As anyone who has ridden in the Austrian Alps will tell you it is an amazing experience. So when the chance to MTB Vorarlberg came up I was rather excited. Check out this review of Brandnertal Bikepark in Austria to find out how I got on.
Vorarlberg is Austria’s western most state bordering both Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany. To get there we flew into Zurich Airport and hopped on the train to Bludenz which took just over two hours. It is was then just a fifteen minute drive to the pretty mountain resort of Brand.
You can also easily reach Brandnertal by flying into Friedrichshafen (95 km) or Memmingen (135km) which are both in Germany. Alternatively, you can fly into Innsbruck (140km) which is in the neighbouring Austrian region of Tirol.
We were staying in the lovely Sport Hotel Beck. Set back from the road through town it is surrounded by greenery with a river running nearby and a small swimming lake right next door. With the backdrop of stunning mountains it is a beautiful location and a relaxing setting – perfect to MTB Vorarlberg.
We had a family suite which included two bedrooms that could sleep up to six people. There was also room for at least two more in the large lounge area which included sofas, dining table and a couple of beds under the eaves. For four of us there was more than enough space, you could easily accommodate eight people.
We were full board and as always in Austria the food was amazing. Breakfast consisted of cooked options – including an omelette station – plenty of continental fare and one of the largest fruit and cereal selections I have experienced in a hotel. Each afternoon there were bread, meats, cheese and cakes.
Dinner was a delicious five course meal, consisting of local specialities, Austrian favourites and some international dishes. The main always had a choice of different vegetarian, fish or meat dishes. Likewise the salads, starters and soups catered to all dietary needs. We were very impressed with the food, even the kids loved it.
Although I was in Austria for a family holiday, I had managed to convince my wife I should spend a day to conduct a review of Brandnertal Bikepark. So I borrowed one of the hardtail mountain bikes through the hotel to ride to the Bürserberg where I would collect a downhill rig.
To get to the bike park I could either ride along the road for an hour, or take the gondola up and roll down to the bikepark. Along with most mountain bikers I have an aversion to road riding, so despite some terrible weather I took the cable car up for the off-road option.
It was raining fairly hard at the bottom and visibility was very poor as I set out from the top to MTB Vorarlberg. But I made my way down to the village of Bürserberg, mainly using access paths. I did pop onto the red downhill trail for a small part of the ride, the bike was not suitable but it was still fun.
I met my guide Irian from MTB Tours and Trails at the bike shop in Bürserberg and sorted out a downhill bike. By the time I had on the full armour the weather had improved slightly. It was still raining lightly, and everything was very muddy, but at least I could see.
We began the review of Brandnertal bikepark in Austria by taking the chairlift up 300m. Irian pointed out a few things and talked to me about my riding experience. He told me more about the region and that there are 1500km of marked trails to MTB Vorarlberg.
Although I ride a lot on the South Downs in the UK this is very different to the Alps. We do have some good MTB trails in Stanmer Park Brighton which can be very technical. But it is a huge difference to riding downhill bikes in the mountains.
Most of my Alpine riding has been on enduro or all-mountain bikes on single track rather than downhill bikeparks. Having said that, I have ridden and enjoyed bikeparks in both Morzine and Les Arcs. I explained to Irian that I enjoy technical riding, but I am not so keen on jumps – he took it upon himself to fix that!
The trail of this review of Brandnertal Bikepark in Austria was the 3.5 km blueTschengla Unchained. It is described at an easy freeride track that’s ideal for beginners. The trail flows with many berms, small jumps, table tops and other features. In the wet and muddy conditions it was not as easy as normal.
There are also optional sections such as wallrides and northshore and small doubles (which don’t have to be jumped) which make it a fun track for advanced riders. I loved it, and with confidence building Irian got me hitting jumps that got progressively bigger.
One of my favourite sections was a really tight sequence of turns at the end. With lots of small berms you could really throw the bike around. It reminded me of the riding through the trees at home, so I was able to take more speed through there.
After a few runs we progressed onto the 3km red trail Chuck the Ripper. There are many medium and large jumps, huge banked corners and wooden obstacles including drops, step downs, hip jumps and wallrides on this fast flowing trail.
The good thing is the serious features can be avoided if you want to. You can roll over the jumps, avoid the gaps and stay low on the banked corners. I enjoyed riding it during this review of Brandnertal Bikepark in Austria, but it was a big step up in difficulty from the blue, particularly in the wet.
At one point we took a slight detour onto a long northshore section – I think called Woody Coaster. In the wet conditions I was warned it would be slippery, but having negotiated other northshore sections I was feeling confident so took it on.
It was here that I had a big crash! If not for the armour I was wearing my MTB Vorarlberg experience would probably have ended up in hospital. As it was I got away with a few cuts and big bruises – which due to the adrenalin I didn’t notice until much later.
I rode the blue trail many times in the day and the red just two or three times. But this review of Brandnertal bikepark in Austria would not be complete without talking about some of the trails I did not hit. In particular the black trail Chuck Norris.
Dropping the same altitude as the red and blue but in just 2km it is fair to say it’s a steep one. There are many gap jumps and it is recommended that all features are walked and properly checked out before you ride them. The gap jumps are huge and at points northshore to northshore. Its for very experienced riders only.
I also missed out on Go Pro Woods, this is a big northshore section, which after my mishap didn’t seem a good idea. There is also the Chim Beam jumpline, a mini red trail, a bag jump and the drop zone. At the other end of the scale there is also a green route down for those that like there trails flat or who wish to ride uphill.
At the end of my time in the bikepark I still had to get home. This meant riding back the way I had come including a long slog up the mountain. Fortunately, once I reached 1680m it was pretty much downhill all the way back to Brand at 1000m. After being on a big downhill rig all day swapping back the hardtail was quite a shock.
Irian from MTB Tours and Trails was a great guide, he helped me progress my riding and improve my confidence despite the big crash. He also took some great photos of me (as used in this article) and was fun to ride a bikepark in Austria with.
Although the trails are suited to all levels, I would say for this review of Brandnertal Bikepark in Austria that it is more suited to advanced downhill riders. The blue run is excellent, but the red is quite a step up. I am a very competent rider and most of the features on the red were too daunting for me to hit.
If you are a good rider that wants to progress their riding, or an advanced/expert downhill rider you will absolutely love this place. But the trails are more difficult to the bikeparks in Morzine and Les Arcs I have experienced, with a smaller selection of easy routes.
Having said that, Irian told me there if you want to MTB Vorarlberg there is a lot of excellent single track that is perfect for enduro riding. This included routes all the way down into Bludenz that are a full day single track adventure. Looks like I will have to return to take those on another time.
Beyond the mountain biking Brandnertal is also a lovely village. Very quiet and peaceful in the summer but with lots to do. While there we did a lot of hiking, horse riding and walked huskies – keep your eye out for my next article about our family adventures.
The accommodation at Sport Hotel Beck was lovely, the staff very friendly, food incredible and it had a real family vibe. It’s the perfect base for a family trip and as the gondola is only a couple of minutes ride away it’s a great base for mountain biking.
I hope you found this review of Brandnertal Bikepark in Austria useful, if you’d like to MTB Vorarlberg then check out the tourist boards website: www.vorarlberg.travel/mountainbiking/