Gnarly rock gardens, fast berms and so much flow you would like to buy it breakfast the following morning… The Kronplatz marries all that with the sickest trails, awe-inspiring views and breathtaking scenery, rendering it the ultimate testing ground for the Design & Innovation Award 2017.

How can you really evaluate a product without getting your hands on it and getting it dirty? Looking and talking simply won’t suffice; it’s a question of rolling up your sleeves, testing, tuning and testing again. This is how the Design & Innovation Award distinguishes itself from the hordes of other awards. More than just your average discussions, the DIA testing team spent 16 days in San Vigilio, Kronplatz in Italy’s South Tyrol region to push the industry’s latest products to their limits. This year’s testing saw snapped chains, broken frames, wheels, tubes, shifters and tires – all in the name of science, of course.

Beyond being a haven for winter sports, the Kronplatz is well suited for summer riding holidays. With rock gardens, berms and trails with endless flow dropping in every conceivable direction from vast picturesque mountain plateaus the Kronplatz has a healthy menu to satisfy the appetite of any rider.

Treating you with berm after berm as you tear down towards the valley, the Herrnsteig is an 8 km trail that starts with 100% natural, fast rolling flow that then turns into tricky, techy varied trails once you duck back under the tree line.

The Herrnsteig is probably the most hyped-up trail at Kronplatz and is the most brutal test for brake fade, handling at high speeds, and the stiffness and consistency of air-sprung suspension. Dropping 1,300 metres in its 8 km route, its newest built variants – dubbed ‘Hans’ and ‘Franz’ – present the ultimate testing conditions to push the limits of handling, suspension and the skills of the DI.A test crew.

Cruise up to the top with the cable car…
… even with an E-MTB.
Droppin’ in 3, 2, 1, go! In the background there’s the entrance to the MMM Corones, which was the location for the expert discussions at last year’s Design & Innovation Award.
World-class turns, sick bikes and insane views – welcome to the Dolomites!
South Tyrol delivered the goods with blazing sunshine in autumn!
Hot or not? We had countless mid-ride discussions to relay info on the bikes.
Boys just wanna have fun!
Straight back on it!
SEEEEND IT!
E-MTBs are still vulnerable to broken chains!
Pedal further, see more! E-MTBs gave the test crew the opportunity to discover new landscapes.
The Kronplatz isn’t the sole preserve of downhill antics – it’s also got a lot in store for those who relish a climb…
… but you’ll probably put yourself in a box.
Another brilliant test session in the bag, high five!
Ride, clean, repeat.
Putting in the elbow grease to clean the bike is a necessary evil but it’s the only way to get the full benefits on the ride.
The hotel’s basement put a roof over the bikes as they wait for their next test ride.
Thoughts on the day’s testing were collected each evening before everyone prepped for the next day’s ride.

Our test routes were so sick that it’s only fair to share them with you as GPD files. Each ride starts from the lift station in Reischach, where you can get the cable car to the top of the Kronplatz.

Herrnsteig

Insanely long and packed with big, fast turns, this 8 km trail drops a full 1,300 metres of elevation and is crammed with alternative trails that you can drop into from the original line. Take a left or right when you spot them – we were stoked with ‘Hans’ and ‘Franz’ which had perfect natural lines and sharp steep sections where you’ll need some skills.

GPX download Herrnsteig

Furcia freeride track

Starting from the same spot at the top of the Kronplatz, you can’t miss the Furcia freeride route that heads off in the opposite direction. It has a ton of manmade berms and some swooping natural sections as you let off the brakes towards the south side of the valley. After a drop of around 500 metres of elevation, you can head back up with the cable car or ride the nicely packed gravel track.

GPX download Furcia

Design & Innovation Award 2017 – Special Issue

Words & Photos: Christoph Bayer