Transalp included

Across the Alps as a team

A special kind of inclusion project of the Austrian Alpine Club and the Alpine Club Youth. As befits an inclusive team, there were normal pedestrians, wheelchair users, as well as a participant with cognitive impairment on board, or rather: on the wheel.

This team ‘Rol It’ (Cycling without Limits – Including Transalp) crossed in 9 days together, in partly adverse conditions, the Alps from Scharnitz to Lake Garda. The demand of the tour was deliberately chosen so that it is a challenge for every participant. The route was decidedly not a special ‘handbikable’ cycling route. No, it was a classic Transalp, as many ambitious mountain bikers have as a goal. From the starting point near the German border we first crossed the Karwendel, over the Plumsjoch we came to the Achensee and further on we went over the Geiseljoch through the Tux Alps towards the Tyrolean main ridge of the Alps. Over the Brenner border ridge we reached Italy, enjoyed some Dolce Vita in Merano, before it went again strenuously past Lake Molveno to the self-set goal, Lake Garda.

The number of wheels does not matter

As long as the route does not require carrying, it does not make any difference whether it is conquered by a two-wheeler or a three-wheeler. Except, perhaps, that handbikes seem a bit more exotic on alpine gravel roads at first glance. It doesn’t matter if you fix a flat tire on a handbike or a mountain bike, or if you take the bike from an exhausted mountain biker for a few meters, or give a handcyclist a short push because he gets stuck in a steep ramp, it also makes no difference. Assistance on exposed passages is gladly accepted by both mountain bikers and hand cyclists. Thus, the boundaries between wheelchair users and pedestrians could be blurred very well over large parts of this project. The Alps were crossed with mutual support as an inclusive team.

Setting or impairment – What is decisive?

Differences in the team were not so much due to the obvious differences, but much more because of the motley group with very different characters. Everything from strongly performance-oriented approaches to extremely high social competence was present. These differences in mindset naturally also led to exciting decision-making processes time and again. The common goal was clearly defined, but the way to get there was not always.

The group has led itself and so some discussion was of course not left out. But this much should be said: The prevailing conditions definitely did not make decisions easy, but very valuable in terms of group dynamics, and looking back I can only congratulate on an excellent team performance.

The silent heroes

While the performance of the handbikers is clearly evident, there are not many who have already ridden a MTB Transalp with handbike, our participant with cognitive impairment should not be forgotten. In childhood he still had difficulty swinging and now in his mid-20s he has actually mastered his first (and probably not last) Transalp.

However, I would like to highlight the ordinary pedestrians and their values and attitudes who have applied and participated in this project, which has been running for 2 years, to live inclusion. As a contrast to my otherwise primarily performance-oriented environment, the project was once again horizon-expanding, precisely because of these people. The more pleasing it is then that ALL participants have come in the course of the tour at their expense, no personal goals had to be neglected and the complete Transalp was mastered with good teamwork. I’ll even go out on a limb and say that these 9 days in the mountains wouldn’t have been much different if it had been a motley group of normal mountain bikers instead of an inclusive group.

Thanks to all for allowing me to be a part of the leadership team! Without the numerous sponsors and supporters, above all the Austrian Alpine Club, this project would not have been possible. A special thanks also goes to our luggage transfer driver Franz who supported us with perfect logistics and endless motivation. Without him we would probably not be at Lake Garda today.