There’s no thrill quite like tearing down a hill, navigating obstacles and getting some sweet air time over a few jumps. So without further ado, we’re going to jump straight into our top 5 must-visit destinations for the avid mountain biker.
1) The French Alps
Renowned for their natural beauty the French Alps have seen many the fitness explorer; skiers, snowboarders, and trekkers can’t get enough of the place! But the Alps are also a really popular destination for mountain bikers, especially ones coming from the United Kingdom. The mountain has great downhill rides in areas like Morzine, and equally, great all-mountain rides in Chamonix. What’s more, since the area is so popular it’s full of chair lifts. That means there’s very little need for any tiring (and much less interesting) uphill riding! The popularity of the area also means that there’s plenty of accommodation that caters specifically to the biking community.
2) Park City in Utah
Utah might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of a holiday in the United States. On another hand, it offers some awesome biking opportunities and fantastic natural scenery (You can read our article on Upscale Fit Travelling to find out about the Red Cliffs Lodge, which is also found in Utah)
Park City is located right on the western border of the Rocky Mountains and boasts some fantastic views of the surrounding area. The views come courtesy of the fact that Park City is about 2100 meters above sea level, with its trials going as high as 4000 meters (so you’d better enjoy some high altitude cycling). If you can manage the height then Park City offers some of the world’s best technical single-track. Notable technical singletracks include Deer Valley. For a great challenge, you can also try man-made expert level routes like Gorgoza. Don’t worry, though, there’s still plenty of action for beginner and intermediate level riders on the mid-mountain trails, most of which are well signposted. Almost all are accessed via the Armstrong Trail, a route reserved for uphill riding only.
If you’ve already headed as far as the USA then it would be a huge shame not to head up north over to Canada. Whistler is widely known as one of the foremost mountain bike locations the world has to offer. It is located in the beautiful ‘coast mountains’ of British Columbia and has no less than one hundred and twenty miles of trails. Just like in the Alps, the popularity of the destination means that there are plenty of chair lifts for most routes. This popularity also means that the Whistler Bike Park has a huge variety of trails to cater for almost all levels of riding ability. What’s more, the park also offers coach-led courses to help riders learn the ropes or improve their game.
Recently the park has also started running what it calls ‘summer gravity camps,’ under the supervision of world-renowned professional mountain biker Andrew Shandro.Hence, he gives to riders a real chance to take their game to the next level. And if all that wasn’t enough, Whistler Bike Park is planning the largest expansion in its history. Hence, it creates a whole new network of trails in the Creekside area. The trails are planned to cater for a wide range of ability levels when completed the development will have pretty much doubled the size of the park!
4)Rotorua, New Zealand
The beautiful and picturesque landscapes of New Zealand need a very little introduction (they were used to film The Lord of the Rings Trilogy after all). And it’s amidst this magnificent backdrop that Rotorua’s trials take you. The location was relatively unknown on the international stage before it rose to prominence after hosting the Mountain Bike World Championships in 2006. The majority of its trails are set in the Whakarewarewa Forest (try saying that three times quickly!). Which at least offers some protection from the sun, with Rotorua being widely noted as one the hottest places to ride in the world.
The Park is also the first in the world to be accessible by Gondola in all-seasons. Same as Whistler, it offers coaching and support for all levels of riding ability. In addition to this, the park also boasts its very own ‘jump school,’ specializing in teaching riders how to manage their time in the air! Plus, with over 100 kilometers of trails, you’ll have plenty of space whichever time of year you choose to visit.
5)Finale Ligure, Italy
Finale Ligure is one of the world’s best-known mountain biking destinations. Considered part of the Italian Riviera it is located on the Gulf of Genoa in the province of Savona in Liguria. The area is a popular tourist destination due to its white sandy beaches. As well as its historic center, where visitors can find both Medieval and Roman ruins. Plus there’s the fact that the sun is out for 300 days a year, and even in winter, you can still enjoy temperatures 10 degrees centigrade.
For mountain bikers, the area is popular due to its ease of access, wide variety of trail routes and astonishing views. The trails go up to around 1400m (so not as high as Whistler or Park City) but they are well respected for their flowing nature. The trails are also pretty much all natural, with plenty of rocks, roots and tight corners to keep you on your toes. Quick heads up though, there are no chairlifts. Hence if you don’t fancy a lot of uphill riding then you’ll need to make sure you track down one of the holiday companies that run regular shuttle services. Speaking of companies catering for mountain bikers, the area of Finale Ligure is full of specialist bike rental shops, repair shops, bike friendly hotels and amenable tour guides.
Last but not least, Finale Ligure is also known for its unique 24-hour endurance mountain bike race. Hence solo riders and teams attempt to conquer a grueling combination of trails. The event is fast becoming a large-scale festival and regularly attracts more than 15’000 visitors.