- 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
Fat Tyre Touring in Italy
Tony Hutcheson, Underground Issue 61 December 2009
Updated 29 June 2011Our original thought was to cycle tour through Italy. Then we mused that a mountain bike road trip might be more like us. The thought of combining the two didn't really emerge until the drive train on my touring bike imploded during a test outing in the Black Forest. The cost to replace all the broken bits was about the same as buying a trailer. Decision made, we would ride our trail bikes from one mountain bike destination to the next.
'Our' and 'us' would be Sonja and myself. Sonja is Swiss and we were living near Basel at the time. Both had had our noses perilously close to the grindstone for longer than intended. So it was easy to justify some time off for bad behaviour.
Traversing a small part of Europe on a 6" travel bike doesn't immediately present as a brilliant concept. Dragging your life and a set of knobblies behind you on a trailer, an out-dated map of questionable accuracy, and an implausibly low allowance of euro 50 a day for the two should have telegraphed disaster. Unperturbed, we kicked off in the Pinzgau area of Austria. Blowing our nose, Monty Python style, in the general direction of such famous mountain bike destinations as Kitzbüel, Saalbach, Leogang and Kaprun - we headed instead for the fabulously named, but little known Neukirchen am Grossvenediger (literally but perhaps incorrectly translated as the New Church on Big Venetian). It's a small town with some amazing tracks including the Rob J Supertrail, somewhat predictably built by local guru Rob J. Beyond the manufactured mountain bike tracks, the truly outstanding trails were those with a bit of history. Rewarding not only for the never-ending technical descents and uninterrupted views of the Alps but also for the 'forests' of wild blueberries we encountered on one memorable outing. Bashing through all that precious muffin filling we eventually emerged into town with huge smiles, a backpack full of berries and stained lower legs that suggested we had been attacked with a cricket bat.
A kindly Austrian with a big car and a penchant for yodel music dropped us at Staller Saddle. Ahead of us lay three days of flowing downhill from the Austrian border, down and through Südtirol- the German speaking part of Italy. The route was close to 100% free of cars. Cycle touring in the region is amazing. A cycle path that includes an old rail line (complete with tunnels), runs from the north of the Dolomites all the way to Venice. As tempting as that was, we exited stage right at Roveretto and set a course for the mountain biking utopia of Lake Garda.
I've been to Riva del Garda three times now, and without wanting to spark a fiery debate, I rate it as a good time but have since found even better mountain biking destinations in Italy. However the setting, gelato and riding made Riva a worthy stop as part of this larger trip. We indulged in very big climbs and loose rocky descents terminated with pasta and wine.
Windsurfing is really big at Garda and it blows seriously hard. With the wind on our backs we pedalled south to Verona to meet Romeo and Juliet. Once there, unable to navigate to our chosen campground, we enlisted the help of the police. It was frustrating and amusing in that order. The officers assured us that there was no camping in or around Verona and emphatically not at the address specified. An hour later, having embarrassingly climbed the same hill twice, our campground was discovered precisely where the police declared it wasn't.
An indirect route avoiding main roads lured us further south, through Parma (as in ham and therefore sandwiches) to Cinque Terre National Park. A small sachet of dried porcini was purchased at great expense and then promptly lost off the back of the bike trailer. Sadly there were no mushrooms with the risotto that night. We received conflicting information about cycling through the Cinque Terra. Some fellow travellers told us the tunnels were closed to cyclists while the locals said it wasn't a problem. At the Tourist Office in La Spezia we were advised "you can't ride there but if you go now it should be ok". We split the odds and caught the train through, camped on the other side and then cycled back in and out of the Park as a day trip. The Cinque Terra is brochure perfect and worth the effort - terraced olive groves and vineyards step down to the lime washed ancient fishing villages and deep azure of the Mediterranean.
Heading east along the Italian Riviera we dropped anchor at Finale Ligure. It's the quintessential postcard town complete with stripy sun-bed filled beaches and a medieval town centre. Scratch the surface though and there's an expansive trail network covering numerous valleys, dropping from 1400m to sea level. Mostly old Roman military or trade routes, the gradient is relaxed - making for long flowing singletrack laced with plenty of technical surprises. Trail access is either self-propelled or by shuttle (with or without guide). We indulged in three days of each and happened upon some of the best riding when lost. Gelato and a swim perfectly capped off each incredible day of riding. Our budget, bikes and bodies took a hammering. It was worth it.
With my passion for cycling only equalled by that for food, touring through Tuscany had been a long held dream. We trained to Pisa, took a snap of the building with a slight lean and hurried to Lucca. Along with San Gimignano and its famous towers, Lucca is one of my favourite Tuscan towns. It was home to Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini, writer of many famous operas and presumably inventor of the cursed mushrooms we lost earlier in the trip.
Avoiding Tuscany's main roads rewards the keen adventurer with minimal traffic, views of nearly every Tuscan clichè, and the added delight of generally not having a clue where you are. On the morning we left San Gimignano we made our way down a small dirt road, which became a smaller steep dirt road, across a vineyard, onto a dirt track, over a stream, up yet another steep dirt road to find ourselves behind the large gates of a Tuscan villa being yapped at by a three legged Chihuahua. The dog-shaped rat alerted the owner and the gates opened, spilling us onto the road about 50m from where started two hours before. At that point Sonja asserted her authority and insisted on a more direct path to Siena and then on to Florence.
Cycling through the vineyards and olive groves of Chianti it was clear that there was a bunch of great trail riding to be had in them there hills. With luck we'll make it back one day to explore. Savouring that promise to ourselves, we happily meandered along the back roads, taking timely breaks from the sun to sample the local culinary delights and wash it all down with a glass or three of Classico.
Our jaunt through Italy mixed 2000km of cycle touring with two weeks of trail riding, around six weeks in total. It proved to be an inspired combination. One we plan to replicate as time and finances allow.
The Nitty GrittyPinzgau
> www.bike-pinzgau.at for general info
> A day pass for the Wildkogel chair lift in Newkirchen costs euro 15.
> General information at www.lagodigardamagazine.com
> Our hot place to eat and sleep is www.lacolombera.it
> Try to avoid German public holidays and the month leading up to the Transalp cycle race.
> www.finalefreeride.com for guides and shuttles.
> Alp, Cartoguida del Finalese 1:25,000 map is essential for the DYI approach.
> Rivera Outdoor is a great bike shop with friendly staff. Luca gave us excellent tips on where to ride.
> Accommodation is cheaper and there were no crowds when we visited in mid September.
> Turbo Lince covers much of the good riding in Italy, although the English is a little rough at times.