- New Zealand
- The Queen Charlotte TrackMountain biking the Queen Charlotte Track in the Marlborough Sounds
- History on the Heaphy
- Suppressing the Competitive UrgeMountain biking in Malborough
- Northern ExposureMountian biking the Coromandel
- Hurunui Hot SpringsWinter mountain biking to Hurunui Hut in the Lake Sumner Forest Park.
- Craigieburn Conservation ParkMountain Biking Craigieburn
- The Brevet ClubGuy and Laurence recount the suffering and intrigue of the inaugural Kiwi Brevet... a 1100km mountain bike race around the top half of the South Island over six days. Informal with self-enforced rules, no entry fee, unsupported, and... well, hard.
- Wharfedale TrackThis is arguably the best and longest stretch of single track in Canterbury
- Double FencelineThis classic trip snakes along the summit ridge of Banks Peninsula.
- One Night StandsOvernight mountain biking trips in the South Island
- Fool's GoldMountain biking in Central Otago
- All that Glistens... the Croesus and Moonlight Gold TrailsMountain biking on the South Island's West Coast
- Otago GoldMountain biking - Bannockburn, Central Otago
- Loop de LoopGreat mountain biking can be found in most corners of this flat earth and New Zealand boasts its fair share of classics.
- Magnetic WestMulti-day mountain biking, Kaikoura to the Tasman sea
- Romping Round the Marlborough SoundsMountain biking Marlborough
- Rambling Around the Marlborough SoundsMountain biking Marlborough, Arapawa and D'Urville Islands
- Off the Beaten Track An off road traverse of the South Island on mountain bikes
- At Peace with PureoraMountain biking around the Pureora Forest in the Central North Island
- Taranaki for NeophytesMountain biking in Taranaki
- South Pacific
- West meets EastAfter riding all morning through the tail of a typhoon, we didn't want to slosh into a Japanese restaurant in that state. I tried drying out by standing under the vent outside the kitchen. I got no drier, but now I smelled of noodles...
- Tien Shan TraverseWhat do you do in the middle of the mountains when two large, thuggish Chinese men get out of a car and stride purposefully towards you? You smile and say thank you for the stale bread and peaches they are offering you!
- One Gear, One Continent, One Hero.Hero Cycles is the world's largest manufacturer of bikes, spitting out a whopping six million a year. You're unlikely to find one at your local bike shop but as any seasoned traveller can attest, they are the 'people's car' of India.
- Laid-back LaosMountain bike touring in Laos
- The Road to MandalayCycle touring in Myanmar
- Vietnam on Thirty Dollars a DayCycle touring in Vietnam
- A Short Ride in the Hindu Kush Cycle touring in Pakistan
- On a Wheel and a Prayer FlagCycle touring in Tibet
- Shanti Shanti - Across the Himalaya by BikeCycling across the Himalayas
- Biking the Hidden HimalayaCycle touring in North West India
- Pedalling Patagonia"Wow! Amazing! You're cycling to the bottom of South America. Is it all downhill?" Alan and I looked at each other in amusement and suggested that we expected a few uphill sections.
- Cycling Cuba with Fidel and Ché
- Dirt Roading in Colombia'The Only Risk is Wanting to Stay', promises Colombia's latest tourist advertising slogan, printed over glossy photos of idyllic Caribbean coastlines, perfectly preserved colonial towns, rolling, lush coffee plantations and a Latin couple dancing hot cumbia.
- Famous Potato Recipes from Idaho
- My Private Idaho
- Donde Estan Los Pollos
- Alaska - the Last Frontier The Alaskan Iditasport Human Powered Ultramarathon
- In Search of Maple Syrup and a Decent National Anthem Mountain biking in Canada
- All You Can EatMountain Biking in Northern California
- Caffeine and Singletrack in the USA Mountain biking in South West Colorado
- Bici Dolomiti Cycle touring around Italy and the Dolomites
- A Slice of Swiss CheeseMountain biking in Switzerland
- London Calling The London Cycle Show
- Stairway to Heaven - biking Spain's Camino de SantiagoCycle touring in Spain
- Albania for BeginnersIn the summer of 2009, our route from Greece to Germany crossed the small country of Albania...
- Fat Tyre Touring in ItalyCycle touring through Italy.
- Corsica- touring the scented isleCycling in the Mediterranean
- A Scottish Coast to CoastCycle touring in Scotland
- Crouching Tiger - Cycling Ireland's South West Coast Cycling Ireland's South West Coast
- The Italian Job Mountain biking around Lake Garda
- Double DutchA cycle tour of the Netherlands.
- A Rather Big Swedish RaceMountain bike racing in Sweden
- French ConnectionCircumnavigating Mont Blanc on the "Sentier Pedestre" hiking trail.
- A Month in Provence Cycle touring in the South of France
- A French PilgrimageTouring with the Tour de France
- End to End, the Long WayCycle touring in Great Britain
- Steve's SabbaticalCycle touring in France
The Italian Job
Kevin Hodgson, UnderGround Issue Issue 24 August 2000
Updated 29 June 2011Here's a simple question... where's the best mountain biking in Europe? During a stint in Germany I taxed a few friends with this question and consistently got the same reply. "Lake Garda". I rifled through some bike magazines and found shots of Lake Garda leaping from the pages. It looked pretty wild. My mate Dickie was an exchange student in Trento at the time, which is within spitting distance of Lake Garda. I negotiated a patch of floor to camp on and shot over the Brenner Pass into Italy to see what all the fuss was about.
Gazza wuz'ereMy trip coincided with "Bike Fest" - a weekend festival where thousands of German mountain bikers get drunk in a field beside the lake, then try to ride 80 miles the next day. We cruised down to Riva to check out the action. Our first glimpse down the Arco Valley revealed an impressive 1500m rock face rising directly from the otherwise innocuous valley floor. Awe would soon be supplanted by fear the next day when we found ourselves edging around the top of that very cliff. On to Riva where we discovered yet more vertical rock and 5000 festival goers- most of whom appeared to be working up a sweat at the free beer tent. We spotted a few "stars" at the festival - Greg Herbold and Gary Fisher among the throng.
Small HillMy confused head struggled to reconcile great cycling with vertical rock. Back in Trento that afternoon, Dickie smugly announced "all would become clear" with a ride up the small hill at the back of his flat. The small hill was actually a 600m cliff but he assured me that there was a track of sorts leading up there. This area saw a bit of action during World War One hosting the front line between the Italian and Austrian Mountain Corps. The hills and cliffs are riddled with tracks, tunnels and bunkers. The tracks vary between cart and person width and are peppered with sobering vertical drops. After half an hour of pushing and carrying we arrived at a remarkable wooded plateau bordering the cliff. We sat on the edge, savouring the view down the Adige Valley in the setting sun. The descent was a taster for the next few days- one ill timed wobble would send you into a fatal free fall trip to the bottom.
Monte CasaleDesensitised to the exposure, we opted for a biggie the following day. I had the 'Moser' guide book of Garda (available in German only) which provides route cards "guaranteeing that you will not need a map". Guide Book ratings are generally a bit easy for my taste, so we selected the "very hard" Monte Casale trail. Big mistake. Armed with the route cards but with no real idea of the terrain ahead we confidently headed off into a nondescript Italian forest. The track climbed steeply until it branched off onto some pleasant singletrack. Dickie was ambling along in front until he dramatically threw his bike to the ground and let out a string of expletives. I rushed up to him thinking he'd been bitten by a snake or something. The trees fell away leaving thin air between us and the valley far below. We were at the edge of the cliff we had gazed up at the previous day and Dickie had almost launched himself off the edge. The singletrack proceeded to wind its way precariously along the edge for a couple of kilometres before climbing to the summit of Monte Casale at 1632m. The top was lush like a bowling green with a refugio nearby. The only food I could ask for in Italian was pasta, which was lucky as that seemed to be all they were offering. Post lunch we struggled with a 1000m zigzag descent and a long traverse back to the car. After about 8 hours of riding, Dickie and I collapsed in a friendly alpine meadow; we agreed to leave each other to die there. A rest and snack returned us to reality and just 100m around the corner we rejoined our car.
The moral: sometimes 'very hard' does mean 'very hard'. Later in the trip we rode a 'moderate' route that finished with a near vertical 600m descent over 2km, and an 'easy' that protected the rider from a nasty cliff with a mountain bike proof fence. It's all breathtaking stuff.
Strada Della GalleriaOur highlight was the infamous 'Strada della Galleria' on Mount Pasubio. Many rate this as the best mountain bike ride in Europe. A difficult claim to verify as it is no longer legally open to bikes - a series of fatalities led it to be closed recently. To assist with compliance a big iron gate guards the track and during the weekends a policeman sits at the bottom collecting the £80 instant fine. The route is a 7km mule track along a cliff edge (of course). It loses 1000m and travels through 52 tunnels en route - the tunnels are unlit and rough-hewn from rock. At one point the track balances along a 1m wide ledge above a 1500m high precipice. At another spot it enters a pinnacle, performs seven spirals within the pinnacle before emerging from its base. Although the route is now closed a visit on foot is a must. Cycle to the Refugio Papa, then walk to the dramatic upper stages of the Strada Galleria before riding back via the less insane track on the other side of the ridge.
The best trails in Europe? Who knows, but Lake Garda is certainly better than anything I've ridden so far. The major bummer is that none of the routes are marked and no English language guide exists- so you have to rely on astute map reading skills or brush up on your German.
The Nitty Gritty> The nearest airports to Lake Garda are Milan, Verona or Venice.
> Check out www.lagodigarda.it (in English) for the basic tourist information.
Bike festival details are at www.bike-festival.de (in German). Unless you're really into that sort of mass activity it's probably best avoided.
> The 'Gardasee' guide book by Elmar Moser comes in two editions but only in German- if that's not an obstacle then you can buy online at www.delius-klasing.de.
> Northern Italy is a fabulous place to holiday - spectacular landscape, great riding and if you can't find a good restaurant in Riva or Torbole then you ain't looking.