Tag Archives: mountain biking

Exploring Zona Zero, Ainsa

Eventually, when the EWS made a stop in Zona Zero I simply had to put this MTB-spot on my bucket list.  Zona Zero is a Mountain Bike Centre on the south side of the Pyrenees established in 2011.  Its headquarter is located in the medieval village Ainsa, from where most of the over 30 well-marked routes start.

Following the recommendation of our hotel’s MTB-expert we chose the route 4 – Miradores de Ainsa.  After some initial climbing – about 250 meters of elevation gain – the track runs along a ridge with awesome views on Ainsa, mountain ranges and lakes.

The trail is rock strewn but fun particularly on the way down to Morillo.  Next milestone is the climb up to Partara Peak from where the trails starts descend again into the valley.

We only had time to do one of the many routes, so there is much left to explore another time…

Advertisements

Queenstown – Action Sports Eldorado

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.

Old Ghost Road Trail – The Epic MTB-Adventure

This trail is for sure the longest singletrack trail I have ever ridden.  85 kilometers, built for mountain bikes in particular, in just one piece, only with a flight of stairs in the middle that are better done off the bike.  The landscape is spectacular as it offers everything, the lush, subtropical west coast of New Zealand‘s South Island has to offer.

The trail project was made possible only with huge investments and the funding from government, private donations and lots of volunteer work. Hundreds of thousands hours of paid and unpaid labor went into the construction works from the start in 2010 to the finalization by the end of 2016.

The Old Ghost Road Trail is open for both hikers and mountain bikers, so trail etiquette is a must. The 5 huts on the way must be booked in advance but give you the choice between multiple day rides.  However, you could do the 85 kilometers in one stretch, but then you wouldn’t find the time to really enjoy it all.

I started my ride from Lyell (which is the better direction for bikers) to begin with the long climb to Lyell Saddle.  I actually enjoyed the 25 kilometers uphill, thanks to the mostly moderate incline, the pristine nature and awesome views and lastly thanks to nice and entertaining company.  Riding along the Lyell Range and passing Heavens Door the stunning views compete with the necessity to keep the eyes on the exposed trail. From Ghost Lake Hut the more technical and fun part starts when the trail winds down on series of switchbacks and drops before it turns into a fast and furious fun ride that spits you out at Stern Valley Hut where I booked my overnight stay.  I enjoyed the basic accommodation in the hut after a cleaning swim in the cold creek  and spotting a rare blue duck. If there just were not that many sandflies… Nonetheless, I love these overnight stays in huts where you meet a dozen of strangers and leave the next morning with a dozen of acquaintances.

From Stern Valley there is one more climb before the trails runs alongside the Goat Creek crossing several bridges until it meets the Mokihinui River. At Specimen Point Hut you first look down the gorge on the roaring river, then you ride the next 17 kilometers mostly on the edge of this gorge.  Breathtaking. The trail ends near Seddonville, from where get shuttled back to your car at Lyell, if you had booked it accordingly.

Altogether the Old Ghost Road Trail is a unique epic trail ride. A must-ride in NZ!

Rotorua – New Zealand’s Mountain Bike Mecca

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…

 

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

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.

IMG_7907
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
IMG_8010
Faial da Terra Trails

Sella Ronda MTB, Dolomites, Italy

img_5257opt

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.

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…

IMG_4565

IMG_4541

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.

 

IMG_4214
Drop into Horsethief

IMG_4238