[note - sign at beginning says no bikes]
Cycling the Italian Bike Climb King - Scanuppia.
Aerial view of the start of the climb - just across bridge left center.
There is no doubt and there will be no rematch! This is the most difficult bicycle climb in Italy and likely in all of Europe. We do not believe that it can be done on a standard road bike, even by the fittest cyclist. The website dangerousroads.org declares that Scanuppia is “the steepest hardest long climb on a sealed-surface road in Europe (or the world).” Based both on our personal experience and our ranking system, we completely agree.
There is an intimidating 45% grade sign that we encounter a short distance up the mountain which is foreboding but not altogether accurate by our estimation. While we encountered several exceptional stretches of 30% (or slightly above) grade, we never approached 40%. The reference is likely to the inside portion of the steepest hairpin on the climb. The maximum grade of this nearly impossible monster is in the 35-37% range.
45%! We have never encountered a sign with a gradient this high.
We hesitate to call this a “Must-Do” ride because we must issue a caveat in advance of such enthusiasm. This road is marked at the beginning as "Prohibited for Bikes" -- while there are no words to that effect, there is the Italian road sign that stands guard over the first of the several 30% segments to come. However, in spite of the sign, it does not appear that this roadway is heavily policed for cyclists.
Sadly, the #2 World Bike Climb starts with a “no bikes” sign.
We ventured past the sign (at the time thinking it was actually a sign warning motorists of cyclists...silly us!) and were never criticized, confronted, or dissuaded in any way from continuing our climb up this beast. Truth be told, we likely would not have protested too forcefully had we been directed off the mountain!
Steepest paved section of roadway you’re likely to ever see.
Grades exceed 30% -- a rare and nearly unparalleled pitch.
There are some good distant views, but the glory of this climb is it's extreme difficulty and challenge; there is more head-down-just-survive to this climb than 99.9% of any other climb. Scanuppia fits into only a handful of bicycle climbs that, when ranked by difficulty, can be fairly characterized as A Climb Like No Other.
On our first go at Scanuppia, we rented a mountain bike in Lake Garda (this was a big mistake: it was lower end, heavy, with a worn rear tire -- a trifecta that brought us to our knees, literally, at one point). We drove to the start point some 37 km (21 miles) northeast. We do recommend Lake Garda as a staging area as it is a beautiful area to visit and close to 5 Italian Top 25 Climbs.
We wisened up for trip #2 - 28t chainring + 42t cassette.
It is strongly recommended that you bring either a Garmin with the Scanuppia map downloaded onto it, or detailed instructions, because there are a couple of points where it’s easy to make a wrong turn. And, while you will not go far on the wrong route, a mere 50 wasted yards at 30% can break the spirit. In particular, there are a couple forks in the 2.3 to 2.5 mile range -- stay right at the forks.
Scanuppia is located in the Dolomites mountain range, in the autonomous region of Trentino-Alto Adige in northeastern Italy. The Dolomites are the “most spectacular mountain range in Italy” with high peaks “interspersed with hills, green meadows, rivers, lakes and old villages” (climbbybike.com). This is a vast mountain range; the eighteen peaks that make up the Dolomites cover over 350,000 acres! WalksOfItaly.com shares a list of their six favorite spots to visit in the Dolomites to narrow down the decision making process for you: Six Favorite Spots in the Dolomites.
Other terribly steep 6 km+ world bike climbs are:
Ride a mere 7.4 km to elevation 1,885 m gaining 1,075 m at 14.7% average grade.
6.1 km at 14.2% (1 km @ 29.3%; ½ km at 31.9%).
Passo della Forcella, Italy
9.4 km at 14.4%
Alpe Fuori, Italy
11.8 km at 13.7%