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…
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…
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
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.
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.