours you particularly like to take your guests on?

It's hard to pin me down to a favourite route because I like variety so much. Sometimes I ride short routes, sometimes long ones. One day I want a steep tour, the next I prefer something easier. I'm not fussy about that. What I definitely don’t like, is to always ride the same tour, because variety is the most important thing for me in cycling.

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Alta Badia is called the kingdom of passes – so at least you have to tell us your favourite pass!

That’s difficult as well, because there are so many beautiful passes! But the Sella Ronda of course is stunning – you cross four passes at once: Passo Sella, Passo Pordoi, Passo Campolongo and Passo Gardena. The Valparola Pass is also a beauty in the middle of the Dolomites. But I think if I had to make a commitment, it would be the Würzjoch: not so well-known yet and therefore quiet, with little traffic and – of course – beautiful.

Recently, gravel biking has emerged as a new trend. You are also an enthusiastic gravel biker – what inspired you to start with it?

In the beginning, I really just liked the look of the gravels. It was something new I really wanted to try out. I simply tested a few Komoot routes with my gravel bike and I was amazed, how much you can do with it! With a gravel bike you can simply combine many things: It does not matter if on a tour a tar route is interrupted by a piece of gravel. With a road bike you wouldn't ride it and with a mountain bike it might not be action-packed enough, but with the gravel it's perfect! It opens up a completely new range and that’s what’s so exciting right from the start. Now I just love the variety!

Was the gravel trend in Alta Badia appreciated right from the start?

When graveling started here, all my friends said: "No, this is not a gravel region! We are a mountain bike and road bike region". Today I have to confess, they were all wrong! All gravelers who come here are thrilled. Alta Badia simply combines panorama, challenge and adventure feeling and this goes down very well with our guests.

Alta Badia is perched relatively high. What do gravel bikers have to be prepared for?

You have to be aware that you can't ride the same distances here as at home. If you ride 100 kilometres at home, you can't do the same in the Dolomites. Many people overestimate themselves here at first. Our region is simply higher and very steep, which makes biking much more exhausting. So my tip is to simply come here and start with easy tours. You can slowly increase, but there's no point in chasing any kilometres or altitude meters. After all, our guests are here to take a holiday and that should be the main goal.

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And what’s your equipment advice?

The most important thing is definitely the gear. As I said, it's very steep here, so you should choose a light gear ratio. You should also make sure to choose slightly wider tires with a coarse tread and ride with low tire pressure. This provides more grip and comfort in the rough terrain of the Dolomites. Since the weather can change very quickly in the mountains, you should pack warm clothing as well. As soon as the sun goes down, it gets cold quite quickly at our altitude.

Which gravel route can you recommend most to bikers coming to Alta Badia?

It’s the same dilemma again: It's beautiful everywhere, there is no favourite route. But one area that indeed is outstandingly beautiful is Roda de Armentara. It's not far from our hotel and really great to see. The area is very easy to reach and you are right in the middle of nature, without the tourist hustle and bustle.

And in general: Why should people visit you in Alta Badia?

This answer is rather simple: because of the Dolomites. The mountain scenery is really stunning and I can highly recommend the hilly landscape with its meadows and farms. The villages here are also very pretty, as they are quite small and calm. Of course, you can also wine and dine very well in Italy and South Tyrol. There are alpin huts with great regional food. Alta Badia is a combination of nature, enjoyment and action in Italian flair – the perfect mix for your vacation.

Thank you for the nice conversation and the great insider tips!

Planning to stay at Klaus' Hotel Melodia del Bosco? Klaus is proud member of the Roadbike Holidays-family, which specialise in bike vacations. Our friends at Roadbike Holidays offer bike vacations in Austria, Germany, Italy and Slovenia.