Tag Archives: world’s best mountain bike trails

The Hidden Mountain Biking Gems of South Sardinia

The beaches on the southern coast of Sardinia are hard to beat.  With their turquoise waters and white sands they could be as well located somewhere in the Caribbean.  And the beaches of Chia are even known as the best Mediterranean surfing spots.  But what about mountain biking?   Is it worth to bring your bike there?

We took the ferry from Genova, which gave us the opportunity to make a stop-over in Finale Ligure, so we had anyway good reason to have the bikes with us.  And even more so in Sardinia.  Luckily, I got connected to the local MTB-community through my tour guide from Finale.  Otherwise we probably wouldn’t have discovered those sweet MTB-trails  in the Pantaleo Forrest near Santadi.

All Bikes Santadi (https://www.facebook.com/ALLBIKESSANTADI/ ) offers a monthly shuttle day and builds and maintains the trails in the pristine Pantaleo Forest.   Battista and Loris took us uphill with their shuttle-truck on a steep and rugged forest road so we could zip down down the two lines Ritmo Sbilenco and Le Egue several times.  The Ritmo Sbilenco is an about 2 km long line with tight turns on loose dirt under shady trees while Le Egue is mostly on rocky surface with some berms and jumps.  Another trail, the S8, runs across a mountain ridge and was initially built for charcoal production.  Nowadays, it is churned up by wild boar and flattened by fat MTB-tires.  After all we had a magnificent day of enduro riding with the local MTB-community including a delicious picnic lunch in the forest followed by a refreshing bath in a river.  To hook up with local riders contact “ALLBIKESSANTADI” on Facebook or “Denis_Mirror” on Instagram.

However, there are as well lots of nice trails on the coastline. Particularly around the Capo Spartivento there are lots of trails to be explored.  Another scenic trail above the coastline runs from the Torre Chia  to Pinus Village.

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Catalunya’s Enduro Hotspot – Santa Coloma de Farners

Santa Coloma de Farners is the hotspot for enduristas in Catalunya.  Located about an hour by car north of Barcelona (in the south-west of Girona) it offers best fun trails in Catalunya.  To access the mostly optimized yet natural trails there is an easy uphill that brings  you to  an altitude of about 450 meters above sea level.  Dragon Kahn is a sweet, flowy trail that runs up, down and around natural obstacles.  The perfect trail to start with.

Spiderman is the signature trail of Santa Coloma.  With its countless options to get some air it is a great jump line for some serious fun…

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…

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!

The large MTB-Buffet of Nelson, NZ

Richmond Hills

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.

Codgers, Crazy Horse

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.

Te Ara Koa

Wellington – the MTB-friendliest capital

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…

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…