37 of the best places to ride in the whole wide world
We asked various globe-trotting mountain bikers to tell us where they are most looking forward to riding when freedom returns.
Where do you most want to ride your bike? Well, in no particular order…
1. Haute Savoie, France
Chosen by: Mick Kirkman, photographer/tester, @mick_kirkman
Savoie, in France, has a special place in my heart. It’s a part of the Alps I’ve visited regularly through my involvement in the Trans Savoie multi-day stage race. No enduro event has yet packed in more descending (30,000m per week) and every summer we took in dozens of sensational trails in the shadow of Mont Blanc.
Obviously, the Savoie scenery is stunning, but the sheer variety of bike terrain is unbeatable, from endless loam tunnels to high-alpine rocky moonscapes. There are literally hundreds of thirty minute-long natural trails on virgin leaf and loam as well, if you have a vehicle and some local knowledge.
One especially amazing trail is La Varda above Peisey Vallandry. From fast and flowing singletrack in Alpine meadows overlooking the Vanoise National Park, to tight switchbacks in the trees, to Lake District-style technical rocky puzzle challenges, it’s got it all.
Despite many attempts, I’ve ‘cleaned’ the whole thing only once, and the trail changes each winter, so the hardest bits continuously morph. With one short access hike and a lone punchy climb in the middle, it still melts my mind that you can get 2,500m of descending in one hit here, and the whole trail is simply heaven.
2. Ainsa, Spain
Chosen by: Chris Porter and Tracy moseley.
Chris Porter, founder Mojo Suspension/Geometron, @chrisporter1532
I first went to Ainsa in Spain for the 2015 EWS, and in the following 12 months I racked up five more visits! Since then I’ve been a few times each year. I just love the Spanish Pyrenees, and Ainsa is right at the foot of some of the biggest mountains. I love the vibe in Spain; there’s an anarchist/socialist streak to the people that runs through society at all levels from the co-operatives of Mondragon to the collaboration to defeat the banks evictions after the last crash. My favourite trail there is the EWS 2015 Stage 2 which starts from El Pueyo de Morcat. It’s a corker with all sorts of flow, anti-flow, rock, loam and swoopy woodland paths. It’s steep in parts (even uphill steep) and flowing in others. But what sets the trail apart is the start point – an abandoned village with a panoramic view of the whole of Ainsa and the Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Parks. Or was it stage 8 with its amazing, cliffhanger singletrack liaison to reach it? Or was it stage 5 through the grey earth? Or was it stage 7 with its ridge ride followed by a classic bike smasher DH track. Or was it Stage 6 – a snaking, golden dust singletrack named after the coffin carriers? You get the picture.
Do yourself a favour and don’t fly! Take some spares, go in a van or car and treat it as a road trip. It’s do-able in a day from an overnight ferry to the north of France, into the square at Ainsa for aperitif! If you see me there, mine’s a Caña.
Tracy Moseley, former racer, @tracy_moseley
The place I really want to go back and explore more is Ainsa, in Spain. I first went there for an Enduro World Series race in September 2015. I think what made it so special for me was the whole trip, James ( my husband and at that time race mechanic doing the full EWS circuit with me) and I drove our camper van out there, taking an overnight ferry from Plymouth to Roscoff. It felt like an adventure in itself before we even got to the trails. The town of Ainsa is just beautiful; a medieval village with a castle perched on top of the hill, it was just magical. The race started off in the castle, the people were so friendly and welcoming and the riding was epic… just big pedal days and fun flow stages mixed with awkward tech rock stuff too. It had everything, as well as a biblical rainstorm on the final stage of the race to make it stand out in my memory!
I then had the chance to go back to ride in Ainsa again for one day as part of a Basque MTB week long biking holiday across the Pyrenees in Sept 2017. That trip was also magical, Doug was a great guide, and I loved that holiday and I think helped etch Ainsa and that area into my memory banks just a bit more.
3. Colorado Trail, USA
Chosen by: Huw Oliver, guide and photographer, @topofests
The Colorado Trail runs from Durango to Denver across the spine of the Rocky Mountains, maintaining an average elevation of over 3,000m along its 870km long, singletrack-heavy length. Along the way, it climbs 22,000m. Yes, you read that right!
I rode it in July 2019 with a crack team of fellow Scottish bikepackers, stopping only to eat burritos, swim in rivers and exclaim loudly that if this wasn’t heaven, then we weren’t interested in going anyway. The small mountain towns encapsulated the breezy, friendly atmosphere of the American south-west, and leaving every one of them was a wrench.
The scale of the Rockies is simply beyond anything here in the UK, and the landscape is gloriously, absurdly friendly to the rolling wheel. For the most part the trail is sublime, hand-built singletrack that loops and weaves its way through the roof of the continent. It’s tough: the elevation hit our puny, sea-level adapted lungs immediately, but the gasping to gain the hypoxic high points of Georgia Pass or iconic ranges like the San Juans were always, always forgotten in an instant when another ten miles or so of singletrack rollercoaster was revealed, ideally leading to the next burrito…
4. North Shore, Canada
Chosen by: Danny Macaskill, trials rider and Youtube sensation, @danny_macaskill
I’d most like to ride the North Shore trails above north Vancouver! I was last out there in august 2011 shooting a street edit with the Anthill crew for the film Strength in Numbers. I unfortunately slipped in goose cack while filming in Stanley Park on the first day of filming and tore the meniscus in my left knee. It postponed the filming, but I was still able to ride some trails on my MTB. Vancouver has to be one of my favourite places in the world. Amazing trails, scenery, street riding and bike culture. The trails on the North Shore have to be some of the most famous technical trails in the world. Unfortunately many of the cool wooden ladders, skinnies and seesaws have been taken down. It’s a shame because it would have suited my riding skill set perfectly! That’s not to say the trails that are there these days, carving in amongst the giant redwood trees, aren’t the coolest trails you will ever come across. I can’t actually remember any trail names, but they are all so full of crazy features, seriously steep rock slabs, huge gaps with no chicken runs and blind drops. I would definitely recommend trying to get a local to show you about.
5. Valais, Switzerland
Chosen by: James Richards, mechanic/guide, @mtbsprocket
It has been over 10 years since I first visited Switzerland to ride my bike. I’ve returned to the Valais region of Switzerland every year since.
The riding is hugely varied, from lift-assisted bike parks to high alpine goat tracks – some of which are accessible from a lift with a pedal – and runs that can drop over 1500m to the valley floor. Add in a few 20 to 40 minute traverses or climbs and you can do enormous amounts of riding and descending with a lift in the morning and a lift at lunchtime, racking up thousands of metres of vert in one day. There’s a trail called The Ultimate, near Verbier, and it’s kinda accessible from the lifts, with a bit of pedalling and hiking. It starts high on a ridge looking towards The Mont Blanc Massif and stunning views to the tiny patchwork quilt valley floor.
The track is as single as it gets and quickly becomes exposed, gnarly, and at times scary; boulders fields, hairpins, drops, washed-out gullies, and rolling baby head boulders.
It slowly drops into the forest and tree roots become more prevalent and the contour-hugging trails start to speed up.
The dirt changes as you descend and the forest smells increase as you feel the warmer air of the valley floor. The trail mellows out for a while, then all of a sudden you pop out into a vineyard then loop back into the trees, through a garden, back into the vineyard, past a shed with an old Swiss guy chopping firewood, down a driveway… let’s just say it’s varied. At the bottom, you jump on the train ready to repeat the process all over again.
6. Bellingham, USA
Chosen by: Bryn Atkinson, former racer, @brynatkinson
Honestly, I’m just really looking forward to getting back to riding at full speed at home in Bellingham, Washington, without a care in the world. It’s got good dirt and lots of rain. The terrain in Washington is some of the best anywhere, well my fave anyway. Undulating, not too steep, and the trees are far enough apart to get ripping but still have some character about the trails. If you’re planning a visit, you have to ride the Chuckanut’s, Cougar ridge and Galbraith.
Chosen by: Julia Hobson, guide, Juliana Bikes guide, @julialikesbikes
If the World was my oyster, and I could head anywhere to ride again, it’d have to be to Nepal. I fell in love with the country, it’s scenery, and it’s people, when I visited to take part in the Yak Attack race in November 2016. We spent 10 days riding around the Annapurna and Upper Mustang region, through landscapes dominated by towering snow covered 8,000m peaks, deep gorges, and high altitude barren dusty deserts, and to tiny remote villages in the Forbidden Kingdom between Nepal and Tibet. Here electricity and running water is a luxury not a necessity, and cows and goats roam the streets rather than cars.
There were some great trails along the way, but the experience was about more than just the riding; being on bikes was simply a great way to journey through the country and fully immerse ourselves into the adventure of travel, experiencing a culture and way of life so starkly different to our own.
One day in particular was one of the most amazing days I’ve ever had on a bike, and if I ever had the chance, I’d love to ride it again. We left the lodge at Thorong Pedi (4,500m) at 3.30am, after a sleepless high altitude night. Adopting the slow steady shuffle of the porters, constantly gasping for air, we climbed in the dark to reach the Thorong La Pass (5,416m) as the sun rose, highlighting the massive peaks dominating the horizon and casting huge shadows into the deep valleys below. We were left breathless, not just from the altitude, but from the incredible views in every direction.
Donning every item of clothing we were carrying, we began the long 1,600m vertical descent down to Muktinath. I was dizzy from lack of oxygen, the coldest I think I’ve ever been, and yet chasing my friend Rachael down the long loose singletrack trail to the valley below was a ride I’ll never forget. It was an epic day and a brilliant trail in the most spectacular of locations.
8. Moab, USA
Chosen by Adrian Carter and James Bracey
Adrian Carter, founder Pace Cycles, @pacecycles
Riding in the mountains is the natural environment for a mountain bike and I’m fortunate to get out to the Alps and other mountain ranges quite often – but what if there were mountains to ride like no other? More like riding on Mars than Morzine? For that otherworldly experience, nothing compares to riding in the desert with its massive wild spaces, weird rock formations, lunar landscape and challenging trails. But you have to love the heat and the constant battering from rocky tech. Few natural European trails can compare, because bench cutting a trail a 1000ft above the Colorado is like a civil engineering lesson in flow; massive rocks levered into position for a step-up, natural fields of boulders each the size of a house used as a series of roll-ins to flat out sandy descents. All the time exposure and trailside margins littered with cactus and harsh rock waiting for a lapse of judgement or concentration. The scenery is eerie and quiet. I live in a National Park and it can feel like a wilderness – but out in the desert you can gaze out at the horizon there’s no sign of the hand of man. It’s wild, vast, untamed, and it feels just a little dangerous. But it’s a sense of privilege being able to ride in such an environment which is overwhelming.
Personally ‘Captain Ahab’ or ‘The Whole Enchilada’, in Moab, would be on my hit list. The former for its swooping flat-out rock garden descent boosting round a whale-shaped mountain, and the latter for it’s sensory overload, starting above the snowline and descending to finish hours later on the desert floor. And in Fruita a combination of Mack Ridge and Moore Fun, a double helping of rock ‘n’ roll that leaves you pumped, wide-eyed and totally knackered with an even bigger appetite for cold beer and pizza.
James Bracey, MBR Product tester, @jbraceycycling
Abroad it has to be back to Moab in Utah, USA. I last went in October 2018 and the riding and landscapes have had more of a lasting impression on me than anywhere else I’ve ridden – close my eyes and I’m there. It had always been on the radar as being the mecca for MTB back in the nineties and I’m only sorry I hadn’t managed to visit before. I have two trails I need to go back to complete, Portal and The Whole Enchilada. Weather problems made them too unsafe to ride on the last trip, so that’s an itch that needs serious scratching.
Chosen by: Olly Wilkins, bicycle stylist and entertainer, @odub_23
The first place which comes to mind for me is Madeira. It also happens to be the last place I went before this dreadful global pandemic. It’s kind of a go-to for me for a number of reasons. It’s also the place I have visited the most in all my years riding. That MUST be a sign that I’m a fan!
First of all I love how easy it is to reach. A four-hour flight and you are on the same latitude as Morocco on a Jurassic Park-like island in the middle of the ocean. When I say Jurassic park-like I’m not kidding either. The terrain is the most varied, and easily some of the most striking, I’ve visited. The varied microclimate on the island makes for a brilliant trip. If you like rocks there are rocky trails, if you like dust there are dusty trails, if you like loam there are loamy trails. With the help of Freeride Madeira guiding, you can tailor a trip to the exact specification you wish with the actual people who build all the trails!
If you do make it out to Madeira, make sure you try Maktub Poncha in the evenings and make sure you ride the EWS ‘cliff trail’. It’s like nothing else. Truly an amazing place and I can’t wait to get back!
10. Derby, Tasmania
Chosen by: Sterling Lorence, photographer, @eyeroam
I feel fortunate to have been able to experience many riding places in the world and it has been astonishing how fast mountain biking has spread across the planet as towns and governments have embraced our sport and promoted it to help grow trail systems and embrace the tourism opportunity.
If I could go anywhere with my buddies, and the distance/travel/$ was not an issue, I’d go revisit Derby, Tasmania and its network of trails. Why? Derby’s trails were built from scratch just a few years ago and they bear the fruits of modern thinking and design. A small town that didn’t have a scene and some smart folks plotted out that this could be a mountain bike destination with great riding. Just the right size where it has the craft beer/pizza joint/coffee shop and a few rad bike shops. Turns out… they nailed it and it is blossoming perfectly. loads of flow trails meander through beautiful forests and ferns with cool rocky outcroppings and views. Further, there are long climbing trails if you want, and even an epic ride called Blue Tier trail that is a 20km plus of mostly downhill flow trail! The nearby coastal town of St Helens is getting into the action and connecting its own network too. It will be all time. I’d go back in a heartbeat. The Blue Tier trail off the top is the one to make sure you ride.
11. Massa Marittima, Italy
Chosen by: Matt Wragg, photographer, @matt_wragg
I would choose Massa Marittima, Italy and a place that always feels like home: Massa Vecchia. In the surrounding hills and forests lies a dense spider web of trails that you can happily get lost in all day – and that’s what I want and need once this is all done. In terms of time spent enjoying your bike (as opposed to the hours of Type 2 fun that tend to make up high alpine missions), I think it’s pretty unbeatable. If you’re smart with your bearings, you can pop out from the woods in one of the little villages for food and water, then pop back in again. Repeat and rinse until you’re nearly too tired to pedal home. I’d start with Picci’s Whoops, then Canyon, for my first couple of trails and then pick a direction and keep riding, as I still haven’t found a bad trail in those woods. Once you’re done it’s back to Massa to eat well (it is Italy, after all) and hang out with some of the nicest people you’ll find anywhere in mountain biking.
12. Western Cape, South Africa
Rab Wardell, coach and ex-pro racer, @rabwardell
There are so many places that I want to ride, but if I were to revisit anywhere it would be Cape Town and the Western Cape in South Africa. The first and only time I’ve been there was in spring 2014. I was there to race in the Cape Epic, as well as a number of cross-country races. I stayed in Durbanville, a suburb of Cape Town, with my team for around 6 or 7 weeks. The best riding was a short drive away from Cape Town in Stellenbosch. There were two awesome spots which we rode – Jonkershoek Nature Reserve and the G-Spot Trails.
To ride in Jonkershoes we needed to buy a permit. However, once in the reserve the riding was amazing. From memory, the trails are built on two sides of a valley, lined with stunning, high-topped, craggy-peaks. The place was littered with singletrack climbs and descents.
Never Ending Story is a trail which sticks in my memory. It’s a long and fairly mellow flow-trail with lots of dusty turns and natural rock gaps. Whenever we rode there the weather was mint, the views were unreal and the trail just kept on giving. The trail builders had made the most of the natural features and got the best out of the gradient. It was just an awesome downhill trail to ride on an XC bike. Proper ‘gives you goosebumps’ stuff, followed by fist bumps and high fives!
13. Crested Butte, USA
Chosen by: Jerome Clementz, former racer, @jeromeclementz
If I could pick a place right now, I think it would be Crested Butte in Colorado. I first visited in 2014 for a four-day stage race – the Crested Butte Ultra Enduro – then I came back in 2015 for the EWS. The trail network is really big and you go far in the mountains. It’s quite high and you have this strong feeling of adventure. What struck me the most was the flow of the trails and the immersion in nature. You have mountain ranges all around, and at the end of every trail you have a connection to the next one. On top of that, the town itself is really chilled, with a hippy-vibe. As the race was in the backcountry and over four days, the vibes between the race organiser and riders was really cool and everybody was looking out for each other and having a good time. Three trails in the area stand out for me: Dr Park, Star pass (Trail 400) and Teocali Ridge. But there are many more that I don’t remember the names of and I would like to ride again.
14. La Clusaz, France
Chosen by: James McKnight, writer/editor Misspent Summers, @misspentsummers
My daily yearning takes me on daydreams to La Clusaz, one of the best places I know to ride trail bikes in the French Alps. It’s just 10 minutes’ drive from my home, but out of bounds for the moment. The trails are going to be in the best shape ever after a winter’s rest and a springtime without riders. What makes La Clusaz special —a big part of why I live in its vicinity —is its earthy, grippy, twisty, flowy, brilliant hand-cut ‘enduro’ tracks. When I first rode them in 2014 my eyes were opened to how an Alpine resort can be. Official trails that aren’t machine-built for downhill bikes. There isn’t a great number of options, but what’s there is enough to make me want to stay nearby. I can’t wait to get back on those trails. Of course, I’m sure like most people, I also have a rapidly growing list of things I want to do, places I would like to visit, trails I will ride once it is reasonable to do so. But,to be honest, I know that I will be happy simply to put tyres to dirt on any old trail. Bikes are great.
15. Finale Ligure, Italy
Chosen by: Sim Mainey, MBR contributor, @simmainey
If Morzine is the (unofficial) home of DH then Finale Ligure must be the (unofficial) home of Enduro. Or trail riding, or whatever you want to call it. This town on the Italian Riviera is an Enduro World series staple for a number of reasons, not only does it offer some of the finest riding going it does it with typical laid back Mediterranean charm that you can’t help but fall in love with. Stand out trail for me was Rollercoaster. It’s not the most technical but it has ridiculous amounts of flow that have you chomping at the bit to get back to the top for another go. Come for the riding, stay for the beach, food and espresso.
16. Oregon, USA
Chosen by: Danny Milner and Matt Hunter
Danny Milner, MBR Editor
It would be easy to roll straight through the tiny town of Oakridge, Oregon, without even a second glance. There’s only one stoplight, a spit and sawdust bar, a small guesthouse and a gas station with a creaky sign by the side of the road. Steep slopes and a dense, seemingly impenetrable forest, surrounds the town. There are probably thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, like it across North America. Insignificant, forgettable, unremarkable; only it also happens to be home to the best singletrack I have ever ridden. Full stop. Endless, fast-flowing, loamy, tree-lined trails permeate the thick old-growth forest that stretches in all directions as far as the eye can see. In Oakridge the singletrack unspools with a never-ending sequence of chocolate dirt corners, accompanied by blurry vegetation, wide-eyes and even wider smiles. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet of Michelin-star singletrack, with all the pomp and circumstance of your local greasy spoon. Sadly, I’ve only ridden there for a single day – albeit one that crammed in over 65km of trails with barely any climbing – and that’s why I desperately want to go back.
Matt Hunter, singletrack explorer and freerider, @mattyhunter
I want to thank MBR for asking me a question I was already pondering. There’s been lots of time for daydreaming, so when the travel restrictions lift and we can travel to ride our bikes, I am heading straight South to ride velvety singletrack in Oregon. Oakridge is a little town with a mountain of trails. It’s not got all the amenities of a full blown destination resort, and I think that’s why I like it. It’s a real place with all the grittiness of a small town (lock up your bike!). And it’s surrounded by massive forests and a trail network that rivals pretty much any place.
There’s good camping just outside town, there’s a shuttle service available to help take the sting out of the big climbs, and the trails are just so fast and smooth. It’s a place I can ride with my whole family because the trails are so friendly. You can cruise at a mellow pace through the old growth firs, or you can stay off the brakes, turn it up and scare the shit out of yourself. I could try to describe the flow of the trails, but I have taken a few photos there that will serve better than me stumbling over adjectives.
17. Sedona, USA
Paul Burwell, tester/coach The Trail Academy, @trailpixie
I would go to Sedona in Arizona. The town is surrounded by high desert and features some spectacular scenery – red-rock buttes, those tall saguaro cacti you often see in Westerns, sinkholes and natural arches. And snaking through this magical landscape is mile-upon-mile of rocky singletrack that can be easily accessed from the centre of town – you can just get out of bed and shred. The super technical Hiline stands out for me as one of the best trails in the area, but the whole network is amazing and laid out in such a way that you can loop different sections together.
18. Rychlebske Stezky, Czech Republic
Chosen by: Rowan Sorrell, Trail builder Back On Track and founder BikePark Wales, @rowansorrell
I can’t wait to get back to the Czech Republic and one of my favourite places – Rychlebske Stezky. I must have been there seven or eight times and never failed to have a good time. I think the reason I enjoy it so much is the people and the attitude, as everyone is super laid back and friendly and there are zero egos. I also find the landscape and sense of open space there very calming and different to anything I’m used to in the UK.
It is a fun place to spend a weekend with likeminded people hanging in the woods, riding technical trails and then you are always left with the conundrum of whether to join the locals by rounding the day off and drinking half their body weight of the local Pivo in the bike pub afterwards.
It’s changed over the years, a bark beetle has devastated the forest, and it was sad to see the damage that it had caused last year, but like any area with a strong community, it adapts and bounces back and I know the team have been working really hard in this last year shifting huge granite stones and boulders around to make yet more technical trail fun.
The super flow trail is a classic, but I really like the short but sweet Obelix trail, as it is just quite unique with its huge boulders, and for an old downhiller, I actually rate the climb – ‘Dr Weissner’ – as the best I’ve ridden; imagine the original Whytes Level climb on steroids. Plus there are a few hidden gems that the locals may show you if you are there for a weekend.
19. Northern Tuscany, Italy
Chosen by: Ben Smith, MBR art editor, @smithben76
If there are any airlines still operating after all this, it would be my dream to head back out to the stunning Apennine and Apuan mountains in northern Tuscany. I love most things about Italy; the coffee, the food, the cars, the scenery, and of course, the mountain biking. I was lucky enough to be shown around these mountains a couple of years ago by the Ridgeline.bike crew for a feature and was blown away by the quality and quantity of riding on offer, all in the most beautiful surroundings. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to head back out there and the lockdown has definitely focused that intent.
20. Davos, Switzerland
Chosen by: Alex Rafferty, SRAM European MTB Communications Manager, @alrafferty
Without a second thought, I know exactly where that would be. Davos, Switzerland.
In September 2018, when brainstorming where to go for some ‘product testing’ Mick Kirkman suggested heading to Switzerland to race Enduro2. Racing in pairs on long Alpine descents over three days sounded like the perfect recipe. Little did we know it would lead to the best week on bikes, ever. There were so many incredible things about that week. For starters, Davos is stunning. It’s such a beautiful place to ride bikes, and the trails are really unique to the area, with so much variation throughout the valleys. I remember us all standing on the top of the Rinerhorn (2,500m), surrounded by snow-capped alpine peaks, and looking down at scree slopes nervously thinking we’d somehow ended up at the start of the Megavalanche. Then suddenly we’re amongst trees and meadows, death-gripping through swooping singletrack hanging onto the wheel of your teammate. A group of friends with the same purpose. A common goal of racing the hell out of each other and sharing stories through the evening, drinking beer and enjoying local food. Outside of those who win World Cups, for the rest of us this is mountain biking in it’s finest form.
If I had to recommend one trail that I think everybody should ride, it would be the Jakobshorn Sertig trail. The experience, the speed and the outright enjoyment. We raced it as the last stage in the Enduro2 and the whole of our group set off together. It could’ve been carnage, we whooped and shouted the whole way down, laughing and joking long after we all high-fived and hugged. We’d earned our name as the “Crazy English Train”. The organisers, a brilliant couple, Britta and Michi, affectionately let us know that if we’d taken the last stage seriously, we’d have been on the podium. That was the icing on the cake. We were there for the fun, and the fun only.
21. Punta Ala, Italy
Chosen by: Jamie Darlow, MBR Front Section Editor
Riding in Punta Ala, Tuscany, is part mountain bike heaven, part gastronomic orgy, part antiquity tour… and often all three at once. The riding in the hills above Punta Ala and the string of old fishing villages dotted along the coast, is truly wild. Repurposed from old charcoal trails, some of which have stood unused for a hundred years, the singletrack is rocky, dusty, fast and steep, and sometimes drops you right onto sands of the Med. It’s like Finale without the crowds. Stop for lunch in those hills and you’ll eat fresh mozzarella and drink local Chianti, surrounded by antiquity and beauty. The contrast is stunning, I can’t think of a place where I’ve experienced such a contrast between scintillating full-on trails and sleepy, Tuscan seaside retreat. Just don’t go in July or August when the tourists flood the beaches.
22. Sintra, Portugal
Chosen by: Alan Muldoon, MBR Bike Test Editor
While the island of Madeira basks in the global MTB spotlight, there’s a lesser known Portuguese riding destination that’s closer, cheaper to get to, and offers an equally diverse mix of terrain. It’s Sintra, and it’s less than 45 minutes by car from Lisbon airport. Nestling in the foothills of the mountains, Sintra is chock full of UNESCO World Heritage Sights – I’ve been twice, and I’ve not visited any of them. Call me a philistine, but I was too busy whooping and hollering down some of the finest trails I’ve ridden in over 25 years of traveling to ride bikes. And yes, I’ve also been to Madeira.
On different aspects of the Sintra mountains, the vegetation and topography changes dramatically. So you can be riding on rocky sandstone outcrops at sunrise, then shredding deep, dark loam as the sun sets. And while the riding is incredibly varied it’s also condensed, so you spend less time shuttling between spots and more time riding your bike. Granted, it’s not the sort of place you can just rock up to and find all of the hidden gems, so book a long weekend with weride.pt and sample the best that Sintra has to offer.
23. Fuji, Japan
Chosen by: Joe Barnes, Racer, @top_chief
Without needing to travel far, I would stick to my native Scotland and go north to ride some of the exquisite hill paths crossing the Highland mountains. Torridon would definitely be top of my list, but as it’s covered here already, I would take the big jump over to Japan. I have been once before to ride my bike and it was a top experience from start to finish. Fly into Tokyo and you are bombarded by a whole new world. A couple of days to soak in the madness then head out into the mountains. Mt Fuji has a great little bike park with a chairlift at its base. Insane black-volcanic dirt; you can just keep going back for more and more quick laps on the fun flowy trails. Then a little more inland to Fujimi bike park with its longer chairlift and a huge network of trails in grand forests. When I was there, the mist was rolling through the woods and the grip was like nothing else. Even the chairlift had a cheery Japanese tune playing from it to create a surreal and thrilling experience from start to finish.
24. Canazei, Italy
Chosen by: Chris Ball, Enduro World Series Director, @ballersays
Lockdown has been an interesting time off the bike for me, with no urge to ride and a desire to keep things simple. I’ve enjoyed running in a lot of new corners of the valley around my home in the Tweed Valley. As the restrictions lift I’m excited to ride with a whole new appreciation of the small yet jam-packed and stunning rolling hills around where I’ve grown up. But, I’ve also missed the diversity that travel brings and I look forward to getting as quickly as possible back to Canazei in the Italian Dolomites.
This venue was in 2019 the 50th anniversary EWS event but a year later has become the first ever Enduro World Series to be cancelled, due to Coronavirus of course. The area is one I fell in love with on first visit and still believe it to be one of the most beautiful mountain environments that I’ve ever seen. With flowing singletrack, giant pine forests and eyeball melting granite spires under the bluest of skies wrapped in a warm community of proud people, I can’t wait to get back to Canazei.
Chosen by: Rachael Walker, Brand manager Hope Technology, @riderrachy
When lockdown lifts I’d love to head out to Slovenia. I’ve had many trips to Slovenia over the years, mostly for riding, and my love for the place has grown with every visit. A good friend runs a mountain bike guiding company in a special little village called Luce, in the heart of the Savinja Alps, near the Austrian border. Whilst the scenery is spectacular, upon arrival you’d be forgiven for being a little underwhelmed. The village is quiet and small – it’s no Morzine with busy bars and clubs. But, Slovenia is almost modest in its brilliance, the trails are A-grade, natural, fun and technical, the people are genuine, honest and friendly and most importantly, the food and beer are even better. Each day of riding feels like you’re on a mini Trans-Provence adventure. Trails can change from steep and rooty to loose and rocky within an hour. The options are endless and they are quiet, it’s rare you’d see a person all day on the trails. I’ve yet to find a braking bump in the whole place!
26. Dolomiti Paganella Bike, Italy
Chosen by: Simon Cittati/Guilio Neri Bike Connection Agency, @bikeconnectionagency
For us it would be Dolomiti Paganella Bike, in Italy. In fall 2018, Giulio made a quick visit to the area. He said it was an absolute gem, with pristine, incredibly well designed trails of all kinds, three towns all connected by lifts and trails, stunning views and great hospitality.
We’ve tried to go back together twice, once in October 2018 and then in early May 2019, and both times the weather was horrendous. I was afraid I was bringing some kind of curse…but then in late May last year I finally got to ride there, it was during the week and the lifts were still closed, but I remember the absolute joy of riding down the trails on the Molveno side of the park after a long steep climb. Good thing there is a fast lift that operates basically from April to November!
The Bear Trail is a day-long, 50-something km epic that pretty much includes a smaller of the greatest riding in the area. It’s really well signposted and described in all the bike park maps, it basically takes you through all the three locations (Andalo, Molveno, Fai della Paganella) by using the lifts to rapidly gain elevation, and then hitting all the best trails on the way down.
27. Nevada, USA
Chosen by: Mark Weir, Former racer, @mark_weir_mtb
In September 2018 a group of eight friends from the American West packed a van to the roof and embarked on a week-long mountain bike adventure across Nevada’s Highway 50 – known as The Loneliest Road in America. By the end of the trip, after riding the east shore of Lake Tahoe, the rugged and remote Toiyabe Crest Trail, the vast network of rocky, rowdy trails around Ely and the newest network of developed trails in Caliente, we all had a new appreciation for the second most mountainous state in the US. Most mountain bikers driving Highway 50 en route to more popular destinations like Lake Tahoe or Moab write off Nevada as just desert, but our group discovered it’s anything but. Aspen groves, wildflowers, running water, bristlecone pines, hidden hot springs, and most importantly, a vast network of trails with nearly zero people. Do you have to go far to have the experience you need to find growth within yourself? I think a lot of people are chasing that, and they chase it over oceans because it’s exotic or it’s Third World. You can get Third World out here. You don’t have to go so far. Nevada is right in my backyard, and I guarantee i’ll never discover it all.
28. Cotapaxi, Ecuador
Chosen by: Rob Warner, Former racer/commentator, @robwarner970
Of l all the places I’ve ridden a bicycle in my privileged mountain biking career, probably the most memorable was last year in Ecuador. I was shooting for Red Bull TV’s ‘Wild Rides’ show with Finn Illes. We had a guide and a doctor, who had an oxygen tank strapped to his back like a giant rocket, who joined us for this insane high-altitude descent.
Cotopaxi is one of the world’s highest Volcanoes at 6,500m. It’s also one of only two, I believe, glaciers that survive on the equator, such is its height. We started our descent at the bottom of that snowline and it has to be the best descent I have ever ridden. Starting out on a huge open expanse of steep, black sand, the sort of place you go for a land speed record. We set off – no brakes – hitting around 50mph on this top section. It actually felt pretty safe. We rode it literally just this once as the effort at that altitude getting back up was too much, and I’d already spun-out with altitude sickness a few days before. That top section was unforgettable; carving down the side of one of the world’s biggest active volcanoes was a buzz like no other.
That was just the beginning. Some off-piste, unmarked riding came next, flying across this insane lunar landscape with all its different colours. The riding was so diverse. Further down we picked up some trails again, after what seemed like a lifetime of flying across boulder fields and high plains. We rode some really deep black sand before towards the bottom, then we found out that Cotopaxi had saved the best until last.
There’s a ridgeline that comes off the bottom of this beautiful volcano – Heavenly Ridge, by name and nature – an almost never-ending spine; fast, not too steep and fun, tech but not dangerous. It was insane and I would love to ride that again. One day I will.
We’d been there a week, and not once did Cotopaxi show itself, but as we drove away for the last time, the clouds cleared and there it was in all its glory. An incredible day and without a doubt one of, if not the best on a bicycle ever.
29. Mashatu, Botswana
Chosen by Gary Perkin, Photographer, @garyperkin
Riding your bike on singletrack made by wild animals through the African thorn scrub on the lookout for elephant, lion, giraffe and hyaena – to name but a few – is a true highlight of all my riding trips. So much so i’ve done this trip four or five times.
30. Chilcotins, BC, Canada
Chosen by Gary Perkin, Photographer, @garyperkin
When you have to drive for at least three hours on dirt road, then catch a float plane to a glacial lake and ride back while sleeping log cabins and cowboy camps in the backcountry, you know you are fully in adventure mode. The Chilcotins has adventures in spades – just watch out for grizzlies!
31. Downieville, California
Chosen by Gary Perkin, Photographer, @garyperkin
While not quite as ‘out there’ as the other two, this former Gold Rush town in the California Sierras has the right ratio of adventure-to-amazing… it harkens back to wilder times from town to trail!
32. Whistler, Canada
Chosen by: Nigel Page, Manager – Team CRC-Nukeproof, @pager7211
I have been fortunate enough to ride in some amazing places all over the world with my job, firstly as a racer and now as a team manager. There are so many places I would love to go back and ride, especially now. I think sometimes we take it for granted that we can just go anywhere and ride. My number one destination has to be Whistler, Canada. My first trip there was in 1985 for the BMX World Championships. It was the first time I saw, and rode, a mountain bike. The next time I properly visited was in 2009 with the race team for Crankworx, but I didn’t have a bike with me, so I borrowed bikes for the week. I remember Al lent me his Orange 223 he had. Cheers Al! Then I didn’t go back to Whistler until 2018 and 2019 with the team for the EWS races and Crankworx.
It was only then that I really got to see what the area has to offer for riding, from the bike park, to the trails in Creekside and Blackcomb. The trails in Blackcomb are amazing and challenging, as are some of the trails in the bike park, but I have to say my favourite trail at the moment has to be the new revamped Dirt Merchant. Coming from BMX, Dirt Merchant feels like a huge downhill BMX track, and I just love the feeling of riding that trail, especially when you ride the top of Garbanzo, into D1, Dirt Merchant and lower A-Line. Guaranteed good times!
33. Petzen, Austria
Chosen by: Roo Fowler, Photographer, @roofowler
Outside the UK, Slovenia is top of on my list of places to revisit. I first heard about it five years ago, when I had absolutely no preconceptions of what it would be like. It turned out to provide some of the most fun riding I’ve ever done, from long alpine singletrack trails, monster 1,000m bike park descents just a few miles from the airport, to the utterly ridiculous 20-minute long Petzen Flow Trail just over the border in Austria. For me, the flow trail was a highlight. Some might argue that man-made smooth surfaces have no place in mountain biking, but I argue that it’s fun once in a while to enjoy pure flow, speed and G-forces without struggling to hang onto the handlebars. Anyway, once you’ve done a lap, you have plenty of other rough, rocky, technical wooded trails in the area to test the endurance of your arms. Once you’ve finished riding you can then take in the amazing scenery and hang out with some of the friendliest people in Europe.
34. Livigno, Italy
Chosen by: Matt Simmonds, Racer/Coach ProLine coaching, @mattsimmondsdh
If I had to choose one place to ride again, hands down, it would be Livigno, high up in the Italian Alps. The first time I visited Livigno was in 2005 for the Downhill World Champs. Since then I always wanted to go back, as the scenery and sheer size of the mountains was mind blowing.
I finally did go back in 2018, after seeing Hans Rey, on his riding life speaking tour. He raved about the new flow trails out there, so it was instantly on my wife’s wish-list of places to go. When I found out I had a training camp scheduled there, my wife and I took the opportunity to book a few days afterwards to explore.
Well Hans was definitely right, and the place was just as I remembered; stunning. The flow trails on the Carosello 3000 side of the valley are amazing – completely epic views and riding. There’s also the Mottolino side with more natural, tech trails for the more advanced rider.
The town, the trails, and the company added up to one of my most relaxed riding trips ever; we had a great time and we’ll definitely go back as soon as possible.
Chosen by: Dan Milner, Photographer, @danmilnerphoto
The Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan is not known for mountain biking, but it should be; it’d be the first place I’d jump back to post-lockdown. Looking back over twenty-odd years of bike adventures, there are countless locations vying for this accolade so it seems uncanny that Bhutan was the most recent of them. Last November I was part of a Shimano-backed exploratory MTB trip to Bhutan. It’s a country that only opened its doors to foreigners in the 1970’s, and tourism is still tiny here — in fact, less than 10 per cent of the visitor numbers of nearby Nepal — meaning empty trails and a real sense of adventure. Bhutan wins from its combination of magnificent, towering peaks, alien but welcoming Buddhist culture and incredible riding — especially the riding. Day in, day out, Bhutan handed us the best trails I’ve ridden during two decades of adventure trips, and at the top of the podium is the Jela trail: a 900 metre descent of twisting flow that starts among prayer flags, before weaving down through moss-shrouded trees, plummeting over rock gardens and carving through loam to the valley floor.
36. Tour Divide, Canada/USA
Chosen by: Rich and Tom Seipp, Father and son adventurers
We’ve ridden our mountain bikes all over the UK and Europe, though the ride that has made the biggest impression is the Tour Divide – a 2,745 mile ride from Banff Canada along the Continental Divide, which finishes at Antelope Wells on the Mexican border.
It’s a route that I’ve dreamt of doing for the best part of 20 years, and Tom and I thought it would be good to ride together. There’s a Grand Depart in June each year, but we opted to ride alone in the school summer holidays of 2019.
There were many things that made it a memorable trip. The scenery was incredible and the people who we met en route were so welcoming. If I went back and could only do one part it would have to be Colorado. The first attraction of Colorado is the Brush Mountain Lodge run by Kirsten which offers legendary hospitality. The Colorado section has the biggest passes of the route. Oh, and just outside Salida at Pancho Springs we discovered the Elevation Brewery Company where we spent far longer than we should have done sampling their refreshments.
37. Molini Di Triora, Italy
Chosen by: Anka Martin and Sven Martin, Writer/Photographer/Owners Ride House Martin holidays, @ridehousemartin
Without a doubt I’d like to go back to Molini di Triora, a village nestled high up in the rugged, wild and beautiful Argentina Valley in Liguria, Italy. We’ve been visiting this gem annually for the past six now and first became aware of it after reading an article by Steve Jones in Dirt magazine. For years we would drive past the turnoff to Molini on-route to Finale, until one year we turned left and headed up the valley to see for ourselves. That’s when we first met Welshman Ady from Rivierabike and he introduced us to this little paradise. After that, Molini became our go to place. In fact we grew to love it so much that we just bought an old ruin there for our European base – with no wifi or 3G, it’s a proper getaway.
Of course we fell for the riding and the variety of never-ending singletrack, but also the wonderful people who call this valley their home. I love the simplicity and pace of life here, the amazing food and the fact that it still feels untouched and very old-worldly. I love hearing the bells echo across the valleys while you ride – there is history on display everywhere. The trails are numerous but they’re not that easy to find or reach, so I would highly recommend booking some guiding. Terrarossa is phenomenal and Monte Gerbonte is an all time favourite. These trails are so long and physical they will blow your mind.