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.
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
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.
“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.
Bend in Central Oregon has grown rapidly during the last decade and I guess the great trails in the area contribute significantly to this development (together with decent climate, fascinating nature and good micro breweries) . Most of the trail system has been created by the local MTB-community and is really hard to beat in terms of flow and fun. So, I was delighted to be back in Bend to rip the finest trails together with my son. Of course, Tiddlywinks and Lower Whoops were our favorites. However, there are so many miles of outstanding trails, that I should spend simply more time when I am back in Bend.
What about a trail ride in dramatic scenery in the midnight sun? The Lofoten archipelago lies within the Arctic Circle, so you could enjoy 24 hours of sunshine during the summer months in good weather conditions. Yet, your body’s need for sleep remains the same at 68° north.
The Lofoten Islands combine dramatic mountains and peaks with open sea, sheltered bays, beaches and steep fjords to one of the most spectacular landscapes. There are a handful of trails that are as well good for mountain biking, however, hiking your bike is sometimes inevitable. The biggest challenge though, is to find a decent bike to rent. It is a good idea to bring your own rig.
One of the best Lofoten rides starts just south of Leknes in Bergsdalen and winds up to Smordalskammen (437 meters elevation). It is an out-and-back ride on a ridge with a fun way back downhill.
A real classic trail is the Keiservarden near Digermulen. The last German emperor Wilhelm II enjoyed the view on the Raftsundet already in 1889. The ride at the top is partially on granite rock.
Kleppstadheia in the Kabelvag/Svolvaer region offers great views, but requires to hike your bike for a while.
Trailride.no is a very helpful app to locate MTB-rides in Norway.
Frankfurt is the best major city in Germany to live in when mountain biking is the key criteria – thanks to the nearby Taunus range. The U3-line takes you from the heart of the city directly to the Hohemark, the most popular starting point for MTB-tours to the higher Taunus elevations like the Große Feldberg (879 meters).
In the recent mild winters there hasn’t been much snow, which made it possible to enjoy all-year long riding. In addition to the countless official and unoffical trails, new purpose-built trails have been added during the last year.
There are now two “official” downhill lines starting at the Feldberg and a flow trail not far away in the opposite direction. If you connect all the fun trails just around the Feldberg – Altkönig – Sandplacken area you easily end up with tour over 50 kilometers and 1500 meters of elevation gain. Quite a MTB-playground bordering the city limits of “Mainhattan”.
The Vinschgau bureau of tourism loves to rave about the 315 sunny days per year they allegedly have. So, when I was heading to the Val di Senales for a ski touring event end of November I just threw my bike into the trunk as well and took off a bit earlier. I read about the newly built Propain Trail and was keen to get it under my tire knobs.
The surrounding mountain ranges were all snow covered but the Vinschgau trails on both sides of the valley were in superb condition up to an elevation of 1800 meters. It was sunny and dry, but cold. The trails were covered with fine larch needles that added a soft golden shimmering finish.
The Propain Trail is a sweet purpose built trail to descend from the Sonnenberg down to Schlanders. In order to get up to the trail head at an elevation of about 1400 meters you either pedal up from Coldrano via Vezzano on paved roads or you cross over from St. Martin am Kofel. The 800 meters climb from Coldrano was all on paved roads and somehow relaxed due to the warming sun and nice views. The downhill on the Propain Trail is excellent: technical with tight turns, but full of flow.
The next morning I chose the Holy Hansen as morning ride. It was even colder, the climb up the Morterer Leger tougher and longer (1200 meters elevation gain). Yet, as well this fun trail was in very good condition to have a blast downhill with a big smile (on the half frozen) face. Looks like I will return for more sunny days in the Vinschgau sooner or later…
Just two weeks after the Enduro World Series came to Finale Ligure to stage the final round of the season we continued our series of trips to Finale. This splendid, complete package that Finale has to offer is simply hard to beat: besides the unique Trail network with its flowy, roller-coaster-like trails there are nice beaches, cool cafes, good restaurants, plenty of shops, historic buildings, organic olive oil plantations, fantastic ice cream and much more to excite the whole family.
The local committee to maintain and develop the trails has done an outstanding job over the last years and has shaped or reshaped numerous purpose built trails. There are plenty of alternatives when you start your descent at the NATO-base or from Melogno.
The Kill Bill lines down to Calice Ligure are a thrilling alternative to the Caprazoppa Trails to finalize a tour from Melogno to Finale. Kill Bill is a sort of climax to the Roller Coaster Trail from Melogno as it is even steeper and tighter.
The Supergroppo Trail starts from the old NATO-Base but is longer than the other runs and includes as well some uphill parts. It was built in 2014 and served as an epic stage in the Enduro World Series race. Altogether 11 km of beautifully flowing singletrack trail that ends in Orco Feglino.
I have the strong feeling that this wasn’t my trip to Finale Ligure…