There's a vast diversity of bicycles available on the market. This doesn't make it easy to select an adequate vehicle. If you want to choose a bicycle you should keep an eye on quality. Your bike will be strained a lot for several days if you do a Transalp. Malfunctions and breakdowns during such a journey are not only annoying, they can also lead to accidents, injuries or irreparable damage of your bike. Due to improper equipment, a lot of Transalp trips have to be aborted or end at a hospital. Thus your bike needs to be of high quality, robust and reliable. You should buy your bike at a competent specialist dealer and not at a discounter or supermarket. Also, you should start to test and break-in a new bike many weeks before crossing the Alps with it. That's how you get used to its geometry and handling, and have the chance to detect flaws in time. If you already own a bike you should inspect and overhaul it thoroughly before your trip.
The decision for a certain type of bicycle depends on the character of your Transalp route and your driving skill. There are routes like the Via Claudia Augusta which you can ride with a trekking bike and bike bags. However, for most off-road routes you should use a mountain bike. The central question is: Full suspension or not? A full suspension bike is not obligatory, but it offers some crucial advantages compared to a hardtail bike. Using a full suspension bike saves a lot of energy when you ride across rocky or rooty ground, because you don't have to compensate every bump with your body. Very challenging downhill trails often can only be driven with a full suspension bike. The hardtail biker will have to push his bike more often.
There are different types of mountain bikes which differ mostly in geometry, suspension travel and weight. The Cross Country Bike (XC) is at home on gravel roads, forest roads and rooty paths. The All Mountain Bike (AM) is a universal bike with good uphill capabilities. It also can be used (depending on suspension travel) on challenging and difficult downhill single trails. The Freeride Bike (FR) is made especially for difficult and steep downhill trails, has high suspension travel and is not the best choice for riding uphill for a long time. The Downhill Bike (DH) is exclusively designed for downhill races and not appropriate for a Transalp. There also is a bridge bike called Enduro, which fills the gap between AM and FR. All these types come with a wide range of different specifications.
Before you buy a bicycle, you should look into the features of the most important bike components like suspension, frame geometry, gears and brake systems. You also should always test a bike before you buy it.
- Lapierre Zesty 514 - Refitted in 2012
- Lapierre Zesty 514 - Model 2010
- Lapierre Zesty 514 - Model 2009
- Singlespeed Self-made - Model 2011
- Bulls Race Pro 9.80 - Model 2003
- Winora - Model 1991
After some trouble with the maintenance of the Forumla Oro brakes I equipped my bike with the Magura MT4 brakes, which uses uncomplicated mineral oil instead of hygroscopic poisonous brake fluid. At the same time I mounted a new suspension fork to the Lapierre Zesty 514, the RockShox Sector RL Coil, in order to improve the robustness of the bike and reduce maintenance cost even further.
After a crack in the frame of my Zesty 514 Model 2009 I got an upgrade for my frame to the Lapierre Zesty 2010 for little money. The geometry of this frame is also excellent, it looks a little more futuristic and the quality especially of the details is top. The rear is made of carbon, which renders the bike about 100 g lighter. The other components have been transferred from my old Zesty bike.
The Lapierre Zesty is an All Mountain Bike with a tendency to Freeride. With its exceptional frame and its suspension travel of 150 mm it is perfectly suitable for challenging and steep single trails. Long uphill rides on difficult terrain are no problem either, the road grip is very good, thanks to the rear suspension. The bike is equipped with the Fox 32 Float RL suspension fork and the Fox Float RP2 rear suspension. Gears and components are Shimano XT, plus Formula Oro K18 disc brakes and Shimano XT rims. I added a good tour saddle: The SQLab 610.
Since my old Bulls bike has finally kicked the bucket and died from pitting, wearout and gear failure, I was forced to get a new city bike for bad weather. I cannibalized my old bike and recycled wheels, pedals and handlebar. For 70 EUR I purchased a cheap frame on the internet and spent additional 400 EUR on other equipment. I decided to pass on gears since I already got used to singlespeed with my old broken bike. I mounted a singlespeed kit onto the back wheel with a transmission ratio of 39:16. The new bike is light-weight, robust, low-maintenance and weather proof. Perfect for winter, rain, dirt and salty roads.
My old hardtail from 2003. Beaten-up, worn out, abused and perished. May it rest in peace. The piece had endured approximately 25,500 miles (41,000 km). It was ridden at every weather and every season regardless of the consequences. From city traffic to rooty trails. The bike has Shimano XT equipment that never abandoned me. The suspension fork is totally wasted, there was not much suspension anymore. Over the years the suspension fork mutated into a rigid fork, because it was low quality and was never maintained. The saddle feels like someone mounted a piece of wood onto the seat post. If you ride root trails and stony passages, in the evening you will feel like you broke in a wild bull using an oak saddle.
My first mountain bike from Winora made in 1991 with an aluminum frame and no suspension. It was equipped with Shimano Deore DX parts and cantilever brakes. I've been using Schwalbe Marathon tires exclusively, which were the only real puncture proof tires back then. The original handlebar was made of carbon, but it broke during a heavy accident and was replaced by an aluminum handlebar. A reliable and great bike, which was not only used as trekking and all terrain bike, but also carried me without break-downs across thousands of miles through the wilderness of Greece.