The summer season at Bikepark Lienz is just around the corner, and downhill routinier René Unterwurzacher is already tickling his fingers again. "I like the thrill of riding. It's a very special feeling that I get from it." For many years, the passionate bike athlete has been part of the extended Zanier family, and with his many years of downhill experience has already provided many valuable inputs for the product development of our gloves.
The playground for young talents.
René has been a passionate downhill and freeride biker for almost 25 years and is definitely a pioneer of these sports in the East Tyrol area. Early on he founded the association "Ride Free Osttirol" and also the spectacular sport event "Ride Hard on Snow" in winter. René was also the driving force behind the foundation of the bike park, which was built by the tourism association directly at the mountain railroad on Hochstein. "The park is a statement for our association, for my team and me. It is a sign that we wanted to set in order to offer young talents a playground and to enrich the Bike Region Osttirol. In the meantime, the bike park is known far beyond the borders of East Tyrol.", René tells us.
He also explains right away what makes trail design at Bikepark Lienz particularly exciting - namely the synergy between René and Matthias: "My colleague Matthias Garber and I complement each other perfectly in trail design. He comes from dirt biking and has the optimal feeling for steep, high jumps. I was active in the race downhill segment for a long time and then switched to freeride biking after an injury. So I'm responsible for the wide, flat jumps and know exactly how to lay them out."
Before the trails are ready for the start of the season, René and Matthias have a lot of work ahead of them. The two are trail designers and shapers at Bikepark Lienz, which is currently being expanded by a fourth trail. Not only on the new trail "Flow Family" there is a lot to do for René and his team. Maintenance work is also waiting on the existing three trails after the winter.
Trail design in harmony with nature.
We visited René and Matthias shaping at the Alban Lakata Trail on an April morning, and talked to René about the Bikepark itself and trail design in particular. He was in charge of the routing of all trails in the Bikepark Lienz. After all, he is one of the best connoisseurs of the Hochstein and has many years of know-how as a downhill biker and trail designer.
How should we imagine the work of a trail designer?
"At the beginning there is the idea of a certain route. Where are the natural conditions for a trail? Generally, a bike park is structured in such a way that you start with the easiest and most feasible routes and work your way forward. These routes depend on many factors, such as the terrain and landowners. The next step is to take a close look at the route in tiris, the geographic information system of the province of Tyrol. Especially in Tyrol this is recorded in great detail, all terrain edges and conditions are mapped in detail. Then it's time to walk the route. We have a clinometer with us and also make test borings to explore the terrain in detail."
What do you look for when designing a trail?
"Generally, the route is adapted to the terrain. We ask ourselves exactly where attractive features such as jumps, steep turns, etc. can be included without having to interfere too much with nature. We avoid cutting down or blasting trees whenever possible.
The safety aspect is just as relevant. The safety of the drivers must be guaranteed, we plan fall spaces, pay attention to inclinations and curve radii.
Planning a trail ahead also means keeping the maintenance effort as low as possible. The trail must run smoothly to avoid brake waves, where we otherwise have a lot of work to do during the year. Brake waves occur where riders are forced to brake. We've done a great job of that with the existing trails; that's the art of trail design."
Safety on the trail comes first.
How do we have to imagine the maintenance work during ongoing operation in the park? How much work is involved for you?
"We are of course constantly working and keep the trails in good shape throughout the season. Especially during storms we have to make control runs to see if we can release the trails or if we have to remove trees and loose stones. So when a trail is closed, it's always for valid reasons and for the safety of the riders and the preservation of the trail.
The safety of the bike park generally falls within my remit. I draw up the rescue plans for the mountain rescue team and make sure that the rescue chain is maintained. We investigate reasons if accidents happen frequently in certain places and adjust the route accordingly."
The Bikepark Lienz has been around since 2017 and is growing steadily. Where should your baby develop?
"Together with the tourism association, a lot has really happened in recent years, the high frequency proves us right. Of course, we would like to see even more trails being created. In the same way, we also want to further develop the existing trails. The Alban Lakata Trail is a challenging flow trail, but we want to give it more downhill appeal. Our goal for the future is to have races in the Bikepark Lienz. We were in talks with the Austrian Gravity Series before Corona. Of course, these plans are now postponed to next year, but that's where we want to go."
The Bikepark Lienz Family.
For maintenance and safety work, René can be seen whizzing back and forth on the quad between the workshop in the town of Lienz and the Hochstein. But he prefers to ride the bike himself, for example on rides with the "Ride Free Osttirol" association, which has strong ties to the bike park. The association rents the rental center to a local dealer and has built its own washing area at the bike park. Together with the pump track and a casual bike bar, an attractive center for bikers and guests has developed at the foot of the Hochstein, which pulsates in summer. In winter, the "Ride Hard on Snow" event is a highlight at Hochstein, where bikers daringly plunge down the icy slope including kickers.
Tips from the expert.
Before you plunge down the slope, here are a few tips from the expert: "Always stay loose. Shift your body weight and your butt backwards; this weight shift reduces the risk of a rollover. And be sure to bend your knees when riding. That means getting out of the saddle! Even if the road gets bumpy or narrow - never sit down! You simply have much more control over your body and the bike when standing. Another useful tip is to lower the saddle before riding downhill. This automatically makes it easier to get to a standing position."
Photocredits: Markus Brunner