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.
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…
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…
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.
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.
October 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.
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.
Bike lift from Corvara
New MTB-playground under construction at the top of Dantercepies
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…
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…
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.
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.
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…