The route: 97km
- Continue along the cycle route R13 . Keeps on farm roads and some dedicated bike paths through the forest.
- At Palbersdorf, the R13 comes back to the main Road 20 and connects with the cycle route R2, which is the well-marked main path that takes you straight into Graz. The terrain varies from separated bike lane by the side of the highway to very low-traffic routes through small villages to some old farm roads where you’ll see lots of bicycles and no cars.
- The only place we had trouble route-finding was just after passing the train station in Bruk an de mur. Look for a left opposite the giant Euro Spar (and before the bridge) and follow the path along the river. We had a great lunch and pit stop at the “Radl’r Stop” just before Peggerau.
This part of Austria doesn’t feel like the rest of the ‘clean and order” regime in place. It was more industrial, with logging mills and other natural resource extraction activities. The riding was relatively easy, although technically a net elevation loss of about 400m on the day, we found ourselves needing to stay on the pedals to keep a good time across the rolling terrain. The constant pedaling pace actually had us wishing for a bit a variance with our good ol’ friends, climb & descend. We followed the Mur river most of the day. The mountainous Alps had given way to more rolling hills around us.
Austrian R2- a Great cycle route into Graz
The R2 is a great route just north of Graz, and evidently well-used by the locals given the amount of other “cyclists” we saw that day. As a matter of fact many of the “cyclists” we saw didn’t fit the traditional mold of lycra-clad adventurers, rather they were everyday folks in everyday clothing and largely over the age of 60.
This is the result of well-developed infrastructure and removal of most auto traffic from bicycel routes Everyone, including non-athletes feel safe travelling by bicycle.
It also helped that we traveled this part on 15 August, a mid-week Catholic holiday. Being a holiday, we really got to soak up some local culture on our ride today. First stop was in Kapfenberg, where we treated ourselves to a rare mid-morning coffee on the old town square that dated back to a marketplace in 1250s. We knew we had found our way someplace special when our waitress, seeing our bikes, asking where we were from, marveled at why we would be in her little town. Precisely. Getting off the beaten track is our preferred modus operandi and sometimes our most cherished travel memories. Before leaving town, we stopped at the Turkish market, which seemed to be one of the few markets open this day.
Our next stop was for an indulgent lunch, including a couple of Radlers, at Wirt Ritschi Haus. This restaurant was situated directly on the Austrian R2 bike path, mostly catering to cyclists with huge covered bike parking.
Just about everyone there arrived by bike.—Plus, if you’re lucky, your waiter, Andreas, will bust out his favorite musical instrument and entertain you with a local tune or two.
As two vegetarians cycling thru Austria, we were pleasantly surprised at how well we were eating in Austria, and this restaurant did not disappoint either, with a great greek salad and Käferbohnenstrudel -must try to make it myself one of these days.
Lederhosen is not just for Oktoberfest
After kind of long-ish lunch, we got back on the road and after only a few kilometers we hit the village of Pernegg an de Mur, which enticed us to get off of bikes again, at least for a short break. The 15 August holiday was also an excuse to hold an annual village fair. In front of the church were tables and awnings set up with candies and children’s toys, while beside the church was the adult play area– with food and beer, and music.
The local fireman’s band was playing on center stage. At least 3/4 of the people there, young and old alike, were wearing variations on traditional dress, some dressed in lederhosen or drindls to the hilt, and others offset a piece of traditional garb with more modern accessories. It was wonderful to come across a slice of village life and folk charm, but the city of Graz was still quite a ways away so we reluctantly pulled ourselves away from the festivities and back onto the bikes.
More villages along the way
Lucky for us, there were several more quaint towns along the way and great views of the rolling countryside to the West. They were larger than the village of Pernegg, but each had its own quaintness, especially around the town squares. Another striking town with a rare large but preserved town square was Frohnleiten.
Its setting was picturesque, with hillsides views from the town centre. A castle, an ornate church and a tin-man bicyclist waterwheel sculpture in the square make it worthwhile for exploring.
The bike path alternated with separated cycle track along busy roads or side roads. The separated cycle track along the main routes were mostly good, but in spots where they were rough, so we opted to cycle the road for most of the remaining route from Frohnleiten to Graz. Even just a kilometer outside the city of Graz, we still didn’t feel like we were in much of a city. The final couple of km ran along the riverside multi-use path, which can be quite busy with joggers and pedestrians too, then into the Hauptplatz. When we arrived, in the mid-day heat, it was time for ice cream and to finish the day we treated ourselves with a hotel stay in Lonely Planet’s recommended urban chic Hotel Daniel.