Once you’ve caught the mountain biking bug, there’s no going back. Not surprising, given that there aren’t many other sports where the wonders of nature, display of technical skills and feats of endurance are so inextricably linked.
When it comes to finding the best places in the world to do it, those that combine an addictive mix of stunning landscapes and fierce challenges are among our favorites. Here are five with trails in the following countries that will leave an impression burned deep into your memory:
- New Zealand
Lake District, UK
Set against an awesome valley landscape backdrop, this challenging 21.5-mile ride is all about reaching the infamous Nan Bield Pass and experiencing the Kentmere Common descent that follows it. Sunken alpine hairpins, chilling streams and a fast stony singletrack await should you choose to embark on it.
Pro tip: The Lake District is temperamental, and you will experience every kind of weather - often in one climb alone. Bring your waterproofs to shield you from the rain, and don’t be surprised if you go from sweltering to shivering within the space of a few minutes.
Rotorua, New Zealand
One of the world’s dream destinations, New Zealand is also home to some of its most exciting mountain bike trails. The Rotorua region offers complex cross-country trails and rugged descents, which have moderate to high levels of difficulty.
Pro tip: Rotorua’s trails can be tackled all year round, and the region has plenty of low-cost options for travellers on a budget. It also features steaming hot thermal springs, which are perfect for relaxing after a hard day’s riding.
Rhyd Ddu, Snowdon, Wales
Taking in road, track, rock and scree, this mountain circuit will take you to the top of Wales’ highest peak, and back down along an unforgettable route. Though the first kilometre is very steep with a narrow ridge, after that it settles into a steep, rocky descent back to the valley floor.
Pro tip: This one starts off with a tricky climb for even the most experienced riders, so don’t feel too disheartened if you need to get off and push your bike uphill!
Turpan, Gobi Desert, China
An almost unrivalled adrenaline rush, the mountains around Turpan and the Gobi Desert are among downhill riders’ permanent favourites. Most travellers fly in to Beijing, then either take a connecting flight to Urumqi or tackle the three-hour drive to Turpan.
Pro tip: In this extremely hot region of China, temperatures of 38 degrees Celsius are not uncommon during the summer. The best months for bikers to visit are March and October.
Park City, Utah, USA
Park City provides the ultimate base from which to explore the west side of the Rocky Mountains on two wheels. Nestled amongst breath-taking scenery, it features a wide range of trails for fans of well-marked and technically challenging single tracks. With over 640-kilometres of trails, you’ll never be bored, while the area around Prospector is one of the best in the region.
Pro tip: Visitors should be prepared to face the challenge of riding at higher altitudes – Park City sits more than 2,100 metres above sea level.