La Réunion – Tropical Dream Ride From Volcano To Beach

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.

Cirque de Cilaos after a rain shower
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How do you like it – shaped or natural?

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.

Bikepark Winterberg

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.

Zaahe Line, Sölden
Teäre Line, Sölden

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.

Men’s Downhill, Varigotti

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…

 

Azores – Mountain Biking Between The Continents

Heading down to Lagao do Fogo

Azores, the mid-atlantic archipelago lies literally between Europe and America, as the westward islands Flores and Corvo are situated on the American continental plate while the other islands of the Azores are part of the European plate.  With its volcanic landscape and its lush vegetation it is somehow the Hawaii of the Atlantic and offers accordingly an array of opportunities for outdoor adventures.

On Sao Miguel, the main island, our local guides Andre and Rafael (Azores Mountain Bike Holidays) showed us the best spots for our Azorean MTB-adventure.  We shuttled up twice above the Lagoa do Fogo, to hit nice singletrack that led us down to the crater lake, slippery and overgrown in some places, sometimes alongside irrigation channels and sometimes encountering hikers, cows, doves and other common species.

The race track near Furnas is a sweet downhill fun ride in a lush jungle setting with bumps and berms.  This run has a length of 2.4 kilometers and was for us the icing on the cake.  We closed this adventurous MTB-day with a beer and hot bath in the thermal springs in the Terra Nostra Park.  Pure indulgence.

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Rafael, our guide and local DH champion diving into the woods on Furnas race track

The small town of Faial da Terra in the southeast of Sao Miguel used to have a MTB-friendly mayor who encouraged the construction – or better signage – of a trail network on both sides of the steep valley.  All in all, the Azores provide a nice playground for serious MTB-fun in very moderate climate in the middle of the Atlantic.

Natural jacuzzi in Terra Nostra Garden
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Faial da Terra Trails

Another Season Finale in Finale

img_5610optOctober is the perfect season to visit Finale Ligure.  The temperatures of air and seawater are still decent and about the same level and the trails are usually in good shape.  The EWS final in early October probably contributes to a certain degree to the great trail conditions.   Anyway, my 6th trip to Finale was marvelous again. This time the crew was a bit more downhill oriented, so the vertical meters downhill were multiple times the uphill meters and we enjoyed most of Finale’s brillant signature trails: Rollercoaster, Sentiero H, Madre Natura, Crestino, Little Champery, Oribago and the Downhills to Varigotti.  Finale simply is the MTB-mecca in Europe.

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Sella Ronda MTB, Dolomites, Italy

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The Sella Ronda is the tour around the impressive Sella massif, either on skis in winter time or on the bike in summertime.  The Sella Ronda Hero is known as the hardest mountain bike race in Europe with about 4500 meters of climbing and a length of 86 km.  I didn’t want to become a hero there, so I bought the Dolomiti Superski Pass that let me use lots of lifts and cable cars and allowed for loads of fun without the hardship.  I still had to climb for about 1000 meters myself to complete my loop around the Sella after 63 km including 4100 meters of descent mainly on trails.

I loved the variety of trails from purpose built to all-natural and from easy flow to gnarly steep and rugged.  The runs of the Fassa Bikepark can be easily integrated into the Sella Ronda and provide some extra fun or adrenaline particularly on those lines down to Canazei, e.g. the Northshore.  Altogether, an outstanding bike adventure with breathtaking views, a great variety of trails and epic fun.

Rockin’n’Rollin Las Vegas

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Viva Las Vegas!  The Sin City is not only good for gambling and partying.   Vegas is as well a mountain biking spot.

The best trails are located southwest of LV in the Blue Diamond/Spring Valley area.   I took “Good Call” to climb uphill.  At the top of the mesa it connects to “Ike’s Peek” with gorgeous views on downtown LV.  “Legalize It” runs mildly exposed alongside the cliff and connects to “Menny Thanks”, a fast downhill trail with jumps over ledges – somehow like Rock’n’Roll.

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Climb on “Good Call”

Moab, the Mountainbike Mecca

Climbing up HyMasa
Climbing up HyMasa

The Moab ride on top of my must-ride list had been the HyMasa/Captain Ahab.  For good reason as I know by now.  This ride is truly outstanding.  Mostly on slickrock, it is technically challenging with lots of drops and climbs up and down ledges, yet, it has great flow (if you can master the challenging spots).  Moreover, the scenery you ride in and you look upon is already breathtaking – and the climb will let you gasp for air even more.  Much alike The Whole Enchilada, Captain Ahab is one of the greatest rides anywhere.  Already, I am longing to do this ride again…

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Captain Ahab leading the way through the rocks.
Captain Ahab leading the way through the rocks.

Still there are many more fun trails in Moab.  I enjoyed again some evening rides on Slickrock Trail and the Mag7 Trails that are in fact magnificent.  Bartlett Wash served again as great slickrock-playground and I am already looking forward to my next trip to Moab…

Trails of Fruita, CO

Fruita isn’t that big, but in terms of trails it has a lot to offer.  I love the 18 Road trails.  They are very smooth and easy – even for beginners – but they are a lot of fun.  Zippity Do Da is simply outstanding.  Riding down the ridge you sometimes feel like on a different planet. And the PBR-Trail (Pumps, Berms and Rollers) is even easier and faster. IMG_4139

The Kokopelli-Trails  are located further west and on the other side of the interstate are little more technical with steps and drops and more rocks.  The scenery overlooking the Colorado River is magnificent.  My favorite trail is the Horsethief Bench Loop.  The challenge is right at the beginning when you drop down from Mary’s. Well, and I didn’t dare the lower part.  Instead I got a lesson from another biker, who showed me how to drop down a rock wall.

 

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Drop into Horsethief

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MTB-Park City

 

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This time we took advantage of Park City’s skiing infrastructure and invested in a lift ticket with bike haul.   We tried the different downhill options and concluded that the Mojave-Trail definitely was our favorite run with several berms and rollers.  The biggest challenge however, brought an unmarked, rather vertical trail running right under the chairlift.  Somehow, our visit to Park City felt like a skiing trip…

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Around the Mountain – Bogus Basin, Idaho

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“Around the Mountain” is the name of Idaho’s arguably best MTB-ride.  Located in the Bogus Basin Recreation Area near Boise this trail – guess what – runs around the mountain and it takes 16.4 km/10.2 miles and 375 m/1230 ft of ascent/descent to complete the loop.  The trail is nicely maintained and there are several options for the final downhill.  The “Morning Star” seems to be the most fun-track downhill with a couple of jumps and berms.   On MTB-Project.com “Around the Mountain” was even temporarily rated among the top ten rides in the US.  So, if you come to Boise, ID,  it certainly is a must-ride.

Just coming around the mountain...
Just coming around the mountain…