Get on your bike for mountain trip in Austria

It's a hot and sunny morning in Austria and we're cycling from the picture postcard lakeside town of Mondsee to the equally picturesque lakeside village of Strobl.

Get on your bike for mountain trip in Austria

It's roughly a 15 mile journey through some ridiculously pretty countryside, and so far it's been an absolute breeze.

We're following a route put together by our knowledgeable guide, one that runs mostly along flat cycle lanes and gentle slopes.

But now we're facing something that will face every cyclist in Austria at some point – a very, very steep hill.

Ordinarily, you could be forgiven for dismounting and pushing your bike to the top while cursing everything under the sun. But my little group and I are not on ordinary bikes. No, we're riding the last word in Swiss-made electric cycles, known as ebikes, for short.

Although they look like normal pushbikes, they have a battery attached to the frame and a motor in the rear wheel. Ebikes are not mopeds, and the rider still has to pedal, but despite being much heavier than ordinary pushbikes, they are surprisingly easy to use. For most of our journey I don't use the battery at all.

But when the going threatens to get tough I press a button on the handlebar, the electric motor kicks in, ready to take most of the strain.

And as a result the steep hill really isn't a problem at all. I pedal, but my bike makes my progress much easier. I'm fairly flying towards the summit.

The battery is said to offer the rider 90 hours of extra help, depending on how much it is used. Should the power level dip to near to empty, you simply detach the battery and charge it up in your hotel room overnight – next morning, you're back on the road.

Even in Austria, where everybody seems to travel on two wheels, they are still something of a novelty. More than once I hear "ebike!" shouted out as we cycle past other riders. Whether they're jealous or mocking I really can't tell.

At around £2,000, ebikes are not cheap, but you don't need to buy one if you're coming here on holiday.

Tour specialists Headwater offer a range of tailor-made cycling holidays in some of Europe's most jaw-dropping locations, with the bikes all part of the deal.

And you won't be riding through Austria with 10 days' worth of luggage strapped to your back, either – that's all taken care of. Cases are delivered ahead to your hotel at each main stop, giving you time to make your way in your own good time, following a choice of routes to suit all abilities.

We began in Mondsee – town of the moon on the lake – a pretty little place a short distance from an enormous expanse of water surrounded by mountains. The lake's beauty makes it a popular spot with tourists.

But Mondsee's real selling point, however, still seems to be a wedding that took place here 50 years ago. For the basilica St. Michael, in the heart of the town, is the church where Christopher Plummer married Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.

The former monastery, with its two towers, still draws 200,000 visitors every year, all keen to look at the elaborate gothic interior – and no doubt buy one of the fabulously tacky postcards or fridge magnets depicting the young Julie running up hills alive with the sound of music.

After a comfortable night at the four star Hotel Leitnerbrau, a short walk from the heart of Mondsee and its upmarket bars and restaurants, we enjoy a leisurely breakfast before getting on our bikes and heading to Strobl, on the waters of Lake Wolfgangsee.

Lake Wolfgangsee has been described as the most beautiful lake in the most beautiful region in the world, and it's no wonder tourists flock here.

The town of St Wolfgang is equally pretty, and known for its historic church, inn and cogwheel railway to the summit of the 1780metre high Schafberg mountain.

And afterwards we cycle – downhill all the way, it seems – the seven miles back to Strobl and our accommodation for the evening, the Hotel Leitnerbrau.

Normally, those taking part in a Headwater holiday would have a day to explore their surroundings before moving on to their next destination, but we're back on the bikes next morning for a 39 mile trip to Gmunden, a route that holidaymakers would enjoy over a couple of days.

On the way we pass through the holiday resort of Bad Ischl. It's a pleasant little town on a river, and we arrive in the middle of market day.

This is still something of an occasion here, and I'm amazed and rather impressed by the number of people wearing traditional clothing.

We end our travels in the town of Gmunden at the Seeschloss Orth – a 400-year-old white castle built on an island in Lake Traunsee.

It's a popular place for weddings we're told as we walk over the wooden bridge and into the courtyard, and as luck would have it, there we find a group of young people celebrating their friends' big day.

All the men are splendid in lederhosen, while the women look beautiful in dirindl.

We then drive to the Parkhotel Billroth in St Gilgen, a stunning place overlooking the Wolfgangsee. From my balcony I look down on the quiet waters and the delightful town below me.

I wonder if they'd let me borrow my ebike and cycle home?

  • By Andrew Owen

Travel Facts

  • For the full range of Headwater tours and holidays visit - the site has brochures for walking and cycling holidays across Europe.
  • The official travel site for visitors to Austria can be found at
  • A 10-night Austrian Lakes ecycling holiday with Headwater starts at £1,179 per person

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