Queenstown is not only home of Bungy Jumping, it is New Zealand’s center for all adrenaline sports. And accordingly it is the mountain bike Eldorado of the South Island. The riding area closest to town is the Gondola assisted Queenstown Bike Park plus Fernhill Trails offering a wide variety of trails and lots of downhill fun. However, on most of my runs I found myself on the “Original”, a fast trail loaded with roller-coaster berms and tabletop jumps.
During winter Coronet Peak is a skiing area and in the summer months the resort is frequently visited by mountain bikers. There are a couple of trails in the area, however, the Rude Rock Trail is the outstanding trail. It is perfectly sculpted into the contours of the mountain and pure flow. A must-ride trail…
The 7 Mile Riding Area just a few miles away from downtown Queenstown is another bike park that guarantees for good entertainment on two wheels with its nicely shaped trails. The trailhead is on a beach of Lake Wakatipu and offers pleasant après-bike cooling on hot days.
Cardrona is another ski-resort in winter that opens their lifts for mountain bikers in summer. It is a 40 minutes drive away from Queenstown and is one of many more options to explore more awesome MTB-trails in the area.
Considering its size, Nelson is really rich in terms MTB-trails, due to the large mountain biker and trail builder community. There are 7 MTB-parks or riding areas in and around Nelson and during my 4 days in Nelson I have ridden only a small part of it, mainly in the Codgers and Richmond Hills areas. Obviously, you can choose from quite a large trail menu ranging from easy to expert with berms and jumps or all-natural.
The most raved about trail, however, is one of the latest additions to Nelson’s trail network: Te Ara Koa. This trail opened in October 2017 after thousands of hours from the Nelson Mountain Bike Club volunteer builders. It starts from the top of Fringed Hill and drops 700 meters on 5.1 kilometers through native woods. The handcrafted pure singletrack is kept quite natural and runs across roots and mostly rocks. Te Ara Koa was a quite special experience for me. After browsing all morning through the Codgers trail network I started my climb on the Fringed Hill in the heat of the early afternoon sun. The uphill on the rough gravel road was just agonizing particularly after a bee stung in my ear. On top of the 793 meters high Fringed Hill the Te Ara Koa took me on a thrilling ride back down into the valley again. Steep, tight and rocky yet all rideable, but not with much space for mistakes. Because of the heavy rain in days before roots and rocks were slippery. So, I had had a couple of shock moments when I was slip-sliding away from the sometimes only 20 centimeters wide trail corridor with the risk of falling down the precipice. All in all, a truly impressing ride.
Mountain biking as a relatively young sport doesn’t get much support from “official” side in most countries. New Zealand, in contrast, has been investing in MTB-infrastructure tremendously since the prime minister ennobled mountain biking as the new golf. Although I am struggling with that comparison the political support is great and Wellington, the capital city of NZ, is an outstanding example. The city is nestled into hills which are partly declared natural reserve areas. Obviously this is great MTB-terrain and purpose built trails are not only tolerated, but even supported. As a consequence you find MTB-trailsystems and MTB-parks literally in the city. And the official mountain biking promotion videos usually end with a stop in craft beer bar.
Most popular is the Makara Peak MTB Park. You pedal up the Koru Trail that winds through lush forest on perfectly maintained track so that you barely feel the effort. In a part riders are asked to be quiet in order not to disturb some rare birds that create very special ambience acoustics. Sally Alley takes you up further and around the hill and until recently you had to descend into a canyon to climb back up again to reach Makara Peak. In order to make mountain bikers’ lives easier a swinging bridge has been built that stretches over the canyon. Cool.
For the descent there are a couple of options. Peak Flow is the most popular one as it has been freshly rebuilt and turned into fast and flowy fun track that takes you back into town. And on most days you will have great views on the city – unfortunately we didn’t catch one of those…
New Zealand is probably the nation with the highest MTB-affinity and Rotorua’s Whakarewarewa Forest is the epicenter of it. More than 160 kilometers of finest trails built into fascinating nature with lush forest and volcanic phenomena make it a true MTB-mecca.
After three intensive days of riding there were still numerous trails I haven’t ridden. The Taniwha downhill lines I simply had to ride more often and it still wasn’t enough….
I really loved the shuttle system with well-aged buses and their large trailers. And actually, it functions quite well when all the buses are up and running. In terms of trails Rotorua offers everything you want, from natural trails with lots of roots to smoothly shaped flow trails and hefty jump lines. AMAZING. I could have spent many more days here…
The island of Réunion is not only famous for its active volcanoes and spectacular landscapes, but as well for being a mountain bike hot spot and battlefield for the annual Megavalanche race. We didn’t bring our own bikes to La Réunion to avoid the baggage hassle – and it was a wise decision as we got superb material from Stephane our guide and his company Bike Aventure.
The bike adventure on La Réunion usually starts with a shuttle lift to Le Maido, one of the older volcanic peaks on the island, at an altitude of about 2200 meters above sea level. The following downhill feast is served on rugged lava rock as a starter and continues in lush jungle forest for the main course. The final descent to the beaches is in a savanna like setting – sweet dessert.
The trail through the jungle becomes muddy and slippery in some spots during the rainy season (starting in December) and therefore more challenging. This is why the Megavalanche is staged in December. There are different trail options leading down from Le Maido and the choice is between more roots or more mud. Anyway, both are options were big fun. Actually, I was surprised how easily I could handle even those tracks that consisted of roots only – thanks to Stephane’s neat Intense.
To explore more of Réunion’s stunning nature you need to put on hiking boots, since the trails in the other parts of the island are simply to steep and not really rideable. All in all, La Réunion is a fantastic place for all kinds of adventures from mountain biking, to hiking, to canyoning and surfing.
Although the beauty of nature contributes a lot to the fascination of mountain biking, man-made optimizations or purpose-built trails simply raise the fun level. No surprise, bikeparks are booming and new purpose built trails are created by local bike communities. So, I have visited some of the most renowned fun spots this year to get a taste: Bikepark Winterberg, Bike Republic Sölden and Finale Ligure.
Winterberg and Sölden are skiing resorts that utilize their ski lifts and cable cars in the summer months for mountain biking. Flowy lines on hard packed dirt are carved into the hill featuring berms, wall rides, jumps, drops and all other kinds of fun elements.
The trails in Finale Ligure are nestled into nature and built or optimized without usage of heavy machinery. To get to the top you book a shuttle or you pedal up to access the epic descents through the coastal mountain landscape.
The verdict: I had a blast in Winterberg and Sölden and almost got addicted to the signature runs like the Teäre Line. However, for a whole week I definitely prefer Finale Ligure. Not only because of its mediterranean flair, but also because of the spectacular natural setting, e.g. on the Cro Magnon Trail. Sort of natural fun. I can feel it still…
The glacier-shaped Norwegian landscape is unique and stunningly beautiful. It can be labelled as the Great Outdoors of Europe. But what about mountain biking in this rugged terrain?
There are numerous great MTB-spots. In the Telemark in Southern Norway you can ride for miles on smooth granite rock and several skiing resorts have remodeled their slopes into bike parks in summertime. There is a cool app for the smart phone called trailguide.no, that shows all the MTB-spots and helps you navigating the routes.
We chose Ål in Hallingdal as our MTB-hot spot. Ål is about half way between Bergen and Oslo and it hosts the Hillbilly Huckfest, a big air event, in July. Knut, the organizer of the Hillbilly Huckfest, helped us to hit some of Ål’s MTB-trails. So we gave the Hillbilly Enduro Trail literally a trial. Knut drove us up the hill to a place called Nyset where we hiked our bikes up for about 15 minutes to cross Nysetfjellet and to gradually descent back to Ål.
Due to the rain on the previous days the trail was in fact a creek in some sections. And with the trillions of rocks the trail was quite challenging. After a while we found our flow while the trail was still soaked. On one of the ladders across a swampy spot I lost balance and had to step off the pedal with the consequence of wet and cold feet for the rest of the ride.
All in all we had a cool 15 km long trail adventure that encompassed most of the typical Norwegian characteristics: lots of rocks and water, natural beauty, really nice people & fun. Skål.
Portes du Soleil is the skiing area south of Lac Léman that stretches across 2 countries (France and Switzerland) and encompasses 12 resorts. It was one of the first skiing areas that opened the lifts during summer for mountain bikers. And on the 3-days lasting Pass’Portes du Soleil Event you can cruise (or shred) a good portion of the 650 km MTB-trails. More than 6.600 riders participated this year in the 12th edition.
Usually, I am not a big fan of crowded events or crowded trails. However, I had the area anyway on my “must ride list” when a friend told me how much fun he had at this venue in recent years. So, I did the inscription as soon as the gate opened to make sure I will be a Pass’Porteur this year.
As a group of three we started from Champery (Switzerland) with the cable car up the mountain to go downhill the trail with huge berms the other side to take again another lift up and across the Swiss/French boarder on the downhill slope…
Following the well-marked P’PdS course we got a impression of most resorts, collected roundabout 80 km and 6 or more thousands of meters down and had a blast! After all the 2.200 riders on this (smallest) event day were well distributed across the numerous downhill slopes and we had to line up for a lift only once. Although, we did a couple of extra runs there are still lots of lines I haven’t ridden yet in this freeride mecca. I guess, I have to come back next year to be part of the 13th edition…