bike tour italy's passo stelvio

For anyone wishing to Bike Tour the Alps of Italy the Stelvio Pass should be on your 'must ride list'.  The Stevlio Pass is one of the highest paved mountain roads in Italy and has been part of bicycle history since the Giro d'Italia first passed over it in the 1950's. Passo Stelvio is located in the Adamello mountain group and marks the regional boundary between Trentino Alto Adige Region and Lombardy Region.


To be honest Passo Stelvio is not for everyone, and if you attempt to ride without the proper gears or fitness level this is one of those bike climbs that can make you hurt, put your foot down, and overall humble you as a cyclist.  The climb itself is not overwhelming due to the steepness, but it is a very long climb with a continuous effort, instead most riders have problems due to not understanding how to pace themselves or not eating and drinking properly during the attempt. 

The ride can be broken into three sections: the first section is difficult to find a pace due to the changing grades, the second section is a grind because you are isolated in the forest, and the last section is a thrilling panoramic view that can challenge your mental toughness due to fatigue and altitude. 


The classic route up to Passo Stelvio is to start in Bolzano and ride to the top, but this normally means you have some type of a support vehicle or you are ending your ride with a descent down into Bormino.  However, if you want to shorten the ride you can take a train from Bolzano to Merano then ride the Val Venosta Bike Path or take the Venosta train up the valley to a closer start point.  If you opt to ride from Bolzano it is good to do so with a group and have vehicle support.  If you are a solo rider I suggest you shuttle up to Castelbello on the train, from here you have a good 20 km to warm up your legs before the climb.  If you are planning to ride both sides (over and back) I suggest taking the train to Malles or Spondinig to start, over and back will be a 70 km ride with over 4000 meters of climbing.

Bike tour Passo Stelvio



Bike Tour Passo Stelvio

REGION Trentino Alto Adige Region
PROVINCE Bolzano Province
MOUNTAIN GROUP Adamello Mountain Group
POINT OF DEPARTURE Prato allo Stelvio
ELEVATION AT DEPARTURE 916 meters a.s.l.
MAXIMUM ELEVATION 2,758 meters a.s.l.
ELEVATION GAIN 1,842 meters
AVERAGE TIME TO RIDE 1:40 to 3:20 hours
SPECIAL NOTES Weather on the Stelvio can change quickly and vary from the valley so ensure you have a jacket, gloves and leg warmers with you.  This is a ride best done with support.


The Bike Touring route up Passo Stelvio, on the northeastern side, starts in the small village of Prato allo Stelvio, and presents a climb 25.4 meters long and a medium grade of 7.4%.  There are 48 marked switchbacks to work your way through that will help you move from 916 meters above sea level to 2758 meters above sea level. The total elevation gain is 1842 meters and the fit cyclist should give themselves 2 hours and 30 minutes to make the climb.


Bike Touring Passo Stelvio


Leaving Prato allo Stelvio you will see the Passo Stelvio Sign this is where the grade starts to increase and you have a 6 to 7 km section to get a good rhythm established.  It is very important to not over ride your limit.  During this section you will be following close to the stream 'Trafoi', there is one tunnel but it is open on the left side so there is no need for a light. This section ends once you cross the bridge over the stream. 

Bike Touring Italy's Passo Stelvio


Passing over the bridge you will start one of the harder sections and the first continuous grind that makes Passo Stelvio so hard, but this is also where you start to have a wonderful view of the Livrio and Punta del Chiodo glaciers.  At 8.5 km you will start the 48 switchback countdown and your next check point is Trafoi (1534 meters), a small community that has a couple of bars, and there is a water point just before the town. After passing through Trafoi you will enter a section that will wind up through the woods on multiple switchbacks until the 14 km mark. 

Bike Touring Italy's Passo Stelvio



Right after the village of Trafoi you will find one of the hardest sections with small ramps up to 14% and an average of 9%. For the next 9 kms you will have a very little time to rest, you are in the woods most of the time but there are great views that will let you start to experience the grandeur of the climb.  This section will take you up past switchback 27 and Hotel Franznshohe, (a water point if you are in need). This is where you will have the final view of the stairway of switchbacks that take you to the pass.

Bike Touring Italy's Passo Stelvio

The last set of switchbacks up to the Stelvio Pass.  There are small ramps above 11% but for the most part it is very pedal-able. This is the section that makes the climb so famous, you will feel the fatigue and the effects of higher elevation, but is you can also lift your head and take in the atmosphere.  This is one of the most picturesque locations in the Alps and on a clear day this is a stunning ride.

Bike Tour Passo Stelvio

Do not forget to look back at times.

Bike Touring Italy's Passo Stelvio

At the pass you will find the Cima Coppi sign (named after the famous Italian cyclist), great views, and perhaps the best Italian Hot Dog Grill in the area.

Bike Climbs,, Alps,

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